§ 2.41 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE had given notice to call attention to the speech of the Lord Vansittart, in this House, on Wednesday, March 29 last, in which, contrary to the accepted usage of this House, he made imputations upon the conduct of a member of this House, namely the Lord Bishop of Bradford, without having given him prior notice thereof; and, in which, further, without due regard to their truth or falsity, and without sufficient investigation, he made serious allegations against the character and conduct of certain persons or groups of persons by name, who, owing to the Privilege of Parliament, have neither remedy nor opportunity to vindicate or defend themselves; and
§ To move to resolve "That this House, ever jealously regarding the Privilege of Parliament, is no less zealous to provide against its abuse, and regrets that the Lord Vansittart, in the speech which he made in this House on March 29 last, did not use due care in the exercise of the Privilege of Parliament."
THE MARQUESS OF EXETER
My Lords, I beg to rise to a point of order. As one of the oldest members of this House, I venture to ask your Lordships to bear with me for a few moments before the next Business, which may give rise to some contention, is proceeded with. Before proceeding further, however, I think I should apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, for my rather unusual intervention—but perhaps he realises that his Resolution is somewhat unusual also. I would humbly remind your Lordships that, through custom, and confirmed by Standing Orders, there is no Chairman of this House in the accepted 4 sense; therefore it lies with your Lordships to order proceedings so as to conform with the traditional dignity and restraint which has almost always marked our deliberations. I propose to ask your Lordships to order that Standing Order No. XXVIII (Asperity of Speech), which may have bearing upon the situation which has arisen, be read by the Clerk at the Table. I have been able to find only two occasions, in the years 1871 and 1872, when this Order No. XXVIII has been read in the last 150 years. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. XXVIII (Asperity of Speech) be now read.—(The Marquess of Exeter.)
On Question, Motion agreed to: the said Standing Order read accordingly, as follows:
To prevent misunderstanding, and for avoiding of offensive speeches, when matters are debating, either in the House or at Committees, it is for honour sake thought fit, and so ordered, That all personal, sharp, or taxing speeches be forborn, and whosoever answereth another man's speech shall apply his answer to the matter without wrong to the person: and as nothing offensive is to be spoken, so nothing is to be ill-taken, if the party that speaks it shall presently make a fair exposition, or clear denial of the words that might bear any ill-construction; and if any offence be given in that kind, as the House itself will be very sensible thereof, so it will sharply censure the offender, and give the party offended a fit reparation, and a full satisfaction.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, I assure your Lordships, especially in view of the warning which has been read at the instigation of the noble Marquess, who is one of the most senior members of this House, that I shall give no cause for offence to your Lordships—indeed, I think it is rather the other way round. As your Lordships can well imagine, I find it a mattes of the deepest regret to propose any Motion which criticises fellow member of your Lordship' House, and I beg your Lordships to believe that I do so only because I sincerely believe that it is necessary to defend the interests of the weak and helpless.
On March 29 we discussed great things, the bearing of a free people in defending their liberty and the duty of Christianity to bring its mind to bear on the torturing problems of the day. These are topics worthy of debate, and I hope we shall 5 resume their discussion. My Motion to-day, however, has nothing whatever to do with the substance of the debate on March 29. If you read the Motion, your Lordships will not find the word "Communism" occurring from beginning to end. My Motion might have arisen on any subject. It concerns the bearing of members of this House and the effect of their bearing on Privilege, and the possible effect on Privilege of its abuse by members of this House. I should perhaps apologise to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bradford, because in giving the general picture it was necessary to mention what had already been mentioned in debate, that no notice was given to the Church about this attack. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me, but a question of Privilege was involved and the matter had to be raised at once. Needless to say, it was not my business or desire to defend the right reverend Prelate, who I am sure can well speak for himself.
It is not necessary to warn old Members of Parliament about the value of Privilege. It is the life-blood of Parliament. To employ the glorious cadences of Hebrews XI; By Privilege Parliament defeated the despotism of the King; By Privilege Parliament defends its Members from Ministers, as in the Sandys case. By Privilege we may defend ourselves against bureaucrats who put themselves above the courts. And I hope your Lordships will not criticise me for adding that it may be necessary by Privilege to defend ourselves against the tyranny of the Party machine. Privilege is very precious. Privilege is the living heart of a free Parliament. It could not be destroyed by frontal attack, but it might be injured by an insidious misuse and undermining; and it is to prevent that that I have put down my Motion.
I hope your Lordships will consider that the part of the Resolution regretting that the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, "did not use due care," is worded in a moderate way. The operative clauses are that the noble Lord acted without due regard to "truth or falsity" and "without sufficient investigation." My first and indeed my only duty is to produce evidence, if such exists, to prove that those statements are true, and if those statements are true, then I shall claim your Lordships' assent to this Motion. I ask 6 your Lordships to observe that this is not a general political Motion; it is a point of order. All of us judge points of order severally and generally. We are all Speakers in this House, and therefore the true way in which to look at my Motion is as a point of order. What is meant by "due regard to their truth or falsity"? It does not mean that it is sufficient for a noble Lord to come and say, "So far as I know, this is true," or "To the best of my knowledge and belief, I have stated the truth." "Due regard" means that a speaker who knows he is speaking under the Privilege of Parliament must exercise the most scrupulous care to see that the facts he lays before fellow members are in every respect accurate.
I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments as this is a point of order, and although there may be other instances which would support my complaint I will take four or five. Some of them your Lordships may think are trivial, but you will have to decide individually whether in these cases due care was exercised. I first looked in the noble Lord's speech for evidence to support the charges that he made. I found very little. I have no means of private inquiry, and I took the ordinary step of using the telephone and asking people, "Is this true?" I will give your Lordships the result of some of my inquiries. The first case I take is that of the Bureau of Current Affairs. I have heard of it, but I know little about it. It appears to be an educational institution run without profit for the purpose of giving educational services—pamphlets, lectures, and so on—to those who require them or wish to buy them. Although it is not run for profit, naturally it depends for revenue on the sale of its services.
If your Lordships will look at the noble Lord's speech, you will see that he said these things about the Bureau of Current Affairs. I have the text here, because I want to be exact, although I do not want to weary your Lordships; I have not the least desire to be inaccurate, and if I am wrong I shall be corrected. The noble Lord said, first of all, that the Bureau of Current Affairs employed a pamphlet writer who is a Communist—he is called Kenneth Syers. The noble Lord used a wealth of rhetorical flourishes with which I can deal later—that is all a 7 matter of taste. He said that this Communist had written a pamphlet which was "a lot of muck" and a combination of mendacity and ignorance. That is what these people were trying to sell to the public. I do not know whether you can libel an economist. I keep clear of them myself. I rather share the view of, I think it was, Walter Bagehot, who said:No one is really sorry when a political economist dies.At any rate I do not know whether you can libel a man who writes a pamphlet; but if you call a pamphlet "muck" and say that it is a combination of mendacity and ignorance (I read it, indeed I went to the Balkans two years ago in order to inform myself, and I think the pamphlet is rather good, but I am no judge) that would be held in the courts to be libellous. Having said that, the noble Lord makes a slip and says:This society is supported by the Pilgrim Trust.It did not take me a minute on the telephone to inquire from the Pilgrim Trust and find that that was not so. The Pilgrim Trust is a fund generously donated by an American, Mr. Harkness, for useful educational purposes in this country. But it took the noble Lord four days, between the Wednesday and the Monday, before the statement appeared in the newspapers that a mistake had been made about the Pilgrim Trust. I am sure it did the noble Lord credit that he corrected the mistake, but it is a pity he did not use due care in ascertaining the facts before making his statement.
My second case concerns the Office of the Festival of Britain. I do not know whether your Lordships realise the rather grim prospect before us. Next year we propose to invite well-to-do foreigners to share the glories of our climate and the merriment of the public mood in what we rather exotically call "The Festival of Britain." This organisation is doing its best. In his speech the noble Lord said—again if I do not use the exact text your Lordships must excuse me, as I am trying to save time: "I am sure there is nothing in this; I know there is nothing sinister in it; it is just darned silly"—that is a little touch I like. But the operative words are that he says the office is being 8used for the dissemination of a pamphlet by a gentleman who calls himself Jiri Hronek.He is quite well known. He is the secretary of the International Institution of Journalists, and is a Communist. The noble Lord says the office is being used for that purpose by Mr. Hronek, who is one of the worst enemies of our country. What does "dissemination" mean? There was a sower who went forth to sow. The noble Lord says it is being used for the popularisation of Communist propaganda. The first observation I have to make about that is that it is had for trade. People who come here to spend money do not, as a rule, like Communists, and it may be that they will go elsewhere instead of coming and joining with us in the gaiety of 1951. The second observation I have to make on it is that it is untrue. That is the point.
Seven days later his Lordship told us that something had been found in Savoy Court, which I believe is the office of the Festival. I rang up Mr. Barry, which his Lordship never did—I was informed that the noble Lord made no inquiry at the office. I do not know Mr. Barry. He seemed on the telephone to be a very affable man and was most ready to give me information. He said that there was not a word of truth in the whole story. What really happened was that somebody had posted a copy of this pamphlet to the office. We might all suffer from that; it is a thing which happens to us all. The man who received it in the office did what many of us would do with such a pamphlet—namely, put it in the wastepaper basket. That was the basis of the charge that the offices of the Festival of Britain were being used for the dissemination of Communist propaganda and the popularisation of the works of this notorious Communist. I cannot say that that is having due care in the exercise of the Privilege of Parliament, or to truth or falsehood.
If time permitted, it really opens the way to further inquiries. How did the noble Lord get the pamphlet? Has he, in fact, got the pamphlet? Who gave it to him? Who is this person who obligingly goes to the wastepaper basket and provides the noble Lord with this material? Will the noble Lord give us the name when he speaks?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
We have come to a strange pass, my Lords, when we are now to be treated to debates based on a collection of material from the wastepaper baskets of public offices. However, that is a matter which is not really material. The material point is that the information was false—that office was not being used for the dissemination of Communist propaganda.
Your Lordships may not think that my third case is particularly substantial, but it interests me, because I have long been in Parliament and I am an earnest student of Parliamentary matters. My third case concerns some company called the Compensation Trading Company. I do not know anything about that company. I rang them up and a voice answered—I think it was the voice of a foreign gentleman. He said that what was in Hansard was not true, and would I go to the office to investigate for myself. I said that I had not the time, nor was I a capable investigator, and that is where I left the the matter. The interesting thing about the charge is this. There is a Hungarian Communist called Roman, so far as I can remember. He is "of dubious quantity," says the noble Lord. He is employed as an agent or representative of the Compensation Trading Company, whatever that may be. It will not help him in his business to be told that he is a dubious quantity and a Communist. Then the noble Lord says: "Who vouched for this man? I ask the question because I have a very good reason to ask." Really, my Lords, are we not only to have these personal attacks in your Lordships' House, but to be told that these attacks are made on the basis of some information which is not given to us beyond the remark, "I have a very good reason to ask"? I dare say it is important, but I do not think it shows much due care. Certainly it is a development in Parliamentary technique which I think will interest all students in both Houses.
I now come to the next case. I should perhaps give an exact quotation here, because it is very important. The noble Lord said:I come to another field in which there is some infection"—10 that means Communist infection—and that is the Church.The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bradford is here, and he will no doubt speak for himself, but I am interested in the question from the Parliamentary standpoint. After the sentence I have just quoted there are two or throe columns of decorative abuse of various clerics. I dare say they deserve it, but I do not know, and I am not going to say. There are the words, "Communist … gyration" and so forth, and after we have been treated to this there is something about the Dean of Canterbury, which I will mention a little later. We turn the page and we see:My next instance is concerned with an episode on March 9, when the Reverend Leslie Weatherhead said …"My next instance," of course, means "next instance of Communist infection." Dr. Leslie Weatherhead appears to have made the suggestion that there should be a Royal Mission to Moscow. It may have been very foolish; the suggestion is not new, and I do not comment upon it. But how is it described? Having been told that Dr. Leslie Weatherhead is an instance of Communist infection, we are told that his suggestion is "impertinent and ignoble." What does "ignoble" mean? It means, "Inspired by the basest motives." How can one say that due care has been taken? This eminent divine has already taken what steps he can to clear himself, though it is difficult to catch up with this sort of thing—I do not know whether Dr. Weatherhead succeeded in clearing himself. I strongly object to people being persecuted for opinions. I am all for public security, but I am also for free opinion. I say that a charge of this kind is a most amazing charge, and that charge alone would justify the Motion that I have laid. Think of the injustice done to this gentleman. For years people will say—it will be a nuisance, to put it no higher—" Dr. Weatherhead? Is that not the man who was denounced by Lord Vansittart in his great anti-Communist speech?" It is a smirch, and a smirch which the noble Lord has no right to inflict under the protection of Privilege.
I now come to the last case. This is a difficult case, and I am not sure that I shall be able to convince your Lordships on it. However, I will give you 11 all the information, most of which you may think will tell against me. I come next to the case of a Society called the Council of Clergy and Ministers for Common Ownership, a body which was founded in 1942 and which included members of all Parties. One of its earliest meetings was addressed by a Communist, a Commonwealth candidate and my noble friend Lord Ammon. I asked my noble friend about this and he is still not ashamed of it. This Society also advocated friendship with Russia. At that time the safety of this country depended upon the incredible gallantry of the Russian armies. This Society was attempting to put into practice, in a Socialist way, the belief of its members. It may have been wrong, but it was a real attempt to translate religious belief into action.
The Secretary of the Council was a Mr. Cope. I have never had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Cope, although I hope to do so. Mr. Cope was a priest. Of course he is not a Canon, but you cannot expect Lord Vansittart, who is very busy, to be an expert in Crockford's Clerical Directory. The Reverend Mr. Cope was a parish priest in Worcestershire. When this attack was made the first thing that happened was that his successor, the vicar, the churchwardens and the church council met together and said: "We are Liberals, we are Conservatives and we are Labour men, but we resent this attack on our old vicar, for whose ministrations we remain very grateful." I received a letter from a vicar at Stanford-le-Hope who said that hehoped I would not think it an impertinence, but he wished to acknowledge Mr. Cope's service in his parish.The head of the university where Mr. Cope works as tutor, Sir Raymond Priestley, immediately issued a protest against this attack, and that protest was followed by others.
I have done what I can to make due investigation, as the noble Lord should have done. Now I come to a difficult point. In 1942, this Society was founded. It issued a series of pamphlets—they were known as Magnificat pamphlets. The first was called Christianity and the class conflict. The pamphlet examined the Marxian dogma from the Christian point of view, and I may say that I was entirely 12 in agreement with the foreword to this pamphlet, which said:The arguments are well worth the careful consideration of all who, in these apocalyptic days, have the duty of trying to declare the Mind of Christ as to the judgment which has come on the world.If we cannot have Christian clergymen examining what they call "the state of the world," what hope is there? It may not be the only hope, but certainly the greatest hope would be in such a Christian examination. I read that pamphlet several times, and I cannot make out how far it refutes and how far it approves the Marxist prognosis. I have not been able to find anything about the killings of opponents and "giving the loot to the boys."
This is pedestrian language I am using, but I am soon going to rise to the rhetorical flights of the noble Lord himself. I have not been able to find in the pamphlet anything about the "loot" and "the boys," but I have found one sentence which is perhaps the weakest part of my case. It says that at a certain stage of this class conflict (this is jargon we all know very well, and terminology with which we are all familiar) there may be resistance. Then it says—and these words will seem horrid to your Lordships—that it may be necessary "to liquidate" the opponents of the new order. There you have it—"to liquidate." Now what does "liquidate" mean? It means a lot of things. If you look in the Oxford English Dictionary you will find the commercial meaning of the word, but we know perfectly well that it can have a sinister meaning. I take a great literary authority, and I will read what he says:When Millerand tried to lead he was liquidated."Liquidate" is Lord Vansittart's expression. I do not think it can exclusively mean to shoot or kill, but as it happens Mr. Cope took the precaution in his pamphlet, after the word "liquidate," to say what he meant. He said: "That is, disfranchise or imprison." They are harsh measures, but not shooting and killing.
Now we come to what is built upon the foundation which I have described as fully as I can. On this foundation—and your Lordships have all the information at your own disposal—the noble Lord makes the remark which I will 13 quote in a moment. Your Lordships have heard about this man and what he was. I might have added that the pamphlet was written in 1942, has been out of print for six years, and is not now obtainable. I thought when I heard the noble Lord's speech that this was some Communist "poison" which was being currently distributed, but I found it impossible to obtain a copy until Mr. Cope was good enough to send me one.
This is the language which the noble Lord used, in the House of Lords:… a particularly murderous priest called Canon Gilbert Cope"—he is not, of course, a canon—… openly advocated the killing off of his political opponents and the distribution of the loot among the boys who did the job. … Anybody who knows anything about this man Cope must have known that he was a potential killer …I am not a lawyer, but I cannot imagine a grosser criminal libel against any man. Yet we are asked (for we are all judges—we are all sitting Speaker to-day) to give the privilege of Parliament to the noble Lord in the use of words of that kind against a man with whose political opinions and beliefs most of us in this House disagree. I hope that when the noble Lord answers—we shall be interested to hear all the new material he has, but it might be a good idea for him to deal first with the old—he will give a simple answer to the question whether he showed "due care." That is all that is in the Motion.
I have now finished with what I may call the police court part of the case, and I should like to make one or two general observations. So far as Privilege of Parliament is concerned, of course, we are not governed by the rulings in the House of Commons, but May in his description (rather than definition) of Privilege refers to Privilege in the High Court of Parliament. You may say that Privilege is one, as applying to both Houses of Parliament. The subject is graded into matters of taste; matters of order; what is permissible language; and who are protected people; and from these to libel and criminal libel. That is the gradation. In matters of taste everybody must be his own judge. I am rather a follower of Lord Vansittart, in this matter of taste: I am against convention and I am all for the original touch and 14 the uncensored gag. I am against convention. I went to the Academy the other day and came back more than ever an admirer of Picasso. That is a matter for each individual himself. The trouble with the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, is that he imagines that he is the only person who loves his country, and that nobody else can defend it. Like Bottom the Weaver, he says, in effect, "Let me play the lion part. I will roar and make the Duke say, 'Let him roar again.'" Unfortunately, as your Lordships will remember, Bottom was cast for a much humbler rôle.
On matters of taste I have nothing more to say, but I turn for a moment to the question of prohibited words. I am not suggesting that we are to follow the House of Commons, but I am suggesting that this is a matter which will have to be considered. There is a list of prohibited words—we know them all. I have never tried to use them myself, though I have spent 35 years arguing with the Chair, not always successfully, but I have never believed in the use of violent language when speaking in the House. I suggest that if Lord Vansittart had made in the other place the speech that he made here recently he would not have completed more than two or three sentences without being pulled up by the Speaker; and if he had refused to withdraw he would have been suspended. What about protected persons? Of course we all know that the name of His Majesty must not be introduced for the purpose of influencing the debate, and that there must be no criticism of judges, except on substantive Resolution. But what is often forgotten is that May says:any kind of opprobrious references be cast in debate on sovereigns or rulers over, or Governments, of countries in amity with His Majesty"—that is to say countries with which we are not at war—or their representatives in this country.I think that that has been very widely overlooked in this House. I am not suggesting we should adept that rule here, but it is rigidly enforced in the other place. It has been infringed here again and again. The noble Lord has made references to the President of the Austrian Republic and to King Leopold of the Belgians. The reference was made in 15 1946 to the President of the Austrian Republic—but it is immaterial and I have not the references here.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
It does not really matter. But the noble Lord will not deny references in the last debate to the Head of a State.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I did not expect the noble Lord to praise Marshal Stalin, of course. But the noble Lord has absolutely no experience, or a very short experience, of Parliament and, so far as I can judge, no Parliamentary instinct. I expected at least that he should obey rules which have been imposed on the House of Commons all these years.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
This is a matter which some time this House will have to decide. The House of Commons has fought a long battle for Privilege and that House is in a very strong position. It leaves mainly to the Speaker the defence of Privilege and the prevention of its abuse. The Speaker is doubly buttressed. First he is elected to Parliament, and then, in Parliament, is elected to the Chair. His authority is unchallenged; and at the beginning of every Parliament the Speaker secures confirmation of Privilege from the Crown. These things fortify the position of the Commons, and yet if they think it necessary to impose upon themselves such restraints as I have described, they have done so because they found it necessary to protect Privilege by preventing its abuse. I have not been here myself more than a short time—
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
—and it is perhaps not for me to make a suggestion; but I think it would be extremely unwise if this House were not to impose restraint upon itself. I do not think it will do any 16 good to the prestige or the power of this House. People may say: "Yes, but if the noble Lord feels strongly about this, why should he not have an opportunity of speaking?" With that I am in entire agreement. This is the place to debate these national dangers, as the noble Lord sees them. He can go out and make his speeches in the country. He can write his books. If he wished—I do not know whether he has done so—he could pass any information that he has to the security authorities. The noble Lord was invited to do that by the Lord Chancellor. It would be the first duty of anyone to do that. But if he thinks that the material which he has is not suitable for expert examination, let him use it in debate. The only thing he must not do is, having carried on his campaign with fervour and belief in the country, to come here and use this place as a platform for privileged libel—
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
—which he is afraid to repeat outside. That is the simple issue. That is the issue in defence of the Privilege of this House. This is not an ordinary political Motion. It is an appeal on a point of order to each of your Lordships. Do you think that I am justified in moving to regret that the noble Lorddid not use due care in the exercise of the Privilege of Parliament"?I have thought the matter over, and I do not think he did. When I am asked on that point of order, I shall say "No." Your Lordships must judge for yourselves. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House, ever jealously regarding the Privilege of Parliament, is no less zealous to provide against its abuse, and regrets that the Lord Vansittart, in the speech which he made in this House on March 29 last, did not use due care in the exercise of the Privilege of Parliament.—(Viscount Stansgate.)
§ 3.23 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRADFORD
My Lords, there is nothing that I can add to what the noble Viscount has said with regard to the particular point, that the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, gave me no previous notice of his intention to include my name in his "Black Record Series, No. 2." But, before we become 17 overwhelmed with "Black Record Series, No. 3" and the indications are that that is going to be overwhelming in its flood—I should like to make a few comments upon the allegations which the noble Lord brought against me and my activities on previous occasions, the allegations which, in his opinion, justified him in putting my effigy into his "Chamber of Horrors."
First of all, with regard to this alphabetical montrosity, the C.C.M.C.O.—that is, the Council of Clergy and Ministers for Common Ownership. This was formed about eight years ago as a direct outcome of two pamphlets, one, if I remember rightly, called The Case for Common Ownership, and the second called It must be Christianity—two pamphlets written by Sir Richard Acland, who, at that time, was a Liberal Member of Parliament. The object of the Society was that we should try to study from the Christian point of view the mischief which was being done or which might be done through the unrestricted dominance of private ownership of property and private profit-making in industry. Now, of course, the noble Lord is not the only one of your Lordships who strongly disapproves of a Society formed for that purpose, but I hope that there would not be many among you who would feel that, because we were a collection of socialistically-minded clergy and ministers, therefore we were a kind of thieves' kitchen over which there presided a Fagin, whilst its secretary was a kind of Bill Sykes. It was a socialistic society.
One thing which none of your Lordships can deny is that Christian Socialism is by no means a new phenomenon in the Church. I need quote only such names as those of Charles Kingsley and F. D. Maurice of about a hundred years ago, and, in a more recent generation, Bishop Gore and Conrad Noel. Nor can your Lordships deny that there is not a little in the New Testament which can be put forward as a justification for Christian Socialism in the application of Christian principles. I have only to quote the Magnificat, which has been truly described as "infinitely more revolutionary than the Red Flag," and the fourth chapter of the Book of the Acts, where we read that the first Christian church at Jerusalem was established on a communist basis and that they "had all things 18 common." Certainly, it seems to me that a Christian Socialist has no reason whatever to be called upon to be apologetic for his views because some people do not like his Socialism any more than he has because some people do not like his Christianity. I was Chairman of the C.C.M.C.O. from the start. The secretary was the Reverend Gilbert Cope who, at that time, was Vicar of Highter's Heath, Birmingham. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has dealt with the fact that he is not a canon and never was. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, did not really intend to canonise him! The chief propaganda which we carried on was by means of pamphlets. I wrote one which was called The Gospel for Dives, and Mr. Cope wrote another to which reference has already been made by the mover of this Motion. To that pamphlet, I wrote a foreword commending it as a "lucid and penetrating analysis of the class struggle." I still believe that it was so. On the strength of one phrase, a phrase torn from its context, deprived of any of the qualifications and gravely misinterpreted, the noble Lord characterised Mr. Cope as a "murderous priest," and said that anyone who knows anything about "Canon" Cope must have known that he is a "potential killer." At any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, did not know that he was not a canon. To that characterisation I make bold to offer a fiat denial. I happen to know Mr. Cope. I will quote the testimony of his churchwardens and parochial church council:Mr. Cope was for five years vicar of this parish. During that time he made no secret of his Labour opinions inside and outside Church. This some liked and some disliked. Many of us have cause to be grateful for his ministry. To us who know him well, the words used by Lord Vansittart seem a gross misuse of language, too absurd to be taken seriously but for the pain they may cause. We who sign are Conservatives, Liberals and Labour supporters.There are nineteen signatures to that testimony. I will add the following rather interesting fact as bearing upon the accusation that Mr. Cope is a "potential killer." During the war, because he believed that as a Christian minister he should not wear uniform and receive pay as a chaplain to the Forces, ho decided to serve the troops as a voluntary officiating chaplain in cassock and surplice. The face of the matter 19 is that Mr. Cope, so far from being a killer, or even a potential killer, is much more like a Christian Pacifist.
I now come to the defence of myself in regard to the C.C.M.C.O. I severed connection with them about three or four years ago, not because of any murderous proclivities of Mr. Cope—because those exist only in the noble Lord's prejudice—nor because of the socialistic tendency of the Society, with which, of course, I was well acquainted from the moment of its inception (indeed, that was the reason why I joined it), but because the Society in its publications was trending towards that typical admiration of Soviet Russia which seems to me to be the greatest silliness of Left Wing opinion, for I regard Russia as being so poor a specimen of real communism that I should describe it politically as a proletarian oligarchy, and economically as a system of State capitalism. Since I left the Society (I am glad to know that it survived my defection), it has changed its name and has now become the S.S.C.M.—the Society of Socialist Clergy and Ministers. I learned only last week that now its Chairman is the Dean of Canterbury. With the Dean of Canterbury, for some reason best known to himself, the noble Lord has bracketed me. I am afraid that is another instance of what I can only call typical inaccuracy on his part. Although I have a nodding acquaintance with the Dean, I have never at any moment in my life exchanged one single word with him about politics, Communism or Socialist affairs, or anything else which might come under the condemnation of the noble Lord. At the time I was Chairman of the Society the Dean was in no way connected with it; I believe he was not even a member.
My Lords, these are the facts, so far as I am concerned, in this molehill of which the noble Lord has made such a mountain. I do not know whether he shares the not uncommon but, I cannot help thinking, rather commonplace opinion, that parsons should not take any interest in political affairs. It is usually expressed in the words of a certain market town chief constable who regretted the passing of the time when, as he said, there were no Party politics in the town council and they were all good, sound Conservatives. I think there are many who would 20 like parsons to be non-Party politicians in the same sense—namely, to be good sound Conservatives, and always to bless the status quo, though at the present moment it is very difficult to know what the status and the quo is. But the noble Lord seems to me to wish to expel from the ministry of the Church, or, at any rate, to denigrate within it, any man who is bold enough to express anything in the shape of Left Wing opinion, or indeed any opinion which is not completely and orthodoxly Vansittartarian. I am afraid he would have been very uncomfortable in the days of the early Christian Church at Jerusalem, where they "had all things common." I think he would probably have felt himself called upon to denounce St. Peter as a murderous apostle, and not only a potential but an actual killer, on the ground of the prominent part that he took in the liquidation of Ananias and Sapphira.
I suppose it is the fact that I am wearing clerical robes which leads me to conclude with a short sermon. I want, quite humbly, to suggest to the noble Lord that, before he again makes personal attacks on those with whom he disagrees, he should ask himself whether controversy by epithets is really a very creditable method of argument. Some few years ago Mr. Cope made a public criticism upon a pamphlet that the noble Lord had written, called Black Record. Soon after that the noble Lord, in an article in the Sunday Dispatch, accused him of being a Fascist. The fact of the matter is that if you disagree with the noble Lord you must expect some epithets quite soon, and the fact that they may be mutually contradictory epithets does not matter. I should like to end by suggesting that before he next selects his epithets, the noble Lord should ask himself rather carefully whether they do not come under the ban of the Ninth Commandment.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
My Lords, may I take this opportunity of expressing to you my regret that for the last three years, as Chairman of the B.B.C., I have not been allowed to take part in your deliberations. I am sure you will all agree that the Chairman of such an organisation must keep clear of Party speech, Party votes and Party politics. I am particularly sorry that I was not present when Lord Vansittart raised his 21 Motion, because he referred to the B.B.C. on several occasions, and, I am afraid—although perhaps I am biased—on one or two occasions without giving due care to the things he said. The Lord Chancellor was good enough to answer several of the points he raised, and, if I may say so, the noble and learned Viscount made an admirable reply, for which we are grateful to him. However, he was not able to deal with all the points raised, and there are one or two that I crave your Lordships' indulgence to deal with now.
The main point on which we think perhaps due care was not exercised was an attack on our Russian section—that in that regard the B.B.C. is inefficient and in a poor way. The head of our Overseas Department is a gentleman many of you know, Major-General Ian Jacob, whom we were very fortunate to secure after the war. I do not think anyone doubts his outstanding capacity. The work of the section, which is difficult, is carefully planned in the hope of giving the best chance of influencing the audience in favour of Western ideals and the democratic way of life. The team responsible for this task has worked very hard, and it is, of course, no encouragement for them to be attacked on what some of us feel are totally inadequate grounds. We believe they are doing a good job and we have full confidence in them.
Your Lordships may think that we are partial in this matter, and we hope you will be more impressed with the view that Moscow takes of our overseas broadcasting. The fact of the matter is that the Russians are spending large sums of money to jam our overseas broadcasts to their country. Our engineers estimate that the Russians have over two hundred transmitters entirely engaged in trying to keep these broadcasts out of Russia, but, despite all their efforts, we have good evidence that the broadcasts are still getting through. We have no fewer than twenty-five channels, half of which are constantly changed to different wave lengths, dealing with this one form of broadcasting to Russia. The Russians have built up an elaborate organisation to vary their defence as quickly as they can as we vary our attack. Fortunately, we had experience of this kind of broadcasting in trying to get our 22 broadcasts over to Germany during the war. We still have the same plant; we still have the same engineers; and I venture to say that anybody who investigates will agree that our engineers are doing a good job in getting these broadcasts over to Russia. I suggest also that it is encouraging that the Russian leaders think it worth while (having, if I may say so, so little confidence in the morale of their own citizens) to take all this trouble to keep our broadcasts out of Russia.
I can assure your Lordships that the Governors of the B.B.C. are constantly considering the very difficult problem of Russia, and constantly trying to devise better methods and to improve what we are doing. As one example of the kind of thought we are giving to the matter may I say that we have a General Advisory Council composed of fifty distinguished members of the community, whose Chairman, the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, I am glad to see here to-day? I am interested to see that he is sitting next to the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart. Just over a year ago, on the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Piercy, that Council devoted careful consideration to this problem of Communism. We had a full discussion, and no fewer than eight members of your Lordships' House were present. At the end, the noble Lord, Lord Piercy, expressed himself as satisfied with the steps which the Governors of the B.B.C. were taking, and I am sure that Lord Halifax will agree that the general feeling of that distinguished assembly was the same as Lord Piercy's—they were satisfied with what the B.B.C. were doing. I may add that the Council made a good many interesting and important suggestions, all of which have been and are receiving the careful attention of the Governors. Your Lordships are helping us, not only on the General Advisory Council but also on the Board of Governors, which has been greatly strengthened in the last few months by the addition of two members of your Lordships' House—Lord Tedder, who is not here to-day, and Lord Clydesmuir, who I am glad to see is present. We hope and believe that these welcome reinforcements will enable us to tackle our jobs more effectively and may perhaps make the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, regard our efforts more favourably.
23 May I say, further, that we have the fullest possible confidence in the staff of the B.B.C.? We regard it as an outstandingly good staff, and I should like to emphasise that that applies at least as much to the Russian section as to any other section of the B.B.C. If any noble Lords have any doubt about the way we are tackling this very difficult problem—concerning which we have the greatest feeling of responsibility—if they do not feel that we are tackling it as well as any reasonable body of human beings could be expected to tackle it, we very much hope that they will come and see for themselves, and will give us the benefit of their advice and help. If any noble Lord will approach either Lord Clydesmuir or myself, we shall be only too glad to welcome him to Broadcasting House, to discuss questions with him and consider the best way in which to follow up any particular matter. May I conclude by saying that that invitation applies also to the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart? I hope that we shall have the pleasure of seeing him at Broadcasting House and of removing some misconceptions on matters to which, perhaps, he has not given due consideration.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD VANSITTART
My Lords, I have here a mass of material and nothing in front of me on which to rest it. I would, therefore, ask whether I may exercise the privilege—I think that even I have one privilege, as a Privy Councillor—of speaking from the Despatch Box, if the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has no objection—he signifies assent, and I am very grateful.
Since I last had the pleasure of addressing this House, France, Italy, Australia, South Africa, and even Panama, have found the necessity of strengthening their measures against Communism. I cannot help feeling that, in the light of the world stage, this particular Motion is not an exhilarating spectacle. On my way here, I seemed to remember a passage from the writings of Dean Swift. I mention it with diffidence because I have not, of course, had the opportunity of subjecting it to sufficient investigation. Speaking from memory the argument, roughly, runs thus. The writer says that in ancient Athens anyone could say what he liked about anyone else, but only generalisations were punishable, whereas, he pointed out, in 24 England you could revile the whole people in any terms you liked, and you would then be thanked as a deliverer of precious and useful truths. But if anyone named anyone as an illustration, well then, of course, he must expect to have challenges sent to him and to be brought before the Bar of the House. I submit that when grave issues necessitate both generalisations and illustrations, this House is a proper forum from which the case should be put to the world.
My speech of March 29 caused great annoyance, not only among Communists and the ordinary run of fellow-travellers but among that particular breed of fellow-traveller who voyages by a train of thought from which the restaurant car is never detached. To distinguish it from the "Blue train," I am calling it the "Red train of thought." It is upholstered with the most comfortable assumptions, and a special line of red herrings are served, of which we have a succulent example before us to-day. In the book of Job it is written:My desire is that my adversary had written a book.My adversary has written one. I think it is called: In the side shows. The noble Viscount seems unable to emerge from them. Many of your Lordships may call to mind the words of the poet, William Cowper:He seemed to be, on the whole, a most loving, kissing, kind-hearted gentleman.Well, the noble Viscount has come out and called me, in the most ostentatious manner, the equivalent of a liar. I shall, of course, retort to that by saying that by so doing he has taken his ticket and labelled himself as a fellow passenger of fellow-travellers.
§ LORD VANSITTART
Some of your Lordships seem to say "No" to what I have just said. Well, one good crack deserves another. As the noble Viscount has attacked me on the widest possible front. I am going to retort on the widest possible front. I am not going to have it thought that I come to this House to make speeches without sufficient care or investigation. I am not in the least angry concerning reports which are continually put out from this Red train of thought. I am not one of those who lose 25 their temper so often that they have to do without it. I know very well what I am doing and why. When I spoke on March 29, I was trying to give the gravest possible warning to this House and to the whole country. I said, in substance: "We are at war; it is not a cold war; in some parts it is a hot war, and it may become hotter; therefore let us put our house in order."
While on that subject may I deal with a point which was raised by the noble Viscount. He charged me with insufficient courtesy towards Mr. Stalin. I presume, therefore, that he was duly polite towards Mr. Hitler. I think that warning was worth retaining, but it has been lost sight of entirely. So we have this Motion. I am glad that it has given me an opportunity of restating my case, perhaps more succinctly, but I am afraid that the Motion is full of rather considerable falsehood. I am going to read what the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, said on April 4:I beg to mention a question of Privilege, of which I have already given notice to the noble Lord. …I did not receive notice. On the morning of that Tuesday he sent me this little bit of paper. I have counted the words on it. There are seventy-eight. What he actually said on this paper was very different from what he has said in his Motion of 160 words, which is considerably longer. I am making nothing of it, but as the noble Lord is a stickler for form I should have thought he might have given due notice.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
The noble Lord will forgive me, but it is usual to resume one's seat. Does the noble Lord remember that on Monday I telephoned to him and had a conversation in which I said I intended to put down a Motion which, being urgent, must be put down at once; and that I would send him a copy? On Tuesday he received a copy. The noble Lord must have forgotten that. I confess that it is a small point, but I consider him a Parliamentary hand.
§ LORD VANSITTART
Naturally I had not forgotten that conversation, but what the noble Viscount told me he was going to put before the House was different from what he did put before your Lordships. If he calls that playing straight, I do not. Furthermore, the noble 26 Viscount said that he gave me notice and that I expressed my intention of being present if possible. That was also misleading, because in that conversation on Monday to which the noble Viscount referred I told him clearly that it was a million to one I should not be there; and I gave him good and sufficient reason. I told him that I had an official lunch engagement and did not expect to go into lunch until 1.30, and that as I should be a long distance away I could not be at the House by 2.30. I told him that I could manage Wednesday. The noble Viscount said that would not do for him. I cannot for the life of me see why, because this Motion was put down for a whole month after I spoke.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
These are very silly points, but I should not like anyone to think that I am not sufficiently practical and not sufficiently honourable to do what I thought was right. The moment I conceived this Motion, I telephoned the noble Lord and explained to him that my Motion would be put down next day.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Because it was a matter of Privilege, and a matter of Privilege is always urgent. The noble Lord told me that he had a luncheon engagement and that he was reasonably certain he could not be in the House in time. He made it clear that he wanted to be present if he could, and that is the reason why I said what I did: to make it clear that the noble Lord had been anxious to face the challenge. The matter need not be pursued, but if the noble Lord has been misled, he has not been misled by any dishonourable intention on my part—of that he can be sure.
§ LORD VANSITTART
The noble Viscount knew that I should not be here, and I said that I should like to be here if possible. I have been interrupted a number of times, and as the noble Viscount will be speaking twice to my once, I do not propose to give way any more.
The noble Viscount says in his Motion that I made imputations on the conduct of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bradford. That of course is quite untrue. I made no imputations on his conduct at all. I 27 criticised his writings, which is a very different thing. One can make imputations on the conduct of Marlowe, Maupassant, Beaudelaire or Wilde, or any body else. But that is a different thing from criticising their conduct. I think, to put it the other way round, it is even possible to comment on the writings of Shakespeare without commenting on his conduct, of which we know very little. I am surprised that the noble Viscount, having treated me in this way, should come forward as a purist and as the apparently unsolicited defender of the right reverend Prelate. As soon as I was told that I should have given notice to the right reverend Prelate, I wrote him the following letter:I wish to apologise for not having let you know in advance that I should mention your name in the House of Lords. As I do not speak from notes I was uncertain beforehand how much I would say about the Magnificat series. Moreover, I thought anyhow that authorship—of which I have some experience—necessarily exposes all who practise it to criticism without prior notice. I personally should never object to my writings being criticised anywhere and anyhow. I nevertheless sincerely regret that I inadvertently failed to comply with a tradition.I spoke in all good faith. It is the universal law in literature and letters that anybody can criticise a publication. I have written a good many books and I should like to say to your Lordships present now that any noble Lord is at perfect liberty to say anything about anything I have written at any time, and I shall have no objections whatever.
I think this is the attitude of most authors, and also the attitude of the right reverend Prelate as an author, because in the letter he wrote to me, he said:I do not feel in any way aggrieved at your omission to give me notice.I think that the noble Viscount is suffering from what Talleyrand would have called an excess of zeal. The right reverend Prelate said he was surprised that I had not taken more care to verify my facts. I shall deal with these facts fully later on, but there is one thing I should mention at once. The right reverend Prelate said in his letter:To call me a Communist is so wide of the mark that I cannot even be angry at the charge.Of course, I did nothing of the sort, as I shall show later on.
28 The noble Viscount says that I attacked people without giving them an opportunity of reply, and without due care and investigation. Let us be a little careful about that, for I notice that on April 19, a member of the noble Viscount's Party in another place said this:There is a growing feeling among those brought into contact with the British Museum that the Director has become a law unto himself, and the museum is rapidly becoming one of the worst managed museums in the whole of Europe.I am glad that a question of Privilege did not arise on that. I should not like to see the time of Parliament wasted on quite such "tiddling" things. But while I am about it, I may say that I myself have sometimes had rough usage from another place. I remember (though it is a long time ago now) when two members of the noble Viscount's Party "cut loose" on me on account of my views on Germany. One of them said that I should be certified, and the other that I should be jailed. No question of Privilege arose on that. I was quite happy, because I know they are very nice fellows, though they do not know a great deal about Germany. At the same time I should like to think that that cordial invitation to Broadmoor was given without "sufficient investigation" as I have carried on fairly sanely for a number of years since.
I would carry that a little bit farther. I should like the House to imagine that I had become a member of it three years earlier than I actually did in 1938, and that Nazi penetration in this country had been equal to the Communist penetration. Of course, it was nothing like so great, but let us suppose that it had been. Following the terms of this Motion, I should have been inhibited from telling the House and the public anything about it. I will give a concrete example. During that time I had a profound conviction that The Link was not at all an organ for Anglo-German fellowship but for German propaganda, and that some of its members were in German pay. It was proved that I had been right. According to the terms of this Motion, however, it would have been expected that I should sit on that knowledge, to the benefit of our enemies and to the detriment of the British public. The noble Viscount does not seem to me to consider the British public very much. 29 After all, they are among those unable to defend themselves against Communist intrigue and deceit unless people like myself stand up for them.
After all, we are fighting for our lives. The substance of this Motion is that we must not mention names. Was there ever such rubbish? You cannot possibly fight a cold war that way. You cannot possibly make a political omelette without breaking some bad eggs. I am reminded of an episode in my earlier years when I was at a political reception in Paris. MT. Venizelos had just fallen front power; he came in; he was very sore and aloof. He waved to me. A lady notorious for hunting celebrities said to me: "Who is that." I had just begun to say: "That is a very famous man," when she said: "I must go and talk to him." When he had shaken her off she came back to me and said: "Whom did you say I was talking to?" I said: "If you had given me time I would have told you it was Mr. Venizelos." She said: "Mr. Venizelos! Thank God I did not mention Greece." To such absurdities would the noble Viscount reduce this House. He says that he is jealous of its reputation. So am I. I am jealous that it should be an effective Assembly in the Third World War, which has really been going on for some time. If you follow the real gist of this, I think the noble Viscount is going in the opposite direction. If you listen to him and his friends you would think that, after speaking for over an hour without notes, all I had done was to mention the Pilgrim Trust, instead of the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust—a pure slip of the tongue. Some time ago I had to make a reproach to an employee, and got the unexpected answer: "That is very poultry." I think this Motion is a little "poultry," too.
When those in the Red train of thought had had enough talking about the Pilgrim Trust they started chanting "witch hunt." I do not know whether it has ever occurred to the noble Viscount that what was wrong with witch hunting was that there were no witches; whereas there are in this country some very dangerous and formidable fifth columnists. But even supposing there had been witches, would it have been unreasonable to say: "Have a good time, witches. Do What you like, and go where you like.
30 Go into business, into law or Parliament. Go to night clubs, and play table tennis. But keep out of broadcasting, teaching and the public service"? I do not think that would have satisfied the noble Viscount and his friends. He would have insisted also that the witches should go into medicine and give us "endemic mulleygrubs." While I am on the subject of witches, I would ask the noble Viscount to re-read G. K. Chesterton's poems, which is a worthy occupation. If the noble Viscount will go far enough back he will find a line:They think we're burning witches when we're only burning weeds.The worst of the offenders of this chorus—and it is a very violent chorus indeed—was The Tribune. As in this mass of Billingsgate one particular mendacity stood forth, I will refute it now. I have no wish to add to the Tribune's troubles—I believe they are already engaged in one libel action, and I should certainly not wish to make things any worse—but they said that I have been proved wrong about a pamphlet which had been planted on the premises of the Festival of Britain. Here is the pamphlet. It says:Newspaper men of the world stop World War 3."—and, of course, it is the usual sort of Communist "muck," proclaiming that all others are monsters and warmongers except the Soviet Union. But I made it plain that I no more blamed the management of the Festival of Britain for that than I would blame the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris because on Easter Day a Communist disguised as a Dominican got into the pulpit at Notre Dame and shouted: "God is dead." These are the sort of dirty little tricks that Communists think clever. But as the noble Viscount has expended a good deal of energy on this alleged foraging in wastepaper baskets, may I tell him that my friends do not do that—I have no friends who forage in wastepaper baskets. One of them went into the offices and picked this pamphlet up from a pile that was there—that is where it had been planted—and he brought it to me There it is, and it is no good arguing about it. It is really rather a side issue. Other papers of the same kind have abused me just as much. I do not think the New Statesman is much better, and the Socialist Leader is 31 as abusive as The Tribune. Reynolds News wrote of "Lord Vanwitchunt"—the sort of jibe that I would have made at my prep. school on an off-day.
This leads me to one observation, and I shall make it because I have never encouraged anyone to think that they can hand me out that sort of stuff without getting a good-natured clout in return. All these people pay thin lip-service to the cause of anti-Communism, but if someone like myself says that we ought to do something about it they retire into a side alley and throw stones. In 1907 Sir Cecil Spring Rice, at the time of the first Anglo-Russian Agreement (I was then serving under him in Persia) said this:Negotiating with the Russians is like boxing with a bad smell.I feel rather the same about competing with this sort of thing. But, in view of the comment about "Lord Vanwitchunt," perhaps I may allow myself some further observation. In May, 1948, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, said this:It is my personal opinion that there is a danger that Communist activities are undermining our own Sunday newspaper."—that is, Reynolds News—We must keep these things in mind if we are not to lose the liberty we value so much.I am glad to think that that was said without involving any question of Privilege or libel.
I come next to the bodies I criticised. The first one I mentioned was the Comin-form—I assume that I may pass without further comment on that; nobody has taken up the cudgels for the Cominform. I commented next upon the B.B.C., and I would preface my remarks here by saying to the noble Viscount opposite that I have the greatest admiration for most of the work of the B.B.C., though I cannot pretend that it is perfect, or anything like perfect. It is my legitimate right to say so and, as he said, it may be a help to him if I do. I said there were Communist influences in the B.B.C., and occasionally they "peeped" out—and so they do. "Peeped out" is a moderate expression. As a matter of fact, there is a long list of "peepings" published by the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, in the April 15 issue of Everybody's magazine. I think that everybody who wishes to understand this question should read and 32 ponder that article. It will be seen that the list of shortcomings is no mild one.
I do not think, either, that the noble Viscount, or any other noble Lord in this House, would seriously advocate that we should go on broadcasting "Soviet Views" without any comment. If they were broadcast and then riddled with ridicule, that would be a very different thing. But they are not. In some quarters that has the effect of broadcasting Communist propaganda gratis—that is the way it is taken. Nor would anybody deny that insufficient use is made of the leading exiles here. If anybody did deny it, the whole body would rise up against him. The B.B.C. have given their reasons for not employing them, thereby admitting exactly what I say, and I find the reasons unconvincing. Quite apart from that, there are other lapses to which I think I ought to draw the attention of the House. Just before I broadcast there was a broadcast about India from the B.B.C. and this is the last sentence.I asked the venerable Muslim scholar whether he thought that Communism would come. He replied 'If it does it will be, I think, the best solution of our problems.' Looking at these vast tracts of humanity where disease and ignorance and under-nourishment are the rule one might feel inclined reluctantly to agree with him.I ask you my Lords: Is it really sensible that the Foreign Secretary should go out to Colombo to combine measures against Communism in the East, when broadcasters here are allowed to say that Communism may be the only solution for India? I do not think it makes any sense at all. Nor, indeed, does another recent example make much sense. I refer to a broadcast by a Professor Hyman Levy, in which he said that class war is inevitable. I do not think that is a very good way of fighting a cold war—to put people on the air to suggest that civil war may be inevitable. It is not a policy, and what we need is a policy.
Finally, I made some critical comments on the equipment of the Russian section of the B.B.C. I said that I had affidavits from distinguished Russian scholars to that effect, and here they are. One says:Apart from scholastic faults these texts also contain a number of grammatical mistakes, and my general opinion is that the text has been written by people who cannot easily write Russian without the aid of a dictionary.33 The next one says:Translations of news items, talks and Press Reviews shown to roe left me with the impression that the translators make a persistent and somewhat hopeless attempt at translating texts too literally at the expense of idiomatic Russian. At the same time they betray a regrettably low standard of linguistic understanding and in some cases elementary syntactic mistakes have not been eliminated. The result of stroll a treatment of the original texts is of course not to the advantage of the whole broadcast. The sentences are too involved and require repeated reading to be understood. I cannot help thinking that such translations may even provide listeners with undesirable matter for mirth.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
Would the noble Lord be good enough to send us copies of those affidavits with the names of the people?
§ LORD VANSITTART
Except in one instance, where, for various reasons, the man prefers not to give his name. One is Professor Korostovitz and the other Professor Meyerndorff. Here is the other affidavit:It requires too great an effort to follow the Russian broadcasts. A lot of jargon is being used. From the grammatical point of view the broadcasts are full of mistakes. Non-existent expressions are often used. I have carefully studied different idioms of Slavonic languages on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Nowhere have I come across such Russian as I hear in the Russian translations of the B.B.IC. Perhaps it is used as a parody.I am not vouching for that, because I am not a Russian scholar, but I use that in justification of what I said the other day. I said I had these affidavits, and so I have.
§ LORD VANSITTART
They are statements of opinion by distinguished scholars. Shall I call them "statements"? If you prefer that I will make the change. I have other criticisms of the same kind. 34 Another, for instance, front Czechoslovakia says that the best broadcast is that by Sir Robert Bruce-Lockhart on Friday night and that the others are mainly dull and have not sufficient punch. I think these things should be ventilated.
I then went on to education, and I mentioned the figure of 1 per cent. of Communist infiltration. Since then I have had a number of letters from various teachers saying that if put it much too low because I in fact omitted the fellow-travellers. That is perfectly true; I admit that I made an understatement. I mentioned one particularly leading Communist, and as no question has been raised about that I will pass on. I also mentioned Birmingham University, and said that there was a clique of Communist professors in Birmingham University. So there are, and I have their names. But they have relieved me of all responsibility in that way, because I evidently got under the skin a little, and one of them, Professor George Thompson, Professor of Greek, wrote this letter to the New Statesman. He said:As a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party, Jet me point out tint there are Communists, of whom I am proud to be one, in all our universities, and that their numbers are steadily growing.That is exactly what I said, and I cannot thank the New Statesman and Birmingham University enough for having weighed in with such timely confirmation. The University itself has made no secret of it. It admits fully that there are Communists there. It says that they exercise no discrimination or inquiry. Of course, that sounds fine if you are really foolish enough to believe that Communism is a Party and not a conspiracy. We all know the contrary. Perhaps that works very well in theory, but in practice it sometimes works quite differently.
I should like the House to pay some attention to the next sentence, because I make it after full consultation with those concerned. I know of one university where some of the anti-Communists are rather afraid at times that their political opinions may be less of a help than a hindrance to them, and I think that is an unhappy state of affairs. Moreover, that tolerance works in very curious ways in other directions. For example, here I have a protest signed by hundreds of citizens of St. Ives in Cornwall because they do not like their 35 small children being taught scripture by a militant Communist atheist. They have got no change out of it so far, and some are saying that they will not send their children to school, if this is to go on. Before the war I had a great friend who was a leading wit of his day. He was invited for a week-end to Leicestershire, and he very soon found out that he did not like hunting. The first day he fell off at the meet, and on the second day he came home straight from the meet. Being asked to inscribe something in the visitors' book, he gave some umbrage when he wrote: "One man's 'meet' is another man's poison." And the blood sport of Communism is also poison to other people.
Now I come to the matter of the Church. I began by saying that I intended no criticism at all of the Church as such, but that what I was reproaching was the apathy with which some of the suggestions and writings of ecclesiastics of the Church were received in public. I said that very clearly, and I shall come back to that point later when I deal with the matter of the Reverend Mr. Weather-head. In the lull before this storm in a tea cup, with a touch of saccharin, I have sometimes been sorry that I made my picture so complete, because it has given an opportunity to those who will not face any major issue to ride off on minor ones. Now, I attacked this S.S.C.M., as it is now called. I am aware that its first pamphlet was published in 1942, because no sooner had it come to my notice than I attacked it strongly—this was in 1943—publicly and outside this House. Well, my Lords, I find this on April 25, in the evening Press:The Birmingham Branch of the Association of Tutors in Adult Education has passed a resolution saying that it is very concerned that the privileged position of a Peer should have been used for a personal attack on a Branch member, Mr. Cope.That is completely disingenuous, because everybody knows I have attacked the pamphlet outside this House quite often.
I might have been disposed to do nothing more on this matter had it not been that the people responsible for these pamphlets have gone straight on in the same key. I have here, for instance, a letter addressed not to me but to a friend, from the Reverend L. J. Bliss, who 36 appears to act in some secretarial capacity to the organisation and to be on the Executive Committee. He says:The Society has not shifted one iota from its position taken when it was formed in 1942.That refers to the pamphlet, which the noble Viscount has in his hand and which I will deal with faithfully in a minute or two. He also says:We number with lay associates at about 250.I was going through their membership last year and I found it came to about 129, plus thirty-eight associate members. The noble Viscount will see that the organisation is increasing. It is not to be treated with disregard because some of its members are engaged in trying to push Communist literature in our schools, and I have had several complaints from headmasters on that score.
Now I come to the pamphlet which is the cause of much argument. Mr. Belloc has written:The nuisance of the tropic isThe sheer necessity of fizz.The intoxication of the Single Party and Common Ownership seems an equally sheer necessity to Mr. Cope:Beneath an equatorial sky,You must consume it or you die,said Mr. Belloc. Mr. Cope says that, in our temperate climate an unpleasant death is reserved for us if we do not swallow his medicine. On page 14, he says:One group must impose its will upon all others by precisely that measure of force which is found to be necessary in order that economic life may proceed. … For one group to wrest power from another has always involved armed conflict, the intensity and duration of which depend not only upon the relative strengths of the antagonists, but also upon what help they receive from outside intervention. … If a revolution is attempted … while the existing dominant class is still strong enough to resist for a long time or when the rising class has not sufficient understanding and singleness of purpose, then the struggle is likely to be bloody indeed.The noble Viscount carefully forbore to quote those passages. I ask your Lordships, if that does not mean murder, what does? The writer goes on to say:The pacifist can never really be a Socialist.…Well, my Lords, we know a good many instances to the contrary; and I think the right reverend Prelate said something about that. But the argument which 37 follows on page 15 is something extremely different. He is apparently trying to get Christian pacifists in on this question of liquidation. He says:If, in the name of righteousness, they believe that God's will is done by taking up arms against some of their fellow men, solely on account of the beliefs which the latter seek to put into practice, then the nationality of their opponents has no relevance to the justification they claim for their action. If it is right for English democrats to fight against German Fascists, precisely the same sort of justification is involved when fellow nationals become opposed to each other in the world struggle to abolish capitalism.We were fighting against the Germans at that time, and, in other words, this man says it NN as equally right to go out after our fellow countrymen. That seems to me a truly infamous argument. Then on page 17, he says:Full democracy can be established only by a single Party. Is it conceivable that common ownership could be established if in Parliament there were a permanent opposition? … all the fundamental opposition must be liquidated.Well, my Lords, I think those are rather alarming sentiments, and if they are not murderous I should like to know what is.
§ LORD VANSITTART
The noble Viscount has the book in his hands, and I am going to make my speech in my own way. I have dealt with liquidation in that book. The writer of the pamphlet from which I have been quoting says that the struggle will be long and bloody indeed, and that is a definition of what liquidation would mean. In various trials in Russia it has been said that liquidation meant shooting and hanging. Mr. Cope says that the amount of bloodshed wit' depend upon the amount of resistance.How opposition is to be nullified depends upon the methods adopted by the opposition itself.… The degree of force and the actual methods of enforcement would depend upon the strength and general policy of the counter revolutionaries.I hope we shall stop splitting hairs henceforward and get clown to our subject—a thing which the noble Viscount seems 38 singularly reluctant to do. On page 19, the pamphlet says:The workers must be led and organised by a single Party which tolerates the existence of no other Party fundamentally opposed to it.Now comes a sentence which offends me more than any other:Class collaboration … contributes to the continuation of international war.That is a pretty sentiment, is it not? He adds:Common ownership excludes all other solutions.I do not think there is much more to be said about that.
I do not wish to dwell upon the preface written by the right reverend Prelate, because that has already been quoted; but he did say that he commended this pamphlet as a "lucid and penetrating analysis of the class struggle." I am bound to say, speaking as a Churchman and on behalf of a great many other Churchmen who have communicated with me on this matter, that we were all profoundly puzzled at the time. I mentioned another pamphlet written by the right reverend Prelate himself. I quoted only one sentence and I am going to justify that quotation. I said it contained the phrase:Communism in Russia is in fact delivering Christ's message.Again he speaks ofthe challenge which God has raised up Communism to deliver to the Church.I have never said the right reverend Prelate was a Communist, or anything like it. I am bound to say, however, having read this pamphlet, that I thought that perhaps he differed slightly from Gilbert arid Sullivan:Hearts just as pure and fairMay beat in Belgrave SquareAs in the lowly airOf Seven Dials"—but I do not go very much further than that. I was particularly afraid of the effect of some of the right reverend Prelate's sentences on the minds of the unwary; for if I thought that a ruthless system which had liquidated 30,000,000 people in peace time was raised up by Providence, I believe I should, like Job, "curse God and die." I do not believe in such things. As I say, I thought merely that the Bishop was keeping rather dangerous company. As he has now 39 resigned from that body, it is evident that we have both come to the same conclusion.
There is one more little touch by Mr. Cope, with which I should like to deal before we part company. He wrote another pamphlet. It is Pamphlet No. 4—I do not suppose the noble Viscount has read it. At page 9 there is a nice little touch:The Church as it now exists is on the edge of a precipice, and all that remains to be decided is whether it will jump over or wait to be pushed over.When I look respectfully at the Episcopal Benches I do not think that they look very much like jumping, and I hope they will not permit themselves to be pushed. I further mentioned Pamphlet No. 6 by a man called the Reverend Mr. Worlledge. I am justifying what I said there. I said that he called Marx and Lenin God's instruments. And there it is, at page 13. At page 12 he also says:Russia, in spite of its professed denial of God, is nearer to His Kingdom than any Western nation is.Finally, to show your Lordships the sort of stuff that is written, the last sentence is this:Russia is marching towards the Kingdom of God and the ultimate recognition of Christ as her King.This is the sort of stuff being put about by priests.
§ LORD VANSITTART
It has not been withdrawn or denied. This pamphlet may have gone out of print, but here is exactly what I said. This is why I am falling foul of this particular body of men. I went on then to the case of Mr. Evans, and said that he had written a pamphlet called Christians and Communists, which was much more about Communism than about Christianity. There it is. Anybody who likes to read it can satisfy himself that I told the truth. I will give your Lordships one example. He reproaches the Fathers 40 of Lambeth with saying that Communism is contrary to the Christian faith, and he adds:The Foreign Office could not have asked for more.I think that is treating the Lambeth Fathers with great disrespect. I said that Mr. Evans had gone out to report the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty. He went out on behalf of the Daily Worker. I have all his reports, and they are pretty nauseating. I will give your Lordships one of the reports:The trial was conducted with scrupulous fairness.… The wild stupid and vicious stories of drugs and ill-treatment should be absolutely discounted.… Two things stand out in the trial. The first is the extent of foreign espionage activity against Hungary and the readiness of the Western powers to gamble with the future of Hungary and the lives of Hungarian citizens whom they were prepared to use as tools … If to-day the Prince Primate of Hungary faces life in prison both politicians and prelates abroad, who gave him advice and knew his plans, must take the blame. The crime is his. The guilt is not his alone.Trials in Hungary are not held in English. So far as I know, the Reverend Mr. Evans does not know Hungarian, certainly not well enough to follow the whole proceedings. Yet he comes home and sells this sort of stuff to the British public.
Then a Mr. Chambers went out and did a similar job in the trial of the Bulgarian parsons. He said he was an independent observer, but his trip was organised by the Bulgarian Communists. He said that the trial appeared to be quite normal to the average Englishman, apparently including the fact that these unfortunate men had been in jail incommunicado for more than a year. He said that the Bulgarian Communist authoritieswere fully justified from the evidence in framing the indictment.The "evidence" was about a million words of confession in Bulgarian. The Reverend Mr. Chambers knows no Bulgarian and he was in Bulgaria for less than a week. Yet he comes home again and tries to sell this stuff to the British public. It really is an utter scandal. He said:There is no support for the hostile contention that acknowledgment of guilt was forced, extracted or given under any unlawful form of compulsion.If your Lordships want to know how these confessions are extorted, I advise 41 you to read an admirable article by a distinguished Bulgarian in the Manchester Guardian of April 12, where you will see how these abominable tricks are played. These confessions are also sometimes extracted by electrical shocks to the brain. Your Lordships see how low these people will go.
I will quote again from the Daily Worker, an utterance of the Dean of Canterbury about the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty. He said:I cannot forget that Cardinal Mindszenty said that Socialism and Communism ought to be exterminated.The Cardinal never said anything of the kind, and yet the Dean says this. I quote again from Mr. Padev:The Red Dean did not hesitate to produce this sheer fabrication out of his imagination, knowing full well that it would worsen the condition of the imprisoned Cardinal. A perfect example not only of contempt of court but of contempt of Christian decency and Christian morality.I endorse every word of that. While we are on that subject, I must take up the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bradford. He talked of opposition to Socialism. I never said a word about that. I have never been a Party politician. What I am opposed to is sheer bloody cruelty, whether it be Nazi or Communist. It is just the same to me and I intend to fight it tooth and nail as long as I can stand up in this House. Internal politics have nothing whatever to do with it. They never have had and never will have, so far as I am concerned. I say that with all respect to the right reverend Prelate.
Now for the case of Mr. Weatherhead. I said at the beginning that I was not criticising the Church but the apathy of the public to certain things that were said and done. That is why I used the phrase that I did in reply. In no way have I said that this is a matter of Communism. I have never said that. Noble Lords can look up Hansard if they like. I have never said that Mr. Weatherhead was a Communist. I know that he is not and that he has spoken out most courageously against it. My point was about the public apathy in regard to the suggestion he made which I thought was a most deplorable one—that members of our Royal Family should be sent out to Moscow to express good will to Stalin. That would have been repugnant, I am sure, 42 both to the Royal Family and to the British public. In any case, I think it was questionable taste to bring the Royal Family at all into this matter. But the real reason why I said that was because such a proposal was appeasement to the full. I wanted to bring home to all those in authority that it is not by appeasement in any form that they can win a cold war or avert a hot one. That is all.
After that I criticised a number of people who had been sent out on cultural missions—those who had all "ratted" on us and gone over to the enemy and spent their time abusing this country. Apparently, the noble Viscount opposite thought I had been too hard on several of them and so, out of an immense mass of their output, I have brought along an extract which might cause some amusement to the noble Viscount. This is Miss Rider speaking. Shecondemned the Labour Party for betraying the British working classes and drawing Britain into the camp of the war-mongers.That is what these renegades are doing all the time. I think it will be agreed that no particular sympathy is due to them. After all, we are in a form of war, in many parts of the world. People were hanged for doing that sort of thing in war time. Though I do not suggest anything of that sort in this case, we cannot pass over these things lightly. It is a grave offence.
I come next to a matter not mentioned by the noble Viscount, on which I should be glad to make a correction. In the course of my remarks I said that a Mr. Molnar was a member of the Communist Party. I was rather surprised to see in Hansard that I had said that, because I had not intended to say it. I did not, and do not, think that he is. I had been speaking for a long time and my attention flagged a little. I had intended to say that he and a Mr. Roman, to whom the noble Viscount alluded, were both employed by a Communist-dominated agency of the Hungarian State—the Hungarian Foreign Trading Company. This company started off under apparently better auspices but fell under the domination of the Hungarian economic dictator, a man called Vas. He was born a Hungarian but became a Russian subject and a Russian officer. Mr. Roman was one of its prominent officials, and Mr. Molnar represented it in this country. I am happy 43 to make clear exactly what I meant in this matter. I did not ask that the case of either of these two people should be reconsidered; indeed you will find in Hansard that I said that this may be quite all right. I think, indeed, that in the case of Mr. Molnar it is all right, and I might say the same in the case of Mr. Roman, provided that I have my way in the future. After all, I was looking to the future, and what I said was that we have reached a point where we must be cautious with regard to people who leave the Communist Party having held high or lucrative positions in it. We must carefully scrutinise that matter in the future. I hope we shall do so because I have known of cases (not the two that I mentioned the other day) where I have reason to believe that the British public has not had the benefit of the doubt which it was entitled to have, and where sufficient investigation has not been carried out. I repeat that we are virtually in a sort of war, and we cannot be too careful about the future.
I now come to the point that was particularly dwelt upon by the noble Viscount opposite—namely, the case of Mr. Syers. I mentioned these people who had been in Yugoslavia. There were three men and a woman. All that came up in the House of Commons on April 5, and of course my facts are incontestable; I spent a good deal of time in verifying them. As the noble Viscount did not refer to the other people I mentioned, I will not waste the time of the House either. He mentioned Mr. Syers, and I think it is obvious that he had not read the broadcast of the Yugoslav Government which dealt very stringently with these people, particularly Major Klugman, who writes for World News and Views. What the Yugoslav Government say is that all these people were actively Stalinist, and working against Yugoslavia as loyal friends of the Soviet Union, and that undesirable elements have infiltrated into the various Communist Parties and are now playing an active rôle in the infiltration campaign. I then went on to say, as the noble Viscount also mentioned, that Mr. Syers had written a pamphlet for the Bureau of Current Affairs. The noble Viscount appeared to defend it. I do not know whether he is saying that he would care to defend some of the statements in it. For instance the pamphlet says that the fact that they, the 44 States of South-Eastern Europe, had to pay heavy reparations to the U.S.S.R. actually contributed to a certain extent to their recovery, for it stimulated the recovery of industry. Can a man be stimulated by being skinned?
I am not going to detain the House by calling attention to other matters which are highly challengeable. The basis of this pamphlet is that all is well since the Communists came. I will not say any more about that, but I have plenty of accounts of the activities of Mr. Syers, including a lecture which he has given. I maintain that a pamphlet written by a known Communist, and with Communist sentiments in it, and such propaganda as that which I have quoted, is not fit to be issued to our troops. It ought not to have been sent out. I am confirmed in that view. I was extremely moderate about it.
I have mentioned one pamphlet. I have here another, written by a well-known Communist, Mr. Ralph Parker, and the whole of this pamphlet is fairly skilful Communist propaganda. The last sentence will give some idea of its point.There could be little doubt that the world in whose reconstruction they wish to share is one that we too would wish to see.That also, I maintain, should not have been sent out to our troops. Again I refer to the correspondence that has taken place in The Times in regard to the issue of a map which was full of misstatements coming from Communist sources. These were challenged by the Greek Embassy, and the Embassy got no satisfaction. I think that map was ultimately rejected by our own military authorities as being completely misleading. But the Bureau of Current Affairs were still unrepentant, and I say that there should be a reform there. Very much more care needs to be exercised in the future than has been exercised in the past.
Finally, I come to my own service. As I told the House, I have been nearly forty years in that service and I feel we all deeply resent the suggestion that anything I said was lacking in care and investigation—because that is what is said in this Motion. I wish your Lordships to read again what I said on March 29. It is highly important that you should do so, because the situation in the public service is anything but satisfactory. I gave your Lordships a meticulous 45 account of the rise of Communism in the public service before and after 1941, and any suggestion from anybody who has not been in the Civil Service that I and all who work together in the business have been lacking in care is both untrue and offensive. In the course of my remarks I mentioned two, and only two, people. Otherwise I said—and I want to repeat it again:I venture to suggest that the Government of its own initiative and responsibility should undertake an investigation into the state of affairs in these various Departments, an investigation which I will do nothing to prejudice.I meant that. But if the Government want help they must come to me. I will not go to them. My colleagues are grateful to me for what I have said. They wish me again to point it out, because it received very little attention in the Press.
I suggested that the present ineffective purge, as it is called (of course it is nothing of the sort), should be replaced by more effective screening, and that Communists should no longer be allowed on a negotiating level. If we choose to drift as we do at present, then we must take the consequences. But that is small consolation to the people of this country. There are 50,000,000 people in this country, and 10,000 Communists in the public service. Which way is our tolerance to go? One cannot have it both ways. I said that we want to get rid of Communists in the public service. My colleagues and I wish to see that done, and we make no concealment of that.
I will hasten to my conclusion. I do not want to be more pugnacious than necessary, but my veracity has been impugned. I have brought forward incontrovertible evidence, I have given your Lordships chapter and verse of the whole matter. I will not occupy the time of the House longer, except to ask: Does any sane man think that I, about to enter my seventieth year, after a full life-time spent in international affairs, would really be plugging along with my old theme of national security, and nearly always in vain, unless my conscience commanded? Why should I give up the last good morsel of life merely to be insulted? Why should I renounce all that for which I have longed for many years to mediate and write, 46 merely to be pelted like this? I have never expected a word of thanks for anything I have ever done in my life, but I must say that I never expected this sort of treatment in this House, and I leave your Lordships to judge the matter.
§ 4.50 p.m.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, who is always the soul of courtesy, a question of which I have given him private notice? The question is this. Is the noble Viscount aware that a week ago I gave his lieutenant, through the usual channels, notice that I intended to speak in this debate, which notice he accepted? And will the noble Viscount explain to the House why my name is not on the list of speakers and why, consequently, having regard to the speech which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House is about to make and those who are going to follow him, he has deliberately excluded me from speaking, since he knows perfectly well the effect?
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, it did not come to my knowledge as long ago as a week that the noble Lord wished to speak, but it did come to my knowledge a day or so ago. In my view, it is my duty to intervene in the debate at this stage, and, with the greatest possible respect, I do not propose to give way to the noble Lord. That is my view.
I accept that, and I hope that everyone present, particularly the Press Gallery, will take due notice. I think it is a grave departure from our procedure, which has been defended here this afternoon. Talk about the iron curtain!
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I can only say that, as Leader of the House, one is sometimes called upon to discharge unpleasant duties.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
Believing as I do that it is right, I am intervening at 47 this stage. I think it is proper and in the interests of the House that this discussion should be ended.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
In summarising the position, I want to assure the House that we all here adhere completely to the Resolution which was passed unanimously in this House on March 29:That in view of the extent of Communist infiltration into the public service and other important branches of public life in this country, continuous and resolute precautions are necessary for public security.I myself believe that is very true. We recognise the methods of infiltration, and we know how often, unfortunately, they have been successful. We know that the Communists are making and do make a close study of the methods whereby quite a few people can infiltrate themselves into important positions in trade unions and other organisations and obtain control of them. We know that the system they believe in, if it were adopted, would mean the cruel suppression of liberty. That is a fair and brief epitome of the position. We saw at the General Election what the British public thought about it, but because so few voted for the Communist candidates that is no reason why we should not be continually on the alert with regard to the tactics to which I have just referred.
I am not so sure, knowing something about it, that the methods now being employed by the Government, as explained on March 29 by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, are really as ineffective as the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, seems to suggest. We have to remember that the people who are noisy and who make speeches are not always the most dangerous people. It is those who infiltrate themselves into organisations, and who are not known for what they are, who are much more dangerous than those who make silly speeches. I do not forget, and this House does not forget, that we are British people, and the history of our nation is full of moving stories of resolute resistance to oppression in any form, and insistence on personal freedom. Whilst we accept that subversive methods used against the safety of the State must be resolutely and fearlessly dealt with, we 48 must be alert that we ourselves, in our resentment, are not betrayed into adopting methods which we condemn in others. Freedom of speech, as my noble friend has said and we all agree, is a priceless possession, and it is nowhere of more vital importance than in Parliament.
I should like to pay a tribute to my noble friend who has felt called upon to bring this Motion before the House. I have known him for forty years as a Member of Parliament. There is no one more zealous than he for the maintenance of the traditions of Parliament and for the resolute defence of its privileges. The possession of our privileges is something which is very precious to us all. They are resolutely to be defended, and there is placed upon us an obligation to use them very carefully on that account. Frankly, I cannot but feel that when we come to review them later we shall look upon some parts of this debate—and, indeed, of the two debates—with regret. This House is unexampled in its freedom of expression. There is no Speaker. We rule ourselves. We rule by the good will and common consent of every individual Peer, and we have no other rule. I think that that is one of the reasons why the debates of this House are so highly esteemed. Therefore the careful refraining from any misuse of our privileges is, I think, a stern duty that falls upon every one of us. It is because I feel misgiving on that account that I am disposed to move the Motion which, in a minute or two, I am going to put before your Lordships. I feel that the maintenance of the high repute of this House is the consideration that should be, above all, in our minds.
I am not attracted by many of the things that have been said in these two discussions. I do not think they redound to the credit of this House, as we should like. On the whole, I feel a real disquiet at debates of this kind. With the greatest possible respect to my noble friend Viscount Stansgate, whom I have known and loved for forty years, I am going to ask him not to press his Motion. I want this House to shut this business down, and, in accordance with a procedure of this House which is seldom adopted, and in spite of the fact that perhaps it may be very unpopular, I feel it my duty as Leader of the House to move the previous Question.
§ Moved, That the previous Question be now put, Whether the said Question shall be now put.—(Viscount Addison.)
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion which has just been moved by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. I entirely agree with practically every word he said in the remarks he has just delivered to your Lordships. No doubt it was perfectly understandable that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who considered that the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, had not paid due regard to the restraint imposed upon us by our position of Privilege, thought it right to put down a Motion in order to draw attention to that fact. He had a perfect right to do that. No doubt it is equally understandable that the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, being faced with this Motion, should have thought it only right that he should justify the statements he made in an earlier debate. Nobody could complain of that. Finally, I think it very natural that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bradford, who considered that his views had been seriously misrepresented by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, should wish to make a personal statement explaining what those views really are; and we heard him with great interest.
All these noble Lords have now had an opportunity of saying what they thought right and proper and your Lordships have heard their remarks. I do not wish, any more than the noble Viscount the Leader of the House wishes, to go into the merits and demerits of what they have said on one side or the other. Indeed, I am not in a position to add to what your Lordships have already been told of these grave questions. Moreover, if it is needful I am sure the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will give an assurance that the Government will take full account of all that has been said, both by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, and by the other speakers. I could not, of course, accept the suggestion, if such a suggestion is implied in the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that in no circumstances should the names of persons, either members or non-members of this House, be mentioned in our debates. I do not imagine for a moment that the noble Viscount meant 50 that. If it is in the public interest that names should be mentioned, obviously it is our duty to speak out, and there is nothing in our customs or in our traditions which would prevent that. Indeed, there is no doubt that it was in order partly to make it possible for us to do so that our Privileges in that respect were given to us. On the other hand, I would entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that it is vital that such Privileges should not be abused and, in particular, that we should not indulge in any way merely in what the Standing Orders call "taxing" speeches in support of our case. If this debate has had the effect of making that clear, then I believe it will have been worth while, apart altogether from the important topics which have come under discussion.
But, in any case, I do not see what advantage can come from further prolonging this debate and making other charges and having those charges refuted. I hope, therefore, that any noble Lords on this side who have meditated speaking will restrain themselves on this occasion. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, who rose just now, said he had a right to speak, and, of course, he has a right to speak if he thinks proper. That is the right of every member of this House. But, with great respect, I think he would be wise on this occasion to refrain. I am sorry to ask him. As he is not a frequent visitor to this House, it might be natural that when he does come he should wish to speak, but I hope that for the reasons I have put forward he will not press his demand on this occasion. Like the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, I personally regret more than one thing that has been said by more than one speaker. I do not think those things have conduced either to the dignity or to the advantage of this House. I suggest, therefore, that your Lordships would be wise to take the advice of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and agree to the Motion he has now moved. If that Motion is pressed to a Division, which I hope it will not be, I shall support him.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Samuel, who cannot be here, and on behalf of the noble Lords behind me, I wish to say that I entirely support the Motion of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.
§ 5.6 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, since the Church has been frequently referred to in the course of the last debate and this, I should like to say that I wholly support the proceeding now proposed to the House. I wish to make it clear that if any other proceeding is followed, I shall desire to contribute to the discussion. The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, for all I know perfectly correctly, has demonstrated that there are a certain number—though I am certain only a very small number—of priests in the Church of England and ministers of the Free Churches who hold Communist opinions. Let that be granted. The further question, to which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred, is "What then?" I would say merely that the Church is not going to be the first to suppress freedom of speech. If I may put it in simple form, I dissociate myself utterly from all the public utterances of the Dean of Canterbury. I have said that not once and not twice, and I take this opportunity of saying it again. If I may say so, I think that he has excelled himself on his recent visit. But having said that, I wish to say in support of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that until the Government of this country declare that it is against the law to utter sentiments of this kind, the Church is not going to be the first to suppress freedom of speech.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, we Nonconformists have a hymn:Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.That is what I propose to do. I put a point of order to your Lordships, and your Lordships have to decide individually whether or not the point of order is sound. I look at this issue purely as a Parliamentarian. I do not wish to dispute the details of the mass of facts which the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, puts forward. They may all be true. The noble Lord feels strongly, and we all have our different views. I am on a straight Parliamentary point. My noble friend Lord Addison, and the noble Marquess opposite, have given us a peep into the politician's paradise, where nobody need make up his mind. I have never heard a speaker, when a point of order has been put, say: "In reference to this point of order I move the previous question." 52 When a point of order is put it has to be decided, and your Lordships must decide it. You cannot slide out of this.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I would say to the noble Viscount that it is perfect nonsense to call his Motion a point of order. He cannot get away with that—in this House, at any rate.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
The noble Marquess leads the Opposition and has, I might say, centuries of Parliamentary experience. I did not know how else I was to bring the matter forward. I tried it and I was told: "You must put down a Motion." My humble intention was no more than to try and put some restraint on what I allege to be the unbridled licence of some of the speeches made in this House. When a speaker describes a dignitary of the Church as an "evil charlatan," is no one going to say: "Come, come, you may not agree with him, but that is hardly decent"? When the noble Lord is pleased to describe a lady as "a shapeless mass" and "an unprepossessing export," is nobody going to say: "That is hardly done in our society"? But we come to something much more serious. In the noble Lord's speech were three or four libels. He said: "I have dealt with this in a book." Yes, he did deal with it in a book, but he did not put the criminal libel in the book. In the book he said:Liquidating means killing.In his speech he said: "This man is a murderous priest; he is a potential killer." The noble Viscount may think he can slide out—
§ LORD VANSITTART
I am not sliding out at all. I said that the man said the struggle would be long and bloody. If the noble Lord denies that that means murder, he denies that he has a nose on his face.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I do not care what noble Lords say. I have not spoken for about an hour and a half last time and about fifty minutes this time. 53 I am trying to be brief, and I will be. The point is this. The House cannot avoid the issue. If you say: "We will take the previous question," then this is the situation. Certain libellous statements have been made. I have asked that they should be declared by the House to be out of order, and the House has declined to rule them out of order. That is the situation. The authority is not Erskine-May's "Parliamentary Maxims," but Erskine-May's Parliamentary Practice. The order of this House is built up by a long series of precedents. To-clay you are creating a precedent and I shall raise my voice (I cannot divide I am alone) against it, because I do not desire that the House of Lords should be degraded into a place where humble individuals—there may he many others—can be attacked by name and libelled without protection. Therefore, I shall say "Not-content," or whatever the right word is, at the right time. And as we are adopting a procedure seldom adopted, I also will adopt a procedure seldom adopted, and under Standing Order No. XXXV, if my Motion is defeated or the other Motion is carried, I shall enter a protest on the Clerk's Journals before two of the clock to-morrow. Any noble Lord who thinks that in the interests of the dignity of this House, and for the protection of people who cannot protect themselves, this sort of thing ought to be stopped, can join me in that protest to-morrow in the Journals of the House of Lords.
§ On Question, Whether the said original Question shall be now put, resolved in the negative.