§ Mr. DILLON
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I desire to raise a question of privilege. I do not know whether it has come to your knowledge that, since we were last in attendance on this House, a new Regulation has been made by which Irish Members of Parliament are no longer allowed to discharge their duties in the House except they go to a police officer and obtain a police permit. Before leaving Dublin I was obliged to go down to the police office and obtain a permit, which I have here in my pocket. The Chief Secretary raised rather a quibble last night when he said that these police permits were not necessary in order to attend. But they are really necessary to attend, because the information conveyed to us was that unless we obtained these permits, a copy of one of which I hold in my hand, we would not be allowed to return. Of course, no Irish Member of Parliament would come to attend to his duties 277 if he was to be interned in England for the rest of his natural life. I consider that to be a mere quibble and an evasion, and I am perfectly correct, therefore, in stating that it is impossible for us under the new Regulation to attend to our duties in this House except by the permission of the Dublin police officer. I have here two specimens of the permits issued to the Irish Members, of which there are sixty in possession of my hon. Friends around me. My hon. Friend the Member for Donegal was obliged to go and get his photograph taken. That was the Regulation when he applied for his permit. But when I applied for mine I was informed that the Government had changed the Regulation, and the new Regulation was that after the name of the Member should be inserted in red ink "Member of Parliament." That was the substitute for the photograph. The permit is signed by the Commissioner of Police for the City of Dublin. I submit that that is an outrageous and unparalleled interference with the liberty of Members of this House.
It is perfectly competent for Mr. Johnson, the Dublin Commissioner of Police, to refuse a permit, and if it was thought a close Division was coming on, and it was not in the interests of the Government that the Irish Members should be in their places, it would be perfectly easy for the Police Commissioner in Dublin, under the direction of the Executive, to refuse the permits, and in that way it is one of the most astonishing invasions of the privileges of this House that I have ever known. Has it ever been on record that the Members of this House were not to be allowed to attend without the permission of police officers? I do not believe in the whole history of the House of Commons such a thing ha® been attempted. It is perfectly plain that this proceeding was of so shocking a nature that some person in a high position intervened. Some influence must have been brought to bear, because several of my colleagues, when they got their permits, were obliged to get their photographs in the ordinary way common with passports, and without which a passport is of no avail. If you do not have your photograph on a passport, of what use is the passport? But evidently some high official, I do not know who, intervened, shocked by this transaction, and we were informed that we did not need to have our photographs. Consequently we got our passports with 278 only the red ink statement that we were Members of Parliament. What use is that except as a mere insult and as a means of preventing us from attending the House of Commons? There is no other purpose in it. I might hand the permit to anyone else if I were so disposed, and anyone else might be described as a Member of Parliament, unless we were all known, as we are, to the officials on the boats and on the railway. Therefore, when the photograph is removed, it is a wanton, insulting provision, having no object in the world except to enable the Executive Government to prevent us coming to this House if they so desire. There is no pretence of necessity for the security of the State. Either it is a silly insult or it is an attempt on the part of the Executive to invest itself with the power of controlling Divisions in this House, and preventing Members of Parliament attending. That is the first point I wanted to raise.
The second point is this: Under another Regulation we are prohibited from addressing our constituents in Ireland unless we go to a police officer and obtain a permit. That is an unparalleled thing even in the history of Ireland. In the course of all the wild agitation which prevailed in the 'eighties, when I was frequently in prison myself, when we had very lively times in Ireland, and when coercion was in full swing, nothing of the kind was ever attempted. Each meeting that took place was dealt with on the merits, and only when information was sworn by police or magistrates that the meeting was likely to be of a seditious or violent character was any attempt made to interfere with it. The new Regulation means that no Irish Member can now address his constituents unless he goes to a police office and obtains the permit of a policeman. That is an intolerable thing. It is an abrogation of all liberty. But it is also an invasion of the privileges of this House. I have not the slightest intention, nor have any of my colleagues, of asking the permission of a policeman to address our constituents, and I submit that I am entitled to move the following Resolutions. First,That the denial of the right of Members of this House to attend to their duties in Parliament without the permission of a police officer constitutes a breach of the privileges of this House.And, second,That the denial of the right of Member of this House in Ireland to address their constituents 279 without the permission of a police officer constitutes a breach of the privileges of this House.
I understand that the Order of which the hon. Members complain is now some two months old. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think it was brought to my attention certainly six weeks ago, if not more. Therefore the hon. Member will be out of time, because it is only open to him to interrupt the ordinary business of the House upon some matter urgently arising; the matter should be brought before the House without delay. I am bound to rule that he is out of time. I do not say it cannot be raised, but it cannot be raised as a matter of privilege, so as to intervene before the ordinary business of the day.
§ Mr. DILLON
Before you give a final decision I should like to submit that it has only recently been brought to our notice. It is not a rule which was publicly placarded in the newspapers or of which notice was given, and it came by surprise upon me when I proposed to attend to my ordinary duties in the House, and I was informed that I could not come without a permit. Therefore, in so far as it affects Irish Members it is quite a recent matter.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Does not the matter of privilege arise the moment it is violated in the person of a Single Member? I only knew very slightly about this rule, and I determined that I would disobey it. I crossed over from Ireland without a passport. I said I would do it, and I did it, and if I had been refused I should have telegraphed to you, Sir, complaining of it as a breach of privilege. Now that I am here I understand—this only occurred the day before yesterday—that I could not return home without arming myself with this permit. I then went to a police-officer. I was unknown to the police. I was sent to Downing Street to get a permit. I think that constitutes a great breach of privilege. The essence of the privilege of Parliament is the privilege, unless one is arrested on a criminal charge, of going to and returning from this House. My home is the place I go to and the place from which I leave. Therefore, I should be obstructed, without getting this permit, from going to my home, and so the authorities told me at Holyhead. That constitutes a continuing breach of privilege, and I submit that it is a perfect infamy that I 280 should be, in my attendance and service in this House, at the behest of a policeman, or even the Chief Secretary.
I do not express any opinion with regard to what the hon. Member has said, but I remember perfectly well that one of the hon. Member's colleagues called my attention to the matter, and if my recollection be not at fault I think it was before Whitsuntide and, therefore, it was known to the hon. Member's colleagues. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Well, it may have been just after Whitsuntide—I am not quite sure—but it was several weeks ago.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOYCE
I wish to make a personal explanation. I was the Member of the House who came to you and made the complaint. On the 5th June I was here in London on business of national importance with the Ministry of Shipping, and the representative of the Ministry of Shipping will bear me out in that. I found that difficulties would arise when I was going back, and I thought that the proper person to come to in order to see that the privileges of Members of Parliament were preserved in my case was you. I did see you, and if you remember I explained the whole case to you. I went to the Foreign Office and demanded a passport and I forced the Foreign Office to give me one without a photo- graph. I made my complaint to you. You informed me you would see the Leader of the House on this matter, and you wrote me on the 7th June—I received the letter at home on the 8th—stating that the matter had been gone into and that photographs in the cases of Members of Parliament would not be required thereafter. Really I was the person who brought this to your notice early in June, and I claim that I had a perfect right to do so. I fought my corner and I won.
I am obliged to the hon. Member, but does that not confirm my recollection that it was nearly two months ago?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
On the question of privilege which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) you have stated that this Order was issued by the Government and was in the knowledge of Members of this House for a considerable period, and that that, 281 therefore, justifies you in refusing to take any notice of it now. I am speaking here as a Member of this House irrespective of party considerations. I speak as a representative of an Irish constituency, and I Bay that I knew nothing whatever about this Order being issued until I was told three days before I was leaving to come to this House. I was then informed that it would be necessary for me to secure a passport in order to attend to my Parliamentary duties. Not only was I told that, but I was also informed that I would have to lodge my application as it would require three days or more for the police authorities to make up their minds as to whether or not they would grant the passport. With all respect to the Chair, I do not think that this is a small matter. It is a matter which vitally touches the very fundamental position of this House of Commons as the elected assembly of the nation. I want to say this: Suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) suddenly laid his plans to steal a march on the Government in order to put out the Coalition. I would not be able to come over here to save the Government because it would take three days for the police to make up their minds whether they would issue me a passport. This is not a matter for levity; it is a question which vitally touches the dignity, honour and representative character of every Member of the House of Commons. I may say I am very sorry now that I applied for the passport. If I have to go back I do not intend to apply for another. I will come here to the House of Commons and demand that I be allowed to go back to Ireland when and if I choose, and I shall thus be able to raise this great constitutional question whether, when a Member comes to Parliament, he is to be interned here in England and not to be allowed to go back to his home. I do not know what has got hold of Members of this House. They seem to be afraid of their own shadows. I notice that even at this minute they are disappearing from this Chamber one by one. My second point is this. I propose to address my Constituents very soon. I want to know whether I am to be compelled to go to the police and ask them for leave to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary last night invited us to join with him in securing 282 recruits for the Army, yet at the same moment, before I can address potential recruits, I must go to the Irish police and ask leave to address my Constituents. The whole thing is an outrage upon the freedom not only of Ireland but of every Member of Parliament, and I appeal to the House of Commons not to tolerate this foul outrage inflicted by a callous party Government.
I think hon. Members are getting very far from the point. The only question for me to decide is whether there has been delay. With regard to what has fallen from the hon. Members, it came to the notice of some of the hon. Member's colleagues almost two months ago, and I am bound under these circumstances to hold that there has been delay in bringing it forward.
The matter can be brought forward, but not at this time, so as to intervene between the House and the business set down for consideration.
§ Mr. DILLON
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance—
§ Mr. PRINGLE
On a point of Order. I wish to address you on this point as to whether, when an alleged breach of privilege has taken place against the person of an individual Member of this House he is debarred raising the question by reason of the knowledge of another person. Is it not only the knowledge of the individual Member himself which determines whether or not there has been a breach of privilege?
But it was a matter of common knowledge. It wag brought to my attention, and it was brought to the attention of other Members of the House two months ago. I must, therefore, hold that there has been delay.
It does not follow that everybody knew it, but the matter was known, and it was brought to my notice. With regard to the Motion of the hon. 283 Member for East Mayo, I must remind him that he is precluded from bringing it forward, because to-day is the penultimate day of Supply.
§ Sir R. COOPER
Is it the fact that Irish Members before they return home next Monday will have to get the permission of a police officer, and, if so, will not that constitute a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons?
I do not pronounce upon that. It is no part of my duty to do so. I have already explained what is my opinion.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
My hon. Friend raised a second point of privilege in reference to the right we claim to address our Constituents without police permission. We say that the Order in that respect constitutes a gross breach of privilege, and we ask to be allowed to move that it does so constitute a breach of privilege. Let me add that in the whole history of Ireland such an Order has never even been mooted from the time of Charles I. onward.
I do not protest against any statements the hon. Members have made. I only say they ought to have been brought forward at the earliest opportunity, and they were not so brought forward.
§ Mr. DILLON
With regard to the second point raised by my hon. and learned Friend, may I suggest it has been brought forward at the earliest possible moment. The Proclamation was only issued a few days ago, and this is the earliest opportunity of bringing it up.