§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [25th October],
§ "That the speech of the hon. Member for West Bermondsey, reported in the Daily Express newspaper of 13th October, is a gross libel on the Members of this House and a grave breach of its privileges."—[Colonel Sir Arthur Holbrook.]
§ Dr. SALTER
I think it is due to the House as well as to myself that, in the first place, I should make an explanation of my absence here yesterday afternoon when this matter was first raised. I happen to be the official medical referee of one of the largest trade unions in the country, and I was engaged all day yesterday on subpœna in the Courts giving medical evidence in workmen's compensation cases. My first knowledge that the matter was to be dealt with in the House at all was at 4.15, when a telegram which I hold in my hand, signed "Holbrook," was handed to me as I stepped from the witness box. The telegram is marked, handed in 10.45 a.m., delivered at the Bermondsey sub-post office at 11.10 and delivered at my house at 11.35. It was opened at my house. My people knew I was in the Courts somewhere. They did not know which particular Court and they had considerable difficulty in finding exactly where I was. Directly my whereabouts were ascertained, the telegram was sent on to me by hand and I proceeded to the House as fast as I could. I interviewed you, Sir, immediately on my arrival and explained the reason of my absence.
The speech to which exception has been taken was delivered over a fortnight ago and reported a fortnight ago, and the hon. Member who has raised the matter found time to communicate his intentions to the newspapers and to get his photographs therein and to publish a statement as to what he was about to do but he had not the courtesy and common decency to inform me until it was too late for me to be in the House. I make no further reference to that point but leave it to the judgment of my fellow Members.
710 With regard to the main subject of the indictment against me, I have to say that, speaking with a full sense of responsibility and regardless of any consequences to myself, I am not prepared to withdraw, modify or apologise for anything I have said on this matter, and I propose to repeat the words I made use of and about which complaint has been made. At the same time, the House should certainly know the general setting of those remarks, the framework of the speech, and not merely judge by two or three isolated sentences taken for sensational Press purposes from their context and published by themselves. The occasion on which the speech was delivered was that of a small local temperance meeting of a body which was celebrating its jubilee, and I took the occasion to make a historical review of the whole drink problem in this country during the last 100 years. I pointed out that the problem to-day was a totally different one from that which confronted the founders of that society. At that time coarse, bestial, gross drunkenness was quite common in all ranks of society. It was not even disrespectable or reprehensible, and the old phrase, "As drunk as a lord," indicated that the practice was conventional even amongst the upper circles of society. I pointed out that to-day we had got rid almost entirely of that bestial drunkenness which disfigured the social life of earlier days, and that change had affected again all ranks of society. Drunkenness to-day was considered disrespectable and something which was entirely improper in any person who held responsible public office. I then went on to point out that, although this was the case, and although therefore temperance people had a different problem to-day and must adapt their propaganda accordingly, it still remained an unfortunate fact that a certain proportion of all classes of society—a small section possibly, but none the less sufficient to figure in statistics and in the Courts—could not drink a little without drinking too much, and that that applied, not merely to poor people living with all kinds of residential and other disabilities in my own constituency, but to people in higher walks of life also, and that Members of this House were not exempt. I went on at that juncture to use the words complained of, and I said, and I repeat it here to-day, that I have seen members of 711 all parties in this House, my own party I regret to say included, drunk in this House not on one occasion but on many. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] I am coming to the question of names in a moment. [Interruption.]
§ Dr. SALTER
When I say that I have seen that, I am making a statement which is within the common knowledge of practically every Member of this House, and it is a piece of affectation and hypocrisy for Members of this House to deny it. Since the matter was raised yesterday, from 50 to 60 Members of this House, at the very least, have been to me to tell me that they approve of what I have said. They may not have agreed altogether with the wisdom or propriety of making the utterance, or with the particular way in which it was made, but they do not contest the truth or accuracy of what I have said. I say further, that I have assisted other Members of this House to remove a hopelessly intoxicated Member from its precincts. That is known to Members of all sides. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"!] I say that it is common knowledge, and that it is a Smoking Room jest.
I stated in the Press, when I was tackled immediately after I had made the speech, that I would repeat the statement in this House, in the presence of the persons who themselves are guilty, and I am doing it at the present time. We must have a proper sense of proportion in this matter. You cannot take 600 men and women, drawn from all social grades, thrown together promiscuously — you cannot take 600 persons from the general population without finding a certain number among them who, unfortunately, as I said before if they take any drink at all, invariably are unable to save themselves from the disaster of taking too much. It is a most unfortunate fact, a physiological fact, that the first effect of alcohol on some people, at any rate, is to remove all their powers of inhibition, all their powers of saying "No." They cannot take a little, without invariably going too far. That is the reason why I and a number of my colleagues in this House are personal abstainers, for the 712 sake of the weaker brethren in this House as well as outside. The number of such persons in the whole community is relatively small. The number in this House is relatively small. No one can deny that the evil exists.
That is the statement I have made, and that is the statement which I am not prepared to qualify. You, Mr. Speaker, have had very many years more experience of this House than I have had. As far as I am able by observation to form an opinion, I am bound to say that I agree with the observation which has just fallen from your lips, when you stated that this House compared favourably, in your opinion, with its predecessors. I entirely agree. I was in the 1922–23 Parliament, and I saw more drunkenness then than I have seen in this Parliament. That observation on my part is confirmed and corroborated by the opinions of other hon. Members present. I say that we have to regard the problem with a proper sense of proportion. My accusation, if it is to be called an accusation, is not against Members of this House as a whole; it is against a certain section. If it is a breach of Privilege to criticise the action of certain Members whom I consider disgrace this House, degrade this House, lower its tradition, and lower its prestige by their actions; if that be a breach of Privilege, be it so, I have committed a breach of Privilege, and I can make no apology, therefore, whatever the consequence to myself may be. That is as far as concerns one of my statements to which exception has been taken.
I gather from the OFFICIAL REPORT that a second statement of mine is complained of. With the indulgence of the House, I now must make some observation on that. I am told that the second statement I made is very strongly resented on the other side of the House.
§ Dr. SALTER
I stated that not on one occasion but on many occasions I had seen Members coming into this House, after dinner, flushed with wine, and with all their higher powers of control removed and abrogated, because of the influence of the drink which they had 713 taken downstairs. I made that statement. That, again, is a matter of actual common complaint on these benches with regard to hon. Members sitting opposite —a number of them. [Interruption.] Yes. On repeated occasions I have been present in this House when there have been disorderly interruptions from the benches opposite, and when the retort from this side, the truthful retort, has been: "You are drunk; you have been dining, not wisely but too well. It is because of what you have been drinking downstairs that you are behaving as you are now." Not only have observations to that effect been shouted across from this side to the other, but speakers on this side who were on their feet at the time have made pointed reference to the condition of individual Members on the other side. Speaking again with a full sense of responsibility, I cannot withdraw that statement in my original speech. Any man who is honest with himself knows that what I am saying is perfectly true. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
I desire as earnestly and sincerely as anyone in this House to maintain the high prestige of this House and its authority in this country. I believe that the Parliamentary tradition alone will save this nation from ultimate disaster—industrial and economic disaster desire to see the authority of Parliament increased rather than diminished, and I venture to say, with all respect, that that end will be attained far more if certain Members of this House reform their ways, and if they are given no support, as would be given to them by voting for a Resolution of this sort this afternoon, and by attempting to intimidate and browbeat a few people who have laid upon them the thankless and unpopular task of pointing out these matters.
I am asked to name individuals who, in my judgment, have been transgressors in this respect. If I were to do that this afternoon, I should be guilty of the same breach of courtesy as that to which I was subjected yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Motion; but if this House desires to pursue the matter further and to appoint a Select Committee, or refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges, I shall be prepared to go to that Committee 714 and, painful ordeal though it will be, I shall mention the individuals in each party whom I know to be guilty in this regard, and I shall take with me to that Committee a large galaxy of colleagues in this House who will be prepared to support my statement, Members on all sides of the House and not merely those who are my own personal colleagues and friends sitting on these benches. I am entirely unrepentant with regard to what I have said.
I understand that there is a third matter to which exception has been taken, and that is my reference to the drinking bar outside. Again, I say that I have protested outside, and I protest in this House and shall continue to protest whenever I get the chance, that drinking facilities which are denied, say, to the County Hall across the River, or to any municipal body, or to any other public body, or to private individuals outside, are conferred as a privilege on Members inside this House. I shall continue to protest against that. I consider it a scandalous thing that, while Parliament imposes definite restrictions in regard to the drinking habits of persons outside, it allows Members inside to obtain drink at all times of the day and night. I say that is wrong, and I make no apology for that either.
I ask the House to believe that I am not speaking in this strain this afternoon with any sense of pleasure or elation. I am only doing so because I have been forced to do so by the Motion which the hon. and gallant Member opposite has put down. I am obliged to defend my position, and I have done so to the best of my ability. Of course, I share with other Members in this House the sense of esprit de corps of all persons who enter it, of all persons who become Members of this honourable institution. I feel that acutely, but that does not relieve me, humble back bench Member as I am, from the responsibility of doing what I can and from pointing out defects and foibles which I feel are injurious and inimical to the highest interests of this House and to the welfare of this country; and nothing that this House can do will intimidate me from continuing to perform that duty.
§ The hon. Member accordingly withdrew.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
Perhaps the House will not think it improper on my part, as perhaps the Member with the longest experience of this Chamber, if I say something with regard to the controversy in which we are now engaged. I have known this House, not only the 36 years for which I have been a Member of it but for six years previously, when, from the Press Gallery above stairs and in my professional capacity, I was bound to make close observation of its proceedings and its habits in order to write a letter for the Press. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter), who has just sat down, is an instance of that hardness and extremeness of opinion that sometimes develops into rancour and partisanship. In the years before I was in this House drunkenness, which even according to the hon. Member is rather rare to-day, was not uncommon. If he goes a little further back in his history, he will recall the story of how, when William Pitt came to the House one night and was told by a friend that he could not see the Speaker, he replied that he saw three. He saw three Speakers because probably he had drunk three bottles of port. I do not know anybody who to-day drinks three bottles of port. Perhaps this is a less virile age than the latter part of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, but, even in my own time I remember a Member of the House who, having happily successfully steered a perilous course from the door, generally found a seat here on this Gangway on which he stretched himself, and, when he did not interrupt, went comfortably to sleep. I need hardly add that he was an Irishman, and I am bound also to add that he was a stout and uncompromising Unionist. That is among my own earliest recollections of the House. In the Parliament of 1880, when first I had the honour of a seat in this House, I heard Sir Wilfred Lawson, amid the assent of the House generally, speak to an honourable opponent of his, who did not share his views or adopt his habits, 716 as having seen him in the House often all the better for drink. From my own personal testimony—there was some assent in the speech of the hon. Gentleman—I can say with perfect truth and sincerity, first that the drinking habits of the people generally have enormously improved and in no body in the country has this improvement been more marked than in the House of Commons.
I question whether this subject should have been raised either by the hon. Gentleman or by his critics in the House. I deprecate such discussions; I deprecate such speeches. They are calculated to give a false impression to the public as to the character of the men by whom their destinies are ruled. They do injury, not to one party in the House, or to the other, but to all parties, including the party to which the hon. Member for West Bermondsey belongs. I often ask myself, when I see attacks like these and other attacks, some of them more violent, some of them proclaiming the hideous doctrine that, departing from all our traditions, we should fight out our struggles, not in the free discussions of this representative Assembly, but by appeals to armed force—I often ask myself if people really altogether understand the character, the repute, and the possibilities of this House. It is, in spite of its faults, the greatest thing we have in our Constitution. It is the temple of free speech. I have heard—not always, of course—doctrines most hostile to the majority in the House listened to here in silence and with toleration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will forgive me for making the allusion, but I shall never forget my experience when my right hon. Friend rose up and, in the midst of all the passions and humiliations of the Boer War, denounced the whole war, and denounced it without in many cases a single angry interruption from the big majority consisting of his political opponents.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
This is a House of good manners, and we ought to live up to its traditions. For these reasons, I shall have no hesitation in voting in favour of the Motion against the extremely unwise action of the hon. Gentleman, and, above all, I repudiate his proposal that we should establish a 717 tribunal, not to wash our dirty linen, but to dirty our clean linen. These views I have felt bound to express in my position as the senior Member of this House.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I rise to say only a word or two, and to make an appeal. I have had 20 years' experience of continuous membership of this House, and, looking back over that time, I can warmly corroborate what has just been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor), who has spoken as to the pronounced progress which has been made during that period in the matter of improved and increasing temperance behaviour and conduct on the part of the Members of the House on all sides. I do not think that any good can come from the continued discussion of this subject or from a reference of this matter to any other quarter. Therefore, having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter), and recalling the setting of which he spoke, the occasion of his speech, the motive which actuated him, and the end at which he aimed, I would suggest, keeping in mind all these outstanding points, that it would be best to regard his speech, at best or worst, as a well-intentioned and vigorous effort at temperance propaganda, and to withdraw the Motion submitted to this House yesterday, and let us pass to the more important business which concerns us to-day.
§ Colonel Sir ARTHUR HOLBROOK
I regret that I cannot see my way to withdraw the Motion. If the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) had come into the House to-day, and expressed regret for having made this unfair attack upon the honour and character of this House, I should have been very glad to have withdrawn the Motion. But, having regard to the sturdy way in which he has maintained and endeavoured to continue the charges which he has hurled against this House, I say that I should be wanting in my duty as a Member of the House if I did not defend its honour.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of Order, if it is in Order for an hon. Member, without the consent of the House, to speak twice on the same Motion, and, seeing the hon. and gallant Member for Basingstoke (Sir A. Holbrook) is the attacker, may I 718 further ask is it fair for him to speak twice in view of the absence of the person attacked?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member for Basingstoke was the Mover of a Motion, and the Mover of a substantive Motion has a right of reply.
§ .Mr. STEPHEN
On a point of Order. I would like to ask you, Sir, whether there is the right of reply if there be no Amendment before the House. Should there not be an Amendment before the House before any reply is made by the hon. and gallant Member?
§ Mr. CLYNES
On that point of Order. May I say that, in the event of the hon. and gallant Member persevering in this Motion, it was the intention to have moved from this side of the House an Amendment. I want, therefore, to have the position safeguarded, in order that an Amendment may be moved before the hon. and gallant Member replies.
§ Brigadier - General Sir HENRY CROFT
In view of the fact that the right of the hon. and gallant Member for Basingstoke (Sir A. Holbrook) to speak again has been questioned, may I ask whether the Leader of the Opposition has not already spoken twice in this Debate?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
No objection was taken. Therefore the House assented. With regard to the other point raised, it does not rule out the question of an Amendment being moved, and the hon. and gallant Member has a right of reply if he chooses to exercise it.
§ Sir A. HOLBROOK
I want to refer to the Debate which took place yesterday, when I was charged, very unfairly, I think, with being offensive. I have read the report in to-day's OFFICIAL RETORT, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), when he reads it, will come to the conclusion that he took an exaggerated view when he said that I was offensive. But from the opposite side of the House many offensive epithets were hurled at me. I was charged with being a brewers' advocate, and the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) applauded 719 that statement—[Interruption]. Never during the whole of my life have I had any interest, nor has any other member of my family—
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
On a point of order. Is the hon. and gallant Member replying to the discussion, or is he replying to something which he considers to be a personal attack upon him? Should not that be done on another Motion?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member is entitled to make a personal explanation, and the House is always courteous in these matters.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
This House, when it is asked, is always willing to listen to a personal explanation, but not one made under the pretence of replying to a discussion.
§ Sir A. HOLBROOK
Never during my lifetime have I, or any of my family, had any interest whatever, financial or otherwise, in the liquor trade, and it is most unfair to accuse me of being a brewers' advocate. I know why it is being done. The only reason for it is that, as I came into the House a strong opponent of the nationalisation of industries, I tried to abolish the Government control of the liquor trade in the Carlisle area. That is the reason why I am charged with being a brewers' advocate.
§ Sir A. HOLBROOK
I consider that I am justified in forcing this Motion to a Division. The statement is a gross libel on Members of this House. It reflects on the character and honour of every Member, and I feel that we should be lacking in our duty to ourselves if we did not show our resentment at this scandalous charge, which is utterly unfounded, and which has been refuted by hon. Members of the House.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I hope the House will try to put away from its mind the personalities both of the mover of this Motion and the hon. Member who spoke at the beginning of the Debate, and just consider for a few minutes the great principle at stake. I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland 720 Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), the Father of the House, for the few words of common-sense which he spoke on this matter. I think, for our own dignity, the sooner we dispose of the matter, the better. I agree, though happily I am a much younger man than the right hon. Gentleman, entirely with what he said about the habits of our people. I know from my own experience the steady and rapid movement towards temperance, by which I mean the temperate use of alcohol, which has been made in all classes of life in this country. It is a different country from what it was when I was a boy. In an assembly like this, with over 600 men, it is perfectly obvious that at times there must be cases, as in all other bodies of men, where men forget themselves temporarily. We all know it, but we do not talk about it. We draw a veil of reserve over it. But what rather hurt the feelings of this House is that one of our number, who works with us and shares our social life, should consider it his duty, as I have no doubt he did, though I think erroneously, to speak about these things outside, and not to express to the House his regret for having done so.
I am sorry for many reasons that this Motion has been moved. But after the speech to which we have just listened, in which no regret was expressed, I am afraid there can be no question that the House will have to divide, and I am quite clear myself that the statements of the hon. Member were a libel on this House and a breach of its privileges. I shall therefore vote for the Motion. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman who is leading the Labour Party has said, I deprecate as much as the right hon. Gentleman a reference of this matter to the Committee of Privileges, and for this reason. I think this unhappy incident should be buried at the earliest possible moment, and forgotten. To allow the Committee of Privileges to examine the kind of stuff that would be brought before them is really intolerable in an assembly of this kind, and the only thing for this House is to proceed to a division at the earliest moment, and let us pass on to other business.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH rose—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I understand that the hon. Member for Keighley intends to move an Amendment to the 721 Motion. I should like to speak on the general question, and shall only be able to do so with the consent of the House. If objection be taken, I cannot do so.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Keighley had risen before I observed the right hon. Gentleman, but if the hon. Member moves an Amendment then the right hon. Gentleman can speak on the Amendment.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I beg to move, in line 3, to leave out from the word "October" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words, "be referred to the Committee of Privileges."
It had been hoped that the hon. and gallant Member would withdraw his Motion and let us get on with the business on the House, but as he has not done so we wish to submit this Amendment from this side of the House. The Prime Minister has just told us that he considers this to be a very unsuitable subject for the Committee of Privileges to examine, but the fact is that whenever a question of this sort has been raised in the House, and far more serious issues than the reputation of this House have been raised on a question of Privilege, on every one of these occasions the House has adopted the practice of referring the whole matter to the Committee of Privileges. Since the War there have only been two occasions on which a Privilege Motion has been moved. One was when the Labour party was in office. It was moved by the hon. Member for Woolwich with regard to a breach of privilege by the "Daily Herald." On that occasion an Amendment was moved referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges, and it was carried by general consent. This year an attack upon Members of the House, more serious than the present one, was raised as a matter of privilege. It was an attack by the "Daily Mail," which accused 28 Members of the House of voting during the Committee stage of the Electricity Bill on a matter in which they were financially interested, and it named the 28 hon. Members in the issue of the paper. There, again, the subject was not dealt with in the manner pro- 722 posed, but was referred to the Committee of Privileges, and, therefore, in making this Motion we are, in fact, adopting the usual practice of the House. I do not wish to lead the House into a lengthy Debate on this point, but there seems to be very special reasons why this policy should be adopted on this occasion.
I have heard two or three Privilege Motions made in this House and it has always been the custom for Members to make them in a completely judicial spirit and speak simply with regard to the position and dignity of the House as a whole. That was not the nature of the speech in which this Motion was introduced. The speech in which this Motion was introduced was an ordinary tub-thumping attack on Members on this side of the House. These are the arguments by which the hon. and gallant Member supported the Motion:I know that some Members on the opposite benches who come from North of the Tweed have made it their boast that they intended to destroy the character of the House of Commons.To introduce a privilege Motion in such terms as those is quite contrary to every precedent in this House. It makes this Motion a mere piece of Tory propaganda. In the circumstances we regard it as an ordinary partisan attack, and consider that our Amendment will deal with the matter more in accordance with the precedents usually set by this House.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The view which I take of this very unfortunate Debate has been so well and so impressively expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), that I do not think I can add anything which is useful. He has been in the House for a very much longer period than I have. He has been, I think, here in 13 Parliaments and I have been here in 11. I say, without hesitation, that the change during that period in the habits of Members has been very striking. It reflects the general change in the habits of the people, but the House has been undoubtedly in advance of that general change in the habits of the people of the country. I think it is exceedingly unfortunate that a speech should be made which will give a very false impression as to the conduct and habits of Members 723 generally in this House. It is not even approximately correct. Personally, very much regret that this matter has been raised. I have never seen anything gained by these Motions of Privilege. The House has no means of giving any sanction to them, no means which will not make them ridiculous. I agree with what fell from the last speaker in saying that I have never heard a Motion of Privilege so tactlessly brought forward. I think that is also very regrettable. It may have been worth while to call attention to the matter in order to get the general condemnation of all those who have experience in this House, but this is not the way to do it.
Now I come to the Amendment. I regret it. I cannot imagine that the hon. Member who moved it had really considered what the effect would be. Suppose that it were carried. After all, if an hon. Member brings a Motion before the House of Commons it must be with a view of having it carried with the whole of its implications. As I understand it, the charge made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) would be referred to a Committee of Privileges. He said, "I am going to give names." These are very serious charges brought against individuals. They affect their character and their reputation, public and private; they affect their position as Members of this House, their chances with their constituents, and may be the whole of their personal and private career. Men with charges of that kind against them are entitled to investigation, are entitled to be defended by counsel and to have the whole of the evidence before them. You will have a Committee of Inquiry like the Committee against Warren Hastings. I do not know what the numbers are. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey has not taken us into his confidence, but he seems to have picked one or two from each party; he is quite impartial. He will appear before the Committee of Privileges to arraign one or more of his own colleagues, because he said that the charge is by no means confined to one party in the House. Those colleagues will have the evidence of their own colleagues, who will certainly support them and give testimony before the Committee. The hon. Member for West 724 Bermondsey will bring other colleagues to say that the first lot are not telling the truth. What a spectacle that is, not merely for the House of Commons, but what a spectacle it is for each individual brought in! Is that in the least desirable?
If you brought charges of this kind outside in speech or in writing, I believe that you could bring an action, and the case would come before the Court, and there would be a jury, there would be evidence, there would be counsel, there would be the guidance of a Judge; but here you would have three, four or five cases of this kind investigated, and that at a time when the attention of the nation ought to be concentrated on matters of very much greater importance. I regret that the matter has been raised. I think the House is exceedingly unwise to do it. The repudiation of old Parliamentarians who have had in this House experience such as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division, I think would carry conviction with the country. I do not believe that the statements made by the hon. Gentleman or the other statement which was quoted before I came in, from an ecclesiastical dignitary, is accepted by the nation as a whole. They are unfair to a most important Assembly in the life of this nation. It is the business of all of us to maintain the strength, the power and the prestige of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman himself attaches infinite importance to the prestige of Parliament. An investigation of that kind would weaken and lower it. There are always people too anxious to believe things of this kind once they are uttered. If the Motion is pressed to a Division, I cannot say that it is not a breach of privilege. It is undoubtedly a breach of privilege. All the same, I think it is a great mistake that we should have been put in this predicament. The hon. Gentleman's Amendment I certainly should not vote for, because I think it would put Parliament in a position that would be utterly impossible if carried. It would put his own Party in an impossible position. There would be a division on something among them which in itself would be unpleasant.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not in the least anxious, nor is any hon. Gentleman in this House whom I know. That interruption is a very unworthy statement. It shows the sort of temper that would be aroused once you began. You would have charges and countercharges which would be investigated, with all the paraphernalia of witnesses and counsel. I think it is very unfortunate, but once you raise a question of privilege you are bound to vote whether it is privilege. I shall do so with great reluctance.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not wish to detain the House for long, but I claim the right to speak, and, seeing that a certain section with which I was associated have been attacked, they ought at least to have some say on the matter. I have taken part in many scenes in this House, and I have said many hard things about Members of this House inside the House. No one can quote a speech of mine in which I have slandered any Member of this House outside the House. Even in fighting my elections I have never mentioned the name of my opponent or said the slightest word against his character. In my comparatively short life I have fought eight elections, local and national, and in not one of them have I ever mentioned my opponent's name in order to attack him. A Motion has been brought forward which is virtually a Motion of Censure on a colleague, and that is done without the quoting of a word to substantiate the charge and without withdrawing the charge. It is a malicious, foul and lying statement against hon. Members. It is a Motion presumably brought forward in the interests of cleanliness, and the hon. and gallant Member's colleagues shout "Divide!" The hon. and gallant Member comes along, and quotes a deliberate lie, a foul statement. [Interruption.] Yes, it is a lie, a foul lie.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is the language in which I was brought up. I was brought up just as clean and well as most people, and that is the language which I know. The statement was made and it has not been withdrawn. It was made in this House. I listened to the right 726 hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Nothing that he does amazes me. I am sure that those who know him best would admit that nothing that he does ever amazes them. I remember the Campbell case and the Committee of Inquiry; the whole Labour party ranged up at the Bar of the House. The cry then was, "Let us have a Committee of Inquiry," because it would pull certain people out of power and office. Here are we to-day virtually going to censure a colleague without any trial. Let me put to the Prime Minister this phase. The Prime Minister says, with some reason, I admit, that this thing is not correct about Members in the main. I agree with him. I come from a city which has a name, good or bad, for drink. I can say that since the War Glasgow has become very much more sober than it was before. Its habits are improving wholesale.
The Prime Minister says that the statement which the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) has made is exaggerated. Is it exaggerated or is it not? Without examining the hon. Member's statement, without giving him any trial or inquiry, the House is going to condemn this Member. Why? What if the statement is untrue? If it is such a lie as hon. Members would make it out to be, why do they fear inquiries? Why do they fear courting the fullest inquiries? It is no use some people denying the statement. I see sitting opposite an hon. Member, a lady, who hurled across the Floor of the House to one of her own party the allegation which the hon. Member for West Bermondsey has made. Why should we not probe the matter to the bottom? The hon. and gallant Member opposite, in his attack shows that he is trying to get a mere party advantage for a dying and decadent party by trying to blacken the character of colleagues. I hope that the House will support the Amendment. If the House rejects it, that will be proof that the other side are afraid of it.
§ Mr. VIANT
I want the House to consider what the Motion means. It is nothing other than a Vote of Censure upon the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter). [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but that is just wherein the danger lies. I wish to say quite candidly, and with all the 727 importance that can be attached to the statement, that the passing of this Motion will be fair neither to the hon. Member for West Bermondsey nor to the country. The honour of the hon. Member for West Bermondsey is as important as the honour of those Members who might be summoned to attend before a Committee if the Amendment were passed, and very few in this House can afford to vote for the Motion and to feel that they are not cowards in so doing. I feel that I should be a coward if I did not stand in this House and defend the statements made by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey. I go further, and I say here in this House that I am prepared to corroborate the statements he has made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I do not often intrude myself on the House, and I claim the right to speak upon this subject. I feel the country is entitled to know what type of representation it has in this House. Furthermore,
§ if the House were really desirous of playing the game fairly, it would be prepared to support the Amendment, and give the hon. Member for West Bermondsey as much opportunity of defending his honour as Members on the other side are desirous of having in order to defend their honour. If Members on the other side of the House are honest with themselves, they must know that the passing of this Motion is not going to give a verdict upon the hon. Member for West Bermondsey which is in accordance with the facts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I only wish it to be clearly understood that the Vote about to be taken will be a party vote, and will in no sense be a verdict upon the statements of the hon. Member for West Bermondsey.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 95.729
|Division No. 443.]||AYES.||[4.50 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Clayton, G. C.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Cope, Major William||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Apsley, Lord||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Atkinson, C.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Dalziel, Sir Davison||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Bethel, A.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Dawson, Sir Philip||Headlam, Lieut.-colonel C. M.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Drewe, C.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Herbert, S.(York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hills, Major John Walter|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Ellis, R. G.||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Elveden, Viscount||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Brass, Captain W||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mosslay)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Burman, J. B.||Fenby, T. D.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Fermoy, Lord||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Finburgh, S.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Fraser, Captain Ian||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Frece, Sir Walter de||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Ganzoni, Sir John||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Gates, Percy||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Christie, J. A.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Goff, Sir Park||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Graham, Frederick F. (Cumb'ld., N.)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Pennefather, Sir John||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Loder, J. de V.||Penny, Frederick George||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Lord, Walter Greaves-||Perring, Sir William George||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Laugher, L.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Preston, William||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Price, Major C. W. M.||Waddington, R.|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Radford, E. A.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Raine, W.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Reid, Captain A. S. C. (Warrington)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Remer, J. R.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Macquisten, F, A.||Remnant, Sir James||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Rentoul, G. S.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Meller, R. J.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Merriman, F. B.||Ropner, Major L.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Rose, Frank H.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Rye, F. G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Withers, John James|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Shepperson, E. W.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Neville, R. J.||Skelton, A. N.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Wragg, Herbert|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Smithers, Waldron||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Storry-Deans. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Colonel Sir A. Holbrook and|
|O'Connor, Thomas P||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Captain Walter Shaw.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hardle, George D.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, G. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Baker, Walter||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith Rennie (Penistone)|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Clowes, S.||Kennedy, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kirkwood, D.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Connolly, M.||Lawrence, Susan||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Townend, A. E.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dennison, R.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Morris, R. H.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Gardner, J. P.||Oliver, George Harold||Westwood, J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Palin, John Henry||Whiteley, W.|
|Gosling, Harry||Paling, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenall, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Sexton, James||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Hayes.|
That the speech of the hon. Member for West Bermondsey, reported in the 'Daily Express' newspaper of 13th October, is a gross libel on the Members of this House and a grave breach of its privileges.
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Colonel Sir ARTHUR HOLBROOK and Captain WALTER SHAW were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but, there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the 731 Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
That the speech of the hon. Member for West Bermondsey, reported in the 'Daily Express' newspaper of 13th October, is a gross libel on the Members of this House and a grave breach of its privileges.