§ 59. Mr. Beverley Baxter
asked the Minister of Information if he is aware that a recent Gollancz production called "Your M.P.," written by an author who served a prison sentence for seditious activities, contains material which might disturb our relations with Russia; and if the book has been banned for export.
§ The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)
I know nothing of the record of the author of "Your M.P." This title is obviously inaccurate as the contents contain only a very few particu- 1354 lars about only half the number of hon. Members in this House. The quality of this book is well displayed by its venomous attack on the former Member for Hitchin who, with the greatest gallantry, gave his life for his country. The elaborate malice of "Your M.P." is unlikely to attract readers overseas. And so, even if I believed in banning the export of books, there would be no point in my doing so in this case.
§ Mr. Baxter
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his spirited reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that many books of high scientific and literary value cannot be published at the present time owing to the shortage of paper? Is it not monstrous that this muck-raking publisher should waste many tons of paper on such scurrilous publications?
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of Order. Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, to describe a record of Members of this House as "muck-raking"?
§ Earl Winterton
Would it be possible to give the House and the world the name of this ex-criminal who is such a "buddy" of the "News Chronicle"?
§ Mr. Bracken
I have already told the House that I know nothing about his name, so it would be unfair for me to make any speculation. With regard to the Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) I think it is a pity that a publisher who has a great stock of paper should use it to try to lower the reputation of Members of the House of Commons at a time when we are engaged in one of the most vital military operations in history.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is part of his office to use that Box for the purpose of criticising publishers, or any particular publisher[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—and whether it is necessary to make a fuss about this? Why should hon. Members be so sensitive? Will the Minister recall the virulent attacks made on members of the Labour Party in the past?
§ Mr. Bracken
If I may say so, my hon. Friend is in too much of a hurry to become an elder statesman. It is my duty to answer any question put to me in this House.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of Order. Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that when a perfectly inoffensive question, a perfectly orderly and consequential question, is addressed to a right hon. Gentleman he is entitled, in his reply, to attack an hon. Member? Further, may I ask, will I be permitted, in due course of a Question accepted by the Chair, to attack the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think there is any point of Order there; we all have to take the rough with the smooth.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In view of the fact that a statement has been made in the Question about the writer of this book being imprisoned for sedition, surely it is permissible to state that this is not correct? [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is the man?"] This man was not found guilty of sedition. He was told that if he would leave the Communist Party he would go free. He refused, and got six months, not for sedition, but for refusing to leave the Communist Party.