§ Mr. Speaker
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) asked me to rule on a complaint of privilege which he raised with me founded upon a passage in a speech said to have been delivered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord President of the Council outside this House on Thursday last.
I have considered the matter. It is not for me to say whether or no any contempt of the House was committed. I express no view of any sort or kind about that. I have to say whether, in my view, the hon. Gentleman's complaint raises a prima facie case. It is my opinion that it does.
This is the moment when, in accordance with our practice, I should ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw.
§ The right hon. and learned Gentleman then withdrew.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
It is my duty, Mr. Speaker, having brought the matter to the attention of the House, to move a Motion. This matter is dealt with on page 135 of Erskine May, but I shall not trouble the House by reading the words. I will at this stage read the Motion which I wish to move.
I beg to move,That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privilege, and, pending their report, Mr. Quintin Hogg, Member for St. Marylebone, be suspended from the service of this House.There are two views about the duties of an hon. Member in connection with privilege. I hold the view that in bringing the matter to the attention of the House I am merely discharging the duty which is open to any other hon. Member in the House. It is not my rôle to do the job of prosecuting counsel. I tried yesterday, as on every other occasion when I have dealt with such a matter, to speak with the greatest possible 253 restraint and to refer only to the actual terms of the complaint and then leave the matter to the Chair.
But the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has other views. He was concerned in a previous case of privilege, which, needless to say, I examined with the greatest possible care before raising the matter yesterday, and I have examined it with the greatest possible care again.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman raised, on 16th April, 1947, the case of Mr. Garry Allighan, having given the House notice the previous day, he assumed to himself the rôle of prosecuting counsel and subsequently, when the matter was returned to the House, with the Report of the Committee of Privilege, when a Motion was before the House that the hon. Gentleman concerned should be censured and suspended from the House, the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought it his duly—I make no point of it—to act as judge and moved a manuscript Amendment calling for the hon. Gentleman's expulsion from the House, and that Motion was carried.
I still am of the opinion that my view is the right one, that any hon. Member raising the matter is not prosecuting counsel. His sole and exclusive job is to bring the matter to the attention of Mr. Speaker, and then the matter goes to the Committee of Privileges.
I have been long enough in the House for hon. Members on both sides to know my ways, and I cannot bring myself to do other than I am doing. If the game starts off being played as kiss-in-the-ring, and then the rules are altered, I do not continue to play kiss-in-the-ring. Yesterday, we had a wonderful example of the rules getting altered en route. I made my submission yesterday in the firm belief that under the new procedures Mr. Speaker would require 24 hours to consider the matter, and at that point—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not really trying to be critical of the Chair, but the trouble is that he sounds like it. I should be grateful to him if he would make it plain that he is not trying to do that, which would be out of order. The prac- 254 tice, which is in no way changed in this respect, a 'pears on page 142 of the current edition of Erskine May.
§ Mr. Wigg
I was going on to say, Mr. Speaker, that I accept that once the right hon. and learned Gentleman had demanded the right which he demanded yesterday, to speak as soon as the paper was handed to you, but before the Motion was before the House, he was exercising his right to be heard in explanation or exculpation, and proceeded to make a speech for the defence. So, on one occasion, he demands the right to make the speech of the prosecutor without the defence having been heard, and when it suits him he switches round and makes a speech for the defence before the prosecution has been heard. I find it difficult to play the game that way.
If we examine his case on 16th April, 1947, we find that the first thing he said—I entirely agree with this—was:I hope teat this will not be treated as a party matter…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 191.]I entirely agree. This is a House of Commons matter, not a party matter at all. I say again that it is not a party matter. That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. I try to treat it on a non-party basis. I do not want even to have to make the speech.
But yesterday we had a very good exhibition when I read the terms of the complaint. I will read them again. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said:No honest person since we came into power can accuse us of pursuing a reactionary or illiberal policy.That caused tremendous hilarity on the benches opposite. If hon. Gentlemen opposite really believe that, as they did, I have only to say one word, and that is "Suez". [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, certainly. If hon. Gentlemen want to play it this way, very good.
Later, the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), through the process of raising a point of order, managed to bring great satisfaction to the party opposite by saying that she had been attacking hon. Members on this side of the House on the ground that they had been subversive. But it was not any hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, but the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friends who were the friends of 255 Captain McEwen who was interned under Defence Regulation 18B. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was Captain Ramsay."] The real complaint of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is this. What he tried to do—
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
In the interests of Captain McEwen, it should be pointed out that he was not the person to whom the hon. Member is actually referring.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Mr. Speaker, I merely wanted to tell the House that the hon. Gentleman has got the wrong name. He ought to be careful when he makes allegations of that kind.
§ Mr. Speaker
I really would seriously urge one aspect of this matter upon the House. This is one of those moments when the words or conduct of one of our fellow Members is collectively under our consideration. Let us treat the matter properly.
§ Mr. Wigg
I beg pardon for referring to Captain McEwen. I meant to refer to Captain Ramsay. I apologise. It was, in fact, Captain Ramsay.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to argue that if we have anything to say we should say it openly, in accordance with the procedure of the House. He went on to argue that in raising the matter I was attacking the right of free speech and the right of hon. Gentlemen to say what they like on controversial issues. That is not so. We are all amenable to the law, including hon. Gentlemen opposite. If, outside, we say things which are actionable, clearly there is an action in court—and I have had my fair share of such actions.
I was charged in my constituency by a Conservative candidate for sabotaging the defences of this country. Needless to say, when I sued in the High Court and forced an apology, there was no defence. Subsequently, I was charged in the Dudley Herald for acting in a traitorous manner, which was subsequently—
§ Mr. Speaker
Surely the hon. Gentleman ought to speak to the Motion. At the moment, I do not follow why his misfortunes in that respect have any bearing on this matter.
§ Mr. Wigg
Again, let me say that I hold that my duty was discharged yesterday when I brought the matter to the attention of the House, but what I had then not heard was the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. What I submit is that, whatever the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that was in order in April, 1947, and if he takes the line again yesterday I am entitled to follow the argument. I am saying that the mistake that he has made is in generalising his argument in such a way that he hopes to get in with it in such a way that no hon. Gentleman on this side of the House can sue him in the courts because he could not be identified.
What he set out to do, and what he thought that he had succeeded in doing, was to generalise in such a way his complaint that the Labour Party as a whole and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House could be smeared by the charge that they are being subversive when, in fact, any subversion is over there and not here. He is doing what he rejected in the Garry Allighan case. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes, including up to the present time.
All I am arguing is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman shall be treated with as much consideration and as much courtesy as was extended by the House to my colleague, Mr. Garry Allighan, and that there shall be the same procedures in this case as there were in that case, that the matter shall be gone into by the Committee of Privileges and that, pending its reaching its conclusion, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been found guilty, or as a prima facie case has been made out against him of gross contempt, he shall be suspended from the service of the House.
In excluding him from the service of the House I do not want to exclude him from the precincts. He is a member of the Cabinet and if the Prime Minister wants to see him we will not have any objection to that. This man has now to answer to a Committee of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Member', not 'man'."] This man must now answer to 257 a Committee of this House, and until such time as that Committee has gone into the matter I hold that the Motion which I have put before the House should be accepted.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Question is,That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges, and that, pending their report, Mr. Quintin Hogg, Member for St. Marylebone, be suspended from the service of this House.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd):
I beg to move, in line 2,To leave out from "Privileges" to the end of the Question.As you have ruled that there is a prima facie case in regard to the first part of the Motion and that the matter of complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges, Mr. Speaker, I would advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for that part of the Motion; in other words, the Motion will stand if my Amendment is accepted.
As a member of the Committee of Privileges, it would be improper for me to comment on this matter until the evidence has been heard. These are difficult matters which affect the House as a whole and very great care must be taken in handling them by the House. It would be wrong, therefore, for me to enter into a controversy—
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
On a point of order. As the Lord Privy Seal finds himself in difficulty in that respect, Sir, does he not also find himself in some difficulty in moving his Amendment?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that that raises any point of order for me. I do not quite understand why the hon. Member thinks that it does raise a point of order.
§ Mr. Lloyd
If the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) will do me the courtesy of waiting a moment he will see why I am moving the Amendment.
When considering the merits of a matter like this, it must be appreciated that these are serious and difficult matters for the House as a whole. We must take very great care in handling them. Restraint is needed. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) complained of what my right hon. and 258 learned Friend did yesterday. In fact, he did exactly what it is laid down that it is his right to do in Erskine May. He is entitled to speak in explanation or exculpation; which is what he did, neither more nor less.
The second part of the Motion—that is, the part I would like to have deleted—is, as I understand it, based on the Garry Allighan case. It is true that my right hon. and learned Friend raised the Garry Allighan case, but there was no question of dealing with Mr. Garry Allighan's suspension or expulsion from the House until after the case had been heard. The case was originally raised by my right hon. and learned Friend on 16th April 1947, and when it came to a question of suspension, which was moved by the then Lord President of the Council, my right hon. and learned Friend moved a manuscript Amendment to substitute "expulsion" for "suspension", but that was after the case had been heard.
That was after the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord Morrison of Lambeth moved a Motion saying:That Mr. Allighan, for his gross contempts of the House and for his misconduct, do attend in his place forthwith and be reprimanded by Mr. Speaker; that he be suspended from the service of this House for six months and that his salary as a Member of this House be suspended for that period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 1159.]It was in relation to that Motion, moved by the then Leader of the House, that my right hon. and learned Friend put forward his Amendment.
I think that it would be wholly wrong for this House to deal by way of punishment before the case had been heard. This is a matter of a prima facie case. I have accepted your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on this, and have suggested that my right hon. and hon. Friends support the first pert of the Motion, but that any question of suspending or punishing in the meantime would be completely wrong and, I suggest, contrary to the tradition and spirit of this House.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I wish, first, to raise a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker. Before we began this debate you said that it was in accordance with our custom and practice that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should be asked to withdraw, and he promptly did so. Has he been asked to withdraw 259 merely for this debate, or does he stay withdrawn until we consider the report of the Committee of Privileges?
§ Mr. Speaker
He stays withdrawn while the House is discussing his words and conduct and what to do about it. That is our custom. I do not wish to be facetious, but if a committee of a club were discussing the conduct of one of its members that member would be asked to leave the room while the discussion was taking place.
§ Mr. Brown
I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that that is not something which is likely to happen to me.
As has been said, this is a serious and troublesome matter which raises the question of the standards of the House as well as the particular question of the speech made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, whose position we are currently discussing. It would be foolish of me not to say that I find myself having a great deal of sympathy with the motives that lay behind the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to some extent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope that hon. Members opposite will do me the courtesy of hearing me out: it might help.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman whom we are discussing has him- 260 self taken fair freedom of action and speech from time to time. It is not unnatural that some of us should feel on such an occasion that it would not be unreasonable, as it were, to return the medicine. However, having listened to my hon. Friend's remarks, and having heard the Leader of the House, I am bound to say to the House that my own feeling is that it would be better that the matter should now go to the Committee of Privileges.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has made his point abundantly plain and in the honest and open way in which the House is accustomed to hearing from him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The House has always been proud of those who are open, honest and courageous, even if the views being expressed are not entirely agreed with. However, I feel that I should advise my hon. Friend now to allow the Motion to be passed in the customary form and let the matter go to the Committee of Privileges, whereupon we shall await its report.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, put and negatived.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.