Privilege.

– in the House of Commons on 28th July 1942.

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Photo of Mr Walter Elliot Mr Walter Elliot , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I beg to submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that an imputation has been made against a Committee of this House, and that it constitutes a breach of Privilege. The imputation is contained in a speech made by the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall) on Saturday, 25th July. As reported in the "Sunday Times" newspaper of 26th July, the speech contains the following passage: Very early on in the inquiry of the Public Accounts Committee, the chairman of that committee was asked on what ground this company had been chosen for investigation. The chairman gave a definite refusal to answer this question. Sometimes I wonder whether this report is an inspired criticism. It is peculiar, in view of this company's exceptional production record, that it should be one of live chosen out of the original 45 for inclusion in the first report, and that now out of live my company is receiving the full blast of publicity. In the 13th edition of Erskine May, it states on page 93: Scandalous charges or imputations directed against members of a Select Committee are directed against the House itself. I am raising this matter as Chairman of the Committee in question—the Public Accounts Committee. It would, of course, be quite out of Order for me to go into the merits of the case or discuss the findings of the Committee in any way. I submit, however, to you, Mr. Speaker, with respect, that the passage in question is most clearly and unmistakably an imputation against the Committee, in that it accuses them of having produced a Report to this House which is an inspired criticism; that is to say, a Report not based solely on a bona fide investigation of the case. The fact that this view is a reasonable leading of the words in question is borne out by the report of the incident in the "Daily Mail" on 27th July, which states: Some remark has been caused in political circles by a statement Mr. Kendall was reported to have made when he addressed his consti- tuents at Grantham on Saturday. Mr. Kendall is reported to have said: 'Sometimes I wonder whether this report is an inspired criticism. The words attributed to Mr. Kendall have produced discussion because the Public Accounts Committee is a Select Committee of the House of Commons. I submit that implications of such a nature have on many occasions in the past been regarded as a breach of Privilege. The most recent precedent that I have been able to obtain is in the Commons Journals, volume 188, 1932–3, page 126, where it is recorded: Complaint was made to the House by Mr. Annesley Somerville, Member for Windsor, of the speech made by Alderman Bowles, reported in the 'Nottingham Journal' newspaper of Monday, 3rd April, 1933, and of the speech made by Alderman Huntsman, reported in the 'Nottingham Guardian' newspaper of the same day, passages of which speeches he read to the House. Alderman Bowles declared, 'I have never been satisfied that we went before an impartial tribunal, and I think Nottingham's case was unfairly dealt with,' Alderman Huntsman spoke of the 'stupid and persistent cross-examination of Sir Bernard Wright' and made other reflections on the procedure of the Committee. It was ordered that the speech of Alderman Bowles and the speech of Alderman Huntsman, reported in the 'Nottingham Guardian' newspaper, be referred to the Committee of Privileges. I ask for your Ruling, Sir, whether a prima facie case has been made out in the present instance that a breach of Privilege has been committed.

Mr. Speaker:

Will the right hon, and gallant Gentleman please bring the paper to the Table?

The CLERK (Sir GILBERT CAMPION) read the passage complained of.

Mr. Speaker:

Considering what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, and the report in the newspaper named, it appears to me that a prima facie case of breach of Privilege has been made out.

Photo of Mr William Kendall Mr William Kendall , Grantham

I received a telegram from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). This was the first intimation that I had been accused of a breach of Privilege. I have only been for 31 working days in the House and it is not and never has been my intention deliberately to affront the House by a breach of Privilege or of the Rules of the House. I apologise must sincerely if this is the case and place myself in the hands of Members of the House.

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Gripps):

In view of the hon. Member's statement, I beg to move, That, in view of the apology made by the hon. Member for the County of Parts of Kesteven and Rutland (Grantham Division), this House will proceed no further in the matter.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I think the House is getting into such a stage that we shall hardly be able to open or shut our mouths without a question of breach of Privilege being raised.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

In consequence of what transpired a few minutes ago, may I ask whether a Member will be prevented from putting down a Question about this or a similar case?

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in view of the apology made by the hon. Member for the County of Parts of Kesteven and Rutland (Grantham Division), this House will proceed no further in the matter.