I beg to move, "That this Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is intended to indemnify Mr. J. G. MacManaway for the fact that he sat in this House and in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland as a Member of this House and of that House, whereas in truth and in fact he was not a Member at all. I feel that I ought rather to appear in a white sheet about this Bill. Although I did advise the House that the matter was so doubtful that it ought to go to the Privy Council for advice, I expressed the tentative view that Mr. MacManaway was qualified to sit as a Member of the House. If I had been right on that, there would have been no need to occupy the time of Parliament with this Bill. But on applying to the department of white sheets, I found that demand had already been so great that there were none left.
For instance, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) had already acquired his. So had the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The truth is that there were only four lawyers who, as the result shows, were right about this case; and here I disagree with what the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby said on a previous occasion. It is no use for a lawyer to say that "the man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." It is the result which counts, whether it is in a case where all the members of the Privy Council agree about something, or where all the members of a jury disagree about something.
Judged by that standard there were only four lawyers in this House who were right about this matter. The first of them was my right hon. Friend who now holds the office of Foreign Secretary. He always took a robust view about this matter.
I have described him deliberately as a lawyer. I have come to the conclusion that he is one of the best lawyers in the House. I do not say that he enjoys the professional qualifications which the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby and I possess, but he showed on this occasion that he had the instincts of a lawyer—of a kind. He took the view that the House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act, 1801, meant what it said. That, I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), is a very unorthodox view for any lawyer to take. But that is the view that the right hon. Gentleman took.
Then I must say—and it is right that I should say so, and I say it seriously—that the learned Clerk of the House took the same view although, quite properly, he did not fully advise the Committee on the matter. I think it is only right to say that he indicated quite clearly what his view was when he assisted the Committee which was dealing with the matter. Then, of course, there was my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) for whom the eventual result of all this has been, as I said on a previous occasion, a considerable personal triumph. These hon. and right hon. Gentlemen did not require any white sheets at all.
On the other hand, the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby took exactly the opposite view. He took the robust legal view that the words in the House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act meant exactly the opposite of what they said. I am afraid that I took, and expressed, a more timid, and perhaps typical, legal opinion by saying that I really did not know what the words meant. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition characteristically took up the position, in effect, that whatever the words meant, Mr. MacManaway ought to sit here. In the end, the House took my advice, and the matter was referred to the Privy Council which heard argument, including argument by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch.
The Privy Council decided, on reasoning which with great respect I thought quite unanswerable, that Mr. MacManaway was disqualified from sitting as a Member because he was an ordained clergyman. He sat for a time in this House. One cannot accuse him of having sat in bad faith, because, after all, there was a great deal of doubt, to say the least, about what the position was. If we lawyers in the House were not sure about it perhaps we cannot blame him for not having been certain. At all events, he sat for a time in this House and for a longer period in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, and he discharged the duties of a Member until the time came when the matter was referred to the Privy Council. Their advice was given to this House, and this House accepted that advice.
In those circumstances, we think it right—as we said at the time of the reference to the Privy Council we would think it right if the Privy Council came to the view which eventually it reached—to move this Bill whereby he should be indemnified against any legal actions, if any be brought against him. So far as I know, no such action has been brought against him and, to some extent, therefore, the Bill is merely for the sake of caution.
Some question was raised about the fact that, at a time when the matter was pending in the Privy Council, Mr. MacManaway came back and voted here in a Division. I must confess that I took the view at that time that it was most improper, and perhaps illegal, for him to do so; but on further research into the matter—and I want to say this with great respect—I came to the conclusion that the advice given to Mr. Speaker about it was perfectly right and that Mr. MacManaway was legally entitled to sit until a decision of this House had been given. Whether he should sit or not is a matter of taste, and we do not deal with matters of taste in Indemnity Bills.
I think it right to mention that, because this Bill extends to cover the occasion on which he sat and voted on that day. Accordingly, I ask the House to say that this is a proper case in which Mr. MacManaway should be indemnified against any possible legal consequence by way of common informer's action, either in our courts or in those of Northern Ireland, for the penal consequences which follow from sitting as a Member when in fact one is not a Member at all.
The only reason why I do not join in the frenzied search for laundry wear in which the learned Attorney-General has indulged is that I have already done so on a previous occasion, and, if I were to flaunt the same white sheet, there might be some remarks about whether its whiteness was still unstained. I must confess that my legal pride has been duly humbled, and that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) was entitled to the verbal ballet over my erroneous opinions in which he amicably indulged on the last occasion when we discussed this matter. However, the Bill which is before us today is really the consequence of the decision taken by the House on 19th October, 1950, and the statements made by right hon. Gentlemen on that occasion. Of course, we shall naturally and gracefully give every facility to assist its passage.
There is only one matter, which I hope the House will not think is technical, but which seems to me to be worthy of bringing to the attention of the House, and that is with regard to the recitals of the Bill. This Bill contains a rather unusual feature in a modern public Bill, and one sees the reasons for it, but it will be noted that, after reciting that Mr. MacManaway was declared elected, the second recital goes on to state that
on the seventeenth day of October, nineteen hundred and fifty, the Judicial Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council, upon a reference made by Order in Council pursuant to an Address presented by the Commons House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, advised His Majesty that the said James Godfrey MacManaway, having been ordained as a priest
was disabled. It did give me some concern that the recital stopped there, and did not go on to state that there was a Resolution of this House by which Mr. MacManaway was declared to be disabled from sitting. The reason why I mention that—and I will not, of course, place reliance on words of my own used in that debate—is because the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in his speech, said this:
May I say how much I agree with the first resonant sentence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), when he pointed out that this House has always preserved for itself the right to say who shall and who shall not be
a Member of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 2272.]
Therefore, I think there is something to be said, and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider it.
There is obviously no party significance or any significance at all in our legal arguments on the point whether it would not be better to include the Resolution of this House in order to make it quite clear that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cannot say who is to be a Member of this House, and also to prevent anyone in the future suggesting that as a precedent for this House being required to consult the Judicial Committee before deciding who shall be a Member. The Government draftsmen may have felt that, as we were going to deal with the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, there was an argument the other way, but I feel that it is of much importance, because the learned Attorney-General will know how these precedents are built up by looking up and trying to read a significance into things that have happened in the past.
I hope that the Government will consider interposing another recital after the second one and before coming to the question of Northern Ireland. That would meet the point, and would not show any disrespect to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. I therefore hope that the House will think that that is a point worthy of consideration, because that control by the House of its own membership is something of which we are all very jealous and proud.
I do not want to light up the ashes of our ancient fires, if I may slightly change the quotation, but I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch will be reassured on one point. As I understood his speech to which I listened with great attention, on 19th October, 1950, the hon. and learned Gentleman was rather afraid that the position in the Church which Mr. MacManaway had held had been a matter which had influenced the election in the Division, apart from any political differences. I think he will now be reassured on that point, since the election which took place afterwards secured the return of a Member of the same party, and, so far as I know, there were no ecclesiastical connections in his case.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to that, but I hope that he will allow us the same point when we discuss any other by-elections that have taken place in the last three months. However, I think that point is a matter on which the electors have given their decision and which they have solved.
There is only one other point to which I think everyone in the House would expect me to make reference and which should be kept in mind, and that is the question of an inquiry into the position of clerics, which point I developed, I am afraid at some length, in addressing the House on 19th October. I hasten to assure the House that I am not going to take up any of those points of ecclesiastical history, on which the hon. and learned Gentleman enlarged, or give any interesting examples of anomalies outside ecclesiastical spheres which existed and which undoubtedly still exist. The position was left in this way. Going through the usual motions preparatory to the withdrawal of an Amendment, I said, referring to the Home Secretary:
If the right hon. Gentleman will give us the undertaking that a body will be established—I am not asking him to tie himself to the body"—
and that was, of course, a body to inquire into these anomalies—
then I should ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment. I must, however, ask the Home Secretary to go as far as that, because otherwise—"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 2276.]
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I do not see what all this has to do with this Bill. It is quite another subject, which could be discussed at some other time. Even the question, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred before, concerning the by-election in West Belfast, has not, as far as I can see, anything to do with this Bill.
I am sorry if I have appeared to trespass, but may I just put this point to you, Mr. Speaker, with all deference? I assure you that I shall not attempt to press it. What I was going to submit was that this Bill is, of course, in consequence of that debate, in which an undertaking was given that the matter would be inquired into. It was on that undertaking that we agreed to the course that was taken. I only wanted to point out—and I assure you that I shall not go beyond that—that our acceptance of the position today is in the hope, and, indeed, the expectation, that the undertaking which I have quoted will be carried out. I do not want to go any further than that, but I think the whole House felt, irrespective of their view on the individual gentleman who has been discussed, that the continuance of these anomalies would be a regrettable matter, and that, with all the difficulties of the international and domestic situation today, this problem of our own, and, as I said, the problem of seeing that the Mother of Parliaments is not the foster mother of anomalies, would not be forgotten, but would be considered by the Government.
With reference to the guidance which you have just given us, Mr. Speaker, on the conduct of debate, are we to understand from what you have said that we are prohibited in this debate from considering the circumstances in which Mr. MacManaway was selected as a candidate, and whether he should be indemnified in those circumstances?
Yes, most certainly. That is quite outside the scope of this debate. We have only to be satisfied that he was properly elected a Member here. We are not entitled to inquire into the circumstances, and that I must rule completely out of order.
May I seriously present this point, which is important? When the matter was discussed in the House, we were told that we could have a fuller discussion of it on Second Reading. What we are discussing today is a Bill which proposes to indemnify the Reverend Mr. MacManaway for a series of votes in this House, both before and after the matter was referred to the Judicial Committee, and for a series of votes in the Northern Ireland House of Commons extending over a period of four years. With respect, Sir, I submit that the position in the Northern Ireland House is wholly different from that in this House, and that this House must control it. The Northern Ireland Parliament has not followed the rule of this House and disqualified Mr. MacManaway. In the circumstances, therefore, I think it eminently relevant and important that we should have a full opportunity of discussing the whole of the circumstances.
I think not. I must rule against that. We are, after all, only concerned with this gentleman who had already been elected. How he was elected is nothing to do with us. We are satisfied that he was properly elected and became a Member. We have decided he is not a Member. We are only concerned with what is in this Bill.
I am respectfully submitting that, in view of the fact that the Northern Ireland House of Commons have not followed our decision and have not declared Mr. MacManaway disqualified, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 18 (2) of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which clearly indicates, and has been accepted as indicating, that any disqualification to this House automatically applies to the Northern Ireland House, there are very difficult circumstances which follow the passage of this Bill which ought to be discussed on Second Reading and on the Committee stage, and which, in the interest of Mr. MacManaway himself, ought to be clarified in this debate. I submit that this is a very important matter.
The Northern Ireland Parliament is a self-governing body. We are not entitled to discuss what it does. I believe that the Reverend Mr. MacManaway resigned—he was told to resign. That is a decision of a body which is powerful by itself, and in whose decision we have no right to interfere. I must rule all reference to the Northern Ireland Parliament out of order.
I have ruled it out of order, and, therefore, it must be out of order. I have considered the matter beforehand, and I say that any discussions on the conduct of the Northern Ireland Parliament are not in order on this Bill. That is my Ruling. If hon. Members do not like it, let them put down a Motion challenging my Ruling. There it is.
I would never challenge your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but there are some who are new to this House and do not know the niceties of debate. We are discussing whether Mr. MacManaway should be indemnified or not, and we ought to know whether or not he deliberately flouted the constitutional procedure of this Parliament. Some of us think he did. Should we not, therefore, discuss the circumstances in which he was nominated.
I should have thought not; I should have thought we ought to discuss his conduct here about voting after being warned. As regards his flouting the House, and so on, as the right hon. and learned Attorney-General said, he was no doubt advised one way and another. It was a genuine mistake on his part, which we must accept.
There is just one aspect of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on which I personally would be grateful for a little further guidance. It is this. In so far as your Ruling applied to the Reverend Mr. MacManaway's conduct in this House and his indemnification against any consequences of that, I find it, with respect, very easy to follow what you have said. But the Bill deals with more than that; the Bill extends to indemnify him not only against penalties which otherwise he would have incurred by reason of his votes in this House, but extends also to his conduct in the House of Northern Ireland. Therefore, with great respect, Mr. Speaker, I find it a little difficult to follow your Ruling that we are concerned here only with what he did here. The Bill, quite plainly, is not concerned only with what he did here, or with penalties arising from that alone.
I should have thought that was fairly clear. One could, of course, quite legitimately object to his being indemnified in the Northern Ireland Parliament, but that does not necessarily mean that one has to discuss the decision of the Northern Ireland Parliament. Such an objection might be good grounds for objecting to this Bill.
There is very little more with which I want to trouble the House. I only want to say one word on the question of Mr. MacManaway's position and on the suggestion that he was flouting the House. One can only say that he received advice after careful consideration of the point, and that that advice, after attracting a considerable amount of legal support, was rejected. That is the reason for his present position. One can only say that he is in the position of litigants who are unfortunate enough to receive advice which is given to them after serious consideration, but which is proved to be wrong. In those circumstances, as I have already indicated, the Opposition support the Government on this Bill.
Before I starts on the few remarks I want to make to the House, I think it proper that I should declare, so to speak, my interest in this matter. I was employed on behalf of the Treasury Solicitor to argue the matter before the Privy Council, and I have also given certain advice in regard to what might be possible consequences in Northern Ireland in regard to the position there.
I am sure the House will excuse me if I do not, like the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), express any of my own views as to the decision of the Privy Council, and if, when I come to support him on the point which he made, and with which I thoroughly agree, I merely make this point, without trespassing on the Northern Ireland position, that if we declare in this House that we have come to a conclusion, as I understand the Government of Northern Ireland have, which clarifies the qualifications of Members of the Northern Ireland House, that will automatically govern the Members there.
I think it is very desirable that this House should follow the usual tradition of generosity in this matter. There are 145 Acts against which anyone might easily offend—one Scottish, 10 Irish, and so on. Therefore, I am very glad that the Government have decided not to follow the precedent set by the Conservative Opposition on the occasion of the last reference to the Privy Council, because on that occasion, when a case was referred to the Privy Council and a Bill of Indemnity was brought in, the Conservative Opposition put before the welfare of the Member concerned the rights of the common informer, and set down a Motion to the effect that a common informer should not be deprived of his just rewards. In consequence of that Motion the Bill of Indemnity was never passed on any occasion. The fact that we have departed from that is a matter upon which His Majesty's Government may be congratulated.
But I am sure the House would be wrong were we to depart from the standards of indemnity laid down by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), among others, when we were discussing the Camberwell, Bristol and Nottingham Elections (Validation) Bill. With great respect, that Measure was entirely parallel with this one and, therefore, how we approach this Measure depends on the rules we adopted in dealing with the other Measure.
I cannot follow the hon. Member's description. It may be correct. When was that occasion when the Conservative Party are alleged to have acted in the way the hon. Member has just described?
In 1913 there was a member of the Liberal Party, Sir Stuart Samuel, who committed a purely technical offence. The bank of which he happened to be a director was not a limited company and as it had some slight dealings with the Government, he was disqualified, after he had been advised by the Attorney-General of the day that he was in the right. On behalf of the Conservative Party someone whom I think we all respect for his moral rectitude, Lord Hugh Cecil—Lord Quickswood as he now is—put down a Motion on behalf of the Conservative Party saying—I have not the exact words with me—that the right of the common informer must come first. Such was the position that they were not able to go further, and I am glad we have not followed that precedent. Perhaps I may leave it at that, because I have a number of points I wish to make.
The noble Lord the Member for Horsham when discussing the Camberwell, Bristol and Nottingham Elections (Validation) Bill in 1946, laid down certain rules, one of which was that on no occasion must a member vote when he knows he is disqualified. What is more, with all the assurance of a former Deputy-Speaker of this House, the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) suggested that even though a Member had voted inadvertently, not knowing he was disqualified, it was his duty to apologise. When it was pointed out to the hon. Member for Torquay that the man was not a Member and could not attend, he said his proper course was to write to Mr. Speaker.
There were some very serious speeches made from the other side of the House condemning the actions of hon. Members on this side. These are immutable principles and not ones that applied in 1946 and do not apply now.
I am afraid the hon. Member is putting you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the House in some difficulty about this. If he is quoting the instance of the Camberwell, Bristol and Nottingham Elections (Validation) Bill procedure, I submit we are entitled to debate that. As far as I recollect, the matters at issue there were completely different from the matters at issue here. Mr. Speaker has just ruled that this must be a very narrow debate. Possibly if the hon. Member is going to deal with that matter, I shall ask permission later on—as I was brought into it—to deal with it. I should have thought it was clearly outside the ambit of this Bill.
Obviously nobody in the House wants the debate to go too wide. The point I make is that on the previous Bill we made a decision upon the principle whether we should indemnify an hon. Member or not, and we should follow that principle in this Bill. The House should be consistent and not indemnify Labour Members under one strict principle and Conservative Members under another principle. This Indemnity Bill differs from any Indemnity Bill in the last 300 years. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby will correct me if I am wrong, but I think this is the first time this House has ever been invited to indemnify a Member who voted in a debate when his case was under consideration by order of the House.
If we are to agree—and I hope some of my hon. Friends will agree—to pass this Bill, if we are to agree to indemnify Mr. MacManaway, we are entitled to a statement from hon. Members opposite on how he came to vote. If one reads Press reports of the circumstances in which he came to vote, Mr. MacManaway said that he had received a telegram from someone asking him to come and vote. I will give way to any hon. Gentleman who says he sent it. We had a long debate once about who put their names to a telegram. The point is whether he just said, "I do not mind what the House has done, I am going to vote," or whether he voted under pressure. In my view he voted under pressure, and it is for that reason that I advise such of my hon. Friends as follow me in this matter to vote for the Bill. If no hon. Member opposite is going to get up and say, "I did this," the House will have to form its own judgment as to what steps it should take.
I think the second point we ought to consider is the conduct which has taken place since the date when we originally dealt with this question because that, of course, is a highly material point in relation to whether or not we should pass this Bill. Originally we understood this Bill would be introduced within a very short space of time after we had dealt with the original Motion. The Bill was held up for some reason. It would be interesting to know whether, for instance, it was held up on behalf of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland.
The main point is that in that interval of time Mr. MacManaway himself made a number of pronouncements on the conduct of this House. If we are to indemnify a Member—[Interruption.]—I remember the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) saying that it was always valuable to fortify the Treasury. It is not possible for me to do that for the moment, but I do not see why, if I am a little hoarse, I should not drink some water and make myself audible even to an hon. Member who represents Northern Ireland.
The conduct of Mr. Macmanaway in that interval is a most important matter, because if he were himself in contempt of us, it would be very doubtful whether this House ought to pass a Bill of indemnity. Let me put the argument in another form. Mr. MacManaway has alleged—and so, indeed, has the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland—that he was treated most unjustly by this House.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Can it be in order for the hon. and learned Member to discuss what happened alter Mr. MacManaway vacated his seat and which the hon. and learned Member alleges was a contempt of this House. If it was a contempt of this House after he had vacated his seat, it should then have been raised as a matter of Privilege. It cannot affect the question now.
I do not want to get out of order or to take unfair advantage of hon. Members opposite, but if there is a suggestion by Mr. Macmanaway that this House acted grossly unjustly towards him, then we ought to look at the Bill very closely to make certain that we have made up for all that injustice.
A point of order has been addressed to me. It seems to me that the House is entitled to consider the conduct of the gentleman concerned while he was sitting in this House.
I understood you to say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it appeared to you that we could discuss the conduct of this gentleman while he was a Member of the House. As I understood it, however, the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is seeking to discuss his conduct after he ceased to be a Member of the House.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch said he was going to prove that Mr. MacManaway was in contempt of this House. That is a technical phrase; it means that he had committed, or in the opinion of the hon. and learned Member had committed, a breach of Privilege. I submit that it is impossible to discuss such a matter except on a substantive Motion. In other words, if the hon. Member wishes to bring such a charge, he must raise the matter with the Chair, and if the Chair decides that there is not a prima facie case, then he is entitled to put down a Motion. He has no right to say that a Member is in contempt of the House except on a substantive Motion.
We are on difficult ground here, because the gentleman we are discussing was never a Member of this House, and if one looks at Mr. Speaker's Ruling on the Camberwell, Bristol and Nottingham Bill—on which I am basing myself very carefully in what I say—one will see that Mr. Speaker was careful to point out, after some discussion, that the hon. Members who were concerned should be referred to by name and not as hon. Members, because, in fact, they were not Members of the House. We are thus discussing someone who was never a Member of this House but has some relation to it.
It is, therefore, proper that we should look into this Bill to see that he is properly compensated if a gross injustice has been done to him, which is, after all, alleged by very responsible people like the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland. I do not know, for example, whether my right hon. and learned Friend has considered the question of Mr. MacManaway's salary when he was a Member of this House. I hope the House will see that he draws his salary. It is an odd fact that while Mr. MacManaway is being paid a salary for never having been a Member of this House, the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Mulvey) who, through over-conscientious scruples, stays away, is not entitled to one. But that is by the way.
I was proposing to examine, with the respect that one ought to give to the views of any Attorney-General or any ex-Attorney-General, the charges which have been made against this House in regard to Mr. MacManaway by the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland, and by Mr. MacManaway himself, so as to see whether they are justified and, if they are justified, to make certain that this Bill has made up for the injustice we have done to Mr. MacManaway.
I think the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is going too wide. The Bill is really a very simple one and it seems to me that, while the House is fully entitled to discuss the conduct of the Member concerned in so far as it affects whether or not he should be given an indemnity, all these other matters are very remote from that question.
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think the position is otherwise. What we are doing here is giving a Second Reading to a Bill. What we are concerned with is whether the Bill contains sufficient provisions for the indemnification of Mr. MacManaway? Whether or not the Bill should contain a Clause which would provide for indemnifying those who have paid him his salary, seems to be a very material question which we should consider when we come to the later stages of the Bill, and we might ask whether you would be good enough, if you were then the occupant of the Chair, to accept a manuscript Amendment to that effect.
At the moment I want only to examine the question whether Mr. MacManaway was justly or unjustly treated, and if the House does not wish me to refer to what was said by the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland, then I will leave it. I want to remind the House only of this: he, of course, spoke in those measured tones and reasoned terms which one would expect of an Attorney-General. He was really putting forward the arguments which had been adduced by a great many other persons in Northern Ireland, including Mr. MacManaway, in much less measured terms.
If you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, take the same view of his legal views as I do, then I will not put them before the House. I will turn immediately to what Mr. MacManaway himself said on the matter, but I would remind the House that on 23rd November, some five days before the election, to say that proceedings in his case had been unjust or grossly
unjust, had been condemned by this House without any opposition as a contempt. Mr. MacManaway said, in a letter which was printed in the election address of the hon. Member who now sits for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan):
This is a great personal sorrow to me and I feel a gross injustice to the Loyalists of West Belfast.
I shall not read the whole of this letter, for it deals with general Christian principles which are perhaps out of place in this debate, but he then invited the electors of West Belfast to do something "to avenge the injustice which has been perpetrated on myself."
It would be very wrong if we were to condemn Mr. MacManaway because a letter was circulated without his authority by somebody else at the period of the election with the purpose of influencing the election. We all take as favourable a view as we can of the character of anybody who has been associated with this House, for however short a time, and I believe Mr. MacManaway himself asked, as soon as he knew that such a statement had been condemned, for this letter to be withdrawn. I think we ought to hear from the hon. Member for Belfast, West, whether, in fact, that was so.
Before I comment on this, I should like to say I have never heard such a disgraceful performance. Imputations have been cast not only against myself—after all, that is legitimate; I am a Member of this House and can defend myself—but also against people who have no right of audience here. That is not the action of a Christian gentleman, as the hon. and learned Member poses to be. At no time did Mr. MacManaway withdraw that letter.
You ruled just now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan), that it would not be in order to discuss anything Mr. MacManaway said or did after he ceased to be a Member of this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "He was not a Member."] That is what Mr. Deputy-Speaker said. I submit that what you obviously meant—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—was, whether he was a Member of the House or not, nothing should be mentioned here regarding what he said or did after the decision of the House that he was not a Member. Now the hon. and learned Member is bringing up a whole lot of matters about what Mr. MacManaway is supposed to have said after the House decided he was disqualified. It seems to me contrary to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
The Bill proposes to give an indemnity to this gentleman for his action in sitting and voting as a Member of this House. That is the question before the House. Unless one laid down some rule it would be impossible to draw a line anywhere, and we could go back to the earliest days of this gentleman. Therefore, I think the matter must be limited to the period during which Mr. MacManaway sat in the House.
With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, there are two questions before the House. Surely, one is whether or not Mr. MacManaway has been treated unjustly, because that is the question which the House sincerely ought to resolve. If, in fact, he has been treated unjustly we may have to put more in the Bill, and certainly we must pass it.
The question is not whether this gentleman was treated unjustly. The question is whether the House and this Parliament should give him indemnity for sitting and voting in the House. That is the position.
May I submit this for your consideration, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? The House is being asked—and, maybe, quite properly—to relieve this gentleman from heavy penalties which he has, by law, incurred. Before I give my vote as to whether he should be so indemnified am I not bound to consider all his conduct in relation to that matter—provided it is in relation to that matter—whenever it occurred? Otherwise, how can I possibly come to a proper judgment on the question I am being invited to judge?
Naturally I accept the formulation which you put, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and bow at once to your Ruling, and the only thing I regret is that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) is not here to profit by my example in that. Of course, we must not decide absolutely whether he was treated justly or unjustly, but if I may repeat again the argument put before the House by the Father of the House, the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), I would recall that he said—
Order. These matters are really quite remote—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—from the Bill. Mr. Speaker has given certain Rulings. It is my duty to follow them as far as I can. I have indicated that the Bill is a comparatively simple one, and that all these other matters are very remote, and I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman must confine himself to the justification, or otherwise, of giving an indemnity to this gentleman.
With very great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if the noble Lord did not make his interjections, I should be less induced to introduce anything irrelevant. However, leaving all that aside, and leaving aside what was enunciated in a Bill or in a debate, I suggest that the House should remember that the principle it adopts in dealing with a Bill of this nature is taking to itself the privilege to exempt from the conditions of the law, the operation of the law, what is done by those who are associated with us. That is a liberty that is not given to the ordinary man in the street. The ordinary man who commits a crime cannot say, "There are very special circumstances in my case. Would the Attorney-General please introduce an indemnity Bill?"
In those circumstances we should be very careful that those in whose favour we exercise this privilege and introduce these Bills—we ought to be quite certain that those to whom we give this right—are pepole who are deserving of that right. Unless the House takes that view then we are merely saying that anything that is done wrong, any offence by any Member of the House or anyone associated with the House, however exaggerated at a later stage, must never be taken into consideration in passing an Act of Indemnity. That would be a monstrous principle for the House to adopt, and we must, therefore, strictly regard the right when we are dealing with these matters.
In my respectful submission that does not absolve us from the duty of deciding whether or not Mr. MacManaway was treated justly or unjustly. If, for example, he came here knowing full well that he was disqualified, that would be an argument for not passing the Bill; if, on the other hand, he came here fully believing that he was qualified, that would be an argument for passing it. Therefore, we must weigh all these arguments side by side.
We do not know, of course, what advice Mr. MacManaway was given as to his qualifications or his disqualification. There is one fact which is perfectly apparent—that he could not have been advised by anybody when he stood for election that he was bound to be disqualified. Because if there is one place that any lawyer goes to look for the law about disqualification, it is to the draft Bill which was prepared by order of the predecessor to Mr. Speaker's counsel, Mr. Pulling, then Editor of the Revised Statutes, and that draft Bill, which was described by Lord Simon, when Lord Chancellor, as a marvel of ingenuity and exactness, sets out that a clergyman of the Church of Ireland is disqualified, Mr. Pulling may very well have been wrong. We may argue on that. But it is quite certain that Mr. MacManaway must have known, when he went forward to his election, that he might be disqualified; and that is a very relevant point that we ought to bear in mind in dealing with this matter.
I hope I shall have your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the indulgence of the House in this matter. During the election that took place all sorts of personal charges were made against me of ill faith and of bad faith. Out of respect
for this House and the legal situation. I did not answer, but I hope I shall have the indulgence of the House in just saying this, that I hope the House will agree with me that every possible step was taken to bring Mr. MacManaway's position before his eyes before he ever was nominated to stand at all for this House. For that purpose I should just like to refer the House for one moment to a report contained in the "Belfast Telegraph," which sets out the fact, first of all, that Mr. MacManaway had heard from me that he was possibly disqualified. Then it goes on to say this:
While it has not been finally decided whether he is eligible to go to Westminster, the probability is that, if successful in the contest, Parliament would pass an Indemnity Act.
I hope we shall hear some of the Northern Ireland Members dealing with this suggestion that Mr. MacManaway was going forward irrespective of whether he thought he was disqualified or not, in the hope that the good nature of this party would pass an Act of Indemnity, or that, in the event of the other side coming in, party interest would secure it. I am quite certain that so far as hon. Members opposite are concerned, that is untrue, and that would not be so.
But we are not concerned with what Mr. MacManaway thought about the morals of his own party. We are concerned with his attitude of mind when he approached this question. In those circumstances, I cannot see how he can possibly say that he was unjustly treated. How was he unjustly treated? I will just add this. Although I hesitate even to refer to another Bill before the House, when there was before the House another Bill dealing with indemnification in July, 1949, when he was adopted as a candidate, I called attention to Mr. MacManaway's case and suggested to hon. Gentlemen opposite that they should include a Clause to make it clear that he was qualified. They did not take that opportunity. In fact, when my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) suggested postponing the stages of the Bill in order that an alteration could be made, he found no support at all among hon. Gentlemen opposite. How can Mr. MacManaway say that in those circumstances he was treated unjustly?
What is the other possibility of his unjust treatment? Is it being said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that we should pass this Bill and indemnify Mr. MacManaway because the laws against clergymen are particularly unfair and unjust? Is that what is being said? I, personally, would like to see clergymen of all denominations in this House. But an Irish clergyman cannot stand for any parish council; he is prohibited by law from being even a parish councillor, let alone an urban district councillor, a county councillor, or anything of that sort.
I do not want to answer that interruption, except to say that, were the Ulster Members of the present day in the House at that time, no doubt they would have voted in a different way from that in which their predecessors did, who all supported the Measure in 1925, when we in this Parliament abolished the restriction upon clergymen standing for municipal office—
On a point of order. The hon. and learned Gentleman has now got on to the subject of whether clergy can or cannot stand for local government in Ireland. May I, therefore, ask you for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? When some of us come to speak—and it looks to me as if this Bill will not go through today; so many subjects have been introduced and will have to be discussed that the Government will probably have to ask for another day—shall we be in order in arguing the subject of clergymen taking part in local government in Ireland?
I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman is endeavouring to say that Mr. MacManaway came to this House knowing that he was not entitled to do so, and that one of the factors supporting that view was the fact that he knew he could not be elected similarly to a local authority. I do not think I can say that that is wholly irrelevant, but it is a matter for the House what value they attach to it.
May I say, with respect, that when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Major Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) was speaking, when he made a reference to the election, Mr. Speaker said he was sorry to interrupt my right hon. and learned Friend, but we could not discuss, on this Bill, the question of the election. I suggest, with respect, that that is exactly what the hon. and learned Gentleman is now doing.
With all respect to the noble Lord, that really is not the case. The hon. and learned Gentleman is not discussing the circumstances of the election. He is discussing the qualifications for election, which is, at any rate, one of the factors in this matter.
I apologise to the House because—how it is I do not know—I always have a different recollection of what Mr. Speaker says about any matter from that of the noble Lord. Therefore, while I always appreciate that I am wrong in every case. I do try to persuade myself to follow his judgment. I say only this about the noble Lord, that he does make Mr. Speaker a little inconsistent in his Rulings.
Let me return to the point I was making. There surely can be no injustice in saying that someone is not entitled to come here as a clergyman when the Northern Ireland Parliament—and here I give the answer to the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Professor Savory)—themselves failed to follow the principles laid down by this Parliament and repeal in 1925 the disqualification of clergymen sitting on municipal councils. There can therefore be no injustice, and it must have been known to the gentleman concerned that he could not sit for any local authority. All the time that he was sitting in the Northern Ireland Parliament—without going into the question of how he came to sit in that Parliament—when he was, after all, free to speak, he made no effort whatsoever to correct this injustice, so what injustice is there?
The third suggestion of injustice is that if only there were in Ireland, as there is here, a Clerical Disability Act, Mr. MacManaway could have shed his clerical garb and could have stood for this House, as did one gentleman, Sir Edmund Brocklebank. But if Sir Edmund Brocklebank were to go to Ireland, though he had shed his clerical character for every other purpose, he would still be ineligible as a clergyman to sit even on a parish council in Ireland. But that is not the real point. The real point, and the gravamen of the attack, and the reason why this House should seriously consider what it should do in regard to this Bill, is that the reverend gentleman made no effort to get rid of his spiritual character. He did not, as the Act provides, resign all his livings, give up all his position, wait six months, and not use his title as reverend gentleman or anything else. He went into the Northern Ireland Parliament and stood as a candidate when he was rector of the constituency where the election was taking place, and in so far as that is concerned, we are asked—
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What you say strengthens the second part of my argument. Irrespective of his formal leaving of the church, what was required by hon. Gentlemen opposite was that a clergyman should come in and fight this fight as a clergyman. I appreciate that that is a serious charge, but the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan) knows very well that at that very time he was urging not only that should clergymen come in and fight that fight, but that they should use the pulpit for inculcating—
No. Perhaps I did not make my point clear, and I apologise to the House for my lapse. The point I am making—and this is what the House ought to decide—is this: Did Mr. MacManaway really think, "I may be qualified or I may not," and was he persuaded to run, despite the fact that hon, Members opposite in his own Northern Ireland party knew that he was, or might be, disqualified, because they felt they could win a seat with a clergyman and could not win a seat without one? Surely it is highly material to examine the sort of political argument that was put up. If the election was to turn on purely political questions, obviously, as the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) said, it would not matter whether the candidate was a clergyman or not. If the election was to turn on whether it was a defence of Protestantism or an attack upon the Roman Catholics, then it would be highly material whether Mr. MacManaway was forced to go forward despite his own doubts.
Despite what the hon. and learned Member has said, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, did not Mr. Speaker distinctly give a Ruling that we could not discuss the circumstances of the election. This is a matter of great constitutional importance to this House. If Mr. Speaker gave that Ruling—and there is no question about it that he did—I suggest, with respect, that the hon. and learned Gentleman is endeavouring to walk round it by making frivolous observations which have nothing whatever to do with the matter.
The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that it is extremely difficult to draw a line in a matter of this sort. Mr. Speaker has given certain Rulings, and I have, so far as I can, to interpret them, which I have endeavoured to do. It is clear to me that, in any event, Mr. Speaker's Ruling would be disobeyed if I allowed the hon. and learned Gentleman to deal further with the matter with which he is now dealing. Therefore, I must ask him to pass to another matter, and I must ask the House to support me in that decision.
Surely it is strictly relevant to the case, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. and learned Member should show that on the evidence before him, this was a try-on. If in point of fact there was doubt in their minds as to whether Mr. MacManaway was fit to sit or not, then to know whether if it was found that he could not sit he could have a Bill of Indemnity, would make it strictly relevant to find out whether, in fact, it was a try-on.
That is a hypothetical question. In any event, that was not quite the point which the hon. and learned Gentleman was making. I must ask him to pass to some other point.
I feel that it is desirable that in the House, when Mr. MacManaway is not here, we should put his conduct in the most favourable light. To suggest that he was being pressed or pushed by other people to take part in the election when he well knew that he might have been disqualified, is a point in his favour.
The hon. and learned Gentleman, under the guise of raising a further point of order, or, rather, of giving an explanation, is going into the same matter again. I must ask him not to do that. I shall have to invite the House to take notice of his action if he proceeds to do so further. I hope that he will pass on to another point.
If I may sum up my argument, I would say that if it has not been valuable in one respect it has perhaps been valuable in raising a great many points of order, which, I feel sure, will be of value as precedents at a later date. The argument which I have attempted to address to the House is: Did Mr. MacManaway know that he might be disqualified at the time he stood for the election? Perhaps we shall hear from some other hon. Members what was his view about that. Was it considered, for example, that if he was disqualified the seat could still be won, because a campaign could be run on the ground that he had been unjustly treated?
It seems to me that these are the sort of questions which are before the House. If I may conclude—I have delayed the House far too long as it is—with one more general observation, may I say that we are, in this Bill, endeavouring to indemnify a clergyman. We are vindicating a law which keeps clergymen of all sorts out of the House of Commons. While it is necessary to do that in passing this Bill, we should not lose sight of the wider issues because it is not, if I may say so with all respect, the presence of clergymen in the House of Commons which introduces religion into politics, which is one of the things that we wish to avoid.
I notice that the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) and the hon. Member for Enfield. West (Mr. Iain MacLeod) took occasion recently to point out that I did not possess the Christian virtues which they made themselves clear to the House as possessing. I accept the rebuke and I hope that the House will accept it from me, as being less than they in these matters of Christian virtue, that when we come to pass a Bill of this sort, we must keep our eyes on the wider issues and prevent the attacking of people and the exploitation or the running of elections on religious issues, because it is that which leads to circumstances in which a Bill of this sort comes to be introduced.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) began his speech by saying that he hoped that the House would be generous towards Mr. MacManaway and, therefore, it did not altogether surprise me that he spent the rest of his speech in trying to persuade the House not to pass this Bill of Indemnity. The hon and learned Gentleman did, as has been pointed out, achieve victory in this matter in the Privy Council. He was quite right in his interpretation of the law, and the remainder of us were not. It is, as a result of that, that Mr. MacManaway lost his seat and that we are now considering this Bill. In those circumstances, I would have thought that it would have been more becoming if the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch could have shown a little more magnanimity towards Mr. MacManaway.
May I make my position clear? I believe that the House should show the utmost magnanimity towards Mr. MacManaway, whom I regard merely as a tool of persons far cleverer than he. It is those people who, when there was a doubt as to his qualifications, persuaded him to go forward, and it is those who are really worthy of the censorship of the House.
This is a personal Bill. It is to indemnify Mr. MacManaway and not other people.
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman should follow the advice he has given the House and show a little magnanimity towards this gentleman, after all, the gentleman gave up his living and his pension and all his emoluments to become a politician. It may have been an unwise decision, but that is what he wanted to do. He was in much the same position as a soldier who gives up his Army career and rights to a pension to do the same thing. The only difference between the two is that a soldier can resign his commission but a clergyman cannot renounce his orders. In those circumstances he was disqualified. The human problem became obscured by the various legal issues, and many who sit here will realise what a pang it must have been to give up a political career almost at the outset. I do not think any of us would desire to do anything that might make it more painful to the gentleman concerned.
The hon. and learned Member put forward his case on three main points. He devoted himself, in the first place, to what had been said by Mr. MacManaway after his election. Those who practise in the law will know that the defeated litigant is rarely pleased with the decision. The hon. and learned Member who has made this particular branch of the law his speciality may perhaps find that when he comes to his next case he is on the losing side and that his client will not accept the decision with equanimity. In these circumstances, people do say foolish things which are much better ignored.
Does not the hon. Member think it particularly reprehensible and disgraceful that after the House had indicated, with almost unanimous consent, that an act of magnanimity was to be done it was represented throughout the election as a plot by Labour Members, that no one was to issue a writ and no reference was made to the Judicial Committee?
That was not said by Mr. MacManaway. No one would desire to stand up for that type of thing, but we should understand and be magnanimous in our understanding that people who suffer a bitter personal rebuff are often inclined, in the heat of the moment, to say unwise and foolish things which they would not otherwise have said. Are we really going to say that because someone has been stupid and perhaps gone further than he ought that we are not going to pass a Bill of this nature, but will leave Mr. MacManaway open to what would be tremendous penalties? That would be entirely wrong?
Secondly, it is said that we should not pass this Bill because Mr. MacManaway voted at a time when there was doubt and the matter had been referred to the Privy Council for their decision. It should be remembered that here was a person who was entirely inexperienced and did not know anything of the ways of the House. It was a tremendous dilemma for him to know what was right for him to do. If he voted and was disqualified the kind of things that are now being said might have been said, but if he did not vote and was not disqualified Members and constituents might well have accused him of timidity and cowardice. That was the problem with which he was faced. It was very difficult for him to make up his mind. He decided, since there was so much conflicting advice, that he was going to vote, and he did so on one occasion.
The hon. Member puts it very simply, but will he cast his mind back to the time when a crucial vote was to be taken in the House and Mr. MacManaway was summoned here by the Conservative Whips and, when interviewed by the Press as to whether he was entitled to vote, said that he was going to vote and that nothing would prevent him from doing so that night?
That is the vote I referred to; and it only points to how very difficult it was for this inexperienced Member. If it had not been a crucial debate it might have been easier. He did not give his views at the interview on whether or not he was entitled to sit, but said that he was going to vote.
I think this is important. He was asked whether or not he had the right to vote because his case was under consideration, and he said that, independent of anything, he was going to vote and that nothing would prevent him casting his vote that night.
He had, after all, come to that decision. But Members opposite might well consider this. If he had been a Member who was likely to vote on their side, do they not think that they would have been very much more interested? All our views on this matter are coloured by the point of view we take on that particular vote. It was for that reason that I was trying to put the matter in its proper perspective, as seen through the eyes of Mr. MacManaway. Members may talk about pressure being brought on him to vote on that occasion, but there was plenty of pressure brought to bear on him not to vote—a common informer writ was served on him two days before, and there were plenty of views expressed by Members here. Therefore, this unfortunate man was in the middle of conflicting pressures.
On a point of order. That is a very serious reflection upon the Chair. I rose to a point of order and in reply Mr. Deputy-Speaker ruled that I was correct. The hon. Member has said that the "noble Lord has ruled," suggesting, in other words, that Mr. Deputy-Speaker was influenced by the point I put in my favour. I ask that the hon. Member should be requested to withdraw that.
I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you will not give protection both to hon. and right hon. Members against the suggestion that they and not you and Mr. Speaker rule. The hon. Member deliberately used the term "since the noble Lord has ruled," which I regard as a reflection on the Chair.
That is exactly the cause of my complaint. The hon. Gentleman used a term which does not affect me in the slightest, but which is a reflection upon the Chair. He stated that I had power to rule and not the Chair. The ruling was given by the Chair. The term the hon. Gentleman used was, "the noble Lord has ruled," and that is clearly a reflection upon the Chair.
I was about to quote from a speech by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) on the occasion of the Bill which has been the subject of some discussion. He said:
The second great difference is this: Any hon. Member who has studied the report of the Commission will, I am sure, agree with the learned Attorney that there can be no question of any implication on the personal honour of either of the two gentlemen or the lady. We are very happy to be able to make that clear. It is perfectly clear that from the moment when they had the least suspicion that they had been guilty of impropriety they did not come to this House or vote in this House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1946; Vol. 420, c. 1890.]
That is a very different attitude from that described by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage), and which is now put forward by his other colleagues.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) was making a speech on quite a different matter. He was talking on what was a matter of taste, and what I have spoken about is a perfectly different thing. I am trying to get hon. Gentlemen to look at this matter not from this party view or that party view, or what they would have done in the circumstances, but from the point of view of this unfortunate gentleman and the position he was in. In the matter of the vote this was the subject of a great deal of controversy and from all sides there was the greatest pressure. It is not in the slightest degree relevant to say that he was forced to vote by this person or that person, because we are considering only his own conduct here, and whether or not he should be indemnified.
The other matter raised by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch concerned Mr. MacManaway's conduct before he sat in the House. For him it is an inegenuous argument to say, "He should not have put himself up as a candidate, because I advised him not to." In those days the hon. and learned Gentleman was not the specialist in this rather obscure and abstruse branch of the law that he has since become, and I am bound to say that I am pleased to think it is not a particularly lucrative one. I should not imagine that there is likely to be a great number of cases of this nature. The hon. and learned Gentleman has devoted himself for a considerable period to this matter and we have listened to his pronouncement on the legal issue with respect. In those days that was not the case at all. Many hon. Members might have been inclined to say, "The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch says that this man is disentitled to sit; quite clearly, therefore, he is entitled." I really do not think that because that sort of view is put forward and because, it now happens that he has turned out to be right, that is a reason for saying that this unfortunate gentleman should not have put himself forward as a candidate and allowed himself to have been selected.
As I said at the beginning, this is a simple and a very short issue. Here is a person who, I think, quite unwittingly has committed a number of offences in respect of an old and abstruse statute. In those circumstances I should have thought we would have been less than just if we did not at once pass this very obvious and very proper Bill.
The House always listens with great respect to the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage) who has always spoken with moderation on this matter. I have no desire at all to add any fuel to the fires to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) referred one and a half hours ago. I do not wholly share the view of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) upon this matter. I have considerable sympathy with Mr. MacManaway. I had some liking for him while he was in the House, and I am bound to say that week after week, I find myself deploring his absence rather more.
I feel that, although it is necessary before a legal tribunal that we must refer to Acts of Parliament as Acts of Parliament, with due respect, anybody who is interested in the history of the early 19th Century knows perfectly well that the Act of 1801 was never passed to disqualify clergymen at all, was never passed to clarify the law, but was passed for one single purpose—to find a way of getting rid of a gentleman by the name of Mr. John Home Tooke, whom everybody wanted to get rid of for a variety of reasons, some of which were probably good.
For one thing he was a Radical, and for another it was a little unfortunate that the Speaker in the Chair who shook his hand on his introduction to the House, was the man who previously had prosecuted him unsuccessfully for high treason. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby will probably remember that during the case when Mr. John Horne Tooke was cross-examining the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General from the dock, an unprecedented spectacle was presented to the court and to the jury of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General in tears bemoaning the cruel way in which they had been treated by the wit of the gentleman whom they were seeking to hang, draw and quarter.
It was not a point I was going to pursue in that way at all, but I want to follow it up because of what the hon. Member for Belfast, South, said about the comparative merits and the sufferings of Mr. MacManaway, who insisted on resigning his benefices and so on. The only comparison we have got is that of Mr. John Horne Tooke. I will not follow at any great length the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman. He did say quite fairly that this matter was pretty hard on Mr. MacManaway. He came to this House and was left in a state of uncertainty for a long time. He resigned his benefices as rector of Derry before election to the Northern Ireland Parliament. This raised the point that I was making.
John Horne Tooke, for whom no indemnity Bill was provided, divested himself of his clerical functions 32 years before he entered Parliament. He ceased to practise as a clergyman many years before coming to Westminster. Indeed, the contemporaries of the day reported that he was smothered in tea and muffins in the first year of his ordination, and in the second year he was playing cards in a public window of the rectory every Sunday. Although he had ceased to practise as a clergyman, he suffered great disabilities. He was refused admission to the Bar on the ground that he was still a clergyman, and for a long time he was refused a degree on the grounds that he was a clergyman. But worse was to follow. He was wooing a voluptuous Italian damsel, who contemptuously rejected his embraces when she heard that he was or had been a Protestant cleric. Indeed, so great was her contempt that her brothers declared a vendetta on him and attempted to take his life but shot the wrong Englishman by mistake.
Although I accept the view that, on the whole, things have been fairly hard on Mr. MacManaway—this was a finely balanced legal argument and might have gone either way—I suggest that other people have been more harshly treated in the past than we propose to treat him today.
I come now to a matter upon which I want some information from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. This Bill has taken a very remarkable time to produce. It was promised in the first week of the last Session. Six or seven months have now expired before we have been privileged to see it. I know that the Parliamentary draftsmen are very busy and I know it is sometimes difficult to produce even a short Bill, but in the last few days we have had a remarkable example of celerity on the part of His Majesty's Government in producing the Bill giving effect to one part of the Budget. It was printed and distributed seven days after the Budget. One would almost think it was printed before the Budget was announced to the House of Commons, but I do not think that was the case.
I wonder what negotiations were taking place behind the scenes on this matter. It is important that we should know. I had occasion to bring before the House the conduct of the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland in making comments on this matter. I am not going to refer to the exact comments made, but he occupied a quasi-judicial position and is the same gentleman who has been negotiating with His Majesty's Government about the effects of this Bill in Northern Ireland, all of which are considered of constitutional importance.
I accept at once what the hon. Member for Belfast, South, says. Let us, in two or three minutes, review the facts in this matter in order to refresh our memories. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch, always brings into any matter with which he deals so much wit and spirit that he always runs the risk of conveying an impression of being slightly ungenerous at times, which entirely belies him, because no one has behaved more generously than he has in this matter. Let me tell the House just what happened. On 12th July, 1949, seven months before the General Election, my hon. and learned Friend called attention to Mr. MacManaway's selection as candidate, and asked for amending legislation. He pressed hon. Gentlemen opposite to take up the matter. No one could have done more than my hon. and learned Friend, and no one could have had a fairer warning than he gave. That was six or seven months before the Election.
When Mr. MacManaway was in danger of taking his seat and of incurring very heavy penalties, he was warned by my hon. and learned Friend, and when he did take his seat, it was my hon. and learned Friend who suggested the appointment of a Select Committee to which Mr. MacManaway's case could be referred and before which doubts could be resolved. When Mr. MacManaway took his seat and risked having to pay these fantastic sums, my hon. and learned Friend behaved with the greatest propriety. The matter was then referred to the Judicial Council of the Privy Council where my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch argued the matter with conspicuous ability.
Now comes the vote to which reference has been made, and to which very great importance is attached by some of us. We think it was an instance of a somewhat contemptuous way of treating Parliament when it was attempting to resolve a difficulty. The vote was given not merely after the Judicial Committee had been appointed, but after the Judicial Committee had finished their hearing, when it was their duty to report the findings to His Majesty in Council, and at the moment when they were secret. Yet every barrister who had attended that court had told me—every one with whom I am in close contact—that they knew perfectly well, by the sort of question that had been put, the sort of observation, comment and gesture which had been made, precisely what the position was going to be. It was after that, that Mr. MacManaway acted, not, I think, of his own volition. We ought to be told how, and whether he was wired and told to come. It was after that, that he registered the vote which was intended to bring about a General Election in this country.
I think the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in saying that. The vote was before the hearing at the Judicial Committee, which hearing, in my recollection, was very closely towards the end of July. It was before that.
I am not in a position to challenge what has been said. I agree with the Attorney-General that the vote was in September because the courts were not sitting then. I have put to the House every argument which I believed to be correct. There was some discussion on the matter in October in this House on two occasions. My right hon. Friend who was then the Leader of the House, but who is now the Foreign Secretary, said that the Government were going to bring in a Bill to indemnify Mr. MacManaway, not merely for the trouble that had been caused when the issue was in doubt, but for the final vote passed in September. I think, on the whole, that that was the sense of the House and I have no desire to object to it at all.
Therefore, it is pretty shocking that Mr. MacManaway, after that, should write those letters attacking the Government for victimising him and depriving West Belfast of its rights to have a Member. He was trying to influence the electors by the letter that was part of the election address of the present Member of Parliament. I say to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby, who has pleasantly said that there was no clerical qualification to influence the election on this occasion, that there was. There was Mr. MacManaway himself, the former rector of Derry and the former claimant to be a Member of this House, saying to the electors:
I have been victimised. Protestants, stand together, and return the hon. Member.
I do not know whether the hon. Member is a Protestant but he is a Sir Knight of the Black Preceptory, and a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry. I do not know what theological significance that has.
I have not a clue.
I come to the point to which the hon. Member opposite has applied his mind and which is fundamental. We have to know what the effect of the Bill is and how it applies generally. I did raise this point in the House on 17th October, when my right hon. Friend's announcement was made. This is what I said to the Leader of the House:
Is it not a fact that the law at present is that where a disqualified candidate, whose disqualification was known at the time of the election, is returned, the runner-up automatically succeeds to the seat?
My right hon. Friend said:
There is substance in that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1888.]
Then the constitutional expert below the Gangway, whom I am sorry not to see in his seat, the hon. Baronet the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), asked the Lord President to remember the case of William Preston, who was elected Member for Walsall, in 1924, but the observation had no relevance. It was an example that "the Active Back Benchers" are apt to be active physically rather than mentally.
I know that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby will agree that this is a point of substance. It is important, and we ought to have it made clear. I am not urging this House very specially to take one line or another, but before we pass this Bill, we have the right to know just what it means. The law was settled perfectly clearly in the Launceston case. There was the case of Beresford Hope v. Lady Sandhurst, which was very strictly inquired into. It was a very strong Court of Appeal with Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, Lord Justice Brett, the Master of the Rolls and others.
The facts are these: At the local government election for Brixton, shortly after the Act of 1888 was passed, Lady Sandhurst stood for election because some ingenious person had observed that the Local Government Act did not specifically exclude women. Women had a local government vote. She said: "I have a right to stand" and she was declared one of the two elected. After the election, application was made to the court by the runner-up to say that he should be returned as the member because the disqualification of Lady Sandhurst was apparent to the electors from the start. They knew that she was a woman, and that women were disqualified and they had therefore wilfully cast away their votes.
There were many precedents for that. I do not want to bore the House with a legal argument, but the precedents are perfectly clear. There was the case to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch referred on the previous occasion, the Launceston case, where the Conservative candidate said that anyone could shoot rabbits free on his estate, and made his announcement a few days before the election. Certainly, it was rather an alteration of his habits. [Laughter.] It would be an even more valuable privilege today. It was held to be corruption, and the losing candidate took this step: he wrote and published a letter, which was brought to the notice of the electors, saying, "The candidate is disqualified because of his corruption," before the vote took place. There was considerable argument as to whether that meant that the second man should be returned. There it was held that as the corruption was not fully known, although notice was given, he did not quite come within that category.
It has been held time after time that if you are disqualified from the start—[Interruption.] I will read the case in full if anybody doubts it, but I do not think anybody does doubt it. No doubt this is precisely what has been discussed with the Government of Northern Ireland in these months while we have been waiting for the Bill. This is the law and there is no doubt about the law. I say that no lawyer in this House will challenge me on this point. The law is that if a candidate stands, who is subsequently found to have been disqualified for a reason which was patent on the face of it, and known to the electors at the time, then those electors have thrown away their votes and there may not be a new election except by the will of Parliament, and that the second person ought properly to be returned. That is the position. If you know a man is a clergyman, it does not matter if you know whether clergymen are disqualified or not. If you know something of him which the law subsequently says is a disqualification, the runner-up comes in.
In the interests of historical accuracy I think the hon. Member will find that the candidate in the Launceston case—I remember it well because the candidate was an old friend of mine—was not disqualified exactly on the grounds mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
We now come to an important point. I drew the attention of the Leader of the House to this point at once. He said, "Let us be generous, let us issue a new writ, let us call it a day, let them have their election." It is anybody's guess whether that was the right thing to do, but we were trying to be magnanimous, although many of us were conscious at the time that we could have demanded that the second man for West Belfast be elected. That is why, on the whole, I do not think the conduct of the West Belfast election was generous by the sitting Member and his supporters.
Now look at the position so far as Northern Ireland is concerned. One of the powers that this Parliament has never given to the Parliament of Northern Ireland is the right to decide at all on the qualification of its members. That may have been a wise and prudent decision in view of some of the things that have happened since. Under Section 18 of the Act, the Northern Ireland House of Commons is bound by our decisions on qualification. Whatever is the qualification at the time applies to Northern Ireland. If we alter it, it applies there at once. And from the time the House recorded its decision unanimously that Mr. MacManaway was disqualified from his seat in this House, he was disqualified from his seat in that House, and they had no power in the matter. They could not alter the law, they could not by their motion take the course that we did. They had to summon to that Parliament the runner-up, who was Mr. McCarroll, the candidate for Derry.
What have they done? They have behaved a little contumeliously to this House in view of the action we took in our discussions with the Attorney-General and in view of the quasi-judicial position of the Attorney-General in dealing with this matter. We behaved a little magnanimously on that occasion. They have permitted the Rev. J. G. MacManaway to resign his seat in the House so that they can fight a new election in West Derry. I want to ask the Attorney-General—
I am not discussing the actions of the Northern Ireland Parliament, I am discussing the effect of this Bill in the circumstances as they now exist. This is a little different from the point Mr. Speaker was referring to, which was a matter of personal comment. I am asking the Attorney-General a question. This is the Second Reading of a Bill of substantial importance. May I respectfully submit, Sir—because we ought to have it clear—that it has been laid down in Erskine May from time immemorial that we can discuss on Second Reading not merely what is in the Bill but what we think should be in the Bill—the provisions that should be incorporated if the Act is to serve its purpose.
What I am discussing now is whether there should be in this Bill a provision to deal with the fantastic position which arises under it, which means that nobody knows in Northern Ireland whether they can hold an election for Derry City or not.
I am afraid I have not made myself clear. The position at the moment, so far as Mr. MacManaway is concerned, is that he has purported to resign his seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament. The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Parliament has purported to accept that resignation. Every legal authority is of the view that that is a thing he has no power to do.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Perhaps this would assist us in considering the matter: that obviously one of the acts for which we must indemnify Mr. MacManaway is his act as a Member in giving an act of resignation when he was not a Member. That is one of the things with which this Bill aims to deal. Now it is not as if there were in this Bill a provision affecting the step taken. Therefore we are considering whether we ought not to indemnify him for his act in resigning when he was not a Member. That is a material matter.
May I respectfully submit that that point is really not quite right? There is no possibility of an action for damages being brought against Mr. MacManaway for resigning from a position which, in fact, he never occupied. As, I understand it, if the action of the Parliament of Northern Ireland is illegal, if the action of the Speaker there is illegal, if any action is illegal in causing a new election to be held, that is a matter which will be open to challenge, whatever we do here, in the courts of Northern Ireland and, eventually, in our courts. All we are doing here is to indemnify Mr. MacManaway in respect of votes he cast or occasions on which he sat. I do not agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), which is somewhat different.
It is my respectful submission to you, Sir, despite what my right hon. and learned Friend has said, that we are indemnifying Mr. MacManaway against both sitting and voting. When one looks at the technical definition of sitting, we see this involves any action which causes the name to be recorded in Votes and Proceedings. In this particular case, a Member cannot, of course, resign unless the fact is recorded in Votes and Proceedings that he is a Member. Therefore, he would be liable to a fine of £500 before his act of resignation.
If the hon. Member is referring to the Votes and Proceedings of this Parliament, that is so; but we cannot discuss the Votes and Proceedings of Northern Ireland.
Before I deal with the main point, I should like to deal with a subsidiary point of order. On eight or nine occasions now the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has risen and tried to explain to the present occupant of the Chair what his predecessor in the Chair has said. With very great respect, I should have thought that it was an established tradition of the House that when any occupant of the Chair desired to get information about a Ruling by the previous occupant, he would get it from the Clerk and those sitting with him at the Table. If we are to introduce the habit of any hon. Member popping up and saying, "Yes, you may have agreed with Mr. Jones, but Mr. Speaker did not agree with him on a previous occasion—"
I am glad that you agree with me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it was wholly unnecessary for the noble Lord to make such an intervention. This is an important point, and I am not challenging your Ruling. I know that it is a point of some complexity, but I sincerely believe it to be a constitutional point of importance. The Attorney-General has said that he proposes to deal with it in reply, and I do not want to see him inhibited in attempting to deal with such a vital point. The real point is whether the Bill is large enough. Is Mr. MacManaway still a Member of the Northern Ireland House of Commons? He certainly cannot resign. Either he was disqualified from the seat or he was not. If he was disqualified from the seat, he needs an indemnity Bill. If he has purported to resign and has not succeeded, the Bill needs amending to deal with that. Somehow someone has to lay down what the law is.
It is not correct to say that we cannot deal with what happens in the Northern Ireland Parliament. This is a matter in
which this House, under Section 18 (2) of the Government of Ireland Act, reserved all rights and did not delegate any rights whatever to the Northern Ireland Parliament. To complete the point, I have here the very authoritative work which was written by a former Clerk of Parliaments of Northern Ireland which deals with the Act and makes it perfectly clear that Section 18 (2) says this:
The law for the time being in force relating to the qualification and disqualification of the Members of the Commons House of Parliament in the United Kingdom and the taking of any oath required to be taken by any Member of that House shall, save as otherwise provided in this Act, apply to Members of the Senate and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland.
This is a matter on which we are trying to help Northern Ireland, for it is a matter in which they cannot act, and we should consider putting in the necessary provisions to clarify the whole position so that we will not need to have another Bill brought before us. That is all I am trying to say, and I will be very good and try not to go outside that ambit for a moment or two.
The position is that there is a purported resignation. Everyone is in doubt whether the resignation was right or not. No writ has been issued for Derry. The position in law, as I understand it, is quite clear, that if there had not been this purported resignation to try to stop the effect of the Resolution of this House, it is clear that Mr. MacManaway's seat would be vacant and that Mr. McCarroll, the only other candidate for Derry, must at once have been summoned to take his seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament.
I have only one observation to make on that. I have come to the conclusion that it may very well be material when the House comes to consider the matter to have the advice of the Attorney-General, and, having heard him explain the matter much more clearly than I have managed to explain it this afternoon, the House may have to decide what is, in the circumstances, an appropriate Clause to introduce into the Bill; whether we ought to have another formal Clause to declare the seat vacant and leave the machinery to take its course, or say that in all the circumstances, Mr. McCarroll should, in these special circumstances, be summoned as the Member for Derry City in the Northern Ireland House of Commons.
A relevant consideration is the position of the Derry City constituency and the circumstances of the election. I have here a map. Derry City now exists in this form. There is Derry, which contains 16,000 Catholics and 11,000 Protestants, and all the rest of this vast area outside has been brought in to give the Protestants a majority in Derry City. This is widening—
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Surely we are going too wide now in discussing the election and the electoral prospects of Londonderry. I respectfully submit that that could not be within the scope of the Bill even if we were on the Committee stage and the hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to move an Amendment.
Yes. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), said that he was coming to an end and I was hoping that he would not pursue this too far. My patience is not inexhaustible.
I regret that phrase, which has an unfortunate historical connotation, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I accept it, and I will quickly come to the end of my points. I was making the point that Derry City constituency had been made too wide when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby made a similar remark with another intention. I thought at first that I was receiving unexpected support for my contention from the Front Bench opposite. It is important that the Attorney-General should be quite clear about the matter and should tell us just what he considers the legal position to be, what steps it is proposed to take, and so on.
For the rest, I give the Bill my blessing, and always have done. I believe that the House should always be generous. Mr. MacManaway is greatly to be pitied for what happened, even if he is a little to be blamed for what happened afterwards, although I do not desire even to put that too high. I should like the House always to be generous and magnanimous about these things.
I am concerned with the defence of the Reverend Godfrey MacManaway. It has been alleged here in this House that he stood for Derry when he was still Rector of Christchurch. I know for a fact that before he ever stood as a candidate his resignation of that rectory was in the hands of the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. Not only that; he made inquiries and, had it been possible, he would under the Clerical (Disabilities) Act, 1870, have relinquished Holy Orders, but he was advised that that Act did not apply to Northern Ireland, and, therefore, he was prevented from carrying out the further step of relinquishing Holy Orders as was done by Sir Edmond Brocklebank, a clergyman, who relinquished his Holy Orders and became the very esteemed Member for Liverpool.
I have been acquainted with this case from the very beginning. I attended every meeting of the Select Committee and heard the whole evidence. I also attended as many sittings as I could of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I want to make it quite clear to this House that Mr. MacManaway acted absolutely bona fide in thinking that he was eligible. Doubts have been thrown upon this matter. He believed that he was eligible. He had the most important opinion given by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General in the year 1869—[Laughter]—it is relevant—that when the Bill to disestablish the Irish Church—
I merely want to show on what grounds Mr. MacManaway believed that he was eligible. He had the very important opinion of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General in 1869 that so soon as the Irish Church was disestablished clergymen would be eligible for Parliament. He therefore believed firmly that that opinion—these eminent lawyers became judges of the High Court—was correct; that consequently, from the moment that the Disestablishment Act came into force on 1st January, 1871, the disability imposed by the Act of 1801 no longer existed. It was largely due to this most important opinion that the Reverend Godfrey MacManaway believed that he was eligible. I have been reproached for going back to 1869, although that was absolutely relevant. But Mr. MacManaway had also a legal opinion in writing from a most distinguished K.C.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"]—I read it myself, and although I do not profess to be a lawyer I found it absolutely conclusive. He acted on this opinion. After all, if anyone is in doubt on a legal matter, he takes the opinion of the highest lawyer of his acquaintance. Mr. MacManaway had this legal opinion in writing. I read it through most carefully. I certainly thought it was overwhelmingly convincing.
Now that the hon. Member has had the advantage of reading this opinion, would he say whether it dealt with the draft Bill as prepared for use in this House, setting out what were disqualifications and what were not? I assume, perhaps wrongly, that that must have been called to the attention of Mr. MacManaway, because it is the one document to which anyone goes when dealing with this matter.
The legal opinion insisted on the fact that the law of 1801 could apply only to a State Church. From the moment that the Church of Ireland was disestablished and disendowed, the State had no further control over it; the laws of the State no longer applied to it. Therefore, Mr. MacManaway was perfectly entitled to stand for West Belfast.
Strictures have been made upon the fact that the reverend gentleman voted on a certain occasion, which is stated to have been in September, after the question of his eligibility had been referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That is a fact. The Judicial Committee had not reported; their findings had not come before this House, and therefore the Rev. Godfrey MacManaway was advised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who by?"]—he was advised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who by?"]—by the very highest authority, that he was entitled to vote, and he exercised his vote. The proof of that is that when—
I have listened for hours in absolute silence and without interrupting anybody. As I say, that is proved by the fact that when I brought Mr. MacManaway into the Speaker's Office and obtained permission for him to speak, he was allowed by the Speaker, when the Bill was brought forward accepting the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to take his seat and address this House; he was a Member of this House, and as such—[Interruption.] He had not then been disqualified; no Bill had been passed. An hon. Gentleman called him by his name, but he was still entitled to be called the hon. Member for Belfast, West. He was allowed to speak. Therefore, in the judgment of Mr. Speaker, he was a Member of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—until that Bill had actually been passed. If, therefore, he was allowed to speak, so much more had he the right to vote on the occasion when he did vote, and he was advised that he was legally entitled to do so.
Injustice has been done today in some of the speeches made with reference to the Rev. Godfrey MacManaway, and I assert that he acted, as I know—I assure the House of this; I am sure hon. Members will take my word—absolutely bona fide when he stood as a candidate believing in all good faith that he was eligible.
I do not feel capable of going into the legal niceties that we have heard throughout the whole debate. Hon. Members may feel that if Mr. MacManaway was a legal Member of the House, he was the only Irishman ever to be disqualified from attendance in the House. When I heard the complaints in Unionist circles in Northern Ireland about the unjust treatment meted out to Mr. MacManaway in depriving him of his seat at Westminster, I was reminded that notable patriotic Irishmen had been debarred from sitting in the House during the last 50 or 60 years, or possibly during the past century. But they were not deprived by virtue of any Act of Parliament. After having been duly and legally elected, they were prevented by Tory Government from sitting here because of political reasons.
Amongst those Members who were legally elected and entitled to sit in this House were these four, whose names I have: John Mitchel, Smith O'Brien, O'Donovan Rossa and, at one time, Michael Davitt. They were deprived, not by any Act of Parliament, but merely for political reasons, by the Tory Governments ruling the House at the time. Furthermore, I can discover no record that any Member in this House or any representative of the Government at the time ever suggested that an indemnity Bill should be introduced in favour of any of them.
When I hear these complaints about the treatment meted out to Mr. MacManaway, I am reminded also that a few elected Members of the subordinate Parliament in Northern Ireland, which was set up by a former Government in this House, were debarred by that Parliament from sitting there. These men included Mr. de Valera, who was elected for South Down—
I do not wish to depart in any way from the lines of procedure in this House when I say that if Mr. de Valera wished to take his seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament, he could not do so by reason of exclusion orders against him which prohibit him going to Northern Ireland at all. Today there is a democratic Government in this House, democratic in everything except in so far as Governmental affairs in Northern Ireland are concerned.
The Government are now going to be very generous to Mr. MacManaway. I do not disagree with their action in that respect at all but I wish to point out that Mr. MacManaway has been an uncompromising Tory and that the Tories in Northern Ireland and in this House, if afforded an opportunity, would draw the whole Labour administration in this House, to perdition. The Government here should get themselves disentangled entirely from Irish representation in this House; they should recognise the right of Irish people to be represented in one Parliament in Ireland.
I hope I am not contravening any rule, but I am just reminding the Government here that, if democracy is not to be designated as a sham, they must take action to satisfy the aspirations of the whole Irish people in this respect.
It will not have passed your observation, Mr. Speaker, that the first five speakers in this debate were members of the legal profession and, indeed, this whole problem must be resolved on a legal basis. As I listened to the debate I began to feel very sorry for Mr. MacManaway. In fact, the people who I think should really bear the blame are those responsible for egging him on in a way which they must have known was thoroughly unconstitutional.
It has seemed to me that they have based part of their case on the fact that the law, or laws, governing the adoption and return to Parliament of Members of the Church were laws which were somewhat obscure and I think that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage), used the word "abstruse." Therefore, we ought to examine just precisely what is the attitude of the Conservative Party about laws which are obscure or abstruse. We ought to determine, as a matter of principle, what we are prepared to concede. I imagine that there are many laws on the Statute Book which appear to be out of date and unjust under modern conditions—
I can appreciate your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I am trying very hard to keep within the rules of debate, but, as an inexperienced Member, I find it is not a very easy thing to do. I was trying to demonstrate that we ought to examine how far the laws, which appear to have been contravened, were Obscure or abstruse, and because of which we must now try to decide whether we ought to indemnify Mr. MacManaway or not. I have been looking up past authorities on this subject of laws which are obscure and, whether they should be observed or not I would like to quote an extract from a speech by a speaker who, I think, will command the respect of all quarters of the House. I quote from a copy of "The Times" of 16th March, 1914. It is a relatively short extract and I hope you will not rule me out of order, Sir. This is under the heading, "The Tory Party and Military Force," and the extract reads:
They are to select from the Statute Book the laws they will obey and the laws they will resist. They claim to be a party in the State
free to use force in all directions, but never to have it applied to themselves. Whether in office or in opposition, as they have very often told us, they are to govern the country. If they cannot do it by the veto of privilege, they will do it by the veto of violence. If constitutional methods serve their ends, they will be Constitutionalists….
May I quote some more lines, Sir, because I am coming to the point which I was trying to demonstrate and I am not trying to get round your Ruling at all? The speaker in this case was the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who at that time, was of the Liberal persuasion, and he went on:
If law suits their purpose, they will be law-abiding, aye, and law-enforcing. When social order means the order of the Tory Party, when social order means the order of the property classes against the wage earner, when social order means the master against the man, or the landlord against the tenant, order is sacred and holy, order is dear to the heart of the Tory Party and order must be maintained by force. But, if it should happen that the Constitution, or the law, or the maintenance of order stand in the path of some Tory project, stand in the path of the realisation of some appetite or ambition which they have conceived, then they vie with the wildest anarchists in the language which they use against the Constitution, against the law, and against all order and all means of maintaining order.
You have been very patient, Mr. Speaker, and I realise that I should not go on on that point, but that might have been considered a characteristically ebullient sort of speech to which we are used from the right hon. Member for Woodford in whatever political cloak he was then wearing. One would have thought that, possibly, 14 days later he would have had time to think it over and would think, "I went a little too far and I really must back up law and order." But, 14 days later, he said:
There are those who say, 'We are Tories. No laws apply to us. Laws are made for the working people, to keep them in their proper places. We are the dominant class. We are the ruling forces of the State. When laws suit us, we will obey them. If they do not suit us, so much the worse for the law'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1914; Vol. LXI, c. 1578.]
On a point of order. Has this really anything to do with the subject matter of the debate? What the hon. Member is trying to do is to say that the objection against the Bill is that other people at other times have expressed the view that some laws are obsolete. In my respectful submission that has nothing whatever to do with this Bill.
I must answer the point of order. I have tried to deal with it once or twice, and I will do so in due course. Meantime, I trust that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) will come back to whether or not we should indemnify Mr. MacManaway.
I take note of that very kind observation. It seemed to me as the debate progressed that, Mr. MacManaway was in danger of incurring a very substantial fine, which I have heard quoted as between £5,000 and £6,000, quite apart from emoluments he receives from an office which I gather he held in the Northern Ireland Parliament. That amount should not be lost to the Exchequer, but should be a fine on the party funds of the party opposite. It seems to me that in all these matters whether we are dealing with Northern Ireland or the other great Commonwealth political problems of the day, the party opposite in this House want to hide the facts from the ordinary people of the country. But what is one to assume from this sort of remark:
Watch the candidates who are being adopted to contest your constituency for the General Election. Ask them if they are Roman Catholics.
Mr. MacManaway was adopted. We cannot dispute that, and I do not think that we should go into the whole dispute which takes place between the two sides in Northern Ireland.
I can see that I am prohibited from proceeding with that line of debate.
What I was trying to demonstrate was that this is not so much a legal matter
for the House to consider, as where lies the responsibility for misleading Mr. MacManaway. I say that it lies with the party opposite, because, to quote again from the official publication of the Ulster Tory Party, "The Voice of Ulster." we are told:
To vote for a Roman Catholic is to vote for the religion that says our Protestant King is a heretic.
I will not pursue that because I can see that you are again becoming impatient, Mr. Speaker.
When the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was bobbing up and down like a jack-in-the-box he was playing the somewhat dangerous game of trying to put up a smoke screen to defend the behaviour of Mr. MacManaway, who, in spite of warning after warning, did his little bit to try to encompass the defeat of the Government on a most important issue. I will quote from a speech made by the noble Lord in March, 1946, when he said:
I think it would be proper for the hon. Member who voted improperly to offer some apology to Mr. Speaker, since he was not a Member at the time. It is not a light thing to vote in this House when one is not entitled to vote. It has never been held to be a light thing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1946; Vol. 420, c. 1911.]
During the speeches we have heard this afternoon from hon. Members opposite, it has seemed to me that they are doing that very thing rather than that the cause of the Conservative Party should suffer. In spite of the fact that the law might be contravened in so doing, they would apply pressure through the Party Whips' Office to make that man vote. I am sorry for him. The people who should be in the dock are the people opposite.
I wish to go back to some of the words used by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Professor Savory). He based his argument in defence of Mr. MacManaway on the fact that this unfortunate gentleman had been misled by the lawyers, and he produced evidence to the effect that he had a document by an unknown deity of the law. We do not know who that legal eagle was. We have every reason to ask who he was. It is very material to the question whether or not we indemnify this reverend gentleman. I quite appreciate that the hon. Member for Antrim, South, is a little backward about being forthcoming on this matter. It is important that he should give some thought to it and give some answer before we decide whether we give this Bill a Second Reading.
I believe, also, that the reverend gentleman was advised by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) that he was quite legally entitled to sit. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is an ex-Attorney-General. We heard from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) that another ex-Attorney-General had wrongly advised a previous Member in a previous case, at the turn of the century. In this case we see that the present Attorney-General was only following the tradition of his office by giving the wrong advice. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will appreciate that while that might be a bit hard on him, I am blaming him only to excuse Mr. MacManaway, and he will agree that it is desirable to do that in order to give the maximum indemnity to this gentleman.
Perhaps I might now turn to another point which is very relevant to this matter. It was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow). He said that he felt that the people who should be in the dock were those who persuaded Mr. MacManaway to vote. Before I decide whether or not to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, I wish to know whether a telegram was sent to Mr. MacManaway urging him to come here and vote. I want a definite answer to that question; it is important. If no telegram was sent, it may well be that we should not give the Bill a Second Reading. It is very relevant because I feel that Mr. MacManaway was more sinned against than sinning. It is important to establish that before we indemnify him.
Thirdly, I would ask, because it has been strongly rumoured I do not know on what authority and I am, therefore, asking this as a question and am not making any assertion, if it was made known to Mr. MacManaway that if any penalty of any kind were incurred by him voting in that Division on steel nationalisation he would be indemnified out of the Woolton Fund? Is there any truth in that? I want to know? That is a relevant consideration because the Woolton Fund has plenty of money, and why should this House indemnify it?
I am the honorary Secretary of the Ulster Party, and this is the first time that I have ever heard any suggestion of that kind. The hon. Member also put a question about whether a telegram was sent. Had any telegram been sent, I should surely have known about it. I have no knowledge of any such telegram being sent, and as secretary of the party I ought to know.
I do not wish to cast any doubt on the good faith of the hon. Member—that is the last thing I would wish to do. I was directing my question to someone more responsible, because the Ulster Unionist Party is of poor repute and of little consequence. The Conservative Party are really the people concerned in this matter.
I wish to say a word in support of what my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth said. I am particularly sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not present today. He was one of those who urged Mr. MacManaway to come to the House and record his vote. He was one of those who gave him his support, and the very least he could have done would be to come to the House to see that his friend was protected from the consequences of his own action. I think it is disgraceful that the right hon. Gentleman is not here today to deal with this matter.
Subject to satisfactory answers to the two or three questions I have asked, I would make an appeal to my friends on the back benches of the Labour Party. I have a little experience of Northern Ireland. I am not an Irishman, except in name, but I can assure them that the people of Northern Ireland are very decent people indeed, and I ask them not to be misled by the kind of representatives that they have in this House, who are only caricatures of all the best features of the Northern Ireland people.
I think that the House should give unanimous support to this Bill, and regard the episode as passing into the limbo of forgotten things. I believe that Mr. MacManaway took the view that he could stand as a Member of Parliament, that he could be elected and could take his seat. I think that after doubts were created in his mind he was then encouraged by subtler people behind the scenes to do and dare. I have rather a sneaking regard for a man who has a bit of daring in these matters and for a man in that position. I would not wish to condemn him.
After all, he suffered great penalties, even though he may have been guilty of casting a vote in an illegal way. First, when he took a chance, there was a sporting chance that that night the Government would go down, that a new Government would come in, and the whole matter would be squared up by the party who took the reins of office, following the defeat of the Government with the aid of Mr. MacManaway. Therefore, in taking his courage and daring into his hands, he was to a large extent a gambler. As a gambler he gambled for stakes and he lost. He lost his seat in this House, the right to sit in this House, and the right to sit in the Northern Ireland Parliament. I regret to say that shortly after that. I think, he lost his wife. The man has suffered immense disasters and Parliament never gloats over any person who has suffered because of some act of which he is guilty. I think we should be generous in our acknowledgement of the fact that he has been deprived of these two seats.
The suggestion was made that there should be a clearing up of the position in regard to clergymen entering politics. If I am allowed to do so, I will say "God forbid that the day should come when this House is full of clergymen." I would kick every clergyman out of this House if he was going to continue to act as a clergyman. That may sound a strange thing to say, but I think there would be no more evil influence in politics than a House filled with clergymen from different Churches, all using pressure and power and terror in the political field. I think the job of clergymen is in the pulpit, saving of lost souls, and also saving of souls of Members of Parliament, outside the House.
I regret that the Northern Ireland Party have had a total disregard for the law. It has become part of Irish politics to have a complete disregard for the law. I think that is so in the South, too, as is evidenced by the great amount of traffic that goes on between north and south to defeat the Customs and in which both sides participate.
The Attorney-General, the authorities in this House, the Government have all thought it essential to bring in this Bill of indemnity. I think the Northern Ireland Parliament have also helped to indemnify Mr. MacManaway. I think they have given him a job as Serjeant-at-Arms in the Stormont—
At least that is reported in the public Press—and that the job will not be held until this Bill goes through this House of Commons. Whether it is true or not, if he has got a job at £1,250 a year for four whole months of the year I am glad, because it is giving him some reward for all that the Front Bench of the Tory Party in this House and the Front Bench of the Northern Ireland Parliament have dragged him through in taking this action.
I should be loath to accept the denial of any person in Irish politics of what is going to happen after the passing of this Bill. At the same time it was reported in the Press, and it has never been denied, either by the Northern Ireland Parliament or by Mr. MacManaway. If he has the job, good luck to him. I am not angry about him getting the job. I would recommend him for it if it is available. Therefore, I say that in my estimation the House should show the utmost humanity and consideration and pass this Bill; and say to Mr. MacManaway, "Although you have lost on this occasion, we wish you the best of luck in the future."
I should like to subscribe to the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) with the possible exception of his reference to the lawlessness in the North, if not in the South of Ireland. I was surprised at the sentiments of some of the previous speakers, particularly the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). I was surprised that he considered the Ulster Unionist Party of such little account. I think it only fair to remind him that on his first and unsuccessful attempt to enter this House, he opposed an Ulster candidate who defeated him.
The hon. Member also referred, as have other hon. Members, to the view of Mr. MacManaway as to whether or not he should put himself forward as a candidate. In common with other Ulster Unionists, I saw something of Mr. MacManaway at that time, and there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. MacManaway did take legal advice. He took the best legal advice he could and came to the conclusion that, quite regardless of whether his election might be challenged or not, he had a good case. I would remind the House of a saying of another Irishman:
It is often dangerous to give advice. It is always fatal to give good advice.
It is because of the good advice which Mr. MacManaway received that we have to consider this Measure today.
Some rather heavy weather—if I may put it in that way—has been made of the fact that Mr. MacManaway voted in a crucial Division last September. Ulster folk are not the kind who yield very readily to pressure. Certainly pressure was exerted on Mr. MacManaway on one side or the other, but I am certain it was not in response to any pressure from any quarter that he decided to come over and vote as he did last September. He voted because he believed he ought to do it and that it was in accordance with his convictions and conscience.
I know nothing about any telegram. What I said was that I am certain in my own mind that he voted because he believed it was his duty to do so. Supposing the opinion of the Privy Council which was considering the matter at that time, had gone the other way; then I would say that Mr. MacManaway's constituents, or at least the 33,000 who returned him as their Member, would have been entitled to censure him for not doing his duty and attending here.
I should like to endorse the sentiments, which have not been very frequently referred to during this debate, of the present Foreign Secretary, who was the Lord President of the Council at the time it was proposed to introduce this Measure. He said that the House should take a generous view. I hope that the House will take such a view and will pass this Bill without dissent.
I may speak again only with the leave of the House, but if I have that leave, I will take up some of the points raised in the course of the debate.
We have had a very interesting and at times entertaining debate. I cannot help feeling that a good time has been had by all, except perhaps by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe): and to a lesser degree myself. I cannot, unfortunately, engage in the very pleasant past-time of saying, "I told you so," because I happen to be one of those who took the view that, while the legal position was one of great difficulty and ought to go to the Privy Council for decision, it was probable that my learned predecessor in 1869 had been right in saying that the disestablishment of the Irish Church had removed these clerical disqualifications from the clergy of that church.
It follows from the white sheet that I ought to be wearing now, that I have to be a bit careful about what I say. But I am sure that nobody on this side of the House, at the end of the day, wishes to gloat over a defeated political opponent, or to glory in a legal triumph, or to be vindictive in pressing home its consequences.
Having said that, I shall come at once to some of the points of substance raised about this Bill itself. The first one raised was that by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby, who suggested that it was most important that in the recital to the Bill we should make clear that what vacated the seat was not the advice of the Privy Council, but the fact that this House resolved, following that advice, that Mr. MacManaway was disqualified. I appreciate the force of that view, and it had, I think, a good deal of support from this side of the House when the right hon. and learned Gentleman expressed it. Indeed, I agree that it is most important that we should emphasise—and I think that our speeches have emphasised it—that this House has sole control over its constitution and its composition.
The advice of the Privy Council did not conclude the matter, and the seat was only vacated when this House by Resolution so decided. The difficulty about reciting that in relation to the action of the House of Commons here was that similar action had not been taken by the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. We thought that to recite the Resolution in the case of one House, and not to recite it in the other, might give rise to doubts as to what the true legal position was. The point is important. I have always thought so. I hope that the House is prepared to give us all the stages of this Bill now, but I will undertake to see if we can find a suitable form of words to make the position of the House quite clear in regard to this matter and to make it apparent that it is not the advice—for it was no more than advice—of the Privy Council which concluded the matter, but the Resolution of the House.
That leads me to the second point, namely that there has never previously been a Bill, it is said, which has indemnified a Member who has voted whilst the question of the qualifications of his membership was sub judice. I have a very strong view myself about the good taste of the advice given to Mr. MacManaway to sit and vote on the occasion of the Steel debate whilst this matter was still sub judice before the Privy Council.
But, dealing with the matter purely on legal grounds, we cannot have it both ways. If the seat was only vacated by the Resolution of the House then, from a legal point of view, Mr. MacManaway was entitled to sit until the House had resolved that the seat was vacant. That, indeed, was the Ruling which you gave, Mr. Speaker, and I must confess, if I respectfully may, as I indicated in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, that I was rather cross about it at the time. I thought, with great respect, that that Ruling could not be right; but I looked it up subsequently and I was satisfied that legally that Ruling was right.
In fact, there are many precedents where individuals have voted, although proceedings were pending against them in the election court as to the validity of their election. From the legal point of view, Mr. MacManaway's right having been challenged and having been upheld by Mr. Speaker, I do not think that we can possibly say that he acted wrongly, in point of law. Whether it was a matter of good taste or not is, of course, an entirely different point. I feel, like my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) that we ought not to be too hard on Mr. MacManaway about this.
If one of us had been in a similar position—new back benchers advised and summoned by the Leader of our party and the Chief Whip of our party to sit and to vote on what the party regarded as a critical Division—in fact regarded by Mr. Speaker as being entitled to sit and to vote on that critical Division—I am not sure that we should have been strong-minded enough to assert our own view of the good taste of the matter against the view of the Leader of the party and the Chief Whip of the party, when the consequence of not voting might have resulted in the defeat of our party on something that we regarded as important. I do not know whether we should have been strong-minded enough to say, "Well, as a matter of good taste we are not going to come here and vote on it while this matter is sub judice." I do not think that we should take too harsh a view.
While my right hon. and learned Friend is on that point, would he deal with a question not of law but of the etiquette and custom of the House? I am sure that we should all welcome his remarks as to whether there was a breach of the established etiquette and custom of the House, apart from a breach of law.
I cannot pretend, in the few years that I have been a Member of this House, to have become an authority on its etiquette and customs. It is right to say that in the previous Parliament we had a number of Bills of indemnity, and the Members concerned did not sit and vote, once it was brought to their notice that they were disqualified, until a Bill indemnifying them had been passed. But, of course, those were cases where there was no doubt whatever about the disqualification. There was a great deal of doubt about disqualification in this case until the Privy Council had given their decision about it. I do not think that I ought to say more about it than that.
There have been a number of cases in the past—in the more distant past—where Members have sat and voted when there were actual proceedings going on in the courts at the time. I think that it would be better not to sit and vote in those circumstances; but if one were asked to sit and to vote by the leader of one's party and the Chief Whip, are we all prepared to cross our hearts and to say that we should disobey that request? I do not know. Hon. Members must answer that question for themselves.
There was a point of great substance raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale). He said that the legal position was that if a manifestly disqualified candidate was elected, an election court might declare the next candidate on the poll to be the Member, and might regard the votes given to the manifestly disqualified candidate as having been deliberately thrown away. There certainly is authority for that proposition.
I would agree with my hon. Friend at once that it is conceivable that if, after the election of Mr. MacManaway to either House—either the Northern Ireland House or this House—the defeated candidate, who in the case of this House was Mr. Beattie, had brought an election petition, he might have persuaded the election court to hold that the votes cast for Mr. MacManaway were thrown away on the ground that everybody ought to have known, indeed must be presumed to have known, that ordained clergymen of the Irish Church were disqualified. That is a singularly artificial presumption, in view of the fact that we did not know that in this House, and that the prevalent legal view at the time was in fact that he was not disqualified at all.
It is possible that an election court might have taken that view. Even so, I would think it clearly unreasonable that a person for whom at the time the electors, by a majority, manifestly did not want to vote, should be returned as a Member of this House on a mere technicality. As far as I know, it never occurred to Mr. Beattie, or to anybody else at that time, to bring an election petition or to challenge the validity of Mr. MacManaway's election. The time for bringing an election petition has long since passed, and I know of no way, except by the decision of an election court, by which the seat could properly have been awarded to Mr. Beattie.
As the jurisdiction of the election court was not invoked, the matter was entirely at large for the House of Commons to do what it thought right. In the circumstances, in my view, the only possible course for the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to adopt was the one which in fact we deliberately decided to adopt. That was the course of declaring the seat vacant and issuing a writ for an election, in order that the constituents of Belfast, West, could decide who they wanted to represent them in a new election.
That leads me to the second point which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, raised in regard to the question whether this House should have done the same in relation to the seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament. As to that, I have not taken the view—and I feel pretty confident that, in this respect at any rate, I am right—that it would be appropriate for this House to decide whether or not a particular Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament was qualified to sit as a Member of that Parliament or not. It is one thing to say, as the Statute does, that the same law as to qualifications will apply to Northern Ireland as it does in the rest of the United Kingdom; it is quite another thing to say that this House will be the tribunal which will apply that law to the Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament.
It is fair, I think, in view of what was said by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, to say that, at one stage in this matter, the Government of Northern Ireland took the view that this House ought by Resolution to declare that the seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament was vacant. I took the opposite view. I think it would lead to very grave misunderstandings, and hon. Members on this side of the House may see at once the kind of misunderstanding to which it would lead if we were to start to interfere in the internal affairs of the Northern Ireland Parliament and to say whether any particular Member was qualified to sit.
The view which I expressed was that it was the duty of the Northern Ireland Parliament to apply the Statute law as passed by this Parliament and to enforce it in regard to any of their Members disqualified under that law. When I advised that course—and it is fair to say so—the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland agreed with me. I think it is reasonably clear that it was for the Northern Ireland Parliament to issue a writ for a new election, thereby declaring, in effect, that the seat was vacant. I understand that they have either done so or are about to do so. If they do not do it, it is, I suppose, open to any Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament to move for the issue of a new writ.
What would happen if this House passed Resolutions about the matter? The moment that this Parliament interfered to declare that this constituency in the Northern Ireland Parliament was vacant, it would, no doubt, be represented by ill-disposed persons in Northern Ireland, if any such there be, that what had caused this vacancy was the disgraceful interference of the United Kingdom Parliament in Northern Ireland affairs, and I cannot imagine anything more calculated to influence the votes of the electors or to result in the election being conducted on issues which were not fair and proper issues at all.
I am satisfied that, as a matter of proper procedure, the House of Commons in Northern Ireland is the sole master of its own constitution and composition in this matter, subject to this—that this House and the Northern Ireland House must apply the Statute law of the land. In the case of Northern Ireland, it has to apply the Statute law passed by the United Kingdom Parliament, but, in applying that law to any particular case and deciding whether a particular Member is qualified or not under that law of the United Kingdom, it is for the House of Commons of each country to decide whether the law applies or not to individuals in their House. That seems to me to be the right position.
I have no doubt that, if the Parliament of Northern Ireland had taken steps to issue a writ for a new election and cause a new election to be held, that would have been much more in accordance with the democratic practice for each House to control its own composition, subject to the Statute law which binds it. Again, I think it is more in accordance with democratic practice that, where a disqualification of this kind arises, instead of producing an entirely technical result by declaring the next man on the poll to be the elected member, there should be a fresh election.
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. and learned Friend, but may I ask if he will be a little more explanatory and specific on this point of the relationship of the Parliament of this country to the Parliament of Northern Ireland, in connection with this case of disqualification, because, as I read the Title and the contents of this Bill, the effect of it will apply to the sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom or as a Member of the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. If it is not intended that this double purpose should be achieved, why is that the specific wording of this Bill?
That is intended. I am drawing a distinction between a Statute passed by this House and deliberately intended to apply to Northern Ireland and a Resolution of this House. We have no power to legislate for Northern Ireland by mere Resolution; indeed, we have generally no power to legislate for this country by mere Resolution. All we can do by Resolution of the House is to decide questions relating to our own composition and status and the qualifications of particular Members of our own House. What we can do, and what we have done, in regard to Northern Ireland, is to say, by the earlier Statute, that Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament must have certain qualifications or that they must not have certain disqualifications. What we have said, in effect, is that Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament should have exactly the same kind of qualifications as for the United Kingdom Parliament, but, having laid that down by Statute in this Parliament, it is for each House separately to decide on the application of that general Statute to the composition of its own Chamber, and I think it would be no more proper for us to pass Resolutions upon the qualifications of a Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament than it would be for the Northern Ireland Parliament to pass Resolutions upon the qualifications of particular Members of this House. We can pass Statutes affecting Northern Ireland but not move Resolutions about their House of Commons matters.
What we have decided to do is to pass a Statute, which we are entitled to do for the Northern Ireland Parliament as for any other part of the United Kingdom, which is a totally different matter. We are here, in agreement with the Northern Ireland Government, providing by Statute indemnification against breaches of the law which Mr. MacManaway may have committed in Northern Ireland, and that is a very different thing from attempting to deal with the question of whether he was qualified or not by a mere Resolution of this House.
This is an indemnity Bill, and, while we have had a good deal of criticism of Mr. MacManaway and some of his friends—and I must say that some of them have asked for criticism—we can, I think, afford to be generous over this, and I agree with every word of what the hon. Member for Shettleston said about this matter in his moving speech. I think we ought to leave this matter in the limbo of past and forgotten things. I have had so many "bygones" in my career that I am a firm believer in letting bygones be bygones. Moreover, when the Select Committee of this House reported on the question of Mr. MacManaway, they reported that he was entitled to sit, and that any doubt about the law should be cleared up by passing a declaratory Bill. The Government advised the House not to follow that advice. We suggested that this matter should be sent to the Privy Council so that the existing state of the law—
No. If my right hon and learned Friend will allow me, may I say that the position was that the proposal for such a Bill was withdrawn, as can be seen from the Minutes of Evidence. All that the Committee recommended was that the matter should be cleared up by legislation, but they did not say whether the legislation was to be disqualifying or qualifying.
The Committee dealt with the legal views and said that there was a conflict in the matter. They finally agreed:
Your Committee feel with the Attorney-General that the arguments on both sides of the question are evenly balanced, and are unable to come to a unanimous conclusion on their merits. Your Committee, therefore, recommend to the House that immediate legislative action be taken to clarify the law.
My hon. Friend is quite right to that extent, although I do not think there was much doubt at the time that the intention was to clarify the law in an affirmative sense. Certainly, when we considered the Report, we decided to advise the House to take a different view. We thought that the proper course was not to clarify the law by a Bill declaring that the clergy of the Irish Church were not disqualified—and I said so in the clearest terms—but, first, to ascertain what was the law, and then to decide whether we wanted to alter it.
The House was persuaded to take that view, but it took that view on an express undertaking which I gave that, if the Privy Council came to the conclusion that Mr. MacManaway was disqualified during the interval, we would introduce in this House a Bill to indemnify him from any consequence of it. I think that at that time the whole House agreed that that was a fair course. We were going to submit the matter for the advice of the Privy Council, and it was only right that, as we were taking that view and inviting the House not to accept the view of the Select Committee, we should undertake that if the view of the Privy Council turned out to be contrary to the one canvassed before the Select Committee, a Bill of Indemnity should be introduced. Here is the Bill of Indemnity on the promise of which the matter was sent to the Privy Council. I hope that the House will now feel that it is possible to give it a Second Reading, and, indeed, with the leave of the House, that we may get it through its other stages this evening.