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Personal Statement

Volume 466: debated on Tuesday 21 June 1949

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I rise for the purpose of making a personal explanation and withdrawal. It is, I think, always the wish of the House that on such occasions one should be concise and contrite, and that is my intention today. In the course of Questions just before the House rose for the Whitsun Recess I suggested that a patient had been murdered at the Rubery Hill Mental Hospital, Birmingham; at the time I made the statement I was under the impression that a lady named Leah Caroline Walker, who was found in an unattended mental ward suffering from injuries, including a fractured arm, and who afterwards died from pneumonia, had met with her death as a result of a fight which admittedly took place in the ward on the same evening prior to her death. I now find that that was not the verdict of the coroner and the jury, though there was criticism by the former of the conditions by which the patients were left unattended in the ward. Consequently, the term "murder" should not have been used by me.

I am, by the custom of the House, precluded from saying anything controversial on an occasion of this kind, but I wish to give notice that if the opportunity occurs I intend to raise the manner in which this suggestion of mine was discussed at short notice during my unavoidable absence from the House on a semi-official mission.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. If any Member of the House desires to make a withdrawal I submit to you, Sir, that that withdrawal must be unqualified. If the noble Lord had made an unqualified withdrawal I am sure that we should have all been willing to accept it, but the statement he has just made has caused offence and I ask you, Sir, whether, in accordance with the custom of the House, it would not be more dignified and more gentlemanly if the noble Lord made an unqualified withdrawal?

A Member is responsible for the way in which he makes a withdrawal. I cannot order him; that is his responsibility, and not mine. A personal statement cannot be debated in this House.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that a number of my colleagues from Birmingham and I were at this mental hospital yesterday——

I thought I had been at some pains to explain to the House that a personal statement was not a matter for comment or debate. It must be received as it is; to make any further comment is out of Order. I told the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) that he was out of Order, and I cannot allow any further statements. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has said that if he has the opportunity he will raise the matter again. Very well; that is the time when it can be debated. I cannot allow any further statements to be made on the matter now.