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Question Of Privilege (Lord Mancroft's Speech)

Volume 499: debated on Thursday 24 April 1952

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11.0 p.m.

I want to raise a point of order and to seek the guidance of the Chair on a matter which has just been brought to my attention, and which I am bringing to your notice, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at the earliest opportunity. It is a question of a paragraph in this evening's edition of the "Star" newspaper. The paragraph is a grave reflection upon the dignity of this House and certain of its Members. The paragraph is headed,

"Bessie and the other girls—by a Peer."

Is the hon. Lady raising a question of Privilege?

No, I am seeking your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I want your protection, and the protection of all hon. Members of this House. [Interruption.] I cannot speak if hon. Members opposite will not keep quiet. I want the protection of hon. Members against the vulgarity of a comment of this kind. I would ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to listen to this comment, which I will read. The paragraph goes on:

"Several Conservative M.P.s, fresh (or faded) from their all-night sitting, were on the platform at the annual meeting of the Primrose League at Caxton Hall, Westminster, today. Lord Mancroft, Chancellor of the League, turning to some of the M.P.s, said, 'Unlike them, I am not paid a thousand a year for larking about in the division lobbies at night with Bessie Braddock and the rest of the girls; I have to earn my living'."
I am sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you will agree that this is an affront to the dignity, not only of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), but, indeed, to all the women Members of this House and, not least, to the male Members of this House. What protection is there against this kind of affront to the dignity, not only of hon. Members, but of this important assembly? We hon. Members of this House have always been led to believe that it was incumbent upon us to show respect in our references to activities in another place, and I submit that it is a very serious matter when a Member of that other place tries with such frivolity to demean the status of our assembly here.

This is a demonstration of low vulgarity and, at its worst, might involve the question of a breach of Privilege. Might I suggest that there is a prima facie case?

The hon. Lady should raise the matter after Prayers to-morrow morning as a prima facie case of breach of Privilege.

I always understood that such a matter had to be raised at the earliest possible opportunity, and that is why I have raised it tonight.

That does not bar the hon. Lady from raising the point tomorrow. She may do that, even although she has raised it tonight. She is fully protected.