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Privilege (Newspaper Report)

Volume 529: debated on Monday 21 June 1954

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Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a question of privilege. In today's "Daily Mail" there is a report of a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I will read the report if I may:

"Mr. Emanuel Shinwell, Socialist M.P. for Easington, predicted an election at the end of the year when he spoke at Blaydon-on-Tyne, Durham, Labour Party gala. He said it would be an opportunity to 'get rid of the crazy Tories—the wretches, the rascals, the rapscallions'."
As the reference was to a General Election, and as a General Election, by implication, can only get rid of these people as a result of the Election, the reference was clearly to right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House. I would suggest that to refer to right hon. and hon. Members in those terms in a gross breach of the Privilege of this House.

Copy of newspaper handed in.

I have had no notice of this, but I suppose the hon. Baronet is asking me whether I consider this to be a prima facie case of breach of Privilege. It is not for me to say whether it is or is not a breach of Privilege, that is for the House. My view of it is that hard words used against persons and parties are dealt with, if necessary, by the law of defamation, and it is only where the House as a whole is affected by the spoken word that, to my mind, a question of Privilege arises. In this case, it seems to me that these offensive epithets are selective in their application. Therefore, of the words complained of, I could not really find a prima facie case of breach of Privilege. If the hon. Baronet wishes to proceed further with the matter, he should put down a Motion for the consideration of the House.

Is it not clear, Sir, that most hon. Gentlemen opposite never dreamed that those words applied to them? Obviously, therefore, some people must have thought that they applied to them and others did not.

I have dealt with the matter. I should be very sorry to think that any hon. Member thought that those words in their entirety applied to him.

Is it not a good thing, Mr. Speaker, occasionally to let the Opposition have their little bit of fun?