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Complaint Of Privilege

Volume 655: debated on Monday 12 March 1962

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I desire to raise a matter of Privilege, Mr. Speaker. The Sunday Telegraph dated yesterday, carries on its front page a story which it heads:

"Firms' Anger at Leipzig muddle M.P.s Criticised in Trade and Politics Mix-up"
In the course of the article reference is made to the activities of a number of hon. Members of this House and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to quote four brief extracts to illustrate my contention that this may be a matter of breach of Privilege.

The first extract reads:
"It was the presence of the M.P.s and the activities of some that caused most resentment among British exhibitors. It was certainly degrading to hear a British M.P. touting for business orders and to see the sycophantic attitude some adopted towards the East Germans. I know of one concrete case, and there are certainly others, of a British firm agreeing to pay a quarter per cent. commission to an M.P. if he could arrange an order."
The article goes on:
"Equally, I have no doubt that the reason Mr. Sternberg and Mr. Drayson are so anxious to bring M.P.s out is to build up a pressure group at Westminster sympathetic to East Germany…. One big steel company has refused to show at Leipzig because of the undue influence they feel was exerted by some M.P.s in previous years…. There is no doubt that the collective presence of a group of M.P.s creates the impression of an official delegation."
I submit that while this article is critical of those hon. Members who attended the Leipzig Fair it is, in its sense and essence, derogatory to the whole House and I therefore submit it to you as a breach of Privilege.

Copy of newspaper handed in.

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I will take the 24 hours which I am allowed for consideration and will rule upon his point tomorrow.