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Question Of Privilege

Volume 887: debated on Monday 3 March 1975

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May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider words that have just appeared in a newspaper called the Travel Trade Gazette, which I feel you may be inclined to rule, when you have heard the facts, constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.

On the front page there is a headline saying:
"Commons attack angers ABTA".
There is then a banner headline reading
"MP, Walsh speculation".
Underneath there is a paragraph saying:
"There was speculation amongst the trade over Mrs. Dunwoody's motives for attacking ABTA. Several ABTA leaders cited her friendship with Mr. Dennis Walsh the former ABTA chairman who was forced to stand down from office."
In an opinion entitled
"Dunwoody Day"
there is a long passage of which I complain strongly, saying:
"Now comes the news that ABTA leaders are suspicious of the motives of a former Labour junior minister in a surprise attack in the House of Commons on the association.
It is being openly suggested that Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody was 'primed' well in advance of her speech by outside influences.
Cynics point to her close friendship with former ABTA chairman Dennis Walsh, now leading the other trade associations, the Institute of Travel Agents.
Mutterings of vested interests and power-politics are being bandied about. Nothing, of course, can be conclusively proved. But in situations such as this there is usually no smoke without fire.
The question being asked is: What is the real significance of the Dunwoody broadside?
Is she speaking for the holidaymaker at large when she claims they could eventually need protection from tour operator collapse by the intervention of a national government?
Or is she being used as a powerful pawn in a protracted battle of travel trade chess aimed at dethroning the present ABTA leadership?"
Apart from the fact that no one who knows me thinks of me as anyone's pawn, or cannot have been listening, I complain bitterly about the words in the article.

As the hon. Lady is relying on a statement in a newspaper, will she bring the paper to the Table?

Copy of newspaper handed in.