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Question Of Privilege

Volume 943: debated on Monday 30 January 1978

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I wish, Mr. Speaker, to raise a question of privilege. My question relates to a matter that was the subject of a Select Committee report of about two years ago, but the point that I wish to raise has reached finality only during the past weekend.

A transcript of tapes was submitted to the Select Committee on the Abortion (Amendment) Bill. Reference was made to those tapes by the then Chairman of that Select Committee when questioning two of the witnesses who alleged that the transcript produced to that Select Committee was a relevant transcript of the tapes. On Monday 7th July 1975—this is in reply to Questions 1274 and 1275—the statement was made by Susan Kentish, in reply to a question from the Chairman, that the transcripts were a true and accurate record of the tapes.

Subsequently a question was put by the Chairman to Michael Litchfield, to which Mr. Litchfield replied that the transcripts were a faithful account of interviews and tapes recorded.

The tapes are still available, but there is a matter of court privilege. Very recently, Mrs. Diana Munday, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has spent 300 hours transcribing the tapes and comparing them with the transcripts produced to the Select Committee. As you may know, Mr. Speaker, apologies have been made to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and all the allegations against it have been withdrawn.

The matter has been the subject of reference in a recent report in the Sunday Times. A day or so ago the British Broadcasting Corporation recorded an interview between Mrs. Diane Munday and Michael Litchfield. I understand from the BBC that a copy of the transcript is available should you desire to see it, Mr. Speaker.

My point is that the Select Committee was deceived by Miss Susan Kentish and by Michael Litchfield and lies were told to the Select Committee in order to mislead and influence that Committee's conclusions. This is a serious matter. I have referred to "Erskine May" and, in accordance with that textbook, it is possible for me to submit for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, this prima facie case of contempt of the House of Commons.

If the hon. Member has any documents, let him bring them forward.

I listened with great care to what the hon. Member said and I will give my ruling tomorrow.

Documents handed in.