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Early-Day Motion 931

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 5 May 1987

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I refer to early-day motion 931, which states:

That this House notes that the names Brooks, De Wesselow, Otley, Fletcher and Gordon have been identified as conspirators in the treasonable plot to bring about the downfall of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, Prime Minister between February and October 1974; and further demands a statement from the Prime Minister as to what disciplinary action was taken against them when they were identified to Sir Michael Hanley, Directer General of M.I.5 in 1975.
Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, to use the Order Paper to indict individuals with substantive and serious offences of treason? Do not we bring the House into disrespect if we adopt procedures that we would never have considered appropriate if adopted in courts elsewhere? Is it not particularly oppressive in this instance, as those so indicted are almost certainly bound by the Official Secrets Act and are therefore unable to speak in their own defence? Such individuals have given signal service to the country—for example, Anthony Brooks won the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order for action behind enemy lines, and was also awarded the Legion of Honour and the Croix de Guerre with palms for action behind enemy lines. Is it not a matter of deep regret that such men, without a shadow or scintilla of evidence against them, should find themselves indicted in this, the highest court in the land, and do not we bring ourselves into disrepute by these actions?

My responsibility is to consider whether early-day motions are in order. Those which may not be are brought to my attention. This early-day motion was not brought to my attention, so it is in order. I say to the whole House that we should use our parliamentary privileges with the greatest discretion and care, because under the privileges that we enjoy we can name and accuse those outside who have no recourse.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your advice? With the exception of yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the Leader of the House, I am one of a small and dwindling band of MPs who were here when Hugh Gaitskell was Leader of the Opposition. I say this in the presence of a former Home Secretary who was Hugh Gaitskell's constituency successor in Leeds. I am not in any way questioning your judgment about your answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), but the fact remains that in the Washington Post statements have been made about the death of Hugh Gaitskell that cannot go without comment. The Washington Post says:

"It was also during this period that MI5, spurred in part by the Angleton report, began to investigate Wilson. Wright says his own suspicions had begun with the mysterious death in 1963—"

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not read out the letter. I think that many of us have read this.

It is a very serious allegation and I should like to be very precise. It goes on:

"—of Labor Party leader—"

Order. I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to do that. I am aware that he also submitted an application under Standing Order No. 20 in broadly the same terms as the application that I have just heard from the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to make a second application under the cloak of a point of order. I fully appreciate the importance of this matter to the House, but my only discretion in these matters is whether they meet the criteria laid down for Standing Order No. 20. That is the total of my discretion. There are many other ways in which these matters can be brought before the House.

May I ask for guidance about how the memory of Hugh Gaitskell and these very serious allegations against his successor as Labour leader can be debated if all this is sub judice? The implication is that a Labour leader was the beneficiary of the possible assassination of a previous Labour leader. Ought there not to be a Government statement? Government statements are coming in The Times today under the cloak of Mr. Chapman Pincher's article.

Order. Whether there should be a Government statement is a matter for discussion between the usual channels and the Government. It is not a matter of order for me.

Could I appeal to the Leader of the House for some kind of statement from the Government? We cannot have 400 news media throughout the western world carrying all these allegations about the possible assassination of a former Labour leader, the former Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) and have absolutely no comment about it. It is deeply unsatisfactory that the Downing street view should be put in an article in The Times under the name of a particular journalist, in this case Chapman Pincher——

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you help the House and especially Opposition Members by confirming that, if it is the view of a major part of the opposition parties and certainly if it is the view of the usual channels, the Opposition are free to use Opposition days which still exist in this Parliament? Parliament still continues and Opposition days still roll round. Can you confirm that, if it is the view of sufficient Opposition Members who give the matter sufficient weight, and not just the view of some eccentrics who want to peddle this for their own purposes, they are perfectly free to bring these matters to the House? In so far as that is allowed by you, Mr. Speaker, and by sub judice rules they can give the matter a proper airing in the guise of an Opposition day debate.

I have already said that there are other opportunities and the House must use them to do what the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful for what you have just said. Is the import of what you have just said that one can forget the fact that there is a sub judice aspect about a book, and that if the information is raised elsewhere it does not prevent us from raising and debating this matter on the Floor of the House?

I made a careful statement about this last week and I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to that.

No, it is not on the same matter. You will know that last Friday I tabled an early-day motion, about which the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) has spoken, and in which five persons were named. My point of order is about the principle of naming persons on the Order Paper. On 28 January I asked a question of the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry——

I am coming to it, Mr. Speaker. I asked him about a licensed security dealer who I refused to name on the Floor of the House. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that Conservative Members nodded in support of the principle of me not naming that security dealer. I said at the time that I was worried that many people would lose money that they had invested in the company.

Last Friday, the Department of Trade and Industry revoked the licence of the company and on Sunday it was made clear that it would be applying for a winding up order. If I had named the company on that day — against my better judgment I gave in to pressures in this House not to name the company — many people, perhaps several thousand, would be today hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds better off. I refused to name the company and investors in IDB lost money.

I hope it is a lesson to the House that there are times in this Chamber when one has to name an individual or company because it is in the public interest to do so. On that occasion, by not naming the company, I failed.

I do not think that a point of order arises out of that, but I cannot recollect a time when an early-day motion submitted by the hon. Member has been drawn to my attention for my adjudication.

Statutory Instruments, &C

With the leave of the House, I will put together the three motions relating to statutory instruments.


That the draft Race Relations (Offshore Employment) Order 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay (Offshore Employment) Order 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Meat and Livestock Commission Levy Scheme (Confirmation) Order 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. — [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]