"That the Report (23rd July, 1947) from the Committee of Privileges (on the Matter of the Complaint made on 16th April, 1947) be now considered."—(Mr. H. Morrison.)
Report considered accordingly.
"That Arthur Heighway do attend this House forthwith."—(Mr. H. Morrison.)
The Serjeant at Arms informed the House that Mr. Arthur Heighway was in attendance.
Direct Mr. Heighway to be brought to the Bar.The Serjeant at Arms then brought Mr Heighway to the Bar.
Mr. Arthur Heighway, you have been summoned to appear at the Bar of this House in consequence of a Report made by a Committee of this House. That Committee was directed to inquire into the matter of an article written by Mr. Garry Allighan, a Member of this House, and published on 3rd April, 1947, in the "World's Press News" newspaper, of which you are the editor and publisher. You did not seek, so the Committee have found, to establish the truth of the article, nor did you appear willing to admit its obvious implications, but, after prolonged examination, you made what the Committee were only able to regard as an entirely inadequate apology. I have to inform you that the House is willing to hear anything that you should now say to us in answer to the findings of the Committee.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the responsibility for the publication of that article, with its references to Members of the House, for which I desire sincerely to apologise, is entirely mine. I would like to say, however, that the article came from a Member of Parliament who is a professional journalist and publicist, and, because of these two factors, I wrongly allowed my guard to be lowered in respect of factors which I should have considered. For that I make no excuse. The fault was entirely mine. I accepted the article in good faith as a matter of interest to the specialised and restricted readership of my paper, and without any thought that it would be an affront to the Members of this House.After I received the manuscript from Mr. Allighan, he did have second thoughts, and asked that he should make some adjustments and even suggested withdrawing it. At that point, I telegraphed him that the topicality of the article would be lost if deferred, and asked him if he would expedite the alterations which he had in mind. On that, he did send forward the alterations, and wrote me to go ahead with the article. I feel that it was that representation on my part, at a time when he was hesitating as to publication, which might have influenced him against his better judgment to authorise publication. As to the contents of the section of the article, I should like to say that I did not appreciate then that they could be interpreted as an affront to the dignity of this House. It was not my intention at any time so to do. I now appreciate that, and, for that lack of understanding and serious error of judgment on my part, I do desire to tender my regret and my sincere and humble apologies to Mr. Speaker and to the Members of this House.
I now direct you to withdraw.Mr. Heighway withdrew accordingly.
I now have to ask if Mr. Garry Allighan is present, and, if so, he is entitled to be heard in his place if he has anything to say.
rose in his place and said:Mr. Speaker, Sir,—In the first place, I desire to express to the House, through you, my grateful appreciation of their consideration in agreeing to the Lord President's proposal before the Recess to postpone this Debate until I was able to be present and make this statement. It is now some seven months since the offending article, which was the subject referred to the Committee, was written, and most Members will have arrived at the just assumption that I did not sit down and deliberately and calculatedly decide to insult this House and malign its Members. That was not my intention, and, at the very earliest moment in time that I can, I want to express my deep regret for having written the offending and offensive article, and to apologise, humbly and sincerely, for writing in such a way as to be an affront to the House. I have no excuse for what I did. Looking back on it, I am at a complete loss to understand why I ever wrote such an article. It could not possibly do me any good, and, as the evidence shows, there was to be no payment for it and I could derive no advantage whatever from writing it. I cannot explain my action except that it was written during a period of intense mental strain, when I was undergoing treatment for a serious nervous disorder. I do hot seek to shelter behind the controversial issue as to whether or not party and caucus meetings are protected by Parliamentary Privilege, but I do assure the House that it never entered my mind, when I wrote the article, that I was committing a breach of Privilege. Had I given that aspect any thought at all, I should have concluded that, in writing about these subjects, I was not committing a breach of Privilege. In withdrawing publicly all the unfounded imputations against the integrity of Members, I particularly regret and apologise for the allegation of insobriety which I made against unnamed Members. That was an offensive imputation which the evidence shows to have been unfounded, and I deeply regret being the author of that particular allegation, and humbly ask the House to accept my sincere apology. I do ask the House to believe me when I say that, of all the aspects of this regrettable and deeply regretted business, I most particularly regret that I have acted in such a way as to cast suspicion on innocent people. Although that was not the motive, I can now see how the article could not fail to have that result. That realisation has given me more distress than I can say, and I want, quite frankly, to admit the enormity of that offence and apologise sincerely for it. While not trying, as the House can realise, to excuse or justify myself, I may be permitted to refer to the instance, cited in the Report, of my misleading the Committee. That is in Questions 272 and 275. At that juncture, I did not want to give away another Member, feeling sure that his identity would be revealed later, and I honestly made the mistake, in my own mind, of thinking that that question referred to other Members. I made that clear, in later cross-examination, when I said that I did not know of any of my colleagues who had disclosed information for payment. I made the mistake there of not thinking that the question referred to myself. To the best of my recollection, I did not deliberately set out to mislead the Committee, but, reading my evidence in cold print, I can fully understand Members agreeing that, at times, it was, as the Report described it, "of an evasive and contradictory nature." I can only ask them to try to imagine the circumstances in which I gave that evidence. It was a terrifying ordeal, the memory of which will always be with me. My state of mind was worsened by the knowledge that I could have no legal help, and I had to face the crossfire of four eminent K.Cs. I felt helpless and alone. Half an hour of the Attorney-General's forensic skill was more than enough completely to demoralise me. I faced that ordeal at a time when I was in the middle of medical treatment for a seriously disordered nervous condition. They were some of the circumstances which formed the atmosphere and created my state of mind. I hope the House will be sympathetically understanding enough to appreciate that I allowed those circumstances to demoralise me, and bring me to a condition in which I gave answers which, had I been more collected and able to think more clearly, I would not have given. That is the explanation of the evasive and contradictory nature of my replies, and I can only rely on the broad humanity of this House to deal charitably with this aspect of a matter for which months of mental torture and self-accusation have already been a terrible punishment. On the third aspect of the case, I have a clear conscience. I do not feel that I in receiving, and the editor in paying, were jointly or separately involved in an act of bribery. I do not shelter behind the ruling of the learned Clerk of this House, in Question 1869, that, even if a transaction of payment did take place in those circumstances, it would not be an offence. I prefer to stand on the fact that no act of bribery took place. My position was, as every Member of this House and most Members of the public have well known, that of a professional journalist, and as a professional journalist I received a salary from the paper for which I worked. I cannot believe that it would be claimed that the editor who pays, and the working journalist who receives, are involved in an act of bribery. For more than 20 years, I have been a professional journalist, working on both sides of the Atlantic, and, at different periods during the past eight years, I worked as a salaried reporter, war correspondent, news editor, picture-news editor, industrial correspondent and political news-reporter on five different papers. Immediately previous to rejoining the ", Evening Standard," for which I had worked for the seven years before the war, I was the special political reporter of the "Daily Mail," my particular job being to report Labour and trade union news. I worked as such, to the general knowledge of most Members of this House, for a year before the last General Election and for more than a year after my election to this House, my news stories including news of party meetings and party matters. It is only fair, both to' the newspapers to which I have worked since the Election and to myself, that I should emphasise that there was never any suggestion or thought of those newspapers offering me a bribe or of my accepting one. I have been a salaried newspaperman for years, and it never occurred to me to regard fees and salaries paid to working journalists in the light of bribes; nor, I am sure, did either the editor of the "Evening Standard," or, before him, the editor of the "Daily Mail," intend it to be a bribe. Journalism is my livelihood, as most other Members of this House practise their professions as their livelihood. It was as a professional journalist that I worked, and, in that capacity, received my salary. I would also like to emphasise that when the editor of, first, the "Daily Mail" and, later, the editor of the " Evening Standard "appointed me special political reporter, it was never even remotely suggested that I was being engaged and paid either solely, mainly, or even at all, in order that I should report the secrets of party or caucus meetings. Neither that nor any other political activity was ever specified. I was engaged to report items of news about politics and politicians in general, and was given an entirely free hand on the job. Most of my reports were, in point of fact, of political matters not connected with the party—others were not even connected with politics—and I should have received my salary just the same had I not reported the Parliamentary Labour Party meetings at all—and, different from the case of the "Evening News," I did receive my salary during every Recess when I could not, and did not, report either party or other political news. I think that the instinctive fairness of the House would permit me to emphasise for the record that it has never been suggested by the Committee that, in such reporting, I ever divulged State or Parliamentary secrets, although that allegation has gained currency. In my journalistic zeal—I now see, misdirected zeal—I considered it my duty to report all news that could be reported in the public interest, including news of private party and caucus meetings held in Committee rooms upstairs. While never, for one moment, suspecting that such work was a breach of Privilege, I do not pretend that I was unaware that it was both a breach of confidence, in which I departed from the high standards of Parliamentary conduct, and also of party discipline, which, I fully realised, would, at some time or another, -be dealt with by the party as a domestic matter. I plead guilty to those breaches, but that, I understand, from the evidence of the learned Clerk, is not necessarily a breach of Parliamentary law. While I humbly submit myself to the decision of the House, I do ask Members to absolve me from the charge of bribery, and to accept my expression of regret for having departed from the high standards of Parliamentary conduct in reporting information which I was expected to treat as secret. I cannot undo what is done, nor can my apology sufficiently atone for my error of judgment in writing the offending article, but I can, as an earnest of my sincerity, ensure that I never repeat the offence. My offence has derived from the impossible situation I created for myself by attempting to reconcile the two functions of working journalist and Labour M.P., and putting my duty to my profession first. I decided, during the past six months of bitter reflection, to end that impossible situation, and have now taken the necessary steps to implement that decision. Mr. Speaker, I have humbly acknowledged my mistake, and nothing could be more sincere and heartfelt than my remorse for my action. Having done all that it is humanly possible to do to put this deeply regretted affair straight, I am content to submit myself to this House, confident that it will act in its traditional spirit of justice and generosity.
The hon. Member will now please withdraw.Mr. Allighan then withdrew accordingly.
I beg to move,
The House is meeting today in what may be described as its judicial capacity for the discharge of its responsibilities in administering the Parliamentary law of Privilege. In coming to its conclusions, the House has the great advantage of a valuable Report from the Committee of Privileges, and, as Leader of the House, I should like at the outset to express appreciation of the ability and thoroughness with which the Committee of Privileges, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood), investigated the cases now before us. They were, in some respects, of peculiar difficulty, and our deliberations today will be much facilitated by the Committee's work. I think it is true to say that this Parliament has had, perhaps, well above the average of Privilege cases, and the Committee of Privileges has been kept fairly busy. I think of all the cases that have occurred in the present Parliament, these cases, perhaps, present the greatest difficulties we have so far met, and there is room for legitimate difference of opinion or approach about them. I can only say that we have given the matter the most careful thought, and I am about to give the best advice that we have been able to think out for the consideration of hon. Members. But it is for the House, and the House alone, to pronounce judgment. It is right that the House should take full account of the views expressed by its Committee, but they are not binding upon it. If, therefore, I venture, as I shall, to differ on one important point from the Committee—though, in the main, I personally endorse their Report—I wish to make it clear that while I do so with the greatest respect to the Committee, at the same time I believe this pre-eminently is a matter upon which it is the duty of every hon. Member to make up his or her own mind. The Government think it proper, therefore, that the issues before the House should be left to a free vote; but, in accordance with tradition, the House will expect to have the considered views of the Government upon the matters which it is about to consider. Those views are embodied in the Motions on the Order Paper, and it is my duty to the House to explain them. My first task is, to the best of my ability, to recall to hon. Members the salient facts about the cases before them as set out in the Report of the Committee of Privileges. Even though the extracts are somewhat lengthy, I do not think that I can do better than begin by quoting from the Report. Paragraphs 4 and 5 say:"That the article written by Mr. Allighan, and published in the 'World's Press News' of 3rd April, 1947, in its general tone, and particularly by its unfounded imputations against unnamed Members of insobriety in the precincts of this House, is an affront to this House; and that both Mr. Allighan, as the writer of the article, and Arthur Heighway, the editor and published of the 'World's Press News,' are guilty of a gross contempt of this House."
"On the 3rd April, 1947, there appeared in the 'World's Press News' an article written by Mr. Garry Allighan, the Member for Gravesend, which referred to Mr. Nally's imputation and withdrawal.…Mr. Allighan admitted writing the article, but said he was not responsible for the heading, 'Labour M.P. reveals his concept of how Party news gets out. Public that pays is entitled to know,' or for the other cross headings.
The Committee examined the hon. Member at some length, and they stated that his evidence seemed to them"The article was mainly directed to showing how information concerning what took place at meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party is obtained by newspapers. It is, however, to be observed that Mr. Allighan did not in the article confine his statements as to the manner in which such information is obtained to information obtained merely from Party meetings, but stated that the informa- tion is obtainable and obtained in the way he described from Members of Parliament generally including information relating to proceedings, current or future, of Parliament. The article contained the following assertions:—
"(a) Private and confidential information as to what took place at Party meetings is conveyed by Members of Parliament present at such meetings to newspapers. "(b) One way such information is obtained is in return for a consideration paid by newspapers. Such consideration may be a retaining fee, payment for what is produced by the Member in each particular case, or by personal publicity, which Mr. Allighan described as payment in kind. "(c) Another way in which newspapers obtain such information is from Members who are under the influence of drink; in order to obtain information in that way, newspapers' representatives offer intoxicants to Members and pay for them and Members accept. The expenses sheets of Parliamentary Reporters are full of such expenses."
They thought that at the first stage he was"to be of an evasive and contradictory nature."
and, as they said, the state of affairs which his article described was,"in effect seeking to justify the allegations contained in his article,"
The Committee of Privileges, therefore, went exhaustively into the question whether the hon. Member's allegations were true. The general effect of the evidence was"if it in fact existed, one which would have at the least involved grave discredit to the Members of the House as such."
There were two exceptions to this general evidence. With one the House will be concerned later in the day. In the other, as hon. Members will be aware, the central figure was the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) himself. After he had been named by the Editor of the "Evening Standard," he admitted that he was the author of a report of a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on 23rd April which had been received from the Transatlantic Press Agency, to which the "Evening Standard" paid a regular fee of £30 a week for reports of such meetings and other political matters. It was further established that the hon. Member had supplied such reports regularly over a considerable period, and that the Transatlantic Press Agency, in which he appeared to hold a controlling interest, acted as his agent. Here, perhaps I may say that it has been a fairly common practice for hon. Members, especially those of them who are professional journalists, but including others, to write for the Press on Parliamentary matters. The propriety of such journalistic activities is, of course, not in question here, and nobody would wish to impose restrictions upon their exercise within proper limits, though—and here I speak personally and entirely for myself—I always think it is perhaps to be regretted that in some cases reports which are critical of other Members of the House appear not under the name of the author in such cases but anonymously or under a pseudonym. But that is by the way. There is no question of Privilege there, except perhaps to the writers. The Committee also had before them Mr. A. J. Heighway, the Editor and publisher of the "World's Press News," in which the hon. Member's article had appeared. They report that Mr. Heighway did not seek to establish the truth of the article, nor did he appear willing to admit its obvious implications, but after prolonged examination he made what the Committee could only regard as an entirely inadequate apology. There will be general agreement with the Committee's conclusion that"an indignant repudiation of the suggestion that the Press sought or obtained confidential information from Members of Parliament either by paying them in money or in kind or when Members were under the influence of drink."
That is in Paragraph 14. It is also, as they point out,"on any view this is a case of great seriousness."
Nor do I think that there will be any disagreement with the Committee's main findings. First, there was"one of much difficulty from the point of view of the law and custom of Parliament.
by the hon. Member for Gravesend, and they regarded those charges as wholly unfounded and constituting a grave contempt. Secondly, this contempt was aggravated by the fact that he was seeking to cast aspersion on others in respect of the very matter of which he knew himself to be guilty—"no evidence whatever to justily the general charges made "
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? I am sure he would wish this to be accurate. "Suspicion" not "aspersion." "Suspicion" is the word.
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. That is quite right—to cast suspicion upon others in respect of the very matter of which he knew himself to be guilty—and that he persistently misled the Committee. Thirdly, he gave evidence to the Committee which they were quite unable to accept. Fourthly, he accepted what was in the nature of a bribe for the disclosure of confidential information.It is to be noted that they—that is to say, the Committee—do not hold that the actual disclosure of the information constituted a breach of Privilege though it was a gross breach of confidence; but they came to the conclusion, in what they admitted to be a difficult matter from the point of view of Parliamentary law, that, in the particular circumstances, the disclosure of the information for payment was such a breach. This opinion flowed from their general conclusion that attendance of Members at a private party meeting held in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster during the Parliamentary Session to discuss Parliamentary matters connected with current or future proceedings of Parliament is attendance in their capacity of Members of Parliament. That is an important point, and I would draw particular attention to the words:
because this is the crux of the matter. What, in substance, the Committee said was, that in certain though not in all respects, the law of Privilege applies to private party meetings in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster when they meet to discuss Parliamentary matters connected with the current or future proceedings of Parliament. With great respect to the Committee, this seems to be going too far. Their opinion is based on the conclusion that Members attending such meetings attend in their capacity as Members of Parliament. According to the precedents, however, Members are only regarded as acting "in the capacity of Members "when they take part in Parliamentary proceedings. Indeed, even in transactions with constituents Members have never been regarded, for purposes of Privilege as acting in their capacity as Members. The possibility of extending the notion "proceedings of Parliament" to private party or other meetings is derived from the Report of the Committee on the Official Secrets Act in 1939. In this report, which arose out of a complaint by Mr. Duncan Sandys relating to the privilege of freedom of speech, what was assimilated to proceedings in Parliament was the draft of a proposed Parliamentary Question. There was thus something much more specifically related to actual Parliamentary proceedings than a general discussion of Parliamentary Business in a party meeting. There are, of course, arguments both ways, but, without positively taking the line that the Committee are mistaken, the Government think that, especially in a matter in which, by tradition, Parliament is conservative, and in view of the substantial doubts about the validity of the Committee's conclusion—some of which were expressed by a minority of the Committee—the House would be wise to be cautious before endorsing its finding. We do not say that there can never be any transactions of a party meeting in respect of which a Member is not acting in a Parliamentary capacity; we do not say that that may never be the case; but we consider that the implications of the wider view expressed by the Committee are such that we would do well to pause before accepting it. Let us examine some of these implications. In the first place, though the Committee were at pains to say that their conclusion as regards party meetings did not attract to such meetings all the Privileges which are attached to the proceedings of Parliament as a whole, I suggest for the consideration of the House that that distinction is a fine one. I do not see what logical ground there is for stopping where the Committee do, and I think we might find ourselves moving forward to a position in which party meetings acquired something akin to the status of meetings of officially appointed Parliamentary Committees. I am sure that it would not be the wish of the House that this should happen, and it would, I sub mit, be regrettable if we gave the impression to the public that the House was seeking to establish a privileged or semi-privileged position for private unofficial meetings of its members. Nor can I see how in logic it is possible to maintain the distinction which the Committee draw between meetings within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster and meetings elsewhere, nor between party meetings and other private meetings of Members, of which, of course, there are a great many. The only safe course in the Government's view is, therefore, to interpret the precedent of the Sandys case strictly in its application to party and other private meetings, and to take as the crucial test the question whether, wherever the meeting may be held or whatever its character may be, the Member concerned is acting in a Parliamentary capacity, in the sense that he is doing something which is specifically related to actual proceedings of Parliament. What I have said does not, however, mean that I think that the hon. Member was not guilty of a gross contempt of the House, which deserves to be punished. The Committee found him guilty of, first, a libel upon the House, and secondly, the acceptance of a bribe; and they stated that these offences were aggravated by his evidence, in which he sought to cast suspicion on others and persistently to mislead the Committee. I refer to paragraph 23 of the Report. It has often been held that wilfully misleading evidence is a substantive offence, and it is flagrantly contrary to the Sessional Order on the subject. The particular resolution applicable at the time was that passed by the House on 12th November, 1946:"to discuss Parliamentary matters connected with the current or future proceedings of Parliament ",
"That if it shall appear that any person hath given false evidence in any case before this House, or any Committee thereof, this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender."
On a point of Order. I deeply apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for interrupting him in what is a difficult task, and I am sorry. But what I want to know is whether we are now, as I take it, upon the Motion which begins with the words, "That the article." What I wish to know and to have your guidance on, Sir, is: are we, while upon that, considering the two succeeding Motions as well, or are we to take them separately? I do not feel quite clear from the Lord President's argument whether we are solely on the first, or whether all three are open to Debate.
The width of the Debate, of course, is a matter for Mr. Speaker, and upon that I have no views. What I am seeking to do in this speech is to make the case for the first Motion, and I myself think that the whole of the argument I have made so far, and will make, is relevant to that first question. If the House desires the Debate to go very wide and free, and you, Mr. Speaker, so rule, I have no objection.
Naturally, I am bound to call all three Motions separately. Anyhow, I thought there was that first case which the Leader of the House was making, and if to some extent it covered all three it was really based on the first one. I propose to put them all separately, and to Debate them separately if necessary.
By this conduct, and by seeking to cast suspicion on others, the hon. Member was, in my view, guilty of a gross contempt of the House. Secondly, by corruptly accepting payment for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament, obtained from other hon. Members under the obligation of secrecy, he was, I consider, guilty of dishonourable conduct, which tended to destroy mutual confidence among Members and to lower the public esteem of the House. That the' conduct was dishonourable is not in any way affected by the question whether he was acting in a Parliamentary capacity, and though there is no precisely analogous case, there are precedents for the punishment by the House of conduct which falls seriously below the standard which the House expects of its Members.
It would help, I think, if the right hon. Member could cite one or two of the precedents.
Perhaps the one which illustrates the situation best, because it was part of a commentary made by a former Speaker of the House, would be the one of March, 1812. This was in the case of a Mr. Walsh who was expelled, after a long Debate, by 101 votes to 16. I quote an extract:
That is a passage from a statement by Mr. Speaker Abbot, Lord Colchester, who was Speaker from 1802 to 1817. I do not want to weary the House, but there is a whole series of other cases which, in themselves, were not specifically related to Parliamentary proceedings, but in which the House took action."The principle of the expulsion: The facts incontrovertibly proved (upon the trial at the Old Bailey) of his having plotted and practised a gross and infamous breach of trust in a money transaction, to his own emolument; and the. precedent (by which that principle had already been extended to transactions respecting not only public, but also private property in the case of individuals) argued and relied upon was that of the Charitable Corporation in 1732, when, for indirect and fraudulent practices, three members were expelled; and the legal conviction of any indictable offence in those practices was held to be so little necessary to precede the expulsion, that they were expelled first, and the legal prosecutions were ordered afterwards, as is commonly the practice of Parliament, where it first vindicates its own honour, and then consigns the individual to legal prosecution, which may or may not be able to fix legal guilt and punishment on the delinquent."
Which in themselves were not specifically related to Parliamentary proceedings, and were not themselves confirmed by criminal proceedings in the courts.
Some were—here I am speaking from memory—and some were not, so, whichever way it is argued, the case is a strong one, that the House has every right to deal with its Members if, in their, view, the conduct of the Members is such that it brings discredit and contempt on the House as a whole.
Is it not a fact that in the case of Mr. Walsh this House acted after the Court of Crown Cases Reserved had found that there was no case against Mr. Walsh? This House then decided that the evidence showed his conduct, although not criminal, was such as to be not honourable.
It does not look like it from this extract—
The hon. and learned Member who, a moment ago—
On a point of Order. May I, through you, Mr. Speaker, appeal to right hon. Members of the Front Benches on both sides of the House to speak up? Hon. Members below the Gangway have the greatest difficulty in hearing the private conversation which is going on.
The hon. and learned Member who interrupted a moment ago is, if he will allow me to say so, speaking in accordance with my recollection of the case. Mr. Walsh was convicted at the Old Bailey, but that conviction was upset by the Court of Crown Cases Reserved, a meeting of judges which at that time dealt with the functions of the Court of Criminal Appeal; and then, if I remember rightly, he was given a pardon under the Great Seal.
Who am I to cut in between the right hon. and learned Member opposite and my hon. and learned Friend? Quite frankly, I looked up the records and found these cases, in order to be sure of my ground. However, I admit, when it comes to cross-examination upon these finer points, I had better retire from the fray and ask for notice.
I am only anxious to assist the discussion. I think it would be a great help to many of us in judging these matters to have it clearly established that Parliamentary action had been taken against the conduct of particular Members, irrespective of the well-known Privilege of the House, and irrespective of the judgment of a court of law.
Oh, yes, Sir. There is no doubt that the right hon. Member is quite right on that point. Perhaps I can quote, quite shortly, two other cases which confirm the view I had expressed, and which he also has expressed.There was the case of Sir J. Bennett in 1621–[Laughter.]—Do not let hon. Members laugh about these dates. These are the periods from which the great vigour of Parliament came, and they are all relevant.
That is the way they used to do things in those days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I suspected I was asking for it in saying that."Sir J. Bennett was charged with bribery. Charge framed by Committee of Whole House "
The other case is that of the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates, on 30th March, 1732:"Bennett then tried in the House, found guilty and expelled."
"On consideration of report from Committee on the sale of the Estate of the last Earl of Derwentwater (who has been attained).
'… and some parts of the Report having relation to Denis Bond, Esq., a Member of this-House;
He was heard etc.…
Resolved, that Denis Bond…is guilty of a notorious Breach of Trust, reposed in him, as Commissioner and Trustee for the sale of the forfeited Estates for the use of the Publick.
Resolved, nemine contradicente, That the said Denis Bond be, for his said Offence, expelled this House.'
Therefore, I do not think there is any doubt as to the right of the House to judge the conduct of Members outside or inside the House, to come to conclusions about standards, and to decide whether their conduct is such that it brings contempt on the House in its corporate capacity. The House has the right, if it so wishes, to expel in such cases, and the offences need have nothing to do with Parliamentary proceedings or Privilege. It follows, in my opinion, though on different grounds from those advanced by the Committee of Privileges, that Mr. Heighway, as editor and publisher of the "World's Press News," was also guilty of a gross contempt of the House. That is the considered judgment which I and my colleagues have reached. It is a case of great difficulty. I am afraid that there is a considerable number of Motions to be dealt with. I am anxious, if the House will forgive me, to try and deal with them with fairness and expedition. It would be a great pity, as we are sitting in a judicial capacity, if we were voting on them and discussing them in the early hours in the morning. I have tried, as fairly and as judicially as I can, to sum up the issues on behalf of the Government, and to give the House the advice we think is wisest in all the circumstances.Identical proceedings against John Birch. M.P."
Question put, and agreed to.
"That the article written by Mr. Allighan, and published in the "World's Press News" of 3rd April, 1947, in its general tone, and particularly by its unfounded imputations against unnamed Members of insobriety in the precincts of this House, is an affront to this House; and that both Mr. Allighan, as the writer of the article, and Arthur Heighway, the editor and publisher of the "World's Press News," are guilty of a gross contempt of this House."
"That Mr. Allighan, in persistently misleading the Committee of Privileges in his evidence, and in seeking to cast suspicion on others in respect of the very matter of which he knew himself to be guilty, has committed a grave contempt of this House in disregard of the Resolution of this House of 12th November, 1946, 'That if it shall appear that any person hath given false evidence in any case before this House, or any Committee thereof, this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender.' "—[Mr. H. Morrison.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That Mr. Allighan, a Member of this House, in corruptly accepting payment for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy, is guilty of dishonourable conduct which deserves to be severely punished as tending to destroy mutual confidence among Members and to lower this House in the estimation of the people."—[Mr. H. Morrison.]
When I first saw this Motion, I observed that whereas in the two earlier Motions we were told the nature of the offence which had been committed, namely, a gross contempt, there was no mention in this case either of contempt or of breach of Privilege. I was in considerable doubt whether that omission was deliberate or inadvertent. It now appears, from what the Lord President of the Council has said, that the admission was deliberate, and that what we are now asked to do is to condemn a Member of this House for conduct which is neither a breach of Privilege nor con-' tempt of the House, but which is highly dishonourable. I agree at once that the conduct of this Member was in the highest degree dishonourable and discreditable, but it seems to me to be a matter well worthy of consideration by this House whether it is consistent, not only with precedents, but with the principles which should guide our actions in the present day, that we should proceed to punish a Member for something which is not an offence against the law or against any Order of this House, or in any shape a contempt of this House.I understood the right hon. Gentleman to argue that there was a contempt of this House in a technical sense. He founded his argument, if I understood it aright, on certain precedents when the House took action against Members for something which they had done—entirely apart from their position as Members of Parliament—in their private capacity. I agree at once that if a Member of Parliament has committed a serious crime, then that Member ceases to be a Member of this House. I further agree that there are some ancient and shadowy border-line cases where the House has taken action where a crime was not committed, but I think these cases are ancient and shadowy and that we should think twice before following them. I do not think any of the cases quoted by the Lord President of the Council really are precedents for what we are doing now. If I understand it aright, the House took the view that Mr. Walsh had committed a serious crime, and that was the ground on which they expelled him. It is quite true that they did not attend to the question of whether he had been convicted of that crime, or whether his conviction had not been upheld; it was on the basis that what Mr. Walsh had done was criminal conduct. I do not know what were the circumstances of John Bennett's case. I think that these cases raise a question of principle which might guide us, but certainly we should not base our actions on them. The case of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) arose properly as an alleged breach of Privilege, and the House has just found on that. There were two breaches of Privilege committed by that Member, and no one has dissented from that finding. But this is a third matter which we are now discussing, and the same Motion appears on the Order Paper with regard to the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden). In that case, however, no other allegation has been made or substantiated against him. It was treated as a prima facie breach of Privilege. It was remitted to the Committee of Privileges, and they have said that they thought a breach of Privilege was committed. The Lord President of the Council now says that he does not think any breach of Privilege was committed, but we are nevertheless invited later on to condemn the hon. Member for Doncaster, not for the breach of Privilege which was first alleged against him, but for conduct of an entirely different character. It is, therefore, with regard to the hon. Member for Doncaster that the issue sharply arises. With regard to the hon. Member for Gravesend, it may be that, if the House passes this Motion, it will have some effect on the punishment which the House may decide later on to inflict, but it can have no other effect, because the hon. Member for Gravesend is already convicted on two counts. Therefore, the importance of this Motion with regard to that Member is secondary. But it is crucial and vital when we come to the hon. Member for Doncaster. In his case, on this and this alone depends whether he is to be found guilty at all. I say that in these times to find a Member of this House guilty, not because of any breach of the law—he has committed no crime, and no crime is alleged—not because of any breach of Privilege—he has infringed no Privilege—not for any contempt of the authority of this House, but because he is a dishonourable man, seems to me a wrong line for this House to take, whatever the House may have done 200 years ago. The precedents are not very strong, and even if they were stronger I would still take the view that I am advocating. May I remind the House of the terms of this Motion?
That makes it perfectly plain that what the House is invited to do is not to administer any law, but to punish one of its Members for being dishonourable. I do not think that that is a proper thing for this House to do. It is a matter on which undue argument is somewhat futile, because one's view of this is perhaps not wholly guided by meticulous argument, and it might not be to the advantage of the House that I should go into lengthy argumentative details about it. I think it is very much a matter of first impressions. But I do say this, that in other legislative assemblies proceedings are sometimes taken against members of those assemblies on what I might call subjective grounds—grounds that other members dislike them and their actions, and not on grounds that they have infringed any established law of the Constitution. Nobody would suggest that that sort of thing could happen in this country today, or tomorrow, but I suggest that in considering this as a question of general principle we might have at the back of our minds a recollection that the line we are invited to take today is one step in the direction of a goal which all of us would repudiate with indignation I do not know that it is very useful to quote authorities from Erskine May or elsewhere, but the passage in Erskine May which comes nearest to what we are now being asked to do is that on pages 104 and 105. I do not propose to read it, but it deals with the expulsion of Members, and it says that nowadays expulsion is practically reserved for Members who have committed grave misdemeanours. I can find no other chapter in the book which deals with conduct that is in relation to Parliamentary Privilege. Although it is true that there are some old cases where there was no misdemeanour in a technical sense, the view of Erskine May today—I have not checked the old edition—is that this power to deal with offences other than offences against this House and its Privileges is, in practice limited to cases of misdemeanour. The distinction between misdemeanour and felony is a somewhat closed book to me, but it is clear that felony vacates a Member's seat without proceedings, whereas in the case of misdemeanour this House has to expel him. It is in those cases that this doctrine of extra-Parliamentary misdeed is invoked, and it is only in those cases that it has been apparently invoked within recent times. I suggest that it is only in that sort of case that we would be well advised to invoke it now. Where is this to stop? It is highly dishonourable to take money for revealing secrets, but I doubt if any Member would say that that is the most dishonourable thing that a man can do without breaking the law. Once the door is opened to this doctrine, that if a man is sufficiently dishonourable he must be condemned whether he has broken the law or not, I do not see where we shall stop. It will always be a matter of opinion whether a man has acted dishonourably, and whether he has acted so dishonourably as to warrant the animadversion of this House. I dislike this idea of punishment turning on what is, at bottom, a matter of opinion. I would much rather see it turn on the plain question: has the man, or has he not, infringed a known rule? It would perhaps be wrong to go back now to the controversy which divided Members of the Select Committee, and I would not do so, were it not for the occurrence of certain words in the third line of this Motion. I should be glad of an explanation of what they are intended to mean. I think they may go rather a long way. The majority of the Committee took the view that there was a certain Privilege attached to certain meetings of Members upstairs, but not to other meetings of Members. Therefore, they took the view that if the secrets of the meeting to which Privilege attached were sold, that sale was a breach of Privilege; but I think it is obvious from the reading of the majority Report that they necessarily must have taken the view that if that sale was the sale of secrets gained at a meeting to which Privilege did not attach, there was no breach of Privilege."That Mr. Allighan, a Member of this House, in corruptly accepting payment for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy, is guilty of dishonourable conduct which deserve, to be severely punished…"
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman attach any importance or not to the word "corruptly"? Is there any difference or not between accepting payment for a thing corruptly, and merely accepting payment for it?
I cannot imagine any acceptance of payment to give away a secret which is not corrupt. I should have thought that if someone accepted payment to do something of that character, the word "corrupt" would be an apt word, in the popular sense, to attach to that.
Then would not that dispose of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument? If payment was corruptly received, then the condition he demands, namely, that a criminal offence, should be committed, would be satisfied.
I have just said that I think the word "corrupt" applies here in the popular sense. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I think that in this case there was any breach of any Statute or common law, I am at a loss to find it. I feel quite sure that if that had been the case we need not have gone into all this elaborate investigation upstairs. It would have been sufficient to say that there had been an infringement of an Act and, therefore, the Member had been guilty of, at any rate, a misdemeanour. I speak subject to correction, because I do not profess to be an expert on English law, but if I were asked, as a Scotsman, to draw an indictment against a man on the ground that he promised certain other persons not to give away a certain piece of information, and then gave it away and received £5 in return, I do not think that I could construct an indictment which would pass the test of relevancy.There is no question here of agent, master or servant, or anything of that kind. If anyone can suggest now a good indictment in criminal law in this case against the Member for Gravesend, that puts an entirely different complexion on it, but neither in the course of the proceedings upstairs nor in the course of the argument, so far as it has gone up to date, has anyone suggested that the Member for Gravesend committed in this respect an indictable offence. If he did, I agree that my argument goes by the board because if a man has committed an indictable offence and this House is satisfied that that offence has been committed, either by a copy of the record of the conviction or by evidence which satisfies the majority of us sitting here, then the House is entitled, and, indeed, bound, to proceed against that Member. What I have said so far is based on the fact that no one has suggested that such a crime has been committed. If someone now suggests it, and the House accepts it, that is a different matter altogether. I would like to say a word about the third line of the Motion. It may be that this is merely descriptive and is not intended to have any definitive effect. The words are:
If these words are to be read as anything more than a bare description of anything that happened in this case, do they mean that there is some distinction in Parliamentary law of Privilege between two or three of us meeting together, it matters not where, when, casually or by what arrangement, and exchanging information and some of us meeting with somebody who is not a Member? I do not know what this means. It means, if I read it aright, that if two or three of us meet together in the smoking room, or in a train going north, or in a private house and agree among ourselves that what we are going to say is to be secret, and one of us says to the other something with regard to approaching Parliamentary business, that the giving away of that for money is something which this House should take note of; but, apparently, if we give it away for money to somebody outside the House, it is different. Why, I cannot think. If this is intended to be definitive in any way, I do not see that it is limited by those words at all. It the basis is not dishonourable conduct of any kind which this House regards as worthy of punishment, then these words are simply descriptive of what happened here, and in no way limit the general nature of the offence which we are finding proved. I seek for information here. Is the proposition, as it appears to be, that any dishonourable conduct of any kind, providing it is sufficiently dishonourable, incurs the animadversion of this House, or is it only dishonourable conduct in connection with secrets about Parliamentary affairs? If it is the first, I have already said what I want to say, and I think it would be most injudicial of this House to proceed with the other charge. If it is the second, we are back at the Committee's Report. That is why I have raised the matter. If what the Lord President has in mind is not that dishonourable conduct of every sort and kind is to be subjected to our animadversion, but only dishonourable conduct in connection with the giving away of Parliamentary information, then far from disagreeing with the view of the majority of the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman has gone far beyond it. I and my hon. Friends said that there is no Privilege attaching at all, and as this is not a court of morals, and as there is no breach of Privilege, we may think that the giving away of secrets is in the highest degree dishonourable but we cannot attach the offender. The majority said we can attach the offender, but only because Privilege attaches to the occasion on which the disclosure was made, and then they go into a long story, with which we disagree, about the occasions to which Privilege attaches. It is now being suggested that some form of Privilege attaches not only to party meetings but to every occasion on which two or three Members gather together in order to exchange information confidentially. In my view, that must be wrong. Therefore, I put this dilemma, and I think that it is a dilemma: If this Motion is intended to be limited to occasions to be founded on a doctrine which relates only to the disclosure of Parliamentary information, then I say that far from throwing over or disagreeing with the view of the majority of the Committee of Privileges, this Motion goes immensely beyond anything they suggested, and, therefore, on that view, I say that this Motion should not be accepted. If, on the other hand, these words are purely descriptive, and the proposition put before us is, in fact, that any form of gross dishonour is something which ought to be punished by this House in order to maintain an honourable standard among its Members, then that proposition would not in the least be subject to any attack on the ground of where Privilege begins and ends, but subject to attack on an entirely different line altogether, namely, that we are going right away from the whole chapter and field of Privilege and embarking on a quite different field. We are setting ourselves up as a court of morals. It seems to me that one or other of these two things must be the meaning of this Motion. Either we set ourselves up as a general court of morals, with which I wholly disagree, or we found this upon some view of Parliamentary Privilege attaching to conversations between Members of Parliament, which goes immensely beyond anything which the Committee of Privileges ever suggested. I suggest, therefore, that unless we are prepared to turn ourselves into a court of morals, it necessarily follows that anyone who disagrees with the view of the majority of the Committee of Privileges must reject this Motion. It follows also that there may be many people who would be prepared to accept the view of the majority but who, nevertheless, would reject this Motion. On the narrow argument, excluding the court of morals, this Motion is worse than the view of the majority of the Committee of Privileges. It can only be supported by anyone who disagrees with the majority of the Committee of Privileges on the ground that we are now constituting ourselves a court of morals on the behaviour of our fellow Members."matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy,"
I should like to begin by expressing some surprise that there is not present in the House either of the Law Officers of the Crown. I quite recognise and welcome the Government's decision to leave these matters to a free vote of the House, and I recognise, too. that the function of the Law Officers of the Crown is to advise not so much the House of Commons as the Government. Nevertheless, the Attorney-General at any rate was a Member of the Committee of Privileges, and unless I have misread the account of its proceedings he took rather an active part in them. [Interruption.] I am much obliged. I am reminded by one of my hon. Friends that the Attorney-General could hardly have been here. He is doing at the moment elsewhere what we think is far more important work than is involved in this question. One would think perhaps that the other Law Officer would be here to deal with legal questions that arise. I am in a considerable difficulty about a point which was made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) when he was speaking. I cannot think that the word "corruptly" in this connection is an unnecessary word. I think "corruptly" means that the thing was done in such a way as to be a breach of our Bribery and Corruption Act involving either a statutory law offence or a common law offence.
Surely the point is if he were guilty under the ordinary law he should have been prosecuted under that law.
It may be not. We are not considering the question of prosecution; we are only dealing with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. He would have no objection to this third Motion if it had been founded upon the commission of a crime, whether that crime had been prosecuted to a conviction or whether it had not. I think they wrote "corruptly" into this Motion intending to convey that there had been an offence committed against the criminal law. That is why the word "corruptly" is put into the first line of the Motion, and if that is not what is intended I do not know why it is there.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is a lawyer, and perhaps he will tell the House whether he thinks there is a criminal offence involved and if so what, because I am still at a loss to know what.
What I have in mind—I hesitate very long and am very diffident about expressing any dogmatic opinion upon the point—is that the Bribery and Corruption Act in England makes it an offence to take payment or to show favour to any person in the discharge of his duties.
As a servant.
Not necessarily as a servant. Even if it were as a servant there is a contractual agreement of service between a newspaper and a writer. I am not attempting for one moment to give anything like a final opinion, but I thought it would have been a good idea if one Law Officer of the Crown had been present on such an occasion to keep us right or offer his advice on points of this kind.I cannot help saying that I have considerable sympathy with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, assuming that no crime has been committed or that no crime was done, that this Motion, which we are being asked to pass, goes far beyond the recommendation of the Committee of Privileges, which the Government advise us to reject, because whereas that invites us to treat as a breach of Privilege only the disclosure of information in certain closely defined and restricted circumstances, this invites us to punish as though it were a breach of Privilege any disclosure of information committed in much wider and less closely defined circumstances. If the Government are right in asking us to reject the recommendation of the Committee of Privileges, I cannot see how it can be right at the same time to ask us to accept this Motion. I, personally, could not vote for it on that argument. Where I differ from the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I am afraid from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is that I think the Committee of Privileges was right. They proposed to deal with this matter on a very simple and easily intelligible basis, and I cannot for the life of me understand why it would be dangerous to accept it, certainly if we are going in its place to invite the House to accept something much wider. What they said was this—and I am quoting from paragraph 21:
Is there any dispute about that? Indeed, could there possibly be any dispute about it? There is just as much a breach of Privilege in the offering of the bribe as in the taking of the bribe, and if it were a threat instead of a bribe no one would have the slightest difficulty in regarding it as a breach of Privilege. I should have thought that the position stated in that paragraph was hardly capable of serious controversy at all."This, however, does not dispose of the matter. It is clearly a breach of Privilege to offer a bribe or payment to a Member in order to influence him in his conduct as a Member."
The question as it arises is whether what was done here was the taking of a bribe by a Member, a bribe given in order to influence him in his conduct as a Member. Let us see what happens. I understand that nobody on any side of the House contends that it would be right to cover a party meeting with the cloak of Parliamentary Privilege such as is the practice here with other Committees. That is not what the Committee of Privileges did. It did not matter in the least whether the Member concerned got his information at a party meeting, in a Minister's office, in a Government Department or where. The test is only, did he get it as a Member of Parliament? Did he get information as a Member of Parliament which, if he had not been a Member of Parliament, he would not have got? That is the first point. The second point is, what did he do with it? I can conceive circumstances in which a man might say to himself that it would be a grave breach of principle on his part to disclose information, but grossly unpatriotic not to disclose it.
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that in fact it could not be held that the hon. Member for Graves-end (Mr. Allighan) got his information in his capacity as a Member of Parliament, because the representative of the "Daily Herald" got the same information and he is not a Member of Parliament.
With all respect to the noble Lord, I do not think on reflection he will consider that that is a really logical distinction, because the hon. Member for Gravesend was not the editor of the "Daily Herald." However, the editor of the "Daily Herald" got it, the Member for Gravesend got it because he was a Member of Parliament. It he had not been a Member of Parliament he would not have been entitled to get that information. Therefore, whatever may be true of other people he got it as a Member of Parliament. What was his duty? It would obviously be a gross breach of trust if anyone who got confidential information in any way disclosed that information. I can conceive of circumstances in which a man can say to himself, "A breach of trust or not, there is a higher, more overriding duty which compels me to disclose it." If he disclosed it in the exercise of his conscientious judgment, taking his responsibility, deciding for himself in a conflict of loyalties which was the greater loyalty and deciding to commit a breach of confidence, he would not commit a breach of Privilege at all. He might do it merely as an indiscretion, or because he had determined, having considered it, that it was the right thing to do.Surely it makes all the difference in the world if the man discloses that information, not after a careful balancing of one responsibility against another, not in the conscientious exercise of his judgment as a Member of Parliament, but because somebody has paid him to do it. That makes all the difference in the world. It was not the disclosure of the information which was the breach of Privilege, although he obtained it as a Member of Parliament. What was the breach of Privilege was the decision to disclose for reward the information which he had received as a Member of Parliament. In the words used in this paragraph, he was influenced in his conduct as a Member by the offer, or indeed by the receipt, of payment. I cannot quite see why the Government were not prepared to accept that view, which is much easier to accept than the view which they invite us to accept. It commits them to far less, and it opens the door to far fewer embarrassments, difficulties and complications. All it involves is coming to the conclusion that, in the particular circumstances of the case, a Member of the House of Commons was influenced in his conduct as a Member by the offer of payment. It is merely a question of fact. The Motion before the House, if we were to accept it, would not mean the acceptance merely of a question of fact to be determined by evidence but would be the adoption of a not very clearly or unequivocally expressed principle which looks as if it goes beyond questions of fact, especially if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right in holding that no criminal act is contemplated. I do not know what course is open. There is no Motion on the Paper accepting the recommendations in paragraph 21 of the Committee's Report. If there were such a Motion my difficulties would disappear. If not cheerfully, at any rate without hesitation, I could come to a clear conclusion about the matter. In the absence of such a Motion I am in considerable difficulty. I do not know whether you can advise me, and other Members of the House, Mr. Speaker, whether there is any step open to us to enable the view of the House of Commons to be taken by the free exercise of our own view on whether the Committee of Privileges, in paragraph 21, came to a right or to a wrong conclusion.
It might be done by a manuscript Amendment.
It is suggested to me that it might be open to me to submit a manuscript Amendment in order to enable the House to express its opinion on this matter.
I would like to ask my hon. Friend a question before he resumes his seat. He has raised the point about the position of a Member of Parliament disclosing information which he had obtained because he was a Member of Parliament. The noble Lord has said that in this case and in other cases it might be possible for the information to be obtained by people who are not Members of Parliament. Is not the point therefore whether it is information which he could have got only as a Member of Parliament, or whether if is information which nobody but he could get? There is that distinction to be borne in mind. Otherwise we may be penalising a Member of Parliament by making it impossible for him to give information which a non-Member of Parliament can give.
Nobody is being penalised. It is a question of fact upon which each Member must decide for himself. It may be perfectly proper, at any rate no breach of Privilege, for the editor of the "Daily Herald" to report what he heard at a party meeting. There would be an obvious breach of confidence or breach of trust, but no breach of Privilege. Any Member can do it without breach of Privilege, provided he is doing it in the exercise of his clear unfettered judgment as a Member. If he did it for reward I think he would be committing a breach of Privilege, upon the principle contained in this paragraph.
If Mr. Morgan Phillips gave this information he would not be guilty of bribery and corruption, as would a Member of Parliament, although they were both in the same position in the meeting.
I would say, in answer to that, that they were not in the same position in the meeting. Mr. Morgan Phillips, if he attended as an observer and if he committed a breach of trust or a breach of confidence, or went outside his rights in some way, may be answerable to someone or other. A Member of Parliament is answerable here. A Member of Parliament is completely free to do what he likes and what he thinks it is right to do, provided he does it because he thinks it is right to do it, and not for reward.
This is admittedly a difficult question. In some ways I sympathise with the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but I hope none the less to persuade him that the Government have been perfectly right to put the Motion in this form and that, so far from widening the issue, they have in fact narrowed it. I myself shared with him the agreement which he holds with the original Report of the Committee. But there is no doubt at all that the Report, which would have raised very highly controversial issues, would have been incapable of forming a sound basis of action for the whole House. If it be true—and I shall strive to show that it is true—that whether or not this is a breach of Privilege and a matter which would be disputed between us if it were raised, it undoubtedly comes within another category of conduct, without prejudice to that issue, namely, those dishonourable acts over which the House is entitled to exercise a disciplinary function; if I can show that that is the case, I feel sure that there is a solid basis of agreement upon which the House can act in a corporate capacity, without unnecessarily deep divisions of opinion.I want to avoid, perhaps because I am the third lawyer to speak, making any legalistic approach to this question be- cause I must say, although I am intensely proud of my profession of the law, that this does not strike me primarily as a legal issue. It strikes me primarily as a simple issue of common sense and a direct issue of professional morals. I shall have to deal with the technical points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid). It is fair, as he has raised them, that they should be dealt with in the course of argument, but I do not want to begin with them. I want to present the House with what seems to me the commonsense of this matter. All professions—the law, accountancy, medicine, dentistry and all others—have to maintain a standard of ethical conduct among their members, and all of them maintain—privilege or whatever they call it—inherently and of necessity the right to deal in a disciplinary fashion with those members of the profession who, for whatever reason, disregard the ethical rules of conduct without which the profession cannot be carried on. It is impossible in advance to prescribe for any profession or to ask any profession to prescribe for itself, a comprehensive definition of what amounts to unprofessional conduct requiring disciplinary sanction. In each case the common sense and judgment of the profession whether as a whole or acting through its disciplinary committee has to be brought to bear on the particular circumstances of that case, and they have to say, looking upon it in that way as judges of fact and as experienced members of that profession, whether conduct of a particular sort is tolerable in a member of that profession. Solicitors are struck off the roll and doctors are deprived of their right to practise, sometimes because they commit criminal offences against the law—forging a cheque, stealing money and the like—or sometimes because they do something which so upsets the prestige and position of that profession in the world, or so alters the degree of confidence which must be expected between its members for the proper conduct of their work, that if it were permitted to take place without punishment the profession could no longer exist as an honourable body. If is utterly wrong and misguided to try, as the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead sought to do by a tortuous legal argument, to read into this simple Motion wide general implications when all we are being asked to do is to decide upon the facts of this case whether a particular set of actions by a particular honourable Member is outside the rules of our profession. Our profession is, although we are deeply divided on many matters, an honourable one. We are professional politicians. We are Members of this House of Commons and we owe it to this House and to the world that we insist upon disciplinary action and a standard of conduct which will enable us to hold up our heads as such and carry on our business in the proper manner. If we do not do that, be sure of this, no profession in the world can maintain its prestige or position unless in the last resort it is prepared to impose sanctions on its members; and that is all we are being asked to do this afternoon. We are not being asked, although it will be necessary to inquire, to search diligently into the files of the Journals of the House of Commons to find out if ever there has been a case precisely similar to this before. We are being asked to decide things as men of the world and as Members of the House of Commons with some experience of our profession. That leads me to the question of precedent. Make no mistake about it, we are, in a sense, creating a precedent this afternoon. That precedent is created not by the exact terms of the Motion, not by its possible implications if some tortuous meaning is given to it, but by the nature of our decision on this particular case. I am profoundly of the opinion that if we were to refuse to pass this Motion, we should not merely be failing our duty, but we should be creating the most dangerous precedent in the world which would let into the conduct of Members of this House of Commons types of behaviour which would render it impossible to carry on our business here. It is because I take that general broad view of the matter that I beg the House to pass this Motion. That disposes of what seems to me to be the totally false dilemma put by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead. He was seeking to create law by looking at the terms of the Motion. What we are really being asked to do is to create law by looking at the facts of the case, and once we have established that, we are free to act. May I now indicate the sort of way in which the vicious precedent which we should be creating if we refused to pass this Motion might act? The argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead amounts to this—we cannot punish a Member of this House for something which is neither a breach of Privilege nor contempt nor a crime cognisable by the ordinary law of the land. That is the precedent he seeks to create, and in my submission, it is a totally vicious one, especially if we attach to the word "Privilege" the more restricted meaning which he seeks to attach to it. Let me give an example. Some few years ago—three or four I think—it was established by a Committee of this House in pursuance of many and honourable precedents that if one of our number took a fee as an advocate for prosecuting or presenting a claim by speech in this House, he was acting against the rules of our profession and acting dishonourably. I need not remind honourable Members of the particular circumstances of that case, because they will be sufficiently in the recollection of the House, but that was what was decided. Allow me to point out what would happen if the precedent which my right hon. and learned Friend wishes to create today were allowed to pass. Suppose the Society of Bookmakers were to come to me and were to say to me, "Mr. Hogg, here is a fee of 500 guineas if you will prosecute some particular claim upon the attention of the House." I am only using this as an example; I am not intending to cast aspersions on a very honourable body. Under the former decision I should have to say, "No, I am an honourable man. I can take no bribe." But if my right hon. and learned Friend had his way I should know a very different course which it would be open to me to adopt. I should say, "I must not do exactly what you ask, sirs, but thanks to the advice I have received from my right hon. and learned Friend, I can achieve the same result and be perfectly immune from the law because all I have to do is take your fee of 500 guineas, go up to the 1922 Committee of which I am a Member and make such an inflammatory speech about the wrongs of bookmakers that five or six people tar abler than I, will be so inflamed with a sense of your wrongs that they will come down to the House and do exactly what you suggest." According to the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead, for whose legal genius in the Scots law I have nothing but respect, I should have committed no-offence whatever against the traditions of the House, or, at any rate, no offence for which the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead would permit me to be punished. To my mind it is absolutely impossible, either on precedent or on principle, to confine the case on unprofessional conduct, which is what we are in substance considering today, to cases in which an actual crime has been committed, or in cases in which a clear and acknowledged breach of Privilege or contempt has been committed.
Would not the extremely interesting and lucid case which the hon. Member has just made be more easily covered by paragraph 21 of the Committee's Report than by this Motion? It would be a clear case of the hon. Member allowing his conduct as a Member to-be determined by a reward offered.
As I said at the beginning, I have always taken that view myself, but I realise that the House is deeply divided about that very point, and in order to avoid the House deciding upon some technical or narrow issue of precedent, I think it is wiser—and the Government have been wiser, if I may say so— to put down a Motion in this general form which enables us to deal with it on the broad merits of the case. Therefore. I hope this Motion will be passed.I was saying that I thought it was impossible so to crab and confine the type of conduct which we could deal with in a disciplinary fashion, and I am sure that is right both in principle and according to precedent. In principle, for the reasons I have given, but according to precedent also because it so happens that the House has always refused to be so crabbed and confined. There is a long series of cases in which Members of the House have usually been expelled—I am not sure that has been the only penalty imposed—for conduct which comes under this definition The commonest' case, of course, is when a man is convicted in the criminal courts of a misdemeanour. The last case of that was Mr. Bottomley, who was expelled by Resolution of this House, not because he had committed a breach of Privilege or contempt, but because he had committed a civil offence, namely, the offence of obtaining money or valuable securities by false pretences. The fact that the principle upon which the House acts is the wider one appears clearly from the language used in that connection by Erskine May. Dealing with the penalty of expulsion he said:
When one comes to examine the actual cases, one finds that there are quite a number in which not even a crime at law was committed. One was the case cited by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the case of Walsh. I happened to light upon the same instance, and it is a particularly good one because the judges had decided that, on the facts of that case, no crime had in fact been committed; all the man was guilty of was a gross breach of trust without any relation to his action as a Member of Parliament. I cannot understand why the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead should laugh at this precedent as a very old one. It was not very old. It was in the year 1812, which is a respectably recent date, and it was in the Speakership of that great Speaker, Mr. Speaker Abbott. I took the trouble to look up the journals of the House of 5th March, 1812, when that expulsion took place, and the terms of the Resolution which was passed after exhaustive debate makes it clear beyond question that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite mistaken in thinking that the commission of a crime was in fact the essential ingredient of this expulsion; the contrary is the case. It is recited that Mr. Walsh had been convicted at the Old Bailey and then the Resolution reads as follows:"The purpose of expulsion is not so much disciplinary as remedial, not so much to punish Members as to rid the House of persons who are unfit for membership."
It is perfectly plain upon that precedent that the commission of a crime was not the essential ingredient in the decision of the House to expel him from membership. I need cite only one other case, the case of Colonel Crawford, who had committed no offence in law but was found guilty of conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman. The conduct, I think, would admittedly be considered unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman, because what he had done was to sell the demobilisation papers of his troops which, in the palmy days of the 18th century, had not been compassed by the strong arm of the law, and the House, quite rightly in my opinion, decided that, notwithstanding that the lawyers had not yet invented terms to make an offence of that, he was not fit to be a Member of this House. I do not think any useful purpose would be served by my prolonging my arguments. I have submitted to the House what I think is a general case for passing this Motion. It would be the greatest pity if it were argued out of any determination to do so, by arguments which seem to me at any rate, with all respect to my right hon. and learned Friend, to be of a pedantic or legalistic character. This is fundamentally a question for Members of the House of Commons acting as the disciplinary committee of our profession, and in my judgement, at any rate, it would be a disaster for the prestige of the House of Commons if this Motion were not passed. I cannot conceive how we could decently continue to carry on our business if we did not know from one moment to the next whether a man might not corruptly sell that which we had imparted in confidence, whether between members of the same party or, indeed, in certain circumstances which I do not seek more precisely to define, between Members of opposite parties. A certain measure of professional conduct and good faith is necessary between us. In one age the danger to Parliamentary honesty was the danger that the King might come up the Floor of this House and sit in Mr. Speaker's Chair, or that he might prosecute us and lock us up in the Tower. In another age it might easily be that a man might buy our votes and render us corrupt by bribing us to go into one Lobby or another. But those ages are long past and they are not real dangers. The real dangers in this age lie in the corrupt use of the party system, and if we fail to recognise that fact and fail to impose adequate sanctions upon it, the time will yet come when wicked men will be found ingenious enough to take advantage of loopholes in the law created by lawyers who are afraid to proceed with courage in the changing circumstances of the time.Having been tried…for felony and convicted thereof, and having received a free pardon by reason of his offence not amounting to felony in the opinion of the judges, but gross fraud and notorious breach of trust having been proved against him on the said trial, he is unworthy and unfit to continue a Member of this House."
On a point of Order. I am very concerned about this because I feel that the discussion on this Motion will prejudice the discussion on the next Motion. It seems to me that the best way to conduct it would have been to bring the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden) in to make a statement, and then discuss the two Motions together. It looks very strange to me.
These are separate reports of the Committee of Privileges. The case of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden) is quite separate and I cannot take them together.
As a Member of the Committee of Privileges which considered this case, and as one of those who signed the majority report, I wish briefly to make a few comments. The Committee of Privileges decided most emphatically that the giving away of secret information as to what took place at a party meeting was not a breach of Privilege, but they decided that if the information related to matters which were before Parliament, or were about to come before Parliament, and if the information was corruptly given, it was a breach of Privilege. The Government do not wish to accept that finding, and they have brought in an alternative Motion, which practically endorses what the Committee of Privileges decided, except that the Motion of the Government does not decide that there was a breach of Privilege.Now the House can punish, even though an hon. Member is not convicted of contempt, not convicted of a breach of Privilege, and not convicted of a crime. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) quoted some instances. The matter is fully dealt with in May, on page 104, the Ashburnham case of 1667, and the Hungerford case of 1695. Members were punished, or expelled or suspended, for matters of which they were not convicted as a crime, or breach of Privilege, or contempt of the House. In that respect, the Motion of the Government is, in my opinion, quite in order, and I disagree with the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid), who seems to suggest that the Government Motion is not in order because it does not assert that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) was guilty of a contempt, or breach of Privilege, or convicted of a crime. I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Oxford that this Motion is dealing with the matter in a non-legalistic fashion. At the same time, it is dealing with it without contravening the law of Privilege or custom of this House. As a matter of fact, I do not quite see that it makes much difference whether the House accept the decision of the Committee of Privileges, or this decision put forward by the Government. They come to much the same thing", except that the Government shies from declaring that the action of the hon. Member for Gravesend was a breach of Privilege in giving away certain confidential information given at a party meeting. I do not see much difference between the two, but I would come down on the side of the hon. Member for Oxford in saying that the House has a perfect right by custom, by tradition, and by past decisions, to deal with the matter in the way it is dealt with in the Government Motion. I wish to point out to hon. Members, and I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) to some extent, that if this Motion is rejected, in my humble opinion, the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden) gets off scot-free. If this Motion is passed, it is practically endorsing the decision against the hon. Member for Doncaster—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—I am sorry if I am out of Order. I do not wish to say any more, except that it does not matter very much whether the decision of the Committee of Privileges is accepted, or the decision of the Government Motion, and, in view of what the hon. Member for Oxford has said, I am prepared to support the Motion.
I hope the House will accept the argument proffered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hill-head (Mr. J. S. C. Reid). I do not presume to go again through the steps of that argument, which I thought he presented convincingly, but there are one or two things which I think might usefully be said, mainly in answer to some of the comments made upon it.The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) begged us not to approach this in the legalistic manner which he attributed to the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead. I never know quite what legalistic means as distinct from legal. I thought the hon. Member for Oxford was pretty legalistic. The whole basis of his argument was on the assumption of what he desired us to accept, that we are a profession. After all, there are a great many things that distinguish us as a profession, if we are a profession, from the professions he adduced in example. For them there are all sorts of qualificatory steps but there is not the only one existing in our case, election by the public. There the disciplinary committee is controlled almost always by Statute and, I think, subject to correction, always by the possibility of appeal. But here we are acting in an uncontrolled manner and, therefore, we should be the more careful. I agree with the hon. Member on one point, that the danger now to Parliamentary effectiveness and respectability is the excessive use of majorities or the improper use of majorities. Precisely for that reason I ask hon. Members not to be overimpressed by the precedents adduced from the 17th and 18th centuries. I will tell them why. I have not the advantage that Ministers have of being in several places at once, with the aid of expert advisers and so on, and I was not able to do very much of what is called research into this question. The nearest case I could find I thought, to provide a precedent for us today was Asgill's case and there the matter complained of was that he had written very dully—but I do not think that was made the gravamen of the charge—also disrespectfully about the Trinity, and for that he was expelled. The assumption was, of course, that one could not carry on Parliamentary Proceedings unless all Members, of Parliament all agreed upon the fundamental things and that therefore if one found a man not agreeing upon a fundamental thing like the Doctrine of the Trinity the House were entitled to expel him. Now we have got far away from the notion of a House all agreed on all fundamental things. Now, the whole notion of the House is that anybody, with any opinions, if he can get 51 per cent. of an electorate to vote for him, anyone with any original opinions, whether he believes in reason or detests reason, believes in God or detests God, believes in England or wishes to see England destroyed, provided he can get a majority in a constituency, he may come here. Therefore, I think there is a swing of principle that makes the precedents, already dubious, the more dubious. I do not pretend to have been through all of them, but most of them, and I think all, can be shown to be dubious. I think of most of them it is true that the person proceeded against has been already, if not found guilty in the technical legal sense, at any rate, practically speaking, found guilty by something like a tribunal of something really intolerable. I think that is true in the military case which the hon. Member for Oxford mentioned; it is new to me, but I would make a considerable bet that on that occasion if there were not a court-martial there had been some sort of Horse Guards inquiry. But here we are judge, jury, prosecutor, and everything, and that makes a considerable difference. It is not of much use for us to argue at length on the mere matter of precedents. We know, and do not at all complain, that the Lord President himself has not read the precedents but he has had them produced, which is right and proper. We cannot argue the precedents as if we were the House of Lords sitting in a judicial capacity, with lawyers going on as long as they like, and with lots of clerks with arms full of books. I believe I have said enough to persuade the House that it ought not and cannot use the precedents much to extend the powers of Privilege. I think the principle is the more important thing, rather than precedents in this case; and the main thing here is the possible expulsion of a man not for breach of Privilege, nor contempt; and here the whole point is that we are talking not about that part of the conduct, of that Privilege nature, but about something else. The whole principle was, as the hon. Member for Oxford said—which rather blasted his argument—not so much disciplinary but remedial, as it would affect the composition of the House, not to punish the other chap but to enable the House to get on, as it could not with him. That sort of use of the power has gone on more in overseas legislatures than here. It has been much commoner in the legislatures of America than in this country. I ask the House to agree with me that that is an extraordinarily dangerous kind of use of the power, once we start using the power to rule a man out because we do not think his conduct gentlemanly or because we do not approve of his fundamental principles. Those are things which could be done in the 18th century when it was assumed that we were all gentlemen in that sense and that we all had the same fundamental assumption in that sense. Those are assumptions which we no longer make nor do I think it right we should try to make those assumptions. I ask the House to believe that is the principle which we ought here to take into account.
Is it the suggestion of the hon. Member that we today make no fundamental assumption that Members do not take bribes for disclosing confidential information given to them in the course of their Parliamentary duties. Is he suggesting that it is not the general assumption made in this House today?
With respect, the hon. Member is begging the question. When I say "fundamental assumptions "I mean really fundamental ones, whether one does or does not believe, for instance, that there is such a thing as morality. I am talking about that degree of fundamental-ness. Those were things which it was assumed everybody agreed upon, which we now assume no one need agree upon, upon which we now assume there is no absolute. That is what I mean—all those fundamental notions of behaviour and the causes and reasons of behaviour.I ask the House to believe that the precedents really do not make it necessary—I believe they do not even make it proper, for the House to adopt this Motion. I ask the House to believe that upon the general principle put up by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), majorities should not be used and that we should most carefully guard against any risk of majorities being used, in order to affect the composition of the House. I ask the House to agree that that is the right principle for us to act upon here.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that we are here to create a precedent. Privilege is part of the common law of England, and the common law of England grows out of precedents, one after another. The main thing is that we should not make a wrong precedent, that we should not prevent our body, the Parliament of this country, from being able to deal with and expel corrupt people from within its membership, because any professional or legislative body, any body of men which has to carry responsibilities, loses its authority if it cannot cast out the corrupt from within its membership. I wish to refer to one definition of Privilege, that in Dicey's "Law of the Constitution." I apologise for using a legal quotation, but I think it puts the matter clearly. It is:
That is precisely what Privilege is. It is the discretionary authority, raised by custom, of this House of Parliament. That discretionary authority has been exercised in three directions. We have controlled the proceedings of our meetings, we have dealt with people who have interfered with the conduct of our business, and thirdly—and perhaps most important of all—we have exercised disciplinary authority over our Members, not merely because they have committed criminal offences, but because they have done things which made them unfit to be Members of Parliament. The Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said that in each case there had been some legal conviction."Between Prerogative and Privilege there exists a close analogy. The one is the historical name of the discretionary authority of the Crown, the other is the historical name of the discretionary authority of each House of Parliament."
That, on the precedents, is completely incorrect.
That is not what I said. I said that so far as I could trace the cases, there had been in each, not in the legal sense, a conviction, but some sort of conviction by some sort of outside tribunal. I can think of one exception, but for other reasons I should rule that out.
May I instance perhaps the most famous of all the cases, the case of a Speaker of this House? In the case of Sir John Trevor there had been no investigation of any sort outside this House, and this House resolved,
The attitude which this House took upon that investigation, was that a Member had received a gratuity and that this made him unfit to be the Speaker of this House and unfit to be a Member. I do not intend to go into the details of all the various precedents, but right through history this House has, in the words of Erskine May, which were quoted by the hon. Member for Oxford, considered the conduct of Members for a purpose not so much disciplinary as remedial, not so much to punish as to rid the House of people who have been unfit for membership. Unless we do that, we cannot maintain the reputation of this House. It is said that there is a danger in this because we can go on to the further step, and not merely send people away because their conduct is disgraceful but because we happen to disagree with their opinions. Let us be quite clear. We here are only a court of first instance. All we can do is to send the hon. Member back to his constituency, and if they disagree with us they can send him back here, and we must accept him."That Sir John Trevor, late Speaker of this House, being guilty of the high crime and misdemeanour of receiving a gratuity of 1,000 guineas from the City of London, be expelled from this House."
That is not all that we can do. We might also suspend him or, to take some of the old precedents, send him to prison and keep him there.
I am dealing with the principle, and with the obvious and proper remedy in a case of this sort of conduct which we say makes a man unfit to be a Member of this body. There is the check in my submission. It is utterly wrong for us to allow the expenditure of public money and the effective disfranchisement of a constituency to continue, when we have found that person unfit to perform the onerous and honourable duties of a Member of Parliament. Our duty in those circumstances is to say that he is unfit to be a Member of this Parliament. If a constituency disagrees, we must accept the verdict of the constituency.
Why does the hon. and learned Member say that, if he has read and knows the precedents? However many times the constituency sent him back, it would still be competent for us to expel him again.
No, I would not accept that. There is a single precedent for that, the case of Wilkes. In that case the House reconsidered the matter and said it was wrong. I know of no other precedent. Then it is for the constituency to say whether they think that that corrupt Member is a proper person to represent them. I believe that an appalling precedent would be created if the legalistic argument were accepted. I think that this House owes it to itself to pass the Motion now before us.
I am in the very interesting position, which I have frequently been in before but perhaps never more so than tonight, of trying to convince a House which obviously does not agree with the point of view I am about to put. I do so with the greatest sincerity and with the greatest vehemence, and I hope, without offending anybody's feelings, because I feel that we are tonight really in something approaching a crisis. I heard some strange arguments propounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) amid loud cheers from hon. Members opposite. I am not making a party point. They are perfectly entitled to cheer. I heard, as I think, an even more dangerous argument put by an hon. Gentleman opposite. May I say that, naturally, I seldom agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but I thought—and I am sure he will not think it unduly effusive—that he made a very carefully balanced speech. I did not agree with his conclusions, but he propounded certain questions which have never been answered either by the Government or by the supporters of the Motion.I am afraid I shall have to trouble the House for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes in order to put my point. I ask for the indulgence of the House in putting what appears to be a minority point of view. The first point I want to put is the one that was put by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. What- ever the Leader of the House may have said—and I am sure he said it in all good faith—this Motion, in effect, not only supports the Motion of the majority of the Committee, but goes very much further. There is no question about it, and I shall prove why that is so. The words are used:
That is clearly a reference to the subject matter which the Committee had to discuss, namely, the proceedings in a Committee Room upstairs. Therefore, quite plainly, while the right hon. Gentleman may say that he and the Government take the view we took and not the view of the majority, in fact, as the Motion is framed, it might, and should, be taken on any interpretation of language as supporting the views of the majority. Before I deal with that, I want to say a word about the speech made by the hon. Member for Oxford. My hon. Friend said we were creating a precedent this afternoon. As I understood his extremely well-reasoned speech, which obviously had the assent of the great majority of the House then present, he thought that we should, for the first time in our history, lay down a code of honour similar to that laid down by the Bar, and, I think he said, by solicitors. He might have added auctioneers, or anyone else. In other words, according to him, we were carrying out an historic duty, which the House ought to have performed years ago, of laying down a professional code."…for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy …"
I said that what we were being asked to do this afternoon was to make a judgment upon a particular set of facts in the course of the duty we have always had of exercising control over our Members.
I am sorry, but my hon. Friend really did go further than that. He used this analogy. He said that in the case of the Bar and solicitors there was a code of honour. My hon. Friend said, as I understood him, that we ought to declare in this House what was or was not dishonourable conduct.
I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he is really misrepresenting what I said. My whole point was that we should not try to lay down vast general propositions but that we should create an individual precedent by forming a judgment on particular facts and not going into the wide and lengthy general argument which I criticised some other people for entering into.
My hon. Friend said that it was necessary for us to have a code of honour for this House. I must ask this question of him and of all who support him. If we are to have this code of honour for this House, and if it is to be described as dishonourable conduct corruptly to accept payment, what is going to happen? Nobody has yet explained what "corruptly accepting payment" in this connection means. I put this directly to the Government. What is going to happen in the case of other offences? It happened constantly in the past when I first came to the House that Irish Members were imprisoned, and the House never passed a Resolution saying that their conduct was dishonourable. The Leader of the House smiles, but there is a serious side to this.
I was only thinking that they, of course, were what are known as political prisoners. In their own eyes, and I am afraid in the eyes of their fellow countrymen of that time—the overwhelming majority of Irishmen—they regarded the imprisonment as a very honourable thing.
I do not want to get into an argument on that. I am rather sorry that a former Home Secretary should have described hitting a policeman over the head with a baton as a political offence. I remember one hon. Member in particular, who happened to be a personal friend of mine, who got six weeks in prison for assaulting the police, and certainly nobody in the House at the time, except his colleagues, regarded it as a political offence. That is as may be. It is rather dangerous to say that imprisonment by the law is a political matter. That can be carried very far indeed. I do not want to pursue the matter farther, but I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford that it is dangerous to say, as he did, that we are creating a precedent this afternoon.May I put an argument to him which may be more palatable to him than to some hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite? Is my hon. Friend quite sure that in sup- porting what he himself admits is a precedent of designating certain conduct—it does not matter what conduct—as dishonourable, he is not affording a very easy way for any subsequent Government of any complexion—of the extreme Right or Left—to designate the conduct of a Member in another capacity as being dishonourable? I say to this House, in particular, that to invoke precedents of 200 years ago, as my hon. Friend did, and as the Leader of the House did to some extent, and to say that the House has always had this power to condemn dishonourable conduct, is a very dangerous thing to do in the present state of affairs. It is extremely dangerous. In reply to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), I would say that he, although quite in Order, came perilously near to deciding what is going to be the next issue. Of course, we cannot get on to that matter now, but in view of what he said, and in view of what the hon. Member for Oxford said, it would seem to me that the only logical conclusion of their remarks would be that they would have to vote for the expulsion of the hon. Member from this House.
I am glad to have that assurance. My submission to the House is that, whether hon. Members like it or not, this Motion does, in fact, include in its terms, and does enshrine, the principle of which the majority of the Committee were in favour and to which my hon. Friend behind me and myself showed strong opposition. [Interruption.] I am very glad to have the assent of one of my colleagues on the Committee. That being so, I am entitled to explain why my hon. Friend and I are opposed to that principle. We put down an Amendment to the Motion, but it has not been called. The House has not been asked to accept or reject the Report, which has never been before the House, and, therefore, it is legitimate for me, believing that that principle is enshrined in this Motion, to say a word or two about it. What the majority of the Committee seek to do is to apply the law of what is conveniently termed the privilege of free speech to a private meeting of Members of Parliament upstairs. That is what the Committee seeks to do, and what is enshrined in this Motion—
I could not find that in the Committee's recommendations or in its Report. I thought that what the Committee found was that somebody had corruptly allowed his judgment as a Member of Parliament to be influenced by a bribe, and nothing more than that.
It is not so really, but I should be detaining the House for a wholly intolerable time if I were to quote the relevant passages. However, it was a friendly interruption, and may I refer the hon. Gentleman to paragraphs 17, 19 and 21? I submit that the only meaning to be placed on the language in those paragraphs is that, for the first time—and this is a most important point—the majority of the Committee said they were attaching to meetings upstairs a privilege which, in the opinion of most of us, never hitherto existed. If I am right, the situation could hardly be more serious, because, after all, what is Parliamentary freedom of speech? It was, historically, the successful establishment by this House of the right of free speech claimed by the House against attacks by the Crown.To come to the modern practice, what is the present-day result of this right of free speech and the Privilege of Parliament attaching to meetings of this House and to meetings upstairs? In the first place, it enables all of us to have complete freedom of speech. If the law of libel applied to this House, I do not know how many times I should have been in the courts as a defendant, and equally, since I was responsible for bringing 200,000 Jews out of Germany, I think I could claim £10,000 damages for libel from the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) for describing me as an anti-Semite the other day. Those are two examples, but the point we are considering is how that freedom is conditioned. It is conditioned, first, by the laws of procedure, by Standing Orders, and, second, and most important, by the wisdom and authority of Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, and the Deputy-Chairman. Those are the two safeguards which the public have. But there is another thing. If anybody, in the exercise of what he believes to be his undoubted Parliamentary rights, gets up in this House and makes an attack which would be libellous, and might even be a criminal libel, on a person outside the House, by long practice in the House, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman deprecates such conduct, and the House as a whole, whatever its political complexion, shows by its attitude that no such attack should take place. None of these safeguards apply upstairs. There are no Standing Orders and no Rules of Procedure. I would like to quote what was said by the learned Clerk on the subject, and, no doubt, what he said was what chiefly influenced the Government in refraining from putting down a Motion to accept the Report and, therefore, give us an opportunity of having the matter voted upon, which I think is the best possible procedure. I am quoting from page 2, at the bottom of the first paragraph, the question by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Neil Maclean):
I ask the House to pay particular attention to the answer of the learned Clerk:"15. But the breach of Privilege is where a meeting is held behind closed doors and the Members are considered to be entering there and hearing what is being said or discussed in confidence."
Then follows a question which I put myself:I do not think a private meeting of Members, even though it is held in the House, would necessarily be protected by Privilege."
Then there is this sentence:17. With Mr. Maclean's permission, may I interpose a remark? Does it not go much' further than that? Has there been any case where the disclosure, however dishonourable it may be or however much a breach of confidence of what took place at a private meeting, has been held to be a breach of Privilege? Because there have been dozens of such disclosures. No one has ever raised it as a breach of Privilege. It is news to me that it might possibly be. There has never, I suggest, been a case on the subject.—I do not remember any such case."
The learned Clerk answered: "No.""18. There is no connection between a breach of confidence and a breach of Privilege. A breach of Privilege is a concrete thing. A breach of confidence may constantly be committed without it being a breach of Privilege? "
It is a leading question.
The hon. Gentleman frequently astonishes me, but I am bound to confess that he has astonished me more this afternoon than at any other time, because I have never heard a more inept remark. What on earth is the duty of a Member of the Committee but to put leading questions?
I think that, in the slight confusion that occurred, the noble Lord misread the answer of the learned Clerk. He said that the learned Clerk said "No," but, in my copy, it is "Yes."
I am sorry. It was due to the intervention of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who was so pained in his heart that anyone, especially a Tory, should dare to ask a leading question at a court of inquiry. The answer, of course, was "Yes." "After that frivolous diversion, I submit that, relying, as I hope I have always done, upon the judgment of this House and with confidence in its common sense, there could be no more clear answer made by a distinguished Officer of the House than was given on that occasion that what is being dealt with in this Motion is not a breach of Privilege. If it is not a breach of Privilege, and is merely a breach of confidence, what on earth has it got to do with the proceedings of the Committee of Privilege? If we are to deal with every case of dishonourable conduct, we shall spend our whole time on it. If a man gets up on a platform, can we be sure that, subsequently, someone will not bring forward a resolution condemning him because he has done something which in the opinion of the Government is regarded as dishonourable conduct?
Does the noble Lord seriously anticipate that happening? Does not he realise that we shall then have a Government which will introduce the necessary laws anyway?
That is a perfectly fair interruption. I know that the hon. Gentleman, like myself, cares for this House, and because he does, I am going to appeal to his nature in that regard. Because that may be so, it is no reason why this afternoon—and with alacrity and enjoyment, judging by the cheers accorded to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford—we should introduce an innovation which may be used by subsequent Governments as an instrument of oppression. I think I have given an answer to the hon. Member for Ipswich in that regard.I do not want to quote the further things which the learned Clerk said, but I want, in conclusion, to ask the House to divide against the Motion, and to support my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid), who made, if I may say so, an admirable speech, and one which commanded the admiration of the House. In support of this, I would ask the House to have regard to this one point which is, I think, as important as any I have ventured, however inadequately, to put to it. For the benefit of hon. Members who may not have been present at the beginning of this Debate, I would like to say that neither my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford nor myself deny, for one moment, that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) was guilty of a grave breach of Privilege. That is why we supported the first two Motions. We are asking the House to say that, even though the hon. Member in question was guilty of a breach of Privilege, we should not be asked to extend Parliamentary Privilege in the way we are being asked to do by this Motion. I say that Parliamentary Privilege of free speech, untrammelled by the law of libel, is a perfect co-mingling of inconsistency with common sense, which is so typical of British character in general. Speaking generally, that is true of the law of Privilege, as expounded by the Committee over many years, and as dealt with by this House. But, if that inconsistency is pressed too far, it becomes too dangerous, and an instrument of public oppression. To lay down, as this Motion, in effect, does, that it is a breach of Privilege—because, otherwise, it is meaningless—to comment upon what is said at an unofficial meeting of Members—at which there were present, not merely Members of the Labour Party, but representatives of at least one newspaper—means that, if the House passes this Motion, and a meeting is subsequently held by some extreme Member of the House, some future Fascist or Communist Member, who brings in a speaker from outside who makes a speech of the greatest violence, which would be the subject of seditious libel outside—it might be a violently anti-Semitic or anti-British speech—if a Member got up at that meeting and said, "I am going away from this meeting to tell this to the Press," he would be guilty, under this Motion, of a breach of Privilege. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Most distinctly so: otherwise there is no meaning in this Motion. We all know what the words of the Motion mean, but what I would like to ask is, what would be the difference between the case of the hon. Member in question and an hon. Member who got up at such a meeting and said, "I am going to give this information to the Press? "Of course, there could be no difference. He would be there as a journalist. If he said," This is a disgraceful speech and the person responsible ought to be prosecuted for criminal libel," and if he reported it to his paper, he would, according to this Motion, be betraying a secret. I say that to lay down in this Motion that it is a breach of Privilege to comment upon what is said at an unofficial meeting is a rod with which to beat the back of Parliament in future. I strongly object to the idea that hole-and-corner meetings upstairs—for that is what they are, whichever party holds them—should be treated on the same basis as the proceedings of Parliament. There will be many people outside this House, even though this Motion may be carried against us, who will say that this is one more example of the way in which Parliament brings itself into great discredit.
I am bound to say that the latter stages of this Debate have made me feel rather more comfortable than the early stages. I was afraid, at one time, that this might develop into too legalistic an argument for a layman to be able adequately to reply to it. I was much relieved by the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), a speech which, if I may venture to say so, will, I think, be examined in future by students of our Parliamentary practice and procedure, who, I believe, will find in it many valuable statements with regard to the subject actually before us today. It must, in fact, have been a novel experience to the hon. Member for Oxford to be urged by my hon. Friends to go on when he expressed his intention of sitting down. He began by saying that he was not going to speak like a lawyer, but I thought once that he was going to call us "Members of the Jury."This House is a living institution. In the Debate on the Reform Bill, the Member for Aldeburgh said that he ought to remain the Member for Aldeburgh, and that Aldeburgh ought to remain a borough because its boundaries were the same in 1831 as they were in the 13th century when a Member was first summoned for the borough. In replying to that point, Macaulay said:
"We are legislators and not antiquaries."
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that, in this matter, we are legislators?
No, I am suggesting that we are something more than antiquaries. We are dealing with a living institution, the pride of which is that, without having too formalised rules, it has managed to adapt itself to the changing needs of seven centuries. The people whom Simon de Montfort first summoned here would have great difficulty in recognising hon. Members, on either side of the House, as their successors. But yet, in unbroken descent, we have come from them, and the customs that we observe have been steadily built up. From time to time, we have had to deal, as a House, with the way in which we can make our practice conform to the needs of our modern times. It is something more than courtesy which compels us to call one another "honourable Members." That is the whole basis on which we conduct our business. In the clash of opinion, very often heated, severe, protracted, we proceed on the basis that what the other man is saying, no matter how repugnant it may be to our own feelings and views, is based on his honourable and sincere advocacy of a cause in which he believes. To convict a man of dishonourable conduct—and there is no dispute, I think, in any part of the House that the conduct which we are examining under this Motion was dishonourable—is to say that that man has forfeited the whole basis on which we meet together.
Again, I do not desire to do anything but help the discussion of this topic, but the right hon. Gentleman is probably aware that the argument which he is unfolding leads only to one conclusion, namely, the expulsion of Members who are convicted by the House of dishonourable conduct.
We are not at the moment discussing penalties. We are, as it were, as the hon. Member for Oxford almost called us, the jury who are deliberating on the verdict on the third count, having already found the accused guilty on the first two counts. Expulsion is, in my view, the extreme penalty. There are other penalties that it is open to the House to impose.
But they are not covered by the argument which the right hon. Gentleman is unfolding. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the habit of addressing Members invariably as "the hon. Member for this" and "the hon. Member for that," but if the House decides that "dishonourable" is the word to be applied, it seems to me to be fatal to the Member concerned. I only want to show the right hon. Gentleman the path along which he is advancing, in case he should go further than he intends.
I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, who has been very kind to me in the past, and to whom I acknowledge my great indebtedness in many matters, for his further consideration for my safe conduct. But I still uphold—and I do not want to get drawn on to the question of Privilege—that it is still possible for a person who has been found guilty to believe that he is not beyond redemption—that he may, in theological terms, have fallen from grace and yet there may be some saving power available for him. I suggest that what I was saying is the reason why the Government prefer this Motion on the question of honour and dishonour rather than on the question of Privilege. Even if we asserted Privilege and tried to carry it to the logical conclusion to which the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) tried to carry it after telling us that the whole thing was illogical; let us suppose that in a meeting upstairs of Members of this House—not a Committee of the House, but a party meeting—it was felt that in the course of the discussion one Member had slandered another, and he was taken to court. The court might then have to decide whether that was a privileged occasion or not.
I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman appears to have misunderstood what I said. My case was much more serious, and was one which I should have thought would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I said that under the novel suggestion of the majority of the Committee of Privileges, which I maintain is enshrined in this Motion, it would be possible for a person outside to be taken to a meeting upstairs, as happened in the case of the meeting in question, and there make a highly seditious speech which, if uttered outside, would cause him to be prosecuted for criminal libel or seditious libel, and yet for it to be held that it was covered by Privilege and that no one could comment on it.
That is why we have not asked the House to deal with this matter on the issue of Privilege.
My right hon. Friend has not met my case.
I have not come to my hon. Friend's point yet.
My right hon. Friend is dealing with the question of Privilege, as though anybody has claimed that the Privilege arose out of the meeting upstairs. As I understand it, that was not claimed. What is claimed is that Privilege arises from a Member, as a Member, allowing his conduct to be influenced by a bribe. The meeting upstairs is totally irrelevent to that question.
No, I venture to say that it is not. The whole of the very difficult question on the score of Privilege arises on whether, in that capacity, a man is acting as a Member or not. I suggest that by the Government not putting down the Motion in the form which the carrying out of the recommendation of the Committee would have involved, we have avoided raising that issue and have brought it into the realm of what the hon. Member for Oxford called the code of honour of the profession. The codes of honour of professions are not as a rule enshrined in definite articles, resolutions and laws. Each case is considered by the professional body on its merits, having regard to the claims of the profession and the needs of the times. It is held that this conduct or that conduct is professional or unprofessional, in the circumstances of each particular case.All that the Government ask the House to do in this case is to say that in the circumstances of this case, this conduct is dishonourable. The House is asked to read the Motion as a whole—not to make five or six different Motions out of it, by picking three or four words and analysing them, and then going on to analyse the next three or tour words, but to read the Motion as a whole and to say that the circumstances of this case are such that the hon. Member, in the words of the Motion:
I suggest that if we take that Motion as a whole, it prescribes a standard of general conduct for Members to which each particular case could in the future be quite clearly related, and that it still would have to be established in each case that the conduct was dishonourable and tended to the destruction of that mutual confidence on which alone an Assembly of this kind can continue to exist and perform its useful functions."…in corruptly accepting payment for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy, is guilty of dishonourable conduct which deserves to be severely punished as tending to destroy mutual confidence among Members …"
If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, is it not a fact that at the meeting concerning which the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) gave away certain confidences, there were present other persons who were not Members of Parliament; and, if so, what action would the right hon. Gentleman propose taking against them had they acted in a similar fashion?
Of course, if the question is put to me personally, What would I do?—I would see that their invitations to come were withdrawn from them. One can quite easily deal with the person.
May I be allowed to answer one question at a time? The group of Members themselves can deal with an outside person. I believe myself—if the House wants to get the question completely answered—that the "Daily Herald" has suffered from having somebody there at the meetings who is under the seal of confidence, while other papers had access to people who disregarded the seal of confidence.
This is a very important point, and we must bear it all in mind. Apparently, at these meetings there was a person present who was not a Member of Parliament at all—the editor of the official paper of the party opposite. Is that not so?
That has nothing to do with this.
The right hon. Gentleman says it has nothing to do with this. Let us know what the facts are. If that were so, how can it be argued that this journalist and editor, being present, had not a great advantage which he could use in conducting the whole policy of his newspaper and that he was getting, by the full assent of the Government party, the facilities which other papers were trying to pick up through this course and through that? I think it is most important to know what is the position of a journalist who is invited by the convenors of a party meeting to be present on occasions of this kind. That is what the right hon. Gentleman does not like.
I think that that is a particularly ungenerous remark for the right hon. Gentleman to make. I have not given any indication that I do not like the things that have been said. I have endeavoured to answer courteously every interruption that has been put to me. My own view with regard to that point is that that person is not a Member of the House. We are dealing with the position of a Member of the House. If any body of Members asks a person to meet them on any occasion—not meeting as a Committee of the House or as the House itself—and asks a person to come to speak with them to advise them—and I have no doubt that hon. Members on all sides of the House on occasion ask for experts on certain subjects that are to be discussed to come to meet them—and puts that person under the seal of secrecy with regard to what he hears at that meeting, and if he breaks the seal of secrecy, it is up to them to deal with that particular individual.
That is not the issue at all.
It is all very well for the noble Lord to say that is not the issue before us—
This is a most important point. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The person of whom he is speaking is not there under a pledge of secrecy.
How does the noble Lord know?
I know through the evidence that came before the Committee. In fact, he is entitled to put in his Press what occurred at the meeting.
I ask the House to be very careful not to allow this red herring to be drawn across the very clear trail that we are pursuing. No matter how often the man attends, no matter what pledge he is placed under or is not placed under, the remedy against him lies with the people who admit him or allow him to continue to be present. If he does anything that they do not like he has no right to come to this House and say that something he did there has brought him into disfavour. This House does not know him at all in the matter. All that we have to decide is whether the hon. Member for Gravesend was guilty of something on this occasion, which, in the view of the House, destroys that mutual confidence which we ought to feel in one another.I go further than that. Parliamentary institutions throughout the world are very much upon trial. In some countries they have fallen into complete disfavour because of the low standards of conduct set and accepted by their members themselves. There are from time to time in this country ill-informed people who make similar suggestions with regard to us. I believe that conduct such as that with which we are dealing tonight by a Member is exceptional. The mere fact that it is exceptional does not absolve that person from blame. It does, however, behove us, who are the custodians of 700 years of honourable tradition, steadily developing, to see that we hand on to our successors the tradition at least upheld in this particular. I apologise to the House for the length of time I have spoken, but I do hope that shortly now we may be able to proceed to a decision on this Motion.
rose in his place and claimed to move. " That the Question be now put," but MR. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
I hope not to detain the House very long, and I should like to say at once that I am grateful to the Government for the obvious care with which they have given us their opinion, and put the matter before us as they see it. I want to explain to those Members of the House who have not made up their minds, why some of us who agree with a great deal of what has been said by Ministers and others still are not happy about accepting this Motion. I should like to pay my tribute, as many others have, to the brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). It was extremely persuasive, and it almost carried me away. I had to think hard to keep clear on certain principles which I think we ought to have in view. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in his speech said something with which I have a great deal of sympathy. He is not happy about this Motion and wishes it were something else. If he is right on that, I think the right thing to do is not to accept this Motion and to have something better in its place.It is important in this matter not to have any confusion about the matters on which we are all agreed, and, secondly, on what is the nature of the rather fine point upon which we disagree. I think we are all agreed in every section of the House as to the dishonourable conduct of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan). I think there is no question about that at all. I also personally agree that he ought to be punished. But I am bound to say that the one question which has been begged, I think almost throughout, is, by whom ought he to be punished? If we accept this Motion he must be punished by this House, and it is that, which, in my submission, is a very doubtful proposition. I do not think anybody will complain of the care and length of the Home Secretary's speech, because on this particular Motion the Leader of the House had not specifically addressed us. But while I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, I think he omitted one point of which, I think, the House ought to be reminded. There is no point in the law of Privilege—and we are considering the general law of Privilege, using that term to cover the whole field with which we are now dealing—there is nothing in the law of Privilege better established than this, that this House cannot at this stage extend its Privileges. It must be very careful, whatever else it does, not to extend them. That is a very old Resolution of this House itself, and in any authority on Privilege great importance is attached to that fact. Of course, if we did proceed to extend our privileges we should be acting in a grossly unfair way to people outside this House who could be adversely affected thereby.
The hon. and learned Member referred to the question of punishment. I am not saying whether there should or should not be punishment, but if this House does not punish the hon. Member, who can?
I do not want to be diverted on to that at the moment.
What is the answer?
Even if the answer is, "Nobody for certain," that would not affect my argument. I am not questioning that he deserves to be punished in that he has done something morally and clearly dishonourable. I am addressing myself—I hope fairly clearly—to the question whether this House should punish him. The first principle is that we must not extend our privileges. Nevertheless, I agree, both with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford and with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), that when we have a new case before us we may be compelled, to some extent, to lay down a precedent. I do not myself quarrel very much with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton when he says that the great point is to see that it is a good precedent. Now, it will be a good precedent only if it does not extend our privileges. In order to be a good precedent it must be very precise indeed; it must be quite clear what we mean and what we do not mean.I have real sympathy with the Government in the problem that was presented to them by the Report of the Committee of Privileges because there were two divergent points of view, and the Government thought that there was an ingenious way of avoiding deciding between them by, so to speak, by-passing the whole conflict and putting down an agreed Motion. Of course, that can only be done if the agreed Motion—or what they hope to be an agreed Motion—does not, in fact, make any presuppositions about which of the two conflicting views was right. I think the terms of this Motion lack precision and are wrong for two or three reasons. Let me deal for a moment with the first point taken by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. He attached—I thought rightly—some importance to the word "corruptly," and he wondered what was meant by putting in the forefront of the Motion the word "corruptly." What is quite clear is that it did not mean legally corrupt in the sense that the hon. Member had committed any misdemeanour or other crime. If it had meant that he had committed any misdemeanour or crime, or anything of that kind—which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne at one point in his argument supposed—then the words which follow, when we get to—
and so on would be inexcusably weak. I do not think that is the meaning. When we are considering dishonourable conduct it is quite clear that conduct can be extremely dishonourable if it involves a breach of faith, although no money passes at all. If, therefore, the whole basis of complaint is the dishonourable conduct, why this bringing in of the payment?—although I agree it is applicable to this present case"is guilty of dishonourable conduct which deserves to be severely punished…"
The hon. Member asks "Why." Let us just see where this Motion, as it stands, would lead us. The Leader of the House said in his speech,
Division No. 6.]
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Delargy, H. J.|
|Alexander, Rt Hon A V||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Diamond, J.|
|Alpass, J H||Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Dobbie, W|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Dodds, N. N|
|Attewell, H. C||Butler, H. W (Hackney, S.)||Donovan, T|
|Auslin, H Lewis||Byers, Frank||Dumpleton, C W|
|Ayles, W. H||Castle, Mrs B A||Dye, S|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Champion, A. J||Ede, Rt. Hon J C|
|Balfour, A||Chater, D||Edelman, M.|
|Barstow, P G||Chetwynd, G R||Edwards, John (Blackburn)|
|Barton, C||Cluse, W S||Evans, A. (Islington, W.)|
|Benson, G||Cocks, F S.||Evans, John (Ogmore)|
|Berry, H||Coldrick, W||Evans, S N (Wednesbury)|
|Beswick, F.||Colman, Miss G M||Fairhurst, F.|
|Bing, G H C||Comyns, Dr. L||Farthing, W J|
|Binns, J.||Corbet, Mrs F. K. (Camb'well, N W)||Field, Capt W J|
|Blenkinsop, A||Corlett, Dr. J||Fletcher, E. G. M (Islington, i|
|Blyton, W. R||Crawley, A.||Foster, W (Wigan)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr H. W||Davidson, Viscountess||Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D P M|
|Bowles, F G (Nuneaton)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Gates, Maj E. E|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||George, Lady M Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Braddock, Mrs E M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Davies, Haydn (St Pancras. S W)||Gibson, C. W|
quite rightly, that he did not accept any geographical limitation. A meeting of which there may be a corrupt disclosure need not take place within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster at all. Therefore, we could have a case where there may be a party meeting, or a group of Members meeting, in any part of the country, or, indeed, in a private house; and if any Member present who is receiving a payment—which is not corruptly received in the sense of involving a criminal offence, but corrupt in the sense of being a dishonourable receipt of money—reveals what is said at that meeting, then this House could proceed against him under the law of Privilege. Whether that is right or wrong, it really is an extension of Privilege as hitherto laid down by this House. If it is such an extension, then it is contrary to a Resolution of this House, which this House has followed for longer than we can remember.
Many forms of dishonourable conduct could be mentioned. Supposing a Member received a ticket for the Coronation and sold it, that would be a dishonourable act, and a corrupt act. But is it really suggested that that would be so intimately connected with the proceedings of Parliament that this House should proceed to expel him? I beg the House not to think that those of us who are unable to accept this imprecise and loosely drawn Motion differ from the rest on the moral character of the conduct of which the Member in question has been guilty.
The House divided: Ayes. 198; Noes, 101.
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Marquand, H. A.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Mellish, R. J.||Solley, L. J.|
|Grey, C. F.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.||Stamford, W.|
|Gunter, R. J||Monslow, W.||Steele, T.|
|Hale, Leslie||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T||Stokes, R. R|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Morley, R||Swingler, S.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C).||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hannon, Sir P (Moseley)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Hardy, E. A.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, E.)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Harris, H. Wilson||Murray, J. D.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Nally, W.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Haworth, J.||Naylor, T. E.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Herbison, Miss M||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Holman, P.||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Tiffany, S.|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Nutting, Anthony||Timmons, J.|
|House, G.||Oldfield, W. H.||Titterington, M. F.|
|Hubbard, T.||Paget, R. T.||Tolley, L.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Palmer, A. M F.||Walker, G. H.|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Parker, J.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Janner, B.||Pearson, A.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E)|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Peart, T. F.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Kendall, W. D.||Popplewell, E.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Kenyon, C.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Pritt, D. N.||Wilkes, L.|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Pryde, D. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Randall, H. E.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Ranger, J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Lever, N. H.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Levy, B. W.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Williamson, T.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Robens, A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Segal, Dr. S.||Woodburn, A.|
|McAdam, W||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Woods, G. S.|
|McEntee, V La T||Sharp, Granville||Zilliacus, K|
|Mack, J. D.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W||Simmons, C. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mann, Mrs J.||Skinnard, F W.||Mr. Daines and Mr. Kinley.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Bartlett, V.||Hurd, A.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Smith, E. P (Ashford)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Bowen, R.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Snadden, W. M.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Lambert, Hon. G||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Langford-Holt, J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Butcher, H. W||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Challen, C.||Low, A. R. W.||Strauss, H. G (English Universities)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Studholme, H G.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cove, W. G.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Taylor, Vice-Adm E A, (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A F.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Mellor, Sir J||Touche, G. C.|
|Digby, S. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'ster)||Turton, R. H.|
|Donner, P. W.||Moyle, A.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Drewe, C.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Wheatley, Colonel M. J|
|Duthie, W S||Oliver, G. H.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Peake, Rt Hon. O.||Williams, C, (Torquay)|
|Follick, M.||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Proctor, W. T.||Willis, E.|
|Fox, Sir G.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Raid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Wyatt, W.|
|Gage, C.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Ropner, Col. L||Mr. Hopkin Morris and|
|Haughton, S. G.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Mr. Pickthorn.|
That Mr. Allighan, a Member of this House, in corruptly accepting payment for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy, is guilty of dishonourable conduct which deserves to be severely punished as tending to destroy mutual confidence among Members and to lower this House in the estimation of the people."
I beg to move,
The Committee of Privileges made no recommendation as to the penalty they thought would be appropriate in this case, but His Majesty's Government have given the matter very careful consideration and have sought to come to the fairest and most appropriate conclusion that they could, subject to considering the matter as the Debate proceeded. Their recommendation to the House is the Motion I have just moved. In this case, the House has a choice of punishments. One is committal to prison or to the Clock Tower; another is reprimand or admonition; another is suspension; and the fourth is expulsion. We thought that committal would be too extreme, and indeed it has not been used for quite a time. On the other hand, we did think that a reprimand would be inadequate in relation to the gravity—the very great gravity—of the hon. Member's offence. So the issue, if that were the case, boils down to a choice between expulsion and suspension. Let us consider expulsion, first of all. I beg of the House, in considering expulsion, not to think that any argument which has taken place on the last Motion commits the House, logically or necessarily, to go for the step of expulsion. The House has come to certain condemnatory conclusions as to the conduct of the hon. Member, and it is now for the House to try, as fairly and equitably as it can, to arrive at what would be an appropriate punishment in view of the verdict which the House has recorded. The offence of the hon. Member is, I think, exceedingly grave. Not only was it conduct that in itself was dishonourable and unbefitting a Member of Parliament, but there were two other gravities connected with it. One is that suspicion was cast on hundreds of other Members of the House, which is really very wrong, and the other is—and it is a most extraordinary element in the case—that the Member himself wrote an article saying, as the story recorded it, that these things were done, how they were done, and that there were sometimes elements of corruption and of insobriety that were the cause of the trouble. He was accusing unnamed Members not only of what he was doing but of the thing which he knew he was doing, and which he subsequently denied before the Committee of Privileges. It is an exceedingly serious offence, and it would be perfectly competent for the House to expel him. There are precedents, as I have already indicated before tonight, for expulsion, and it would be competent for the House to carry that out. It would then be for the electors to decide, if he stood for re-election, whether they would return him or not. I do not underestimate the gravity of the offence. I think it is very serious indeed, and that is why I attached importance to the last Motion. But I do not like the House expelling Members except in the clearest cases, where there cannot be much doubt about the Tightness of the expulsion and where it would be accepted, broadly speaking, all round and fairly generally as the right thing to do. Expulsion is a very serious step. It could be a step open to very great abuse. For example, it would be exceedingly grave if the House expelled a Member because it thoroughly disliked him; either because it did not like his character or a number of things he had done. Once that was started, we could all make lists that might reach a considerable number before we had finished. If we were to abuse this power of expulsion it could become an instrument of danger to the House itself. I have an instinct, a "hunch," so to speak, that in this case it would be going too far, and I recommend the House that the step of expulsion should not be embarked upon. On the other hand, I think the House must do something definite and sufficiently serious to mark what it conceives to be the gravity of the offence. We thought, too, that if the hon. Member were suspended from the service of the House for six months, and that if that were deliberately done, it would be anomalous that his salary should be paid during that six months, especially as he received certain material advantages out of the offence itself. We think therefore that it would be right that the salary should also be suspended. There is this argument against it, that the constituency will also be punished for the time being, or perhaps not punished but disadvantaged. The Member can, of course, carry on correspondence. In that way the grievances of his constitueuts can be met. They can write to him, and he can communicate with Ministers, but in the sense of active and live Parliamentary representation the constituency will be out of action, as it were, for six months. That is a fair and serious argument. But the six months will soon pass, and I do not know that the argument is as weighty as all that. At any rate, we have to face the alternatives, and it is not easy to choose. I think the House generally would think that to do nothing except reprimand in this case would be inadequate. Expulsion I feel is dangerous and somewhat excessive in the circumstances of this case. But we must do something to mark it as a serious offence, so that our successors and others will know that the House of Commons takes a serious view of these things. Despite the arguments which can be brought against suspension, they are not really so serious as all that from the point of view of the constituency. We think that, on the whole, the fair, reasonable, and proper thing to do is to suspend for six months without the payment of salary. As to the attitude that the constituency will take after the verdict of the House has been reached, or the attitude of political organisations, that is their business, and no concern of the House. Having given the matter the most careful consideration, we think we have come to the right conclusion."That Mr. Allighan, for his gross contempts of the House, and for his misconduct, do attend in his place forthwith and be reprimanded by Mr. Speaker; that he be suspended from the service of this House for six months and that his salary as a Member of this House be suspended for that period."
When the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) was making his statement he said, I think, that he had to make up his mind between his two duties—his duty to the House and his duty to profession. Can the right hon. Gentleman say which the Member has chosen, whether he intends to carry on in the House or in his profession?
We have no knowledge; I cannot give the hon. Member any information; because we have not got it.
I must confess that I had some doubt about which way to vote in the last Division. I think the arguments were exceedingly complex and difficult, and it was only after considerable heart-searching that I came to the conclusion that it was right to vote against the Government's Motion. But now we have a new situation; all that is past. This is not a complicated or difficult situation; in my opinion, it is an extremely simple one. The House has now decided that the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) has been guilty of dishonourable conduct, and that is the formal decision of Parliament and of the House of Commons, to be entered in the Journal and published throughout the length and breadth of the land. He is guilty of dishonourable conduct. The Home Secretary, speaking just now, dwelt strongly upon this. He spoke of how we were all accustomed to call each other, as a very essential element in our proceedings, "honourable Members." How can you stigmatise a Member as dishonourable by the most formal and solemn vote, and then, after an interval, long or short, immediately resume calling him an honourable Member? I do not see how that is possible. I do not think that to bring about a situation of that kind has a grain of logic in it.The hon. Member has now been called by the House "dishonourable." What is the punishment that the Leader of the House proposes? He proposes that the Member shall be suspended for six months without salary, but is that going to touch the question of whether he is an honourable Member or a dishonourable Member? How can it do so? It simply means that, after an interval, the Member will return here, without in the slightest degree having lifted from himself the terrible stain, the indelible stigma the House has inflicted upon him, and then make such show as he can in going about his public business. Is it really in the interests of the House and the country that that situation should arise? Moreover, I should like to call the Lord President's attention to this, though I know he has it in his mind, as his speech showed—we are now attempting to prescribe the punishment of the hon. Member, but the punishment we are inflicting falls upon the constituency. Here is a constituency—Gravesend—with a lot of people with great anxieties and so on, and they are to have no representation for six months. They have no power to force this hon. Gentleman to resign. If he is a person with the honour this House has found him to have, he will pay no attention to them, and there is no power in the Constitution for the constituency or party organisation to compel him to resign. He can sit very comfortably until the end of this Parliament, and after the six months is over, he can draw the salary of Parliament. That he can do. Considering how very unattractive and limited will be the opportunities open to him in this House, one can easily see that he may not be a very regular attendant. We shall be punishing the constituency. After all, we are the representatives of the people, and it is the people who are the important factors in these matters. We have been dealing with matters within our own knowledge and our own methods of conducting business, and with our own values of conduct in these matters of morals, but this is a question of the rights of the electors and the rights of democracy. The people have a right to express their opinion. Is the House of Commons to pass a Motion saying that their Member of Parliament is dishonourable, and they are to have no means whatever for two or three years of obtaining any relief from his presence as their representative? Are they to be virtually disfranchised for six months when all kinds of matters affecting their interests occur? No, Sir. Really, on every ground of logic and democracy, we should allow the electors to have their opportunity. Therefore, it seems to me there can be only one result of the Motion which the Government have carried in the House, namely, that the hon. Member should be expelled from the House. If he is expelled, he can go to his constituents and tell them his tale. If they choose to return him, he returns with the full authority of their vote, and, whatever our opinions are on the matter, in my view, no one will be entitled to refer to his past again. It is a rough and ready decision. A constituency is sometimes inclined to sustain a Member, and that is the remedy, but by this method the constituency has no power either to vindicate its Member or secure for itself other representation. Therefore, it seems to me that the course which the Government have now proposed is one which cannot be defended or justified on any ground whatever. I will certainly move, or support, at the right and proper moment in our proceedings an Amendment, which follows inevitably and logically on the one which the Leader of the House moved earlier, that the Member should be expelled from the House and should have a chance of defending himself before his constituents, and the constituency should have a chance of saying whether they want another Member or not.
I have an odious task to perform which has been rendered easier by the words which have fallen from my right hon. Friend, because it is my purpose to move a manuscript Amendment to the Motion which has been proposed by the Lord President of the Council, which will have the effect of substituting the punishment of expulsion for the punishment of suspension for six months with loss of salary. I understand that that involves three principal changes. First, that the word "suspended" be omitted from the Motion and the word "expelled" inserted; secondly, the omission of the words "six months," and, thirdly, the omission of part of the sentence that relates to salary.To propose the expulsion of a fellow Member, especially for a private Member, is a most distasteful thing, and I ask the House to believe that in doing so I am moved by nothing less than the overwhelming sense that it is the only logical and only just thing to do. I must say that for reasons which are quite apart from the last Resolution which we have passed. This man has been guilty of an aggravated contempt by the publication of the original article. He was guilty also of what I can only describe as a tissue of perjury in his first evidence before the Committee, and, in my view, at any rate, that is very much the worst feature in this case. If I may quote the Standing Order under which the Committee carries on its business, it is provided:
To my mind that is by far the gravest part of this man's offence. I have already said what I wanted to say about the Resolution which we have just passed. In these circumstances, I am convinced that a reprimand is not an adequate punishment. If I were, I would gladly vote for it, because no one would desire to see a man whose reputation is already broken proceeded against with any vindictiveness, but I cannot think that we should in fact be imposing an adequate penalty by reprimand nor is punishment by way of committal suitable at all for various reasons and because it would probably be not a fair and proper penalty in this respect. The choice, therefore, is between the Lord President's proposal of temporary suspension with loss of salary and expulsion, and I am driven to the view that expulsion is the only proper course, for three reasons. First, because it is the only fair course to this House, and that is the most important; second, because it is the only fair course to his constituents; and, third, I believe that despite the appearance of the gravity of this sentence it is, in the last resort, much the fairest course to the man himself. First, as regards this House, it does not seem to me that we can allow Members to remain Members of Parliament who do this kind of thing. I do not think that one could say with any confidence that at the end of six months the man had purged an offence of this kind. Supposing he got up to make a speech in seven months time; supposing a Minister had to receive him on a deputation; supposing he attended a party meeting; supposing he talks with you in the corridor, or does any action of any kind in this House—how can he do it efficiently and how can one co-operate with him? The truth is, once the sacred bond of confidence is broken, we cannot go on treating a man as if he were still an honourable person simply after a lapse of time, in which it might be held he has purged his offence. The whole relationship is an impossible relationship and it ought to be put an end to, both for our own sakes and for the reputation which this House holds in the country. The second consideration which moves me is respect for his constituents. I am very much affected by the argument which has been already mentioned, that it is totally unfair to disfranchise Gravesend for six months. It seems to me Gravesend did not do anything to deserve that penalty, nor have we any right to impose it quite apart from the period of six months during which his constituents are disfranchised. Why should Gravesend have to put up until the end of this Parliament with a man who is hopelessly branded as unfitted to be a Member of Parliament? How can they have any confidence in what he does? Members of this House constantly receive confidences, sometimes of the most intimate kind, from their constituents. They have to put those things before Ministers and sometimes in this House. They have to take responsible decisions upon whether to publish the name of their informant or not. How can such constituents trust a Member about whom these things can be truly said? We are not doing in my judgment that most dangerous thing, to which the Lord President refers. In the past the House made one very bad mistake in the case of Wilkes when they tried to prevent the constituents re-electing him after he had been expelled. There is no question of that here. The only question before the House is whether it is not mere justice to his constituents to say to them, "It is for you to say whether you want this man to continue as your Member or not. If you say you want him, we may not agree with you, but we will abide honestly and honourably by the decision you have made but if you do not want him you ought to have an opportunity of saying so." In my judgment the sentence of suspension altogether ignores and, in fact, overrides the interests of the constituents. The third point is that I am not at all sure that it is really fair to the Member, although, of course, it would be open to him, should he so desire, to get out of his difficulties by not returning to the House and seeking a livelihood elsewhere. One cannot count on that. He may come back and in those circumstances he will lead the life of a person who is at any rate to some extent a social outcast in our midst. He will be unable to carry out the responsibilities which are on him. He will be unable to command the respect and attention which an hon. Member of this House is entitled to have in order to per- form his duties. He will go about knowing what the people are saying and thinking about him. His life will be contemptible and miserable, and I believe it is much fairer to him to take what is the only logical course here once we have excluded the possibility that the offence can be got over by a mere reprimand. We can expel and leave him as best he may in his own walk of life to earn a living in which I must say I wish him nothing but success, if he can succeed in re-establishing his reputation. This is not a case in which, having condemned, this House ought to move in any spirit of vindictiveness. Quite the contrary. I do not suppose anybody heard his statement this afternoon without a sense of tragic sorrow that a man could find himself in that position, but to allow that to effect our judgment in finding a compromise between expulsion and reprimand—and that is all that is really proposed—is, in fact, to make nonsense in my belief of the whole standard of behaviour which we ought to exact from one another."If it should appear that any person has given false evidence in any case before this House or in Committee thereof, this House will proceed with the utmost severity against the offender."
I believe it will be better to move the Amendment in this way—to leave out from "misconduct" to the end of the Question and to add
Otherwise, it would mean that the Member for Gravesend would have to be called back and expelled, whereas I think if we expelled him we should not need to have him back as he would no longer be a Member. Therefore, it would be simpler to move it in that form."be expelled from this House."
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out from "misconduct" to the end of the Question and to add
I gratefully accept your suggestion, Mr. Speaker. It was very much in my mind that a rather tragic scene would be enacted if the actual words of my suggestion were adopted and I think that what you have suggested would avoid that."be expelled from this House."
I beg to, second the Amendment.In rising to second this Amendment, I do so both as a Member jealous of the honour of this House and as a journalist jealous for the honour of his profession. Journalists have had a long connection with this House both in the Lobby and on the Floor—some 50 years in the Lobby and at least as far back as John Wilkes and perhaps longer on the Floor of the House. There have always been journalists on the Floor of this House. In recent years there have been such men as John Morley, C. P. Scott of the "Manchester Guardian," Russell of "The Liverpool Post," and that veteran Parliamentarian and journalist, T. P. O'Connor. I think there are more working journalists in the House now than have ever been at any time before and in our dual role, it behoves us as the Lord President at any rate implied, and very justly, to be peculiarly circumspect. It does happen in the course of conversation in the Lobbies and smoking room that we hear pieces of information which might be useful to us in the course of our work. In some cases we are clearly free to use them without indicating their origin; in other cases it is obvious that to use them would be illegitimate. There are a number of border-line cases of which it can only be said that we do well to keep always before our eyes the golden rule "when in doubt, don't." The is no question of a border-line case here. We can say of it: "The offence is rank; it smells to highest heaven." The offence is twofold. It begins but by no means ends with the article contributed by the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) to the "World's Press News." That that article constituted a breach of Privilege it is quite unnecessary to argue because that is set forth with convincing clarity in the statement by the learned Clerk of the House on page 123 of the Report of the Select Committee. There is only one point I desire to make in regard to this article. The Member for Gravesend said this afternoon that he realises now that the article was capable of certain constructions and might reflect on certain Members of the House. Is there any rational man who believes that the Member for Gravesend did not know exactly what he was writing, and did not mean to infer precisely what the article did infer. I think that the Select Committee at one point has narrowed the issue unduly. It says on page 6 of the Report that the Article contained the following assertions:
This point is referred to in the second paragraph in the use of the words:"Private and confidential information as to what took place at party meetings is conveyed by Members of Parliament present at such meetings to newspapers."
and is mentioned again in the third paragraph"such information,"
The suggestion is that it was only the disclosure of information where party meetings were concerned. But there are clearly certain passages of much wider application, where Members generally are accused of imparting information for money or for drink. If there were any doubt on that point it has been disposed of by the hon. Member for Gravesend himself in his evidence in paragraphs 212 and 213 of the Report. He was there asked by the Attorney-General whether the purpose of the article:"such information."
and the hon. Member replied:"was to indicate how information about secret party meetings had got out,"
He was then asked by the Attorney-General:"It was to indicate how newspapers get their information."
and he replied:"About secret party meetings? "
That is to say that journalists will get any information about anything they publish from Members of the House for drink and bribery. The allegation is comprehensive and general, and it gains considerably in gravity thereby. The second phrase in the hon. Member's offence was when he appeared before the Select Committee and set up a sustained barrage of prevarication and perjury. "Perjury" is a strong word to use. It is supported sufficiently by the statements in the Select Committee's Report. That Report states:"About anything they published."
But it is worth while pursuing that matter a little further. It is as well for hon. Members to know what the offence of the hon. Member for Gravesend was. Let hon. Members look at Questions 275, 276 and 277. They will find the hon. Member for Gravesend pressed repeatedly by the Attorney-General to say whether he knew any Member of the House who was at that time imparting information for money, not to say for drink. The hon. Member spoke today of the demoralised condition to which he was reduced by his cross-examination. My impression, when I read the Report when it came out before the end of the last Session, was of the remarkable skill and self-possession with which the hon. Member for Gravesend parried question after question put to him by Members of the Committee. He was asked, in Question 276:"He gave evidence to your Committee which they have been quite unable to accept."
He replied:"So that you do not know of any Member of Parliament who is giving such information for payment or who has given such information for payment? "
The Attorney-General then asked him, referring to his argument that what appeared in the Press showed that there must have been other disclosures:"I will say no to that, if you will remember that I have already pointed out the evidence of our own eyes."
He replied:"That is not what I asked you. I was asking what you know personally? "
That is the hon. Member for Gravesend's answers in the Select Committee. The Report then records that the editor of the "Evening Standard" told the Committee that it was Mr. Allighan who was supplying information for money. The Committee go on at that point to say that Mr. Allighan"I do not know."
That is the position, as hon. Members know it. The point that arises now is: What is the penalty? In regard to that I would call attention to a Resolution which was passed this afternoon unanimously, or, at any rate, nemine contradicente and which recalled an earlier Resolution to the effect that if it should appear that any Member had committed any serious breach of Privilege of this House, this House should proceed with the utmost severity against such an offender. "The utmost severity"! Six months' suspension with loss of Parliamentary salary! If those two propositions can be reconciled words seem to me to have lost all their normal meaning. Those words are utterly irreconcilable with suspension for six months, and even in the same order of punishment that is very far from representing the utmost severity. The hon. Member for Gravesend might be suspended for the period of this Session or for the period of this Parliament, but there is only one punishment reconcilable with the determination of this House to proceed with the utmost severity, and that is the penalty proposed by the hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg). Let not the House think that by deciding in favour of that penalty they will be introducing any innovation. Page 104 of Erskine May gives abundant precedents. The last case was in 1922, after Mr. Bottomley had been convicted for, I think, misappropriating funds. There is another case which I have been surprised not to hear mentioned this afternoon, and which, to my mind, is relevant. It is the notorious case of Mr. Bradlaugh who, in 1882, was expelled during the squalid controversy about taking the Oath. History has firmly decided that the action the House took on that occasion was foolish, but it has never been suggested that it was not competent to take it."was recalled to give further evidence. He admitted the truth of the evidence which had been given…and said that he had not informed your Committee before of the position because he preferred that they should find it out for themselves in the course of the inquiries."
It was Northampton electors who settled that point, and not this House.
The point I am making is that this House has full liberty to take such a step as is proposed and that there is full precedent for it. There is one thing I desire to add. It has been suggested by hon. Members whose opinion I respect that the House ought not to take this extreme step at a time when Members of Parliament in different parts of Europe are being deprived of their Parliamentary immunity and are suffering various pains and penalties thereafter. I cannot think that that argument can be sustained. It does not greatly flatter this House the compare it with the legislatures of Eastern Europe. For 650 years this House has gone its own way, made its own precedents, has set an example to other legislatures and has not followed their example. It has taken regularly action which, in its own judgment, it thought right to take.I am sure that hon. Members do not desire, any more than I do, to moralise or show themselves unduly censorious, but this House has its honour to preserve and its standards to maintain. I have no desire even if I had the power, to persuade hon. Members to support the Amendment. Votes tonight are free. They have heard the arguments and read the Report, and have heard what the hon. Member for Gravesend had to say today. For myself I have no doubts. With much reluctance, for it is not pleasant as the hon. Member for Oxford has said to rise in one's place and propose the expulsion of a fellow Member, but with no hesitation and a full sense of responsibility, I second the Amendment calling for the expulsion of the hon. Member for Gravesend.
I had no intention of intervening in this Debate and I doubt whether I should have done so had it not been for the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Those who know me will be aware that I have a great affection and a deep regard for the traditions of this House. I would do everything I could to maintain those traditions. To me it is very regrettable that when the suggested punishment which has been moved by the Leader of the House is before this House, there should be what I can only characterise as some element of vindictiveness. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, we are all entitled to our own opinions. I would go further. There is not only vindictiveness; there is also, at any rate in the attitude of one hon. Member of this House, something of sheer opportunism. [An HON. MEMBER: "What?"] Something of sheer opportunism.
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member has said, first, that there is vindictiveness and, secondly, sheer opportunism on the part of an hon. Member of this House. I am, I suppose, the person referred to, but I do not know whether the hon. Member is referring to me. I do beg you to rule that if the hon. Member is going to make charges of this nature against any hon. Member he ought to specify the Member or withdraw the allegation. This is terribly unfair to all of us.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I have not made any accusation against the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford. (Mr. Hogg). I was not referring to him when I spoke of opportunism. I said that generally in the Debate so far, I had seen evidence of vindictiveness. It is not an unparliamentary charge to charge hon. Members with being vindictive, and there is nothing unparliamentary about it. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) will leave me alone. If he wants to make a legitimate interruption, I suggest that he stands on his feet.
I thought I was on the side of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. C. Poole). I was saying that neither was there anything improper in accusing a Member of Parliament of being a opportunist.
Neither is it necessary in the broadness of a Debate to specify individual Members. Our difficulty is that we so seldom know when the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is on our side and when he is not.
That is a difficulty limited to the hon. Member for Lichfield. Everybody else knows.
I did not mean in the wide party sense. I meant when he was making his statement.
I thought I was reasonably lucid.
I am surprised that there are hon. Members who plead for the extreme penalty in this case. Nobody is more disgusted than I am with what has happened and what has been done by the hon. Member for Gravesend. I am disgusted by it, but I am certainly determined not to allow the revulsion of feeling I feel as a party member against another member of my Party who has filthily sold the secrets of my Party to influence my decision in the punishment which shall be accorded to him for an offence, not against the party, but against this House. I urge hon. Members of my party on this side of the House not to confuse the revulsion of feeling which arises from the action of a comrade who has disclosed party secrets in the House, which this House has not ruled as even a breach of Privilege, with the offence of the hon. Member to this House. [Interruption.] He has not been found guilty of a breach of Privilege. In his disclosure—
Is the hon. Member suggesting that an offence against the party is more important than an offence against the House?
Most certainly I am not, but I am suggesting that hon. Members with a due sense of party loyalty may be inclined to get things out of proportion. That is all I am suggesting [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] An hon. Member says, "Rubbish." He is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled to mine. It is suggested that it is very little punishment to the hon. Member for Gravesend to fine him £500, banish him from this House to his constituency for six months, and let him come back here an outcast among all hon. Members and have to work his passage again in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "He could resign."] Certainly he could resign. If I were in his place, I would have resigned a long time ago. But this man has a very hard road to travel if he is to bring himself back into the esteem of this House. It is punishment enough that he has to walk the corridors of the House, meet the men to whom he has been disloyal and come into the House to which he has been disloyal, if he dares to do it. [An HON. MEMBER: "He need never come back."] I know that, but if he has to win himself back, he has a long hard road to travel.
I should be taking undue time if I gave way. That is a grave and serious punishment for this man to undergo. I am amazed at the regard of the Leader of the Opposition for the constituency of Gravesend. The Leader of the Opposition was responsible for certain appointments in other days when he led the Government of the day which disfranchised constituencies for two years. [An HON. MEMBER: "There was a war on then."] There may have been, but there were other people—it could have been the High Commissioner in Canada—who could have been called upon to allow their constituencies to be represented in this House. Other persons could have gone to the Middle East, or the persons concerned could have given up their seats. If we are genuinely concerned with constituencies being represented, let us be a little consistent about it. I see hanging over the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition to this something far more than he has expressed. It is an amazing thing to me that he, who felt there was not a case against the hon. Member and voted against the last Motion in the Division Lobby—voted to the effect that there was no case of dishonourable conduct against the hon. Member—can, within five minutes, get up and demand that the penalty suggested is not heavy enough, and that the Member must suffer the extreme penalty for an offence which the Leader of the Opposition did not believe he had committed. It is the most amazing thing I have ever heard.
I want to finish and there are other hon. Members who want to intervene. In this matter we might as decent men and women show a little Christian charity.
I know that the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) has all the attributes and virtues of the angels and the archangels, too. One would think from the speeches that have been made from the other side of the House that, sitting on those Benches, are those who are the right and proper companions of George Washington, never having told a lie. It is all very well to talk about the evidence this man gave before the Select Committee. What was the situation? Here was a man who had committed an offence and had been found out. Having been found out, he "panicked," as most men do when they are found out. The offence having been found out, and the man having panicked, he said everything and anything to avoid being caught out for committing the act. Hon. Gentlemen may have a greater degree of assurance of their own capacity to lead a virtuous life, but some of us realise our own weaknesses and we are prepared to make allowances for the weaknesses in other people.This House will have exacted full retribution from the hon. Member for Gravesend if it follows the lead of the Leader of the House. I urge hon. Members not to be vindictive. Let this man suffer this penalty and come back here and work his passage if he is so minded, and let his constituents who, after all, were the people who sent him here within the short space of two years ago, deal with him when the time arrives, as they are entitled to do. He is their representative and they elected him. We can punish him rightly and do justice to the honour and tradition of the House and in the process show a little Christian charity.
I am rather surprised at the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. C. Poole) winding up by exhorting us to Christian charity after having insinuated that those who did not agree with him had motives either of personal vindictive-ness or of party opportunism. There is no question of vindictiveness here, and the charge is really a peculiarly foolish one in view of the Debate on the last Motion. I do not for a moment suggest that those who were in favour of the last Motion were vindictive. It must be plain that if any of us had wished to be vindictive, we could have been in favour of the last Motion. Many of us, including my right hon. Friend to whom the hon. Member for Lichfield read a moral lecture, voted against the last Motion.I agree with the hon. Member for Lichfield about one thing and that is that the argument about the disfranchising of the constituency has been rather overstrained. There is something to be said for the view that it is like getting married, the constituency is more likely to be extremely careful in selecting people if it knows that once it has them, it has got them for a long time and there can be no question of divorce or separation. Although I think the constituency argument is a fair one, I do not think too much weight should be put on it. The weight should be put on the illogicality of what we are now doing, as compared with the Motion we have just passed. I think I shall vote for my hon. Friend's Amendment. I am inclined to think that if somebody else had moved before him to reduce the penalty to a severe reprimand, I should perhaps have voted for that. The worst of all possible results is suspension. There is nothing to be said for that, because the argument under the last Motion was that this is not so much disciplinary as remedial, that we are proceeding now with that eighteenth century remedial notion, that where somebody is so obviously not fit to get on with other hon. Members of the House, the House cannot bear to have that foreign body, so to speak, in its composition, the House expels, spews out, gets rid of that foreign body, so that its internal workings can go on properly. That is the only way in which you can bring within our constitutional powers the Motion we have just passed. Upon that argument I cannot see how you can move to suspend for six months. Upon that argument it seems to be quite clear that if you do more than reprimand, you must expel a man, even if then you give him the chance of purging himself by winning over a majority of his electors. That risk you have to face. But to suspend him for a fixed period, upon the basis of his character being such that it is impossible for the rest of us to mix with him, seems to me to be a hopeless proposition, and I hope, therefore, that the House will not accept that suggestion.
I rise to support the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). It seems to me that the issue is a very simple one. This Member has shown himself to be totally unfit to be a Member of our House, and therefore it is up to us to sec that he ceases to be a Member of the House. As regards the point put forward by the Lord President, I do not know if I misunderstood him, but it sounded to me something like this: that if on this occasion a severe penalty is rightly used, in the future the same penalty might not be rightly used. I cannot really see that that is any argument for not using that penalty in this particular case, however, and for that reason I strongly support the Amendment.
I am glad that the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. C. Poole) was put forward, because it gives point to the contrary expression of view on the part of those on this side of the House who hold it, and I congratulate the hon. Member on the courage with which he expressed a view which I do not think is held generally in the House. I am not the only Member of this House who, on occasion, has to sit in judgment upon his fellow men. I am certainly not the only Member of the House who, on those occasions, searches, with a heavy bias in favour of that person, for some mitigating feature which will justify one in reducing the punishment one would otherwise inflict. I have searched in this case for some mitigating fact which would justify us in supporting the infliction of the punishment which the Government suggest, and rejecting the punishment suggested by the Amendment. I have searched for that mitigating feature in vain, and that being so, I feel that the arguments of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) are really unanswerable.What I feel is really unforgivable is that in question after question in the Select Committee the hon. Member for Graves-end (Mr. Allighan) committed the most deliberate perjury, and one feature of that ought not to escape our attention. It is that if we merely suspend the hon. Member for Gravesend for six months, there is nothing whatever to stop anybody—official or private citizen—from bringing proceedings against him for perjury in the ordinary criminal courts. Supposing that were to happen, and supposing, as might well happen, a heavy sentence—it might be penal servitude—were inflicted upon the hon. Member for Gravesend, what a contrast between what the ordinary persons outside would think was the gravity of this offence and the opinion which the House has expressed in a suspension of six months only. Again I cannot get away—although I should very much like to do so if I could—from the cogency of the argument of the hon. Member for Oxford and the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) that this offence should be punished with the utmost severity. What is the utmost severity, except expulsion? There is nothing I could add to the arguments adduced to the House under that head. That being so, I do most regretfully come to the conclusion that there is no real answer to the Amendment which has been put forward by the hon. Member for Oxford.
I want to confine my remarks to the central point that this House should take it upon itself to disfranchise a constituency. I interrupted when the name of Bradlaugh was mentioned because at that moment my mind was activated by the Bradlaugh incident—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, the hon. and learned Member knows full well, as he represents my home town and I represent his, that when we were small children leaving school and going into the factories the Bradlaugh incident was still fresh in the minds of older Radicals. They impressed upon us that this House three times threw out their choice, not because of the religious dispute, but because of the economic opinions which Bradlaugh held. In this case, has the House the right to disfranchise a constituency? How many years is it since this function was last exercised? It is many years since it was last exercised, and has there not been time to cover this particular point in the law of England, so that it is quite clear in electoral law, if a person commits an offence?The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) slanders us as hon. Members, and therefore upon us rests the responsibility whether we should take away from his constituency its right to send a Member to Parliament. I submit that the Motion does punish the hon. Member, and I feel that it is we as individuals and not the House, not the institution, which is affected. The protecton of the institution could have been covered by an amendment of the law. Therefore, we are taking action to protect ourselves as individuals, and we are crying out that the man should be expelled. I submit that if the punishment which has been suggested is placed on the hon. Member for Gravesend his own constituency will be able to add any further punishment they desire. I agree that no man adopting the tactics which the hon. Member for Gravesend adopted is worthy to represent a constituency, but ought we to be the people to decide? Christian charity has been mentioned, and I still feel that is within us today, and that we can give charity to people of ours who fall by the wayside. Let those who are absolutely blameless take comfort from it. Although the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. C. Poole) was challenged when he mentioned it, this House was not clear whether the last Motion was not extending the Privileges of this House. The case was put that if we accepted that Motion it would indicate a tendency to extend our Privileges. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) who made that particular point, and stressed the question of whether we had the right to extend our Privileges. The House divided on that Motion, and by that vote we said that an offence had been committed. Now a plea is being made for the fullest punishment which we can possibly impose. I hope that all Members on both sides of the House will be charitable to the hon. Member for Gravesend.
Like the rest of the House, I listened this afternoon very appreciatively to the arguments in the first speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), and I am bound to say that they persuaded me to vote in favour of the Government Motion. The arguments in his second speech, however, decided me to vote against his own Amendment. He crystallised the arguments against suspension very clearly, lucidly and accurately in three phrases. He said he felt that suspension was unfair to the constituency, that it was unfair to the Member, and that it was unfair to the House of Commons. May I briefly answer each of those three points, because they really contain the whole burden of the hon. Member's arguments?Suspension was unfair to the House, so he argued, on the ground that we would be forced to associate with a Member whom we had stigmatised as dishonourable. That was also the argument of the Leader of the Opposition. But suppose we expel the Member and he is returned, which is quite possible because, as the hon. Member for Oxford himself said, constituencies have a way of rallying to the defence of their Member? It is at least a possibility which must not be ruled out. The Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) could, therefore, be returned to this House, so that the expulsion would not remove the first objection in the argument of the hon. Member for Oxford. The second argument was that for six months the constituency of the hon. Member would be virtually disfranchised.
No. Not entirely, but partially disfranchised. There will still be certain rights and duties on behalf of his constituency which he can perform. The constituency is not completely disfranchised. On the contrary there is proposed the same kind of disfranchisement as there is in the case of the constituents of the Deputy-Speaker or of hon. Members who, for example, are sent, with the good wishes of the House, on prolonged jobs abroad lasting three, four or six or more months. In other words, there is not, surely, in the practice of this House, an absolute hard and fast iron-clad line of demarcation?
The hon. Member has mentioned the case of the constituency of the Deputy-Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, but just because that has had to happen in those cases, why does he suggest that we should make it happen in another case?
All I was suggesting was that we did not try to get round it with constitutional devices because the disfranchisement is not complete. All that would be happening would be that one more out of 630 constituencies would be suffering from the same conditions for the limited period of six months. The third argument put forward by the hon. Member for Oxford was that it would be kinder to the hon. Member for Gravesend himself, because during the course of his duties here he would have to undergo discomforts and embarrassments in mingling with those who had condemned him. If they were his feelings—and they might well be—surely the remedy is in his own hands. There is nothing in the world to stop him from resigning. It seems to me that on all three counts the argument for the Amendment falls to the ground.
I suppose I may be forgiven for speaking from an unusual part of the Chamber. This is very much a non-party discussion and I intend to speak in a strictly nonparty sense. I was brought to the desire to enter into the Debate by the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) who, I am sorry to see, has now left the House. I felt as he spoke that there was a point of view to be remembered. When deciding on punishments there are two views. One is the view that the punishment should fit the crime; the other is that the punishment should fit the man's redemption. I do not know what name should be applied to the second approach—whether it is a humanistic or a Christian attitude—but there are in this House of Commons two such views.We have done a very terrible thing tonight to the man in question by the Motion we have already passed. That Motion concentrated on the question of the sinning rather than on the sinner. We have said that it was dishonourable conduct and, in saying so, that is slightly different from what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said. I do not want to press the point too far. We did not quite" say that this man was utterly and irredeemably dishonourable. We said that his conduct in the matter on which we have judged was dishonourable. That stands against him and in that lies the greatest punishment that we, as colleagues, could inflict upon him. I am reminded of the truth of this by some words of William Morris. I think it was in "News from Nowhere" that he spoke about this issue. He said that in the perfect society we should learn to leave the criminal to the sense of self-condemnation that arises out of the fact that ultimately he himself is made to realise the wickedness he has done, because he knows that everybody round him realises that wickedness also. We have taken our stand today. I beg the House to let that be adequate for the purpose of the great wrong that has been done. I think the Government are right. I could say very much more about this, but the matter comes to quite a short issue. I think the Government are right in not making the thing worse than it is.
I have very great sympathy with the point of view held by the hon. Member, but surely the only logical outcome of his argument, as I understand it, is that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) should be forgiven. The essence of Christianity, as accepted by the hon. Gentleman, is that the sinner should be forgiven. Why, therefore, does he now support the Government in suspending the hon. Member for six months? The hon. Member ought to be brought to the Bar and told by the House, in the view of the hon. Gentleman, that from the point of view of the Christian religion he is forgiven.
There is before me at the present time an alternative. There is the proposition of the extreme punishment of expulsion, and there is this alternative of a much less severe character. I am pleading that it would be better and more merciful to temper justice by mercy in this matter by taking the course that the Government have indicated. What we have already done, in my judgment, will be a warning, not only to the hon. Member for Gravesend, but to all other Members in future, who will have this put clearly before them, and the opinion of the House clearly expressed in this matter. I believe that we should be wise to let it stop at that, and I feel I am doing my duty in supporting the Government in the proposal they make.
In supporting the Amendment for the expulsion of a colleague, I think we should recognise the sincerity of hon. Members who have taken upon themselves the odium of asking for the more severe sentence—an odium which I feel must have weighed heavily upon the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) because of the long-established traditions of the profession in which he earns his living. I think it is quite right that someone should speak who is quite unconnected with the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan). I do not think I have spoken a word to him in my life, and I certainly have no vindictive feelings towards him. Neither am I so orthodox a member of the Labour Party as to allow party feelings make me vote in favour of the Amendment if I did not think that was the right course to pursue.I am not prepared to accept the view that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition or the hon. Member for Oxford are motivated by some improper, subtle, political motive; I rather believe that it is obvious common sense which impels them to the attitude which they have taken on this question. I am, however, an orthodox Member of the Labour Party in that I detest the political opinions of the Leader of the Opposition. The main reason which the Leader of the House gave us against the course of expulsion was that it was a very dangerous thing to do, and it might be abused, and we might start expelling hon. Members right and left because we did not like them. All I would say in reply to that is that, if this House is in danger of voting for the expulsion of an hon. Member because it does not like him or his opinions, it is in a very sad state indeed, and it is really quite irrelevant and stupid to advance this argument. We are not dealing with a case of expelling an hon. Member whom we do not like. We are dealing with a perjurer and a corrupt betrayer of confidential secrets, a man who has insulted this House, and I am bound to say, with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan) that there is not a single redeeming circumstance in this case. I would like to believe that the hon. Member for Gravesend is sorry; I hope that is the case. Let us not try and smear with a charge of harshness those who vote for his expulsion, and surround with sickly piety those who urge that he must be irredeemable before we expel him. We should punish in a practical, sensible, fairminded way, without malice. We are not concerned with taking vengeance on the Member for Gravesend; it is a question of the ordinary commonsense logic and the position of the House. I as a back bencher intend to vote for the expulsion of the Member for Gravesend because he is guilty of what amounts to infamous conduct. We are all agreed on that, and it would be illogical and silly not to expel him in view of the nature of the conduct of which he has been found guilty. Everybody must feel that the hon. Member for Oxford is perfectly right, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is right in saying that the logic of the Committee's decision is that we should expel the hon. Member in question. It is quite clear to all that he is finished as a Member of this House in any event, however we contend that we have forgiven him. If his constituency returns him again, I would not like to say that I, personally, would accept him, but I can quite see the argument that he could be re-established in his own self-confidence, and would be able to cock what I might describe as a psychological snook at those of us who expelled him, and would be able to address the House confidently, attack hon. Members opposite and generally perform his duties. It is obvious that he cannot now be a suitable Member of Parliament, at any rate until he has been fortified by the confidence he might get by being returned again as Member for Gravesend. There is a point where forbearance ceases to be a virtue and leads to malpractice, and is no advantage even to the man himself. We do not wish again to place him unnecessarily in the position of temptation. I feel one thing further must be said about the "Evening Standard" and I say this reluctantly because I do not like attacking newspapers, but I think it is relevant. I do not think that this House can make the attack on the Member for his corruptness and perjury, of which the "Evening Standard" was not guilty, without saying more. Hon. Members on this side of the House, at any rate—I am not speaking for myself—often have a hard time financially. I believe that the people who come round offering them £30 for virtually nothing, are at least as evil. By seeking out the weaker Members to corrupt them, to tempt them, and to lead them into this kind of parlous misfortune, they are at least as reprehensible in the eyes of every right-thinking person and I hope that the House will bear that in mind when passing sentence on the Member for Gravesend. But anybody else's evil conduct does not mitigate his Member's conduct. Therefore, I shall without any hesitation at all, though with regret that I have to do an injury to a fellow Member of the House, vote for, the Amendment.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever), I feel, as one who is going to vote for the Amendment, that I ought, briefly, to give my reasons for so doing. I submit that the case for the Amendment has been made out. It is well known to this House that I am, as a rule, one of the most loyal supporters of the things which the Government Front Bench propose. On this occasion, however, I believe that to suggest the suspension of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) for six months, even with a loss of salary, is to make something of a mockery of the Motion which the House has just carried.May I remind the House that in that Resolution we have said that the Member has corruptly accepted payment and that he should be severely punished not only for conduct "tending to destroy mutual confidence among Members," but also for conduct tending" to lower this House in the estimation of the people." I am convinced from the contacts' which I have outside this House that the people generally expect the House to maintain its high reputation. I do not feel that we should merely suspend the Member for six months, with all that it means when the six months are up, in spite of the personal difficulties in which the Member will undoubtedly be, and expect by that means to maintain the reputation of this House as high as we ought to maintain it and as the history of this House has so far brought it. I feel, therefore, that it would be not only illogical to vote for the Motion, but that by voting for the Amendment I shall be doing something to maintain the high reputation of this House among the people outside. I am sure that the greatest danger to democratic government in Europe would be for the general high conception which people have of the way in which this House does its business to be shattered. If that goes, then democratic government cannot be saved anywhere. I believe it is our duty to indicate our desire to defend the high reputation of this House and, in so doing, defend the whole conception of democratic procedure, honesty and straightforwardness in public life, by supporting the Amendment. This I propose to do.
I would not have persisted in endeavouring to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, were it not that I have to make some answer to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) who, in my submission, has been the only Member who has made anything of a case for the Government Motion. Indeed, many of the hon. Members who have spoken in support of it would seem to have served their purpose ill. To me this is not a question of punishing or not punishing the hon. Member for Gravesend. This is a simple question of our duty as Members of the House of Commons, with all that long tradition which we have been taught to respect and observe. The hon. Member for Gravesend has been proved by practically everything that has been said here today to be the wrong kind of person to be here representing any section of the British people.We are here primarily to act on behalf of the people as a whole, and not any particular constituencies, and we have to make up our minds on a very simple issue. The hon. Member for Gravesend—let us make no mistake—has no future in this House anyway. Some of the arguments which have been adduced lack reality. For one thing, the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy), to the effect that the Member for Gravesend might come back through the sufferance of the people of Gravesend, seems to me to be so chimerical as not to be worthy of a moment's argument against it. In any case, there have been instances where this House has refused, time and time again, to accept such a decision on the part of a constituency. The next argument is that the hon. Member for Gravesend might purge his offence by six months' suspension. I am reminded of a phrase Browning used of Wordsworth:
It simply would not work because of our duty to our constituents. We have to be, as the hon. Member for Kenning-ton (Mr. Gibson) has remarked, a pattern so far as we are able. Since we have spent the whole day proving that the Member is unworthy to sit on these Benches, surely it is unrealistic to be arguing for anything but his complete exclusion from this House."Never glad confident morning again."
On a point of Order. Would it be in Order for me to move another Amendment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?
I am afraid not at this stage of the proceedings.
May I read the proposed Amendment?
I have said, not at this stage.
Further to that point of Order. Surely, the hon. Member who asks to move another Amendment is entitled to do so?
Certainly, if the Chair gives him permission at the appropriate time.
I feel that I have a duty not only to this House of Commons of which I am a Member but also to my own political party, and, whatever the crime may have been of the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) against this House, as a strong party member I view his crime against his own party as being, at least, equally strong. If I vote for the Government's Motion tonight it seems to me that I shall be obliged to countenance his continuance as a Member of the political party to which I belong. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the way I look at it, and I cannot balance these two loyalties. Therefore, in view of what has gone before today, and in view of the fact that the Government have persuaded me to support the whole of the other Motions that have been brought forward, I feel that this Motion they bring forward now is in the nature of an anti-climax, and I just cannot see that I can logically support it from any point of view.There is another side to this question to which I think we Members of this House of Commons have to give attention. This is the central governing authority of this country, and this question is being watched in every part of the country with very close attention. Difficulties of this sort in various degrees arise in all sorts of Government Departments and in all sorts of local government departments, and if we are going to countenance an offence of this sort, which we have condemned to the uttermost degree, and not deal with it by the right sentence of this court, we shall be encouraging all sorts of difficulties, all sorts of wrong action. in local government and other types of organisation in this country. I am afraid that, distasteful as it is, and having regard to what the hon Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) has said, I still have a duty to perform; and, feeling that it is in the best interests of this House and the country, I must allow my personal, humanitarian feelings to give place to the cause of this House and the cause of decent dealings throughout the country. I will wait until I have heard the Government's reply; I give them still another chance. I am willing to give everybody a last chance, but unless I hear some better arguments than I have heard so far I shall feel impelled to support the hon. Member for Oxford in this matter.
I do not doubt but that a good many hon. Members have worried, as I have worried, about what they ought to do on this Vote. Nobody wants to be censorious, or self-righteous, or vindictive, and I should like to give due weight to what the Government want. But what I feel is that I cannot go on record as saying that a man who has done these things is fit to be a Member of the House. It sets too low a standard for the House.
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I should like to have your opinion whether this proposed Amendment of mine would be in Order:
"That the House, having expressed its view of the conduct of the hon. Member for Graves-end (Mr. Allighan). takes no further action in the matter."
Perhaps the hon. Member would be good enough to let me have a copy of the proposed Amendment. In any event, quite clearly we must dispose of the Amendment now before the House before dealing with his proposed Amendment.
I begin by saying that I think everybody in this Chamber tonight, on both sides of the House, is genuinely desirous of doing the right thing, and is troubled to know what the right thing is. I accuse nobody of being vindictive; I accuse nobody of being sentimental. I think that all of us are groping for what is the right thing to do. Our conception of what we think is the right thing to do is bound to be governed, to a certain extent, by our approach to the Report of the Committee of Privileges which we have in front of us today. I do not attempt to disguise from the House that I came here today in a state of great trouble about the Report of the Committee of Privileges. I felt—as I imagine every man in this House felt—that there was no defence to be made for the conduct of the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) in this matter; and I felt equally strongly that it would be utterly wrong for this House to agree that the enormous machine of Parliamentary Privilege should be invoked to deal with an intra-party offence of one hon. Member or the other.I felt both of those things, and I never felt closer to the Lord President of the Council in my life than I did during his opening speech this afternoon when he dissociated the Government from any desire to use the immense machine of Privilege as an instrument of party discipline in this Parliament. That was a considerable utterance, and it will be referred to for many a long year to come. Since I have had many rows with the Lord President of the Council—even if he is not present at this moment when I offer him the olive branch—and since I have had many a quarrel with him, I should like to say here that I never felt nearer to him than I did this afternoon in his dissociation of the Government from the desire to use the weapon of Parliamentary Privilege as an instrument to deal with intra-party difficulties, and so on.
While I agree with what the hon. Member says, may I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is in Order on this Amendment?
I cannot see any objection to what the hon. Member is saying.
I was only trying to say—and I hope I was not out of Order—that our approach to the immediate issue before us is bound to be affected by our approach to the general problem we have had in front of us today. For my part, I can find no word of excuse for the conduct of the Members who are on trial, but at the same time I have grave doubts, from the long-term point of view of this Parliament, whether we ought to extend the great machine of Privilege to cover what fundamentally was an offence by a Member against his party. The Government, by the speech of the Lord President of the Council, have lifted that element right out of the Debate, and we can now consider, in the light of the Resolutions we have passed, what is the right thing to do about this particular matter.I am now going to announce the conclusion I have reached. I shall vote with the Government on this issue, and against the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). I will at once agree that all the logic is on the side of the hon. Member for Oxford, because the logical conclusion of the series of Resolutions we have passed is what he and the Leader of the Opposition have pointed their fingers to. I am going to argue that justice is somewhat bigger than logic; there are other things to take into account besides carrying to a perfectly logical conclusion an abstract trend of thought. What have we done today? Do not make any mistake about it. We have sentenced a man to political death. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is suicide"]. It may be said that he asked for the death sentence, but do not let us disguise from ourselves the fact that a death sentence has been passed on that man.
Is the conclusion then that Gravesend is to be represented by a political corpse?
There are many other constituencies in Great Britain that are so represented. I apologise for my momentary lapse. I do not feel in that mood at all, because this is a tremendously serious thing for all of us and for the individuals concerned. I hope that I shall not be tempted to assassinate anyone else. Do not make any mistake about it. What we have done today is to sentence a man to death. What I ask myself is: "Do I want to dance over the corpse?" [Interruption.] This is my view, and I am entitled to state it. Look at the situation of that man now, and begin by agreeing that he deserves all of it. What is his situation? Journalistically the man is dead. Politically, if he does not apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, he will linger for an ignominious few years and go out at the end of it. Do we want to add anything to that? I ask hon. Members to look at the Resolution we have passed.
By now that is humming on all the wires of the world. There is nowhere, from one end of the earth to the other, that that man can go—"That Mr. Allighan, a Member of this House, in corruptly accepting payment for the disclosure of information about matters to be proceeded with in Parliament obtained from other Members under the obligation of secrecy, is guilty of dishonourable conduct…"
Will the hon. Member read on after the words, "dishonourable conduct "?
Certainly. It says: "and is deserving of the most severe punishment," or words to that effect. If the weight of popular disapproval should be compressed upon a single man in the course of one day, and flashed from one end of the planet to the other, that condemnation has been so flashed around the planet today. I know of nowhere, from one end of the earth to the other, where that man can go, without changing his name, and make a living.
Except in the House of Commons.
Does anybody believe that he can continue to sit in the House of Commons?
The hon. Member is asking him to sit on for two years.
That is a cheap and unworthy imputation. It is not true at all. I have not pleaded that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) should continue to sit here.
The hon. Member is asking that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan) should be allowed to sit here for the remainder of this Parliament.
That is about as great a misconception of justice as the conception of democracy that demands that we should disfranchise the universities. It is as about as dull and mechanical as that. My affirmation is that what we are doing today must result in the severance of the hon. Member from this House and from us. In those circumstances, I do not criticise the Government for the line they have taken; I think they have done the right thing. If this matter goes to a Division I shall vote with them, against what I frankly confess is the more logical but extreme course recommended from the benches above the Gangway on this side of the House.
I have heard a good deal of the Debate which has taken place. I did go outside to sustain myself with a meal during part of it, but the general tenor of the Debate has been reported to me and I gather that there is a strong body of opinion in the House in favour of what one might call the extreme penalty, or capital punishment, in this case. It is for the House to decide—and if it decides that way I shall not have the slightest grievance because the Whips are off for the back-benchers. I shall vote in accordance with what I conscientiously believe to be the right course of action. The House will appreciate that as I gave certain advice at the beginning as to what the Government thought the appropriate penalty, it would be wrong for me, despite the strong body of opinion held in another way, to shift my ground in the light of the discussion. Having come to a conclusion, in a judicial spirit, that what we have recommended was the right penalty, and although hon. Members have come to another conclusion, it must be left to the House to decide. There is no question of the prestige of the Government, or myself, or anybody else in this matter; let the House be free as to which way it will vote. Having made that abundantly clear, and shown, I hope, a fitting spirit of good fellowship and tolerance on the whole matter as between myself and the rest of the House, let me say a word or two on the merits of the case, as I see it.I think that we must be careful in restricting ourselves to the sheer argument of logic in a matter of this kind. I have never been a High Court judge, but as Home Secretary and in other capacities I have had to handle a good many matters of a judicial character, and, if I may say so with great respect, I think that there is a considerable amount of truth in what the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) said when he claimed that in these matters straight and exclusive logic does not necessarily settle the question. I should think it probable that many a magistrate, many a professional stipendary magistrate, and many a High Court judge, on the evidence of a cage, may have thought a certain penalty and punishment desirable, and he may have deliberately given less for reasons or feelings that seemed to him to be right. Therefore, I do not myself accept the view that because the House in strong language—I think rightly strong language—has just condemned the hon. Member for Gravesend that, therefore, as a matter of logic, the strongest penalty must follow. In the first place, this House has a habit of inventing pretty severe language in cases of this kind and sticking to it, but it does not follow that from this strong language the extreme penalty must necessarily be imposed. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition is right, if I may say so, when on balance of consideration, he voted against the Motion presumably on the grounds that on the whole it was too severe.
No; too sweeping and too much associated with a particular procedure of the party meeting.
I cannot debate that all over again, but I was most careful to get it clear of the party meeting. I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman. Maybe the right hon. Gentleman is warning me, but I still think that he was wrong. It is just possible. If it was held that the Motion was too sweeping, I think that was another way of saying, perhaps, that it was a little too strong or severe. I cannot see the logic, because he was defeated in that Division, having wished for something less sweeping, whereby he should say "All right, the House having gone that way, I will go for the sweeping course on the penalty." I think that would be wrong. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am misjudging him, I will give way.
I made it clear in my interruption of the Home Secretary that his argument led inevitably to the conclusion that, if the Amendment was passed by the House, the Member was dishonoured.
It is perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman did, but I am bound to say that I still think that if the view is taken that the first course is too sweeping, it is no justification for insisting that the next course should be the maximum possible course. On the merits, I have said, that this is a very serious case. There were others who hold the view that it was not so serious. I still adhere to the view that this is a very serious case, but I want to say to the House, and I say it in all sincerity, after very careful thought, that the penalty of expulsion is the most severe penalty that the House can impose as an actual penalty. The House cannot do anything more. That is the greatest punishment which can be inflicted upon a Member, and I think we ought to be pretty well satisfied in our minds that this offence is of a sufficiently defined and serious character to warrant the extreme penalty being inflicted.It is all very well for the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) to say that we should send him back to his constituency and let the constituency elect him if it wants to and not elect him if it does not. That is true, but in fact it is not the case. In the first place, it is not at all certain that the Member can find the money and his chance is thereby affected, so I think there is a little bit of unreality about that argument. If I may say so, the argument that suspension punishes the constituency is admitted, but I think it has been overdone and the absence of the Member from the House for six months will not hurt the constituency all that much. That is what we have to place on one side of the scale as against inflicting the extreme penalty of expulsion on the other.
Division No. 7.
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