HC Deb 08 June 1939 vol 348 cc597-9
Mr. Orr-Ewing

I rise to ask for your advice, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to whether there are any means by which Members may correct mistakes in the Official Report of their speeches in such a way as to make such corrections known before the publication of the bound volume of the Official Report? The point arises in this way. Last night I took part in the Debate, only for a few minutes and towards the end of the Debate on the Colonial Office Vote, and this morning when I read the Official Report I noted that my remarks had not been accurately reported and that some of the mistakes in the Report had a most misleading effect. I do not wish in any sense to criticise or to attack those who are responsible for the framing of the Official Report. Far from it, for I share the feeling, which I am sure the entire House has, of immense gratitude for the extremely efficient way in which that work is carried on in trying circumstances, nor do I wish to place a higher value on my own few words than they deserve. My only reason for putting this question to-day is that last night I was speaking on matters which had been the subject of very close survey by a Royal Commission of which I, as a Member of this House, was a member for some months during last year, and I feel it to be highly undesirable that anybody reading reproductions of the Official Report in the Colonial or other Press should get the impression that any member of that Royal Commission, and particularly a Member of this House, should be capable of making such inaccurate and rather ridiculous statements as I am recorded as having made in the Official Report this morning. Again I wish to stress the fact that I can only blame myself for any inaccuracies that occur in the Report. Probably I was not clearly heard in the Press Gallery, though I was not so informed.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member asks me, in the first place, whether there is any method by which hon. Members can get a transcript of their speeches and correct it before the daily Report comes out. I am afraid that the only way in which they can do that is by applying to the reporters immediately afterwards in order to get the proof, but that course, in the case of the hon. Member was probably impracticable, owing to the fact that he was speaking at the end of the Debate.

Misreporting must necessarily take place sometimes in the daily Report and all Members—and I include myself in that expression—have suffered from time to time, but usually they have not thought it necessary for the point to be raised. On this occasion I recognise that the hon. Member was speaking as one who had served upon a Royal Commission connected with the matters under discussion, and, therefore, no doubt, more importance attaches to a correct report of what he said than would be the case with an hon. Member who had not held such a particular official position. I am afraid that all I can say to the hon. Member is that no doubt his having raised the matter in this House to-day will give such publicity to what he has said that those who are particularly concerned and interested may apply to him or to the reporters—with whom, no doubt, the hon. Member will communicate—in order to find out what the correct reading should be.

Mr. Maclean

Before you leave this point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I understand from what you say that it is only in special circumstances that you advise such steps to be taken. Is it not a fact that at present it is becoming a general practice among a number of Members immediately they make a speech in this House to go to the Reporters' Room to alter the speech, and sometimes the speech that appears in the morning in the Official Report differs completely from the speech which was delivered in the House? I think that you will recall an occasion upon which a Prime Minister in this House corrected, or rather altered in a very substantial manner, an entire paragraph of a speech which he had made from that Box, and that there was considerable disturbance on the following day in the House of Commons. I wish that you, in your capacity as Deputy-Speaker, taking the place of Mr. Speaker, would warn Members of this House that it is not a practice that Members should follow to alter speeches that they deliver here, but rather to correct them to appear in the bound volumes—not to correct them to appear next morning different entirely from what they have spoken in the House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member, if my recollection serves me aright, first made a suggestion that I said there should be some difference in treatment of hon. Members regarding these reports; if so, he was mistaken. The only special circumstance which I thought should be considered in the case raised by the hon. Member who first brought this matter to my notice was the fact that he happened to have been a member of a Royal Commission which dealt with the subject under discussion. In all such matters hon. Members are equal as Members of this House in regard to the rule relating to the alteration of their speeches, which is that alterations of substance must not be made. The hon. Member no doubt is quite right in saying that some hon. Members are making a practice of getting proof reports of their speeches in order to make some corrections: this is all to the good, provided that all the alterations they make are legitimate corrections.

Sir A. Knox

Would it not be better if hon. Members handed in their speeches written out to the reporters, and did not bore the House?

Sir F. Fremantle

I would make one further suggestion. As there is a Select Committee of which I have the honour to be chairman, specially to deal with reports of the Debates and Proceedings, if any matter of this sort requires further consideration it is the business of our committee, and that we shall gladly do.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Note will, no doubt, be taken of what the hon. Member has said.