§ Mr. George Wigg
May I raise a point of order of which I have given you, Mr. Speaker, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence notice?
On reading HANSARD this morning, I became aware of a discrepancy in the report of the speech, as I recollected it, of the Minister of Defence last night. I therefore approached the Editor of HANSARD, who was kind enough to write to me in the following terms:The original typescript of the marked passage attached read as follows:'It is clearly known and accepted in N.A.T.O. that our new Regular Forces have an efficiency, quality and fighting power which is worth two or three conscript soldiers even in the German Forces. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is denigrating now?"]'.The Editor said that this was altered by the Minister's Department to read:It is clearly known and accepted in N.A.T.O. that our new Regular Forces have an efficiency, quality and fighting power not possessed by conscript soldiers even in the German Forces. [An HON. MEMBER: 'Who is denigrating now?']"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1152.]1224 The letter to me concludes by saying that the responsibility for allowing an alteration rests with the OFFICIAL REPORT; the Minister's Department may suggest alterations, but it is the Editor's responsibility either to allow them or not, and this one should not have been allowed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving me notice of this matter so that I could inform myself of the position. I am afraid that there is nothing I can do except apologise to the House for an error in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Such a change should not, of course, have been allowed.
I hope that I shall have the House with me if I say that, by and large, the OFFICIAL REPORT renders magnificent service to us all, and it is rare indeed that one finds that a mistake has been made.
I will give instructions that in the Bound Volume the words will be put back to what the Minister said.
The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Watkinson): I may have some responsibility in this, and, if so, I would certainly wish to tender my apologies to the House, Mr. Speaker.
What, I think, happened was that after my speech last night it was pointed out to me that something I said—I was not speaking from notes and in the heat of debate one says things—might be misunderstood outside the House. I fully accept responsibility for giving instructions that, in the normal editing of HANSARD, which, I think, the whole House understands, if this could be guarded against it should be.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was kind enough to let me know this morning what he proposed to do. I consulted HANSARD, and I agree with him that it would have been better to have left matters as they were. I told him, and I sent a message to the Editor—I do not know whether this was right or not—that I was only too anxious that the matter should be restored in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I do not know quite where the responsibility lies, but perhaps you would allow me to say, Sir, that I must accept some responsibility. I do not wish the blame to lie entirely on the OFFICIAL REPORT. I apologise for what happened.