HC Deb 26 October 1971 vol 823 cc1477-9
Mr. George Cunningham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise with you a small but nevertheless I think quite improper falsification of HANSARD which appears to have taken place following yesterday's debate. In the course of his speech, I think I am right in saying—and certainly I think that many of my colleagues heard him—the Chancellor of the Duchy referred to his speech, as well as to mine, as an "apologia", and I see that in the record that word has been changed to something else. It is at col. 1252, near the top of the page.

I do not ask you, Mr. Speaker, to reach any decision on the point at the moment, but this practice of Ministers and, more often than not, over-zealous private secretaries choosing to correct the record from what the Minister did say to what they would have wished him to have said is far too common.

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, first, to make inquiries to see whether any falsification of the record did take place, and, if so, to name the civil servant responsible. Secondly, would it be possible to ensure that the HANSARD notes containing the record of any changes made should be kept as a regular practice for something like a couple of weeks in order that these things could be checked after the event?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon Member for giving me notice that he was going to raise this point. I remind the House of what is said on page 248 of Erskine May with regard to the OFFICIAL REPORT: It is a full report, in the first person, of all speakers alike, a full report being defined as one ' which, though not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument.' That is the general doctrine. I will certainly consider what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a fact that the word "apologia" does not mean an apology but means a spirited defence or justification?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of it. As far as I am aware, no one has changed HANSARD. I think that at the time is was a little difficult for me to make myself heard.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] As far as I know, it was not changed, HANSARD does its best. We can look into that. I can certainly confirm that my recollection of what I was trying to say, over the hubbub, was that the hon. Gentleman was making his apologia and I was making mine. That seemed to cause a great deal of excitement, because some hon. Members are not as erudite as my hon. Friend. I added, over the uproar: … this is my explanation why I support entry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1252.] There is no doubt that it was my explanation, and I am happy to stand by it.