§ Mr. Noble
I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, and the attention of the House to an error that appeared in the Official Report of 7th February in the report of the speech of the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott). As reported in col. 1253 the hon. Gentleman was referring to the attitude of his party to incomes policy. He stated:We have made it clear that we are against individual limits."—[Official Report, 7th February 1978; Vol. 943, c. 1253]I have consulted a number of my hon. Friends and members of the Press Gallery, and it is quite clear that there is an omission and that the hon. Gentleman in fact said,We have made it clear for our part that at present we are against individual limits.If I may crave the indulgence of the House, Mr. Speaker, Andrew Alexander in the Daily Mail reported this matter as follows:The question of whether the Tories did believe in an incomes policy soon arose. Mr. Nott did not help himself much by saying that the Tories did not believe in an incomes limit at this time.This point was picked up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise.) Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury referred to the fact that the speaker for the Opposition, leading the Opposition, had made the point that the Conservative Party did not wish an incomes policy, or wish to refer to an incomes policy, at this time.
1682 I draw the attention of the House to this matter for two reasons. The first reason is that this was a statement made by a Front-Bench spokesman of the Opposition and, therefore, presumably carried the weight of the official policy of the Tory Party. The second reason is that we on the Labour side of the House all understand the embarrassment of the Opposition when there are so many points of view about this question of incomes policy. It might have been appropriate if we had given them an opportunity to debate this issue, but I ask whether this error can be rectified in the Official Report.
§ Mr. Nott
The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) said I crossed it out. When I went upstairs and checked my speech in the Hansard office the words "at the present time", or something of that sort, were not contained in the record that was in front of me. I made no change whatsoever to the text. However, subsequently, having heard in the debate that this was a matter of some consequence for the Labour Party, and knowing—
§ Mr. Nott
—that some hon. Members would wish to make mischief about this matter, I went upstairs to the Hansard office and said that, since this had been mentioned, in my opinion the words "at the present time" should be inserted in the text.
I was told by the Hansard editors that they would insert these words in the text. I did it because I imagined that hon. Members would raise this point. The next day when I read Hansard I found that the words which I had asked should be put into the text in order to meet the hon. Gentleman's point had not been put in, so I went back to the Hansard office again, the next morning, and I reported that the words which we had agreed 1683 should be put in the report had not been put in. The Hansard Editor assured me that they would be put in. It was not my error; I had reported it, and he would put the matter right.
That is where the position stands. If the hon. Gentleman would like to check it, he will find, I am sure, that the Hansard office would be prepared to confirm every word I say.
§ Mr. Speaker
I should tell the House that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) gave me notice of the point of order, as he courteously informed the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott). I asked the Editor of Hansard for a report, and I shall read it in the exact words that are here. It states:Mr. Nott reviewed the transcript of his speech in the Hansard office and then subsequently visited our office to see whether the underlined words were or were not in the transcript he had seen earlier. Since they were not he explained to the Assistant Editor that he had been told that he had used these words and the Assistant Editor said that he would check back with the reporter. The reporter confirmed their use and a correction was sent to the Printers. Unfortunately the Printers failed to make the correction. Mr. Nott contacted our office yesterday about the omission and he agreed that a correction should be made for the Bound Volume. I am also arranging for a corrigendum to be published in today's report.I think that ends the matter.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
There seems to be a little more in this than meets the eye, Mr. Speaker. As I understand what you read out, the words that many of us distinctly heard—" we at this time "—were the words that I distinctly recollect. I think that the report that you have read out indicated that the original report upstairs contained these words—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If I am mistaken, perhaps—
§ Mr. Hamilton
I gather that it was in the shorthand reporter's note. If that is the case, then can somebody please tell you, Mr. Speaker, why the words did 1684 not appear in the Official Report? Moreover, I understand that when an hon. Member goes to Hansard after he has made a speech he can alter only the grammar and cannot alter anything that changes the content of the speech. That is a well-known rule in the House, for obvious reasons. Why is it that the hon. Gentleman was allowed to alter, and alter—[HON. MEMBERS: "He did not."] He altered it in the sense that he chose to put back something that had been missed out. It is an extremely important point, and no howling from the Opposition Benches will stop me from asking Mr. Speaker to investigate it further.
The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) has said, and I think that the House has gathered, that these words were not put back although they appeared in the official shorthand reporter's note. Why is it that the hon. Gentleman was allowed to reinsert them? I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will carry this matter further and satisfy suspicions on the Labour side of the Chamber that there is something irregular still about this matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
I tell the House that I am entirely satisfied with the statement that I have had from the Editor of Hansard. All of us from time to time have asked Hansard to correct something that has been left out—at least, I have—and it has been put right in the Bound Volume, as a rule, or in a corrigendum, to which the Editor refers. The hon. Member for St. Ives could not have done more than he did.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In addition to the words that have just been discussed as having been left out, there were a number of us—I think that I was the first—who, immediately on the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) having said "not at present", asked three times "Not at present?". I repeated the phrase. I am 1685 asking now, Mr. Speaker, whether you could please ask the Editor of Hansard why this intervention was not reported. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sedentary!"] It is within the recollection of the House that these interventions are normally punctiliously reported. Is it not rather strange, Mr. Speaker, that both the original reference that played such a prominent part in the hon. Gentleman's speech and my intervention were not recorded at all?
§ Mr. Speaker
I said that I was not taking any further points of order on this matter. The hon. Member for St. Ives gave a statement to the House that is confirmed by the Editor of Hansard. So far as I am concerned, that is sufficient. The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not taking another point of order on this subject. The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.
§ Mr. Mike Thomas
It is simply a personal statement Mr. Speaker. I earlier made a statement accusing the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) of crossing the words out. In the light of your statement, Mr. Speaker, and in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, which I should accept, I should take the earliest opportunity to withdraw, and I do so.