HC Deb 25 May 1978 vol 950 cc1768-70
Mr. Fell

I wish to raise a point of order of which I have given you notice, Mr. Speaker, concerning probable sabotage by the printers of our parliamentary proceedings.

You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that an incident was reported to us on Tuesday in which a number of names which should have been on one motion were transferred to another motion which was of an anti-monarchy nature. I regret that both of the hon. Members who were concerned with those motions are not here now. I would have preferred that they were present.

You made a statement then, Mr. Speaker, which the House welcomed. The House treated the matter with a certain amount of levity because everyone thought that it was a mistake. Now, three days later, a similar event has occurred in respect of an amendment to Early-Day Motion No. 444 and an amendment to it tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby). The motion is entitled "Government, Privilege and Poverty".

The names that should have been attached to the amendment—those are the names of myself and my hon. Friends the Members for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) and Conway (Mr. Roberts)—were instead attached to the motion which is anti-monarchy.

It was possible and reasonable for the House to believe that on the matter on which you made your statement on Tuesday a genuine mistake had occurred, although some hon. Members had their doubts about that. It is not possible—at least it is not credible—for anyone to believe that such a mistake could have been repeated within three days on a motion that was similarly against the monarchy.

I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider this very difficult case, and in saying that I am aware that you have already considered it seriously.

I say in passing that the Clerks have been most helpful in this matter and have apologised to the hon. Members concerned. They have also published a correction. That, however, does not explain how the incident arose. I imagine that this matter raises questions of privilege and so on. I should be very grateful for a statement on the matter.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) for having given me notice this morning that he would raise this matter. I realised when I saw the Order Paper and from my knowledge of the hon. Members concerned that clearly the same thing had happened as happened earlier in the week. I take a very serious view of this. I have asked for a very full investigation as to how the mistake occurred. It is understandable when people work under pressure that from time to time errors will take place, and the House is always tolerant of that. However, I shall have a full inquiry made into the matter. It is probably the case—I hope it is—that this is another innocent human error. But we shall find out.

Mr. Burden

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, my motion was the one concerned in the incident earlier this week. What happened cast no reffection whatever on the Clerks of the House. The mistakes appear to have happened at the printers. Is there not some way in which a double check could be instituted at the printers to ensure that the right names go on the right motions?

Mr. Speaker

It would be better for us to say no more at present because there will be some sort of an inquiry into what happened.

Mr. Peter Walker

We are all grateful, Mr. Speaker, for your statement that you will look fully into this matter. One of the great prizes of this House has been the immense speed and accuracy of the documentation that comes to this House. Perhaps it is due to that remarkable record that many of us are so concerned at these events. Perhaps after the short recess you will make a statement as a result of your inquiries.

Mr. Mawby

May I compliment the Officers of the House on the speed with which they inserted a correction in the later editions of today's Vote?

Mr. Speaker

May I thank the House for the expressions of gratitude it has made to those who serve us in the Clerk's Department? I know that we are grateful to those who serve us at the printers. I shall of course undertake to make a short statement when we return after the recess.