HC Deb 07 May 1991 vol 190 cc625-6 3.31 pm
Mr. Speaker

I have considered the complaint made on Friday last by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that the Official Report incorrectly reported part of an answer by the Prime Minister given by him on the previous day. The Prime Minister is reported, when referring to the British Medical Association, as having quoted from the GP Magazine. I have checked the transcript, which shows that what the Prime Minister said was: and, only last year, it opposed the GP contracts, yet, in its own magazine, it now says … It is the normal practice for a Minister's staff to check Hansard, and during this process a sub-editor was given by a member of the Prime Minister's staff the name of the magazine quoted by the Prime Minister. The sub-editor thought that this was the British Medical Association's own magazine and accepted the suggested change. By including the name of the magazine, however, the Official Report inadvertently changed the sense of the Prime Minister's reply. The Editor of Hansard has expressed to me his regret that this should have happened, and a correction will be printed in today's Official Report.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I am grateful for your statement, Mr. Speaker. Of course we accept in good faith the explanation given by the Editor of Hansard. I am quite sure that everybody is clear that no blame attaches to the Editor or his staff for what occurred. However, the fact remains that, although the Prime Minister's staff do not read the court circular, and apparently do not read the British Medical Journal—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] It is certainly not as cheap as fiddling the record in Hansard. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It would be helpful to the whole House, in terms of lowering the temperature, if the hon. Gentleman were to rephrase his last comment.

Dr. Cunningham

What emerges from your inquiry, Mr. Speaker, is that a member of the Prime Minister's staff persuaded a Hansard sub-editor to change the record. [Interruption.] That is what happened. The sub-editor was persuaded to change the record in a way that was inaccurate in that it changed the sense of what the Prime Minister had said. Would it not have been better if a correction had been issued from No. 10 Downing street and apologies offered both to the House and to the British Medical Association?

Several Hon. Members

rose ——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that anything further arises on that. [Interruption.] Order. I have made my statement and cannot say more than that.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

As the hon. Member is always so supportive of the Chair, I will take a helpful comment from him.

Mr. Ewing

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for pointing out that I am always helpful to the Chair. It is precisely in that vein that I want to put my point of order. We are not dealing here with a trivial matter, and the last thing that I want to see is the Editor of Hansard, to whom no blame attaches, or even a member of the Prime Minister's staff, being incriminated. I want to know whether this was discussed with the Prime Minister and whether the change was made on his authority.