§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is more with sorrow than with anger that I rise to put my point of order, of which I have given you prior notice. My views on abortion are well known. In the historic Protestant tradition, I totally oppose it, except where the life of the mother is in danger.
On 26 April 1993, two early-day motions appeared on the Order Paper. One of those reckoned that it was a sad day when the Abortion Act 1967 was passed by the House, and to that I affixed my name. The other welcomed the Abortion Act and called for universal abortion on demand for women. On 19 May, I heard that my name had been appended in error to the second of those early-day motions. I received a courteous and prompt letter from the Table Office saying:Due to an administrative error your name appeared in support of early-day motion 1863 (25th Anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967). I apologise for this error, and a corrigendum will appear in tomorrow's 'Blue Notices'.The corrigendum appeared, saying:In the Notices of Motions given on Wednesday 19th May, on page 8662, the name of the Reverend Ian Paisley appeared in error in support of Early Day Motion 1863.There I thought the matter would have rested. But when I was in Strasbourg late on Tuesday evening, the political correspondent of the Belfast Newsletter, Mr. Pauly, rang me and asked, "Have you done a U-turn on your attitude to abortion" I said, "Certainly not." He said that he had received from the office of the official Ulster Unionist party in the House of Commons a fax claiming that I had done a U-turn, and containing comments by the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) about my attitude and my supposed change of heart. I was appalled at that, and immediately got in touch with the Table Office so that it could fax me a copy of the letter that had already been sent.
I have never wavered on the issue of abortion.
Providentially, that all happened after the election was over. I do not know what effect it would have had if it had been an issue in the election. My problem, which I put to you, Madam Speaker, is that I do not know to how many newspapers the fax has been sent. I have received no written withdrawal from the hon. Member for Londonderry, East on the matter. I approached his leader and told him about the matter last night, and I regret that I have had to raise it.
I ask you, Madam Speaker, what action a Member of Parliament can take in such circumstances, when his reputation can be seriously damaged at a crucial time?
§ Madam Speaker
I think that the hon. Gentleman has now had the opportunity of putting the record straight, and I am pleased that he has been able to do so.