Mr. John Mendleson
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With your permission and that of the House, I wish to raise a point of order relating to the point of order raised yesterday afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble). I gave notice to the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) by letter on the board at 6 p.m. yesterday.
The points that I wish to raise are of importance because they relate to our complete reliance upon the reporters and editors of Hansard. It is therefore a matter between all hon. Members and Hansard. They also relate to relations between hon. Members and hon. Members and are therefore an important House of Commons matter.
The first point that arises out of what transpired yesterday leads to question No. 1. It has been agreed, and is common ground, that the words "at present", "at the present", or "at the present time", or words to that effect—I quote all three phrases, because the lion. Member for St. Ives said that he had said something to that effect, and my recollection is that he said "at the present"—were not contained in the first typewritten script shown to him when he went upstairs to the Hansard office to check his speech.
The first question, therefore, is: as these words were in the original shorthand note of the Hansard reporter, why did they not appear in the typewritten transcript? There is, in my experience, a period of only about half an hour or 1824 45 minutes between the transcription of the shorthand note and the first typewritten script. The first question is: why were these three words not transcribed?
I turn to the second question. According to the statement made by the hon. Member for St. Ives, when he first went upstairs, knowing full well that he had used these words, he found that they were not in the text. He took no action. He did not ask that those words be inserted. It must have been obvious to him that those words had been used, because I interrupted him three times, repeating the words "at present", "at the present time'', "at present". Those interruptions did not appear in Hansard, either.
The hon. Member for St. Ives told the House yesterday afternoon that, on looking at the first text of the transcript and not finding the words, he took no action. Question No. 2 is: why did he not take any action when he first found the words were missing, given the fact that they are key words indicating an important policy that might be pursued in future by Her Majesty's Opposition?
I turn to the third and final question. The hon. Member for St. Ives told the House that he heard in the course of the day that references had been made to that particular section of his speech. He then went upstairs and asked whether the words could be inserted. He took that action not because he found that the words he used were missing but because the political consequences of those words had been pointed out by other Members of the House. My third and final question is: at what time did the Hansard Editor send off the correction?
Is not what happened this: that, as it had not been discovered at an earlier stage that these words were missing, when it was discovered that they should be inserted, the correction was not sent straight away? Is there any connection between that delay and the astonishing fact that, even after the correction had been sent, a second mistake occurred and that correction did not appear in the published copies of Hansard? In the calm of the following morning these points need to be cleared up in the best interests of everybody concerned.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) did me the courtesy of telling me last night that he 1825 proposed to raise this matter this morning. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) did me the courtesy of speaking to me on the telephone last night. The whole House will understand that an hon. Member has constituency commitments on a Friday, which often applies to all of us. The hon. Member for St. Ives stands by the statement he made yesterday.
The hon. Member for Penistone has asked why the missing words which were spoken by the hon. Member for St. Ives did not appear in the first typescript which was shown to him. The reason is solely a technical error by the reporter, for which the individual concerned has accepted full responsibility. No suggestion was made to him at any time by any other person that the words should be omitted, and I know that the House will accept that at once, as will the hon. Gentleman.
The interjections from other Members, to which the hon. Member has referred, were not recorded because neither of the two reporters in the Gallery at the time heard them. Unless a Member rises to speak, the microphones in front of him are not switched on, and in this way sedentary interruptions—which in any event are wholly disorderly—are not in fact usually heard in the Gallery. The reporter says that had he heard these interventions, he would have recorded them.
I believe that this clears up the matter and that we should leave it there. The whole House realises that there was no intervention from the hon. Member for St. Ives to change the record in any way except to insert the words he had said. I was grateful for the way in which the hon. Member for Penistone presented his point of order. It is customary and in the best interests of the House, when an hon. Gentleman has explained, that we should leave the matter there.
§ Mr. Gow
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you about one matter? In spite of the courtesy that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) showed in giving notice to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) at 6 o'clock last night telling him that he proposed to follow up this matter again today, it would have been desirable if my hon. Friend had had the opportunity of being 1826 present. Would it have been in order for the hon. Member for Penistone to raise this same point of order with you on Monday when my hon. Friend for St. Ives could have been here?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Penistone tried very hard to intervene yesterday, as the House will remember, but I was severe in saying that I was not taking any further points of order. However, he did get one in—a point of order, I mean. When we are dealing with a matter of this sort, it should be raised at the earliest possible moment. That has been done, and I am sure that the hon. Member for St. Ives will feel satisfied that he made his statement yesterday. I assured him that I would convey to the House once again the assurance that he gave the House yesterday.