Procedure Committee

Session 2006-07 5 June 2007 No. 9

Publication of Second Report


The House of Commons Procedure Committee has today published its Second Report of Session 2006-07, on Corrections to the Official Report, HC 541.

Launching the report, the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, Rt Hon Greg Knight MP said€”

"Ministers have an obligation to give accurate information to Parliament and to correct any mistakes as soon as possible. But at present different Ministers may make those corrections in different ways. Some, for example, simply place a letter in the House of Commons Library. This can make it very difficult for Members, but even more for those outside the House, including the press, to know when incorrect information has been given to Parliament.

Our report proposes that all corrections should be published in a single designated place in Hansard, with, at least in the electronic version, cross-references to and from the original error.

I believe that this proposal, although relatively minor in itself, could lead to a significant improvement in the transparency of ministerial accountability to Parliament"

The Summary of the Report is as follows:

Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the Government's policies and actions. As a consequence they provide the House of Commons with a great deal of information. Under the Ministerial Code and the House's resolution on Ministerial Accountability to Parliament they have a responsibility to ensure that that information is correct. This responsibility is taken seriously by the Government, but from time to time errors are made. Considering the amount of information provided, these occasions are rare.

Currently there are various ways in which Ministers may correct such inadvertently made errors. Some of these are not widely publicised and can be difficult to track down. We believe that this is unsatisfactory. Since the mistakes are recorded in the Official Report (Hansard), the corrections should appear there too. There should also be clearer links between the error and the correction.

We therefore recommend that there should be a dedicated section of Hansard in which all corrections should appear. This 'corrections page' should be published whenever a correction is made. It should be separately identified in the table of contents and have its own column numbering.

We recommend that it should be used for corrections to errors made by Ministers in any proceedings in the Chamber (e.g. including answers to written and oral questions, statements and debates), in Westminster Hall and, in some circumstances, in general committees. It should also be used by other Members who answer on behalf of certain bodies (such as the House of Commons Commission and the Church Commissioners).