Procedure Committee

Session 2006-07 14 June 2007 No. 10

Change in reporting of Ministerial errors announced

Jack Straw, the Leader of the House of Commons, today announced a change in the way that ministerial errors made to Parliament are to be handled.

He was responding to Greg Knight, the Member of Parliament for East Yorkshire and Chairman of the House of Commons Procedure Committee.

Today in the Commons Mr Knight expressed his dissatisfaction at the current system where Ministers who accidentally mislead the House are able to use "the obscure and unsatisfactory practice of putting a correction letter in the Library, which of course nobody sees".

Mr Knight called for "errors made in the House to be corrected in the House" by the innovation of a Hansard 'corrections page'.

Mr Straw said he was persuaded, agreeing it was unacceptable that important corrections can only be found by "those who can scurry through letters in the Library". He welcomed Mr Knight's Committee's "sensible proposals" which he said he hoped will come into force at the beginning of the next Parliamentary session.

Mr Knight said: "This is a welcome concession which will provide the press and the public with access to corrections to erroneous statements made by government ministers. "

Notes to Editors:

The exchange in the House of Commons today was:

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Has the Leader of the House seen the latest report from the Procedure Committee on corrections to the Official Report? Is he aware that a number of Ministers who inadvertently mislead the House still adhere to the obscure and unsatisfactory practice of putting a correction letter in the Library, which of course nobody sees? Does he know that the Procedure Committee is suggesting an innovation€”that errors made in the Official Report should be corrected in the Official Report by way of a corrections page, published when necessary, for the benefit of Members, the public and the press? May we have a debate on the report next week? If not, will the right hon. Gentleman assure members of the Procedure Committee that he will take steps to implement its excellent recommendation as soon as possible?

Mr. Straw: The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's key question is yes. I welcome the Procedure Committee's report. He will know that I followed up the representations first made in the House about nine months ago by the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) and others, and indeed spoke to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) about the suggestion. It is not satisfactory for Ministers either that corrections to the record are scattered through Hansard or are to be found in the Library by those who can scurry through letters in the Library.

The Government welcome the Procedure Committee's sensible proposals that there should be a dedicated section of Hansard for corrections by Ministers in respect of any proceedings, oral or written, in the House, cross-referenced with the original error. I shall table a motion later today to allow the House to approve the Committee's report with a view to its coming into force at the beginning of the next Session.

The Procedure Committee Report into "Corrections to the Official Report" (HC541) can be found on these pages by clicking on the links.