Hansard row is defused by editor

Click to follow
A ROW over the alleged deletion from the official Parliamentary record of a statement by Tony Blair on Northern Ireland was defused by the editor of Hansard yesterday.

Although the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, will not rule on the affair until next week, a letter to her from the editor of the official report denied any meddling by the Prime Minister's Office.

Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist MP for Belfast East, had complained on Thursday that his question about whether prisoners could be released before arms had been decommissioned had been answered in the affirmative by Mr Blair.

The words "The answer to your question is yes, of course it is the case that both in respect of taking seats in the government of Northern Ireland and the early release of prisoners," although spoken in the chamber, had never appeared in Hansard, he claimed.

Yesterday the editor, Ian Church, released a full transcript which he said showed Mr Blair's words had been reflected in spirit if not to the letter.

The Prime Minister's full response had been: "What is essential is that any agreement must be signed up to in full, as we said, and the answer to his question is yes of course it is the case that, both in respect of taking seats in the government of Northern Ireland and in respect of the early release of prisoners, the only organisations that qualify for that are organisations that have given up violence and given it up for good."

Ian Church wrote: "I do not need to remind you that Hansard is a full report, not a verbatim report. It has a discretion to amend the words as spoken, acting within the authority of its terms of reference."