Thursday 26 June 2003

Falsifying history

Transport Secretary (but not for Scotland) Alistair Darling has now been made government spokesman on Scottish matters in the Westminster Parliament. As Scotland on Sunday's Gerald Warner puts it, Darling is now "Minister for Docks and Jocks."

In his first appearance in his new role, Darling made a fool of himself by referring to the Scottish Parliament as an "Assembly". The Right Honourable Member for Edinburgh Central should know better. Wales has an Assembly, but Scotland's body has legislative and tax-varying powers. Darling's error would not have mattered very much had he not been a Scot himself, but it was a foregone conclusion that the Scottish Nationalists would be making the most of Darling's gaffe. Now, the Parliamentary authorities have falsified history:

ALISTAIR Darling’s role as Secretary of State for Scotland descended into farce yesterday after it emerged parliament’s official record had been altered to mask his "assembly" gaffe.

The Scottish National Party claimed an entry in Hansard, the official report of proceedings at Westminster, might have been changed at the request of Mr Darling’s aides after he came under a barrage of criticism for referring to the Scottish Parliament as an "assembly".

The Speaker - now known as "Doc Martin" since getting his honorary degree - acknowledged the falsification:
Mr Martin conceded that an alteration had been made. He told MPs during points of order in the Commons chamber: "The official report did edit the reference by the Secretary of State for Scotland from the ‘assembly’ in Holyrood to the ‘parliament’."

However, he added it was normal practice for Hansard to correct "obvious mistakes" and he added "this is what happened on this occasion".

This is outrageous. Darling didn't make a grammatical error; he made a damaging political boob, and the Labour Speaker has helped him out. Can we believe Hansard in future?