The Department of the Official Report – familiarly known as Hansard – is responsible for producing reports of the proceedings of the main Chamber of the House of Commons, of Westminster Hall, of Standing and Grand Committees and of certain Select Committees. The Department also operates the annunciator system and is responsible for printing written questions and answers.Hansard is an indispensable aid for Members and others within the House and for those outside it who need a clear, accurate and independent account of the proceedings. The report of one day’s sitting in the House up to 1 am, and sometimes beyond, is on Members’ breakfast tables the next day. It is worth noting that, on one occasion, all the day’s proceedings until the rise of the House at 2.45 am were available in print form by 7.30 am – just five and a half hours later! On most days, Hansard produces enough copy to fill the news pages of The Guardian twice over.Hansard reporters sit in the Press Gallery, just above the Speaker’s Chair, to take their reports. The typical reporters rota consists of about 16 men and women taking five-minute and ten-minute “turns”. Three main means of reporting are used: written shorthand, machine shorthand and transcription from tape. Reporters check their copy and send it to the Managing Editors, who check it for consistency, accuracy, style and procedure, and give it the final “polish”. The copy is then compiled into sections ready for sending via dial-up modems to the printer, The Stationery Office Parliamentary Data Centre. The MEs also deal with the hundreds of written questions and answers that appear in Hansard each week.
The reporting of Westminster Hall and Standing Committees is an increasingly important part of the work Hansard. They are reported using digital recordings. A Sub-Editor sits in the Committee room and writes a “log” of the key points of the proceedings, which provides guidance to a team of reporters who compile the report. The Sub-Editor subsequently reads the copy for accuracy and consistency and sends the report in electronic format to The Stationery Office.
Since October 2005, Hansard has been able to facilitate same-day access to reports of debates in the Chamber of the House of Commons on the internet. Once Hansard staff have reported and checked Members’ speeches, they are sent electronically to the print contractor, who immediately processes them and posts a copy on the internet site. The production target is to have a Member’s speech available on the internet within three to four hours.
That service was extended to written ministerial statements in December 2005, and will be extended further during 2006 to debates in Westminster Hall and in Standing Committee.
Luke Hansard came to London from Norwich and entered the establishment of Hughes, printer to the House, becoming manager in 1774 and sole proprietor in 1798. Through his son, Thomas, his family have given their name to the reports of debates of legislatures around the Commonwealth. Thomas joined William Cobbett (of Rural Rides fame) in 1803 to publish reports of the proceedings of the House of Commons. With the creation of the Official Report in 1909 the name was dropped, but reinstated in 1943 in response to popular demand.
Department of the Official Report
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Tel:+44(0)20 7219 3388
Fax:+44(0)20 7219 6363