Official Report (Hansard)
The upper House of the British Parliament is the House of Lords. It is a busy debating Chamber—it sits for approximately 150 days per parliamentary year—and sees its primary function as that of scrutinising and revising legislation. Most hereditary Peers were expelled in 1999, although nearly 100 remain, and most of its current membership—nearly 1,000 Members—is made up of life Peers and the Lords Spiritual (from the Church of England). A significant number of Members are independent of political party.
The Hansard team is built around a reporters’ list, generally of 16, working on “turns” of five or 10 minutes. Most turns are typed, with playback from digital audio, but a small number of reporters use voice recognition software instead. Eight sub-editors read and check that copy before publishing it to the internet, with a lag time of about three hours from events in the Chamber. Each full sitting is still published in paper form as “the daily part” the next morning, and a Bound Volume is produced at a later date. The Lords aims to sit until 10 pm Monday to Wednesday, and often sits later, so the Hansard team work hours that some might consider unsocial.
Hansard also reports proceedings of the House’s Grand Committee, which meets for up to four hours a day on nearly two-thirds of sitting days. On those days, we employ freelance reporters from a pool that we largely share with the House of Commons Hansard. We also have responsibility for the transcripts of the evidence sessions for the House’s various Select Committee inquiries, many of which are produced in-house. The official versions of Written Ministerial Statements and Answers are no longer published in the daily part but we retain oversight of their publication online.
The team is managed by the Editor of Debates and his deputy editor and, being a small team, we work closely together, united in pursuit of a high-quality product delivered to the user at speed. Although we often bring in our own recruits, we have been fortunate in recruiting experienced Official Report staff recently from the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons, and are always open to secondments and visits from BIPRA colleagues.