Letter from the Editor of the Official
Report (Hansard) to the Clerk of the Committee
E-MAILING OF TRANSCRIPTS TO MEMBERS
I understand that a recent meeting of the Modernisation
Committee considered my paper on providing Members with transcripts
of their speeces ahead of publication in the Official Report.
The question was raised of the possibility of such transcripts
being e-mailed to Members on demand.
The department could offer such a service but
circumstances prevent us doing so in the immediate future. During
the summer recess we shall completely replace our computerised
production system and at the same time integrate into the new
set-up a networked digital audio recording facility to cover the
House, Westminster Hall and all Standing Committees.
The replacement equipment, which has been the
subject of extensive planning and development, was not designed
to include in a secure environment the combination of functions
needed both to produce text and to e-mail the output. Such functionality
could be provided, but we would need to confirm that out new system
worked reliably before attempting modification to incorporate
the new requirement. If all goes well, it should be possible to
introduce the new service next year, but, given that Hansard production
operates within a highly secure framework, the technical complexities
that would need to be overcome should not be underestimated.
If the proposal were approved I would need to
obtain the necessary finance. My aim would be to seek a solution
that had minimal staffing implications, but at this stage I cannot
make a reliable estimate about that. An important factor would
be whether interventions in a Member's speech would be included
in or excised from the transcript. The House would have to overturn
the rule that denies a Member access to another Member's words
ahead of publication for them to be incorporated.
My paper to the Committee stated that we would
provide a transcript only after the copy had been sent to the
printer. In that way we could guarantee that the version supplied
to the Member was precisely that which would appear in Hansard
the next morning. Any corrections that Members made to that version
would be considered for incorporation in the Bound Volume.
There is one area in which I would strongly
advise the Committee not to contemplate change. Notwithstanding
the possible increased use by Members of electronic methods in
other categories of parliamentary papers, I am very anxious that
the correction of the Hansard transcript should continue to be
made by Members in person in the Hansard office.
When Members have corrections or amendments
to suggest, it is essential that they are able to discuss them
with the principal assistant editors who can advise on the best
approach and can confirm that the changes are acceptable and that
they conform with the 1907 terms of reference. To attempt to do
that by e-mail would be ineffective, time consuming and, when
there was no guarantee that the Member, no doubt with pressing
demands on his or her time, would still be by the computer and
able promptly to deal with an e-mail response, impossible. The
pressure of our continuous rolling deadline, which is essential
to enable us to ahieve overnight production, means that we simply
could not accept undue delay while a point of difference was ironed
18 July 2002