Department of the Official ReportAnnual
The Department's primary aim is to support the work
of the House of Commons and its Members. Its objective is the
timely production of edited verbatim reports of the proceedings
of the House and its Standing Committees and the processing and
printing of written answers. The reports must be printed overnight
to the highest standards of editorial and typographical accuracy.
When the Standing Committee work load exceeds production capacity,
publication may be delayed. The Department is responsible for
the operation of the annunciator service.
The principal users of the Department's services
are Members of Parliament and departments of the House, but its
publications are used extensively by Government departments, national
organisations and the public, both in paper form and on the internet.
The Department's goals for the year were based on
its overall aims of remaining cost-effective and efficient, delivering
levels and types of service which the House requires and is entitled
Through a continuing programme of the exploitation
of technology, the Department has continued to improve the standard
of service it has delivered to the House.
The Editor, as head of the Department, is a member
of the Board of Management. It is a role which therefore carries
both Departmental and corporate responsibilities.
The Department is organised into four divisions.
- The House reporting division,
headed by the Deputy Editor (House), is responsible for producing
the Hansard daily part and the bound volume, which contain the
proceedings in the Chamber, reports of the proceedings in Westminster
Hall and written answers, which are processed by the Department's
written answers unit.
- The Committee reporting division,
working under the direction of the Deputy Editor (Committees),
is responsible for producing reports of proceedings in Standing
Committees and has primary responsibility for reporting debates
in Westminster Hall. The division responds to the fluctuating
numbers of Standing Committees, with the aim of overnight production
of the reports according to prescribed criteria.
- The Administration division,
under the control of the Deputy Editor (Personnel, Finance and
Administration), is charged with ensuring the smooth running of
the Department's internal affairs and implementing House policies
on financial and human resource issues. It has assumed an increasing
work load as the Department, in common with others, assumes greater
responsibility for matters relating to finance, staff costs and
- The Information Technology division
provides the technical expertise and support behind the electronic
processing of the text of the Department's reports. It is required
to keep the Department abreast of the latest developments.
2. Plans and Achievements
The new financial year began as the old one had finished,
with the work load maintaining levels that were rarely seen in
the preceding 15 years. Notwithstanding the pressure on all staff,
the introduction of new electronic systems to enable the Department
to reduce its production costs and to offer higher standards of
performance was successfully undertaken, IiP accreditation was
achieved, and work in preparation of the relocation of Committee
operations to 7 Millbank was put in hand.
At a corporate level, the Department's representatives
were active in contributing to the development and implementation
of House strategies and policies on a wide range of topics including
data protection, freedom of information, diversity and equal opportunities,
information systems and information technology, training and development,
and health and safety. They played a leading role in the project
to create a critical services network.
The Department's system of performance measurement
is based upon production targets and error rates. Those rates
are based upon what are termed "significant errors"
which include the mis-spelling of a name, a factual reporting
mistake, misattribution of words spoken, and so on. It met its
targets in all but a few instances.
The Official Report has one overarching performance
target: the daily part of the proceedings in the Chamber must
be produced overnight to a schedule that enables it to be delivered
to the Vote Office at 7.30 am the following morning. That target
was achieved on all occasions.
The level of activity in the year showed a small
decline over 1999-2000, with the total of electronic and set pages,
totalling 29,053, falling by 6% over the previous year's figure
of 30,920. The largest reduction was in Standing Committee pages
which dropped by 11.7% to 8,135, which nevertheless remained one
of the higher figures in recent years. The total of pages for
the daily part, which includes written answers, fell by 3.6 %
to 20,918, which figure masks a steeper decline. The figure for
1999-2000 contained only four months of debates in Westminster
Hall, whereas the 2000-01 result included a full year's proceedings.
The activities and performance of the Department's
individual divisions were as follows:
The division's output is entirely in electronic format
which has a substantial impact in reducing production costs. A
team of sub-editors oversees the work of reporters. Their task
is to maintain the flow of copy to The Stationery Office's Parliamentary
Press so that the daily part can be printed and distributed to
the required schedule, ensuring that it is available in the Vote
Office the next morning at 7.30 am and electronically on the PDVN
at 9 am.
The Department's ability to fulfil its commitment
to the House in respect of the timely production of the daily
part depends on the efficiency of its staff and the reliability
of its computer systems. The section has a performance target
of processing and transmitting to The Stationery Office's Parliamentary
Press the text of Members' speeches three hours after they have
been delivered in the Chamber. This rolling deadline, which reduces
to 1½ hours after the rise of the House, is necessary to
guarantee overnight production to the required standard. The computer
systems operated reliably under the control of the Department's
information technology division, and, with their electronic output,
they continued to enable the Department to make a significant
contribution to reduced printing costs.
In terms of the volume of business, the reporting
year began with a high level of work which eased with the start
of the new session and a legislative programme that was lighter
than would normally be expected. With 159 sitting days, the business
generated a total of 66,102 printed pages for all categories of
the Department's publications, including the daily part, the weekly
Hansard and the bound volume.
Target: Not more than one significant
error per 13 columns of debate and oral answers.
Achievement: Average of
one significant error per 16 columns of debate and oral answers.
The figure is an improvement of 33% over the past two years.
Target: Dispatch of copy
to the print contractor within three hours of the Member having
Achievement: Target met
on all occasions.
Target: Average of one
significant error per 13 columns of written answers.
Achievement: Average of
one significant error in 16.1 columns, a 40% improvement on last
Target: Daily parts corrected
for bound volume within a new rolling deadline of 10 working days,
which is a reduction of 33% on last year's deadline.
Achievement: On average,
daily parts corrected in 7.5 working days.
Members who attend the Hansard office to check the
transcript before it is printed are asked to complete a survey
giving their assessment of the standard of service they have received.
They are asked to tick boxes on a card ranging from "very
satisfied" to "very dissatisfied".
The results for 2000-01 showed that 100% were "very
satisfied" with the reception that they received; 80% were
"very satisfied" with the availability of their speech
while 20% were "fairly satisfied"; 90% were "very
satisfied" with the timely handling of their queries or requests
while 10% were "fairly satisfied"; 100% were "very
satisfied" with the standard of the reporting.
The Committee reporting division guarantees overnight
production of the reports of proceedings in Westminster Hall and
aims to achieve the same time scale for Standing Committees. The
reports are produced by teams of reporters who transcribe from
tape. Their work is overseen by sub-editors who are responsible
for the electronic transmission of the completed work to The Stationery
Office for printing.
Fluctuations in the Committee Workload
(excluding Westminster Hall)
During the reporting year there were 262 sittings
of Bill Committees and 148 sittings of Delegated Legislation Committees.
The division produced reports of debates on 37 Bills, 148 Standing
Committees on Delegated Legislation, 17 meetings of European Standing
Committees, 22 sittings of Grand Committees and one Second Reading
Committee, as well as most of the 99 reports of Westminster Hall
debates. The total number of Standing Committee pages printed
Cooperation between the Committee reporting and Information
Technology divisions and the assistance provided by The Stationery
Office ensured that the Department successfully met its targets
of producing all Westminster Hall debates in electronic format
from Easter 2000 and electronic production of Standing Committee
reports from State Opening 2000. The changes have enabled a saving
of 37% in page production costs to be made. In spite of a heavy
work load, staff shortages and the need to adapt to and develop
the new technology, the division continued to meet its accuracy
targets. A significant benefit of the new production system was
the virtual elimination of typographical errors from the reports.
Target: To deliver to the print contractor
the text of reports of debates in Westminster Hall in time for
them to be published overnight and appear in the Hansard daily
Achievement: Target achieved.
Target: To deliver to
the print contractor the equivalent of seven two-and-a-half hours
morning sittings of Standing Committees on Tuesdays and Thursdays,
and four two-and-a-half hour morning sittings on Wednesdays in
time for them to be published the following morning.
Achievement: Target achieved
on all but five occasions.
Target: Proof reading
of the reports of the proceedings in Westminster Hall to be completed
within 10 working days of the sitting, reports of Standing Committees
within four weeks of the Committees having reported, and reports
of Delegated Legislation Committees and European Standing Committees
within two weeks.
Achievement: All Westminster
Hall reports and all but five of all other reports were proof
read on time.
Target: Not more than
one significant error per 12 columns of debate.
Achievement: Target achieved.
The control and administration of staff costs and
the organisation and implementation of the key areas of staff
training and health and safety were salient aspects of the division's
work during the reporting year.
The specialised skills that the Department requires
of its staff cannot be obtained from the job market and must be
developed in-house. Meeting that demand requires of the training
manager an effective and progressive in-house training programme
which is closely linked to the annual reporting exercise. The
programme is planned on a medium term basis and is designed to
anticipate staff wastage, maintain and improve staff skills in
line with advances in IT, and, through refresher courses, enhance
the level of performance of all staff. Training provision is sourced
from the Civil Service College and the Industrial Society and
other commercial providers.
Experience elsewhere has shown that the increased
use by staff of information technology equipment carries with
it a commensurate increase in the need for vigilance in health
and safety to prevent the occurrence of health problems or to
respond quickly to them if they arise. Under the guidance of its
health and safety manager, the Department has fully supported
and begun to implement the new Parliament-wide risk management
strategy and has continued to maintain a high standard of care
for its staff.
The Department has continued its policy of providing
high-quality ergonomics advice and training to its intensive keyboard
users, and of monitoring them closely. Its programme of physiotherapy
treatment and advice ensures that staff who develop problems can
continue to work productively and safely instead of having to
resort to sick leave.
The division's mission in the year under review continued
to reflect three principal areas of responsibility within the
operations of the Department. First, the division demonstrates
a strong capability in systems development. On the basis of a
detailed knowledge of the Department's systems and its operations
and requirements, it uses that expertise to apply new technologies
to enhance the Department's production processes in the pursuit
of reduced operating costs and increased levels of service and
efficiency. In the reporting year it was responsible for the successful
design, construction and implementation of the new reporting and
production system for the Committee division and the supervision
of the installation of a new annunciator system. Secondly, it
maintains and supports the Department's computer systems, work
force and networks in order to guarantee the highest levels of
availability for the mission-critical tasks that they perform.
Finally, it contributes to the development of Departmental policy
through its initiatives and support in respect of the development
At a corporate level, the division has championed
the development of inter-departmental data standards using new
technologies and techniques, particularly the extended mark-up
language (XML) and has played a leading role in the development
of the proposed critical service network.
The Department's business plan envisages the continued
and extended application of technology to a wide range of the
Department's activities. The division will play a key role in
assisting in the realisation of this aim.