Twenty-fourth Annual Report 2001-02
of the Official Report Annual Report 2001-02
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 workload exceeds
production capacity, publication may be delayed. The Department
is also 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 to expect.
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
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
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 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 workload
as the Department, in common with others, assumes greater responsibility
for matters relating to finance, staff costs and manpower planning.
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.
Hansard reporters in the Gallery
Plans and achievements
Business both in the House and
in Standing Committees was running at manageable levels as the
new financial year began, but it faltered as predictions of a
general election began to assume some substance. The election
had its inevitable effect in depressing the work level, a situation
that was extended with the imminent arrival of the summer recess
only weeks after the opening of the new Parliament.
During that recess, extensive
infrastructure work was carried out by the Department's IT staff
in preparation for the move of the Committee reporting division
to 7 Millbank. An advance party of staff moved into the newly
converted accommodation during the summer break, and work continued
on preparations for the rest of the Committee staff to join them
the following year.
The workload arising from Standing Committees took off slowly
in October, but then reached a high level in the run up to and
after the Christmas recess.
In business terms, the outstanding feature of the year was the
substantial growth in the number of written answers. The available
statistics were already showing a steady growth in the number
of questions tabled, but the sudden marked rise that developed
in the pre-Christmas period and continued until the end of the
year could not have been foreseen. That workload was never envisaged
when the Department's written answers unit the section
of staff responsible for processing the answers and sending them
in electronic format to the print contractor was established.
Consequently, the unit found itself heavily overstretched.
As a result, by the year end, the policy of transmitting the written
answers text to the printers exclusively in electronic format
had to be abandoned, and the contractor was asked to engage in
the more expensive and now discontinued practice of typesetting
some of the material in order for it to be printed within a timescale
that met the requirements of Members and the House. The performance
target of printing overnight not fewer than 90% of answers received
by the due time has been reduced to 70%.
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, internal communications, freedom of information, diversity
and equal opportunities, training and development, health and
safety, and information systems and information technology, including
a review of electronic publishing and developments on the PDVN.
They continued to play a leading role in the project to create
a critical services network.
The Department measures its performance in terms of 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
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 day. That target was achieved
on all occasions.
The figure showing the level of activity in the year was distorted
by the unusual increase in the number of written answers. It was
an election year, which should have resulted in fewer pages in
the daily part. However, at 20,058 pages, the number was little
changed from 2000-01 when it stood at 20,918. Written answers
are included in that figure. At 8,375 pages, they were 23% higher
than for the previous year and are likely to have been an all-time
record. It was certainly the highest number for the seven years
for which statistics are readily available. The pages devoted
to business in the Chamber and Westminster Hall totalled 11,683,
compared to 14,130 the previous year, a 17% drop.
Page production totals
The activities and performance of the Department's individual
divisions were as follows:
targets are related to timeliness of production and accuracy of
reporting. The overarching target is to transmit the daily part
electronically to The Stationery Office's Parliamentary Press
in time to ensure that it is available the following morning in
printed form in the Vote Office by 7.30 am and on the internet
by 8 am. The operational production target is the regular flow
of copy to tSO, with the text of Members' speeches being sent
electronically no later than three hours after they have finished
speaking or one and a half hours after the rise of the House.
ability to fulfil its commitment to the House to produce accurate
and timely reports is dependent on the efficiency, knowledge and
skills of its staff and the reliable operation of the Department's
information technology and information systems.
The ability to transmit copy electronically to tSO enabled the
Department to continue to make a significant contribution to the
reduced printing costs that have been realised across the House
generally, but that ability was severely challenged by the 70%
increase in the number of questions tabled for written answer
in 2001-02. The inevitable later arrival of answers from Government
Departments, coupled with the lack of resources internally to
deal with this unforeseen increase, forced the Department to send
some answers for typesetting by tSO, with a consequent increase
in printing costs.
Average daily print run
The average print order for the daily part showed another small
decline, to 2,387 copies a day. However, the trend in demand for
the printed version must be seen in the context of the electronic
availability of the Official Report on the Parliamentary web site.
Use of the site continued its remarkable increase. For the first
time since it was established in 1996 the number of user sessions
exceeded 400,000 per month, on three occasions, and the total
of such sessions was up 21% on the previous year. Access to Hansard
accounts for a substantial proportion of the interest in the site
and it is reasonable to conclude that the reports of the proceedings
of the House and its Standing Committees are reaching a wider
audience than at any time in the past. Access to them is certainly
greater than would ever have been possible with print alone.
The annunciator service continued
to operate at the highest levels of reliability and gave another
trouble-free year. It is a high profile element of the Department's
service to the House, and its immediacy imposes stringent demands
in terms of both the reliability of the system and the speed of
response of the operation to changing events within the Chamber
and Westminster Hall. At the year end, arrangements were well
in hand to install a remote terminal to provide security personnel
with direct access to the system in the event of an emergency.
With 143 sitting days, the business generated a total of 62,196
printed pages for all categories of the Department's non-Standing
Committee publications the daily part, the weekly Hansard
and the bound volume. In the previous year, with 159 sitting days,
the figure was 66,102.
FOR DEBATE EDITORIAL STAFF
Not more than one significant error per 13 columns of debate and
Achievement: An average of
one significant error per 13.8 columns.
Target: The dispatch of copy
to tSO within three hours of a Member having finished speaking.
Achievement: The target was
met on all occasions.
Target: The correction of
daily parts for the bound volume within a rolling deadline of
Achievement: Daily parts corrected,
on average, in six working days.
FOR THE WRITTEN ANSWERS UNIT
Target: Average of one significant
error per 25 columns of written answers.
Achievement: Average of one
significant error in 49 columns.
Target: Next day printing
of, on average, 90% of written answers received by the Department
by the stipulated time.
Achievement: Under pressure
of an unprecedented increase in the workload, not achieved in
the second half of the year.
Members who attend the Hansard office to check the transcript
before it is printed are invited to assess the standard of service
they receive. The results for 2001-02 show that 95% were "very
satisfied" and 5% were "satisfied" with the reception they received
and with the timely handling of their queries or requests; and
85% were "very satisfied" and 15% "satisfied" with both the availability
of their speech and the standard of 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 four teams of reporters who transcribe from tape.
Sub-editors oversee their work and are responsible for the electronic
transmission of the completed work to the House's print contractor.
During the reporting
year the division produced reports of debates on 225 sittings
of Bill Standing Committees, 106 Standing Committees on Delegated
Legislation, 18 meetings of European Standing Committees, 11 sittings
of Grand Committees and one Second Reading Committee, as well
as most of the 81 reports of Westminster Hall debates. The total
number of Standing Committee pages printed was 6,501, compared
to 8,135 the previous year, the decline being principally attributable
to the calling of the general election.
In the first full year of electronic production of Standing Committee
reports, the division achieved the Department's aim of substantially
reducing printing costs. Other major developments during the year
were the successful move by some Committee staff in October 2001
to new accommodation at 7 Millbank and planning of consequential
moves, both resulting from considerable co-operation between the
Official Report and the Department of the Serjeant at Arms, and
the piloting of a digital audio system which will provide the
Department with greater operational flexibility.
The division's busiest period began earlier than usual, in mid-November
2001, and continued until the beginning of February 2002. With
the assistance of the House reporting division, which reported
four sittings of proceedings in Westminster Hall, the Committee
division was often able to send to the print contractor more than
its target number of transcripts, enabling all reports of Tuesday
Bill Committees to be available for the Thursday sittings.
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 part.
Achievement: The target was
met on all occasions.
Target: To deliver to the
print contractor the equivalent of seven two-and-a-half hour 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: The target was
met on all 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 Statutory Instruments Committees and European Standing Committees
within two weeks of publication.
Achievement: All Westminster
Hall reports and all but six of all other reports were proof read
Not more than one significant error per 12 columns of debate.
An average of one significant error in 14 columns for Westminster
Hall and one in 50 columns for Standing Committees. (The Standing
Committee figure is calculated differently to take account of
the different production methods employed.)
The division continued its policy of obtaining best value for
money in the procurement of the services and resources required
by the Department. In particular, the Department's Head of Administration
was part of the tendering team for the provision of a new House-wide
contract for late night transport, and serves on the user group
formed to renew the House stationery contract.
As part of its manpower
planning responsibilities the division has been active in sourcing
cost effective and flexible temporary staff to meet the Department's
heavy workload, particularly in the Committee and written answers
The division's system of performance measurement is based upon
the fair and efficient disposition of reporting staff and takes
account of the Working Time Directive when allocating duties in
the weekly and daily rotas. The division aims to produce these
duty rotas to deadline in 95% of cases. This target was achieved
on all occasions.
The specialised skills that the Department requires of its reporting,
sub-editing and managerial 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 performance of all staff.
While training provision is sourced from the Civil Service College
and the Industrial Society and other commercial providers, and
from training courses organised by the House, the most important
course, that at entry level, is run and managed by experienced
Hansard staff. Their task is to shepherd new recruits through
a four-month training programme that has consistently provided
for the Department staff who have the skills that enable it to
meet its obligations to the House.
The Department also provides training to reporting staff from
other parliaments, both in the formal setting of the Departmental
training scheme and during secondments.
During the year, the Department continued to attach the highest
importance to all aspects of staff health, safety and welfare.
Staff training continued, in accordance with the Department's
safety action plan, to help ensure that health and safety are
integral to all Departmental functions. The health and safety
arrangements document has been revised, so that it more closely
follows the House-wide policy and arrangements and emphasises
the importance of risk assessment as the foundation of good health
and safety practice. A copy has been issued to all staff.
Continuing the efforts to avoid work-related injuries, high standards
of ergonomics have been applied to new Committee offices in Millbank,
which have been occupied by the first of the Committee staff to
move there, and work is in hand for phase II to secure the same
The division continued to play a key role in the operations of
the Department, with its objectives linked to three principal
areas of responsibility. 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 built upon the previous year's successful systems deployments
with the development of a new reporting application based upon
SQL, Word and Windows 2000. The new system is on schedule to be
deployed in summer 2002. The division was responsible for the
successful design, construction and implementation of new networking
and communication arrangements, moving the Department's production
systems to a gigabit platform. 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 programme.
At a corporate level the division continues to play a leading
role in the development of the proposed critical services network
whilst developing its own convergence strategy to support these
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 that aim.