Hansard is a substantially verbatim report of what is said in Parliament. Members’ words are recorded, and then edited to remove repetitions and obvious mistakes, albeit without taking away from the meaning of what is said. Hansard also reports decisions taken during a sitting and records how Members voted to reach those decisions in Divisions. Historically, Hansard has been a printed document—some people even used to pay for a subscription. Now, while we still print Hansard each day for distribution around Parliament, the majority of the readers access reports online.
Hansard is the traditional name of the transcripts of Parliamentary debates in Britain and many Commonwealth countries. It is named after Thomas Curson Hansard (1776–1833), a London printer and publisher, who was the first official printer to the Parliament at Westminster. Though the history of the Hansard began in the British parliament, each of Britain's colonies developed a separate and distinctive history.
Hansard is named after the family of printers and publishers who produced the record of British parliamentary debates from 1812 to 1889. Up until the late 18th century it was illegal to report what was said in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, although a record of the decisions made by the British Parliament was available to the public. It was thought that parliamentary debates should be kept private so that members of parliament would not be overly influenced by the opinions of their constituents.
The Zimbabwean Hansard follows the principles laid down in 1907 by the House of Commons Select Committee on Parliamentary Debates -
"It is a full report, in the first person, of all speakers alike, a full report being defined as; '...one which, though not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand, leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument"
Importance of the Hansard
Hansard is an edited transcript—written record—of what is said in the Parliament of Zimbabwe: in the Senate, the National Assembly and committee hearings. The people who work to create Hansard are called Hansard editors. As well as informing people about parliamentary proceedings, Hansard is an important way of keeping Parliament open and accountable.
The Hansard Department in the Parliament of Zimbabwe
The Hansard department falls under the leadership of the Deputy Clerk, Ms. H.B. Dingani. This is the Department responsible for producing verbatim reports of Parliamentary proceedings, that is debates of the National Assembly and the Senate and reports of Committees and public hearings. The department is headed by the Director Hansard. It has a staff complement of 19; that is Director Hansard and 18 Reporters. The approved establishment is 28 – 4 Editors and 24 Reporters.
Hansard Reporting and Transcription Process
When Parliament is in session, Hansard Reporters are scheduled on a duty roster to do ten minute ‘takes’ each. The speeches delivered by Members are recorded by the digital recording system, while pen writing in shorthand format is used to supplement the digital recording system in order to ensure accuracy of the report. If debate is in vernacular, interpretation to English is received through the recording system, as there are no shorthand forms for vernacular. The captured material is transcribed in 40 - 50 minutes into readable English (for a standard 3 page manuscript). For members to satisfy themselves that the report of their speeches is accurate, each member is supplied with a typescript of their contributions in the House so that they can check on the accuracy of the report. Attached to each typescript is a slip with the member’s name and the time by which any suggested alteration should be returned to the Editor for incorporation in the Daily Hansard. However, the revision of speeches by members must be confined to grammatical mistakes, errors in names, figures and no additions should be made which would profoundly change what was said in the House. It is not in order to add new matter or to delete any statements made.
The Hansard is produced overnight and should be delivered to Parliament the following morning (pending availability of resources). Hon. Members are urged to read it and contact the Editor with any corrections for final entry in the Bound Volume.
Need to Know:
- Hon Members are urged to make corrections to their speeches before they leave Parliament building.
- When Hon Members get their speeches from Editors for corrections, they should correct them within ten minutes and return them to the Editors for incorporation of those corrections in the main document.
- Queries that come after the Hansard has been printed can only be incorporated in the Bound Volume or through a corrigendum or an addendum.
- Members are encouraged to speak in moderation for audibility and easier capturing by reporters.
- Members who make contributions in the vernacular are also encouraged to speak slowly in order for interpreters to keep pace with them.
- Members who have written speeches are encouraged to hand them to the reporter in the House at that time or to the Editorial team to enhance accuracy.
- Should any speech be marked “Not recorded due to technical fault”: what it means is that the reporter was not able to capture that speech by hand or through the digital recording system. This is caused by technical faults beyond the control of reporters.
- Under normal circumstances, the Hansard is produced overnight, meaning that it should be ready for distribution the next morning, but due to the harsh economic conditions, sometimes the Printer fails to meet the printing deadline. However, a soft copy of the Hansard can be accessed on the Parliament website 3 to 4 hours after adjournment of the House(s).
- Any queries pertaining to the Hansard should be directed to the Director Hansard or any officers manning the Amalgamation office.