The Commons’ Official Report

7.19The responsibility for producing the Official Report rests with the staff of the Official Report in the Chamber and Committees team and its head, the Editor.

The Official Report is the record of speeches made in the Chamber and in Westminster Hall. It also includes written ministerial statements, ministerial corrections and the texts of public petitions (but not e-petitions) and of government responses to them.1 The responses to questions for written answer are published online only.2 Separate daily reports are also issued of debates in general committees. It has never been the practice of the House to allow any speech material not actually delivered in the House to be published in the Official Report.3 However, it has been the practice for many years to publish material in amplification of an answer to a written parliamentary question or of a ministerial statement in order to save the time of the House. Successive Speakers have been vigilant in ensuring that this expedient has not been used to publish material of excessive length or dubious relevance. Thus material in amplification of ministerial speeches as opposed to ministerial answers and statements must not be included in published answers to written questions.4 This principle governs the publication of written answers and ministerial statements on the Questions and Written Answers website. However, in respect of the annual financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Speaker has ruled that, subject to prior notification having been given to the Speaker, essential material in amplification of that statement may also be published in the Official Report.5

The Official Report 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’.6 (See para 8.26 for the position of the Official Report vis-à-vis the audio recordings of debates.)

Corrections are allowed to be made in the reports of speeches in the daily part for reproduction online and in the bound volume, but only if, in the opinion of the Editor, they do not alter substantially the meaning of anything that was said in the House.7 A Member may quote the remarks of another Member during a current sitting once the record made for the Official Report is available.8

A Member has sometimes been allowed to point out at a subsequent sitting an error in the report of their speech in the Official Report.9 No Official Report is made, or shorthand note taken, of speeches delivered in secret session or when the House has resolved to sit in private, the Official Reporters being excluded.10

The Official Report is printed (as a `Daily Part’) and published on the Parliament website. Online text is available within two to three hours of delivery. The Daily Parts are later made up into final bound volumes, each containing the debates for a two or three-week period.

Footnotes

  1. 1. SO No 156.
  2. 2. At www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-questions-answers/
  3. 3. Questions for written answer and the answers to them, written ministerial statements and ministerial corrections, insofar as they may be considered to be time-saving substitutes for speaking, may be considered to be exceptions to this rule.
  4. 4. Speaker's private ruling, November 1972.
  5. 5. Speaker's private ruling, May 1975.
  6. 6. This definition was adopted in 1907 by the Select Committee on Parliamentary Debates (HC 239 (1907)). See HC Deb (1997–98) 314, cc 704–05, for an occasion on which editorial changes were upheld by the Speaker, and ibid (2002–03) 407, c 1051, where the Speaker confirmed that it was the practice to correct obvious mistakes.
  7. 7. See HC Deb (1914) 60, c 1632; ibid (1942–43) 386, c 217; ibid (1982–83) 53, cc 624–27; ibid (1985–86) 92, cc 377, 498–99 and ibid (1987–88) 139, c 494. The Speaker has reaffirmed the practice of not recording interruptions from a sedentary position which are not taken up by the Member who has the floor or by the Chair (ibid (1983–84) 53, c 626 and ibid 60, cc 1260–61).
  8. 8. Speaker's Private Ruling, October 2005, in HC Deb (2005–06) 437, c 824.
  9. 9. For example, HC Deb (1927) 208, c 866; ibid (4 February 2019) 653, c 967.
  10. 10. For the secret sessions held during the Second World War, the Speaker issued a short ‘Report of the Proceedings in secret session’, which was included in the Official Report, and when divisions occurred, this Report included the question put from the Chair and the names of the Members voting (see HC Deb (1941–42) 379, cc 1218–20, and ibid (1942–43) 388, cc 200–4). The Report was also printed in the Votes and Proceedings. The fact of the secret session and the results of any division are recorded in the Journal.