Hansard is the name of the printed verbatim record of all Parliamentary debates and proceedings which takes place in the Chamber of the National Assembly. The Hansard document is an accurate and verbatim (word for word) written representation or record of what is said during the proceedings in Parliament with editing limited to ensuring proper grammar, spelling and punctuation, and minimizing repetition and redundancy.
Its main purpose is to provide day-to-day and accurate accounts of the debates and proceedings in Parliament in order that they might be freely and easily accessed by any interested member of the public. Every word audibly uttered or spoken in Parliament is recorded, transcribed by Reporters and then submitted to the Editors, with a final copy formatted and transmitted to the Government Printer for printing as the official record of the debates and proceedings of the National Assembly. In the case of the English version of the Hansard, the transcript is translated from Setswana into English before being formatted and transmitted to the Government Printer for printing.
The Hansard is printed by order of Parliament, under the authority of the Speaker of the National Assembly and is considered the official report of the debates and proceedings which take place in the National Assembly. The Standing Orders (11.8) confer on the Clerk of the National Assembly responsibility for the production of an official report of all proceedings made in the Assembly. It is produced in both the mixed version (which is a mix of text in English and Setswana) and the English version.
The format and content of the Hansard
The format and content of the Hansard follow the actual order of proceedings in the House which are based on the Order Paper for the sitting. The Hansard contains the full deliberations of the House including listing the names of all the Members who speak in the Assembly, the reports of Members speeches or details of debates, the text of the State of the Nation Address at the beginning of each Session, resolutions, motions with and without notice, questions on the Order Paper and the answers thereto, ministerial statements, details of divisions, other comments and interventions. The Hansard records what happens during the debates and proceedings of the National Assembly.
What is the origin of Hansard?
Hansard is named after Thomas Curson Hansard, a private individual who started publishing a daily record of proceedings in the House of Commons in the early 19th century, and the name has become the recognised title of Parliamentary reports around the world.
From the second half of the 16th century the British Parliament prohibited all reporting and publishing of its debates and proceedings. The Parliament believed it should deliberate in private and regarded any attempt to publicise its proceedings as a serious punishable offence. By the late 18th century dissension among more progressive members of Parliament, the growing weight of public opinion and the increasingly outspoken attacks of the press persuaded the Parliament to relax its stance.
In 1803 the House of Commons passed a resolution giving the press the right to enter the public gallery. That same year William Cobbett, publisher of the Cobbett’s Weekly Political register, added to his newspaper a supplement entitled Parliamentary debates, which was a reprint of journalists’ reports of speeches extracted from other newspapers. These were pieced together from newspaper reports, since at that time Parliament maintained no records of debates. In 1812 that publication was taken over by Cobbett’s assistant, T. C. Hansard, who in 1829 changed the title of the reports Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates. The British Parliament took over the publication of the Hansard and the debates were completely recorded verbatim. It was during the 60 years of the Hansard family’s publication that the name ‘Hansard’ became synonymous with the printed debates.