Committee sub-editor: The Best job in Hansard?
Cara Clark, alumna, is at the sharp end of British Parliament, working as a committee sub-editor in Hansard, the official reporters of all Parliamentary debates of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Cara has been at Hansard for almost 19 years now, and joined in April 2003. Cara studied History, Latin, French and General Studies A-levels and went on to read History at Durham, doing both her BA and MA there. She gained some work experience whilst at university working at the local theatre, in the college library and doing data entry and admin jobs in the summer holidays. Read on to find out more about Cara’s role.
In any one week, I might be responsible for publishing the edited Westminster Hall report within four hours of each speech being made, proofreading Select Committee transcripts, or logging and editing the debates about a Bill going through line-by-line scrutiny in Committee or Committees considering delegated legislation. The latter were in the public eye during Brexit, as they were used to bring European law on to the British statute book. In some weeks, we had as many as 24 a week. They can last up to 90 minutes each, although if they’re uncontroversial they’re more likely to last for half an hour.
When we’re in the Committee room or on the Zoom call, we might look calm and collected, but the adrenaline is flowing—we’re not just writing our log, we’re actively listening and looking, trying to understand the arguments and thinking what information might be needed by reporters with a vast range of experience and specialist areas. There might also be the dreaded “procedure”—the rules by which the House considers and changes laws. Without it, it wouldn’t be clear what decisions had been made, or when things had started or ended.
We need to keep up with who’s saying what about what. We also need to know what’s been decided—and parliamentary proceedings can move fast. In Bill Committees and Delegated Legislation Committees, we’re doing all this while also controlling the microphones that hang from the ceiling. We do this using buttons on a panel that mirrors the layout of the room, with one button per MP. After all, you can’t have Hansard without a good recording!
If you are interested in a career at Hansard then take a look at this blog which gives a good overview of what’s expected when people first start working there.
(2nd image – In the thick of it: Cara logging a Committee – screenshot, parliamentlive.tv)