Tynwald has been the setting for the 2014 British-Irish Parliamentary Reporting Association symposium.
Officers from the parliaments and assemblies of Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, the UK and Wales joined with the Isle of Man’s Hansard team over three days to discuss best practice and innovation in parliamentary reporting.
Tynwald’s head of Hansard Ellen Callister explained: ‘Holding the annual BIPRA conference here in the Isle of Man has been a real honour for us. Each jurisdiction takes it in turns to organise the event – the last time we held it here was 10 years ago, centring around Tynwald Day 2004. The opportunity for us to meet our counterparts in other jurisdictions is invaluable; we hope our guests have enjoyed it as much as we have and that they are encouraged to return soon to visit more of our beautiful Island.’
Topics generating lively discussion included transcription via voice recognition – now and in the future – the growing demand for open data, ‘managing the march of technology’ and role played by BIPRA members in ‘editing history.’
On the subject of open data House of Commons deputy editor of debates Alex Newton favoured ‘cautious engagement’, adding ‘We have no alternative’, a sentiment echoed by Anna Gruffud from the National Assembly of Wales who said it would assist ‘in the drive towards greater transparency’.
Tes Stranger, from the House of Commons, said: ‘This is the fourth BIPRA symposium I’ve attended and it’s the subtle changes I notice most; how speech recognition – in particular the Dragon system – and development upgrades feature more on the agenda every year.’
Tynwald provides Hansard support to the Parliament of Gibraltar. Its clerk, Paul Martinez, said that the Tynwald team delivered a ‘quality, on-time service’, to create an official public record of parliamentary business that played a significant role ‘in the enfranchisement of the people’. For Cai Evans from the Welsh National Assembly ‘the quality aspect’ of voice recognition was all-important, given that Hansard officers served as ‘guardians of the democratic process’ and he urged delegates not to become ‘dazzled by technology’, while Tynwald’s deputy head of Hansard Deborah Pilkington expressed the view that ‘there still needs to the human element.’
Summing up the symposium Alex Newton observed: ‘We’re all grappling with the same problems, but structurally we’re very different.’ On creating an official record Carl Lombard from the Houses of Oireachtas posed the question ‘How verbatim do we want to be?’, cautioned against doing away with manual intervention and alerted delegates to ‘the dangers of leaving it all to the machine’. Simon Guerrier from the House of Lords said the sessions had shown ‘how much we can learn from each other’ and offered delegates his own unique take on new technology, saying ‘change that isn’t improvement is just meddling.’
At the conclusion of the sessions House of Lords Hansard managing editor Hywel Evans said the three-day event had provided a valuable opportunity ‘to discuss matters with fellow professionals we don’t usually get to meet with in groups’ and he thanked Tynwald’s head of Hansard Ellen Callister and her team for arranging a ‘brilliantly hosted’ symposium that had been ‘a terrific experience.’