HCPP now includes the full text from Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament, from both the House of Commons and House of Lords, from 1803 to 2005. The publicly available XML files created by the Hansard Digitisation Project (led by the Directorate of Information Services of the House of Commons and the Library of the House of Lords) are the source for this material, which is reproduced under Parliamentary copyright and is also searchable on its original free interface at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com .
Hansard is an edited record of parliamentary debates and questions, including written ministerial statements and answers to parliamentary questions as well as the transcripts of debates. These are not strictly verbatim, but undergo some editing, for example to remove repetitions. The text of the digital Hansard was created by automatically converting scanned pages into text and although the quality produced is very high, some incorrectly converted words will still be found, particularly in older text.
People recorded in the text as speaking have been tagged and, where possible, matched to a database of Members of Parliament produced by Michael Rush and Richard Crangle at the University of Exeter and deposited with the History of Parliament Trust. It is used with their permission. This is intended to allow users to locate contributions by an individual Member, regardless of how their identity was recorded in the original text. Again, while this has been done to a high standard, not every contribution has been successfully matched to a Member.
History of Hansard
During the eighteenth century Parliament tried to prevent records of its debates from being published, other than the official journals, but by the end of the century bans on unofficial reporting and on note taking in the Commons had been lifted and many newspapers published reconstructions of debates. The Parliamentary Register, a precursor of Hansard which recorded debates from 1776-1805, is included in the Eighteenth Century Parliamentary Papers Collection.
In 1803, William Cobbett began publication of Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates. This is now regarded as the first series of the Official Report and is thus where the digital Hansard begins. Cobbett was largely reliant on newspaper reports, checking speeches with Members, and these early volumes are not as comprehensive as the later Official Report. In 1812 Cobbett sold his contract to Thomas Curson Hansard, who published the debates under the title The Parliamentary Debates. He began to use his own reporters and, despite giving Members the opportunity to make substantial corrections to their speeches, his publication became established as the most authentic record of debates. It was relied upon by Members themselves and in the late nineteenth century its production was subsidised. From 1889 the Hansard name was added to the title page. In 1909, following the recommendations of a Select Committee report, the House of Commons took over responsibility for publishing what thus became the Official Report, although still commonly known as Hansard.