MISSION STATEMENT: To produce accurate Daily Parliamentary Debates.

VISION:    To have a Parliamentary Publications Department that is current with the production of debates and meets all the printing needs of the National Assembly.

Composition and Responsibilities

The Parliamentary Publications Department has a total work force of twenty-four comprising the Chief Editor, Assistant Chief Editor, four Assistant Editors, three Senior Transcribers, six Transcribers, Parliamentary Printer, Assistant Printer, Senior Parliamentary Publications Assistant and six Parliamentary Publications Assistants.

The Chief Editor of Parliamentary Publications is responsible for the overall supervision of the department, including general administrative work, the custody and maintenance of all recording, transcribing, typewriting, word processing and printing equipment in the department, Press Gallery facilities and issuing of temporary press passes when the House is in session. He also oversees the editing of the transcripts for a complete day’s proceedings, proofreading, typesetting and the production of the printed Daily Parliamentary Debates.

The Editors do the bulk of the work which includes checking of transcripts from Transcribers everyday, when Parliament is sitting, editing of a complete day’s proceedings, typesetting of debates, proofreading, incorporating amendments from the proof, final printing of debates and indexing.

The Transcribing Section comprises Senior Transcribers and Transcribers whose main duty is to transcribe the proceedings of the House and those of Committee meetings.

The Printing and Collation Section comprises the Parliamentary Printer, Assistant Printer, Senior Parliamentary Publications Assistant and Parliamentary Publications Assistants. The Parliamentary Printer is responsible for the supervision, planning and control of the printing and collation rooms; printing and sale of Daily Parliamentary Debates; and control and ordering of printing and consumable stock.

Parliamentary Publications Assistants are responsible for the operation of the controls in the Chamber and the Recording Room when Parliament is in session and when Committees hold their meetings in the Chamber rooms. They are also responsible for collation and distribution of Member’s speeches for correction, operation of printing machines and collation and preparation of uncorrected transcripts and the edited Daily Parliamentary Debates.

Background to production of the Daily Parliamentary Debates

Historically, the Daily Parliamentary Debates are associated with the name of T.C. Hansard, who was at one time the printer and publisher of the official reports of the two Houses of the British Parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Until 10th December, 1970, the Daily Parliamentary Debates in Zambia were known as the Daily Hansard. The change of name was as a result of a recommendation by the Standing Orders Committee.

Prior to September 1988, the Parliamentary Publications Department used to rely heavily on the Government Printing Department to typeset and print the Daily Parliamentary Debates which is the official verbatim report of the National Assembly of Zambia.

In the latter part of the colonial days and up to the end of the First Republic in 1973, the production of final printed Daily Parliamentary Debates ranged between five days to a month after the proceedings. The reasons for this were as follows: firstly, Daily Parliamentary Debates were given priority over all the publications which, in any case, were very few, by the Government Printing Department.

Secondly, the staff assigned to print debates, both at Parliament and the Government Printing Department, were of relatively higher calibre and, thirdly, the sitting hours were very few.

During the Second Republic, all this changed. Not only did the number of sitting hours increase from a modest average of sixteen per week in 1956 to twenty-two per week in 1974, but also the number of sitting Members of Parliament went up from 25 in 1956 to the present 158. This meant that the Daily Parliamentary Debates became bulky and took longer to produce to the extent that, before the installation of new equipment, it was with great effort that the debates were printed four to six months after the proceedings.

What aggravated the situation further was the fact that the Party and its Government assigned other pressing work to the Government Printing Department. As a result, processing the debates was not given priority. Coupled with inadequate and untrained personnel and old equipment, the Government Printing Department consequently failed to cope with the speedy production of printed debates.

Original Method of Debate Production

Transcribers used to transcribe a ten-minute transcript on plain paper which was thereafter taken to an Editor to check while also listening to the tape recording. After making the necessary amendments, the Editor would return the transcript to the Transcriber to type on stencils. This would later be run as the Uncorrected Transcript. Transcripts were always ready by the end of a particular day’s sitting and ready to be taken to the Government Printer the following morning for binding.

Current Method of Production of Debates

Stages in the Production of Debates

(a)    Transcribing – A Transcriber goes into the Chamber for ten or five minutes, as the case may be, to take down notes of anything that might be said by hon. Members who are not on the Floor of the House, such as interjections and so on. At the end of his/her turn, she/he goes to the Recording Studio, picks up a mini-cassette and transcribes the contents of the tape using a word processor and a tape writer.

(b)    After transcribing, work is saved on a floppy disk/flash disk which is then given to an Editor to copy on a hard disk and check while also listening to a mini-cassette recording.

(c)    Checking of Transcripts – The Editor copies the Transcriber’s document on to a computer hard disk and proceeds to check the work, making the necessary grammatical corrections, and so on. At this stage, the Editor is expected to make as many corrections as possible to ensure the Uncorrected Transcript does not have too many errors. This will also ensure few red markings when Members go through the Uncorrected Transcripts.

(d)    After an Editor has checked the transcript, he/she runs a copy on a laser printer which is then forwarded to the Printing and Collation Section for printing and collating.

(e)    Members are given copies of their contributions to correct errors of spellings, fact and grammar.

(f)    Editing – The Editor of the day edits and incorporates hon. Members’ corrections. He then ties up the different letters that make up the debate so that it becomes one document, ready to be typeset. This is done in Microsoft Word.

(g)    Proofreading and Incorporation of Amendments – Once the debate has been tied up, two copies are run off on a Laser Printer and given to editors to proofread. Editors read through to make sure the document is complete and nothing has been left out, that figures, names and other words are correctly reflected.  The Editor then incorporates the corrections. Wrongly spelt words and names, factual errors and grammatical errors, if not detected during editing, have to be corrected at this stage. He must look for errors of sense, punctuation, spelling, discordance of paragraphs, the use of wrong fonts or type, incorrect page references, incorrect spacing and many others.

Proofing should not be based on the proofer’s preferences. For instance, changing “enough” to “sufficient”, “reach an agreement” to “compromise” or “stop” to “discontinue” is superfluous and must be avoided at all costs.

Heavy corrections at proofreading stage do not facilitate fast production of the daily parliamentary debates and are, therefore, discouraged.

(h)    Pagemaking the Debate – The document is placed in a master document using PageMaker 7.0. The cover page for the day is processed after which the text is typeset and what are called “running heads” are set in the debate. This is one of the most involving stages in the production of debates and it requires the Editor to exercise maximum care in order to ensure uniformity of style and good presentation of the Debates.

The Report of Parliamentary Debates

The report of Parliamentary Debates is essentially a “verbatim” account of what is spoken by Members in the House and a record of its decisions. It constitutes the only authentic record of the verbatim proceedings of the House.

Although the report is “verbatim” and it normally contains what is spoken by Members during the proceedings of the House, there are instances when what is not spoken in the House, but is part of parliamentary work, is included in the report. This is when a written reply to an oral Parliamentary Question is included by the editorial staff at the editing stage.

When a Member who gives notice to ask a Parliamentary Question as indicated on the Order Paper is absent and has not made arrangements for his question to be asked on his/her behalf by another Member, the Question lapses and the Minister who is supposed to answer it is requested to hand in his written reply to the Chief Editor for inclusion in the day’s Debate under the heading “Written Replies to Questions”.

Written Replies are always attributed to the Minister. Therefore, she or he must endorse them.

There are other conditions or circumstances under which material not spoken in Parliament can be included in its proceedings. Tables, technical documents and lengthy reports can, with the consent and indulgence of the House, be incorporated into the record. This rule is applied because the nature of the material involved is often unsuitable to be delivered in an oral debate. However, an unfinished portion of a Member’s speech may not be inserted in the record when he has been unable to deliver it because of time limitations.

Since the report is essentially a verbatim account of the proceedings of the House, what is spoken by a Member should appear in the report while what is not spoken should not.

Deletion of Material from the Record

There are exceptions, however, to both of these rules. The directing authority, that is the Speaker of the National Assembly, has the power to order that speeches, or parts of them, which have been delivered in the House be omitted or expunged from the proceedings. The reasons for such action include speaking without leave, refusal to come to order, using unparliamentary language or expressions, repetitious speeches, deviating from the subject, and so on.

It is rare that the Speaker will order that words be deleted from the record, but this power is necessary to maintain the dignity of the House.

System of Recording

The system of reporting used to cover the debates of the National Assembly is entirely electronic and uses magnetic tape as the medium. The Chamber, which is the centre of activity, has microphones which are conveniently placed on the seats or suspended from the ceiling. The Speaker and Cabinet Ministers speak into the suspended microphones. There are also two microphones placed on the dispatch boxes used by Ministers delivering ministerial statements.

All the microphones lead into a control desk in the Chamber which is operated by a Parliamentary Publications Assistant. The control desk channels the speeches of Members to a Recording Studio conveniently located in the Transcribing Section. This is where the recording equipment is. The equipment consists of two cassette recording machines called conference recorders (model 725) which are in alternate operation making ten or five minute tape recordings, as the case might be.

There is also a Philips analogue master recorder (CLS 9000 Communication Logging System which uses Tape LDB 9250/00) which simultaneously makes a continuous recording of the whole day’s proceedings. Another master recorder should be on stand-by in case of a breakdown. Whenever a member raises a query that she or he was misquoted, we resort to master recordings. However, this is only possible if the information on the tapes has not been erased. Thereafter, there is no archive of oral recordings and only rely on hard copies.

The Recording Studio is under the charge of a Parliamentary Publications Assistant. Apart from operating the recording equipment, he/she also controls the timetable which regulates the movements of Transcribers to and from the Chamber in turns.  He/she has a panel of electronic buttons which are linked to bells in the Transcribers’ cubicles.  The officer presses the appropriate button to warn a particular Transcriber that it is his/her turn to proceed to the Chamber.

Duties of Parliamentary Transcribers

Parliamentary Transcribers work on a roster basis. Every morning, a roster is prepared by a Transcriber indicating the letters given to the cassettes, the names of Transcribers who process them and the times during which they are recorded. Normally, the first cassette will be given the letter “A”, The second cassette the letter “B”, the third the letter “C” and so on.  After the letter “Z”, double letters starting with ‘AA’ are used. There are times, though rare, when, in fact, treble letters “AAA” and so on are used.

A minute or so before the Transcriber’s turn, the recordist presses a button in the Recording Room and a bell rings in the Transcriber’s cubicle to alert him/her that it is time to proceed to the Chamber. Transcribers wear special robes when they are in the House.

The tape-recorded debates are verbatim-typed by Transcribers. They go into the Chamber at intervals of ten and sometimes five minutes.  When it is his/her turn, each Transcriber sits in the Chamber, in a chair next to the microphone operator on the control desk, noting the name of the Member speaking or making interjections. They also take down any other matters which might not be audible on the tapes.

This is to ensure that actions, which are not tape-recorded, are included in the debates. As much as possible, the time a Transcriber spends in the Chamber should coincide with that taken to record the mini-cassette allotted to him/her.

When his/her time is up, the Transcriber proceeds to the Recording Studio where he/she collects a cassette, which has a record of the period he/she was in the Chamber. Transcribers have a transcribing machine identical to that on which recording takes place. They type verbatim, with the necessary corrections and modifications, from the cassette using the Dictaphone method of earphones and a foot-pedal.

The time taken to transcribe a ten-minute tape ranges from thirty minutes to one and half-hours. Mostly, this is dependent on such factors as the voice of the individual speaker, background noises, subject matter, the comprehension and typing speed of the Transcriber.

Members’ Corrections

Every afternoon, at about 1430 hours, when the House is sitting, Members and Ministers receive from the Parliamentary Publications Department transcripts that relate to the speeches they made the previous day.  It is required that these transcripts are returned with any corrections to Parliamentary Publications Assistants in the Collation Office on the same day. These transcripts are then forwarded to the Editor of the day.

Members’ corrections must be incorporated immediately in the master copy edited by the Editors. This is the ideal situation although in practice, some Members send their corrections two or three days after the deadline; others, later than that while others do not bother to send them back at all.

Members’ corrections are crucial in that it is not always possible for transcribing staff to spell correctly, for instance, the name of a place that a Member may mention in his speech.  Only the Member can assist the Editors to reflect the correct spellings.  Furthermore, some Members may use foreign words which are not easy to grasp.

Although it is required of Transcribers to verify names, figures and quotations, co-operation from Members is not always available because they might have left the Chamber by the time their assistance is sought.  Members should, therefore, be careful when scrutinising the transcripts sent to them.

It is stipulated in the Members’ Handbook that alterations must be clearly written in ink and confined to grammatical errors and errors in reporting.  Members may not rewrite their speeches.  When the corrections have been received, they are incorporated in the Editor’s master copy.  Members may make their own suggestions, and in such discretionary areas as style, coherence and grammar, their suggestions are often accepted.  However, the Chief Editor has the final say.  If a Member should want to take the matter beyond the Chief Editor, he may appeal to the Clerk.

The grounds for alterations are narrow. The Chief Editor is always very careful not to allow any corrections which would in any way alter the general sense of the speech made, but he does accept corrections, for instance, of faults of grammar, redundancies or incorrect dates, etc., as already indicated above. Members who want to strike out passages, which they regret having uttered or desire to insert some afterthoughts, are almost invariably not allowed to do so as this would substantially alter the essence of a contribution.

Transcripts for Members’ corrections should be returned to the Chief Editor of Parliamentary Publications, through the Collation Office, by 1100 hours on the day following that to which they relate.

In order to avoid a situation where Members raise queries on the already-printed text, it is of utmost importance that Members correct their speeches without fail, even if the speeches relate to the last day of the sitting.  Once the text has been sent for printing, it becomes difficult to make alterations to it.

Uncorrected Transcripts

The Uncorrected Daily Parliamentary Debates are issued by authority of the Hon. Mr Speaker. Their purpose is solely for the use of Members of Parliament and officials of the National Assembly, Government ministries and departments. They are not for publication. These uncorrected official verbatim reports of the day’s sitting are particularly useful to Ministers who, after reading through, have to reply to queries raised by Members on matters pertaining to their ministries.

Duties of Editors

Editing has been variously defined as:

  1. to prepare for publications, broadcasting, etc:
  2. to superintend the publication of a document :
  3. prepare edition of (another’s work); prepare or set in order (material chiefly provided by others) for publications, etc.

It has been said that one can describe the duties of the Editor, but no one can analyse how an Editor works, any more than one can describe how a poet composes a poem.  A Mr Norman Podthretz, editor of some magazine, came close to defining the obligation of the editor:

“… to improve an essentially well-written piece or to turn a clumsily written one into, at the very least, a readable and literate article, and, at the very most, a beautifully shaped and effective essay which remains true to the author’s intention, which realises that intention more fully than he himself was able to do. He cares about the English language; he cares about clarity of thought and of grace of expression; he cares about the traditions of discourse and of argument.”

In the National Assembly of the Republic of Zambia, an Editor’s job is not exactly as put forward above, but to a large extent, he operates along those lines. He is concerned, first and foremost, that the speeches made in the House are written in the best English possible. He has to make sure that the House style is adhered to throughout. He has to have a keen eye for errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and all the other nuances of the art required of a good and well-written text. 

The Editor must know when to prune the redundant, repetitious and ambiguous words.  He searches for the ills in copy and meticulously scans it for flaws and inaccuracy, ever searching for the use of the maximum power of words. He has to keep sentences short enough for readers to grasp one idea at a time.

This is why it is required in the National Assembly that Editors are university graduates with English as their major. Where this is not possible, people with lesser qualifications are taken on upon proof of tremendous potential in the field of editing.

It has been proved that a degree in English is not in itself enough. On-the-job training is essential and to be a competent and confident Parliamentary Publications Editor takes not less than two years. The ropes of the art take long to grasp.

The Editor’s job demands, among other things, that the officer expeditiously produces well-edited transcripts, which are published as official records for public consumption. One, therefore, has to maintain a high degree of efficiency in terms of language use on one hand, and speed on the other.

To be able to do this, one must be conversant with the rules of the English language, for only then will one be in a position to not only quickly identify grammatical, spelling, punctuation and other errors in the script, but also correct them without changing the meaning or essence of any sentence.  Further, one must always aim at finding the most appropriate words to turn what may otherwise be an incomprehensible speech into a flawless one.  Creativity is, therefore, of utmost importance in this job.

An Editor must also have a good working knowledge of not only the various aspects of the English language, but also of the sciences, as these broaden one’s general knowledge. In other words, an editor must be a storehouse of general knowledge. He must keep abreast of current events.  He must know a little of everything. This is why an Editor must be well read so as to effectively handle diverse topics and subjects that may come up for debate in the House.

One could go on enumerating the qualities an Editor must have to really be effective and competent, but the above could be said to be the general guidelines on what an Editor, at least in our National Assembly, should be.

Indexing of Parliamentary Debates

After the page-proofs are produced, the Editors and Transcribers embark on indexing debates for a particular Sitting of Parliament. This is done in preparation for the production of a bound volume. Besides the index, the bound volume contains lists of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament and their constituencies and Principal Officers and Officials of the National Assembly.

Printing Unit

The printing unit in the department is under the direct supervision of the Parliamentary Printer, but is under the overall supervision of the Chief Editor.  This is where the Uncorrected Transcripts are duplicated and collated and where edited debates are printed. 

Debates are available on the Parliamentary website:, 24 hours after the day to which they relate.

Summary of Stages in the Production of Parliamentary Debates

(i)    Recording of debates;
(ii)    Transcription
(iii)    Checking;
(iv)    Distribution of Transcripts to Members for Correction;
(v)    Incorporation of Members’ Corrections;
(vi)    Editing and Preparing the Final Copy;
(vii)    Proof-Reading Final Copy;
(viii)    Incorporating Corrections from Proofs – fellow editors make         corrections to proofs;
(ix)    Preparation of Master Copy;
(x)    Indexing; and
(xi)    Printing and Stitching.

Any delay at any stage results in delaying a publication. It is important that each stage be proceeded with within a logical sequence.