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February 2011

 File n°77 

The Report Departments

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    Article 33, paragraph 1 of the Constitution sets down the principle of the public nature of debates at the National Assembly and requires the publication of a verbatim report of these debates in the Journal Officiel. One specific department is in charge of the production of this document.

    At the same time, a second department drafts the reports of committee meetings, fact-finding missions and delegations of the National Assembly.

 

I. – THE PLENARY SITTING REPORT DEPARTMENT

The publication of a verbatim report provides each citizen with the possibility of being informed on the progress of parliamentary proceedings and gives real meaning to the notion of the public nature of the plenary sittings. According to article 59 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, the verbatim report represents the official record of the sitting.

The précis-writers replace each other in plenary sitting every quarter of an hour at the foot of the speakers’ rostrum. During this period they take notes which will allow them to relate all aspects of the debate: the speech of the main speaker, interruptions made by M.P.s they must identify, movement or activity during the sitting. Once they return to their office, they will have the official recording of the sitting available on their computer. They then draft their report on a word processor.

The transposition of remarks which are often improvised into written language must respect the thoughts of the speaker but also requires a certain amount of editing to eliminate the inaccuracies and awkwardness of spoken language. As regards the legislative part of the debates, the verbatim report must also follow the rules of the various procedures.

The work of the précis-writers is reread and, if necessary, corrected by the heads of the department (director or deputy director) who in turn, have the responsibility of the report of the plenary sitting they attended.

Speakers may see their speeches before they are published and may make purely formal modifications without changing the content, as is laid down in article 19 of the General Instructions of the Bureau.

The verbatim report of a sitting is placed on the Internet site, as each drafter completes his work, within four hours of being spoken in plenary sitting. The whole sitting is available, on average, six hours after the end of morning and afternoon sittings and the following day in the case of night sittings.

It is simultaneously transmitted electronically to the Journal Officiel which prints it, in accordance with article 33 of the Constitution which states that “a verbatim report of the debates shall be published in the Journal Officiel”. It is also printed in an internal newsletter of the Assembly which is distributed, on average, 24 hours after the end of the sitting.

The articles of the Government and Members' bills, amendments and sub-amendments examined during a plenary sitting are included in a special supplement. This supplement can be viewed along with the electronic version of the report and is added to the printed version.

II. – THE COMMITTEES REPORT DEPARTMENT

This department draws up, as is required, the reports of committee meetings, fact-finding missions and delegations. This mainly concerns the hearings of members of the Government or of various eminent figures, but also, for certain Members’ bills, the debates of the committees dealing with the bills and the possible amendments made to them.

The drafters are present at the meetings and replace each other at intervals which can vary from half an hour to an hour and a half depending on the circumstances. They then draw up their report with the help of the notes they have taken as well as with the aid of the recordings which are made during the meeting. They generally have to work under pressure, as their work is part of a chain which is quite tense.

The draft they write is reread and if necessary corrected by the director or one of the deputy directors of the department. It is then transmitted to the secretariat of the relevant committee which checks it and ensures its publication under their responsibility on the internet site of the National Assembly. Extracts may also be republished in printed reports.

III. – RECRUITMENT

Debate drafters, whose salary scale is similar to that of advisers, are recruited by a competitive examination which aims at assessing their ability to take notes and to draft a reliable and readable report quickly with the help of a digital recording.

They may be posted to either the Plenary Sitting Report Department or to the Committees Report Department and they will belong in alternation to these two departments.