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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 15:58 GMT
Committee records 'not verbatim'
Clerks at the assembly keep a record of the meetings
A word for word record of the work of the Stormont committee drawing up a programme for devolved government will not be kept.

The previous Preparation for Government Committee had asked the assembly's Hansard clerks to transcribe their debates verbatim.

This included some confrontations between unionists and republicans.

The transcripts also revealed an increasingly co-operative mood on the committee later in the summer.

They also pinpointed areas of agreement, such as the rare consensus between Stormont parties that there should be a single ministry of policing and justice in the future.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said that Stormont sources said the decision not to keep transcripts of the latest proceedings is partly practical.

"The committee has set up six sub-groups examining areas like policing and justice, schools admissions and rural planning," he said.

Audio recordings

"All the committees are working to a tight time schedule and it is felt the potential volume of work might overwhelm the Hansard clerks.

"However, dropping the transcripts may also serve a political purpose as some politicians do not believe the compilation of such a record is conducive to good discussions on sensitive matters."

Audio recordings are being made of sessions where witnesses give the committees evidence in order to enable the committee minutes to be compiled.

Some sub groups are also holding sessions on camera - one sub group has used the Senate chamber to cross-question witnesses about the future of the water service.

However, the Hansard record has disappeared as a source for Stormont correspondents to find out exactly what is being said during those committee sessions held behind closed doors.

In June, BBC Newsi published a leaked copy of the Preparation for Government Committee Hansard record which revealed adversarial exchanges between the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior and Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy.

Shortly afterwards the assembly decided to publish the transcripts on its own website.

In August, the Ulster Unionist assembly member Alan McFarland criticised political journalists for not paying sufficient attention to the transcripts which he described as "very fascinating".

Mr McFarland said journalists were "just idle" and probably would not read the transcripts even if they were posted out to them.

Now, although the Hansard clerks continue to transcribe the debates held in the assembly chamber, the word for word record of committee proceedings no longer exists.





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