2020 - Week 13

The week began, as is no longer untypical, with a phone call. Librarian Jayne and Michael took to Omnigraffle and the procedure editor to make some changes to the Proposed negative statutory instrument procedure map. Michael had been under the impression that a PNSI preceding a statutory instrument intended to be laid before the House of Commons only, would itself only be laid in the Commons. So he’d designed the PNSI map to say Commons layings were caused whereas Lords layings were allowed. Reader, Michael was wrong and has been gently corrected by Journal Office Jane. Jayne and Michael have fixed both the map and data. Editing is undeniably easier in the office, where there’s carpet to lie on and Michael can wave his laptop around for the benefit of his colleagues. Still, working by telephony is going better than expected. Conversation only occasionally devolves into, “Move the red one. The RED one. Not THAT way. IDIOT!”

On the same call, Jayne and Michael took a look at some of the non-self-precluding steps and scratched their heads at why they’d made them this way. After some consideration they decided to leave the “clock starts” steps as non-self-precluding. Because, very occasionally, an instrument is laid into one House when it should have been laid into both. And then it’s laid into the second House on the next day. Which causes the clock to reset to zero. Which feels like interesting information to capture. Jayne has updated the scope note on the “clock starts” steps to reflect this.

Our SI procedures also had non-self-precluding steps for the approval of fatal motions, or prayers. Fatality is fatal, and so Jayne and Michael have added self-preclusion routes on the ‘Motion to stop the instrument being law approved’ step in the made negative procedure and the ‘Motion (prayer) to stop the instrument becoming law approved’ steps in the draft and made affirmative procedures.

Back in week 9, Silver and Michael sat down with the librarians of the Indexing and Data Management Section to plot a Wardley map of their activities. It became apparent that although IDMS have policy documents for taxonomy management and for indexing, with procedure mapping they were pretty much making it up as they went along. Not inexpertly, just undocumented. Anya was not pleased about this. Not pleased at all. So, on Monday afternoon, Robert and Michael made a stab at drafting some procedure mapping guidelines. Working purely in pixels, they find that when the end of the allotted meeting slot is reached, they don’t just rush into decisions and walk out. You book another hour the next day, and keep going. And so they kept going, with occasional help from Jayne. By the middle of Friday afternoon, they’d put in about five hours. Anya had a read and signed off, and the refreshed procedure mapping design notes are now live. They were an absolute bugger to write so, whilst feedback is welcome, please be gentle.

On Tuesday Jayne and Michael were back on their telephones, this time to look at preclusion routes around the outcomes of consideration of statutory instruments by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. There’s a hierarchy of sorts here: an instrument not being drawn to the special attention of the House is less significant than it being noted as an instrument of interest, which in turn is less significant than it being drawn to the special attention of the House. The maps and the data showed an instrument not being drawn to the special attention of the House as precluding the inverse, as well as precluding the instrument from being noted as an instrument of interest. And being noted as an instrument of interest precluded it from being drawn to special attention. However, the Committee can always sit back down, reconsider the instrument and push their verdict upwards. So preclusions from lower levels of reporting to higher levels of reporting have now been removed.

Michael spent much of Wednesday reversing the colours of the blobs on the procedure maps. For reasons lost in the mists, steps that can happen once were coloured white. And steps that can happen multiple times - whether in series or in parallel - were coloured red. This is clearly the wrong way round. And Michael’s usual whine of, “I’m colour blind”, was beginning to wear thin. So now self-precluding steps are red and non-self-precluding steps are white. This might confuse us in the short-term but hopefully makes more sense to those less familiar with our maps. Michael would like to put on record that he’s desperately wanted to fix this, and for a long time. The task was in no sense make-work. Any suggestion he was bored stiff and trying to avoid the news amounts to scurrilous and vulgar gossip.

In the course of writing the procedure map guidelines, Michael set out to look for examples of where preclusions were happening outside of any implied symmetry. He found quite a few places where we’d broken our own rules. So Thursday saw Jayne and Michael dust down their telephones and dive back into procedure maps and data, deleting preclusion routes where steps that can happen multiple times were precluding consequential singular steps. Which is probably easier to mime than to type.

In SPARQL news, Jayne continues to add to our ever growing library of queries. For those of you with an interest in the suspension of scrutiny reserve for the JCSI - House of Lords public Standing Order 72 - we have a handy query for you that does just that.

Jayne has been slaving way, rewriting her queries to replace step labels with data platform IDs. As of Friday lunchtime, statutory instrument and treaty queries were ID compliant. Hurrah! We’ve hit a slight snaggle with the rest, for which Jianhan is coming to our aid. It may well be the case that the team rarely amend step labels … but IDs are guaranteed persistent. Rewriting is a tedious task, yet the possibility that it might raise a smile from our Samu is its own reward. Even when working from our sofas, we’re all about the things and not the strings in these parts.

In non-procedural news, Robert and Michael continue to poke at the database that sits behind David’s peerage website with half an eye on how best to make the data available for reuse and preserve it for posterity. Not unlike the work the team did last year on Michael Rush’s data. Their code scribblings are deployed on Heroku. Note that this is a free account, and will likely stop working towards the end of a month. If you click and it breaks that’ll either be because it’s waiting for a new month to start, or because Robert and / or Michael have broken something. Emails have been exchanged with our friends at the History of Parliament Trust in the hopes of finding a more permanent home for the data.