The Parser is a collection of scripts which takes the raw information from Parliament websites and turns it into the structured XML files.

Running the Parser

Python code downloads data from the UK parliament website, stores it as an HTML file for each day, and parses those files into XML files. To run this parser yourself, you’ll need the following…

  • Parser source code - you can get this from GitHub:

    git clone

    On Windows, you could use TortoiseGit and the same URL.

  • Python. You also need the mxDateTime module by eGenix; under Debian this is in the package python-egenix-mxdatetime.

  • Patch and Diff - The parser has a preprocessor which applies patches to Hansard to fix uncommon errors. This is done using the tools “patch” and “diff”, which will be installed by default if you are using Unix. On Windows you can download them from GNU utilities for win32.


Use the command line and change to the pyscraper directory. The script called in there does all of the screen scraping from Hansard. Run it with no parameters to find out its syntax. Then do something like this, include a date limit as the parser gives errors if you go too far back.

./ --from 2001-06-01 scrape parse debates wrans

That will screen scrape back to the start of the 2001 parliament, writing the files in parldata/cmpages. Then it will parse these files into XML files and put them in parldata/scrapedxml. On Unix the parldata folder is in your home directory, on Windows it will be in the same folder as the publicwhip folder which contains the source code.

The command above will gather both debates and written answers (wrans). You can run a command again and it will lazily make only those files which weren’t downloaded/parsed last time. When you are done, you should have lots of XML files in the parldata/scrapedxml/debates folder.