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Official Publications: UK Parliamentary Papers

A guide to finding British Parliamentary Papers, European Union and Northern Ireland official publications

What are Parliamentary Papers?

Parliamentary Papers are the key source for UK official publishing. These include goverment papers, public inquiries and annual reports presented to Parliament (Command Papers), House of Commons Papers and Hansard reports of parliamentary debates.

Command Papers

A command paper is presented to Parliament, as it states on the front cover, ‘By Command of Her Majesty’. In practice this means the paper is presented by a government minister. Command Papers include:

  • statements of government policy (often referred to as ‘White Papers’);
  • some statistics and annual reports (though most are not Command Papers);
  • reports of Royal Commissions and tribunals of inquiry;
  • reports of some committees, and the state papers (including treaties).

Command Papers are given an individual number, prefaced by an abbreviation for the word ‘Command’. Six number series have been used, each series using a different abbreviation. Since 1986 the abbreviation has been Cm. and the series began with Cm. 1. The previous series ran from 1956 – 1986 as Cmnd 1 – Cmnd 9927. As a result the precise abbreviation used is significant.

Print copies of Command Papers for 1921 onwards are held in blue bound volumes at JZ6 in the Law and Official Publications (Journals) area of the McClay Library on Floor 2. A complete set is held for the period to 2012. For 2012 onwards print copies are held selectively.

Command Papers pre-dating 1921 are bound in the Sessional Papers.

House of Commons Papers

These include reports of some committees of the House of Commons, together with accounts, statistics and some annual reports which are required by Parliament for its work. They are bound by session year and individual papers are identified by number within that year, e.g. H.C. 2006-07 716.

Print copies of papers from 1921 onwards are held in brown bound volumes at JZ9 in the Law and Official Publications (Journals) area of the McClay Library on Floor 2. A complete set is held for the period to 2012. For 2012 onwards print copies are held selectively

Papers pre-dating 1921 are bound in the Sessional Papers

Parliamentary Papers Online

Parliamentary Papers are available online as:

Parliamentary Debates - Hansard

Bound sets of parliamentary debates can be found in the Law and Official Publications area of the McClay Library (Floor 2) at JZ18-30. Indexes for each session of Parliament, held with the volumes of debates can help identify particular debates.

  • House of Lords debates are shelved at JZ18
  • House of Commons debates are shelved at JZ21–JZ26
  • Standing Committee debates are shelved at JZ30 (for the period 1945 – 1998/99 only)

Older Papers - the Sessional Papers (1801 - 1920)

Parliamentary Papers for the period 1801 - 1920 are bound as sessional papers or sessional sets. Volumes for each Parliamentary session are identified by Roman numerals and referred to according to a continuous pencilled page number. A reference to a particular paper in an index or bibliography might read e.g. Reports and communications on vagrancy, 1847-48, Liii, 235.

The Sessional papers for 1801 – 1921 are held in the Journals Store of the McClay Library. Individual volumes can be requested for consultation from library staff at the Enquiry Desk on Floor 2. Enquiry Desk staff can also help you trace papers by subject.

A number of print indexes to sessional sets are available at the Enquiry Desk. Many papers for this period are also reprinted in the IOP series noted below.