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Management: United Kingdom

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom official publications are shelved in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library. The classification assigned to the print collection is JZ.

The majority of the print collection is composed of the UK Parliamentary Papers. For the devolved governments only a small collection is available for Wales (JZ400) and Scotland (JZ500) while Northern Ireland has a more substantial collection located at JZN. 

This guide outlines two types of papers; Parliamentary papers (those concerned with the business of Parliament) and Non Parliamentary papers (those produced by government departments and agencies). All are official.

In understanding the categories and arrangement of the papers it is easier to identify all documents relevant to specific research topics. Both print and online indexes are available and are often used together.

Parliamentary Papers

Parliamentary Papers or 'sessional' papers, are the key source for UK official publishing. They refer to both House of Commons and House of Lords and include papers relating to Parliament's business and proceedings, e.g. Hansard debates and those which inform Parliament on matters for consideration or are produced under obligation from, e.g. committees, Royal Commissions, government departments.

Types of Parliamentary papers

Referred to as Hansard, the debates are the official record of what is said in Parliament. Bound sets of parliamentary debates can be found in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library 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 (1909-2016)
  • House of Commons debates are shelved at JZ21–JZ26 (1804-2016)
  • Standing Committee debates are shelved at JZ30 (1945 – 1998/99)

Parliamentary Debates from 1774 to 2005 are available online via Proquest UK Parliamentary Papers.

These include reports of some committees of the House of Commons, together with accounts, statistics and 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 ibound volumes at JZ9 in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library. 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

House of Commons Papers from 1715 to 2004 are available online via Proquest UK Parliamentary 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 in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library. A complete set is held for the period to 2012. For 2012 onwards select print copies are held.

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

Command Papers from 1833-2004 are available online via Proquest UK Parliamentary Papers.

House of Lords Papers and Bills from 1906 to 1978 are located at JZ10 in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library.

House of Lords Papers 1715-2004 are available online via Proquest UK Parliamentary Papers. 

House of Lords Papers and Bills from 1906 to 1978 and are located at JZ10 in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library.

The Law guide provides details on Historic versions of UK legislation and sources of older statutes

Bills and Acts 1695-2004 are available online via Proquest UK Parliamentary Papers. 

Sessional Papers is the collective term to describe all types of Parliamentary Papers emanating from the House of Commons and House of Lords before 1921. Bound volumes of print copies are held in Law and Official Publications on Floor 2 of the McClay Library.

House of Lords Sessional papers 1714 to 1805, and House of Commons Sessional Papers from 1908 to 1920 are located at JZ.

A further bound set containing the House of Lords Papers and Bills from 1906 to 1978 and are located at JZ10.

Accounts of proceedings and debates from 1660 to 1743 are available online via Proquest UK Parliamentary Papers.

After 1921 papers were formally identified and bound by type, for example House of Commons and Command Papers.

Non Parliamentary Papers

These are government department publications not produced for the purpose to inform parliament but instead are part of a department's day to day business and act to inform government and the public about their activities.

The move from print to online has resulted in a large quantity of materials being made available directly on department websites. The type of information and format is wide ranging including minutes, briefings, research findings, consultation and inquiry reports and statistics. As the Library catalogue contains Official Publications in print format, it is necessary to access titles in e-format through the websites. A number are noted in this guide.

It is worth knowing that publications only published online, can and do disappear or move from websites.

Sources of Non-Parliamentary Papers

GOV.UK is the UK Government website giving access to all government services and information.

Departments and agencies can be browsed and searched individually. 

The following links relate to publication type: 

Policy Papers and Consultations

Guidance and Regulation

Research and Statistics

The UK Government Web Archive captures and preserves all UK central government information published on the web since 1996. In includes videos, tweets, images and websites.

The TSO's Online Bookshop can be considered as a bibliographic database of titles currently in print in the UK and the catalogue of official publications. It includes the Daily List and can be browsed by publication type. The Monthly Catalogue is also available. It also has a comprehensive subject listing of all official publications published by TSO and includes the devolved governments.

Since the decentralisation of official publishing, many departments and agencies publish independently of TSO, and so their publications may not be listed in TSO catalogues.

The National Archives is the official public archive of the UK Government and holds materials relating to more than 1000 years of history. Records are collected under the Public Records Act. A range of records have been digitised and are available online to view. A number of research guides are available providing direction on finding materials on particular topics.