Skip to main content

Government documents and official publications

Parliamentary Papers

Government and official publications are valuable primary sources of information for all subjects.

In our libraries you can find:

  • Parliamentary Papers
  • Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments
  • Parliamentary debates
  • Non-Parliamentary publications

Types of Parliamentary Papers

There are three types of Parliamentary Papers: Bills, Papers, and Command Papers.

Bills are proposals for legislation that are examined by Parliament. Once passed they become an Act of Parliament.

They include:

  • Public Bills – these are initiated by Government and the majority will become law.
  • Private Members’ Bills – these are promoted by individual MPs and only a small percentage are successful.
  • Private Bills – these come from outside Parliament and are usually put forward by companies, local authorities, or educational bodies.

Papers are usually reports or documentation from committees, government offices, and official bodies. They include:

  • committee reports
  • National Audit Office investigation reports
  • financial papers
  • annual reports and accounts of official bodies
  • various administrative reports

They are numbered sequentially and begin at no.1 at the start of each Parliamentary session.

The House of Lords publishes substantially fewer papers than the Commons. Until the 1986/87 session, both Bills and Papers were numbered in one single sequence, but from session 1987/88 they were split into two separately numbered series.

Command Papers are rarer but arguably more important. They are papers presented before Parliament that are produced outside the House.

These include:

  • government policy documents (green papers and white papers)
  • treaties
  • conventions
  • reports from investigative bodies including Royal Commissions
  • agreements and other commitments the country makes with other countries and international organisations.

Command papers are not numbered afresh each session as with papers. They are assigned a prefix (abbreviation of Command) followed by a number.

Search the Library for Parliamentary Papers

You can find print copies of parliamentary papers from 1866 to 2008/2009 in the Library stores. You can request items from the store by going to the item's catalogue record and selecting "In store - request here".

Microfiche editions of publications from 1801–1900 and 1922–1948 are in Brotherton Library Main Building floor 1.

Search online

Use the following websites to find Parliamentary Papers:

Search catalogues and indexes

Use the following catalogues and indexes to obtain the full details of any Parliamentary Paper: