Information sources: Official publications

Types of UK official publications

More important items are published by The Stationery Office (formerly HMSO). The Stationery Office's publications fall into two categories: Parliamentary (papers enabling Parliament to conduct its business, and papers resulting from it) and non-Parliamentary.

Parliamentary Papers

These include sessional papers, debates and legislation, and are published with ISBNs beginning 0-10-

Sessional papers: These arepapers needed by Parliament to conduct its business and papers resulting from it.

  • Bills (Public, Private and Private Members')
  • Command papers (papers presented to Parliament by a minister of the Crown, including major statements of policy or Government proposals, popularly known as "White Papers", and major consultative documents, or "Green Papers")
  • House of Lords papers and bills
  • House of Commons papers (including reports of committees and established bodies)

House of Commons papers are numbered sequentially within each session of Parliament. Command papers have been published sequentially, independent of the parliamentary session, in six series beginning in 1833 (the current series, running from 1986/7-, being prefixed Cm).

Parliamentary papers are not individually recorded on the Library catalogue, except where additional, loanable copies are held.

Debates: The official record of Parliamentary debates is published in Hansard, which also includes answers to written and oral questions and records of divisions. Since 1909 the debates of the House of Lords have been published in a separate volume. Bound volumes of Hansard for sessions before 1985/86 can be found in the Government Publications collection at call number J301.P36, along with the most recent (weekly) parts of Hansard and weekly indexes for each volume. Cumulated indexes are kept for each session; note that the indexes refer to column numbers rather than page numbers, and that column numbers in italics refer to written questions and answers. Since the 1985/86 session, cumulated volumes published on microfiche replace the weekly parts.

Standing Committee debates are also to be found in the Government Publications collection. Individual parts are kept until cumulated volumes are received. House of Lords Standing Committee debates are included in the Lords' Hansard. Other important series are the Votes and proceedings of the Commons, the Minutes of the proceedings of the Lords (provisional recordsofwhat Parliament does rather than says), and the Journals of the House of Commons, a more formal record of the House's proceedings. These series are not held in the Library.

Legislation: The Library holds a complete set of Public Acts (Statutes) from 1225 (Magna Carta) to date in series entitled sequentially Statutes at Large, The Law Reports: Statutes and Public General Acts and Measures.Acts of Parliamentwhich can be referred to in the Library include: Public General Acts, Local and Personal Acts and General Synod Measures:

  • Public General Acts: Public Bills which have received the Royal Assent. These are numbered by chapter number, abbreviated to c. Since 1963 chapter numbering has been within the calendar year rather than parliamentary session. For example: Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is cited as 1994 c. 33; National Service Act 1948 is cited as 1948 c. 64.
  • Local and Personal Acts: Stemming from Private Bills, these are cited with chapter numbers respectively in lower case Roman numerals and in italic Arabic numerals.
  • General Synod Measures: Measures passed by the General Synod of the Church of England (once given the Royal Assent) have been published since 1972 individually and in the annual Public General Acts and General Synod Measures.

Indexes to legislation: Current indexes to legislation which can be found in the Library include:

  • Index to the Statutes: This is an annual volume, which is used to find the statute law on a subject.
  • Chronological table of the statutes: This lists all the Public General Acts passed since 1235 and says whether each is still in force, and if so, lists amendments which affect it.
  • Statutes in force: This offers subject groupings of all extant statutes.
  • Current Law Statutes Annotated: This is a commercial service which gives the text of statutes with a lawyer's annotations.

Delegated legislation arises when Parliament empowers another authority, usually a Minister, to make regulations which have the effect of law. Most delegated legislation is in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs), which were known as Statutory Rules and Orders (SR&O) between 1891 and 1947. These are numbered consecutively throughout the year. Delegated legislation is identified by citing the year and serial number, and listed in the cumulative Table of Government Orders.

These are produced by Government departments but are not directly connected with Parliament. They have ISBNs beginning 0-11-. Many official bodies issue their own publications, rather than use The Stationery Office. The Library acquires selected non-Parliamentary papers and treats them as books. Non-Parliamentary serials are kept in the Government Publications sequence or in the Statistics sequence if they are statistical in nature.

Useful shelfmarks

Although most library materials relevant to official publications are in class J, you should also be prepared to look in other areas when necessary:

Subject Shelfmark Floor
Parliamentary papers GovJ301 2
UK constitutional history JN101-297 2
Government JN301-330 2
International relations JX 2

Useful websites