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Research Guides

UK government publications

A guide to the major print and electronic British government information resources prepared by Sam-chin Li, University of Toronto Libraries.

U.K. Parliamentary Papers

Parliamentary papers are working documents of government, also known as Sessional papers or blue books.

"The parliamentary papers encompass all areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy, showing how issues were explored and legislation was formed." There are financial accounts of government, statistics, census, treaties, and papers detailing colonial, military, and foreign affairs. These are papers created by the Parliament and also those presented to it. They include:

  • Bills: public bills only
  • House Papers: Committee reports and Evidence, Minutes of Proceedings of Standing Committees, Accounts, Annual reports, House Returns
  • Command papers (Papers presented to Parliament by Command): government papers from ministers, include State Papers, Policy Papers, Annual Reports, Reports of Royal Commissions, Statistical Reports and etc.
    • State Papers include Treaty Series, Country Series and Miscellaneous Series.
    • Policy Papers are often referred to as:
      • White Papers: government policy
      • Green Papers: are proposals set out for discussion
    • Royal Commission reports are reports of commissions which have been set up by the recommendation of the prime minister to investigate matters of public concern.

During the eighteenth century, Command Papers were printed as appendices to the House of Commons Journal. Numbering of Command papers:

  • First series [1]-[4222] 1833-69
  • Second series [C.1]-[C.9550] 1870-99
  • Third series [Cd.1]-[Cd.9239] 1900-18
  • Fourth series [Cmd.1]-[Cmd.9889] 1919-56
  • Fifth series [Cmnd.1]- 1956-86
  • Sixth series [Cm.1]- 1986+

Current Command Papers (1993+)

House of Commons

House of Lords

The House of Lords Sessional Papers contains Bills and House Papers. Until 1900 the Command Papers were published in Sessional Papers of both Houses. After 1900, the Command Papers were included in the House of Commons Sessional Papers only.