The term parliamentary papers includes:
The working papers of Parliament (many of which are explained in other pages of About Parliament, such as Bills, Hansard, business papers and judgments).
Other papers produced by Parliament and its committees.
Papers presented to Parliament by outside bodies.
Papers produced by Parliament and its committees
Both Houses of Parliament publish documents that result from their work and that of their committees, such as:
- Votes and Proceedings (Commons) and the Minute (Lords) - the formal, authoritative record of the decisions taken by each House.
- Select Committee reports and evidence.
- Register of Members' interests.
- Standing Orders - the rules for conducting business in both Houses.
- Sessional Returns - which includes statistics on the work of the Commons for each parliamentary year.
These papers are published as House of Commons or House of Lords Papers.
Papers presented to Parliament
Many different types of papers are presented to Parliament by bodies outside Parliament - some are then published under Parliament's authority.
Most are presented because the bodies are required to do so either by law or by a decision of Parliament. Others are presented because the government has decided or has previously undertaken to provide the information to Parliament (these papers are called 'Command Papers').
The following are some of the categories of papers that must be presented to Parliament:
- Annual reports of government departments or other bodies and agencies.
- Periodic reports of certain activities or programmes (eg, Reports of Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons).
- Reports by the National Audit Office.
- Estimates, accounts and other government financial papers such as the Budget.
- Reports of inquiries into particular events (eg, the Hutton Inquiry, the Home Office report on the 7/7 London bombings).
Many, but not all, of these papers are published as House of Commons Papers.
House of Commons Papers and House of Lords Papers have separate numbering sequences, starting at one in every session. Therefore, papers are referred to in the format: 'HC 507 2000-01' or 'HL Paper 17 2004-05'. Numbers are allocated to HC papers by the Journal Office and to HL papers by the Table Office.
Access to parliamentary papers
Papers directly related to the work of Parliament, including committee publications, standing orders, sessional returns, registers of interests, and some financial publications, are available through the Publications and Records area of the Parliament website.
The Official Documents website makes available the full texts of House of Commons Papers which originate in government departments.