About Command Papers
Government publications presented to Parliament are known as Command Papers. Most Command Papers are published in a numbered series.
Different types of publications
The Command Papers series includes the following types of government publication:
- State Papers - including treaties and international agreements.
- White Papers - government policy initiatives and proposals for legislation.
- Green Papers - government consultation documents.
- Some government responses to Select Committee reports.
- Reports of Royal Commissions and some other Committees of Inquiry.
- Statistics and annual reports of some government bodies.
Some Command Papers are not given numbers. Unnumbered Command Papers include statements about gifts or guarantees made by government departments.
Presentation and numbering
Command Papers are government papers that are presented to Parliament. They convey information or decisions that the government think should be drawn to the attention of one or both Houses of Parliament.
The term 'Command' is in the formula carried on the papers: "Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for ...by Command of Her Majesty".
The first numbered series of Command Papers was introduced in 1833. Since the late 19th Century, several series have followed, each distinguished by a different prefix. Papers are numbered consecutively, starting at 1 and running to well over 9000 in each series.
The last series had the prefix 'Cm' and ran from 'Cm 1' in November 1986 to 'Cm 9756' in December 2018. The current series, the seventh, began with 'CP 1' in January 2019.
Access to government publications
Command Papers are government publications. The full texts of many Command Papers are available on the government's Official Documents service. Copies of older Command Papers can be ordered from the Parliamentary Archives.
Government responses to Select Committee reports are available through the committee pages, either as links to government department websites or as special reports of the committee.
More details about Command papers can be found through the following publications: