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Laid papers

Papers presented to Parliament by external bodies are presented formally and described as being laid upon the Table of the House. Papers may be laid because the bodies are required to do so by law or by a decision of Parliament, or because the Government has decided, or previously committed, to provide information to Parliament. Such papers may be divided into three categories: Command Papers, Act Papers and Returns. Many statutory instruments are also required to be laid before Parliament or the House of Commons.

Information on papers presented to Parliament can be found in Erskine May, Chapter 7, paragraphs 7.28–7.43. Information on the laying of statutory instruments can be found in Chapter 31, paragraphs 31.11–31.12.

For government departments and external bodies required to lay papers before Parliament, comprehensive guidance is available:

Guide to laying papers (pdf, 1MB)

Advice can also be sought from the laying office of each House: the Journal Office in the House of Commons ( and the Printed Paper Office in the House of Lords ( In addition to the laying process, the Guide includes information on departments’ obligations to ensure print copies are available to the members of both Houses at the time of acceptance for laying and that all papers and instruments subject to parliamentary procedure are sent to the relevant scrutiny committees.

Lists of papers laid before each House are published at the end of every sitting day in the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings and the House of Lords Minutes of Proceedings.

Most Command and Act Papers, once laid, are published on Statutory instruments, once laid, are published on