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UK Parliament Content

House of Commons Papers
House of Lords Papers
House of Commons Public Bills and House of Lords Public Bills
House of Commons Explanatory Notes and House of Lords Explanatory Notes
Command Papers
Public Bill Committee Papers

Acts

Act Explanatory Notes
Statutory Instruments
House of Commons and House of Lords Daily Hansard 

House of Commons Papers
House of Commons Papers are papers which result from the work of the House and its Committees or are otherwise necessary for its work.

House of Commons Papers form a distinct series within the parliamentary papers collection.   Each paper in the series is identified by a number with the prefix 'HC' and the session in which it has been published.  They are numbered from 1 in every parliamentary session.  It is therefore necessary to refer to a paper by number and session, e.g. HC 507 2006-07.  The main categories of papers are:

Select Committee Papers

  • Reports of Select Committees

  • Evidence taken by Select Committees

  • Minutes of Proceedings of Select Committees (Published once each session)

Government replies to Select Committee reports may appear as Special Reports of the Committee concerned, numbered as a House of Commons Paper; alternatively they may appear as Command Papers or as Departmental publications.

Minutes of Proceedings of Public Bill Committees
Public Bill Committees are used by the House to undertake the committee stage of bills i.e. to examine the detail of the bill.  The House of Commons uses other general committees to debate delegated legislation and proposals for European legislation and other European Union documents.  Public bill committees were known as "Standing Committees" until 15 November 2006.

Returns to Addresses by the House
Returns to addresses are often a way for the Government to make available to the House a report or statistics from the Government.  Printing a paper as a return to an address might be used as a means of obtaining Parliamentary protection against possible libel actions.

Estimates and Appropriation Accounts
These include the main Supply Estimates, Revised and Supplementary Estimates and Appropriation Accounts presented to the Commons appear as House of Commons Papers.   The Financial Statement and Budget Report is published as a House of Commons Paper, but the Pre-Budget Report is a Command Paper.  National Audit Office Reports are also published as House of Commons papers.

Annual Reports and Accounts
There are a number of public organisations that are required by statute to publish their annual reports in the HC Papers series.  Some bodies publish their accounts as House of Commons Papers but publish their annual reports themselves.

House Returns
These are now published as a single House of Commons paper for each session known as the Sessional Return.  This summarises the work of the House for each session.

Other Papers
Some papers do not fall into any particular category.  Examples include the Register of Members' Interests and Standing Orders (for both public and private business)

 

House of Lords Papers
House of Lords Papers are papers which result from the work of the House and its Committees or are otherwise necessary for its work.

House of Lords Papers form a distinct series within the parliamentary papers collection.  Each paper in the series is identified by a number with the prefix 'HL' and the session in which it has been published.  They are numbered from 1 in every parliamentary session.  It is therefore necessary to refer to a paper by number and session, e.g. HL 105 2006-07.  Most papers originate from the Select Committees and include the Select Committee reports and the minutes of evidence.  Other papers include the Register of Members' Interests and Standing Orders.

 

House of Commons Public Bills and House of Lords Public Bills
Public Bills change the law as it applies to the general population and are the most common type of Bill introduced in Parliament.  Government ministers propose the majority of Public Bills; those put forward by other MPs or Lords are known as Private Members' Bills.

Introduction of Public Bills
Public Bills may be introduced in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords and go through a number of set stages that generally involve Members of both Houses examining the Bill.

Bills that are largely financial, or involve public money such as new taxes or public spending are always introduced in the Commons.

Once passed into law, a Public Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.  The conditions of public bills apply to the general public, such as a change to the national speed limit on motorways.

Private Members' Bills
Private Members' Bills are public bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers.  As with other public bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population.  Only a minority of private members' bills become law but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly.

Like other public bills, private members' bills can be introduced in either House and must go through the same set stages.  However, as less time is allocated to these bills it is less likely that they will proceed through all their stages.  Some private members bills are never printed.

Bill Stages
The procedure for passing the different types of Bills is broadly similar in both Houses.  A bill must pass through several stages - in both Houses - to become law.

The following stages take place in both Houses:

  • First reading (formal introduction of the Bill without debate)
  • Second reading (general debate)
  • Committee stage (detailed examination, debate and amendments.  In the House of Commons this stage usually takes place in a Public Bill Committee.)
  • Report stage (opportunity for further amendments)
  • Third reading (final chance for debate – amendments are possible in the Lords but not in the Commons)


When a Bill has passed through both Houses it is returned to the first House (where it started) for the second House's amendments to be considered.

Both Houses must agree on the final text.  There may be several rounds of exchanges between the two Houses until agreement is reached.  Once agreement is reached the Bill proceeds to the next stage:

  • Royal Assent (granted by the monarch)

Once Royal Assent is granted the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.  However, the provisions of they Act may not come into force immediately.

 

House of Commons Explanatory Notes and House of Lords Explanatory Notes
The text of Explanatory Notes is produced by the Government Department Responsible for the subject matter of the Bill.  The purpose of the Explanatory Notes is to make the Bill accessible to readers who are not legally qualified and who have no specialist knowledge of the subject matter.  They are intended to give an understanding of what the Bill sets out to achieve and to place its effect in context.  Explanatory Notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill and will not be fully comprehensible if read on their own.  Explanatory Notes to Bills are usually published at the same time as the Bill.  Explanatory Notes are not published for every print of the Bill but will usually be published for the first print of the Bill and for the first print when the Bill enters the other House.

 

Command Papers
The term "command" arose from the formula that was carried on the papers: "Presented to Parliament ... by command of Her (or His) Majesty".  The origin of this formula lies in the fact that these are Government Papers.  They have their authority from Ministers of the Crown (constitutionally, the Sovereign) and are laid before Parliament as conveying information or decisions which the Government think should be drawn to the attention of one or both Houses of Parliament.  Today, the formula is usually, "Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for ... by Command of Her Majesty".   They are allocated numbers by the remaining part of HMSO and have the prefix Cm and sequential numbers.

The main types of Paper included in this series are:

  • State papers (including communiqués, treaties, etc).  Treaties may be reprinted with a different Cm number when they are ratified.
  • White Papers (Government proposals for legislation), and related policy statements, and some annual reviews
  • Government replies to select committee reports
  • Reports of Royal Commissions, but not normally the evidence of the Commission.
  • Reports of some major Committees of Inquiry, and other Commissions and non-Parliamentary bodies
  • Annual Reports, Statistics, etc. of certain bodies
  • Some, but usually only a small minority, of Consultative Documents (sometimes called Green Papers).


 Public Bill Committee Papers
The House of Commons uses Public Bill Committees to undertake the committee stage of bills. i.e. to examine the detail of the bill.  The House of Commons uses other general committees to debate delegated legislation and proposals for European legislation and other European Union documents.  Public bill committees were known as "Standing Committees" until 15 November 2006.  The General Committees include Delegated Legislation Committees and Committees for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The deliberations of the Public Bill Committees are usually published the day following the sitting and each publication is indexed by the number of the sitting and the bill to which it relates. e.g. First Sitting, Finance Bill.

The Minutes of Proceedings for all General Committees and Public Bill Committees appear as HC Papers, usually some time after the sittings concerned.  These record amendments moved, divisions, attendance, etc.


Acts of Parliament
An Act of Parliament creates a new law or changes an existing law. An Act is a Bill approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and formally agreed to by the reigning monarch (known as Royal Assent). Once implemented, an Act is law and applies to the UK as a whole or to specific areas of the country.An Act may come into force immediately, on a specific starting date, or in stages.


Acts of Parliament Explanatory Notes
The purpose of the Explanatory Notes is to make the Act of Parliament accessible to readers who are not legally qualified and who have no specialist knowledge of the subject matter. They are intended to give an understanding of what the Act sets out to achieve and to place its effect in context. Explanatory Notes need to be read in conjunction with the Act and will not be fully comprehensible if read on their own.


Statutory Instruments
Statutory Instruments (SIs) are a form of legislation which allow the provisions of an Act of Parliament to be subsequently brought into force or altered without Parliament having to pass a new Act. They are also referred to as secondary, delegated or subordinate legislation.

Links to the Statutory Instruments rely on an external website which we do not maintain or update. As such the Statutory Instruments listed should be used as a guide only and not relied on as a comprehensive list of amending legislation


House of Commons and House of Lords Daily Hansard
Hansard is the official report of the proceedings of Parliament. It is published daily when Parliament is sitting and records everything that is said and done in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, for which separate reports are issued.

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