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British Parliamentary Papers

Sessional Papers - Overview

Sessional Papers (aka Parliamentary) papers are the working documents of each session of Parliament. The more important papers are usually considered to be those presented to the House of Commons.  

  • Bills: Proposed laws submitted to Parliament for approval. These can be of two kinds: public and private. Only public bills are available in the Sessional Papers.

  • House Papers: Papers that arise out of the deliberations of the House and its Committees or are needed for its works. This includes Select Committee Papers, Minutes of Proceedings of Standing Committees, Accounts, and certain annual reports.

  • Command Papers: Command Papers do not originate in the Parliament but are "presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her (or His) Majesty". Royal Commission Reports and treaties are the most common Command Papers. See separate section on Command Papers.

Tip for Finding Sessional Papers

To find Sessional Papers in any format: know the sessional year, volume, and page number of the item.

Citation elements: Session date / Bill, Paper, or Command number / Volume number - page number. 

Sample citations:
Bill or Paper: 1884 (181) LXII 395
Command Paper: 1881 [c.2802] XCVIII 367

Bill and Paper numbers appear in (round brackets).
Command Paper numbers have no brackets or [square brackets]. 

See also how to read a citation.

Holdings and Finding Aids