Official Publications


The Library holds an extensive collection of official publications forming the Official Publications Unit (O.P.U.) which is housed in the External Store. 

Material is accessible by placing a request through Primo - the Library Catalogue.

It should be noted that some publications are not individually recorded on Primo because they form part of large series, such as Command Papers and House of Commons Papers and Bills.  In this case individual publications can be traced through the various lists detailed in this leaflet. However, more and more material is now being added to Primo and more recent command papers should now be recorded. 

British Government Publications

The Stationery Office Publications. The main publisher and distributor of British government publications is The Stationery Office (TSO) (formerly HMSO). Nearly all material offered for sale by TSO is listed in the annual Government Publications Catalogue, now named The Stationery Office Annual Catalogue  (REF Z2009.G7), which is held by the Library from 1894. This is supplemented by daily and monthly catalogues, which provide up to date information for the current year. The daily list can be accessed on the web at:

There are various other guides available to Stationery Office publications, staff will be able to advise on their use.

Non-Stationery Office Publications. It should be noted that a large proportion of non-parliamentary publications are produced directly by the Government Department concerned, in which case they are not listed in The Stationery Office catalogue. Some departments produce their own catalogues, e.g. The Department of the Environment and Transport Annual List of Publications (REF AS122.G7). Others can be traced through the Catalogue of British Official Publications NOT published by HMSO (REF Z2009.C3). This includes the contact details for Government Departments.

BOPCRIS (British Publications Collaborative Reader Information Service) enables users to search and browse information from British Official Publications over the period 1688-1995. Users can also read abstracts, and view detailed consistent subject indexing, of key documents. 

Two useful guides to the different categories of British government publications are available. An introduction to British Government Publications by J. G. Olle  and British Official Publications by J. Pemberton.

Parliamentary Publications. These may be loosely defined as those documents that are required by Parliament in the conduct of its business. The library holds three major categories of such publications:

Parliamentary Debates. Hansard is the official report of the debates in both Houses of Parliament. The O.P.U. contains a fairly complete set of debates:  

  • Commons Debates from 1918 
  • Lords Debates from 1945 

Online access to Hansard can be found at:
Access to the House of Commons Hansard Archives can be found at:
Access to the House of Lords Hansard Archive can be found at:

A useful summary of the weekly timetable of the Commons and the progress of new legislation is contained in the House of Commons Weekly Information Bulletin. This is available at:

A formal record of the proceedings of the House is contained in the Journals of the House of Commons (in external store). Library holdings run from 1547 along with a small number of volumes of Journals of the House of Lords.

Legislation. Acts of Parliament. These appear in various series produced by the government printers, The Stationery Office, and other commercial publishers. The External Store holds Acts of Parliament covering the period from 1225 to date. The series entitled Statutes in Force (in external store) published by TSO groups acts by subject and is in loose leaf form. This is being replaced by a Statute Law Database and is not as up-to-date as it used to be. The External Store has the annual volumes of Public General Acts and Measures from 1951 to date. These contain the full texts of new Acts passed each year. Acts from the current year are held in pamphlet form, and from 1996, are available on the web at:

New House of Commons Bills and full text public bills currently before Parliament are available on the web at:

As an aid to these official series an Index to the Statutes (STA KD142.4.G7) is published annually; this indexes under detailed subject headings all public general statute law in force to the end of its year. The Chronological Table of the Statutes (STA KD142.3.C5), also published annually, lists all the public general Acts from 1235 to date, section by section, showing which have been repealed or amended by subsequent legislation.

Statutory Instruments (SIs). You may need to consult minor legislative material in the form of regulations known as Statutory Instruments. This series is published by The Stationery Office and contains the official texts of the new regulations produced each year.  From 1997, the full text of most SIs are available on the web at:

Acts and regulations can also be accessed through electronic databases such as LEXIS and Westlaw. Both can be accessed from the A-Z of Electronic Information Sources list on the following web page:

Please ask staff for further details.

Parliamentary Papers.  These are issued in the form of Command Papers and House of Commons or Lords Papers. Command Papers are so called because they are presented to Parliament ‘by command of Her Majesty’. They deal with matters upon which it is essential that all members should be informed, such as statements of government policy and reports of Royal Commissions. Command Papers disregard Parliamentary Sessions and are numbered in series, distinguished by an abbreviation of the word ‘Command’:

1836-1869     1-4222
1870-1899     c 1-9550
1900-1918     cd 1-9239
1919-1956     Cmd 1-9889
1956-1986     Cmnd 1-9927
1986-            Cm 1-

House of Commons Papers include the reports of Select Committees to the House, and various reports and accounts that are required, by statute, to be laid before parliament. They are numbered sessionally, and are distinguished by having the letters HC before the number, e.g. 1997-98 H.C. 620 is a copy of the Financial Statement and Budget of HM Treasury.

The Library holds extensive sets of 19th, 20th and 21st Century parliamentary papers. Almost all Command and House of Commons Papers from 1801 are available in microform and printed copies of the more important papers are often available. Parliamentary papers may be traced through the indices to The Stationery Office Annual catalogues.

Some earlier parliamentary material is also available. The Journals of the House of Commons contained many reports until the 18th Century and a selection of reports from Committees of the House of Commons 1715-1801 on microform collects significant material not included in the Journals. For the 19th Century, the Irish University Press has reprinted a selection of the more important British Parliamentary Papers in subject sets and the External Store holds about half of this reprint. Holdings are listed in the Checklist of British Parliamentary Papers 1801-1899 (REF Z2009.G76), whilst the Catalogue of British Parliamentary Papers 1801-1900 provides a summary of the contents of each volume. Significant papers are also summarised in the series of Breviates of Parliamentary Papers by P. and G. Ford (REF Z2009.F7). 18th, 19th and 20th Century Parliamentary Papers may be accessed online at or

Non-Parliamentary Publications. These are issued by the various government departments and cover a wide range of subjects. Most of these publications are filed in the main book sequence and the library catalogue should be checked under the relevant personal author or government department. However, a number of older non-parliamentary publications are kept in the O.P.U. and, if a publication does not appear in the library catalogue, please ask staff for help. 

Statistical Publications

A collection of statistical material, issued by British and foreign governments, inter-governmental bodies and commercial publishers. The various series are listed in the library catalogue.  Each publication is classified according to its geographical coverage and subject. Thus, the British census is found at STAT 41 (Great Britain) /H (Demography) and Canadian export figures at 71 (Canada) /B (International Trade).

It should be noted that the few British statistical series e.g. Criminal statistics, published as Command Papers are kept in the Command Papers sequence.

There are several guides to statistical sources. For Great Britain the most useful is the Guide to Official Statistics produced by the Central Statistical Office (REF Z7554.G7.G7).

Since 1996, the number of statistical series has been significantly increased by the arrival of the European Documentation Centre, housed in the Hugh Owen Library.  This collection contains a wide range of statistical series produced by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. It covers topics such as economy and finance, population and social conditions, external trade, the environment and research and development.

European Union Publications

As a designated European Documentation Centre, the Library contains an extensive collection of items published by the main institutions of the European Union, including legislative texts, reports and statistics on a whole range of topics relating to the European Union. Note particularly the following:

  • Official Journal of the European Communities .
  • Debates of the European Parliament - available via the European Parliament web site at
  • European Parliament Reports - now available on the web via the European Parliament web site as above.
  • COM documents 1996 available via the Eur-Lex web site at:

Probably the central publication is the Official Journal. The Library has a complete run in hard-copy of the Official Journal in French until 1973, and English until 2000.  Thereafter, coverage is in electronic format either as a CD-ROM or via the Eur-Lex web site at: 

All these items can be found on the library catalogue Primo

The full text of European treaties and legislation, plus bibliographic details of preparatory documents (including COM documents) and European Parliament questions is now available at

The European Union’s web site, Europa, has grown rapidly since its inception in 1995 and now includes the full text of selected policy documents, daily news briefings and much more. Access Europa at:

See the EDC web site ( for details of more Europe-related publications and Internet sites. 

United Nations

These publications are divided into two types: the Documents series and Sales series. Documentary material is directly concerned with the proceedings of the main bodies of the    U. N., such as the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Library holds:

  • General Assembly from 1947-  held in the External Store
  • Security Council from 1947-  held in the External Store
  • Economic and Social Council from 1947-  held in the External Store

The easiest approach to important U.N. documents is via the U.N. Yearbook (DIP JX1977.A1.Y3) or United Nations at

League of Nations

The Library holds an extensive collection of League publications, and holdings are marked up in League of Nations Documents 1919-1946, ed. By Edward A. Reno (Z6473.R4) and in A Repertoire of League of Nations Serial Documents 1919-1947, ed. By V.Y. and C. Ghebali (Z6473.G4) 

Useful Web Sites

This is a rapidly developing field and, at the moment, mostly freely available, subject to copyright restrictions.  Below are listed a few for you to try out.