There are various types of Parliamentary material available, both in digital and in print, and this guide describes some of the most important, giving you a general overview of our Parliamentary sources of information and where to find them.
This is followed by a brief summary on how to follow a bill through parliament which is intended to help those who visit Guildhall Library find details of the passage of legislation through Parliament.
Our extensive Parliamentary material dates mainly from 1801 onwards. It includes debates and journals of the House of Commons and House of Lords, House of Commons papers, public and local statutes and statutory instruments. We have a complete set of parliamentary debates (Hansard) from 1803.
The Sessional Indexes for Hansard Debates are on the open shelves in the Reading Room and readers can help themselves.
The HMSO Publications List is published daily, and cumulated monthly and annually and copies can be obtained from the Enquiry Desk.
The Papers of the House of Commons Sessional Index and General Indexes are available from the Enquiry Desk.
Parliamentary Debates - These are the verbatim reports of discussions in the House of Commons and House of Lords, published as two separate sequences since 1909 and are commonly known as Hansard, after the publisher.
Standing Committee Reports - Since 1919 a further Hansard series, Standing Committee Reports, has reported verbatim the proceedings of the different standing committees which deliberate on and generally amend Bills as part of the process of law-making.
Bills are draft Government legislation embodying the legislative intention of the Government and are either Public or Private. Private Acts and Bills are sub-divided further into Local - affecting the interests of a particular person, place or institution, and Personal - affecting the estates, property or status of an individual. When a Bill has gone through all its stages and become law, it is printed as an Act.
Select Committees are small groups of MPs drawn from all political parties, which are set up to examine the work of Government departments. They are the main investigatory system by which the House of Commons scrutinises the exercise of Government responsibilities, the development of public policy and public expenditure.
Command Papers were originally Papers presented to Parliament by command of the Sovereign. Until 1833 they usually appeared as appendices to the House of Commons Journal, but the increasing number made this impractical. Most Command Papers are either treaties, White Papers (Government proposals for legislation, policy statements and Annual Reviews eg, for Defence), Reports of the Royal Commissions - but not their Minutes of Evidence, and State Papers such as communiqués.
Legislation is primarily carried through Parliament in the form of Acts and Bills. However, it is not possible for an Act to cover every detail of the subject with which it deals, so it will confer powers for the making of more detailed rules, orders or regulations in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs). SIs have the force of law, and they are sometimes also referred to as secondary, delegated or subordinated legislation.
House of Commons/Lords Journals: these are separate publications to Hansard and list formally all decisions made by Parliament during the working day.
House of Commons Weekly Information Bulletin includes a list of all Bills currently before Parliament.
House of Commons Sessional Information Digest acts as a cumulation of the Bulletin and an index to it.
First reading in the Commons: this is usually a formality, consisting merely of the reading of the short title by the Clerk. Found inHansard.
The Printed Bill: the bill is printed after its first reading. Found in Parliamentary Papers. Bills 2002-3 session onwards.
Second reading in the Commons: the principle of the bill is discussed and agreed. Found inHansard.
Committee stage: the bill is gone through clause by clause and individual clauses may be discussed and where appropriate amended. Found in Committee proceedings (Standing Committees) or Hansard (Committees of the Whole House).
Report stage: referred to officially as the Consideration, the House considers the bill as reported back by the Committee. Found in Hansard.
Third reading: the bill is considered once more by the House. Found in Hansard.
Proceedings in the House of Lords: stages and sources are similar to those in the House of Commons, with the following exceptions:
Commons’ consideration of Lords' amendments: any substantial amendments made to the bill by the House of Lords needs to be considered by the House of Commons. Found in Parliamentary papers (text of the amendments); Hansard (consideration in the Commons).
Royal Assent: the Sovereign's assent to the bill is declared to Parliament. Found in Hansard.
These are distinguished by [H.L.] after the short title, and formerly by a long title beginning "A bill intituled an act to..." Stages and sources are similar to those for bills introduced into the House of Commons, but with the Lords stages taken first.
Note: Guildhall Library will not have the text of the bill until it has been printed for the House of Commons.
Private bills go through similar stages to those for public bills, but there are some distinctive features of the procedure: