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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

UK law, archives and government information

You can get access to information about UK law, and to government publications, archives and documents.

Law, publications and reports

UK law

The UK Statute Law Database is a web-accessible database of the statute law of the United Kingdom, hosted by the Ministry of Justice. It maintains copies of all existing ('extant') statutory legislation. Those Acts which have been partially repealed are shown in their currently active form - this may be only one or two sections. Repealed sections and fully repealed Acts are not shown on the site.

Parliamentary proceedings

The Official Report (Hansard) is the edited verbatim report of proceedings in both Houses of Parliament. Commons Hansard covers proceedings in the Commons Chamber, Westminster Hall and Standing Committees. Lords Hansard covers proceedings in the Lords Chamber and its Grand Committees.

Members' words are reported with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes omitted, but nothing is left out which adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument. Both Official Reports also contain the relevant Written Ministerial Statements and Written Answers.

For older Parliamentary records, there is a search room for the public to consult records of the Lords and the Commons dating back to 1497.

Bills before Parliament

You can find details of Bills currently before Parliament as well as Amendments to the Bill and Explanatory Notes relating to the subject of the Bill from the link below.

Official publications

UK Official Publications (UKOP) is the official catalogue of official government publications. It combines the official catalogue of The Stationery Office with the Catalogue of Official Publications Not Published by the Stationery Office. UKOP is published by TSO (The Stationery Office). These catalogues are the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of bibliographic information on government publications in the UK. UKOP also holds thousands of documents archived in full text.

To access the catalogue, you must be a subscriber.

Command Papers (White and Green Papers)

Command Papers are often described as White or Green Papers though these expressions have no formal definition. Over the years it has become accepted that White Papers are statements of Government policy while Green papers are proposals which are published as an aid to public debate. Command Papers get their name from the fact that they are presented to Parliament by a Government Minister 'by Command of Her Majesty'.

This series of documents also contains the numerous Treaties to which the UK is a party, formal Government Responses to Select Committee Reports and many of the Reports emerging from Committees of Inquiry and Departmental Reviews.

Sources of national and government archives

The National Archives

The National Archives is responsible for looking after the records of central government and the courts of law, and making sure everyone can look at them. The collection is one of the largest in the world and spans an unbroken period from the 11th century to the present day. It covers England, Wales and the United Kingdom. A range of collections are available online including military records, historic documents, wills, and census records. The website also provides information on how to search through the archives and online exhibitions.

UK government websites

A number of government websites have been archived and are available online.

Official statistics

The Office of National Statistics Online provides the official statistics on Britain's economy, population and society at national and local level. Summaries and detailed data releases are published free of charge.

The department is also responsible for the Census that has taken place every 10 years since 1801. The latest Census was held on Sunday 29 April 2023 and the full results and analyses are available.

The Neighbourhood Statistics website enables users to view, compare or download statistics for local areas on a wide range of subjects including population, crime, health and housing.

Additional links

Nominate someone for an honour

More than 2,500 Britons are honoured each year with orders such as the OBE or the MBE - anyone can make a nomination

Diamond Jubilee

Find out what's happening, and how you can take part

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