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Finding Official Publications

What are 'Non-Parliamentary' Publications?

Non-Parliamentary publications are those produced by individual government departments and agencies. They include research reports, for example Attitudes to pensions: the 2006 Survey from the Department for Work and Pensions, technical information (e.g. the Department of the Environment Building regulations) and statistics (e.g. the National Census held every ten years).

Most new non-governmental publications are made available electronically. However, there is usually little commitment to preserving older information. As a result it is often easier to get hold of current information leaflets than to find policy documents from just a few years ago. In addition, whenever government departments are reorganized, merged or divided many online documents cease to be available on the new websites. It is therefore still necessary to know how to trace and locate printed material, even for quite recent publications.

It can be hard to guess from content and subject if an item might be Parliamentary (e.g. a House of Commons Paper) or non-Parliamentary.  Further confusion arises when parts of an inquiry, for example the evidence, are published as non-Parliamentary, but the final report may be presented to Parliament and published as a Command Paper .

Typical items include:

  • consultation papers
  • codes of practice
  • departmental circulars
  • research reports
  • annual reports of regulatory bodies
  • inspection reports (e.g. individual schools or hospitals)
  • some inquiry reports
  • accident investigation reports
  • statistics

Finding non-Parliamentary materials, both in print and online, differs from finding Parliamentary materials for exapmle there have not yet been any systematic attempts to digitise older documents.  Prior to the launch of the UK Government WebArchive even 'born digital' documents from departmental web pages could be removed and/or web links would break. Best sources for finding non-Parliamentary publications include:

Google does not archive the Web; but it will search for archived versions of government documents – make sure you have the title as exact as possible. Google can also be useful if you have searched within a departmental website and been unable to find the document; the search mechanisms within government sites often leave a  lot to be desired.

This is the official home for web publications from all government departments and many other agencies and public bodies

Internet Archive Wayback Machine
This is an American project  which goes back to 1997 and is therefore useful for older documents.

National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD)
The National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) preserves and provides online access to archived digital datasets and documents from UK central government departments.

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