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British Parliamentary Papers and Other British Government Documents

Sessional Papers: overview

Sessional Papers are papers presented to Parliament. Before 1921 almost all important government documents were presented to Parliament for their consideration. Beginning in 1921, only documents considered directly relevant to impending legislation have been presented.

Sessional papers include the following document types:

  1. Public bills, arranged by title. (Private bills relating to local or personal legislation, e.g., divorce, are not part of the Sessional Papers.)
  2. Reports of committees of Parliament, arranged alphabetically by subject or name of committee.
  3. Reports of Royal Commissions and other groups doing research of interest to Parliament.
  4. Accounts and papers (all publications not in the first three categories. Included are treaties, international agreements, financial and statistical reports, papers on defense, etc.).

Many papers in groups 3 and 4 are Command Papers, so-called because they are presented to Parliament by "royal command" rather than as a result of an Act of Parliament. Each sessional paper bears a number, printed in the lower lefthand corner of the title page. All papers except Command Papers begin a new series of numbers each session. University of Georgia Libraries's collection of Sessional Papers is described below. Command Papers are treated separately.