This guide covers the publications and online resources for the English House of Commons and House of Lords.
For information on the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly please visit their respective websites.


The United Kingdom Parliament website has information on current Parliamentary business as well as background information. See:


The Library's Kashnor Collection covers the political economy of Great Britain and Ireland up to about 1850 and is particularly strong in the works of British and Irish political economists. It also includes:

  • a large number of Acts of Parliament, treaties, official reports and accounts
  • reports and proceedings of interest groups and public meetings
  • resources on the Chartist movement

British Parliamentary publications are valuable primary sources for research into British and dominion history, including Australia.

The Library has significant holdings of published British sources. These include:

  • Parliamentary Papers and Debates, including online access to eighteenth and nineteenth century parliamentary papers
  • Confidential Prints of the Foreign Office for the years 1800 to 1915, believed to be the only such set outside the United Kingdom
  • Confidential Prints of the Colonial Office on microfilm
  • Works of the Foreign Office, the Cabinet Office and the Imperial Defence Committees
  • Legislation, including comprehensive holding of early local and private acts
  • Large holdings of background material, including records of major political parties and collections of pamphlets

The History of the National Library collections until 1980 (extract from Burmester) gives more background on the collection.

Detailed information about what is contained in British Parliamentary papers is found in A guide to parliamentary papers : what they are, how to find them, how to use them by P. Ford and G. Ford (1972). Parliamentary papers fall into two groups:

Papers relating to Parliamentary Business

  • Procedure Papers, including Votes and Proceedings and Notices of Motions
  • The Journals, the official record of the proceeding of the House 
  • The Debates (Hansard): official record of things said in Parliament
  • Public Bill Committee Debates: House of Commons Public Bill Committees (known as Standing Committees before 2006), whose chief function is to consider bills which are under consideration by the House, have their own Hansards.

Papers Giving Parliament Information

  • House of Commons Papers, including Bills, Reports of Committees, Returns and Act Papers
  • Papers arising outside the House, including Reports of Royal Commissions and  Departmental papers
  • Command and Non-Parliamentary papers
  • Papers of nationalised industries and Government institutions
  • House of Lords Papers. House of Lords papers generally take the same form as those of the Commons: Procedure papers, Journals, debates House papers and Command papers. House of Lords papers mostly concern bills before the House. The more significant ones tend to be republished as House of Commons papers.

Comprehensive information about the role of Parliament, daily business, the passage of Bills and other topics are found at the UK Parliament website under How Parliament Works.


Australia's Magna Carta

Australia's Magna Carta, Canberra, A.C.T. : Dept. of the Senate, 2010 

The Magna Carta is seen as the foundation document of English constitutional law. The sealing of Magna Carta in 1215 began the development of both Houses of Parliament during the Middle Ages.

Learn about the importance of the Magna Carta at the UK Parliament website.

The Library has two copies of the facsimile and translation of the 1215 Magna Carta, at MS 1483.

A copy of the Inspeximus (reissue) 1297 charter is in Australian possession. This original document is one of the two surviving issues of the Inspeximus Magna Carta and one of the fourteen surviving issues of the charters signed between 1215 and 1297. The seal is that of Henry III, used in the reign of his son, Edward I. The document is the copy intended for the County of Surrey. The script is a late 13th century cursive court hand.

Read about the Australian Magna Carta at Parliament House, Canberra.

In 1952, the Inspeximus was acquired by Harold White, the National Librarian, at cost of £12,500. It was on permanent display at Old Parliament House until 1988, and is now at New Parliament House. Parliament House was given full ownership and responsibility for the Inspeximus Magna Carta in 2005.

The story of the acquisition and preservation of the 1297 Inspeximus is told in detail in the booklet Australia's Magna Carta.

Not sure where to start?