Act Papers

7.30A large variety of papers are presented to Parliament pursuant to statutory requirements. Of these, delegated legislation and the parliamentary procedures relating to it are described separately (see Chapter 31). The remainder, which are described generically as ‘Act Papers’, include the annual reports and accounts of a wide range of statutory bodies, including executive agencies and trading funds; statistical reviews; and reports to Parliament on the exercise of particular statutory powers, including those of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Some Act Papers are printed by order of the House of Commons, most particularly those papers which relate to the financial responsibilities of that House.1 Other Act Papers are published under the authority of the government department or other body which has the statutory responsibility for their preparation.

As in the case of Command Papers, the responsibility for presenting Act Papers usually rests upon a Minister of the Crown, though certain other Members, such as the Speaker,2 the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, also present papers.3 Where such a liability falls upon a person who is not a Member of the House of Commons, and where there is no directly relevant Ministerial responsibility, the papers are laid on the Table, by practice, by the Clerk of the House.4

Papers printed by order of either House are numbered in the sessional series of papers of that House. These papers and Command Papers printed in their numbered series together form a category commonly known as ‘Parliamentary papers’.


  1. 1. Thus, those annual reports of the executive agencies on which the Comptroller and Auditor General is required by statute to make a report to the House of Commons are ordered to be printed by that House, see eg CJ (2008–09) 587.
  2. 2. The Speaker also lays papers giving the detailed results of elections, such as for Deputy Speakers and Chairs of Select Committees, see Votes and Proceedings, 3 June 2015, 28 June 2017 and 13 July 2017.
  3. 3. A few papers are laid pursuant to statutory instrument or Measure, rather than by Act. For example, the Annual Report and Accounts of the Churches Conservation Trust was laid pursuant to s 57(21) of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, Votes and Proceedings, 12 July 2017. Others are laid by standing order, such as SO No 160, relating to notification of statutory instruments which have come into force before being laid before the House. For example, the Common Agricultural Policy (Control and Enforcement, Cross-Compliance, Scrutiny of Transactions and Appeals) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/655) were made on 12 May 2017 (during Dissolution) and came into force the next day. The paper was laid on 15 June 2017, along with an Explanatory Memorandum recording the reasons for the Instrument coming into force before being laid, and a notification was laid by the Speaker, by Standing Order, of a communication setting out those reasons (Votes and Proceedings, 21 June 2017).
  4. 4. Thus, the Clerk of the House of Commons lays papers before that House on behalf of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (who are officers of the House of Commons). See eg Votes and Proceedings, 20 December 2018.