Deposited Papers in the House of Commons Library


It may not be immediately obvious, but the following all have something in common:

  • A report inquiring into allegations that the East India company interfered in the payment of debt from the Rajah of Travancore, deposited in 1832;
  • An Order in Council providing for the constitution of a legislative council for the Island of Ceylon from 1923;
  • A list of British prisoners of war detained in Spain during the Spanish Civil War from 1938;
  • Photographs of the atrocities committed by Mau Mau raiders in Kenya from 1952;
  • Papers relating to the Hillsborough disaster (deposited in 1990); and
  • The Triennial review of UK Sport and Sport England from 2015.

They are all Deposited Papers; that is, papers deposited in the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries by Ministers, the Commons Speaker or the Lord Speaker. They are usually deposited either in response to a question from a Member, or for their information. See for example this answer to a Parliamentary question on 1 July 2015 :

Prisoners: Veterans: Written question 3741   

Jim Shannon:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what support is available to former service personnel diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder who have been sentenced to prison.

Andrew Selous:

Prisoners in England are entitled to receive NHS healthcare treatments equivalent to those received by people in the community. NHS treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is provided according to clinical need and informed by best practice guidelines. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides detailed guidance (NICE Clinical Guideline 26) on treating PTSD, which NHS health professionals are expected to take into account when deciding best practice, or which treatment to provide. NICE Clinical Guideline 26 applies to prisoners and people in the community, including former service personnel. A copy of NICE Clinical Guideline 26 has been placed in the Library.

The NICE guideline mentioned then became Deposited Paper 2015-0545.

In order to deposit a document the relevant Government department responsible emails a copy to the House of Commons Library. There must be a formal commitment to deposit so that the collection is not used as a place to send any document a department thinks might want to be seen by Members (eg. press notices or circulars). The Commons Library uploads the document on to the Deposited Papers database (although it is not live at this point). It is then indexed by colleagues in the House of Lords Library, at which point it goes live and is available publicly.

The collection itself started in 1832 with the East India Company report mentioned above. The next deposit was not until 1845, but since then thousands of documents have been placed in the Library, ranging from statistical tables, research reports which were not otherwise published, consultation documents and Government promotional material to large collections of papers such as the papers relating to the Hillsborough disaster (also located in Liverpool Library and available online).

Each deposit received until 1999 was recorded in a hard copy register. They were numbered in three sequences until April 1998 (the Old Series, 1832 to 1983; the New series (1983-1994), and the Third series (1994-1998)), since when they have been numbered by calendar year. Since 2007, all deposits have been available online through a database on the Parliamentary website, and the database also provides a reference to all deposits since 1988. The database is a single collection shared by the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries, whereas previously the House of Lords Library maintained a separate parallel collection. Overall, there are close to 100,000 documents in the full sequence.

The public have ongoing access to the deposited papers collection through the online database, but the older hard copies can often also be accessed. As the House of Commons Library is private to Members of Parliament requests should be made to the Parliamentary Archives, who will contact the Library and arrange for a copy to be made available in the archives search rooms. Anything pre-1988 is harder to find, but advice can be sought from the Archives.

Although many Deposited Papers have been formally published, many of them were not. The variety and richness of the subjects covered make this an invaluable collection for practitioners in the official publications field, as well as researchers and the general public.

For further information, see the Deposited Papers pages on the Parliamentary website.

Chris Sear, Head of Customer Service, House of Commons Library