Records of the House of Lords: Journal Office: Main Papers
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- Held At: Parliamentary Archives: GB-061
- Catalogue Reference: HL/PO/JO/10
- Date: 1499-
- Level: Series
- Extent: 26 sub series
- Custodial History: 'Main papers' is the widely-used term to describe the printed and unprinted sessional records of the House of Lords presented to, or laid on the table of, the House. They form part of the business activity of the Journal Office - the office which creates the authoratitive record of proceedings of the House. While the 'Order Paper' acts as the agenda for sittings of the Lords, the 'Journal' is the daily minute, and the 'Main Papers' are the documents circulated or considered during sittings and referenced in the Journal. There is therefore a close relationship between the Main Papers and the Journal. The Procedure of laying before the House is described in detail in 18th and early 19th century Journals as follows: 'The House being informed, "That Mr Wooller, from the Office of Woods and Forests, attended;" He was called in; and delivered at the Bar, pursuant to the Directions of an Act of Parliament, "First Report of the Commissioners for the further improvement of the Road from London to Holyhead." And then he withdrew'. (HL Journal, 18 June 1824) The laying of papers before Parliament is by an official or other person who is not a Member of the House; the process was in the past carried out at the Bar of the House. In modern times, this procedure has been replaced by a direct transfer of the laid paper from the government printer (HMSO) to the Printed Paper Office of the House of Lords, acting on behalf of the Clerk of the Parliaments (see House of Lords Standing Orders nos. 70 and 71). A paper which a Member of the House has introduced is said to have been 'presented', rather than laid. The Order 'to lie on the Table' means that the Paper is to be held available in the House for perusal by Members, and preserved in perpetuity in the archives.
- Acquisition: Main papers have accrued in the Parliament Office since the fifteenth century. Modern transfers are made via the Printed Paper Office.
- Description: The 'Main Papers' comprise the following types of record:
These papers are so called because they are 'returned' to the House in answer either to an Order of the House or to an Address to the Sovereign asking for papers. Apart from the record of the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, which seems to have been made for the use of the House in 1588, the earliest Returns noted in the Journals are those for 1626 onwards, which were provided mainly for the information of committees of the House. From 1641 the Lords began to request or require that papers on various matters should be laid before them, and thereafter the sequence of Returns to the House is continuous. The Sovereign was prominent amongst the recipients of requests for papers from 1678 onwards. These requests were in the form of 'Humble Addresses', and in the 18th century and later they normally related to subjects that were the concern of a Secretary of State. Matters dealt with by other Ministers or by bodies outside the Government were the subject of Orders. The Order took the form 'Ordered, that there be laid before the House papers relating to ...', and it was delivered to the officer or authority concerned. The practice of ordering papers direct from persons or bodies outside the Government became, in the 19th century, increasingly rare. The normal practice in its full development was for bodies outside the Government to be required to produce their papers to the Minister concerned, who then laid them before Parliament.
In the early and middle part of the 19th century both Houses made numerous Orders and Addresses for Papers containing statistics and information on the widest range of subjects, and these series subsequently became established in two sequences as either Command Papers or Act Papers. This had the result of diminishing the number of Returns to Orders and Addresses. In the Lords the 'Motion for Papers' almost entirely lost its original function in the second half of the 19th century and became instead a means of initiating a general debate on which no vote was taken, the motion normally being withdrawn at its conclusion. Since 1945 there have only been 11 Motions for Papers which have not been withdrawn, and which have therefore led to the making of Returns to the House. In 1956 the differentiation between Orders and Addresses was abandoned.
Papers have been presented to the Lords 'by command' of the Sovereign since 1625, the first paper surviving in the Parliamentary Archvies being 1641. Increasing quantities of papers concerning diplomatic, military and commercial affairs were received during the 18th century. 'Presentation' of a paper was originally by a Member of the House rising in his place and producing it in the House; it was then ordered to lie on the Table, where it was available for perusal by Members. The actual laying of the paper on the Table of the House probably ceased in the first quarter of the 19th century and the number of papers lying on the Table for some years before that must have been restricted by the space available and by other practical considerations.
Command Papers, which were regularly printed by official printers from 1833, were first numbered continuously from 1-4,222 (although these numbers did not appear on the papers until 1839), then in four consecutive series: C.1-C.9,550 (1870-99), Cd.1-Cd.9,239 (1900-18), Cmd.1-Cmd.9,889 (1919-56), Cmnd. 1 seq. thereafter. During the whole of this time it has been possible for a paper to be presented to Parliament by command without being printed; but the number of such unprinted Command Papers is small.
Command Papers are always 'Government' Papers. They either expound Government policy (in which case they tend to be known as 'White Papers') or give information in the possession of the Government. Much of this information is of a well-established character; for example nearly all treaties agreed to by this county are made public in the 'Treaty Series' which are Command Papers.
This class of Papers, dating from the 17th century, comprises those required by Act of Parliament to be laid before each House (or in the case of Papers relating to revenue matters, before the Commons only).
From about 1669 Acts setting up bodies of Commissioners directed that the Accounts or Reports of the Commissioners should be laid before the two Houses. This practice became more frequent in the 18th c. when such bodies of Commissioners were set up with increasing frequency by Acts relating to bridges, turnpike roads, etc. A short series of Papers laid in 1717 under the Dagenham Breach Act is preserved in H.L.R.O., and thereafter until around 1850 the greater number of Act Papers concerns private undertakings of a public nature, such as the City of London Orphans Fund, Richmond Bridge and the streets of Westminster. For the most part such Act Papers were not ordered to be printed, but a substantial number of originals survives in H.L.R.O. among the Main Papers. From around 1850 a considerable (and now the greater) number of Act Papers has been ordered to be laid by Ministers, and concerns public matters.
Act Papers can usefully be described as of three kinds:
(a) Delegated Legislation. This expression indicates Orders in Council, Regulations and Ministerial Orders, Licences, Schemes, Directions, etc., made under the authority of Act of Parliament. They originated in the early 16th century, but it was not until mid-19th century that Parliament found it necessary, owing to the increasing complexity of the matters with which Acts of Parliament dealt, to delegate much of its legislative power to Ministers or other official bodies. Most, but not all such delegated legislation is required by its parent Act to be laid before Parliament; and of the part which is so laid a substantial proportion (though not all) is subject to some form of Parliamentary control.
Generally speaking, nearly all delegated legislation is subject to the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946, 9 & 10 Geo VI, c36, and since 1948 has been issued in the form of 'Statutory Instruments'. Of these, the least important are not required to be laid before Parliament. The remainder fall into three categories. Some Statutory Instruments are laid before Parliament simply for information, and the parent Act makes no provision for Parliamentary control. The second type comprises those subject to Parliamentary control by 'Negative Resolution', as provided for by the parent Act and by sections 5 and 6 of the Statutory Instruments Act. Instruments subject to this procedure can be 'prayed against' in either House for a period of 40 days of active Parliamentary time after their laying. The third type of Instrument requires affirmative resolutions of both Houses (or in the case of revenue instruments, of the Commons only) before it can come into force or continue in force for more than a short period after its making. During the present century an average of some 2,000 instruments of delegated legislation has been issued annually. Of these, about half are laid before Parliament and are to be found among the Main Papers. Since 1890 there has been provision for the printing and publication of most delegated legislation.
(b) Government Reports and Accounts. Acts of Parliament which confer powers and duties upon a Minister of the Crown commonly require that he shall lay before Parliament copies of Accounts and Reports showing the progress of his activities. He may also be required to lay Papers giving details of decisions he takes in his discretion (eg the names and salaries of the members of various boards he may have the duty to appoint). Many Accounts and Reports are ordered to be printed by the Commons, and consequently find their place in the series of Commons Sessional Papers, notably all Accounts audited by the Controller and Auditor General and subsequently laid before Parliament. The rest of these Reports and Accounts may have their own numbering system (e.g. recent Census Reports of the Registrar General, and the papers of the Law Commission), but otherwise they are unnumbered and are nowhere listed except under the heading 'Accounts and Papers' in the index to the Commons Journal. In the Lords Journals they are indexed individually. The greater number are printed and published by HMSO; but a few, e.g. those dealing with matters of relatively slight importance or those of considerable bulk, may still be unprinted.
(c) Other Reports and Accounts. Many semi-official bodies, such as nationalised corporations and Dock and Harbour Boards, are required by their parent Acts to submit Accounts and Reports of their activities annually to a Minister, who must lay them before each House of Parliament. In certain cases these Reports are ordered to be printed by Commons; in other cases they are printed by HMSO, but not to the order of Commons; and in some instances they are printed privately by the body concerned. A small number each year remains unprinted. The only comprehensive list of these Accounts and Reports is to be found, as with the Government Accounts and Reports, in the 'Accounts and Papers' section of the Index to the Commons Journal.
Very few Accounts and Papers are included in the Lords Sessional Papers, except for the Lord Chancellor's memoranda under the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act, 1949, 12 & 13 Geo. VI, c. 33 and occasional papers such as the Report of the Tribunal on the Aberfan Disaster in 1966, which was ordered to be printed by both Houses.
PAPERS LAID PURSUANT TO STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS
Church Assembly Measures occasionally provide for delegated legislation to be laid before Parliament. Such instruments of delegated legislation are virtually analogous to Statutory Instruments. Orders, Accounts and Reports (for the most part relating to Armed Forces Pensions) may similarly be laid before the House pursuant to Royal Warrant. Finally, a few Reports and Accounts are laid before the House pursuant to the requirements of Statutory Instruments, and delegated legislation may be made under powers conferred by Statutory Instrument.
Petitions to introduce bills are found in the Main Papers, while records relating to legislation once permission to introduce has been granted are with the records of the Public Bill Office (HL/PO/PU) and Private Bill Office (HL/PO/PB). Original public petitions, where they rarely survive, can occasionally be found in the Main Papers. More usually the only record of such petitions is an entry in the Journal.
PRIVATE BILL RECORDS
Most records of local, personal and private bill legislation are in HL/PO/PB, but the following records form part of the main papers:
a) Amendment Sheets (1584 to date). Amendments made in committee were usually written on a sheet of paper and reported to the House together with the Paper Bill or (since 1849) the Printed Bill, complete clauses being written on separate sheets and similarly reported. The texts of Private Bill Amendments, etc., are not recorded in the Journals after 1873. As in the case of Public Bill Amendments, Amendment Sheets need to be read in conjunction with the then current text of the bill.
b) Paper Bills (1584-1949). These contain the full text of Lords Bills as read in that House.
c) Breviates (Briefs) (1606 to 1849). The Breviates or Briefs for Private Bills are similar to those for Public Bills and summarise the texts of the Bills. Few have been preserved.
d) Principal Secretary of State's Certificates (1798 to 1911). This class of Certificate originated with the requirement of Standing Order of 20 April 1798 that no naturalisation Bill should be read a second time until the petitioner had produced a Certificate from 'one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State' (in practice, the Home Secretary) that the Secretary was satisfied that the petitioner had proved he had conformed to the laws relating to aliens and was well affected to the Crown and government. The Certificates are formal in character and are under the signature and seal of the Secretary of State.
e) Certificates, Sacramental (1621 to 1798). Produced in connection with naturalisation Bills, Sacramental Certificates contain the name of the church in which Holy Communion was received, of the officiating priest, and of the witnesses.
f) Court Proceedings (Divorce) (1798 to 1922). In accordance with a Standing Order of 1798, petitioners for a Bill of Divorce delivered to the Lords an official copy of the proceedings and the sentence of divorce 'a mensa et thoro' given in the ecclesiastical court.
g) Examiners' Certificates (1856 to date). Since 1856 the Examiners have laid on the Table of the House Certificates that Standing Orders have (or have not) been complied with in the case of each Petition for a Private Bill.
h) Orders of the House (1621 to date). These are copies of Orders made by the House, concerning Private Bill proceedings, which were usually made to order the attendance of witnesses, the production of documents, or the reference of petitions to judges. They are entered in extenso in the Journal.
i) Departmental Reports on Bills (1841 to date). From 1841 the Railway Department of the Committee for Trade began to submit reports on Bills to Parliament, and Standing Order of 8 August 1844 made it obligatory to refer such reports to the committee on the Bill. Other departments subsequently reported similarly on Bills within their own spheres of responsibility. Some of these reports survive amongst the Main Papers; certain Reports were ordered to be printed.
Most petitions and answers relating to Appeal cases are filed with the Main Papers, while Appeal Case evidence and judgements are among the Records of the Judicial Office (HL/PO/JU).
PUBLIC BILL RECORDS
Most records of public bill legislation are in HL/PO/PU, but the following records form part of the main papers:
a) Paper Bills (1558 to 1849). Paper Bills contain the full text of the Bill written large on single sides of paper sheets which are secured at the top. The text is that as introduced in the first House. Amendments made in that House up to report stage may be incorporated. The Bill is endorsed with its long title and a note of its progress up to and including the report stage in the first House. Paper Bills survive for most Bills introduced into the Lords from 1620, but Commons Paper Bills survive only in some instance for the period 1558-1649. In the Calendars, Paper Bills have been described as 'drafts of acts'.
b) Engrossed Bills (1547, 1563 to 1849). Engrossed Bills consist of the full texts of the Bills, written large on vellum membranes. The membranes, if necessary, are stitched together in order to form a roll. The text is that as amended after the report stage in the first House. Amendments made in the first House on third reading were also entered on the engrossed rolls, but additional clauses were engrossed on separate pieces of parchment (known as 'riders') which were then stitched to the roll. All amendments in the second House were written on separate pieces of paper, and were not added to the roll until they had been agreed by both Houses. The engrossed roll is endorsed with the long title and a note of the stages in its further progress. Because Engrossed Bills, from 1497 to 1849, became, after Royal Assent, the Original Acts themselves, and are therefore preserved in that class, Engrossed Bills in the Main Papers are bills which failed to receive the Royal Assent. The earliest Bill engrossment preserved which did not receive Royal Assent is of a Chantries Bill (1547). The texts of some unenacted Bills, to 1714, have been printed in extenso in the Calendars. Engrossed Bills which failed in the Commons were kept in that House, but were destroyed in the fire of 1834.
c) Printed Bills. The need to provide members with texts that could be referred to during debates caused prints to be made of Public Bills from 1705 onwards, although it is not until the 1740s that the practice became fairly general, and even in 1800 certain Public Bills were not ordered to be printed by the Lords. Prints were usually headed 'A Bill intituled an Act for ...' and might contain the text of any particular stage in the progress of the Bill. The printed endorsement (if any) may not indicate at which stage the print was made, or whether the print was ordered by the Lords or the Commons. When the print is of the Bill as introduced, an entry may be found in the Journal of an Order to print by the House; but such Orders were not essential. No regular file of printed Public Bills has been kept, but a few survive for important bills among the Main Papers, and many are preserved in the British Museum and elsewhere. In the 19th century, the clerks used the prints of the Bills for collating amendments; prints, sometimes annotated, pasted up or clipped as a consequence, may survive for Bills between 1800 and 1849. It should be noted that for the period 1800-1849, unusually, there survive in the Main Papers certain prints of Bills which may be regarded as the final Cabinet draft of the Bill, before introduction. These printed texts are headed 'Draft of a Bill', and are the texts, appropriately amended, which had been presented and read for the first time in the House and then sent to the printer for the preparation of the first Parliamentary prints of the Bills. From 1849 to date the sequence of published prints the Bills are published and widely available in good UK libraries.
d) Table Bills, prints of each Bill as it received a first reading in the Lords. The prints are interleaved with blank pages coloured blue upon which amendments made on subsequent stages in the Lords are entered
e) House Bills, which are similar prints made after third reading in the Lords. and then sent to the Commons. These copies normally return from the Commons with or without amendments, and provide the authoritative copies from which the final Acts are prepared. The House Copy of any Bill which starts in the Commons contains the text of the Bill as passed by that House, interleaved with blank pages coloured blue, upon which amendments made by the Lords can be written.
f) Breviates (Briefs). 1593 to 1849. This class of document comprises summaries of the texts of Bills suitable for reading aloud in the House; they are usually known as 'briefs' or 'breviates', sometimes as 'abstracts'. They have not been preserved consistently, and, after prints of Public Bills came into general use in the 18th c. (see above) few were saved by the Clerks. Breviates were finally replaced, after 1849, by `the analysis of the several clauses, which is now prefixed to the `bill' (Erskine May, 2nd ed., 1851).
g) Amendments (1542, 1584 to date). Papers or parchments on which one or more amendments to Bills are written may be found in the Main Papers or with the engrossed Original Acts to which they refer. Amendments on parchment are known as riders and consist of new clauses offered to an engrossed Bill; those on paper consist of other amendments offered in either House. These amendments may be as proposed by an individual member or members, or may be a complete and `marshalled' list. References in these lists of amendments are given to the current text of the bill and this class of document can therefore only be interpreted in relation to that text. The amendments, if accepted, were incorporated in the relevant text to the bill. Since 1947 amendment sheets have been preserved in 'Public Bill Files' assembled in the Public Bill Office for each Public Bill. In these files may also be found relevant copies of Hansard, additional copies of the interleaved Bill and other Papers.
h) Petitions and 'Cases'. 1572 to date. Petitions may be presented relating to a Public Bill about to be considered or in course of consideration in the House. Such Petitions are recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings and the Journals, but the originals have not in the past usually been preserved. For the period from 1572 onwards, however, a certain proportion survives in the Main Papers. Their general format and character are similar to those of Public Petitions. The Petitions relating to Public Bills are usually manuscript, but some are printed. Arguments or statements relating to a Public Bill were sometimes circulated to Members in the form of a 'Case'; these omitted all petitionary forms and rehearsed the arguments that might be put forward perhaps by counsel or witnesses heard at the Bar of the House. Some Cases of this type were preserved by the Clerks with the papers of the Session and survive in the Main Papers from 1621 onwards, although in the 17th c. they may bear varying titles, e.g. 'Objections on ...', 'Representation against ...', 'Reasons for ...', etc.
i) Other Papers 1584 to 1800. For the 17th and 18th century the Main Papers frequently contain one or more of the following subsidiary Bill classes:
Lists of Committees on Bill, House of Commons., 1584 on (to which a summary of Proceedings in Committee, Commons., may be annexed, 1621 onwards).
Lists of Committees on Bill, House of Lords., 1606 onwards.
Orders and Draft Orders relating to progress of the Bill and procedure on it, 1606 onwards.
Reports, Evidential Material, etc., of a statistical character to support Petitions and Cases, as noted above.
Filed among the main papers are also letters patent appointing royal commissions which were presented to Parliament.
WRITS OF SUMMONS
Writs of Summons to Parliament addresses to peers, who present them to the Clerk of the Parliaments on their entry to the House are also found among the main papers. See Maurice Bond, Guide to the Records of Parliament (1970) pp. 179-180.
- Accruals: Take place annually, around eighteen months after the end of the session to which they relate.
- Language: English unless otherwise stated
- System of Arrangement: The main papers are divided into the following sub-series:
HL/PO/JO/10/1 - Main Papers, 1499-1699
HL/PO/JO/10/2 - Main Papers (Parchment Collection)
HL/PO/JO/10/3 - Main Papers (Large Parchments)
HL/PO/JO/10/4 - Main Papers (Parchment Main Papers)
HL/PO/JO/10/5 - Main Papers (Parchment Parcels, Rolls and Books)
HL/PO/JO/10/6 - Main Papers, 1700-1749
HL/PO/JO/10/7 - Main Papers, 1750-1799
HL/PO/JO/10/8 - Main Papers, 1800-1849
HL/PO/JO/10/9 - Main Papers, 1850-1899
HL/PO/JO/10/10 - Main Papers, 1900-1949
HL/PO/JO/10/11 - Main Papers, 1950-2000
HL/PO/JO/10/12 - Main Papers, 2000-2001
HL/PO/JO/10/13 - Main Papers, supplementary
HL/PO/JO/10/14 - Main Papers, addenda
HL/PO/JO/10/15 - Main Papers, 2001-2002
HL/PO/JO/10/16 - Main Papers, 2002-2003
HL/PO/JO/10/17 - Main Papers, 2003-2004
HL/PO/JO/10/18 - Main Papers, 2004-2005
HL/PO/JO/10/19 - Main Papers, 2005-2006
HL/PO/JO/10/20 - Main Papers, 2006-2007
HL/PO/JO/10/21 - Main Papers, 2007-2008
HL/PO/JO/10/22 - Main Papers, 2008-2009
HL/PO/JO/10/23 - Main Papers, 2009-2010
HL/PO/JO/10/24 - Main Papers, 2010-2012
HL/PO/JO/10/25 - Main Papers, 2012-2013
HL/PO/JO/10/26 - Main Papers, 2013-2014
Within slipcases and boxes, the main papers are ordered by the date of laying on the table, not the date of the creation of the document which may anything from a few days to a few years earlier.
- Related Material: The Journals of the House of Lords minute the laying of many main papers, or the activities in the chamber which give rise to them (for example, divisions when the House is in Committee). Printed Journals are in HL/PO/JO/2. The equivalent series in the Commons is known as the 'Unprinted papers' (HC/CL/JO/10) and contains only unprinted sessional and unprinted command papers from 1851 onwards.
- Related Record:
- Access Status: Open
- Physical Description: Parchment and paper.
- Finding Aids: A more detailed introduction to the contents of the pre-1800 main papers is in M F Bond, 'Guide to the Records of Parliament' (London, 1971), pp 135-158.
For Main Papers before 1718, this catalogue contains condensed versions of the calendars found in Reports 1 to 14 of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, and the 'Manuscripts of the House of Lords', New Series, vols I-XII, where more detailed descriptions, and sometimes full transcripts of the documents, can be found.
- Copies Exist: Printed sessional papers among the Main Papers are available in all UK copyright libraries and in large university libraries among official paper collections.