Using Parliament.uk

As promised, another post on Parliamentary sources – this time, a quick guide to using the official website of Parliament.

You will find most of the Parliamentary material you need hosted on the Parliament website. This post will focus on how to use the website, and therefore assumes a basic knowledge of different Parliamentary bodies and procedures. (You can see the Parliamentary dictionary if some terms are unfamiliar.)

Parliamentary business is most often found in Hansard, the official record of Parliament. This can be accessed through the homepage, or by using this link. From here there are a number of options. Some of those most likely to be useful are explored below:

  1. Commons and Lords Hansard

This can be accessed by clicking the link on the main page:

hansard1

There are then a number of searches which can be performed. It is possible to do a general search within Hansard for a specific term – for example “benefit sanctions” – which will bring up a list of all items where this term is found:

hansard2hansard3

The drop-down menus on the main page also bring up a number of ways to search which may or may not be useful to your research. For example, “Browse MPs/Peers” allows you to search for contributions from specific people:

hansard4hansard5hansard6

  1. Written Questions and Answers and Written Statements

Again, this can be accessed by clicking the link on the main page:

hansard7

This will then bring up a search box which offers various options for searching. Most of these are self explanatory:

hansard8

It is also possible to search written statements, and the daily reports by date:

hansard9

hansard10

  1. Hansard archive

The Hansard pages discussed above only contain content for 2010 onwards. For pre-2010 content you will need to use the archives for the Lords and Commons.

  1. Other useful links

From the Parliament homepage, it is also possible to access a wide range of further documents and information. The easiest way to find these is simply to explore the website. If you are unfamiliar with Parliament, the ‘About Parliament’ section of the website may be a useful place to start:

hansard11

You will also need to be familiar with the ‘Parliamentary business’ section:

hansard12

Parliament is not always the most obvious resource to use in legal research, but it can often be a rich source of information for a number of different resources. For example, debates and Committee scrutiny of Bills may provide useful information on Legislation you are discussing in your research; Committee inquiries, debates and Early Day Motions can often provide analysis and examples of a law in operation; written answers are a good source for statistical data on specific subjects. It may be worth searching the Parliamentary website during your research to help provide secondary material and analysis.

A Parliamentary Dictionary

This post is intended to give a brief overview with useful links to some of the terms which you may come across when using Parliamentary sources. There is a full glossary available on the Parliamentary website. The next post will give a guide to using the Parliamentary website.

Bill  – A series of proposals introduced to Parliament to amend, repeal or create a piece of Legislation.

See also:

Draft Bills 

Public Bills 

Private Bills 

Private Members’ Bills 

Hybrid Bills 

Cabinet – Leading ministers who are responsible for the operation, policy and running of government departments.

Committees – Committees of either the House of Commons, House of Lords or Joint Committees of both Houses perform a scrutinising role. They examine Bills and recommend amendments, hold inquiries to produce reports and scrutinise topical or specialist issues. Which work they undertake depends on the nature of the Committee.

See also:

Legislative Committee 

Select Committee 

Delegated Legislation – Regulations made by individual ministers under powers granted by primary legislation.

See also:

Statutory Instruments 

Devolution – A grant of limited power away from Parliament to other law-making bodies, for example the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly or Welsh Assembly.

Gunpowder Plot 1605 – A failed plot by Guy Fawkes and other conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Hansard – The official report of proceedings in the Houses of Parliament.

Henry VIII clauses – Clauses in primary legislation which allow for amendment or repeal without further Parliamentary scrutiny.

House of Commons – The elected chamber of Parliament. It is made up of Members of Parliament who belong to a certain political party or sit as an independent. The major parties in the Commons are: the Conservative and Unionist Party (Conservatives), the Labour Party (Labour), the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems).

House of Lords – The unelected chamber of Parliament. It is made up of Peers, who are nominated to the Peerage by the Prime Minister and ennobled by the Monarch. They may sit under the whip of any of the parties, or as an independent.

Legislation – Law which has passed through both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent.

See also:

Acts of Parliament 

Delegated Legislation 

The Parliament Acts 

Member of Parliament (MP) – A representative elected under First Past the Post to represent their constituency in the House of Commons.

See also:

AM – Assembly Member (Wales) 

MLA – Member of the Legislative Assembly (Northern Ireland) 

MSP – Member of the Scottish Parliament 

Opposition – The official opposition to the government, made up of the largest party other than the governing party.

Parliamentary Privilege – Certain immunities which apply only within the Parliamentary estate.

Royal Prerogative – The powers given to the Monarch under the constitution.

Shadow Cabinet – The opposition equivalent to the cabinet, who hold cabinet members to account.

Written Questions – Questions tabled by ministers in writing, to which written answers are given.