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Official publications (UK): Acts, Bills and Statutory Instruments

An introduction to online (and some printed) sources for finding UK official publications


Bills are proposals for legislation which, if adopted by Parliament, become Statutes (generally referred to as 'Acts of Parliament' or just 'Acts'). Statutes and Statutory Instruments are statements of the law itself: Statutes are primary or original legislation, while Statutory Instruments ('SIs' or 'Regulations') are secondary or subordinate. It can be helpful to think of Acts as laying out the general principles of legislation, and of SIs as setting out in detail how they will be implemented.

This page summarises what is available online and gives details of selected titles which are available in print in the Brynmor Jones Library.


Bills are a type of Parliamentary paper.  A Bill will often appear as a different document at each of its Commons or Lords readings. Every Bill is given a running number through the session, a new sequence starting each session. A Bill is identified in a short form by its title, number and session. For example:

  • Industrial Relations Bill 1969-70[164],
  • Industrial Relations Bill 1970-71[60],
  • Industrial Relations Bill 1970-71[116].

Current bills before Parliament, those from previous sessions (back to 2002-03), and draft bills (prior to being issued formally) can all be found on the Parliament website here.  There are also links to further information about a bill's journey through Parliament.

Information about the progress of bills during the current and previous sessions back to 2002-03 can be found here: Progress of Bills.  For earlier sessions see the Weekly information bulletin (available back to 1996-97).

For the text of bills published before 2002-03, you will need to use the relevant year's House of Commons or House of Lords papers - see the "Parliamentary papers" page of this Guide.

Finding articles and cases

Indexes to articles

  • Westlaw (available via the Library catalogue)  - choose Journals, click on Advanced Search and enter the title of the act etc in the Legislation Title field.
  • LexisLibrary (available via the Library catalogue) - choose Journals and enter the title of the act in the Search Terms box.
  • Current law : monthly digest, current year only  (KB 1 C9) - look in the "Articles" section under the appropriate subject heading.

Indexes to cases

  • Westlaw (see above) - choose Cases, click on Advanced Search, and enter the act etc in the Legislation Title field.
  • LexisLibrary (see above) - choose Cases, and enter the act etc in the Search Terms box.
  • Current law : legislation citator, 1947 onwards  (KB 1 C93) - the acts (statutes) and statutory instruments are listed chronologically.
  • Current law : year book, 1947 onwards, and monthly digest, current year only (KB 1 C9) - search under the appropriate subject heading.

Acts of Parliament (Statutes)

Most current, and many historic (back to 1267), Acts of Parliament are available via although there are some exceptions for pre-1988 acts - for more details, see the FAQs here.  You can search for a particular act, or browse by date or by title (within a particular group of years).  In addition, for most acts which are still in force, you can view either the original text ("as originally enacted") or the current text incorporating later amendments.

Alternatively, you can use LexisLibrary or Westlaw to find Acts of Parliament (in both cases, off-campus access requires a University/Shibboleth username and password).  Both allow you to search for a particular act; in addition, you can browse by either title or year (Westlaw), or by title only (LexisLibrary).

Print versions of Acts from 1950 onwards can be found in Current Law Statutes Annotated (KB 220 C9). Annual volumes are kept up to date by the use of loose leaf binders. This series is the first to print new Acts and is very useful in tracing recent material. Annotations are given for each Act.

For acts before 1866, use one of the following:

  • Ruffhead's Statutes at large  (KB 220 L3).  Gives the texts of English and subsequently UK Acts from Magna Carta to 1865.
  • Pickering's Statutes at large  (KB 220 L4).  Magna Carta to 1826.
  • Statutes of the realm  (qKB 220 L4).  "Magna Carta to the end of the reign of Queen Anne [i.e. 1714]". 

However, the above do not include legislation passed during the Interregnum (1642-1660) between Charles I and Charles II, for which you should use:

Statutory Instruments


Statutory Instruments are orders made by ministers under powers granted to them by existing Acts. Each one is numbered consecutively through the year and referred to by number and title, eg SI 2005 no.1751 Football Spectators (Seating) Order.

All statutory instruments from 1987 onwards, and selected ones from 1948 to 1986, are available online via .  You can search for a particular SI, or browse by year or by title (within a particular group of years).  Alternatively you can use LexisLibrary or Westlaw - see under Acts of Parliament above for details.

Print versions of most Statutory Instruments from 1949 to 1993 are held in the Brynmor Jones Library.