The Houses of Parliament

OSCOLA basics: parliamentary proceedings

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Over the summer, I’ve been looking at how to use OSCOLA style to cite various types of material in a law dissertation or thesis. Parliamentary material has appeared quite often in the legal writing I’ve looked at this summer, so it’s an opportune moment for a quick revision of the correct citation styles for a range of parliamentary and government material.

Proceedings of the Houses of Parliament

You may need to make reference to a specific point, or perhaps quote a pertinent remark made by a speaker during a parliamentary debate. All UK parliamentary proceedings are reported in Hansard (note: the word Hansard is usually written in italic). The reports are nowadays all available online at the Hansard website. Hansard is named after Thomas Curson Hansard, the first official printers to the Westminster parliament. Historically, Parliament was quite a secretive organisation that objected to the publication of its debates, even going as far as to jail those who dared to print reports of proceedings.

There are three series of Hansard: House of Commons debates, House of Lords debates and House of Commons Public Bill committee debates. The reports are located using date, volume and column numbers. Use either HC or HL to identify the chamber, followed by Deb, the date in full and the location.

For example:
HC Deb or HL Deb | date in OSCOLA style | comma | volume | comma | column | full stop if in footnote

For example: HC Deb 11 September 2017, vol 000, cols 001–005

Parliamentary Committees

In addition to debates on the floor of the House, a great deal of decision-making is achieved in committee and their reports create useful material to support legal argument. There are select committees of each House, who check and report on the work of government, and joint committees of both Houses, who perform a similar function. There are also general committees of the House of Commons that mainly examine proposed legislation and Grand Committees. The Houses of Parliament website contains a full list of all the committees and more information.

Debates about proposed legislation

The debates of the Public Bill committees of the House of Commons are usually cited according to the name of the Bill or if it has a long name, PBC plus its number:

Accounts Bill Deb 11 September 2017, cols 001–005
Or
PBC Deb (Bill 21) 11 September 2017, cols 001–005

Select committee reports

Name of committee | comma | title of report in italic | (in brackets: HL or HC and year, comma, paper number and volume in roman numerals) | page number | full stop

If it is a joint committee, then cite the reference to HL and HC after the session year: (2013–14, HL 27-I, HC 175-I)

Example: Liaison Committee, Select Committee Effectiveness, Resources and Powers (HC 2012–2013, 697-I).

I hope this short overview of citations of parliamentary proceedings, debates and committees is useful. Other parliamentary material includes reports and papers; I’ll cover these in a future post.

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