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Official Documents move to GOV.UK: how this could affect you

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Transition

On Monday 3 February, content from the National Archives Official Documents website will move across to GOV.UK.

This blog post sets out how organisations publishing to GOV.UK could be affected, and what you may need to do to prepare for the move.

'Official Documents': what they are

We use the term ‘Official Documents’ to describe those government papers which have been formally laid before parliament. The National Archives website gives a detailed definition, but in brief these documents include:

  • green and white policy papers

  • annual reports and accounts of public bodies

  • reports of investigations and independent inquiries, and the government’s response to them

Up until now, The National Archives have published a copy of each of these official publications on its Official Documents website, corresponding with contact points within each public organisation.

At the same time, lots of these Official Documents were also being published to GOV.UK by digital teams within departments and government agencies. (For example, the government’s response to the mid-Staffordshire enquiry is published both on GOV.UK and Official Docs.)

This dual publishing duplicates work, and confuses users.

Creating one place for all government publications

It's a bit of a no-brainer that this situation needed to change.

So we’ve been working with The National Archives - and, through them, departmental Official Publishing contacts - to close down the standalone Official Documents website and make GOV.UK the single, canonical, source of government publishing.

What the plan is

We'll be importing documents from the Official Documents website into GOV.UK on Monday 27 January.

On that date, imported content will appear in draft form in publisher.

As part of the import, we will:

  • strip out those ‘official documents’ which duplicate content already on GOV.UK, adding Official Document classification to live publications where appropriate

  • create a publication page for all newly transitioning official documents with some standard “Official Documents” body copy

  • tag these documents with topics and their owning government organisation

  • add a number of ‘closed’ government organisations to our database (as many official documents were published by orgs which have since closed)

Your chance to check documents in draft

You’ll then have a week from 27 January to check through these draft documents before they’re automatically published to live, on Monday 3 February.

It’s an optional activity - we understand that you may not have the resource to do this check until after go-live. But you might consider:

  • double-checking that nothing imported obviously duplicates any live content

  • creating document collections - or adding documents to existing collections - for standard content types such as annual reports

  • drafting document summary text and tagging to policy for any more recent, high-profile, publications

  • archiving any imported publications which do not reflect existing policies (for example, because they were created pre-coalition)

Please raise a Zendesk ticket or comment on this post if you have any questions. (We will be blogging shortly on GOV.UK style guidelines for Official Documents.)

Publishing official documents from 3 February

After this one-off import is complete, you should publish all Official Documents through standard GOV.UK publishing routes - for example, via departmental digital teams.

Organisations exempt from GOV.UK

Finally, we will also be importing official documents relating to - and tagged to - some public or publicly funded organisations which are exempt from having a full organisational presence on GOV.UK, such as NS&I or the Tate.

In future, Official Documents from these exempt organisations will also need to be published on GOV.UK, written to GOV.UK style, instead of the former Official Documents website. This may mean that publishing need to be supported to some degree by parent departments who are already live on the site.

We will be discussing arrangements for this soon with Digital Leaders.

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Other GDS blogposts we think you might find interesting

Unpublishing, deleting and archiving: how and when
Campaign fulfilment options on GOV.UK
Data visualisation: joining the dots of government publishing

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  1. Comment by Keith Prust posted on

    Is there a reason you are suggesting we archive out of date publications rather than deleting them?

    We've noticed a number of official documents dated earlier than May 2010 have been imported.

    If we archive them, that means the first time they appear on GOV.UK would be in an archived state. And as you cannot open any attachments on an archived publication page, it seems a bit pointless doing this.

    Wouldn't it be better for users to delete pre May 2010 publications and redirect to the National Archives - as happened when we moved publications from departmental websites? They would have access to the actual publication then.


    • Replies to Keith Prust>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      That's a really good point. We'll get back to you shortly.

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by Graham Francis posted on

        Keith - it's now possible to archive documents without losing the attachments. Thanks for raising this.

  2. Comment by Phil Lewin posted on

    As an exempt organisation (UK Statistics Authority) that does not have a parent department, this is all new to us. Can I clarify that the reference to ' style' is to the GDS style guide please? Also whether you have any guidance about acceptable file formats? Traditionally our annual report (which is the primary official document published on the Official Documents site) has been published as a pdf.

    Thanks very much.

    • Replies to Phil Lewin>

      Comment by Robin Carswell posted on


      PDFs are fine for GOV.UK; more detailed guidance here on publishing to GOV.UK is here:

      In cases like yours, I would suggest you get in touch with the Official Publishing team at The National Archives for assistance on publishing to GOV.UK - they're here to support across government, and particularly for individual departments without ministerial department support.