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Official Documents on GOV.UK: publishing responsibilities

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The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.

To everything, there is a season. Including, it would seem, Official Documents. So here’s all you need to know about publishing them on GOV.UK.

Official Documents: what they are

The term ‘Official Documents’ is used to describe 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

In March 2014, the National Archives Official Documents website moved across to GOV.UK,  allowing users to search across the set of Official Documents all in one place, and making GOV.UK the single, canonical, source of government publishing.

The bulk of Official Document publishing usually takes place in the summer, when most government organisations publish their annual reports and accounts.

Official Document publishing for organisations live on GOV.UK

Our guidance for Official Documents covers the specifics, but publishing is pretty straightforward.

In particular, make sure that any Official Documents you publish from your own organisation:

  • contain the correct metadata (for example, Command Paper number),  as people use this metadata to search and reference documents.
  • have attachments in print-ready and web-optimised PDF format (also use HTML format where possible)
  • have a publication cover page that's written in GOV.UK style, and summarises the contents of the document

Official publishing for organisations exempt from GOV.UK

GOV.UK also hosts Official Documents from organisations exempt from GOV.UK. This is to enable users and researchers to search the complete set of official publications.

To support this, parent departments have agreed (in the April 2014 GOV.UK steering group) to publish Official Documents to GOV.UK on behalf of exempt organisations.


If you have any questions about Official Documents, please ask questions on this blogpost, or contact the National Archives Official Document Team.

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