Guides to Commons Library Services

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These guides can be downloaded from the intranet or you can pick up a hard copy from the Members’ Library or Derby Gate Library.

The first four are linked from this page: http://intranet.parliament.uk/people-offices/offices-departments/commons-departments/commons-information-services/commons-library/publications/.

1.  Online Resources from the Library
https://intranet.parliament.uk/research-online/online-resources/a-z1/

This includes key resources such as Library Research Papers, Standard Notes and Debate Packs; it also includes parliamentary documentation and more specialised subscription resources, such as law databases, Who’s Who, journals, and news and media sources.

2.  Services for Members Staff
http://intranet.parliament.uk/Documents/people-offices/office-departments/commons-departments/commons-information-services/commons-library/Publications/services-for-members-staff.pdf.

This leaflet gives an overview of the Library services available to Members’ staff

3.  Information Skills Training
http://intranet.parliament.uk/Documents/people-offices/office-departments/commons-departments/commons-information-services/commons-library/Publications/information-skills-training.pdf.

Information on the training that the Library provides in the use of online resources.

4.  Using the Library from the Constituency
http://intranet.parliament.uk/Documents/people-offices/office-departments/commons-departments/commons-information-services/commons-library/Publications/using-the-library-from-the-constituency.pdf.

The House of Commons Library may not be physically near you, but almost all of the services available to Westminster-based staff are also available to constituency staff.

5.  Library Loans Service
https://intranet.parliament.uk/research-online/research/commons-library-loans1/

The Library Loans Service provides loans of books and other published material (journals and official publications), DVDs and CDs of parliamentary and current affairs programmes, and an inter-library loans service for material not held in the Library.

6. Subject Specialists Directory

https://intranet.parliament.uk/Documents/people-offices/office-departments/commons-departments/commons-information-services/commons-library/Publications/Subject-Specialist-Directory-full.pdf

Before submitting a request for information and research from the Library’s team of subject
specialists, please do look at the material already published on the Library website: commonslibrary.parliament.uk

Research Briefings, Standard Notes and Debate Packs

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The House of Commons Library provides an impartial research and information service for MPs and their staff.  It publishes politically-impartial policy analysis and statistical research, free for all to read.  Explore quick-read articles, in-depth research, and interactive data visualisations.

All House of Commons Library Research Briefings and Standard Notes, and House of Lords Research Briefings are now publicly-available on the Commons Library website: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/

It also provides research of the current business of the House of Commons: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/this-week/

The Commons Research Papers and Standard Notes can be viewed by topic and sub-topic.  The links to these listings can be saved as bookmarks so you can go straight to the subjects you are interested in.

Debate Packs are collections of parliamentary and other relevant material produced for most non-legislative debates in the Chamber and Westminster Hall, other than half hour adjournment debates.  The packs are not prepared for Opposition Day Debates.

You can find the debate packs on the Commons Library website here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/type/debate-pack/

Commons Library Legislation Briefings

The Commons Library provides legislation briefings, which cover all major public Bills and the top seven balloted Private Members’ Bills.

Briefing Papers on Bills from the most recent Parliamentary sessions are available in the Bills documents sections of the Bills before Parliament web pages. Briefing papers on Bills from Parliamentary sessions 2001-02 to 2011-12 are accessible on the archived Bill Gateways intranet pages.

https://intranet.parliament.uk/research-online/research/business-topical-briefing/commons-library-legislation-briefing/

You can also view POSTNotes – research briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology here: https://post.parliament.uk/

Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology – POST notes

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST, for short) has been producing impartial, non-partisan, and peer-reviewed briefing notes for over thirty years on various subjects which may be of interest to Members and staffers.

POST is the UK Parliament’s in-house source of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of public policy issues related to science and technology.  Their aim is to inform parliamentary debate.

More information and the full list of POSTnotes can be found on the main POST site here: https://post.parliament.uk/

Their work programme covers:

    • Biology and health
    • Energy and Environment
    • Physical and digital science
    • Social Sciences

Their analysis covers:

    • COVID-19
    • Energy
    • Environment
    • Food Security
    • Transport and Infrastructure
    • Digital Tech
    • Security and Defence
    • Education
    • Crime and Justice
    • Health and Social Care
    • Science Policy

All publications (since 1995) are available in PDF format.  To sign up for their mailing list, please click here: https://mailchi.mp/email.parliament.uk/post

POST also hosts seminars and training events, details of which can be found here:  https://post.parliament.uk/events/

How to compile a briefing for a roundtable or panel discussion

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As well as writing speeches or looking for facts to use in the Chamber, you may need to support your MP when they are asked to speak on a panel or to be a main speaker at a roundtable discussion.  The former will normally be arranged by a large organisation, perhaps a professional association.  It will probably be similar to Question Time, except that the questions normally last longer.  The latter is a common staple of Party Conference season, or may be arranged by a think tank keen on expanding on a particular issue.

What type of brief are you aiming for?

A speech-style briefing has a beginning, a middle and an end.  This briefing needs to be broad, and not nearly as deep.  You will need to work out:

  1. What your MP is going to focus on
  2. What questions your MP will be asked
  3. What others at the event are likely to say

You will probably need two or three ideas for your MP, ten or more questions you think are likely to be asked by the audience, and a couple of ideas for each of the other speakers at the event.

What is your MP going to say?

Your MP has probably been asked to do this because of past experience and some knowledge of the subject area.  You will need to have two or even three areas to concentrate on.  For each of these you should have:

  1. Background – no more than three sentences
  2. The party line and a comment from a front bencher
  3. A recent comment from the press
  4. A recent comment from at least one independent non-political source
  5. A possible concern and a counter-argument
  6. An interesting or quirky statistic

Your MP will probably appreciate a bit more information on ten or so points which might come up.  For each of these points you should have:

  1. One sentence of background
  2. A comment from a front bencher
  3. A recent comment from the press, or from an independent non-political source

What are others at the event likely to say?

Regardless of whether this is a large roundtable or a panel discussion, your MP will face questions.  You can’t rely on these being follow-up questions to what you have briefed on, so it is important to second guess what might also be discussed.

  1. Find out who is hosting the discussion.  What have they said in the last six months?  Do they have press releases on their website, or have they been quoted in the national newspapers?  Have any other MPs or Peers mentioned the organisation in Hansard?  This will give you an idea of the direction the discussion may follow.
  2. Often an invitation will tell you who else is going to be speaking.  If it doesn’t, the organisation will normally tell you.  Try the same methods as mentioned above to see whether any of these people or the organisations they represent have any particular views.  Your MP will need at least two facts about each person or organisation, and these facts should be either backed up or have a counter-example.
  3. If your MP is not speaking alongside someone from one of the other parties, they may be speaking at another event with the same organisation.  It may be that this event takes place before the event your MP is attending.  If so, this is a valuable resource.  This is very common at Party Conference or with large pressure groups.

Final advice…

Your MP would find a quick sheet of bullet points useful – but staple copies of the articles, reports and various press releases to the back.  This is especially useful if your MP has a train journey before the event.

Concentrate on subjects your MP is familiar with.  It is probably best to check with your MP that you are heading in the right direction.

Ask other MPs, particularly front benchers, for advice.  The same goes for academic institutions, think tanks and pressure groups.  Use Nexis News, accessed via the Commons Library intranet site, to look for comments by members of the press – but ensure your MP agrees with what is said.

JM/May 2007