This guide will help you to find debates on sections of an act of parliament for Pepper v Hart type research.

Pepper v Hart [1992] UKHL 3 established that courts can refer to statements made in parliament by ministers or other promoters of a bill in certain circumstances when they need to interpret unclear primary legislation.

Pepper v Hart research can be complex but our library staff can help you find the relevant sources so you can carry out your own research.

If you need more help, ask our library staff for the booklet Holborn, Parliamentary Debates on Legislation: How to do Pepper v Hart Research (2004).

This page only describes the process for straightforward research. There are exceptions to these general principles, which is why Pepper v Hart research can be complex.

Research shortcuts

There are some resources in our library which can save research time. 

Current Law Statutes Annotated (1952 onwards)

These can include:

  • details of pre-bill material (such as papers and reports already published)
  • Hansard references to parliamentary debates on a particular clause of a bill

Check the general note at the beginning of the act and read the commentary under the relevant section.


Relevant textbooks on acts can include useful material. Our catalogue shows you the books and looseleafs held in our library.

Public Information Online

This subscription database lists all the documents that relate to a particular act.

Public Information Online is available in our library. Ask our staff for access. 

Step one: find the section of the act

If the act is a consolidation act, you will need to find the original section from the original act and research that instead.

A consolidation act is made up of several existing acts of parliament on the same subject. They are used to help tidy up areas of statute.

Read more on the additional steps for consolidation acts below.

If the section was inserted by a later act, you will need to research the later act.

Step two: find the clause in the bill

Until a bill becomes an act, the sections are called clauses.

The clause number in the bill is generally not the same as the section number in the act.

This is because clause numbers often change as the bill goes through parliamentary stages and is reprinted with new clauses inserted and others removed and/or re-ordered.

Step three: find all prints of the bill

Gather all the versions of the bill and compare these with the act so you can see:

  • whether the clause is identical in all reprints
  • if the clause was changed, when did it happen
  • if the clause was inserted, when did it happen

Make a note of when the clause reached its final form and what the clause numbers are at each stage.

You may find it easier to view the printed versions of the bills. Speak to one of our library staff for help.

See our guide on how to find bills

Step four: find the Hansard references for each stage

There are several tools to find the debates. Which you use depends on when the debates took place.

Older acts

There are separate indexes for House of Commons (HC) and House of Lords (HL) Hansards.

They’re bound at the back of the last volume for each parliamentary session and give volume and column numbers (ignore references marked *).

Bound volumes of Standing/Public Bill Committees contain indexes by clause number.

Recent acts

  • Sessional Digests – list the Hansard dates for each act (1983/84 to 2010-/12)
  • House of Commons Weekly Information Bulletin (19 October 1996 to 23 July 2011) – also lists dates for Hansard by act. This is available on the parliament website.


  • Halsbury’s Statutes (1993 onwards) give details of stages, dates, volume and column numbers
  • Current Law Statutes Annotated (1952 onwards) give stages, volume and column numbers of debate. It contains fewer details for earlier debates
  • Explanatory notes to acts (1999 onwards) give stages, dates, volume and column numbers

Step five: find the location of the Hansard volumes

The HC and HL Hansard volumes are found at the following locations in our library.

 Hansard volume

Location in library

 1803 to 1908 (Commons and Lords in same volumes) Common Room 251 (ask staff)
 1909/10 to 1995/96 (Lords)  South Gallery (ask staff)
 1996/97 to most recent bound volumes (Lords)  Bay 164
 1909/10 to 1965/66 (Commons)  South Gallery (ask staff)
 1966/67 to 1996/97 (Commons)  North Gallery (ask staff)
 1997/98 to most recent bound volumes (Commons)  Bay 157
 Most recent issues (Commons and Lords)  HC and HL website

The Standing Committee and Public Bill Committee Hansard volumes are found at the following locations in our library.

Hansard volume

Location in library 

 1967/68 - 1993/94 (Standing Committees)  Room 105 (ask staff)
 1994/95 - 2015/16 (Standing and Public Bill Committees)  Bay 167


The subscription database Public Information Online (PIO) contains HC and HL Hansard from 1909 onward and Committee debates from 1919 onward. PIO is available in the library.

Step six: reading the debates

Read the debates to see if the clause was mentioned. The second reading of a bill is usually a discussion of its broad aims. At committee and report stages bills are debated clause by clause.

Standing Committee debates state if clauses are going to be discussed out of numerical order. You can check the start of the debate to see when a clause is due to be discussed.

There is no guarantee that clauses will have been discussed at all.

Consolidation acts – additional steps

If you’re researching a consolidation act, you can trace the previous act by using:

  • Halsbury’s Statutes (see step four above)
  • Current Law Statutes Annotated (see step four above)
  • Tables of derivations in Public General Acts (1967 onward)

Check that the previous act is not also a consolidation act as well. If it was, you will need to repeat the above process.

Next, compare the wording of the original act and the consolidation act. If it is identical, research the original act. If not identical, research the consolidation process.

Ask our library staff to see the booklet Holborn, Parliamentary Debates on Legislation: How to do Pepper v Hart Research (2004).