Parliamentary papers criteria

Parliamentary papers – notes on criteria

Parliamentary papers are those papers presented to the House that the Speaker designates as parliamentary papers. Parliamentary papers are published under the authority of the House. Parliamentary papers are parliamentary proceedings under section 10(2)(d) of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 2014. The publication of a parliamentary paper is protected by section 17 of that Act.

The criteria for determining whether a paper should be designated a parliamentary paper are:

  • Is the paper presented to be set down as an item of business for the House of Representatives or its committees?

  • Is the paper specifically required by Standing Orders to be published under the authority of the House?

  • Has the paper been otherwise ordered by the House to be published?

  • Is the paper a matter of public importance?

A paper that meets one or more of these criteria will be considered a parliamentary paper.

Is the paper presented to be set down as an item of business for the House of Representatives or its committees?

Papers set down as an item of business for the House of Representatives or its committees become part of parliamentary proceedings and should therefore be published under the authority of the House. They are classed as parliamentary papers.


Papers that are required to be presented for financial and performance accountability purposes and that are referred to select committees for review are parliamentary papers. This applies now, irrespective of the status of the organisation presenting the paper.


Reports presented by Officers of Parliament are required under Standing Orders to be referred to a select committee. They are parliamentary papers.


International treaties that are presented stand referred to a select committee. They are therefore parliamentary papers. The treaties presented at the conclusion of the ratification process are for the information of the House only and are treated as non-parliamentary papers.


A national civil defence emergency management strategy and any proposed civil defence emergency management plan stand referred to the Government Administration Committee. They are parliamentary papers.


Whole of government directions stand referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee. They are parliamentary papers.


Legislative Instruments and disallowable instruments (regulations) presented under the Legislation Act 2012 are not considered parliamentary papers, despite consideration of these papers by the Regulations Review Committee. These are published on www.legislation.govt.nz or on the website of the entity responsible for the instrument. Delegated legislation must be reviewable by the courts, which might not be possible if it was designated a parliamentary paper.

Is the paper a report presented by a member or Minister to the House in relation to parliamentary proceedings or the parliamentary activities of members?


Papers presented by a member or a Minister that relate to parliamentary proceeding or the parliamentary activities of members are classed as parliamentary papers.


These include:
Government responses to select committee reports
reports of parliamentary delegations


They do not include:
reports on general reviews of the operation of particular legislation
reports of Ministerial inquiries, unless the subject matter is of particular public importance


Is the paper specifically required by Standing Orders to be published by order or under the authority of the House?

These comprise—

  • select committee reports

  • the Estimates and the Supplementary Estimates

  • response by a person referred to in the House if to be incorporated in parliamentary record

  • reports of the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests

  • documents tabled by leave that are ordered to be published under the authority of the House

  • papers presented by the Attorney-General drawing the attention of the House to legislation (either enacted or before the House) that is inconsistent with the rights contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

  • Prime Minister’s annual statement to the House.

Has the paper been otherwise ordered by the House to be published?

Occasionally the House orders documents tabled by leave to be published under its authority. Such documents are then presented to the House by the Speaker as parliamentary papers.

Public importance of the subject matter

This criterion will mostly relate to ad hoc papers that are presented to the House for information. Examples are reports on the operation of particular Acts, reports of ministerial inquiries, and reports of Commissions of Inquiry.


In considering how to apply this criterion, one relevant consideration is whether the publication concerned is published through another official means. For example, Law Commission reports are published in their own series.


Judgement will be required in assessing this criterion, however the following principles will assist the exercise of that judgement:

  • the fact that the Governor-General has established a Commission of Inquiry or a Royal Commission is, in itself, sufficient to establish that the report is of a high degree of public importance and should be a parliamentary paper

  • reports on general reviews of the operation of particular legislation would not generally be parliamentary papers

  • reports of Ministerial inquiries would generally not be parliamentary papers, but may be if the subject matter is of particular public importance

  • Law Commission reports are not normally considered parliamentary papers.