In the second of this regular slot, we explain the difference between Green and White paper. Should you wish any parliamentary procedure or terminology explained please speak to your usual Shepherd and Wedderburn contact.

  • In a policy timeline, the Green Paper is the first step towards legislation.  Its purpose is to create debate on policy without actually committing to any specific action. Stakeholders and the public will be invited to comment on the Green Paper.  Each Green Paper will contain several alternative policies, which will be discussed before a final decision is made.
  • A White Paper is a more authoritative report and is seen as a statement of government policy.  A White Paper may also consult the public and stakeholders on policy, it does signify clear intention on the part of the Government to pass a law.

However not all discussion papers are on general release and may be issued to a predetermined group of consultees, this is an issue that is determined by the department issuing the paper.

Both Green and White Papers can come under the category of Command Papers, which also includes, State Papers, and Government responses to Select Committee. All current Command Papers can be bought from The Stationery Office (TSO).

The term White Paper is now also used in non-governmental documentation.  These white papers are generally marketing communications used to promote a company or technology. 

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