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Office of Public Sector Information

Office of Public Sector Information

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The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) is the body responsible for the operation of Her Majesty's Stationery Office (usually abbreviated as HMSO) and of other public information services of the United Kingdom. OPSI is part of The National Archives of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and it is responsible for Crown copyright.

OPSI announced on 21 June 2006 that it was merging with The National Archives to create a joined-up approach to information management within government. This merger took place in October 2006. OPSI continues to discharge its roles and responsibilities from within the structure of The National Archives.

Controller of HMSO and Director of OPSI


The Controller of HMSO is also the Director of OPSI. HMSO continues to operate from within the expanded remit of OPSI. The Controller of HMSO also holds the offices of Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament, Queen's Printer for Scotland and Government Printer for Northern Ireland.

By virtue of holding these offices OPSI publishes, through HMSO, the London Gazette
London Gazette
The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published...

, Edinburgh Gazette
Edinburgh Gazette
The Edinburgh Gazette, along with the London Gazette and the Belfast Gazette, is an official newspaper of the United Kingdom government...

, Belfast Gazette
Belfast Gazette
The Belfast Gazette, along with the London Gazette and the Edinburgh Gazette, is an official newspaper of the United Kingdom government. It is published by The Stationery Office , on behalf of Her Majesty's Stationery Office in Belfast, Northern Ireland.The Belfast Gazette was first published on...

and all legislation in the United Kingdom, including Acts of Parliament
Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom
An Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom is a type of legislation called primary legislation. These Acts are passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster, or by the Scottish Parliament at Edinburgh....

, Acts of the Scottish Parliament and Statutory Instruments.

The Controller of HMSO is appointed by Letters Patent to the office of Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament. This office is separate from the functions of OPSI. Historically the role of Queen's [or King's] Printer extended to other official publishing responsibilities, e.g. the rights to print, publish and import the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 within England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. The current holder of this office is Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

.

History


HMSO was established as a new department of HM Treasury
HM Treasury
HM Treasury, in full Her Majesty's Treasury, informally The Treasury, is the United Kingdom government department responsible for developing and executing the British government's public finance policy and economic policy...

 on 5 April 1786, when John Mayor was appointed as its first "Superintendent". The creation of the Office was a result of the advocacy of Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 for reforms of the corrupt, expensive and inefficient Royal Household and the Civil Service. Before the establishment of HMSO, the Crown would grant patents (exclusive rights) for the supply of stationery; the patentee could buy these supplies cheaply and then charge highly inflated prices.

At first HMSO was the agent for various government departments but, from 1822, all government departments were required to buy stationery
Stationery
Stationery has historically meant a wide gamut of materials: paper and office supplies, writing implements, greeting cards, glue, pencil case etc.-History of stationery:...

 through the open competitions and tenders operated by HMSO.

HMSO also took over as official publisher for both houses of Parliament from Hansard
Hansard
Hansard is the name of the printed transcripts of parliamentary debates in the Westminster system of government. It is named after Thomas Curson Hansard, an early printer and publisher of these transcripts.-Origins:...

in 1882.

In 1889, HMSO was granted Letters Patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 under which it was appointed as Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament ("printer to Her Majesty of all Acts of Parliament"). These letters patent also appointed the Controller of HMSO as administrator of the rights of Crown copyright. HMSO also took over publication of the London Gazette in the same year.

In 1986 HMSO celebrated its bicentenary:
Since 1947 it has printed 86 million copies of the Highway Code. It is one of the biggest publishers in the world, having published 9,300 titles last year and holding 49,000 titles in stock. It produces nearly 600 pages of Hansard and other parliamentary papers overnight, as well as Bills, Acts, White Papers, 2.3 million passports a year, 28.2 million pension and allowance books a year, and all sorts of other publications from the British Pharmacopoiea to guides to long-distance footpaths. The Stationery Office also supplies 1,500 million envelopes a year (at a cost of £11 million) as well as 18 million ball-point pens and 188 million paper-clips.


Most of its publishing functions were privatised in 1996 as a separate company known as The Stationery Office
The Stationery Office
The Stationery Office is a British publishing company that was created in 1996 when the publishing arm of Her Majesty's Stationery Office was privatised. TSO is the official publisher and the distributor for legislation, command and house papers, select committee reports, Hansard, and the London,...

 (TSO), but HMSO continued as a separate part of the Cabinet Office. Prior to 1996, it was the publisher of virtually all government material, such as command paper
Command paper
A command paper is a document issued by the British government and presented to Parliament. White papers, green papers, treaties, reports from Royal Commissions and various government bodies can all be released as command papers, so-called because they are presented to Parliament formally 'By Her...

s, legislation and official histories. After 1996 the Controller of HMSO remained Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament and retained the role of administering Crown copyright
Crown copyright
Crown copyright is a form of copyright claim used by the governments of a number of Commonwealth realms. It provides special copyright rules for the Crown .- Australia :...

.

The privatisation was not the final stage in HMSO's changing role. As part of the implementation of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 directive
European Union directive
A directive is a legislative act of the European Union, which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. It can be distinguished from regulations which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures. Directives...

on the re-use of public sector information, it was decided that there was a need for a dedicated body to be the principal focal point for advising on and regulating the operation of public sector information re-use. That new body, created in 2005 is the OPSI.

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