Last edited 06 Jan 2021

White paper

Generally, a white paper is a policy document or authoritative report that is produced by the government. It aims to concisely set out and inform about proposals that may become future legislation.

Typically, complex issues and problems are presented and explained in a way that makes it clear what the government’s position is on the matter, and as such, may sometimes include a draft version of a Bill that is already being planned. That said, they are considered a ‘tool of participatory democracy’ rather than an ‘unalterable policy commitment’.

The publishing of white papers enables further consultation and discussion with interested and/or affected groups. Such discussions and feedback can then result in final changes being made before Parliament is formally presented with a Bill to debate and vote on. In this way, the government is able to gauge reaction to policy issues and make necessary alterations so as to give it the best chance of passing through into legislation.

Some examples of white papers affecting the construction industry include:

White papers are different to green papers, which are published more frequently, and are referred to as consultation documents for being much more open-ended.

NB: The name 'white paper' is also sometimes given to research papers or policy commentaries produced by the private sector.

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