For purposes of this Guide, the United Kingdom includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I've compiled all the information I know concerning any of these jurisdictions into the topics discussed below.
Business: Substantial information for all "limited" companies is available free (or cheap) through the Companies House WebCheck database. For public companies, you can get a list of all their outstanding securities in the Official List posted by the Financial Services Authority; the London Stock Exchange posts share prices and other information for listed companies. Annual Reports for public U.K. companies are posted free on Carol World and are generally also available on the company's own Web site. Free information is also available from Hemscott One.
SkyMinder has credit reports from Graydon UK and Worldbox. You can look up more information on U.K. companies on Lexis (COMNY;UKCOMP), Dun & Bradstreet (Business Information Report) or the ICC British Company Directory (Dialog Files 561 and 562, respecively), which lists all active U.K. companies, plus U.K. companies that have dissolved or changed their names since 1968. The Directory cross-references information in ICC British Company Financial Datasheets (Dialog File 562).
ICC databases are also available through the subscrption-based Freepint.
If you have a password you can search for company information and retrieve filings through Companies House Direct.
Document Delivery Services: The British Library's Document Supply Center has an office in Virginia (1-800-932-3575). The British Library posts a substantial library catalog; you can search and order materials through British Library Direct. For more complex work, you can hire the British Library Research Service (phone: 020 7412 7903; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Document Retrieval: Disclosure First Contact (+44 (0)171 278 4243) does document retrieval, as well as business-related research. See also the separate entry for "Document Retrieval Services."
Historical Law: For a summary of English law from the 13th Century, check out Henry of Bracton's De Legibus Et Consuetudinibus. This was an attempt to explain all of English law in one book. The full text is posted in English and Latin on Harvard Law School's Bracton Online.
For a summary of English law from the 19th Century, check out Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. For the 20th Century, try back editions of Halsbury's Laws of England: Being A complete Statement of the Whole Law of England.
Hein Online has English Reports from 1220 to 1867 and pre-1865 Law Reports.
Information: Try the British General Information Service (212-745-0277), and/or visit the Consulate Web site. See also the News section of this entry.
Law Librarians: Lis-Law is the main listserve for U.K. law librarians.
Legal Materials: The "United Kingdom" chapter of Reynolds' Foreign Law explains that "The United Kingdom must be regarded as three distinct legal systems: England (and Wales), Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are substantially bound by national legislation, but with each having its own court system and tradition of case law." The Martindale-Hubbell Law Digests provides separate overviews of the laws of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Intute posts links to reliable U.K. law Web sites.
Free on the Internet, the legislation.gov.uk provides U.K. statues from 1267 to the present for the U.K., Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is scheduled to replace the UK Statute Law Database. The British and Irish Legal Information Institute posts recent laws and cases. LawCite provides a free case law citator. Infolaw provides links to most other U.K. law-related Web sites.
Official debates in Parliament are published in Hansard (the Official Report). Hansard is posted free online from 1988 for the House of Lords and from 1995 for the House of Lords.
The Stationary Office's Official Documents page has Command Papers from 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2000 to the present, as well as House of Commons Papers from selected years starting in 1951 and consecutively from 1977 to the present. Copies of older Command Papers are available from the British Library (800-932-3575), the Georgetown University law library, the Columbia University law library and other large academic law libraries. Information about Command Papers is posted by the National Archives. There are several series of command papers; National Archives page and The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation both list the dates and abbreviations for the difference.
Lexis has a sizeable collection U.K. legal materials, including statutes (UK;STAT), cases (UK;CASES) and statutory instruments (UK;SI). There are separate databases for Scotland's statutes (SCOT;SCOSTA) and statutory instruments (SCOT;SCOSI).
Westlaw has a variety of databases for searching U.K. legal materials, including statutes, statutory instruments, the Law Reports back to 1947 and tools for finding cases -- notably Sweet & Maxwell's Current Law Case Digest (CLC-DIGEST), Sweet & Maxwell's Current Law Case Citator (CLC-CITATOR), and a "United Kingdom Case Law Locator" database, which "contains summaries of important reported and unreported United Kingdom cases, along with corresponding references to citing cases, legislation and secondary sources such as journals, law reviews and newspapers (UK-CASELOC).
Alternatively, Smith Bernal's CaseTrack says its "breadth of coverage is unrivaled," though I haven't tried it.
The Legal Journals Index indexes UK law journals by subject, case, author, legislation & book review; the publisher (Legal Resources Ltd.) will do searches and document delivery (0422-886277). Alternatively, the Index is searchable on Westlaw.
For more information on sources for U.K. legal materials, see A Guide to the UK Legal System, written by Sarah Carter's and updated by Hester Swift, Legal Research Guide: United Kingdom by the Library of Congress and/or the "United Kingdom Resources" chapter of Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook (DJOF Publishing). If you have a subscription, Reynolds' Foreign Law Guide provides a more expansive treatment, including a list of U.K. treatises by subject. For a quick reference, the blue pages at the back of the Bluebook list primary legal materials under the heading "United Kingdom (Common Law)," followed by the individual jurisdictions. See also the Historical Law section of this entry, above.
Law Libraries: In the U.S., I believe the libraries at Harvard and Columbia Law School have the best collections of British legal materials, and Columbia has a document delivery service. The British Library has some legal materials -- check their catalog at www.bl.uk; their Document Supply Center has an office in Virginia (1-800-932-3575). Alternatively, try calling the Law Society Library (011 44 171 320-5946) or The Eccles Center For American Studies, which provides (free?) research using materials in the British Library (011 44 171 270-3050).
News: Westlaw has a general database for U.K. news (UKNWS) as well as individual databases for legal, business and general news sources. The Economist provides some weekly news coverage of major British issues, and the Financial Times covers business issues.
Real Estate: You can look up real property records in England and Wales using the online Land Registry.
Shepardizing: The Brits have an equivalent to Shepardizing called "noting up." For a good explanation of "noting up," see "Shepardizing" English Law" on page 209 of the Spring 1998 issue of Law Library Journal.
Westlaw has databases for Sweet & Maxwell's Current Law Case Digest (CLC-DIGEST) and Current Law Case Citator (CLC-CITATOR).