Wednesday, 20 October 2010

CASE 114 - British statute law

1. There is no written English constitution (i.e., there is no one single document called the constitution); "constitutional law" concerns issues such as the role of the state, the protection of individual rights

2. There is no official codification of English statutes.

3. Any statute passed by Parliament is by definition valid and not subject to review by the courts. Thus a statute’s "constitutionality" is not an issue a court can address; Parliament alone may act to change a law.

The chart above shows a simplified version of the English court system. The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was the final court of appeal for civil and criminal cases from England and Wales until October 2009, when the Supreme Court replaced it as the highest court in the United Kingdom.

The Court of Appeal in both its civil and criminal divisions has only appellate jurisdiction, while the High Court of Justice and the Crown Court have both appellate and original jurisdiction. They will hear on original jurisdiction civil and criminal cases considered too serious to be heard by either the Magistrate's Courts (criminal) or the County Courts (civil). Terence Ingman, The English Legal Process (11th ed, 2006) (KD7111 .I53 2006) provides a detailed discussion of the organization and procedure of the courts.

III. Statutes
English statutes have never been officially codified. There are, however, unofficial publications that organize by subject the statutes currently in force. These are discussed below.

Airports Authority Act, 1965 (Eng.) is typical statute cite. Until 1963, statutes were cited by regnal year rather than calendar year. Thus, you might see a citation such as 5 Eliz. 2, c.3, referring to the third act passed during the fifth year of Elizabeth II's reign. The English Legal History Research Guide ( will help you find older statutes.

Since 1831 Her Majesty's Stationery Office (H.M.S.O., now the Office of Public Sector Information) has published the official version of the statutes as Public General Acts and Measures (KD 124 .P83). The law library began receiving these in 1952. These are the equivalent of our session laws. They are compiled every year; before that they are available in slip law form. Access is through the Index to the Statutes in Force. The Public General Statutes and The Public General Acts (KD 124 .P82), published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting, contain acts passed between 1866 and 1951 (both sets are marked Law Reports: Statutes on the spine). Current Law (KD 296 .C821) also contains summaries of recent statutory developments, arranged by subject.

The official publication Statutes in Force (KD132.S72 and Microforms Room) contains all statutes in force from 1235, in subject order along with their amendments. Statutes in Force has not been updated since 1992, and while it should not be used to look for current statutes, it is still useful for historical research. There is an index for each subject as well as a general index. The previous edition, Statutes Revised (3d ed.) (KD 130 .S72), contained legislation in force as of 1948. The Statute Law Database (SLD) ( is the official revised database of UK legislation; the text of legislation is derived from these two publications. The SLD contains legislation in force on February 1, 1991, and all Acts passed since then, in their latest revised form.

Index to the Statutes (KD142.4.I52), which covered the period 1235 to 1990 (when publication ceased), and Chronological Table of the Statutes (KD142.3.C47), which covers the years 1235-to the present, are meant to be used with Public General Acts and Measures and Statutes in Force. The Chronological Table of the Statutes indicates repeals and amendments.

There are also several commercial versions of the statutes that are organized by subject. The best of these is Halsbury's Statutes of England and Wales (KD 135 .H3 4th), currently in its fourth edition. It contains the text of virtually all English statutes still in force. It is annotated with case decisions, and statutory instruments (similar to regulations), and includes references to Halsbury's Laws of England (see below under Encyclopedias). It is updated between editions. Halsbury’s Statute Citator (KD 135 .H3 4 th) and Current Law: Legislation Citators (KD296.C831) list repeals and amendments to statutes. Current Law includes citations to cases.

Public general acts currently in force are also on LexisNexis (ENGGEN;STAT) and Westlaw (UK-ST). The Westlaw database United Kingdom Legislation Locator (UK-LEGISLOC) provides links to citing cases and secondary sources.

There are two government statutory databases on the web. The Office of Public Sector Information ( contains unamended texts of primary and secondary legislation passed since 1988. The Statute Law Database (SLD) ( is the official database of updated UK legislation in its latest revised form (i.e., with amendments to legislation within the text. The SLD contains the texts of all Acts that were in force on February 1, 1991, and all Acts passed since then.

A Guide to the UK Legal System provides advice on finding English legislation. Craies on Legislation: A Practitioners' Guide to the Nature, Process, Effect and Interpretation of Legislation (9th ed; formerly Craies on Statute Law) (KD691 .C73 2008) is a standard text on English statutes and statutory interpretation.

For the treatment of statutes in cases (beginning in 1947) check Current Law Statute Citator (KD 296 .C831) which also lists amendments to the statutes. To find related acts and cases citing a statute in Westlaw click on the "Links for" tab in the left frame and then choose "Analysis" (Lexis doesn’t have a comparable feature; search in the case law or statutory databases with the name of the statute to find cases and other statutes that refer to it).

IV. Statutory Instruments
Parliament may delegate to another authority the power to make rules and regulations in an area where Parliamentary language is general. These rules have the force of law and are called statutory instruments. They may also be referred to as delegated or subordinate legislation. Statutory Instruments (KD 166 .A3) are published annually. The index to this set is the biennial Index to Government Orders (KD 170 .I52).

Halsbury's also publishes cumulations of selected statutory instruments of general application in Halsbury's Statutory Instruments (2d Re-issue) (KD 173 .H3). Recent statutory instruments are summarized in Current Law (KD 296 .C821). You can also find current general (not local) statutory instruments on LexisNexis (ENGGEN;SI) and Westlaw (UK-SI). They are available on the web beginning in 1987 at and in the Statute Law Database (

Important laws to ponder over

Magna carter act 1297
Cestui que vies 1666
Union with England act 1707
Copyright Act 1976
Water floridation act 1985
Criminal justice act 2003
Terrorism act 2006

Stages of creating a new law

Draft Bills
Draft Bills are Bills issued for consultation before being formally introduced to Parliament.

A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law that is presented for debate before Parliament.

Passage of a Bill
How does a Bill become an Act? Find out the stages a Bill goes through before it becomes law.

An Act of Parliament creates a new law or changes an existing law.

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