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United Kingdom

UK law, British law, Great Britain, English law



Parliament consists of two Houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both Houses must approve a bill for it to become law. Additionally, the bill must receive  royal assent, which is when the bill commences in force.  Parliament is the ultimate authority for statutory law since there is no judicial review by the courts as there is known in the United States.

Several sets cover statutory law of Great Britain, all of which are kept in the KD section on the third floor of the Law Library unless indicated otherwise.  Statutes from 1225 to 1868 are found in Statutes at Large (in the Rare Book Center).  Cites to this set are by regnal year which requires a good knowledge of the history of the British royalty or a chart showing the regnal years.

In 1866 this set was continued by the Public General Acts (KD124.G74).  This set is published each calendar year by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO), which is the government printer in England. This set is equivalent to our Statutes at Large in that it publishes the text of the laws in chronological order.

The main index is by subject.  There is a list of titles of the public and general acts of the year which is arranged alphabetically.  There is also a "Table of Derivation and Destinations." The "Table of Derivations" allows one to look up the law passed during the year and see the previous laws that dealt with the same subject, i.e., the laws from which the new law is derived.  The "Table of Destinations" allows one to look up previous laws and determine where those laws have been consolidated in laws passed during the year.  Another table, "Effect of Legislation," allows you to determine how previously passed laws have been affected by laws passed during the year.  You can look up the previous law and the table tells you how your law was affected by this years legislation.  There is also a "Table of Textual Amendments" that indicates those provisions of previous laws which were amended or partially repealed by regulations made during the year.

The official publication of all statutes currently in force is called Statutes in Force (Storage (Microforms) Mfiche KD132 1972-), which we have on microfiche through 2003. The statutes are grouped by broad subject headings and are updated several times a year. A two-volume index, Index to the Statutes, is located on the shelf in the microfiche room. This index is arranged by subject headings and provides the calendar year and chapter number of the act and where it can be found in Statutes in Force.

Another annual publication of statutes, Current Law Statutes Annotated (KD135.C8) is published by Sweet & Maxwell. This set includes a looseleaf "Service File" that includes statutes for the current year. For each law this set indicates where parliamentary debates can be located and explains changes brought about by this act. In the index volume for each year there is a "Current Law Statute Citator" which indicates which statues were passed during that year, statutes affected during the year by statutory instruments, statutes repealed and amended during the year, and statutes judicially considered during the year.

One of the most useful sources for British statutory law is Butterworths' Halsbury's Statutes of England and Wales (KD135.H3 1985).  This set brings together all statutes currently in force by subject and includes case annotations.  Additionally, this set includes notes, definitions, and references to statutory instruments for each section of a law.  This makes it an excellent source to use in statutory research.

The third edition, published between 1968 and 1972, contains 39 main volumes, a 40th volume that includes all changes during 1968 to 1972, and continuation volumes for each year thereafter.  The continuation volumes can be used to update the main volumes.  In 1980 a "Table of Statutes and Index for volumes 1-50" was published.  It contains an alphabetical list of statues, with wholly repealed statutes in italics, a chronological list of statutes, a subject index, and a words and phrases statutorily defined, with reference to the statutory section that gives the definition.

The 4th edition was begun in 1985 and is now complete.  Updating the fourth edition is accomplished through three sources.  The latest Replacement Cumulative Supplement updates the titles published in the 4th edition and those titles not yet published in the 4th edition. To update further, one must use the looseleaf volume entitled Noter-up. Another part of this service is a three volume Current Statutes Service. This set, which is organized by subject as the main volumes, must be used to update the bound volumes of the 4th edition. To update the set one should consult all three titles listed above. An important volume to check is "Is It In Force." This volume, which is arranged by year and alphabetically order by statute, provides the commencement date of the law and indicates whether a section of the law has been revoked.

Current Law Statute Citator (KD296 .C846x) lists cases that have cited statutes.  The statute is looked up by name.  Two volumes cover the years 1948 to 1990. This is updated in the annual cumulations and monthly issues of Current Law. This citator gives the history of all statutes passed since 1947 and includes any statute cited in cases that were decided since 1946.

With the enactment of the Public General Act of 1996, all public acts passed by Parliament since 1996 are now available on the Internet.  The HMSO Web site provides the full text of public acts.  All acts appear as originally passed by Parliament; subsequent amendments, however, are not included.  A search engine is also  available at this site.  Additionally, full text of public bills currently before Parliament is available on the web.  Also, the Official Documents website provides House of Commons reports, Command papers, and other official documents. Finally, the British and Irish Legal Information Institute has both statutes and case law (for most files, since 1996).

In late 2006 the UK government released a Statute Law Database containing law in force (i.e., amendments are applied to the laws, so the user does not need to piece together separate instruments).

Administrative Regulations/Statutory Instruments

HMSO publishes these annually in Statutory Instruments (KD166.G74x).  HMSO also publishes Index to Government Orders (KD170.G74x), which goes from the enabling statute to subject headings of the statutory instruments.  Before the 1950s, statutory instruments were referred to as statutory rules and orders.

>Commercially, Halsbury's Statutory Instruments (KD135.H35) arranges subordinate legislation by subject, giving either the full text or a summary.  A history is included with each instrument. A "Consolidated Index" is provided for subject access to the main volumes.

Administrative regulations back to 1987 may also be accessed through the web on the Statutory Instruments page (some earlier instruments are available). The administrative regulations are provided in full text form. A search engine is also available at this site.

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