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Primary Legislation - Acts of Parliament

Page history last edited by Cecilia Tellis 12 years ago


5.1 Primary Legislation: Acts of Parliament[1]

There are two main forms of primary legislation: Public General Acts and Local and Personal Acts. The latter are of specific and limited application only. For the purposes of this survey I will concentrate on PGAs. Depending on the legislative programme of the government, some 40-70 Acts are passed each year. The sequential numbering of each Act within each year is known as a chapter number.

Public General Acts appear in individual paper-covered volumes, cumulating into three or four annual volumes. From 1996 they have been published on the Acts of the UK Parliament website, and their coverage now extends back to 1988. Many recent Acts have useful Explanatory Notes. They are also on BAILII (see below), and the texts here contain hyperlinks to other legislation on the BAILII database.

Unamended legislation is of limited value, however, and it is always necessary to consult up to date sources. The principal printed source for statutes is Halsbury's Statutes, published by Butterworths. This is arranged by subject in 50 volumes and contains the amended text of all Acts in force with extensive annotations. It is updated by means of an annual Cumulative Supplement and a loose leaf Noter-up, both arranged like miniature versions of the work itself.

Halsbury's Statutes annotations are available on LexisNexis Butterworths (see below under Electronic sources).

Current Law Statutes, published by Sweet & Maxwell, are a chronologically arranged printed source. The texts of Acts are therefore unamended, but are annotated. This source is of particular value for finding the background to legislation, and tracing the documents (reports, white papers, etc.) and debates which preceded the Act. Some of this material has been incorporated into Westlaw (see below under Electronic Sources).

[1] Excerpted and revised from Sarah Carter’s A Guide to the UK Legal System (GlobaLex), online: < http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/United_Kingdom.htm#legislation>. (Accessed August 5, 2007)


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