Types of Legislation

Structure of an Act

How Statutes are Made

Commencement and Repeals

How to cite Acts

How statutory instruments are made

How to cite SIs

UK Parliament. Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament

MPs at work in the House of Commons, UK Parliament.
Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament

Stephen Laws, then First Parliamentary Counsel, gave a special lecture entitled 'How Statute Law is Made' for the LRMSP in 2010. The lecture and a series of interviews that provide a unique insight into the process by which legislation is created in the UK is available on podcasts.ox.ac.uk as 'Statute Law: Making Legislation'.

Types of Legislation

There are two main types of legislation in the UK:

There are also quasi legislation and European Community Legislation.
Primary legislation

There are two types of primary legislation:

Legislation is available from legislation.gov.uk however not all legislation is available as amended on that site at present. For up-to-date versions of legislation use LexisLibrary or Westlaw, or, in print, Halsbury's Statutes and its noting up services.

Secondary legislation

Statutory Instrument (SI) is a generic term used for Orders, Regulations, Rules, Codes etc. They are also referred to as subordinate, subsidiary or delegated legislation. They are generally made by Goverment Ministers under under powers delegated by Parliament.

Quasi legislation

This broad category of legislation is difficult to classify. It includes Government Circulars (often available from government web sites); Rule Books (produced by the body concerned) and Codes (Codes of Practice under Police and Criminal Evidence Act, Highway Code etc).


Structure of an Act

A typical modern Public General Act consists of the following parts: title; year and chapter number; purpose of the Act; date of Royal Assent; body of the Act, in sections, and if the Act is long, also in parts; interpretation and commencement sections; schedule providing information about repeals and amendments resulting from the Act.


  Protection of Badgers Act short title
  1992 (c. 51) year & chapter number
  description long title, purpose of act

[16th July 1992]

Taking, injuring or killing badgers
date of royal assent

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty etc.

  list of offences body of the act
  Interpretation interpretation sections

Short title, repeals, commencement and extent

commencement sections
  Schedule schedule


How statutes are made

A statute begins life as a Bill. A Bill may be introduced into either House of Parliament but must pass through both to become an Act. If the Lords fail to agree to the Commons' amendments the Parliament Act 1949 can be invoked and the Commons' will prevails after one year's delay. Bills are generally available from the Parliament web site and their progress throughout the various stages can be followed. The debates are published in Hansard, and standing committee reports are available on the UK Parliament website.

The standard House of Commons procedure is:

The standard House of Lords procedure is basically the same as in the Commons. However after the Second Reading in the House of Lords, Bills are committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Royal Assent

When a Bill has passed all stages in both Houses, the Queen signs the Bill and it becomes an Act of Parliament. The date of Royal Assent is published in the Act. However, the Act does not necessarily come into force at this time.

One reason it is important to know about legislative procedure and publications is in order to do Pepper v Hart [1993] AC 593 research. Following Pepper v Hart, if primary legislation is ambiguous or obscure the courts may in certain circumstances take account of statements made in Parliament by Ministers or other promoters of a Bill in construing that legislation. Until that decision, using Hansard in that way would have been regarded as a breach of Parliamentary privilege.

For further information about Parliamentary procedure, you will find some useful information at the Parliament web site.

Commencement and repeals

Statutes which contain no express provision as to commencement come into force on day on which it receives Royal Assent (Interpretation Act 1978, s 4(a)).Others don't. For example, the Human Rights Act 1998 came into operation on the 2nd of October 2000.

Different parts of an Act may also come into operation at different times.

The Act itself may specify a commencement date, or it may specify that a minister may subsequently appoint a date on which the Act or parts of it will come into operation. Minister appointed commencement dates are published as Statutory Instruments, Commencement Orders.

The following is a Commencement Order (SI 2000/3376):

Scanned Image of the Transport Act 2000 Commencement Order

How to find commencement and repeal dates

Electronically, LexisLibrary and Westlaw legislation have commencement and repeal information at the bottom of each section, with links to relevant SIs and amending legislation. The Schedules of the repealing Act include tables of repealed sections. LexisLibrary provides a table of commencement information in Is it in Force? which is also available in print (Cw UK 30I73). Other sources that provide commencement and repeal information are Halsbury's Statutes (Cw UK 30H196), Current Law (Cw UK 200C976c) and several journals including the New Law Journal, Law Society's Gazette and the Solicitor's Journal (Cw UK 300s).

How to cite Acts

Cite Acts with their title (also known as short title) and year, for example, Human Rights Act 1998. Abbreviations can be used for subsequent citations of an Act: the Human Rights Act 1998 is abbreviated as HRA 1998.

If referring to specific sections or parts of an Act, after the name and year, insert a comma, then the relevant abbreviation and number.Some abbreviations are pt for part; s for section; sub-s for subsection, para for paragraphs; sch for schedule. For example, Consumer Protection Act 19087, s 2 refers to section 2 of that Act. It is also suitable to write, for example, section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980. When referring to subsections, use parentheses. For example Human Rights Act 1998, s 15(1)(b) refers to subsection 1b of section 15.

Regnal years

Prior to 1963, the citation was the regnal year of the Parliamentary session and the chapter number. For example, 50 & 51 Vict ch. 52 is the 52nd Act passed in the session of Parliament during the 50th and 51st years of Queen Victoria's reign.

Lists of regnal years may be found in CR Cheney's Handbook of Dates (Bodleian Law Library, Ref 60) and Sweet & Maxwell's Guide to Law Reports and Statutes (Ref Bibl Cw UK 5974c4).

How statutory instruments are made

Statutory instruments confer powers on Ministers to bring sections of an Act into force or to vary penalties for offences or to fill out detail in broad provisions of an Act. SIs are drafted in government departments, and then 'made' by the Minister or Secretary given such authority in the relevant Act. These powers are generally outlined in the enabling legislation:

Each Order has a preamble stating the authority or the primary legislation for its production. For
example the Gaming Act (Variation of Monetary Limits) Order 1999 states:
"In exercise of the powers conferred on me by Section 20(3) and (8) and 51(4) of the
Gaming Act 1968, I hereby make the following Order ...”

House of Commons FactSheet L7, Statutory Instruments page 2.

More than 3500 SIs are made each year. They are numbered consecutively, eg SI 2005/1234. There are basically two types: general and local. Between 50 and 60% are general. An example of a commencement order (SI 2000/3376) is shown above.

SIs are published individually and in annual volumes by the Stationery Office and are available for free on legislation.gov.uk and by subscription in Justis, LexisLibrary and Westlaw. Halsbury's Statutory Instruments contains some important SIs.


The date an SI comes into operation is published at the top of the SI after the enabling statement. However if a commencement date is dependent on a future event, the commencement date will be published in the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes.

Citation of SIs

An SI is identified by the year and number printed at the top of the SI. For example, the Export and Investment Guarantees (Limit on Foreign Currency Commitments) Order 1998 is cited by its name, followed by a comma then SI 1998/1675. Another example of an SI citation is The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, SI 2012/632.

Some SIs have letters and a number in brackets after the sequence number.

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