Primary Legal Materials - Acts of Parliament
This page discusses sources for current UK and EU Legislation: This includes legislation.gov.uk, Lexis Library, Westlaw and Eurlex as well as various hard copy sources. For a refresher on legislation, see Legislation in the Overview.
Electronic sources for legislation
Lexis Library and Westlaw are the best sources for up-to-date consolidated or revised UK legislation, in which amendments have been incorporated into the original Act. The official legislation.gov.uk is in the process of revising all the legislation on its site. All three sources provide a pdf of an entire act (as amended), as well as each section of an Act as a separate document. See video here on how to search for legislation in Westlaw.
Lexis Library and Westlaw also provide extensive citator features for each section of legislation, including commencement dates, tables of amendments and related legislation; cases citing; and links to relevant secondary sources. Explanatory Notes - the document that accompanies the bill in parliament - are also provided for some Acts.
These citator features make Lexis Library and Westlaw powerful sources for researching legislation. The main advantage of consolidated legislation in print, which can be found in Halsbury's Statutes or in subject-specific publications, is that it is organised by subject. It is probably easier to find all legislation relating to education, for example, in a print volume than in a database. However, further investigation of that legislation, to find recent cases citing the legislation, commentary and current amendments, is better done in databases.
legislation.gov.uk is the official source of original and revised UK legislation, including legislation from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However this is not updated as regularly and so always check the 'Changes to Legislation' message for each Act and section as not all legislation is up-to-date as yet.
- consolidated versions of UK Public General and Scottish Acts and Statutory Instruments
- citator features - amendments, related legislation, cases citing, relevant secondary sources (in Lexis Library, including Halsbury's Laws)
- annotations from Halsbury's Statutes
- historic versions email service
- bill tracker with links to parliament website.
- consolidated versions of UK Public General and Scottish Acts and Statutory Instruments
- citator features - amendments, related legislation, cases citing, relevant secondary sources (in Westlaw)
- annotations for some Acts
- point-in-time and historic (back to 1991) and prospective versions of legislation
- current awareness service for bills with links to parliament website.
- See our video 'How to search for an act on Westlaw UK' (opens in YouTube)
Hard Copy Resources for UK legislation
This section provides information about finding current and recent legislation, statutory instruments, and about researching old legislation using hard copy sources. As most of this type of research can be done more quickly in legal databases, some of the sources listed below are no longer kept up to date.
There are several printed sources of full text Statutes or Acts of Parliament. However, it is essential to distinguish between sources which give the law as it currently stands (i.e. sources which incorporate any repeals or amendments which have been made since the Act was passed) and sources which give the text of the statute as it was originally published (i.e. without incorporating or noting any amendments or repeals).
The only printed source which incorporates repeals and amendments is Halsbury's Statutes.
Halsburys Statutes Citator
Halsburys Is it in Force?
Current Statutes Annotated
Halsbury's Statutory Instruments and Statutory Instruments Citator
Researching older legislation
Halsbury's Statutes;is the only printed source of all current Acts of Parliament that incorporates repeals and amendments into the text of the act. It also includes notes about each Act, details about when it came into force, amendments and repeals, interpretations and important cases that have interpreted relevant sections of the Act in court. Immediately after the table of contents for each Act there are references to Hansard, providing information about when the Acts were discussed in Parliament, and other important notes. Some Acts include the Explanatory Notes circulated with the Bill.
Annotations from Halsbury's Statutes are available on Lexis Library.
Halsbury's Statutes consists of:
50 main volumes. These include the annotated text of all current legislation with amendments and repeals written into the text. Acts are arranged by subject. The table of contents lists all the Acts, and there is a subject index at the back.
Cumulative Supplement (1 bound volume) which updates the main volumes with any amendments, repeals, important cases or other relevant material. It is published annually and updates each Act until the end of the previous calendar year.
Noter up ( loose leaf), which updates the Acts with any changes made since the publication of the Cumulative Supplement.
Current Statutes (loose leaf), which includes Acts passed since the relevant main volume was published.
Table of Statutes and Consolidated Index (bound volume) with alphabetical, chronological and subject indexes to all the Acts.
How to use Halsbury's Statutes
When you use Halsbury's Statutes it is important to check not only the main volumes but also the Cumulative Supplement and Noter up service to make sure that you pick up any amendments and repeals to legislation.
1. Look up the Act in the Alphabetical Table of Statutes in the Table of Statutes and Consolidated Index. The volume number is in bold, followed by the page number on which the Act begins. Some Acts have different sections published in different volumes: you may need to check for relevant section numbers. Acts that are more recent than the main volumes are published in the Current Statutes Service Files, which is indicated by (S) after the volume number.
2. The main volumes provide the full text of the Act as amended. [Text that is the results of an amendment is indicated by square brackets, as is done with this sentence.] Ellipses ... indicate that text has been removed. The footnotes provide details about amendments and repeals, and valuable information about the background to the Act, the interpretation of words and phrases, important cases and so on.
3.For any updates to the Act after the main volume was published, turn to the Cumulative Supplement. This single volume is divided into 50 sections, one for each of the main volumes. Look for the same volume and page number as in the main volume. No notes for the relevant sections indicates that there have been no changes (up to date of publication of the Supplement).
Note: If the main volume was published more recently than the Cumulative Supplement, the entries in the Cumulative Supplement will not be relevant. Check the date of the main volume publication on the running head in the Cumulative Supplement to confirm that the main volume is more recent.
4. Finally, to be sure that there are no changes since the Cumulative Supplement was published, check the Noter up, using the same method as with the Cumulative Supplement.
Halsbury's Statutes Citator
The Statutes Citator as a companion volume to Halsbury's Statutes. Halsbury's Statutes Citator does not give the full text or even a summary of Acts of parliament. However, it details all amendments and repeals to acts (section by section) and lists cases which have interpreted the Act in court. It is therefore an extremely useful reference tool if you want to find out quickly whether a section of an Act has been amended, repealed or discussed in the courts.
Halsbury's Statutes Citator is a single volume which is republished each year. It is therefore up to date to the end of the last calendar year. If you need to have more up to date information you should consult the Noter up in Halsbury's Statutes.
The Statutes Citator is organised by year and then within each year alphabetically. Therefore before you can search for an Act you must know the year in which it received royal assent. There is an alphabetical list of Acts listing dates of royal assent at the front of the volume. Once you know the year, then browse the volume to find the correct year and then within the year look through the alphabetical sequence to find your Act.
Each Act is broken down into sections and contains the following information:
If the section has been amended or repealed there will be a note saying "am by" or "Rep by" with a note of the amending or repealing act or SI
If a section has been considered in court the full citation of the case will be given
If there is a practice direction then this will also be noted.
Halsbury's Is it in Force?
Halsbury's also publishes Is it in Force? This is useful for finding out whether or not a section of an Act is in force, when it came into force or when it will come into force.
An online equivalent to Is it in Force? is available as part of Lexis Library. The hard copy is shelved at Cw UK 080 I73 on the main floor of the Bodleian Law Library (note that this is a couple of shelves further on than Halsbury's Statutes andStatutes Citator).
Unfortunately Is it in Force? only covers Acts passed in the last 25 years. The start date therefore rolls forward each year.
It is a single volume and is reissued each year. It is therefore up to date to the end of the last calendar year. If you need more up-to-date information you should use Halsbury's Statutes Noter up. It is organised chronologically by year of royal assent and then within each year alphabetically.
For each Act it provides the following:
the date of royal assent
dates when each section of the act came into force
details of the legislation bringing the section into force
a note if a section has been repealed
dates appointed for sections yet to come into force.
Current Law Statutes Annotated & the Current Law Legislation Citator
Current Law Statutes Annotated, which is published by Sweet & Maxwell, is an alphabetical list of all statutes published each year. It prints the text of all UK public and private Acts as originally published. You should note that the text is not updated to include any amendments or repeals so that when you use Current Law Statutes Annotated you are looking as the law as originally published and not as it currently stands. Current Law Statutes Annotated should therefore be used with caution.
Current Law Statutes Annotated includes detailed notes on the background to each Act and includes references to bills, white and green papers and parliamentary debates in Hansard. In addition it discusses cases that were significant in motivating a piece of legislation. It is therefore an excellent source for researching the background to a piece of legislation and why it was created.
Current Law Statutes Annotated is available at Cw UK 020 C976 on the main floor of the Bodleian Law Library.
As with Acts of Parliament, there are several sources of hard copy Statutory Instruments. The Stationery Office publishes Statutory Instruments. At the end of each year, annual volumes containing reprints of general instruments are compiled and published. From 1890 to 1960 the annual volumes of instruments were arranged by subject, but since 1961 these have been printed in numerical order.
Daily Lists of Government Publications (known as the Daily List), also published by The Stationery Office, is another useful source of information about Statutory Instruments. Publication in this list is conclusive evidence of official publication (as required by the Statutory Instruments Act 1946). There are other Tables and lists of government publications which can be consulted as well.
Halsbury's Statutory Instruments
Halsbury's Statutory Instruments (a commercial publication) provides a reprint of major Statutory Instruments of general application and a summary of others. The publishers decide whether or not to print the full text on the basis of what is deemed to be of general application and importance.
EU legislation online sources
The Eurlex database provides all EU legislation and treaties. It can be searched by document name or number, or browsed by subject. Justis, Lexis Library and Westlaw all draw legislation from this database, and present it via EU search interfaces.
The Eurlex 'bibliographic notice' provides relevant information about amendments, national implementation and cases affected by legislation.