Primary Legal Materials - Acts of Parliament

If you need a refresher on legislation, go back to the OverviewLegislation.

On this page you will find information about

  • Halsburys Statutes
  • Halsburys Statutes Citator
  • Halsburys Is it in Force?
  • Current Statutes Annotated and the Current Law Legislation Citator
  • Statutory Instruments
  • Halsbury's Statutory Instruments and Statutory Instruments Citator
  • Researching older legislation

This page 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.

Halsbury's Statutes - Cw UK 30 H196a4

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 StatutesHalsbury'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:

  1. 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
  2. If a section has been considered in court the full citation of the case will be given
  3. 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:

  1. the date of royal assent
  2. dates when each section of the act came into force
  3. details of the legislation bringing the section into force
  4. a note if a section has been repealed
  5. 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 notupdated 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.

The hard copy of Current Law Statutes Annotated is available at Cw UK 020 C976 on the main floor of the Bodleian Law Library.

The Current Law Legislation Citator

The Current Law Legislation Citator is a rival publication to Halsbury's Statutes Citator. Like Halsburys Statutes Citator it does not give the full text or even a summary of legislation but it does note all repeals, amendments and commencement dates and it lists cases which have applied legislation in court. To see if there have been any repeals or amendments to the text, check the Current Law Legislation Citator for the current status of the act (or section of the Act).

Information from the Current Law Legislation Citator is available online as part of Westlaw. In hard copy it is shelved at Cw UK 200 C976f on the main floor of the Library.

The Legislation Citator is divided into 7 chronological volumes:

  • 1947-1971
  • 1972-1988
  • 1989-1995
  • 1996-1999
  • 2000-2001
  • Soft back volumes for each year since 2001
  • loose leaf notes covering the months of the current calendar year to date in the Current Law Statutes Annotated Service File.

Unfortunately, to make sure that you pick up all amendments or repeals you need to check your Act in each volume of the Citator published since your Act was passed. This is because an Act could be amended at any time after it has received the royal assent. 

Each volume of Current Law Legislation Citator lists Statutes in the first section and Statutory Instruments in the second section. Within each section legislation is organised chronologically. Therefore in order to find a statute you need to know the year in which it received royal assent and its chapter number. You can find out the year and chapter number of statutes by looking in the alphabetical list of statutes at the front of each volume of the Legislation Citator. Each statute is split into sections and for each section there are details of any repeals or amendments and details of any cases which have interpreted the legislation.

Amendments later than what is available in Current Law Legislation Citator may be found in the Service File for Current Statutes Annotated at Cw UK 020 C976.

Statutes in Force (TSO)

The Stationery Office copy (TSO) of statutes is the official source for citing in court. The Stationery Office copy is published in Statutes in Force. These are arranged by subject and are not annotated. 

Statutory Instruments

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.

The 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 - Cw UK 90 S5797.2

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.

The main body of this publication is organised by subject and volumes are periodically reissued if major changes have occurred. The service is kept up to date with Service binders. Very detailed indexes contain a subject index, lists of Statutory Instruments included by title, and a listing of what is published in each main works volume.

Researching old legislation

The following is a list of resources which you might find useful for researching old legislation. Most databases contain consolidated versions of current legislation. This can make it difficult to find the original version of a statute, particularly if it is very old and still in force (as is, for example, The Bath Hospital Act 1738). The best way to conduct such research is to identify the original Act and find a list of amendments in a publication like Halsbury's Statutes. You would then be able to check each sessional volume and read the amendments with the original Act.

  • Previous editions of Halsbury's Statutes
    The first edition of this publication was published in 1930. It can be useful for researching what legislation was in force at a particular point in time.
  • Current Law Statutes Annotated
    This publication commenced in 1948 and consists of annual volumes of legislation as well as useful commentary.
  • Statutes of the Realm 
    For official statutes before 1714.
  • Ruffhead's Statutes at Large (ed. Runnington)
    This is an unofficial compilation of statutes from 1483 (when sessional volumes of Acts started to be officially published). The edition by Runnington covers statutes from Magna Carta to 1785
  • Other editions of Statutes at Large
    See Sweet & Maxwell Guide to Law Reports and Statutes 4th ed 1962.
  • Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum 1642-1660 (ed C.H. Firth, HMSO, 1911)
    This information is taken from Holborn, Guy. 1993. Butterworths Legal Research Guide. Butterworths. Ref Bibl Cw UK H723