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[Acts of Parliament - introduction]
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Mass of law

It would take the average adult over 400 years to read all the law applicable in modern Britain (Times Newspaper)


11,000 criminal offences

Speaking in Parliament Sir Menzies Campbell said the Labour Government and Prime Minister Blair "suffer from a statutory addiction".

In 10 years since 1997, Labour passed 365 Acts of Parliament and more than 32,000 statutory instruments. In that time over 3,000 new criminal offences have been legislated. Those were added to over 8,000 already in the law books.



Legislation forms the principle part of the English Law, it includes Acts of Parliament (referred to as statutes), and other law created with the authority of Parliament. .


The Queen in Parliament

Parliament is made up of The House of Common, The House of Lords, and The Queen, all three collectively known as “The Queen in Parliament”. It is important to remember that legislation is usually created by all three and not just by the Government.



Parliament has two debating chambers the Commons and the Lords we describe it as bicameral.



On certain occasions, Parliament has held a referendum on issues of constitutional importance (for example the continued membership of the European Union), but these have been of an advisory character only and have not limited Parliament’s ultimate discretion.


"Reality check" for new law

Eight women and four men with recent experience of inquests (unlike most politicians) were in the Palace of Westminster on 18 October 2006 to go through the Coroner Bill clause by clause.  Another innovation was that it was written in plain English alongside the technical statutory language.

A draft Coroner Reform Bill was published on 12 June 2006, available here.


Society changes

As life and technology changes so the law must keep up with it, recent examples include football hooliganism abroad and the use of mobile phones whilst driving.


Extracts from Proposals for English and Scottish Law Commissions, 1965

"One of the hallmarks of an advanced society is that its laws should not only be just but also that they should be kept up-to-date, and be readily accessible to all who are affected by them...English Law should be capable of being recast in a form which is accessible, intelligible and in accordance with modern needs."

The functions of Parliament

Scrutinising the Executive


The Commons scrutinises Government policies and the way it carries out its duties. The famous philosopher John Stuart Mill said of the role of the Commons:

Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government Dissertations and Discussions [1859].

To further control, the behaviour of the executive Parliament has also created a Ministerial Code of Conduct.


MPs and peers hold the government to account by direct questions, either written - with a written answer - or oral, on the floor of the House. Each week the Prime Minister answers questions at “Question Time”, which often gets media coverage.


Parliamentary debates

Additionally, debates are an important way of probing the executive, there are several types of debate but most important ones concern proposed legislation.


Select committees

In addition, MPs hold Investigations: often conducted by select committees, of which there are 16, these committees are powerful bodies and often look at how money is spent. They comprise between 10 and 18 members and can call witnesses.


Parliament can make any law

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows transsexual people over 18 to have an acquired gender recognised and the legal right to live in their acquired gender.


Once their acquired gender is recognised, transsexual people have the right to marry in their acquired gender and be given birth certificates that recognise the acquired gender. They may also obtain benefits and State Pension just like anyone else of that gender.



The largest Bill to be considered by Parliament was the Company Law Reform Bill [HL] with nearly 1,000 sections it ran to hundreds of pages.


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