- UK Statute Law Database
The UK Statute Law Database is the official web-accessible
databaseof the statute lawof the United Kingdom, hosted by the Ministry of Justice.
Access to statute law in the United Kingdom was, for some time, a difficult matter. As the
Hansard Societynoted in 1992, " [a] t present the accessibility of statute law to users and the wider public is slow, inconvenient, complicated and subject to several impediments. To put it bluntly, it is often very difficult to find out what the text of a law is - let alone what it means. Something must be done."Zander, M., "The Law-Making Process", Cambridge University Press, Sixth Edition, 2004, p. 103, ISBN: 0521609895]
1991 - 1995
The idea for creating a UK-wide legislation database dates back to
1991when the government awarded a contract to Syntegra, a BTcompany previously known as "Secure Information Systems Limited", to create a database containing all the public acts comprised in the publication "Statutes in Force" together with all amendments made since a "base date" of 1 February 1991. The database was delivered by Syntegra in November 1993, but not accepted by the government until Summer 1995at a cost of £700,000. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/aug/17/epublic.guardianweeklytechnologysection The Guardian, "Access denied to the laws that govern us", 17 August 2006] ] The database was originally intended for use by the Parliamentary Counsel Office, but following testing with the public service it was decided to make it available to legal practitioners and the private sector on a commercial basis, as well as to public libraries and Citizens Advice Bureaux.
The database comprised two parts. The "Editorial Statute Law Database" contained an electronic database of the legislation encoded in TSO ActiveText, a
content management system, stored in XMLand authored in DTD. Documents in ActiveText were fragmented and could be edited using XMetaLwhich allows editors to check documents in and out of the database for editing. The second part, the "Enquiry Database" was populated with data from the Editorial Database which was displayed in HTML. [ [http://www.number7.demon.co.uk/papers/SLD/SLD.htm "The Statute Law Database" by Roger Horne] ] The enquiry database was available to a number of pilot users.
1996 - 2000
9 February 1996, Roger Freeman, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, announced that the copyright and charging policy of the Statute Law Database would "be decided nearer the time of implementation in 1997". [ [http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_2/special/williamson/#a5 Electronic Law Journal, 7 May 1996] ] This date was pushed forwarded to 1999[ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199798/ldhansrd/vo970702/text/70702-13.htm House of Lords Hansard text, 2 July 1997] ] and then to 2000[ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199899/ldhansrd/vo981216/text/81216w04.htm House of Lords Hansard text, 16 December 1998] ] .
1999, it was disclosed that " [t] he partially updated database is presently available to a number of users within central government who have access to the Statutory Publications Office Intranet. The Lord Chancellor's Department are considering options for the future marketing of the Statute Law Database. These options include free Internet access, the granting of non-exclusive licences to legal information publishers and the provision of a subscription on-line service." [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmhansrd/vo990322/text/90322w20.htm House of Commons Hansard Written Answers, 22 March 1999] ] In September a demonstration version of the database was made available on the Syntegra Track Record website, containing legislation for the years 1985 to 1995, though this was quickly removed. [http://www.binarylaw.co.uk/index.php/articles/the-statute-law-database-finally-a-reality/ Binary Law] ]
2001 - 2006
2004, it was announced that the system designed by Syntegra would be modernised by replacing its editorial database, developing two new enquiry systems (one for government departments (accessible via the Government Secure Intranet, "GSI") and the other for the general public), and the revision and updating of the statute book. Two contracts were signed by the Department for Constitutional Affairs(DCA) with Computacenter, one for the delivery of the editorial system, the other for the government enquiry system. The combined cost of the contracts was £458,000. [ [http://flourish.org/foi/2005-06-03-statutelaw/Heather%20Brooke%20FOI%20Response.doc Freedom of Information Act response, 1 July 2005] ]
The government's enquiry system was launched on
31 May 2006with a plan to roll out general access in three phases. The first stage would open the database to a very limited number of users for testing. On 2 August 2006the Department of Constitutional Affairscommenced with the second stage of the database project by issuing login details and passwords to a number of selected users, primarily commercial legal publishers, so that the system could be tested. Initially, the DCA intended to charge users for access to "historical law", but not current law, however, following pressure notably from The Guardianand its "Free Our Data" campaign, it was announced in October that the system would be free to use. [ [http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/general/view=newsarticle.law?GAZETTENEWSID=303233 Law Society Gazette, "Statutes free on web", 5 October 2006] ] The SPO's Clare Allison revealed nevertheless that the DCA would be "looking at options that concern the commercial reuse of the data". [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/oct/19/epublic.guardianweeklytechnologysection The Guardian, "At last, the price is right for access to our laws", 19 October 2006] ]
The delays involved in realising the database led to a number groups requesting the raw data of the legislation in order to put together their own versions. Among those refused access was Julian Todd, the co-creator of the website
TheyWorkForYou, who stated "I can’t comprehend what the DCA thinks it is gaining by not giving us a database dump of the law." [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,27969-2189076.html The Times, "Delays over database are not in the public interest", 23 May 2006] ] Todd had submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000for disclosure of the data, but this was refused and he brought an appeal before the Information Commissioner.
The database was finally made available to the public on
20 December 2006. Announcing its launch, Baroness Ashton, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, said that " [t] he Statute Law Database provides an authoritative and easy-to-use historical database of UK statute law. I hope it will be welcomed as a useful tool for professionals who need to keep up with changes to the law as well as those who simply have an interest in historic and current legislation." [http://www.yrtk.org/2006/statute-law-database-launched/ Your Right to Know, 20 December 2006] ]
The database contains the text of
primary legislationin force at 1 February 1991 and secondary legislationissued after that date, some 30,000 texts. All primary legislation on the site has been revised at least until the end of 2001, and it is intended that all should be fully revised by the end of 2008. The responsibility for keeping the database up-to-date lies with the Statutory Publications Office, part of the Ministry of Justice, which incorporates new legislation into the database and keeps primary legislation up-to-date by applying amendments.
In addition, a "table of effects" has been published every year since
2002which lists all the legislation repealed, the effects of primary and secondary legislation brought into force since 2002 on primary legislation in the database.
The database content includes the following primary legislation in updated form:
* UK public general Acts (1801 to date);
* Acts of the
Parliament of Great Britain(1707-1800);
* Acts of the
* Acts of the pre-UK Parliaments (1424-1707);
* UK local Acts (from 1991);
* Acts of the
Scottish Parliament(1999 to date);
* Measures of the Welsh Assembly (2007 to date);
* Acts of the
* Acts of the
Parliament of Northern Ireland(1921-1972);
* Measures of the Northern Ireland Assembly (1974);
* Acts of the
Northern Ireland Assembly(2000-2002, 2007 to date);
Orders in Councilmade under Northern Ireland Acts (1974 to date);
* Church of England Measures (1920 to date).
Other primary legislation that is held in unrevised form includes:
* Post-1991 local Acts (and a small number of pre-1991 local Acts).
The database also contains certain secondary legislation which is not updated:
* Statutory Instruments (from 1991);
* Welsh Statutory Instruments (from 1999);
Scottish Statutory Instruments (from 1999);
Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland(from 1991); N.B. for the period 1991-2005 only those Statutory Rules which affect UK legislation are held;
* Church Instruments (from 1991).
While the database reflects amendments to primary legislation, it is not up to date.
Also the database does not currently include:
* Pre-1991 repealed legislation;
* Most pre-1991 local Acts and revisions to post-1991 local Acts;
* Secondary legislation pre-dating 1991;
* The effect of revocations of or amendments to secondary legislation, so that the full text of post-1991 repealed legislation can be found without any indication as to its repeal;
* Orders in Council made under the
* Northern Ireland Statutory Rules made between 1991 and 2005 which only affect Northern Ireland;
There are no plans to extend the database to include the above material. However, a
Select Committeereport on the "Merits of Statutory Instruments", published on 7 November 2006, recommended that the database should be extended to cover secondary as well as primary legislation. The government responded that this was indeed important, but that " [t] he immediate priority is to ensure that a fully revised and up to date version of the official statute book is delivered for use by the public and that work on this is maintained. After this has been achieved consideration will then be given as to how work can be extended to updating secondary legislation." [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldmerit/275/27507.htm House of Lords Select Committee Report on the Merits of Statutory Instruments, 49th report] ]
* [http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/ UK Statute Law Database]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6255321.stm Government promises data shake-up]
BBC News 2007-01-12
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