Skip to main content

United Kingdom Law: Law reform

Law reform in the UK

It is the job of The Law Commission to constantly review the law of England and Wales and to recommend changes where necessary.  The Law Commission is independent and has been in existence since 1965. Its aim is to make sure the law is fair, simple and cost effective by conducting research and consultations in certain areas of law and to make recommendations to Parliament where improvements are needed.  It is up to Parliament to implement any changes via legislation and at the moment about two thirds of recommendations have been implemented by Parliament.  The Law Commission Act 2009 and the Protocol came into force in January 2010 : the aim was to improve the ratio of recommendations being implemented. Following this the Lord Chancellor must provide an annual report which sets out the extent to which Parliament have adopted recommendations.  See separate box on Royal Commissions below.

Publications and current work

The Commission produces a bulletin called " Law under Review" which outline the ongoing projects.  From 1997 this was online only 

The Law Commission produces both consultation papers and reports.  You may be able to find these published as command papers and will be available within the printed series of Command Papers within the Bodleian.  .

Law Commission Reports are available online on the website from 1995 onwards (there is also a summary available for more recent ones).  Law Commission Consultation Papers are also available online from 1996.  There is a full list of reports and papers going back to 1965 available on the main website.  A number of older Law Commission publications are available on Bailii.

The Annual reports are also available on the main website as well as Programmes of law reform, Statute Law Repeals Reports and Bulletins.

Process of a Law Reform Project

The Law Commission operates under a programme of law reform and it is currently on its 13th programme.  Below is the typical stages of a project taken from the Law Commission website at http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/about/how-we-work/


 

    Stages of a typical law reform project:

Once the Law Commission has agreed to review an area of law, the remit of the project will be decided in conjunction with the relevant Government department. Then:

  • A study of the area of law is undertaken, and its defects are identified. Other systems of law are examined to see how they deal with similar problems.
  • A consultation paper is issued setting out in detail the existing law and its defects, giving the arguments for and against the possible solutions, and inviting comments. The paper is circulated widely to all interested persons and bodies, including the media. We actively encourage feedback from any interested member of the public, including comments on problems we may not have dealt with or the likely effect of something we have proposed. You can respond to any of the Commission's open consultation papers from this website.
  • A report is submitted to the Lord Chancellor and Minister of Justice, giving our final recommendations with the reasons for them, and where necessary, a draft Bill is included which would give effect to our recommendations.

Royal Commissions

These bodies are established to look at a topic of public concern where there is a possible need for legislation.  Once the investigation and report is complete the Commission is disbanded.  These are very rare.  The reports are available as command papers or you can search the databases below to see if you can find a reference.  Royal Commissions have included the report into Child Labour from 1840, Transportation and Penal Servitude and more recently long term care for the elderly (1998).

Petitioning the Government

There is now an online mechanism that allows an individual or group to start a petition to have their idea debated in parliament.  More details can be found on the parliament site.

To view or sign current petitions you can go to the petitions website.