What’s The Best Way to Read And Understand Acts of Parliament?

Feb 08, 2018

What is the Problem?

This one comes from Joyce in Worcester, and her question is: “What is the best way to read and comprehend Act of Parliament?”

What To Do

To read and comprehend an Act of Parliament, you first need to understand what an Act of Parliament is and what it isn’t.
Acts of Parliament start off as Draft Bills, and eventually become Bills proper, which make their way through Parliament.
Acts are written in a form of Legal English (of which there are many).
Explanatory Notes should accompany Bills. These notes are supposed to explain the purpose of the Bill they accompany.

The Outline Solution

  • Before attempting to read an Act, check the Interpretation and Definition Section of the Act.
  • If definitions do not appear in a particular Act, work backwards to previous Acts relating to the same subject matter
  • If definitions still evade you, refer to the Interpretation Act enacted immediately prior-to, and or immediately after, the first Act in the chain.
  • If in doubt, and as a rough guide, you can use a good English dictionary, and a good Legal dictionary.
  • Find out the purpose of the Act, by reading the preamble, and
  • consult Hansard, the official verbatim record of the debates associated with said Act as it progresses/progressed through Parliament.

Possible Arguments Against You

  • Ask yourself, “am I even qualified to have an opinion as to the meaning of the text?”
  • If you believe that all Acts are law, then to know the law you must read and understand all Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments and Regulations created therefrom.

The Almost Legal Info

If in doubt: consult a solicitor.

  • Technically speaking, we believe you should seek independent legal advice for each and every Act, Regulation and Statutory Instrument.
  • An authoritative legal textbook on the subject is Craies on Legislation (10th edition, published by Sweet & Maxwell)

Helpful Paragraphs:

  • Enactments, are presumed to apply to everyone in the 'territory'
  • A regulation made under an Act is not an enactment passed by Parliament; rather it is an enactment made by the Government. There is a difference.

Need More Help?

Go to the foundations, the building blocks. Where did it all begin?
You may find the Birth Certificate Seminar to be of great use.
Ultimately, it starts with you. You have two educations. The one given to you by the state, and the one you give to yourself.


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