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Glossary to the UK Legislation
A law enacted by a parliament or similar legislative body. In the UK, Acts may be made by the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament, or the Northern Ireland Assembly. Historically, Acts were also made by the parliaments that met before the UK came into existence and by the Parliament of Northern Ireland (1921 to 1972).
Acts are a form of primary legislation.
A provision (e.g. a section) subject to one or more changes or effects.
A provision that gives rise to one or more changes or effects.
An effect that changes the text of legislation. The term ‘amended’ is also sometimes used on legislation.gov.uk to indicate an effect that changes the meaning of the legislation even though the text itself is not changed.
A note that appears at the foot of a provision (or under the associated heading if relating to a higher-level division) and which gives authority for an effect or extra information about the provision in general or a specific part of that provision.
Each annotation has a reference number and the nature of the information it contains is conveyed by the annotation type. For instance, F-notes identify amendments where there is authority to change the text, and I-notes contain information about the coming into force of a provision.
The term we use for the starting point from which the revision of legislation on legislation.gov.uk (and previously on the UK Statute Law Database) has been carried forward. It is the date to which the text of the earlier hard copy editions had been revised when used as the originating text for the electronic version.
For most types of revised legislation on legislation.gov.uk, the base date is 1 February 1991.
The originating text for most types of legislation was derived mainly from ‘Statutes in Force’ (SIF), an earlier official edition of the revised statute book. The final revision of SIF incorporated all effects of legislation made or enacted up to 1 February 1991, but the effects of a small number of consolidation Acts enacted after the base date, in 1991 and 1992, were also incorporated.
For the revised legislation of Northern Ireland on legislation.gov.uk, the base date is 1 January 2006.
The originating text for this legislation was ‘The Northern Ireland Statutes Revised’, the official edition of the revised statute book for Northern Ireland. The final revision of that text incorporated all effects of legislation made or enacted up to 31 December 2005.
An effect that is framed in such a way as to affect legislation generally rather than any specific enactment.
C-notes – Modifications etc (not altering text)
‘C’ stands for ‘Cross-notes’, so called because of the way in which they were presented in the hard copy predecessors to the revised content on legislation.gov.uk. This annotation type is used to denote the effect when the meaning, scope or application of an Act or provision etc. is changed in some way, but without there being any authority to alter the text. Typical expressions of effects of this kind are ‘modified’, ‘applied’, ‘excluded’, ‘extended’, ‘restricted’, etc.
The terms ‘changes’ and ‘changes to legislation’ are sometimes used on this site instead of the term ‘effects’.
The sequential number of an Act (except an Act of the Scottish Parliament) is called a ‘Chapter number’. For example, the Police Reform Act 2002 is Chapter 30 in the year 2002. ‘Chapter’ is usually abbreviated:
Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30)
A numbered level of division within an Act or other legislation. Chapters generally come below Parts but above cross-headings in the hierarchy.
A type of secondary legislation made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York under authority contained in Church Measures.
“coming into force” date
The date on which a legislative provision or an effect comes into force. Also known as the commencement date.
The coming into force of a provision or an effect.
The commencement of a piece of legislation may be determined by a provision of the legislation itself, referred to as the ‘commencement provision’, or it may be determined by a special type of Statutory Instrument known as a ‘Commencement Order’.
This term is used where a provision confers power to make secondary legislation.
In primary legislation, an italic heading that indicates the subject matter of a provision or group of provisions beneath it. In the hierarchical structure of legislation, it comes below Part or Chapter level but above the level of the lowest level of provision, such as the section in an Act.
It is called a cross-heading because it is usually centred, running across the page. However, in the new style of drafting adopted for most primary legislation since 2001, cross-headings in Schedules (but not in the main body) are ranged left.
Note that in secondary legislation there are elements called cross-headings that may appear differently to those in primary legislation and do not necessarily serve the same function.
A term we use to denote any one of the hierarchical levels into which a piece of legislation may be divided.
For instance, the two main divisions of an Act are the main body and the schedules, and these are preceded by the long title, the short title and any other introductory text. Lower levels of division within the main body and schedules may include Parts, Chapters and cross-headings. The lowest levels of division in an Act are sections (in the main body) or paragraphs (in the schedules).
For further information see Structure of Legislation.
E-notes – Geographical Extent information
This annotation type contains information about the geographic extent of the Act or relevant part of it.
E-notes are at present used very sparingly, mainly to indicate some complexity or change in the extent which is not adequately reflected in the extent provision of the Act (although they have been used more extensively in the past). They are also used where there are multiple versions of a provision created for different geographical extents.
Any impact that one legislative provision may have on another. The most familiar type of effect is an amendment that changes the text of the affected legislation, but there are also types of effect that do not change the text, such as where a provision is said to be ‘modified’ or ‘applied’. Other events, such as the commencement of a provision, are also treated as effects for the purposes of legislation.gov.uk.
Note that a piece of legislation, such as an Act, may contain internal effects. For example, a provision in an Act may modify or apply some other provision in the same Act. These internal effects are not generally annotated. The main exception is where an Act amends its own text, which may happen, for example, when an Act repeals itself, or part of itself, at some future date. Also, certain internal effects to do with commencement and extent may be recorded.
An Executive Note sets out a brief statement of the purpose of a Scottish Statutory Instrument and provides information about its policy objective and policy implications. It aims to make the Scottish Statutory Instrument accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Executive Notes accompany any Scottish Statutory Instrument or Draft Scottish Statutory Instrument laid before the Scottish Parliament from July 2005 onwards. From July 2012 onwards, these are replaced by Policy Notes.
Exercise of power
This expression may be used in annotations in a provision that confers power to make secondary (or subordinate) legislation to record the making of instruments under that power.
Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act (or Measure) to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.
Text called an Explanatory Note also appears following the legislative text of Statutory Instruments, Scottish Statutory Instruments or Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland. For Welsh Statutory Instruments the Explanatory Note precedes the body of the Instrument in print format but follows the legislative text in html format. The Explanatory Note is intended to give a concise and clear statement of the substance of the instrument. The instrument may also be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum, Executive Note or Policy Note.
An Explanatory Memorandum (EM) sets out a brief statement of the purpose of a Statutory Instrument or Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland and provides information about its policy objective and policy implications. It aims to make the Statutory Instruments or Rules accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. EMs accompany any Statutory Instrument or Draft Statutory Instrument laid before Parliament from June 2004 onwards and any Statutory Rule laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly (or UK Parliament during the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly) since June 2004.
See ‘geographical extent’.
F-notes – Amendments (Textual)
F’ stands for ‘Footnotes’. This annotation type is used for amendments, including repeals, where there is authority to change the text.
The geographical area within the UK to which legislation applies.
The term ‘extent’ when used in legislation refers to the jurisdiction(s) for which it is law. Thus, the extent may be the whole of the UK or one or more of the three jurisdictions within the UK: England and Wales; Scotland; and Northern Ireland. Note that ‘England’ and ‘Wales’ are not separate jurisdictions. The term ‘extent’ is currently used more loosely on legislation.gov.uk for searching purposes, to help users find legislation relevant to each of the four geographical parts of the UK. For this reason, it may denote a limited territorial application within a wider technical extent. For example, the extent of the legislation may be ‘England and Wales’ but it only applies to Wales. In due course, changes will be made to the way in which ‘extent’ information is presented on legislation.gov.uk so that information about extent and limited territorial application within a wider extent will be displayed separately.
Currently, each ‘extent’ is represented by one of, or a combination of, England (E), Wales (W), Scotland (S) and Northern Ireland (NI). Thus, a UK extent is E+W+S+NI and a GB extent is E+W+S. This information can be displayed within revised legislation when it is being viewed by selecting ‘show geographical extent’ in the left-hand column.
Every version of every provision, and every higher level of division, within a piece of legislation is assigned its own extent. In the case of higher levels of divisions the extent will be set wide enough to include the extent of all the provisions within it.
In some limited cases there may be multiple versions created to represent differing geographical extents (previously referred to as ‘concurrent versions’ on the UK Statute Law Database). Two or more versions of a provision (or other level of division of legislation) are created where a substitution of text (or of the whole provision etc.) affects only part of the original geographical extent of the provision. Such versions have the same start date and continue to run alongside one another.
For instance, if there is a substitution of text in a provision that extends to the whole of the UK, but the substitution affects Wales only, two versions result: one for the provision in its unamended state to cover England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and one for the provision as amended to cover Wales.
‘Hierarchy’ and ‘hierarchical structure’ are terms we use to denote the levels of division within a piece of legislation on legislation.gov.uk and the relationship between them. For example, the level of a cross-heading in an Act comes below the Part level in the hierarchy, but above the section level.
I-notes – Commencement information
‘I’ stands for ‘In-force’. This annotation type contains information about the coming into force of a provision and will typically state whether it is partly or wholly in force, give the date or dates of commencement and cite relevant provisions of the Act and any commencing instruments.
At present, I-notes are used only if there is some complexity in the commencement. If the provision came into force on one day for all purposes, no I-note will be created and the in-force date will be the same as the start date of the earliest version of the provision.
Describes a specific type of amendment where new text is inserted into existing text. If the new text is to be placed at the end of the existing text, the term ‘added’ may be used instead.
A term we use to denote the text elements at the top of an item of legislation, below the title (or short title) but above the main body. In an Act, this will typically consist of the long title, the date the Act received the Royal Assent, and a conventional form of words to give effect to the Act called the ‘words of enactment’.
Latest available (revised):
The latest available revised version of the legislation incorporating changes (i.e. amendments and other effects) made by subsequent legislation and applied by the legislation.gov.uk editorial team. Changes we have not yet applied to the text can be found listed under ‘Changes to Legislation’.
The generic term for laws of any type. The terms ‘piece of legislation’ and ‘item of legislation’ are used within some of our help information to mean a whole legislative document of any type, for example an Act or Statutory Instrument.
Acts and Measures have two titles, the ‘short title’ and the ‘long title’. The ‘long title’ sets out the purposes of the Act, sometimes at great length, whereas the ‘short title’ is a more convenient short form by which the Act will usually be known. For example, the Petroleum Act 1998 (short title) has a long title that reads:
‘An Act to consolidate certain enactments about petroleum, offshore installations and submarine pipelines.’
On legislation.gov.uk, the long title forms part of the introductory text of the legislation.
M-notes – Marginal citations
This annotation type is so called because it used to appear in the margin of the King’s Printer’s copy of primary legislation. M-notes recite the year and number of an Act or instrument mentioned in the text.
The date on which a Statutory Instrument, or other item of secondary legislation, is formally brought into being. It may come into force at a different date. Secondary legislation is usually said to be ‘made’, as opposed to Acts and other primary legislation which are usually said to be ‘enacted’. For this reason, the phrase ‘made or enacted’ may be used on this site when referring to legislation generally.
A type of primary legislation passed by the General Synod of the Church of England – see ‘Church of England Measures’ in the Guide to Revised Legislation on legislation.gov.uk.
A type of primary legislation passed by the short-lived Northern Ireland Assembly in 1974 (the present Northern Ireland Assembly passes Acts) – see ‘Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly (and other primary legislation for Northern Ireland)’ in the Guide to Revised Legislation on legislation.gov.uk.
A type of primary legislation passed by the National Assembly for Wales from 2008 to 2011– see ‘Measures of the National Assembly for Wales’ in the Guide to Revised Legislation on legislation.gov.uk. The Welsh Parliament, may now pass Acts.
Order in Council
A type of legislation, made by the King on the advice of the Privy Council (a body consisting of Ministers of the Crown). These Orders may be made under powers contained in statute, in which case they take the form of Statutory Instruments, notably those to legislate for Northern Ireland during periods of direct rule. (Note, however, that many Orders in Council are made under the residual prerogative of the Crown. These are known as ‘Prerogative Orders’ and are not carried on legislation.gov.uk.)
Order of Council
Such Orders differ from Orders in Council in that they are made by the Privy Council without the need for any approval by the King. Otherwise, similar considerations apply. They may be made under statutory powers (as Statutory Instruments) or under the prerogative, and in the latter case they are not carried on legislation.gov.uk.
Original (As enacted or as made):
The original version of the legislation as it stood when it was enacted or made. No changes have been applied to the text.
P-notes – Subordinate legislation made
‘P’ stands for ‘Power exercised’. Where a provision of primary legislation confers power to make subordinate legislation and that power is exercised (i.e. an instrument is made in pursuance of it), that exercise may be recorded in a P-note. The annotation will cite any instruments made under that power.
At present, the P-note annotation type is used only in respect of the making of commencement orders (distinguished by a ‘C’ series number after the number of the instrument) or other exercises of a power to appoint a day.
A provision, usually numbered, constituting on legislation.gov.uk the lowest level of division in a Schedule. (But note that the term ‘paragraph’ may also be used in legislation to denote certain levels of sub-division within a provision.)
A division of the main body or a schedule in an item of legislation, usually forming part of a numbered sequence of Parts.
A Part may be further subdivided hierarchically into Chapters, cross-headings and numbered sections (or paragraphs, if in a schedule).
Policy Notes replaced Executive Notes in relation to Scottish Statutory Instruments during July 2012, and serve the same purpose.
Generally used on legislation.gov.uk to mean a power to make secondary (or subordinate) legislation contained in a provision that ‘confers power’. The making of an item of secondary legislation in pursuance of such a power is referred to as an ‘exercise of power’.
Words appearing near the beginning of an Act after the long title, stating the reasons for passing the Act. The use of preambles is optional and they are now rare. Any preamble would appear in the introductory text.
General term used to describe the main laws passed by the legislative bodies of the UK (e.g. an Act of the UK Parliament). It is to be distinguished from secondary legislation.
A term we use to indicate that a provision or an amendment has not yet come into force.
A version of a provision (or other level of division of legislation) with no start date, created as a result of an amendment that has not yet come into force.
The term provision is used to describe a definable element in a piece of legislation that has legislative effect. Most commonly in the help documentation and messages on this site it will be used to refer to a section (or corresponding element such as a paragraph in a Schedule or an article in an Order) but it can also refer to higher level divisions such as Parts or Chapters.
Regnal years refer to the year of the sovereign’s reign for the session of parliament in which the Act was passed and may be referenced when citing legislation made pre-1963.
Describes a specific type of amendment where existing text ceases to have effect and may also be removed from the legislation. Repeals may also relate to a whole Act. The amending legislation may alternatively (or, in many cases, additionally) specify that words or provisions ‘shall be omitted’ or ‘shall cease to have effect’.
A schedule in an item of legislation, usually at the end, in which the legislative provisions repealed by that legislation are listed.
The terms ‘revise’, ‘revised’ and ‘revision’ to refer to the editorial process of incorporating amendments and carrying through other effects into legislation.
An item of legislation may have one or more schedules following the main body. Where this is the case, the Schedules (collectively) constitute a major structural division within the legislation. Within this higher level of division, there may be either a single Schedule or a series of numbered Schedules. (Note that the term ‘schedule’ is not usually spelt with a capital ‘S’ in Acts of the Scottish Parliament.)
Scottish Statutory Instrument
A type of secondary legislation made under authority contained in Acts of the Scottish Parliament.
Delegated legislation, such as a Statutory Instrument, made by a person or body under authority contained in primary legislation. It is also referred to as ‘subordinate legislation’.
A provision, usually numbered, constituting on legislation.gov.uk the lowest level of division in the main body of an Act or other primary legislation.
The title by which an Act or Measure is usually known. It is to be distinguished from the long title, which sets out the purposes of the legislation.
The start date of a version is the earliest date for which it had effect to any extent or for any purpose.
An item of primary legislation, such as an Act or Measure.
A term we use to denote the totality of the statute law in force at any particular time.
A type of secondary legislation made under authority contained in Acts of Parliament.
Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland
A type of secondary legislation, they are the Northern Ireland equivalent of Statutory Instruments.
The date on which a version is succeeded by a new version or otherwise ceases to have effect.
See secondary legislation.
Any sub-division of a provision.
Describes a specific type of amendment where existing text is replaced by new text.
A successive version of a provision (or higher level of division of legislation) is a new version that replaces an earlier version. A new version is created whenever the text is amended.
Timeline of Changes
Facility on legislation.gov.uk providing access to revised legislation as it stood at specific points in time. The dates displayed on the timeline of any given provision are the start dates of the versions of that provision generated by successive amendments, or there may be an indication that a version is prospective. The timeline can be used to navigate through the versions to see how the provision being viewed has changed over time or may change in the future.
On this site ‘version’ may refer to the ‘as enacted’ version of the legislation or the ‘latest available (revised)’ version. This information will be displayed in the ‘What Version’ area when viewing legislation.
‘Version’ is also used in the context of revised legislation to refer to one of any number of versions of a provision (or higher level of division of legislation) that may exist in any number of different versions, usually created as a result of amendments made to it. These versions can be viewed by showing the Timeline of Changes.
Welsh Statutory Instrument
A type of Statutory Instrument relating specifically to Wales made under authority contained in Acts of Parliament, in Measures of the National Assembly for Wales, or in Acts of the National Assembly for Wales or Acts of Senedd Cymru.
Words of enactment
Formal words of legislative intent appearing at the beginning of an Act after the Long Title. Words of enactment appear in the introductory text.
X-notes – Editorial information
The X-note annotation type is used sparingly to alert users to anything they may need to be aware of in using the text. They have been used, for example, to explain potential difficulties arising from variations in pre-SLD editorial practice over the years or to point to uncertainties in the text of very old Acts.
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Church of England Measures
In the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the UK Parliament conferred on the Church Assembly the power to make legislation on matters concerning the Church of England. In 1970, the Assembly was replaced by the General Synod of the Church of England. Measures have the full force of an Act of Parliament.
You can find out more about Church of England legislation at http://www.churchofengland.org.
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Acts of the pre-UK Parliaments
There are still many Acts in force that were enacted by the parliaments of the separate countries that
co-existed in the British Isles before the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed in
1801. These are Acts that were enacted by:
- the English Parliament (which encompassed Wales) from 1267 to 1706
- the Scottish Parliament from 1424 to 1707
- the Parliament of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) from 1707 to 1800
- the Irish Parliament from 1495 to 1800.
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How legislation comes into force and is amended
An Act of Parliament creates a new law or changes an existing law. An Act is a Bill that has been approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and been given Royal Assent by the Monarch. Taken together, Acts of Parliament make up what is known as Statute Law in the UK.
An Act may come into force immediately, on a specific future date, or in stages. You can find out when an Act is due to come into force by looking at a section of the Act itself, headed ‘Commencement’ – this is among the very last sections of an Act.
Sometimes a specific date is not given and the timing is left to the discretion of the Secretary of State for the relevant government department. An act can therefore come into force by way of a Statutory Instrument called a ‘Commencement Order’ or ‘Commencement Regulation’.
Future changes to the law happen through the passing of another Act or delegated legislation (e.g. secondary legislation such as Statutory Instruments). The change, or amendment, can itself be subject to coming into force immediately, on a specific future date, or in stages. An Act can also be repealed so that its provisions are no longer in force.
On legislation.gov.uk we provide details about complex in force scenarios by way of I-note annotations on our revised versions. Please note that our enacted versions do not provide any information about in force/commencement.
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