Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Legislation Website from the English National Archives

The English National Archives recently launched a new Legislation website, www.legislation.gov.uk.

Their news page says it gives "clearer, faster and easier access to legislation, from Magna Carta to the latest statutory instruments. ... you can find details of everything on the statute book, in one place and free of charge."

It goes on to say that "Containing a massive 6.5 million PDF documents, the new website shows both the original version of any piece of UK legislation covering all jurisdictions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and details of any amendments, so that those accessing it can see how laws have evolved."

That would be a marvellous achievement, but the reality falls a bit shy of the mark.

There is a lot of historical legislation, including many Acts of the Scottish Parliament, on the site, but I found some gaps, and I'm sure there are other missing acts too.

For example, I couldn't find the Scottish Parliament's Act of 1579 'An Act For Punischment of Strang and Idle Beggars, and Reliefe of the Pure and Impotent' or a related act of 1597, or the very important 'An Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland' of 1845, or indeed the Savings Bank act of 1835. There other acts I would like to see, but I can't find them without knowing the titles.

Dawn Dean, the Contracts Delivery Manager, in response to my email enquiry, said that the website carries all legislation from 1988 onwards.    It also has a selection of earlier, Primary Legislation (i.e. Acts) where such legislation was available in a web-publishable format, however the site is not a comprehensive source of every Statute ever enacted. She also said that they are monitoring demand for legislation they don't hold on the site with a view to including some of the most requested Acts at a later date.

However, what there is, is still very useful. A notable lack is a keyword search in the content of the acts, however this can be done by Google.
To search for the word poorhouse, I entered into Google
poorhouse site:www.legislation.gov.uk

and found that there were 4 items of interest to me.

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