Improving Statute Law

The Statute Law Society aims to educate us all about the legislative process. Michael Jennings explains

The Statute Law Society (‘SLS’) is a charitable body which since 1968 has been fulfilling its aims of educating members of the legal profession and the public about the legislative process and encouraging improvements in statute law. They have done this through lectures from noted experts and by developing educational projects.


The latest project, produced in conjunction with the UK Centre for Legal Education and Oxford University, is a set of educational videos of interviews with people who are involved in the production of legislation in Parliament. These have been posted on YouTube and the iTunesU website and have been provided in DVD format to every law school and university law department in the country. It can be accessed at http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/statute-law-making-legislation.

Mr. Justice Sales, who is a member of the SLS Council, points out that there is often little teaching of how statutes are produced and drafted. “The SLS wanted to improve the materials available in an area of the law which is so important for understanding the contemporary legal world, and in a format which we hoped would be appealing to students”.

The videos include interviews with draftsmen, politicians, Parliamentary officials and lawyers, each of whom explain their role. Mr. Justice Sales, who conducted the interviews, says, “The participants gave of their time freely and helped the SLS produce a set of videos which is both useful and informative. They give the viewer practical insight from the people directly involved in the process into how legislation is conceived, turned into a Parliamentary Bill, and then passed into law as an Act of Parliament”.

  • Lord Falconer, formerly Lord Chancellor, explains how a Minister gets proposals accepted as part of the Government’s legislative programme, and how the Minister then takes the Bill through Parliament
  • Michelle Dyson, now in the Ministry of Justice and formerly in the Home Office, explains the process within a Government department for developing the policy ideas underlying proposed legislation and then the detailed development by a Department of those proposals, and the role of officials in handling the passage of the Bill through Parliament
  • Sir Stephen Laws, First Parliamentary Counsel, explains how his office sets about drafting the Bill. He also describes the pre-legislative scrutiny of Bills and the role of Parliamentary Counsel as the Bill proceeds through Parliament
  • Two Clerks of Parliament, David Natzler from the House of Commons and Sarah Jones from the House of Lords, describe the stages of the passage of a Bill and how it is scrutinised. Murray Hunt, Legal Adviser to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, explains how the Bill is examined for compliance with the Human Rights Act
  • Lord Justice Etherton, a recent chairman of the Law Commission, speaks about the role of the Commission in the legislative process.


“The site is totally free”, Sir Philip points out, “and I would encourage students and indeed academics and practitioners interested in expanding their knowledge of legislation to view the interviews”.

The SLS arranges a yearly lecture in memory of Lord Renton, who at the time of his death in 2007 at the age of 94 was Britain’s longest-serving parliamentarian. This year it was given by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, who spoke on “General, equal and certain: law reform today and tomorrow”. The text of the annuals and further details about the Statute Law Society can be found at www.statutelawsociety.org.


Michael Jennings, Member of the SLS Council

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