Finding Legal Information in the United Kingdom

Finding UK Legislation

UK legislation can be divided into two main types:

Primary Legislation

Primary Legislation in the UK is known as 'Acts of Parliament' or 'Statutes' and is made by the legislative branch of government.

Secondary legislation

Secondary Legislation is also called subordinate or delegated legislation and is law made by an executive authority under powers given to them by primary legislation in order to implement and administer the requirements of the acts. Secondary legislation includes statutory instruments and byelaws.

Acts of Parliament

The officially published series of UK Statutes is called Public General Acts and is located in the Library on Floor 4 at the classmark KD 125. The library has a complete set of Acts from the year 1798 to the present but also some earlier years. Much legislation can also be found on the web. The government department the Office for Public Sector Information publishes UK legislation (on - see below) on the web and the British and Irish Legal Information Institute also provides legislation on the web.

The links below distinguish between consolidated legislation and the text of acts as they were published (original texts). This is because overtime an original Act can be altered as parts or sections are repealed or amended by later Acts.  Consolidated legislation is thus the complete revised text and includes all amendments and repeals.

Acts of Parliament (Statutes): Original text

Public General Acts

1798 onwards

1988 to current and most pre-1988 primary legislation is available on this site. In some cases the site contains only the original published (as enacted) version and no revised version.

British and Irish Legal Information Institute

1988 to current and some older statutes.

Acts of Parliament (Statutes): Revised (as enacted)

Official revised version of all in force UK legislation.

Lexis and Westlaw

Lexis Library: UK Statutes

Contains the full, amended (consolidated) text of all in force Acts of Parliament from 1266, the file is updated daily (Monday to Friday) and the texts appear within 2 days of publication. Also includes, summaries of UK Acts. Allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic.

Westlaw: UK Statutes (UK-ST)

Contains consolidated law in force from 1267 and unamended full text (original text as published) from 1992. Allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic.

Statutory Instruments

Statutory instruments (SI) are located in the Law Collection on Floor 4 at classmark KD 166. To find a particular SI in the official series you need to know the year and sequential number i.e. SI 2006/236. If you do not know the number you can use a subject based guide, such as Halsbury's Statutory Instruments, or consult an A to Z list, or search by topic and keywords on Lexis or Westlaw (see below).

Statutory Instrument: by number

Selected coverage 1973-1986; full coverage 1987 to current.

British and Irish Legal Information Institute

From 1987 to current

Statutory Instruments: A to Z or by subject

Halsbury's Statuory Instruments

A subject based encyclopedia.

British and Irish Legal Information Institute: A to Z

Lexis Library: Statutory Instruments

This source contains the full, amended text of all public general SIs that are currently in force from 1786 onwards. Legislation that has been recently enacted but is not yet in force is also included. SI's can be browsed by year or searched  by title (or name), section, keyword or topic and the Halsbury's SI citator allows browsing alphabetically by topic.

Westlaw: Statutory Instruments (UK-SI)

Statutory instruments currently in force in the United Kingdom from 1992 onwards and a selection of UK SI's of general application published between 1948 and 1991.Westlaw allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic and browsing by year or alphabetically.

Finding our if an Act is still in force

Is it in Force?

An annual supplement to Halsbury's Statutes called Is it in force? enables you to establish whether an act (or section of an act) has come into force. Is it in force? is shelved at the end of Halsbury's Statutes at KD 135.H3. It covers all acts of general application in England and Wales (and all General Synod measures) passed in the last 25 years. It is also available online on Lexis Library.

Westlaw: Overview

Click on Legislation link at the top, choose the act you wish to look at by browsing by year or title, click on 'Overview Document' on the left-hand side of the screen.

This document provides a summary of important information about the whole Act or SI detailing: All Amendments pending (i.e. those amendments not yet incorporated into the full text); All Commencement information pertaining to an Act/SI (except pre-1991 commencement information for Acts); All Amendments made to the full text (except amendments to pre-1991 amendments to Acts); All SIs enabled under authority of an Act; Any EU Law implemented by an Act or SI.

If you wish to check a particular provision of an act, click on Legislation, search for the act and provision you require, click on the provision to see the full text and under 'Legislation Analysis' on the left-hand side of the screen, choose 'Current Law in Force'.


The University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
+44 (0) 1206 873192