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United Kingdom Law: Law reform

Law reform in the UK

It is the job of The Law Commission to constantly review the law of England and Wales and to recommend changes where necessary.  The Law Commission is independent and has been in existence since 1965. Its aim is to make sure the law is fair, simple and cost effective by conducting research and consultations in certain areas of law and to make recommendations to Parliament where improvements are needed.  It is up to Parliament to implement any changes via legislation and at the moment about two thirds of recommendations have been implemented by Parliament.  The Law Commission Act 2009 and the Protocol came into force in January 2010 : the aim was to improve the ratio of recommendations being implemented. Following this the Lord Chancellor must provide an annual report which sets out the extent to which Parliament have adopted recommendations.  See separate box on Royal Commissions below.

Publications and current work

Print copies of consultation papers and published reports are available in the Law Library at KL160.

Royal Commissions
These bodies are established to look at a topic of public concern where there is a possible need for legislation.  Once the investigation and report is complete the Commission is disbanded.  These are very rare.  The reports are available as command papers or you can search the databases below to see if you can find a reference.  Royal Commissions have included the report into Child Labour from 1840, Transportation and Penal Servitude and more recently long term care for the elderly (1998).

Criminal Law Revision Committee 1959 - ?

This standing committee was set up in February 1959 ‘to examine such aspects of the criminal law … as the Home Secretary may from time to time refer to the Committee, to consider whether the law requires revision and to make recommendations’.  It was served by a mix of legal practitioners (judges, barristers and solicitors), civil servants and academics. Its consultations were published as green papers.

Its last project (to date) concluded in1986 with its eighteenth published report On Conspiracy to Defraud Cmnd 9873 1985-86.
Its silence is in part due to the fact that the Law Commission took on revison of the criminal law in 1968.

The Bodleian Official Papers collection, on the Ground Floor of the Law Library, has its publications in print.
Holders of an Oxford SSO have easy access to the full text of the Revision Committee's publications via:

Public Petitions in the UK

There are now online mechanisms that allow an individual or group to start a petition to have their idea debated in the relevant UK parliament.