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English Law: Statutes



Most statutes are published in “revised” form which means any amendments have been incorporated into the text.  Unrevised statutes are not current and must be updated unless conducting historical research. 

Unlike the U.S. Code, the statutory law of Great Britain has never been codified officially (given a title and section based on subject matter). Rather, the statutory law in England is identified by its official title and date of enactment.  Statutes in Force (“SIF”) contains all the Public General Acts currently in force arranged by groups and classes.  At the time of completion in 1982, SIF contained 131 titles in 84 binders (loose leaf allowed for ongoing updating).  The method for compiling the statutes ensured that all statutes on a particular topic were contained in one binder.  For example, all laws related to the sale of goods could be found together.    An annual cumulative supplement for each group contains the amendments, repeals and any corrections.  An annual alphabetical listing of all groups into which the statutes are organized as well as alphabetical and chronological lists of Acts and Measures serve as guides to the SIF and should be used as a finding aid.  The law library does not collect Statutes in Force.  Statutes Revised (1951 completed) is the predecessor to Statutes in Force (1972-1981 completed) and (1982 – current).  The law library does not hold Statutes Revised either. For historical statutory research use Statutes of the Realm (13th Century – 1713) in print or through HEIN Online.



The unofficial and privately published Halsbury’s Statutes, (1985 – current), which the library does collect, tends to be the resource most widely used for statutory research.   It is a hybrid resource (cross between statutes annotated and legal encyclopedia/treatise) that contains the revised statutes in force, annotations, definitions, cross references of any delegated legislation, and time-saving updating materials.    Halsbury’s is arranged by 50 subject areas; however, not all subject areas are labeled with the same terminology as the SIF.  For example, compare “Church of England” under SIF with “Ecclesiastical law” under Halsbury’s.   Halsbury’s includes Acts pertaining only to Northern Ireland but not those pertaining only to Scotland.  In certain circumstances where an Act covers more than one subject area, the Act is divided into multiple headings (in a similar vein to codification of the US Code).  The law library holds the 3rd and 4th editions of Halsbury’s Statutes. 

Halsbury's Statutes offers the full text of the statute as it existed at the time of publication.  If a statute was passed in 1975 and amended in 1980, the 1985 publication would contain the langauge of the statute as amended.  Update from the date of publication of the main volume using the Cumulative Supplement and the Noter-up Service.   

There are two other widely-used private publications of UK Statutes:  Current Law Statutes Annotated and Law Reports Statutes.  The law library collects Law Reports Statutes (1866 – 2007).  This publication is not annotated and has no mechanism for updating. 


Session Laws

The Public General Acts are the official session laws and are published in chronological order.  They give the text of the law as it existed when it received Royal Assent.  Older Public General Acts & Measures, which are available in the MU collection through subscription databases EEBO and  Gale 18th Century Collections Online, are the annual bound versions of SIF that have been published by Her Majesty’s Secretary Office (HMSO) since 1831.   


Online availability

The UK National Archives, an agency of the Ministry of Justice, brought together on one website OPSI, HMSO, and the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.  This new website serves as the single source for UK legislation.  OPSI and HMSO have been decommissioned and users are routed to UK National Archives instead.  Use the Browse Legislation tab at the top to check the scope and coverage for each individual database.

Public General Acts are also available on the British and Irish Information Institute, BAILII.   


Subscription databases

Both Westlaw and Lexis offer UK statutes. 

Westlaw database identifier is UK-ST or UK-LIF-PDF (which combines statutes and statutory instruments) and draws its data from Sweet and Maxwell’s Statutes in Force.   

Lexis’ database is STAT or STATIS (which combines the Statutes and Statutory Instruments).  Lexis draws from Butterworth’s.  Use the following hierarchy location (bread crumb trail) in Lexis:  Area of Law - By Topic/Foreign Laws & Legal Sources/England & Wales/Legislation & Regulations OR Find Laws by Country or Region/United Kingdom/Legislation & Regulations.  Halsbury’s Laws of England Monthly Review is a summary service which is available on Lexis but not Westlaw. 


Fast Find


Coverage from 1988:

From 1801 - 1988: 

Partial coverage on

From 1968- 1985:

Halsbury's Statutes, annotated

Print (3rd floor library)

From 1866 - 2007

Law Reports Statutes, unannotated

Print (3rd floor library)

Available on Westlaw or Lexis

From 13th Century - 1713

Statutes of the Realm

Print or HEIN Online

Pre Magna Carta (1215)

Early English Laws for codes, edicts, and treatises up to 1215.


Session Laws

Coverage from 1988:

From 1837 - 1988

Spotty coverage on

From 1837 - 1988

Check other libraries through Worldcat

Older public acts:

EEBO  (1473-1700)

Gale 18th Century Collection

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