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Overview Of The Process Of Law Reform In The English Legal System

2408 words - 10 pages

The intention of this essay is to explain the process of law reform within the English legal system. The way in which the activity of parliament and that of the judiciary affects the way in which laws are reformed in the UK will be also discussed. The common law system in the UK means that the UK's primary legal principles have been developed by the judiciary rather than by parliament. However, as parliamentary sovereignty is an important key principle of the UK constitution parliament is the supreme legal authority in the UK. Parliament can create, change or repeal any law and generally speaking the judiciary cannot overrule legislation that has been passed by parliament.

The primary source of legislation and law reform in the UK is the Westminster Parliament, which consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Parliament amends existing legislation in order to update the law to account for additional factors that may have come to have an influence on a particular area of law. Green papers and white papers which are also known as discussion documents or Bills are presented to parliament for debate. These documents contain the details of ideas for new laws or ideas for the reform of or amendment of existing laws. Bills go through several stages known as readings before becoming Acts of Parliament. During the first reading the proposal for a change in the law is formally introduced to parliament. The second reading gives parliament the opportunity to debate the general contents of the Bill. At the committee stage a detailed examination of the proposals takes place and proposals for amendments are made. Any amendments which may have been made are discussed further at the report stage. The third reading is the final opportunity for parliament to debate the proposed legislation. Both Houses of Parliament take part in these procedures and both Houses must agree on the wording of of the Bill before it can become an Act of Parliament. If no agreement can be reached the House of Commons will take precedence over the House of Lords. The Bill will finally become an Act of Parliament and becomes part of English law when it has received Royal Assent. The Hunting Act 2004 is an example of a Bill on which no agreement between the House of Common and the House of Lords could be reached.

There are several types of Bills that can be introduced to parliament. Government Bills also known as Public Bills must be approved by the cabinet as these Bills are being introduced in the name of the party that is in office. These Bills will also have to go through a consultation stage before being introduced to parliament. Public Bills are the most common form of Bills that are introduced to parliament. This type of Bill affects the laws that apply to the general public. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Criminal Justice Act 2003 are both examples of Government Bills. Private Members Bills are introduced by individual members of...

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