Reading a statute part 3 of 3

Towards the end of the Act there are a number of formal sections.

Activity : Describe 5 further things a statute may contain

For the purpose of this Activity we are returning to the Act’s table of contents. You can find the contents page of the Legal Services Act 2007 by clicking on this here. Below, click on the plus icon next to the name of the part of the statute which will then reveal a highlighted version of the contents page showing the relevant part of the statute.

The Definitions section gives the meaning of key words in the text of the Act. When considering if a statutory provision applies to a particular situation you should remember that many of the words used in the provision will be given special meanings by the statute itself. If a term is used with a special meaning only in one section, the meaning will be set out in that section, usually at or near the end of it. For terms used in several places, there will be a section with the title ‘Definitions’, either at the end of the part of the Act in which the defined terms are used or near the end of the whole Act. Locating the definitions provisions is an essential step when trying to understand an Act. You should be aware that most phrases and words will be defined in the Statute itself. If the words are not defined you are required to look at the common law to see if previous courts have considered the interpretation of the statute.

The Commencement section of an will explain when provisions come into force. An Act will not always come into force on the date of Royal Assent. This section will either state a future date or allow for the Act to be brought into force by delegated legislation (i.e. a statutory instrument). Often, different parts of the Act will have different commencement provisions and will come into force on different dates. The basic rule is that an Act of Parliament comes into force at the first moment of the day on which royal assent is pronounced in Parliament, unless there is provision for it to come into force on another day (section 4 of the Interpretation Act 1978). In practice nearly every Act includes a section titled ‘Commencement’ which provides that the Act (apart, perhaps, from formal provisions such as the commencement section itself) will come into force at some future date.

An Act may have one or more schedules following the main body. Where this is the case, the schedules (collectively) constitute a major structural division within the legislation.

It is very common for primary legislation to empower a government minister (sometimes other persons) to make legislation, which is called ‘secondary legislation’. Usually secondary legislation is required to be made by statutory instrument (SI). Secondary legislation usually deals with the detailed implementation of primary legislation. The title of a piece of secondary legislation may include one of the words ‘Order’, ‘Regulations’ or ‘Rules’. An Order is divided into ‘articles’ (abbreviation, art). The more obviously named subdivisions of Regulations and Rules are, respectively, ‘regulations’ (abbreviation, reg) and ‘rules’ (abbreviation, r).