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Westlaw’s Annotated Statutes & Legislative Drafting

On Wednesday 16 September I went to Westlaw’s launch of their annotated statutes service.

This looks to be an interesting addition content on Westlaw; giving interpretations, guidance on new and recent laws. It is interesting to note the emphasis that content is written specifically for the online environment –  a  reference to the fact the service is being developed in light of Lexis Library’s hosting of Halsbury’s Laws.

The launch centred on an entertaining talk from Daniel Greenberg, Parliamentary Counsel. He is leading the team, currently around 40 freelancers, who are adding the new content to Westlaw.

Daniel’s talk was arranged around three difficulties with legislation: it is complex, technical and obscure. He illustrated the need for legislation to be adequately available to the man in the street using several major cases including ZL & VL v Secretary Of State For The Home Department And Lord Chancellor’s Department [2003] EWCA Civ 25 which hinged on whether a delay between an Act receiving Royal Assent and its publication meant the legislation was not enforceable – a real example of how the process of producing legislation can have consequences.

He noted that, in the face of criticism of lengthy legislation, it was not wise to ‘sacrifice certainty for simplicity.’ The explanation of why legislation is often referential was helpful too. Using insolvency as an example, Daniel explained that SI 2009/356 was drafted to enable speedy and accurate comparisons to be made with the existing insolvency Acts. If the information had been subsumed within other legislation, this process would have been more complicated. It is claimed to be easier to see which parts of existing legislation have been amended or apply in certain situations if one is referred to an SI.

My notes here say ‘poodles and building societies’ which I believe is in part a reference to s84 of the Banking Act 2009, which illusrates this approach. This section sets out in table form where the provisions of the Banking Act apply to building societies, and where they do not. So in many cases, it is not the amount of information included in an Act, but the presentation of that information and the ability of the draftsman to lead his reader in a logical fashion through the legislation.

Two articles on the reading list, alongside the cases referred to, helped to illustrate this point and are worth a quick read if one is interested:

Greenberg, D. (2006). All trains stop at Crewe: The rise and rise of contextual drafting. European Journal of Law Reform. 7(1/2), p31.

Greenberg, D. (2008). Hansard, the whole Hansard and nothing but the Hansard. Law Quarterly Review. 124 (April) p181.

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