Make statutes easier to understand, urges House of Lords

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Students’ purple books about to get thinner?

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The House of Lords Constitution Committee has called on the government to make statutes more accessible and easier to understand, both for practitioners and the public.

Law students will probably come across statute books during their degree, the most popular being the purple Blackstone’s editions. These contain relevant pieces of legislation on one topic (criminal law, company law, etc) and can generally be brought into exams as long as they don’t have notes in them.

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While these texts are a real crutch in assessments, no one’s pretending the statutes inside them are perfect.

The committee, chaired by Labour’s Baroness Taylor of Bolton, goes as far as to say there are some large bodies of law which are “remarkably inaccessible and difficult for practitioners to comprehend, let alone the average citizen”. The report adds:

“Witnesses pointed to immigration law, tax law and sentencing as examples of areas where the complexity of law had developed to the point that it was a serious threat to the ability of lawyers and judges to apply it consistently — not to mention raising rule of law concerns as to the ability of the general public to understand the law to which they are subject.”

The committee, on which Gina Miller’s Article 50 case barrister, Lord Pannick, sits, thinks consolidation is key.

“We recommend that the government should, as a priority, provide the Law Commission with the necessary resources to start consolidating those areas of the law where consistent application of the law is now under threat from the sheer complexity of the existing statute book,” the report states. Hopefully these recommendations will translate into clearer, more understandable laws — and less heavy statute books.

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