Many Influences on Parliament
The influences on parliament can be many; here are some of the influences;
The government of the day will have had a party manifesto. This then becomes the government’s programme of reform. E.g. the labour manifesto said they would implement the European Convention on Human Rights. When they got into power they introduced the Human Rights Act 1998. At the start of each session of Parliament the Queen gives a speech which sets out the laws that the government wants to introduce.
European Union Law
They may pass an Act of Parliament to bring domestic law in line with EU law. It might be to implement a European Regulation or Directive e.g. Product Liability Directive led to the Consumer Protection Act 1987. It may also be due to a decision made by the E.C.J e.g. The Sex Discrimination Act 1986.
It is unusual for an MP to introduce an act of Parliament, as you would have to get support from other MPs and there is very little Parliamentary time. (Statutory legal rules) e.g. The Abortion Act 1967, it was introduced by David Steel as a Private Member’s Bill, but was backed by the Government.
Law reform agencies, commissions or inquires may lead to changes n the law (Law reform).
These are bodies of people with a shared interest in getting the government to change the law in certain areas. They will target politicians, civil servants and local government officers. They will use things like petitions; they will lobby MPs. Pressure groups may lead to change in the law because the Law Commission receive the views of pressure groups when reviewing law.
Examples of some pressure groups are;
Cause Groups-promote a particular idea or belief. For Example Shelter, Help the Aged and Green Peace, they are well organised and have been successful, e.g. Shelter led to the Housing Act 1977.
ASH(Action on smoking and health)- Campaigned for smoking to be banned in public places and together with medical evidence led to a ban being brought in, in July 2007.
Sectional or Interest groups further the ends of their own particular section of society. E.g. Trade Unions, the National Farmers Union, the Confederation of British Industry and professional associations such as the British Medical Association.
A specific event may lead to a change in the law and once the law is changed the body will disband. For example The Dunblane massacre in March 1996, a gunman entered a school in Scotland and killed 16 children and their teacher. This lead to an inquiry in Gun Laws and in March 1997 the Firearms Act 1997 banned private ownership of most hand guns. It was due to pressure by the families who had set up the Snowdrop Appeal.
The media includes TV, Radio, Newspapers and Journals. They can all highlight public concern.
Different newspapers will have areas of concern. For example the Daily Mail often has headlines regarding immigration, asylum seekers and The Sun sell most papers in the country has strong influence against joining the EU.
Reform Bodies and Commissions
1934 was the year the Law Revision Committee was set up. It was responsible for law reform and operated until the out break of the Second World War and after that there was no permanent law reform body.
In 1965 a full time law reform body was set up and it was called the Law Commission.
Law Reform Committee
Created in 1952 it was part time and only deal with some areas of civil law, usually on a technical point referred by the government. Its proposals have led to the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, Civil Evidence Act 1968 and the Latent Damage Act 1986.
Criminal Law Revision Committee
Set up in 1957, part time that recommended changes to the law; it sat monthly until 1986 and produced 18 reports. Often its recommended would not be able to be heard because of the lack of parliament time. One of its main achievements was the Theft Act 1968.
The Law Commission
The main law reform body set up in 1965 by the Law Commissions Act. It is full time and a High Court Judge is chairman and there are 4 other law commissioners. They have researchers with them and parliamentary drafts men.
The Lord Chancellor can refer topics to the commission on behalf of the government or the commission can select a topic end ask the government for approval.
The Law Commission researches the law and publishers a consultation paper. It will state:-
The problems with the law
And the proposals for reform
Once they get a response to the paper they will draw up a report and there will be a bill attached to it.
Statute Law Bill- the law commission prepare this for parliament to pass to repeal old laws that are still on the statute books but are no longer relevant.
By 2005, 17 bills had been enacted and more than 2000 out of date acts had been repealed.
By tidying up the law in this way it does make the law clearer and more accessible as there are not as many acts to look through to find the law.
This is needed because often there are several acts on the same area of law. Each one will set out a little bit of the law and so consolidation aims to put all that law under one act. The Commission produces about 5 consolidation bills each year. The problem is, as fast as they produce the bills, there are more acts being introduced e.g. the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 2000, consolidated the law on sentencing. But the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was passed changing the law again.
This involves bringing all the law on one topic into one source of law and is one of the Commission’s aims as set out in S3. When the Commission was introduced, it sets out a programme to codify family law, contract law, and landlord and tenant law. But they changed this to just codifying small sections of law that can be added to later.
Success of The Law Commission
Although it has not achieved its original plan of codification is has been successful in dealing with smaller areas of law.
Originally it was very successful in the first 2 years they enacted 20 law reform programmes e.g Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, Occupiers Liability Act 1984, Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 also the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.
In 1990 none of its reforms were enacted and by 1992 there was a back log of 36 bills.
In 2006 26 reports were waiting to be implemented and the oldest one dated back to 1991.
The Land Registration Act 2002 is its biggest success story, it reforms and modernises the method of registering land.
The Criminal law is its biggest unresolved problem, they worked with 3 leading academics to produce a draft criminal code in 1985, it has never been considered by parliament.
Sits part-time and they come together to investigate and report on an area of law and then they disband.
May be asked to lead investigations e.g Lord Woofe who led to changes in civil law brought in the tracks