Most types of primary legislation (eg Acts, Measures, NI Orders in Council) on legislation.gov.uk are intended to be held in “revised” form, meaning that amendments made by subsequent legislation are incorporated into the text. Most types of secondary legislation are not revised and are held only in the form in which they were originally made.
A central criticism of legislation.gov.uk in the past has been that much primary legislation is not in fact up to date, in some cases lagging several years behind amending instruments. However, recent efforts have turned this situation around.
Legislation.gov.uk is now in the final stages of a programme to bring all the revised legislation fully up to date. Except for a few special cases that require extra work (such as the Taxes Management Act 1970), the backlog of outstanding effects will have been cleared and the revised legislation brought up to date by the end of 2018.
Matthew Bell, Head of Legislation at the National Archives, elaborates:
“As you can imagine, we’ve made a lot of progress over recent years, and the last 2 to 3 years in particular have really seen the investment made in our editorial team and tools begin to show dividends. In the last year we have applied over 70,000 amendments, up from 50,000 the previous year and 30,000 the year before that.
“As things stand today, 95.8 per cent of primary legislation on legislation.gov.uk is up to date – we have updated the statement on our help page to reflect this. As importantly, it’s worth noting that we are committed to ensuring that we can maintain this level of currency. We have been adapting our working practices to balance the ongoing work to bring the remaining Acts up to date with the need to make sure that those which are up to date do not fall behind as new amendments come along. Of the 4.2 per cent of Acts remaining, all of them are works in progress, including the handful of Taxes Acts which historically were never maintained by the statute law database (pre-legislation.gov.uk), and will require a huge amount of work to complete.
“One other point worth making – while the 95.8 figure refers to Acts which are up to date, you should note that 100 per cent of amendments – including to secondary legislation since 2002 – are recorded in our system and available online via our Changes to Legislation feature. This means that all of the information that you would need to know the status of any piece of in-force UK legislation can be found on legislation.gov.uk, even in the case of legislation which is not currently updated.
“Finally, this will soon apply to legislation made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which will be generating amendments to retained EU legislation (ie regulations and decisions which will be brought into the UK statute book post-exit). We are set up to be able to record these amendments as soon as they are published, and they will be available via Changes to Legislation as well. I would encourage you to watch this space for further developments relating to EU legislation on legislation.gov.uk.”