Citation of primary legislation as a whole
Each piece of legislation passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom ("Westminster") is known as an Act of Parliament.
Each modern Act of Parliament has a title (also known as a "long title") and a short title. A short title provides a convenient name for referring to an individual Act, such as "
Jamaica Independence Act 1962". The long title is more comprehensive in scope, providing a sometimes very detailed description of the Act's provisions that is too unwieldy for convenient citation; for example, the long title of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is around 400 words long.
Acts are today split between three series: Public General Acts, Local Acts, and Personal Acts. Each Act within each series is numbered sequentially with a chapter number. Since 1 January 1963, chapter numbers in each series have been numbered by calendar year. The first Public General Act passed in a year is "c. 1", the second is "c. 2", and so on; the first Local Act of a year is "c. i", the second is "c. ii", and so on; while the first Personal Act of a year is "c. 1", the second is "c. 2", and so on (note the use of italics).
Chapter numbers for Acts passed before 1963 are not by calendar year, but instead by the year(s) of the reign during which the relevant parliamentary session was held; thus the Jamaica Independence Act 1962 is cited as "10 & 11 Eliz. 2 c. 40", meaning the 40th Act passed during the session that started in the 10th year of the reign of Elizabeth II and which finished in the 11th year of that reign. Note that the regnal numeral is in an Arabic rather than a Roman numeral.
Short titles were only introduced in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it was only by the late 1890s that every individual Act of Parliament had one. Some earlier Acts that originally lacked a short title were given one by later legislation, most notably by the Short Titles Act 1896; also, since the independence of the Irish state in 1922, an Act may have a different short title in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland because of the different legislation passed in the two states. Older Acts may also have a "conventional" short title, such as "Crewe's Act".
The Parliament of the United Kingdom came into being on 1 January 1801; before that date, legislation was passed either by the Parliament of Great Britain or the Parliament of Ireland. Similarly, the Parliament of Great Britain came into being on 1 May 1707 (OS); before that date, legislation was passed either by the Parliament of England or the Parliament of Scotland. Acts passed by each of these parliaments, except for the Parliament of Scotland, are cited in the same way as pre-1963 Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom; i.e., by parliamentary session and chapter number. Acts passed by the Parliament of Scotland are cited by calendar year and chapter number. Note also that Acts of the last session of the Parliament of Great Britain and the first session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom are both cited as "41 Geo. 3". Also, the numbering of Acts passed by the first Parliament of Great Britain is in direct continuation from the last Act passed by the former Parliament of England.
Some individual Acts from these parliaments have more than one citation, depending on the edition in which the Act is printed. Modern practice for the parliaments of England and Great Britain is to follow the citations used in The Statutes of the Realm, while for Scotland the citations used are those in
The Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland (both of which are considered legally authoritative). These latter citations are also used in the official Chronological Table of the Statutes.
Only a small number of Acts passed by these parliaments have been given a short title by later legislation.
Primary legislation passed by devolved bodies
All legislation passed by the various devolved parliaments and assemblies has both a short title and a long title.
Parliament of Northern Ireland (1921 to 1972)
Each piece of legislation passed by the former Parliament of Northern Ireland (Stormont) was also known as an Act of Parliament. The system of citation of Northern Ireland Acts of Parliament is almost identical to that for the Westminster parliament, except that the change to numbering by calendar year happened earlier (starting in 1944), and that Northern Ireland Acts are cited in Westminster legislation with "(NI)" appended to the chapter number.
There is a difference in naming convention between Acts passed in Northern Ireland and Acts passed at Westminster but relating to Northern Ireland. Thus, the
Criminal Evidence Act (Northern Ireland) 1923 is an Act passed at Stormont, but the
Criminal Appeal (Northern Ireland) Act 1930 is an Act passed at Westminster (note the different placement of "(Northern Ireland)" in the two).
Northern Ireland Assembly (since 1999)
Acts passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly are cited by calendar year and chapter number.
Scottish Parliament (since 1999)
Each Act of the Scottish Parliament is cited by calendar year and the acronymic "asp" number ; e.g., the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 is "2000 asp 5".
National Assembly for Wales (since 1999)
Measures of the National Assembly for Wales (2003–2011) are cited by calendar year and the acronymic "nawm" number; e.g., the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 is "2011 nawm 1" ("2011 mccc 1" in Welsh).
Acts of the National Assembly for Wales (2012–) are cited by calendar year and acronymic "anaw" number; e.g. the National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012 is "2012 anaw 1" ("2012 dccc 1" in Welsh).
Church of England legislation (since 1920)
Measures passed by the General Synod of the Church of England (formerly the Church Assembly) follow the numbering conventions used for Westminster legislation, except that each Measure has a "Number" rather than a chapter number. For example, the
New Parishes Measure 1943 is cited as "6 & 7 Geo. 6 No. 1".