Short and long titles (legislation)

The short title is the formal name by which a piece of primary legislation may by law be cited in the United Kingdom and other Westminster-influenced jurisdictions (such as Canada or Australia), as well as the United States and the Philippines. It contrasts with the long title which, while usually being more fully descriptive of the legislation's purpose and effects, is generally too unwieldy for most uses. For example, the short title House of Lords Act 1999 contrasts with the long title An Act to restrict membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage; to make related provision about disqualifications for voting at elections to, and for membership of, the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.

The long title (properly, the title in some jurisdictions) is the formal title appearing at the head of a statute (such as an Act of Parliament or of Congress) or other legislative instrument. The long title is intended to provide a summarised description of the purpose or scope of the instrument. Like other descriptive components of an Act (such as the preamble, section headings, side notes, and short title) the long title seldom affects the operative provisions of an Act, except where the operative provisions are unclear or ambiguous and the long title provides a clear statement of the legislature's intention

Significance of long titles

In the United Kingdom, the long title is important since, under the procedures of Parliament, a Bill cannot be amended to go outside the scope of its long title. For that reason, modern long titles tend to be rather vague, ending with the formulation "and for connected purposes". The long title of an older Act is sometimes termed its rubric, because it was sometimes printed in red.[citation needed]

Short titles for Acts of Parliament were not introduced until the mid-19th century, and were not provided for every Act passed until late in the century; as such, the long title was used to identify the Act. Short titles were subsequently given to many unrepealed Acts at later dates; for example, the Bill of Rights (1689) was given that short title by the Short Titles Act 1896, having until then been formally referred to only by its long title, An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown. Similarly, in the US, the Judiciary Act of 1789, which was famously ruled unconstitutional in part by Marbury v. Madison, was called "An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States".

The long title was traditionally followed by the preamble, an optional part of an Act setting out a number of preliminary statements of facts similar to recitals, each starting Whereas....

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