Sources and bibliography

Citation of Acts of Parliament

Acts are cited by a short title and a numerical citation, neither of which was a simple matter for the period covered by this website.

Short Titles

Acts have always had long titles which fully describe their contents but are unwieldy for citation. Since the mid nineteenth century short titles have been used for this purpose. Nowadays the short title is always assigned in the Act itself but before the passing of the Short Titles Act 1892 this was not done consistently. Where no short title has been assigned by the Act itself or retrospectively by another Act, I have for consistency used the descriptions in Chronological table of the statutes or in Chronological table of local legislation 1797-1994, as appropriate, even though these are not true short titles (and can result in some ambiguity because there can be more than Act with the same descriptive name in the same year).

Note that the year of enactment forms part of the short title, and is not preceded by a comma.


Since 1963, following the enactment of the Acts of Parliament Numbering and Citation Act 1962, Acts have been cited by the year in which they were passed and within each year by a running number called a chapter number, preceded by the abbreviation 'c' or 'cap' (from caput, the Latin for chapter, and the notion that individual Acts are chapters of the Statute Book). Thus the London Government Act 1963 is cited as 1963 cap 33.

Before the 1962 Act, Acts were instead numbered consecutively within each session of Parliament. A session of Parliament was in turn denominated by the regnal year or years in which it fell. A regnal year is the year from one anniversary of a monarch's accession to the throne to the next. Queen Victoria came to throne on 20th June 1837, so her first regnal year lasted from that date until 19th June 1838, and therefore her 24th year from 20th June 1860 to 19th June 1861. Sessions of Parliament frequently (depending on the monarch's date of accession) commenced in one regnal year and finished in the next. So the session that ran from February to August 1861 was partly in Victoria's 24th regnal year and partly in her 25th, and was therefore known as the Session "24 & 25 Victoria", abbreviated as "24 & 25 Vict". The London Coal and Wine Duties Continuance Act 1861 was the 42nd Act passed in that session so its numerical citation is "24 & 25 Vict cap 42".

Sometimes the regular pattern of one session a year was broken. Where there were two sessions in a single regnal year they were usually referred to as Session 1 and Session 2. So the Bringing of Coals, etc, to London Act 1807 and the Westminster Court House Act 1807 were passed in the sessions 47 Geo III sess 1 and 47 Geo III sess 2 respectively. However when there had been an intervening general election so that the sessions were of different parliaments the different sessions were called statutes. So the Completing of St Paul's, etc Act 1702 is 1 Anne stat 2 cap 12 because it was passed in the second session of that regnal year by the Parliament that came into being after the general election of that year.

Before 1797 Acts were published individually when they were enacted, but there were no regular cumulations which means that copies are not always easy to locate and reference has to be made to subsequently published collections. Unfortunately, different collections do not always agree on numbering. The numbering in Statutes of the Realm is the preferred system but following the Chronological table of the statutes the alternative citations of Ruffhead and other editions of Statutes at Large are given where these differ. An example is the Rebuilding of London Act 1666 which is 18 & 19 Charles II cap 8 in Statutes of the Realm, but 19 Charles II cap 3 in Ruffhead and other editions of Statutes at Large.

Since 1797 Acts of a local character have been numbered in a separate sequence of chapter numbers. In the case of the Acts relating to the London coal duties there was no consistency in whether the Acts were regarded as being local or general. The list here follows the accepted modern convention whereby the chapter numbers of public Acts are given in Arabic numerals and local Acts are distinguished by their chapter numbers being given in lower case roman numerals, irrespective of how these appear in actual printed copies of the Acts.

Page created by Martin Nail: Contact me. Last revised 31st March 2010

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