The Machinery Of Law Reform

Publication Date01 Jan 1961
AuthorE. C. S. Wade
THE occasion of the appearance of a series
articles advocating
reform in some of the more substantial branches of private law
offers an opportunity of reviewing the existing machinery of law
reform. There are two standing committees
England and Wales
for this purpose appointed by the Lord Chancellor. They are the
Law Reform Committee, appointed by Lord Simonds in
the Private International Law Committee, which also dates from
Lord Simonds’ Chancellorship. Scotland has its own Law Reform
Committee, which was first appointed by the Lord Advocate at
the end of
In the field of criminal law, which is outside the
scope of this article, the Home Secretary’s standing committee-
the Criminal Law Revision Committee-was not appointed until
The terms of reference which were given
the Law Reform
Committee are
to consider, having regard especially to judicial
decisions, what changes are desirable in such legal doctrines as the
Lord Chancellor may from time to time refer to the Committee.”
These terms have an academic flavour with emphasis upon the
doctrine of judicial precedent. They are slightly more restrictive
than those given to the Law Revision Committee which sat from
until after the outbreak of the Second World War. That
Committee was asked to pay regard to statute law as well as
judicial decisions. But in practice, as will be seen, by reference
to the subjects referred to each Committee there has been little
difference in the type of subject considered, save that the first
Committee revised the Statutes of Ljmitation, whereas no com-
parable assault upon obsolete statute law has been entrusted to the
Law Reform Committee. In order to assist comparison there are
set out at the end of this article details of the composition and
achievements of both of these Committees.’
In practice the Law Reform Committee, of which Lord Jenkins
has been chairman since its institution, has been given a fairly
free hand in the choice of subjects which have been referred to it.
But there are somewhat severe limitations on the scope of its
activities. Broadly speaking, it is left to the government depart-
ments, other than the Lord Chancellor’s office, to decide whether
not those parts of the Statute Book which regulate the numerous
functions of government shall be revised. When a decision
favour of reform has been taken, it is not to the Law Reform
Committee but to an expert
committee, appointed
appropriate Minister, that the matter is referred. Occasionally
1 Annex,

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