The Law Commission is relying on you to help modernise the law.
‘Each generation has its duty to keep the law in conformity with the needs of the time.’ So said Lord Denning, speaking in support of the Law Commissions Bill during its second reading in the House of Lords in 1965. Since its subsequent establishment under the Law Commissions Act 1965, the Law Commission has sought to do exactly that.
We are charged by the act to keep under review all of the law of England and Wales. The aim of our work is to recommend to government reforms that will deliver law that is more coherent, accessible and up to date. The projects we take on may be referred directly from government departments but most are drawn from ideas that are submitted to us during our programme consultations.
We are now in the process of consulting for our next programme of law reform. Projects that emerge from this current consultation, which closes on 31 October, will go to make up the Commission’s 12th Programme, which we expect to submit to the lord chancellor next summer. If approved, these projects will make up the main part of our law reform work in the following three years.
In drawing up our programmes of reform, we try to consult as widely as possible. We are committed to ensuring that our work is informed by the knowledge and experience of the people who work in and with the law, and whose lives, businesses and other enterprises are shaped by it. We want to hear from the practitioners who work with the law every day. They are the people who are ideally placed to tell us where the law is in need of reform. They can see where the law is no longer working, where it has become too complex or inaccessible, or where it has simply fallen out of step with the times. They see, too, the impact this can have on the lives of their clients.
The work undertaken by the commission’s legal teams covers a wide spectrum of issues, as illustrated in the range of projects we accepted for our 11th Programme. These included reviews of the law relating to contempt of court, offences against the person, misconduct in public office, aspects of charity law, European contract law, enforcement of family financial orders, rights to light, groundless threats in patents, trademarks and design rights litigation, conservation covenants, data sharing between public bodies, and the regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles.
When assessing the projects suggested to us, we will ask:
- How important would this piece of work be? To what extent is the law unsatisfactory? Is it unfair, unduly complex, inaccessible or outdated? What potential benefits would be likely to flow from reform?
- How suitable is the project for the Law Commission? Would it be appropriate for recommendations for reform in this area to be put forward by a body of lawyers following legal research and consultation?
- Are the right resources available? What is the scale of the project? Do we have access to the people and expertise we will need?
The protocol we have agreed with the government, which came into force on 29 March 2010, is one of the steps taken by the commission in recent years to improve the implementation of our recommendations. It places obligations on both the commission and the government, the most crucial of which is that the lord chancellor will expect the minister of the relevant policy department to give an undertaking that there is a ‘serious intention’ to take forward law reform in the specific area proposed. We must be reassured as to government’s ‘serious intention’ before we accept a project.
The commission depends to a very high degree on the goodwill and practical support of the legal profession. We hope that practitioners will feel able to propose suitable projects for inclusion in the forthcoming programme of law reform.
Contributions can be made via the Law Commission website.
Lord Justice Lloyd Jones is chairman of the Law Commission for England and Wales.