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Finding legislation

This guide outlines ways of finding Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments, and Bills of the UK Parliament. Some information is also provided about legislation for the devolved Assemblies of Northern Ireland and Wales and the Scottish Parliament.

What is legislation?

There are two types of legislation:

  • Primary legislation – the Acts of Parliament – issued in paper pamphlets as chapter numbers and numbered from one onwards each calendar year. Bills could be considered as draft Acts. These legislative proposals are introduced in each House of Parliament and, if it goes through the committee, readings and report stages and then receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act.
  • Secondary legislation, also called subsidiary, subordinate, or delegated legislation – known as Statutory Rules, Orders, or Instruments, depending on the jurisdiction within the UK. In the UK Parliament they are usually made by a Minister under powers provided by an Act of Parliament.

In addition to the official versions, now published by the The Stationery Office (TSO), there are non-official versions of legislation. These can be more useful because they are annotated, providing explanation or interpretation. They also give details of cases and other Acts or Statutory Instruments that are relevant to the subject matter of the particular Act.

Local and Personal legislation, now sometimes confusingly called Private Acts, which as their names suggest, relate to a particular locality or person, are available in print or online.

Online access to legislation

Some legislation is available on the following websites:

More details below.

Finding Acts of Parliament

Go to the website for online access to:

  • All Public General Acts and local acts from 1988 and most other UK Parliament primary legislation before this date
  • Links to Acts passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament, and Measures of the National Assembly for Wales
  • Explanatory notes published for the Acts of the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, and Acts and Measures of the National Assembly for Wales

Finding Statutory Instruments (SI's)

Go to the website for online access to:

  • SIs from 1988 onwards, normally with explanatory memorandums.
  • Scottish and Welsh Statutory Instruments and Northern Ireland Statutory Rules

Finding Bills

All current Public Bills and those from Session 2002-03 are online on the UK Parliament Bills & Legislation website. Earlier Bills are reproduced on the U.K. Parliamentary Papers database.

Northern Ireland Bills beginning with the 1999-2000 session are on the Northern Ireland Assembly website.

The Scottish Parliament Bills website includes all Bills since its establishment in 1999, together with explanatory notes and memorandums.

The National Assembly for Wales website includes details of Bills from 2011 onwards, when the Assembly was granted the power to make Acts, and earlier proposed Measures.


Contact us for further help finding legislation.