Yesterday the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill was given an unopposed second reading in the House of Lords. The Bill sets out to “promote the reform of the statute law by repeal… of certain enactments which are no longer of practical utility”.

Examples of legislation deemed to no longer be of practical utility included a law created to establish a lottery to win the Pigot diamond, a fund to rebuild St Paul’s cathedral after the Great Fire of London, and a piece of legislation from 1322 regarding the long-defunct Court of Exchequer. Lord Beecham discussed the overprovision of outdated legislation regarding Newcastle:

“In 1688 a sizeable proportion of the population of Newcastle-upon-Tyne were poor artificers and labourers who found it extremely difficult and costly to recover small debts”.

I can assure your Lordships that, unfortunately, still a sizeable proportion of the population of Newcastle is poor. I do not know whether artificers are around, and do not know how many are labourers, but there is certainly a significant proportion of people who are poor and who find it difficult to cope with such legal matters as dealing with their debts. To resolve the situations 300 years go, a local court was created under the wonderful title of the Erecting Newcastle-upon-Tyne Court of Conscience Act 1688; that is a wonderful description.”

It is doubtful the Imprisoned Debtors Discharge Society’s Act 1856, the Assam Railways and Trading Company’s Act 1897 and the London Gaslight Act 1852 will be missed. For a full list of legislation flagged up for reform the current text of the Bill is available here, and you can follow its progress at the Bills before Parliament page.