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Regulatory Reform Act 2001

 “…by order make provision for the purpose of reforming legislation…”

38.This means that orders can only be directed at the reform of existing legislation. They cannot make entirely new provision; there has to be some Act or Acts of Parliament already in existence. So an order could not be used, for example, to remove burdens imposed solely by the common law.

39.The Act does not contain an express provision relating to common law, and it is not the intention to use the order-making power to seek to change, for example, the principles of contract law or of tort law. Under it, common law elements can only be dealt with within the context of reform of legislation. The anchor of the reform must be a piece or pieces of burdensome primary legislation (or a previous deregulation order or regulatory reform order), rather than common law. Legislation, whether primary or secondary, frequently affects the common law in this way. Legislation also frequently refers to common law concepts, such as contracts, and makes provision about them. To the extent that there has previously been no statutory provision on a matter, what is done will inevitably displace the common law to that extent. Particularly by virtue of the fact that the Act will enable limits to be removed from statutory powers, orders made under it are more likely to impinge on the common law than those made under the 1994 Act. This is very different from what is occasionally done, namely for a statute to make express provision amending a common law rule (often only capable of being described by reference to a particular case). The Act will not enable the Minister to make free-standing provision of this kind, even though it may be related to something which is covered by statute. Similar considerations apply in relation to Scots Private Law to the extent to which it is not in any case devolved.

40.The reference in this section to reform opens up the order-making power so that it can apply to a whole regulatory regime, addressing a number of different pieces of legislation if necessary. For example, the power could be used to simplify and rationalise the legislation governing fire safety, which is enshrined in approximately 120 Acts of Parliament and a similar number of statutory instruments. Where a burdensome situation results from such a variety of overlapping regimes, perhaps spread over primary legislation and secondary legislation (including different sets of regulations), the order could replace the entire range. The result would be the repeal of the legislation and new provision in what might be known as, for example, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. The confusion created by the variety of different provisions could be removed.

41.The term “reform” is given its natural meaning. Section 3(1) of the Law Commissions Act 1965 describes the systematic development and reform of the law as including “the codification of…law, the elimination of anomalies, the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments, the reduction of the number of separate enactments and generally the simplification and modernisation of the law”. In the Act the term “reform” has a similar meaning (other than in relation to codification) to that which it has in the Law Commissions Act. The key difference is that the concept in the Law Commissions Act is intended to cover the whole of the law while the Act is concerned only with burdensome statute law (as detailed below).

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