An Act by another name….

62137During the passage of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill I called attention to the fact that it was essentially three Bills in one – the short title was something of a giveaway.  However, I also noted that it was mistitled.  It was not about the transparency of lobbying.  The prescribed register was less transparent than under self-regulation and it was about status (lobbyists) and not activity (lobbying).  However, it is not the only piece of legislation that is misleading in title.  The Fixed-term Parliaments Act does not, strictly speaking, provide for fixed-term Parliaments, but rather semi-fixed Parliaments.  The Recall of MPs Bill, presently in the Lords, does not provide for recall as it tends to be understood where it already exists.  It does not so much recall an MP as provide that, in the light of a decision by the House of Commons or a court, a petition may trigger a by-election in which the incumbent can seek re-election.  There are just recent examples.  A great many Bills could come under the generic title of ‘The Something Must Be Done Bill’.

I suspect readers may be able to suggest other Acts that are misleadingly or inappropriately titled.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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4 Responses to An Act by another name….

  1. Parliamentary Standards Act 2009?
    Many ‘Local Government’ Acts?

  2. Croft says:

    Fiscal Responsibility Act 2010 (in the financial year we ran the largest ever peacetime deficit!) setting aside the constitutional nonsense of legislating over something your can’t bind a future parliament.

  3. James Hand says:

    Have some of the comments disappeared – I remember seeing reference to the (recently repealed) Septennial Act somewhere on similar lines – but maybe elsewhere?

    Echoing the post at, the Equality Act 2006 would better be seen as the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act as it was from the start a highly selective jumble of provisions (with some now repealed and replaced by the wider Equality Act 2010, itself not wholly embracing but at least represents a core of Equality law unlike the 2006 Act).

  4. Liam says:

    Given that reform is defined as ‘change for the better’ I imagine there are a fair number who view various Welfare Reform Acts as dubiously titled!

    More importantly though wasn’t the 1806 Foreign Slave Trade Act deliberately titled as part of the abolitionists’ efforts to make it appear as a war measure aimed towards France, when its main effect was in fact to irreparably damage Britain’s own slave trade? A case when being deliberately misleading about the content/consequences of a bill was unarguably a good thing!

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