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Statutes explained

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Parliament and Statutes

Acts of Parliament are often referred to by their date and chapter number. The date of the statute is based upon the year of the reign of the presiding monarch. This is known as the Regnal Year. Thus the Acts referred to in the tables have two types of dates; the regnal year and the Christian year.

The use of the regnal year dates from earliest times. Until quite recently, many official documents would only use the regnal year making dating of the document in question a problem unless you know the system. The system is necessarily complicated because very few kings or queens assume their thrones on January 1 in any year. For example, Queen Victoria assumed the throne on 20 June 1837. So her first year of reign lasted from 20 June 1837 to 19 June 1838. So acts passed in the 1 Victoria could be either dated to 1837 or 1838! Some sessions of Parliament extended over two regnal years so the acts passed by that session must be cited by both years, hence for example, the citation of the 1847 Harbour Act as 10 & 11 Vict., c.260 (c. means chapter or section)

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The View Sunday October 15 2000

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