1. Is your jurisdiction primarily a common law, civil law, customary law or theocratic law jurisdiction? Are the laws substantially derived from the laws of another jurisdiction and, if so, which? What instruments have legal force and effect? Who are the lawmaking bodies? How and where are new laws published? Can laws be passed with retrospective effect?
England is a common law jurisdiction. The doctrine of precedent means that a considerable amount of English law is to be found in the judgments of the courts, which, to the extent that they develop the common law in their decisions, must be regarded as lawmaking bodies. Statute law, as interpreted by the courts, also forms part of English law. Parliament, as the lawmaking body, makes the law by passing Acts of Parliament. Parliament has the power, by passing Acts of Parliament, to amend the common law as developed by the courts. Much of statute law is classed as subordinate or delegated legislation that is enacted pursuant to powers conferred by Acts of Parliament. A significant part of this subordinate or delegated legislation is drafted on behalf of government ministers in the form of statutory instruments and laid before Parliament for approval. Other subordinate legislation is made by bodies such as local authorities pursuant to powers conferred on them by Act of Parliament for regulating the conduct of certain activities or persons within their area.
Acts of Parliament and statutory instruments are published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. The electronic text of all United Kingdom statutes and statutory instruments, including a certain amount of updated legislation, is made available to the public without charge on a website dedicated to that purpose: www.legislation.gov.uk. As to publication of court decisions, see question 43.
In civil matters, an amending enactment is generally assumed to change the relevant law only from the time of the enactment's commencement. However, it may provide, expressly or by implication, that its effect is retrospective. Depending upon the circumstances, some court judgments can have retrospective effect, for example, where they extend a principle into areas to which hitherto it had not been thought to apply.Answer contributed by Victoria Peckett and Rupert Choat
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang and Atkin Chambers