The Law Commission is an independent body, but one which has statutory powers in terms of the law in this country. It was founded following the Law Commissions Act of 1965, with the overarching aim of providing continuous review and reform of the laws of England and Wales.
The Law Commission itself states that it has four primary objectives in terms of how it carries out its role. It aims to make sure that the law is:
• Cost effective
What Does the Law Commission Do, and How Is It Independent?
As well as adhering to the four main principles described above, the Commission regularly undertakes research and consultations so that it can make well-informed and appropriate recommendations to the Government in order to keep the law relevant. It also has a big role in repealing historical and obsolete pieces of legislation so that the law is timely and suits the circumstances in which we live. This area is known as law reform and is crucial to the success and relevance of the law in this country.
The Law Commission has a particularly broad structure which includes a Chair plus four commissioners, a Chief Executive and two Non-Executive Board Members. It publishes an annual business plan which lays out the priorities for the coming year, and reports on its outcomes in a set of annual reports.
Independence plays a big role in the work of the Law Commission. The consultations that are carried out are thorough, and the action that is proposed as a result can sometimes be unexpected or different to what was originally planned. It is this very nature of independence which clearly separates the Law Commission from the Government and from Government policy itself. The Government is not bound by the views or recommendations of the Law Commission, nor is the Commission bound by specific Government policies.
How Does the Law Commission Conduct Its Reforms?
When deciding upon which projects to prioritise and work on, the Law Commission considers the following criteria:
• The importance of the change
This involves an assessment of the problems with the current legislation and the impact that these problems have, as well as what the likely benefits to be gained from reform will be.
• The resources that are available
All new projects are carefully weighed up to ensure that adequate funding is available to undertake reform. An important factor in this regard is the availability and knowledge of appropriate Commissioners to research and implement the suggestions.
• Whether or not the Law Commission is the most suitable body to perform the work
An important feature of the work of the Law Commission is public consultation. Essentially, this means that all projects that are considered or taken on which relate to review or reform of the law go through a thorough and detailed public consultation. There are a number of principles set out by the Cabinet Office that must be followed in relation to these public consultations; these can be viewed online.
How Does the Law Commission Review and Analyse the Results of Its Work?
It is crucial that any reforms that are undertaken are thoroughly assessed post-implementation in order to ensure that they provide maximum effectiveness and benefit to the public. Formal impact assessments are required and are often carried out continually through the reform process. One of the most useful ways of assessing impact is through talking to individuals or companies that benefit in some way from the change in the law, be it financially or through efficiency or convenience, and asking them to pinpoint the positive results that they have experienced following the reform.
In ILSPA’s online Student and Member area, you can find a handy link to the Law Commission and other legal organisations that can help you with your work and studies.