Britain prunes obsolete laws

Among the countless activities banned by old British laws are carrying a plank down a busy sidewalk and beating a carpet in the street “unless the item can be classified as a doormat and it is beaten before 8 a.m.” “So voluminous and eccentric is Britain’s collective body of 44,000 pieces of primary legislation that it has a small team of officials whose sole task is to prune it…. Sifting out the obsolete legislation is the work of two lawyers and a researcher at Britain’s Law Commission, which is responsible for reviewing laws and recommending changes. Thanks to them, more than 200 measures are scheduled to be repealed” in 2016. [New York Times]


  • This is the sort of action that sounds good but means nothing. How many of these laws have ever been enforced in the last few years? If I were a left wing busy body member of Congress, this is the sort of activity I would do to “prove” that i’m a reasonable legislator.

    • I’d rather have the old laws off the books than rely of the good will of the police/prosecutors/judges to not enforce it. In addition it makes looking up current law easier as you do not have to sort through all the old trash. Personally I think most laws should have a built in expiration date.

  • No, it has a purpose.

    When the law has a bunch of ridiculous stuff in it, like not carrying a plank down a busy sidewalk, that might make the average person think that other seemingly ridiculous things in the law, like not making two $5000 cash deposits to your own bank account, are similarly not enforced. They can find out the hard way which is which.

    Also, if you’re trying to just read the law to find whether a certain thing is illegal, it helps to not have a bunch of stupid unenforced laws just cluttering up the statutes. Getting rid of the deadwood is a good thing. And maybe they’re only pruning 0.5% of the laws, but something is better than nothing.

  • I can see it now being enforced: a red flag being walked 20 paces in front of your car as it hurtles down the motorway at a break-neck 3mph.