Local and Personal Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom
Local and Personal Acts of Parliament (also known as Private Acts) are laws in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 which apply to a particular individual or group of individuals, or corporate entity. This contrasts with a Public General Act of Parliament
Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom
An Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom is a type of legislation called primary legislation. These Acts are passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster, or by the Scottish Parliament at Edinburgh....

 which applies to the entire community. Private Acts can afford relief from another law, grant a unique benefit or powers not available under the general law, or relieve someone from legal responsibility for some allegedly wrongful act.

There are two types of private Act: Acts for the benefit of individuals (known as Private or Personal Acts), and others Acts of local or limited application (known as Local Acts). Private Acts should not be confused with a private member's bill
Private Member's Bill
A member of parliament’s legislative motion, called a private member's bill or a member's bill in some parliaments, is a proposed law introduced by a member of a legislature. In most countries with a parliamentary system, most bills are proposed by the government, not by individual members of the...

, which in the Westminster system is a bill for a public general Act of Parliament proposed by an individual parliamentarian rather than the government.

About 11,000 Private or Personal Acts have been passed since 1539, and 26,500 Local Acts have became law since 1797 (when Local Acts were separated from Public General Acts).

Personal Acts

Personal Acts developed as a means of allowing individuals to obtain redress from a specific wrong, or to obtain a benefit that was not otherwise available through statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 or the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

. The granting of divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

s, the naturalisation of (granting of citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 to) foreigners, and changing the terms of a will
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

, were often given effect through this means. In more recent years (since the introduction of general divorce and nationality laws) the use of Personal Acts has greatly decreased, and since 1980 they have only been used to authorise marriages between individuals who would not otherwise be able to marry
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 due to being within the prohibited degrees of relationship.

Until 1815, Private and Personal Acts were not officially printed (made available to the public). Between 1815 and 1922, divorce Acts continued not to be printed, whilst other personal Acts were.

Local Acts

Local Acts are generally for the benefit of organisations, or used to authorise major projects such as railways or canals, or to grant extra powers to local authorities.

However they are not limited to the above topics and can potentially deal with any issue. For example, the Dawat-e-Hadiyah (England) Act 1993 incorporated the Dai al-Mutlaq as a corporation sole
Corporation sole
A corporation sole is a legal entity consisting of a single incorporated office, occupied by a single man or woman. This allows a corporation to pass vertically in time from one office holder to the next successor-in-office, giving the position legal continuity with each subsequent office...

, whilst the Harris Tweed Act of the same year established the Harris Tweed Authority "to promote and maintain the authenticity, standard and reputation of Harris Tweed
Harris Tweed
Harris Tweed is a cloth that has been handwoven by the islanders on the Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, using local wool....


Corporations and major projects

In the nineteenth century, Local Acts were used to create corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

s, grant monopolies and (most frequently) for the construction of railways, canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s and other works projects.

Their use has become more limited in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as statute law (principally the Transport and Works Act 1992
Transport and Works Act 1992
The Transport and Works Act 1992 was established by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to provide a system by which the construction of rail transport, tramway, inland waterway and harbour infrastructure could proceed in the UK by order of the Minister of State for Transport rather than, as...

) and statutory instruments have enabled many situations to be dealt with through other legislative mechanisms. Major public transport projects which do require the passing of a specific Act of Parliament now tend to be dealt with as Hybrid Bill
Hybrid bill
In the United Kingdom, a hybrid bill is a public bill which affects the private interests of a particular person or organization. It is generally initiated by the Government on behalf of non-Parliamentary bodies such as local authorities and is treated like a private bill for the beginning of its...

s which become Public General Acts of Parliament.

However Local Acts are still used for purposes such as corporate restructurings, where the corporations in question have particularly complicated legal histories. Recent examples include the HSBC Investment Banking Act 2002 and the HBOS Group Reorganisation Act 2006
HBOS Group Reorganisation Act 2006
The HBOS Group Reorganisation Act 2006 is a private Act of Parliament, passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in June 2006. The aim of the act was to provide HBOS plc, a banking and insurance group in the UK, the legal authority to reorganise its subsidiaries into a simplified structure...

. Similarly, major changes to the organsiation of universities
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 or charities
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 are sometimes also given effect through Local Acts: for example the University of Manchester Act 2004 merged the two universities in Manchester into a single institution.

Local authorities

The majority of Local Acts now passed are promoted by local authorities. Such Acts are often for the purpose of giving the local authority additional powers to deal with such matters as street trading.

Parliamentary process

Bills for Local and Personal Acts do not follow exactly the same parliamentary process as bills for Public General Acts.

Private bills are introduced into Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 by the person promoting them by means of a petition. Because they may grant powers in excess of the normal law, a person, organisation or local community which could be affected by the proposed law can object to it, either through presenting a petition of their own or securing the support of a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 to block the bill.

When the bill is sent to a committee of each House, the committee hears arguments for and against the bill in a way quite similar to a civil court hearing: the promoter (often represented by a barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

) has to prove their case and satisfy the committee that the bill is necessary, whilst any opposers will seek to demonstrate that it is not. If the committee agrees that the purposes of the bill are proper and desirable then the bill continues on to the next stage, and ultimately to the other House where a similar process is followed.

Local and Personal Acts of Parliament have two distinctive features. Firstly, they are preceded by a preamble
A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy. When applied to the opening paragraphs of a statute, it may recite historical facts pertinent to the subject of the statute...

 setting out the reasons why the Act needs to be made. Secondly, they are published in separate series from public Acts: whilst public Acts are numbered 1, 2, 3, etc in the year they are passed, Local Acts are numbered using roman numerals (i, ii, iii etc) and Personal Acts are numbered using italic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc).


Private legislation that mainly relates to Scotland is dealt with under a different procedure: that put in place by the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936.

The 1936 Act (which replaced similar previous Acts dating back to 1899) provides for petitions for private legislation which are opposed to be considered by an inquiry panel made up of two members of the House of Commons and two members of the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

. The inquiry sits in Scotland, rather than at Westminster, and hears arguments for and against the proposal, before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Scotland
Secretary of State for Scotland
The Secretary of State for Scotland is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office , a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns, but was...

. If the proposal is not opposed then an inquiry is not held, but the petition is still scrutinised by Counsel
A counsel or a counselor gives advice, more particularly in legal matters.-U.K. and Ireland:The legal system in England uses the term counsel as an approximate synonym for a barrister-at-law, and may apply it to mean either a single person who pleads a cause, or collectively, the body of barristers...

 to the Secretary of State.

If the inquiry's, or Counsel's, recommendation is positive then the Secretary of State make a Provisional Order. This Order has no effect, however, until confirmed by an Order Confirmation Act passed by Parliament. The bill for such an Act normally skips the second reading and committee stages of the parliamentary process (as this has been replaced by the inquiry) and so takes up less time.

Since devolution, many matters which were previously dealt with by Provisional Orders now fall within the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 and cannot be dealt with by Provisional Order. The Scottish Parliament has its own private legislation procedures which provide for the consideration of the bill and any objections by a Private Bill Committee of the Parliament.

In contrast to Personal and Local Acts passed by the Westminster Parliament, private Bills in the Scottish Parliament do not begin with a preamble
A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy. When applied to the opening paragraphs of a statute, it may recite historical facts pertinent to the subject of the statute...

 and, when they have been passed, become part of the same series (system of numbering) as, and so are indistinguishable from, public Acts of the Scottish Parliament.
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