Long title
The long title is the formal title appearing at the head of a 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...

 (such as an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 or of Congress
Act of Congress
An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by government with a legislature named "Congress," such as the United States Congress or the Congress of the Philippines....

) or other legislative instrument. The long title is intended to provide a summary description of the purpose or scope of the instrument; it contrasts with the short title
Short title
The short title is the formal name by which a piece of primary legislation may by law be cited in the United Kingdom and other Westminster-influenced jurisdictions , as well as the United States. It contrasts with the long title which, while usually being more fully descriptive of the...

, which is merely intended to provide a useful name when referring to it.

Like other descriptive components of an Act (such as the 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...

, section headings, side notes, and short title), the long title seldom affects the operative provisions of an Act, except where the operative provisions are unclear or ambiguous and the long title provides a clear statement of the legislature's intention.


In the United Kingdom, the long title is important since, under the procedures of Parliament, a bill cannot be amended to go outside the scope of its long title. For that reason, modern long titles tend to be rather vague, ending with the formulation "and for connected purposes". The long title for older Acts is sometimes termed its rubric
Rubric (typography)
A rubric is a word or section of text which is traditionally written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The word derives from the , meaning red ochre or red chalk, and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier...

 because it was sometimes printed in red.

Short title for Acts of Parliament were not introduced until the mid-nineteenth century, and were not provided for every Act passed until late in the century; as such, the long title was used to identify the Act. Short titles were subsequently given to many unrepealed Acts at later dates; for example, the Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights 1689
The Bill of Rights or the Bill of Rights 1688 is an Act of the Parliament of England.The Bill of Rights was passed by Parliament on 16 December 1689. It was a re-statement in statutory form of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William and Mary in March 1689 ,...

 (1688 or 1689) was given that short title by the Short Titles Act 1896, having until then only been known formally known by its long title, An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown. Similarly, in the US, the Judiciary Act of 1789
Judiciary Act of 1789
The United States Judiciary Act of 1789 was a landmark statute adopted on September 24, 1789 in the first session of the First United States Congress establishing the U.S. federal judiciary...

, which was famously ruled unconstitutional in part by Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison, is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in Western history a court invalidated a law by declaring...

, was called "An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States".

The long title was traditionally followed by the 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...

, an optional part of an Act setting out a number of preliminary statements of facts similar to recital
Recital (law)
In Law, a recital consists of an account or repetition of the details of some act, proceeding or fact. Particularly, in law, that part of a legal document—such as a lease, which contains a statement of certain facts—which contains the purport for which the deed is made.In E.U...

s, each starting Whereas....


The wording after "An Act" varies somewhat among juridictions. In some jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, the long title opens with the words "An Act to ...". For example, the short title of the House of Lords Act 1999
House of Lords Act 1999
The House of Lords Act 1999 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was given Royal Assent on 11 November 1999. The Act reformed the House of Lords, one of the chambers of Parliament. For centuries, the House of Lords had included several hundred members who inherited their seats;...

 is House of Lords Act 1999, but its long title is An Act to restrict membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage; to make related provision about disqualifications for voting at elections to, and for membership of, the House of Commons; and for connected purposes. UK bills substitute the words "A Bill" for "An Act". Thus, before it passed, the long title of the House of Lords Bill 1999 was "A Bill to restrict membership...". Because of the way they are used to define the scope of bill, many British long titles are quite long.

While the long titles of most Acts of the US Congress read, "An Act to...", appropriations bills begin, "An Act making appropriations for...". Bills begin "A Bill for an Act..." Legislation in U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s also vary both in the exact wording and the level of detail of long titles. A typical long title in Illinois is, "AN ACT concerning safety", giving only a vary broad characterization of the subject matter. On the other hand, a recent New Hampshire law carried the long title, "AN ACT relative to establishing a municipal bond rescission process, authorizing governing bodies to call a special meeting to consider reduction or rescission of appropriations, and clarifying special procedures enabling towns to respond appropriately to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."

Australian long titles are more like American than British ones in that they are short and broad; for example, "A Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the Automotive Transformation Scheme, and for related purposes". However, not all states use long titles and may instead have an explicit "Purpose" section.

Long titles in South Africa omit the initial "An".

External links

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