By Michael Zander. The Law-Making Process, 7 edition. Hart, 2015. Paperback. 476 pp. 244 x 169 mm. ISBN 9781849465625 $59.99.
Legislation is the bread and butter of law librarians, and for most of us, it has taken years to develop the expertise necessary to tackle the difficult research questions in our own jurisdictions. When it comes to providing research assistance for a jurisdiction outside of our own, we are often less confident than we would like to be. Therefore, finding a really good guide to the legislation of other jurisdictions is vital. Luckily, in the case of understanding the intricacies of the British law-making system, the recent publication of Michael Zander’s The Law-Making Process, Seventh Edition, has made the task so much easier.
Zander begins at the beginning, which is to say he starts with bills. He discusses the sources that eventually lead to the drafting of a bill (e.g., the reports of law commissions or government committees), along with the consultation process, the role of Cabinet, and then the process of drafting itself. How bills ultimately become law is explained next, and in great detail: we are shown how the various types of bills—i.e., public bills, private bills, hybrid bills and private members’ bills—make their way through a watchful Parliament.
The Law-Making Process provides essential information on finding statutes online, and then the book moves on to the complex matter of “statutory instruments” (SIs, which include rules, regulations, orders, etc.). A small number of these statutory instruments requires an “affirmative resolution” (in other words, the positive approval of Parliament) which means that Parliament must make time to debate them. The majority of statutory instruments, however, come into being via a “negative resolution” procedure. Parliament has 40 days to vote its disapproval, in some cases, after a statutory instrument has been laid in draft before Parliament, and in other cases, even after it has been “made and laid” (i.e., it has been signed off by the Minister and is no longer in draft form).
Zander also covers delegated legislation in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Each of these jurisdictions has its own Parliament with “delegated powers” from Westminster to pass certain types of laws. In subsequent chapters, he also discusses a number of other vital aspects of law-making: the doctrine of stare decisis in the court system; law reporting; and the central role of judges, including their background and appointment. This leads to an examination of the subject of diversity on the bench, and an exploration of such thorny issues as judicial bias and activist judges.
Where The Law-Making Process differs from many of its kind is this: it includes an enlightening section on statutory interpretation. Most books on the legal system, in my experience, ignore the topic of statutory interpretation, as though it’s an arcane matter for only judges, lawyers, and scholars to ponder when they come across statutory language that’s confusing or ambiguous. Zander, on the other hand, provides readers with an overview that lays out the subject in an easy-to-understand way that will show its importance to all readers interested in the making of law.
Overall, the book is thorough and well-written. While it serves nicely as an introduction to the subject, it is detailed enough to provide new information for researchers who might have thought they already knew the subject well. Academic libraries are most likely to benefit from owning a copy, although court house libraries might also find it useful. Indeed, Zander’s book is amongst the best on the English legal system. For those poor researchers obliged to wander out of their comfort-zone into what may be an alien field to them, it is both reassuring and reliable.
Review written by Nancy McCormack; Librarian and Associate Professor; Queen’s University; Kingston, Ontario, Canada.