The UK Statute Law Database (SLD), which is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom, has been made available free of charge online. The official press release is on the Department of Constitutional Affairs web site (http://tinyurl.com/2o8vuh). Most legislation that is currently in force has been published on the web site with some exceptions. For 2006 they specifically mention The Armed Forces Act 2006 and The Water and Sewerage Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (N.I. 21). I cannot think of two more diverse pieces of information to omit! I am told by colleagues that there are other gaps but the site admits to this and there are details of what is still be added.
On the home page you can search for text in the title, by year, number and legislation type. There is also an A-Z index and a chronological index. The Advanced Search has additional options that include date ranges, geographical extent and text search. The earliest legislation I could find is the Statute of Marlborough 1267 “made at Marlborough in the Presence of our Lord King Henry, and Richard King of the Romans, and the Lord Edward eldest Son of the said King Henry, and the Lord Ottobon, at that Time Legate in England”. It includes “Remedy against Accountants. Farmers shall do no Waste. Remedy thereon.” I shall leave you to find out for yourselves what that is all about.
As well as reading the full text of the legislation you can view amended legislation as it has changed over time and sections that have yet to come into force. A green “A” icon links to the “attributes” of the legislation, such as start date and extent, and enables you to move between versions. The blue “P” icon indicates provisions, and versions of amended provisions, that have not yet been brought into force. I found this particularly useful for checking when parts of the Companies Act 2006 come into force. If you are viewing older legislation that has been amended, a box warns you of the fact.
Is this database going to make access to UK legislation easier? If you know your way around the structure of Statute Law then yes. Those who do not and who have never had to to do battle with Acts, Statutory Instruments and the like will not be any the wiser. If you just want to read or download a copy of a particular Act then the Office of Public Sector Information at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts.htm will probably be quicker, and it now has RSS feeds for alerting you to new Acts and Statutory Instruments. Bills currently before the UK Parliament are available on the UK Parliament web site at http://www.parliament.uk/ (email alerts only). Command Papers and departmental House of Commons Papers are at http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/ (RSS feed available).