Govt paves way for lawlessness on turnpike roads

Parliament debates scrapping old laws
Parliament debates scrapping old laws

The government plans to clear defunct laws relating to turnpike roads and country gaols from the statute books.

All or part of 328 past Acts of Parliament still masquerading as live laws will be removed under the state law (repeals) bill.

It will clear at least 12 acts relating to the workings of the East India Company between 1796 and 1832, those governing turnpikes and an act passed in the wake of the Peterloo massacre.

Six acts to fund workhouses in London, including one in Wapping mentioned by Charles Dickens in the Uncommercial Traveller, will also be axed.


Justice secretary Jack Straw welcomed the "parliamentary spring clean", which goes before the Lords for its second reading today.

Mr Straw said: "Laws on turnpikes, workhouses, and the Peterloo massacre are rightly of interest to historians, but there is no need to retain them on the statute book.

"Obsolete laws can raise people's expectations and invite costly and pointless legal activity. This is a necessary and overdue parliamentary spring clean."

The Ministry of Justice said the removal of "redundant and sometimes absurd" pieces of law would simplify and modernise the law.

But the Liberal Democrats urged the government to look at more recent legislation, rather than those technically out of date.

"It should also look at the huge amount of legislation it introduced on actions which are already illegal but that they were drafted with the sole intention of grabbing a few headlines," said David Howard, Lib Dem shadow solicitor general.

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