A tiny example of what’s wrong with the way our legislation is written

The Bank of England Act 1998 requires the Bank of England to “publish minutes of the [Monetary Policy Committee] meeting before the end of the period of 6 weeks beginning with the day of the meeting”.

It could have said “publish minutes of the meeting within 6 weeks of the day it took place”. Shorter, clearer and with the same meaning.

Does this sort of clunky verbosity matter? The answer is yes, because it quickly adds up, when sentence is piled on sentence, to hard to understand legislation that is the cause of mistakes, misunderstandings and argument.

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5 Comments

  • Mark Williams 28th Oct '08 - 12:34am

    I disagree. That isn’t legalese, merely precision. The alternative wording is unclear as to which days are included in the six week period. The original version leaves no doubt.

  • Mark Williams 28th Oct '08 - 9:06am

    If we accept that a week is defined as seven days and that the use of the word day implies eevery minite of every day, then it is clear in the original that the relevant period is the period of 42 days starting on the day the meeting took place.

    The wording “within 6 weeks” in the second case is ambiguous as to whether it refers to the same period or whether it also includes the 42nd day after the meeting took place.

  • Ian Eiloart 28th Oct '08 - 2:58pm

    Mark Williams says (I paraphrase), if we make a bunch of assumptions about the meaning, then the meaning is clear. The point about clarity is that assumptions are not necessary.

    But, “6 weeks”? Why that long!?

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