Wales politics

Law Commission aims to repeal ancient London-Holyhead turnpike measure

Menai Bridge
Image caption A bridge across the Menai was proposed as part of plans to speed up the three-day journey from London to Holyhead in the 19th century

Obscure 19th Century turnpike laws relating to the road between Anglesey and London may finally be repealed.

The Law Commission wants to get rid of obsolete measures, including provision for highway building and repair between the capital and Holyhead.

Tolls under the turnpike legislation continued to be charged on parts of these roads until 1895.

The commission says removing such "statutory dead wood" would make the law "more intelligible".

Turnpike roads were ones on which tolls were paid, and were named after the frame of pikes that could be turned to allow horses through.

Ironically, these proposals are made as the UK government contemplates whether toll roads are the future for the country's creaking transport infrastructure.

The origins of the road between London and Holyhead predate the Roman occupation of Britain.

By the early 19th Century the three-day travelling time was deemed excessive and in 1810 Thomas Telford presented Parliament with his plan to rebuild the 260-mile route.

The plans included building the Menai and Conwy suspension bridges. In 1815 Parliament approved his plans and passed legislation that granted £20,000 for the repair and rebuilding of the road. The work was completed by 1826.

The London-Holyhead turnpike laws are among several similar pieces of obsolete legislation which have expired but remain on the statute book.

'Great achievement'

In areport, the Law Commission is now proposing such dead laws be formally repealed because they no longer have any effect.

Sir James Munby, chairman of the Law Commission for England and Wales, said: "Getting rid of statutory dead wood helps to simplify and modernise our law, making it more intelligible.

"It saves time and costs for lawyers and others who need to know what the law actually is, and makes it easier for citizens to access justice."

According to the commission, the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill, which is expected to be introduced this summer, is the largest it has ever produced.

Sir James added: "This report and draft bill are a great achievement for the Law Commission. We are committed to ridding the statute book of meaningless provisions from days gone by and making sure our laws are relevant to the modern world."

It will repeal 817 whole acts and part repeal 50 other acts. The Bill covers a diverse range of subjects, from poor relief and lotteries to turnpikes and Indian railways.

The earliest repeal is from around 1322 (Statutes of the Exchequer) and the latest is part of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.

Among the other provisions it will repeal is for a "Court of Requests" established by statute in 1809 for the then counties of Glamorgan, Brecon and Monmouth.

It enabled tradespeople to recover small debts of up to £5. Although it ceased to operate in 1834, the legislation creating it was only repealed in mid Glamorgan, leaving it in operation for the remaining portion of the three original counties.

On that basis, the commission argues, it should be repealed.

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