The Law Reform Enterprise: Evaluating the Past and Chartering the Future

23 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2015 Last revised: 3 Aug 2015

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2015


This article that appeared in the July 2015 issue of the Law Quarterly Review is a slightly revised version of the 2015 Scarman lecture delivered by the author in the Great Hall of the Middle Temple in March 2015. It reviews the origins of the Law Commissions Act 1965(U.K.) and analyses how successful the Commissions have been. While the performance of the Commissions is found to be creditable, the article argues that after 50 years the experience with the Commissions has not matched the original vision. Codification was one of the original aims but has not been achieved. The explanation for failing to reform the law as envisaged lies in the control over legislation exerted by the Executive and Parliament. New methods are suggested for designing and processing legislation, methods that follow the processes developed by Law Commissions in the Commonwealth. Good governance and the rule of law require that legislation be made in a more transparent, systematic and rigorous way that ensures high quality, durable law. That can be accomplished only by parliamentary reform.

Keywords: Law reform, Law Commission, Rule of Law, Governance, Public Law, Separation of Powers, Commonwealth, Legislation, Parliament

JEL Classification: K1, K4, N4

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, The Law Reform Enterprise: Evaluating the Past and Chartering the Future (2015). (2015) 131 LQR 402.; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 81/2015. Available at SSRN:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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