Unfortunately, our Byelaws have been lost. The Government can’t find them. They are not even on display:
“But the plans were on display . . .”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a torch.”
“Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur”, yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.”
You see, byelaws are important. Not as important, as, say, the Brexit referendum, but important nonetheless. Recently, Alan Rusbridger, erstwhile editor of The Guardian and incumbent Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, assisted the Hampstead Heath Constabulary with their enquiries as to an alleged offence of using a camera tripod without a permit. Byelaw broken. £60 fine. Banged to rights. And of course, if you don’t pay up, you go to jail.
It is for this reason that Her Majesty’s Government doesn’t trust Town Halls to write their own laws. Byelaws need to be rubber stamped by the Secretary of State to make sure that the i’s are crossed and the t’s are dotted. In case, well, anyone goes to jail for a crime they didn’t commit, and the A-team have to get involved.
Of course, you could write to every local authority to ask for their byelaws, but I would imagine that they are protected by a leopard somewhere on the Civil Service pay scale. Instead, I wrote to the Department of Communities and Local Government, who rather helpfully gave me a list of every byelaw that was graced by their rubber stamp. That was nice of them. But, amongst various caveats, was this:
” I should further explain that the list of byelaws covers only byelaws made by this Department, as this Department does not hold any records of byelaws confirmed by the Home Office. You may wish to consult the Home Office on any byelaws confirmed preceding this date.”
So, albeit a couple of years later, I wrote to the Home Office, who also helpfully replied:
“The Home Office does not hold the information which you have requested. The Bylaws unit moved from the Home Office to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) around 10 years ago.”
So, there we have it, the Government has lost the byelaws from before 2002. Or maybe they are in fact in the display department after all. Guarded by leopards.