Welfare Legislation

FOI request reference: F0043568
Publication date: October 2015


Advice given


I am trying to identify the number of changes that have been made to welfare legislation (unemployment-benefits / DWP) in the last 20 years / since 1995. I am aware that some/most of the info would be somehow contained in www.legislation.gov.uk

1) Would you be able to provide me with the relevant information in a different format, i.e. e.g. a list of all such legislation (with a date) as a csv file / spreadsheet?

2) Would you have any relevant statistics?

If necessary please treat this as an FOI-request + where appropriate advise as per section 16.


The information you have requested is freely available on www.legislation.gov.uk. Most law, universities and major public libraries also hold copies of published legislation in enacted or made format. Additionally printed copies of all enacted or made legislation are supplied to the British Library under Legal Deposit. Legislation at the British Library is available in the Social Sciences Reading Rooms.[1]

Under section 21 of the Act, if the information you have requested is reasonably accessible by other means, we do not have to provide it to you. Section 21(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) does not oblige a public authority to provide information if it is already reasonably accessible by other means.[2] Although this exemption does not apply to historic information[3], you can access welfare legislation from the last twenty years using the information we have provided to you. We have therefore provided you with access to all of the information you have requested.

Advice and Assistance

You may wish to refine your request by narrowing its scope and being more specific about what information you particularly wish to obtain. For example, if you can identify a particular piece of legislation you are interested in, we may be able to provide you with more specific guidance.

The Information Commissioner’s Office provides guidance on making an FOI request which could be useful in refining your request: https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/official-information/

You may find the following information useful in refining your request and/or utilising the www.legislation.gov.uk website:

Primary legislation (Acts)

  • For primary legislation legislation.gov.uk captures amendments from 1994
  • If you know what specific pieces of primary legislation you are interested in, you could use the ‘changes to legislation’ feature on legislation.gov.uk. You can go to a piece of legislation and view any outstanding effects yet to be applied to the legislation in a drop-down box at the top of the page. As well as listing all the outstanding changes, it links to the legislation that makes the changes. You can see an example of this at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/30/part/I. If changes have already been made, they are clearly shown in the legislation.
  • You can also view a list of all changes to a particular piece of legislation using the ‘Changes to Legislation’ tab – please see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/changes. But again you would need to input the specific title of the legislation or type of legislation (UK General Public Acts, Statutory Instruments and so on) you are looking for.
  • You cannot search for primary legislation on legislation.gov.uk by subject or by department.

If you do not know which pieces of legislation are relevant, we would suggest that you contact The Department of Work and Pensions directly at:

Caxton House
Tothill Street

Email: freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Secondary legislation (statutory instruments)

  • You will not be able to view outstanding changes made to secondary legislation by looking at specific statutory instruments on legislation.gov.uk.
  • Instead, outstanding changes to secondary legislation can be viewed as a type by using the ‘Changes to Legislation’ tab. You would need to go to: legislation.gov.uk/changes and then select ‘statutory instruments’ in the drop down menu. Here is an example of what that search will bring back: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/changes/affected/uksi/2001-2015. However, we do not have amendments to secondary legislation pre-2001.
  • You cannot search for secondary legislation on legislation.gov.uk by department but you can search for secondary legislation by subject heading (go to ‘browse legislation’ and then select ‘statutory instruments’. The left hand side of the page then links to an a-z of subject headings). However, the subject headings are not always what you might expect. They are selected by the department, and were often established decades ago. So, for example, there is no ‘Welfare’ heading in Statutory Instruments, but there is a heading for ‘social security’. See for example: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/social%20security. There is also a heading for ‘social care’: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/social%20care
  • We have identified and developed several improvements to our advanced search facilities, as part of developing a query language specifically for legislation documents. We will be able to offer a more advanced option to search by subject, sub-subject and other pertinent information such as enabling power in the future – but this functionality will be not available until early-to-mid-2016 at the earliest.
  • You will find it easier to find the amendments in secondary legislation if you know what pieces of legislation you are looking for. If you do not know which pieces of legislation are relevant, we again suggest that you contact the Department of Work and Pensions by the contact details given above.

Searching for legislation from a particular area

  • If you wish to browse secondary legislation from a particular area of the UK, e.g. England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can search by ‘Subject Heading.’ It should be noted, only secondary legislation has Subject Headings.
  • A Subject Heading indicates the area of law or administration to which the legislation belongs and is based on the Enabling Power(s) that the legislation is made under. A ‘Territorial Suffix’ (e.g. England and Wales) is appended to the Subject Heading to indicate the extent or application of the legislation where this is limited under devolved powers. A piece of legislation, depending on its enabling powers and territorial extent or application, may have several Subject Headings.
  • You may need to do separate searches for the Subject Heading for variations of any territorial suffixes.


  • We cannot currently provide different formats such as csv files via legislation.gov.uk. You would have to screen scrape or use the feeds that are available online.
  • However, we will be launching legislation.gov.uk Research early in 2016 and you should then be able to download amendments data from this service as a csv file – you can then interrogate the downloaded data to find the relevant amendments you require.


  • It is not clear from your request what statistics you require. If you were able to clarify this point of your request, we may be able to be of more assistance.

[1] The British Library Social Sciences Department can be contact by email: social-sciences@bl.uk or phone: 020 7412 7676. For details about visiting the British Library and using the reading rooms please refer to the British Library website: http://www.bl.uk/#

[2] Further guidance on Section 21 can be found at:


[3] For a definition of a historic record please use this link: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/3029/made