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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 14:26 GMT
UK chooses 'most ludicrous laws'
Houses of Parliament
It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament
Legislation said to prohibit people dying while in the Houses of Parliament has been voted one of the most ludicrous laws in the UK.

Treason laws which reportedly could be used against someone who places a stamp upside down on a letter were also cited by those polled by UKTV Gold.

Nearly 4,000 people picked laws on a list compiled by UKTV Gold researchers.

It examined laws that have never been repealed even though statutes could have rendered them obsolete.

A UKTV Gold spokeswoman said many of the regulations were referenced in the book The Strange Laws of Old England by Nigel Cawthorne.

A total of 27% of those questioned by UKTV Gold thought the law against dying in the Houses of Parliament was the most absurd.

Mr Cawthorne told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that anyone who dies in Parliament is technically entitled to a state funeral and the law is in place to ensure this does not happen.

However, a spokesman for the House of Commons said: "The people who know about these things here say there is no basis for such a law, not to say it does not exist somewhere in writing."

Cannon firing

Other lesser-known laws making the list included one banning eating mince pies on Christmas Day and another from 1313 stating it is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.

Almost half of those asked confessed to breaking the mince pie law, which was brought in by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th Century.

Last year, the Law Society highlighted a number of bizarre laws still in existence on the statute book in England and Wales.

These included a ban on firing a cannon close to a dwelling house (Met Police Act 1839); a ban on the use of any slide upon ice or snow (Town Police Clauses Act 1847); and the prohibition of driving cattle through the streets of London (Metropolitan Streets Act 1867).

An ongoing cull of obsolete laws by the statute law revision team, has seen 2,000 abolished since 1965.

Dead whales

Among the most ridiculous laws listed by UKTV Gold were:

  • It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament (27%)
  • It could be regarded an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen's image upside-down (7%)
  • Eating mince pies on Christmas Day is banned (5%)
  • In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants (4%)
  • The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen (3.5%)
  • It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing (3%)
  • It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour (3%)
  • * This is an amended version of an earlier story which included several examples of laws from the survey which we have been unable to verify, and these have been removed.


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