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Ye big clean-up: laws dating to the 14th century to be repealed

Animal owners will soon be able to rest easier knowing their pets can no longer be impounded to pay off the King's debts.

The ancient decree, which dates back to the 14th-century reign of the sixth Plantagenet king, Edward II, is one of more than 800 "dead" laws that have been recommended to be swept clear of the statute book.

In the largest repeals Bill they have ever produced, the Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have recommended that 817 acts as well as 50 partial acts be consigned to history.

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

While the most recent law to be repealed dates from 2010, an "ineffective" section of the Taxation Act, many are steeped in history.

Among the archaic acts is one from 1800, which set up a two-guinea (£2 10p) lottery to win the £24,000 Pigot Diamond when the family of the 1st Baron Pigot, Governor of Madras, failed to find a buyer. The law is somewhat outdated as the famous stone was sold to the Ottoman Albanian ruler Ali Pasha, who ordered it to be crushed to powder when he was mortally wounded.

The oldest partial act to be repealed is one believed to date back to 1322, which outlined "What Distress shall be taken for the King's Debts, and how it shall be used". The statutes regulated the taking and impounding of animals, how they were to be fed, cared for and sold, and what livestock was to be exempt.