Delegated legislation

Delegated legislation is also referred to as secondary legislation or subordinate legislation.

Delegated legislation gives the Government powers to make changes to law without needing to push through a completely new Act of Parliament. This legislation is known as delegated or secondary legislation or subordinate legislation.


The original enabling or parent Act (also known as primary legislation) would have provisions that allow for future delegated legislation to alter the law to differing degrees.

The three types of delegated legislation are statutory instrument (SIs), byelaws and orders in council.

Parliament has delegated powers to local authorities and other corporations to create law for specific areas using bylaws. Government ministers have delegated powers to create law using  a Statutory Instrument under enabling Acts. The Privy Council, with the approval of the Queen, has been authorised, under the Emergency Powers Act 1920, to create legislation by making Orders in Council.


Statutory Instruments can be made relatively quickly. Statutory Instruments are not subjected to the same extensive debates as Bills. They are passed by either using the 'super affirmative resolution procedure' ,affirmative procedure’ or the ‘negative resolution procedure'.


It could be argued that Statutory Instruments are less democratic in the sense that any opportunities for publicity and debate are limited. Only a few Statutory Instruments out of the 3,000 or so passed each year are made the subject of the ‘affirmation resolution’ procedure which involves some debate. Even then Parliament is unable to amend the statutory instrument, when it is debated they are only able to accept it as it is or have it annulled or withdrawn.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee examines the policy merits of any statutory instruments or regulations laid before the House of Lords that are subject to parliamentary procedure. It is one of the many Parliamentary committees considering policy issues, scrutinising the work done and money spent by the government and looking at the proposals for primary and secondary legislation.



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