Delegated legislation or secondary legislation in the United Kingdom is law that is not enacted by a legislative assembly such as the UK Parliament, but made by a government minister, a delegated person or an authorised body under powers given to them by an Act of Parliament.
Statutory instruments are the most frequently used type of secondary legislation, with approximately 3,500 made each year, although only about 1,000 need to be considered by Parliament. They usually have either "Rules", "Order" or "Regulations" in their title.
Secondary legislation is used for a wide variety of purposes such as fixing the date on which an Act of Parliament will come into force; setting fees for a public service; or establishing the details of an Act of Parliament. Delegated legislation is dependent on its parent act, which prescribes its parameters and procedures. Although a large volume of delegated legislation is written without close parliamentary scrutiny, there are statutory instruments to prevent its misuse.
Delegated legislation is derived from its parent act, which prescribes its parameters and procedures. Delegated legislation saves parliamentary time by considering matters of technical detail. Such details are prepared by those with relevant expert knowledge.
Through its inherent flexibility, delegated legislation accommodates changing circumstances such as changing fees for public services, developments in science or minor changes in government policy. Delegated legislation allows the rapid drafting of emergency powers. In comparison to Acts of Parliament, which may take much time to pass, the flexibility of delegated legislation can be used to solve problems of governance in a timely way.
Delegated legislation is effected by signature of the author or his authorized representative. In the case of the monarch, only his verbal assent is required. A statutory instrument related to the parent act is required to write delegated legislation. It ensures the legislation is catalogued and published by the King's Printer. Exceptions are directions and by-laws where notifications are made to affected entities.
Criticism of delegated legislation may arise because:
Delegated legislation can take a variety of forms, each with different uses. The boundaries between the forms are not fixed. The types used will be determined by the wording of the parent Act.
A document which records delegated legislation will begin with a preamble. It describes the author of the legislation, the related parent Act and its preconditions and any stakeholders. The terms used in the document are determined by the type of delegated legislation it records. For instance, in orders, clauses are called "articles". Clauses may be grouped under headings and in complex delegated legislation, the document may be divided into parts. The main text is followed by any schedules and explanatory notes.
Delegated legislation is controlled by parliament and the judiciary. Parliamentary controls include "affirmative resolution procedures" where the legislation requires approval in both houses of parliament and "negative resolution procedures" where the legislation may be vetoed by either house. By convention, the House of Lords will not veto but rather pass a motion to convey its concerns about the legislation.
Judicial control of delegated legislation is exercised through judicial review. Delegated legislation can be quashed by a court if it is found to be ultra vires (outside the parameters defined in the parent Act). There are two types of ultra vires. In "substantive ultra vires", delegated legislation is deemed void because it goes beyond the powers defined in the parent Act. In "procedural ultra vires", delegated legislation is deemed void because of some procedural deficiency. A court may also quash delegated legislation on the basis of unreasonableness.