Statutory Instrument

From Academic Kids

Statutory Instruments (SIs), also referred to as "delegated" or "secondary legislation", are parts of United Kingdom law seperate from Acts of Parliament which do not require full Parliamentary debate before becoming law. These are usually brought to Parliament by a Government minister, exercising legislative powers delegated to them by an Act of Parliament.


Legal framework

Statutory Instruments come in two forms: those passed by affirmative procedure, where they must be approved by the two Houses of Parliament before they can become law, and those passed by negative procedure, where they are are merely laid before Parliament, with Parliament able to annul them if it desires. The section of the Act of Parliament that grants the power will usually state whether the power is to be exercised by Statutory Instrument and which parliamentary procedure is to apply. Generally, if it is a potentially contentious power, the affirmative route will be required, and if not, the negative route.

Statutory Instruments are not necessarily the same thing as an Order-in-Council: Statutory Instruments are 'delegated legislation' (the power is delegated by Parliament), whereas Orders-in-Council either operate through the Royal Prerogative or are made under powers created in statute. The latter will generally be made by Statutory Instrument, the former not.

Statutory Instruments are used because they are much faster and simpler to implement than a full Act of Parliament. SIs are sometimes described as "secondary legislation, not second class legislation". They have the same force as an Act of Parliament, and the great majority of the United Kingdom's law is made in this way. Several thousand SIs are passed each year, compared to only a few dozen Acts.

Some Acts of Parliament grant ministers "reformative powers", with future Statutory Instruments able to modify the Act themselves; this capability is sometimes perjoratively called "Henry VIII powers" in reference to Henry VIII's noted ability to do anything he desired. This type of authorisation became popular in government in the 1920s, but have become rarely used due to accusations of too much power.


The most frequent single use of Statutory Instruments is the process of incorporating into UK law provisions of Directives of the European Union, which are brought in under the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972.

Delayed primary legislation

Statutory Instruments are also used to bring Acts of Parliament into force: it is not uncommon for quite major pieces of legislation to be passed by Parliament with all the sections 'turned off', and a power for the Minister to 'turn them on' (or 'bring into force' as it is properly called) at a later date by means of a Commencement Order. Some sections are never brought into force at all. A notable example of this is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2001, which has had a number of SIs enacted

Reformative powers

Reformative powers were put in place in the Electronic Communications Act 2000 to allow the modification of any law that went against the Act; it was designed to be used by the DTI to allow Internet-based publishing of annual reports and the like, amongst other measures. A more significant use of "Henry VIII powers" was the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, which provides for affirmative route Statutory Instruments to modify any legislation older than two years. Examples of its use have included Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 470 which repealed section 26 of the Revenue Act 1889 (and so re-legalised the selling of methylated spirits on a Saturday night or a Sunday), and Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 871 which repealed the entirety of the Trading Stamps Act 1964.


The advent of devolution in 1999 resulted in many powers to make Statutory Instruments being transferred to the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government, and oversight to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. Instruments made by the Scottish Executive are now classed separately as Scottish Statutory Instruments.

Other countries

Canada also uses a system of Statutory Instruments, an example being the Proclamation of the Queen of Canada on April 17, 1982, which brought into force the Constitution Act 1982, the UK parts of which are known as the Canada Act 1982. Australia similarly calls its delegated legislation Statutory Instruments.


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