Statutes And Delegated Legislation

This assignment will delineate the various stages of the law-making process in parliament. In addition it will consider the importance of the House of Lords during the process of law-making. Furthermore, it will discuss the pros and cons of delegated legislation.

Stages of the law-making process in parliament

Statutes are made by parliament. Statutes are also known as Act of Parliament. Parliament consists of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Monarch. The members of the House of Commons are democratically elected. These elections take place every four to five years. There are about 646 MPs at the moment. Members of the House of Lords are usually appointed by the Queen, due to the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The House of Lords 750 members are divided into four different types:

Life peers

Retired judges of the former House of Lords’ judicial committee

Bishops

Elected hereditary peers.

Bills

All statutes materialize as a bill. A bill is a proposition for a piece of legislation. There are three categories of Bill:

Public Bills – These Bills are introduced to Parliament by Government ministers and the law affects the country as a whole.

Private Members’ Bills - These Bills are arranged by individual backbench MPs. Backbench MPs, are people who are not members of the cabinet. These MPs must enter a ballot, and win the right to persuade the Government to grant sufficient parliamentary time for the Bill to go through. Only few of these Bills actually become Acts. They are usually used to publicise certain issues. Although, a few have gone on to make momentous contributions to legislation. For example, the Abortion Act 1967 put forward by David Steel.

Private Bills – These Bills are traditionally proposed by local authorities, public corporations or large public companies, and usually only affect that sponsor. [1] 

First reading

The title of the Bill in question is read out, although no debate takes place. The reading serves as an order for the Bill to be printed and distributed.

Second reading

At this stage the proposals are fully debated, and can be amended. A vote is taken, and a majority of the MPs must be in support of the Bill for it to proceed any further. The whip system (getting MPs to vote for their party) guarantees the Government with the majority of votes, thus getting the Bill through this stage.

Committee stage

The Bill is referred to a committee of the House of Commons to be vigorously analysed, with further amendments made.

Report stage

The newly amended Bill from the committee stage is then reviewed by the House. The amendments will be debated and voted upon. The Bill can be further amended.

Third reading

The Bill is re-presented to the House. No further amendments can be made at this stage. A short debate may take place, and then a vote on the Bill is taken. A Bill that has made it this far is almost guaranteed to be accepted, as it is highly unlikely to fail after reaching this late stage.

House of Lords

The Bill is sent to the House of Lords, where it goes through an identical legislative process to that of the House of Commons. If any alteration is made by the House of Lords, the Bill is returned to the House of Commons for further consideration. The Commons have three options in this scenario – they may agree to the Lords amendments, they may agree to them with their own amendments, or they may disagree to them.

Royal Assent

This is the final stage of the law- making process. It requires the monarch to give consent to the legislation, for it to become law. This has in recent times become a formality, as it has been over 300 years since the Royal Assent was last withheld, by Queen Anne in 1707. [2] Also it is over 300 years since a monarch has actually signed a Bill themselves. Instead, Letters Patent or documents known as Commissions are signed which announce that an assent has been given. [3] 

To what extent is approval of the House of Lords always required?

The role of the House of Lords has historically been to give approvals to things which the House of Commons want to make law. The House of Lords also has a second function in which it sits as the highest appeal court in the land – although the European Court of Appeal has changed its status slightly. [4] In the years back, legislation could not become law without the approval of the House of Lords. This raised a lot of discussions regarding the role of the House of Lords. As many felt that an unelected House was dictating for the country, while those who were elected were made powerless. The Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 slightly changed things. These Acts put in place special procedures by which proposed legislation could go for Royal Assent without the approval of the House of Lords after specified periods of time. [5] The use of these procedures is very rare, due to the fact that the House of Lords tend to drop objections that are rejected by the House of Commons. However, their use in recent years has increased. Four Acts of Parliament have been passed to date relying on the Parliament Act 1949: War crimes Act 1991; European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999; Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000; Hunting Act 2004. [6] 

Delegated legislation is an attack on our law-making process

Delegated legislation is law made by a body other than Parliament. [7]   Parliament gives others the power to pass delegated legislation in a parent or enabling act. [8] Delegated legislation enables the Government to modify the law without the need to push through a complete new Act of Parliament. The original Act (also known as primary legislation) has provisions which allow future delegated legislations to modify the law to differing degrees. These changes range from the technical, like altering the level of a fine, to fleshing out Acts with greater detail; often an Act contains only a broad framework of its purpose and more complex content is added through delegated legislation. [9] There are three main types of delegated legislation:

1. Bye-laws; made by local authorities, they need to be approved by the Government

2. Statutory instruments; made by Government Ministers, they tend to affect the whole country.

3. Orders in Council; these made by the Queen and Privy Council. These are made in times of emergency, when Parliament is not sitting.

Why delegated legislation is necessary

Delegated legislation is needed because of the lack of Parliamentary time. Parliament does not have sufficient time to debate on every detailed rule. It enables more details to be included, if needed later on. The use of delegated legislations such as bye-laws, make use of local knowledge. Local authorities can make appropriate laws to meet local needs. It also utilizes expert technical knowledge. Delegated legislation can use experts who are familiar with the relevant areas. [10] It is more flexible, as it is easier to amend than an Act of Parliament. More time can be taken, to consider secondary legislation. [11] 

Can delegated legislation be controlled?

Delegated legislation can be controlled through the consultation of experts, publication of the legislation, supervision by Parliament, the courts, and by confirmation by a Government Minister.

Criticism of delegated legislation

Delegated legislation is often criticised for being undemocratic. Too often delegated legislations are being made by unelected people, for example; civil servants. Also when statutory instruments are used to make new law, sometimes the public are unaware. There is not sufficient publicity of the new laws being made. Delegated legislation is furthermore said to be overused, too many laws are being made with the use of delegated powers. Lastly, it is believed that there is inadequate control by Parliament over delegated legislation.

Conclusion

Delegated or secondary legislation is usually concerned with detailed changes to the law made under powers from an existing Act of Parliament. [12] Although delegated legislation has its positives and negatives, it has become an effective and essential part of our law-making system.