Advantages and Disadvantages of Delegated Legislation

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  • Created by: Rachel
  • Created on: 12-01-14 11:49

Saves Parliamentary Time

Parliament does not have time to consider and debate every small detail of complex regulations. Having other bodies make delegated legislation saves Parliamentary time, allowing Parliament to make more important laws that protect and govern the country as a whole. For example, the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1995 are extremely detailed and take up 185 pages. Nothing would be gained by debating these in Parliament: the time taken for 650 MPs and 300 or so peers to even read the draft regulations would be better spent on other things. 

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Need for Technical Expertise

Parliament may not have the necessary technical expertise or knowledge required; for example health and safety regulations in different industries need expert knowledge, while local parking regulations need local knowledge. It is better for Parliament to debate the main principals thoroughly, but leave the detail to be filled in by those who have expert knowledge of it. The Air Navigation Order 1995 contains 140 pages of highly technical rules (including tables and maps) governing the flying of civil aircraft around the UK. It is doubtful whether any MP would have the technical expertise even to comment on these rules, let alone draft them. 

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Allows Consultation

Ministers can have the benefit of further consultation before regulations are drawn up. Consultation is particularly important for rules on technical matters, where it is necessary to make sure that the regulations are technically workable. 

Also, local people understand local needs. It is likely that only local people will know what parking restrictions are appropriate for their area. Local authority bylaws, as a result, are more appropriate than broad and general national legislation. For example, the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 allows local authories to designate poop scoop areas. They are better places than Parliament to do so. 

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Allows Law to be made Quickly in Emergencies

The Food Protection (Emergency Provisions) Order 1986 was make and laid before Parliament and came into effect less than 2 hours later, prohibiting the movement or slaughter of sheep in areas thought to have been affected by radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power accident. The process of passing an Act of Parliament can take considerable time and in an emergency Parliament may not be able to pass law quickly enough. Orders in Council especially can be made very quickly. 

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Easy to Amend

Delegated legislation can be amended or revoked easily when necessary so that the law can be kept up to date. This is useful where monetary limits have to change each year, for example, the minimum wage or the limits for legal aid. Ministers can also respond to new or unforeseen situations by amending regulations made through a Statutory Instrument. This is another reason why use of delegated legislation is sometimes preferred to an Act of Parliament. Also, it is impossible for Parliament to foresee all problems that might arise, delegated legislation to rectify this can be put into place quickly. 

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The main criticism is that delegated legislation takes lawmaking away from the elected House of Commons and allows unelected people to make law. This is acceptable provided there is sufficient control, but Parliament's control is fairly limited. This criticism cannot be make of bylaws made by local authorities since these are elected bodies and accountable to local citizens. Other bodies such as the London Underground are unelected, therefore not accountable to the people. 

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Much legislation is sub-delegated (made by civil servants in the relevant Government Departments and then 'rubber stamped' by the Minister). This creates another level of lawmaking and removes the decision further still further from elected people. 

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The large volume of delegated legislation also gives rise to criticism, since it makes it difficult to discover what the present law is. More than 3000 Statutory Instruments are published each year and many are lengthy and detailed. Employers frequently complain about the mass of detailed regulations they have to keep up with. Delegated legislation is often highly technical, involving complicated and obscure wording that can lead to difficulty in understanding the law. 

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Lack of Publicity

There is a lack of publicity, as much delegated legislation is made in private, in contrast to the public debates of Parliament. People may be unaware than a particular rule exists. Although Statuory Instruments are published and available on the Parliament website, they receive much less attention than Acts of Parliament. Local authority bylaws receive even less publicity. These are not available even in major public libraries, and local authority websites often make no reference to them. As a result, there is no easy way of knowing what bylaws have been make within a given area.

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Lack of Scrutiny

It has been argued that delegated legislation can be used by Governments to make quite significant changes to the law and avoid the inconvenience of submitting them to the scutiny (criticism/questioning) of the parliamentary process. This is particularly the case with 'Henry VIII' clauses, which allow delegated legislation to be used to amend (change) or repeal (remove) Act of Parliament. The European Communities Act 1972 included such as clause, under which the metric regulation was issued. 

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  • Saves Parliamentary Time
  • Need for Technical Expertise
  • Allows Consultation
  • Allows Legislation to be made Quickly in Emergencies
  • Easy to Amend


  • Undemocractic
  • Sub-delegation
  • Volume
  • Lack of Publicity
  • Lack of Scrutiny
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