Publications

Delegated Legislation: What types are there, and how are they made?

5 Dec 2023
The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland signing the same-sex marriage regulations for Northern Ireland on 19 December 2019. ©The Rt Hon Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK)
The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland signing the same-sex marriage regulations for Northern Ireland on 19 December 2019. ©The Rt Hon Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK)

Delegated legislation is the most common form of legislation in the United Kingdom. It is the legislation of everyday life, impacting millions of citizens daily. But the terminology and procedures that surround it are complex and often confusing. This explainer unpacks delegated legislation - the terminology and Parliament's role in scrutinising it - to reveal more about how delegated legislation really works.

Professor Stephanie Pywell , Professor of Law and Social Justice, The Open University Law School
Dr Tom West
,
Professor of Law and Social Justice, The Open University Law School

Professor Stephanie Pywell

Professor Stephanie Pywell
Professor of Law and Social Justice, The Open University Law School

Stephanie joined the Law School as a full-time Lecturer in November 2013, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 2018, and Professor of Law and Social Justice in 2022.  She won an individual Open University Teaching Award for Excellence in Supporting Students in 2019, and was the OU's nominee for an AdvanceHE National Teaching Fellowship. She has a keen interest in making law accessible to students and the public, and in the importance of democratic scrutiny in law-making.

Dr Tom West

Dr Tom West

Tom is the Hansard Society's former Researcher and Delegated Legislation Review Manager. He currently works as a Legal Officer at Privacy International

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Delegated legislation is the most common form of legislation in the United Kingdom. Relatively few Acts of Parliament (primary legislation) are passed each year compared to the volume of delegated legislation.

Whether it's the supply of single-use plastic items, eligibility for state benefits, court procedures, or pandemic-related lockdowns, the common factor is that all were introduced using delegated legislation.

But this form of law is procedurally complicated and difficult to digest.

This explainer, produced jointly with Professor Stephanie Pywell from The Open University Law School, seeks to unpack the legislative layers and peel back the procedural complexities to reveal more about how delegated legislation works.

As well as introducing the various forms of delegated legislation, the explainer features a series of diagrams that illustrate the interconnections and overlaps between these different forms, building up a legislative picture that reveals the importance of this legislation but also its bafflingly labyrinthine nature.

In her inaugural lecture at The Open University on 6 December 2022, Professor Pywell explored some effects of the empowerment of individuals and organisations to make delegated legislation, including the pandemic-related regulations about wearing face coverings in 2020.

Aspects of empowerment in legislation and education

Who funds this work?

The Hansard Society's work on delegated legislation is generously supported by The Legal Education Foundation

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