Last edited 12 Dec 2020

Statutory instruments

Statutory instruments (SIs), also known as delegated, secondary or subordinate legislation, allow the UK government to alter or bring the provisions of an Act into force without needing Parliament to pass a new Act. Primarily governed by the Statutory Instruments Act 1946, SIs are effectively devices that enable government to progress legislation through Parliament more quickly. SIs are typically in the form of Orders in Council, regulations, and rules.

For example, if the government wishes to amend a law on payments to include payment notices, an SI can be used to do so more quickly and easily than if it were to introduce a new piece of legislation.

Similarly, an Act may set out a broad framework, while SIs provide details that may be too lengthy or complex to be included in the Act itself.

In Scotland, SIs are governed by the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. In Northern Ireland, statutory rules organise delegated legislation rather than SIs.

SIs have come under criticism for being un-democratic, particularly following the 2016 EU referendum and the publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Referring to ‘Henry VIII powers’, critics have focused on the powers given to government ministers to bypass Parliament using SIs when repatriating legislation from the EU.

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