Delegated legislation

Lifting the lid on delegated legislation

This project is an examination of delegated legislation, which is often the stage at which the substance of Acts of Parliament is provided. The term covers a wide range of different legislative powers and provisions, usually made in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs), that can be used to amend, update or enforce existing primary legislation without parliament having to pass a new act. 

There has been a significant increase in the volume of delegated legislation in recent decades, with double the number of SIs passed in 2005 as in 1985. The increased use of delegated legislation has also increased its significance, and a number of government bills have hit the headlines in recent years because of the far-reaching nature and implications of the delegated powers contained within.

And yet the power of Parliament to scrutinise delegated legislation is weak: debates on SIs are rare, and limited when they do take place; SIs cannot be amended by parliamentarians; and often they will come into effect before there is time for any scrutiny whatsoever.

Researchers will consider: 

  • how decisions are made about what goes into primary and what goes into delegated legislation and who makes them;
  • what parliamentary scrutiny procedures should then apply to the delegated legislation and why, and;
  • what formal and informal influence Parliament is able to exercise in this decision making process.

The final report will analyse the processes for making and scrutinising delegated legislation and will make practical recommendations for improving them. The report will provide an essential evidence base to underpin debate about future reform of delegated legislation within both government and Parliament.

Project details



Ruth Fox, Hansard Society

Grant amount and duration


May 2011 - October 2012