Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Statutory Instruments - should they be amended?

Statutory instruments are regulations, orders or rules, which have the force of law.   They are made by a Minister, or sometimes by some other committee or body, in accordance with powers granted by an Act of Parliament.   Many Acts confer powers to make statutory instruments for purposes specified in the Act.   The powers to make statutory instruments are often very widely defined, and in some cases statutory instruments can even be used to repeal or amend Acts of Parliament: so-called “Henry VIII” powers
The most important and widely drawn “Henry VIII” power is that contained in the European Communities Act 1972, which permits ministers and a range of other bodies to make regulations making “any such provision as may be made by Act of Parliament”.   Regulations under this section can and regularly do repeal or amend Acts of Parliament, and may be made for the purpose of implementing EC obligations or “for the purpose of dealing with matters arising out of or related to any such obligation.”
Almost all the directives emanating from the European Union have to be converted into Statutory Instruments in the United Kingdom.
The key weakness of Statutory Instruments is that while each House can vote down a Statutory Instrument as a whole, there is no power to amend it.   Rejecting the whole instrument is a drastic remedy if the objection is to parts of it.   The fact that they cannot be amended in Parliament is one of the reasons, which at present make them so attractive to the Whitehall machine, and yet scrutiny of these Instruments is essential.   The key reform is:
                Statutory Instruments should be capable of amendment by Parliament.


  1. I agree with the sentiments of your article.

  2. Something else I was unaware of. I agree, they should be subject to scrutiny and amendment.