It is now generally accepted that delegated legislation is not merely a necessary evil but that it has some positive advantages:

  • It saves precious Parliamentary time. To take just one example, the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1995 run to 185 very detailed but uncontroversial pages. There would be nothing to be gained from debating these in Parliament: the time taken for 650 MPs and 300 or so peers even to read the draft regulations would be better spent on other things.
  • It allows Parliament to concentrate on broad issues of policy rather than masses of detail. The Road Traffic Act 1972 (now replaced by the Road Traffic Act 1988) included a general requirement for motor-cyclists to wear protective helmets, but left the Secretary of State to draw up detailed regulations as to the type of helmet required. The Motor Cycles (Protective Helmets) Regulations 1980 contain further detail about the requirements.
  • It allows technical matters to be determined by those competent to do so, and can make use of expert knowledge not available within the Civil Service. The Air Navigation Order 1995 contains 140 pages of highly technical rules (including tables, maps and so on) governing the flying of civil aircraft around the United Kingdom: it is doubtful whether any Member of Parliament (including the Minister) had the technical expertise even to comment on these rules, let alone draft them.
  • It also allows local councils to make laws appropriate to their local areas. Street drinking, for example, is a problem in some city centres but not in all country villages; local councils with local knowledge are in a much better position than MPs to decide where such laws are needed.
  • The enabling Act can impose a requirement of consultation with those most closely involved before Orders or Regulations are made. For example, s.2 of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991 establishes a pay review body and requires the Secretary of State before making an Order implementing its recommendations to consult "such associations of local education authorities ... bodies representing the interests of governors of voluntary schools ... grant-maintained schools ...bodies representing school teachers ... as appear to him to be concerned".
  • It offers flexibility: adaptation to meet changing circumstances or modification in the light of experience. The County Court Fees Order 1999 sets out the fees payable at various stages of civil proceedings, but the County Court Fees (Amendment) Order 2002 amends this Order to take account of changes in certain enforcement procedures. Similarly, the Civil Courts (Amendment) Order 1997 was made by the Lord Chancellor under s.2(1) of the County Courts Act 1984 to close the now-redundant County Court at Ammanford.
  • It allows rapid action to be taken in times of emergency. The Food Protection (Emergency Provisions) Order 1986 was made and laid before Parliament and came into effect less than two hours later, prohibiting the movement or slaughter for food of sheep in certain areas thought to have been affected by radioactive fallout from the incident at the Chernobyl power station.
  • It allows Acts to be implemented piece by piece, as circumstances make appropriate, though this power is open to abuse. Section 67 of the Family Law Act 1996 provided for most parts of the Act to be brought into force by statutory instruments issued by the Lord Chancellor. The Family Law Act 1996 (Commencement No.1) Order 1997 was the first such instrument, implementing some of the provisions relating to legal aid for mediation; other Orders implementing other parts of the Act followed, though Part II of the Act (dealing with divorce procedure) was never brought into force and has since been repealed.
  • It allows for the fulfilment of international obligations where amendment is impossible and Parliament can say only yes or no. The Diseases of Poultry Order 1994, made under the Animal Health Act 1981 and imposing measures to prevent the spread of avian flu and Newcastle disease, was made in response to an EC directive requiring such measures. Similarly, the Mental Health Act 1983 (Remedial) Order 2001 was made in response to a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998.
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