bits of law

Main Section

Public | Constitutions

Source: Legislation

Revision Note | Degree

Download Adobe PDF Icon


  • Parliament's role in creating legislation been expanding since 1688
  • increase reflection of more complex society


  • two types: Acts of Parliament and delegated legislation

Acts of Parliament

  • Parliament is supreme law making body in the UK
  • Acts of Parliament are primary legislation
  • can create institutions and delegate powers to make the more detailed rules
  • formal stages required to create an Act and different types of Acts

Delegated Legislation

  • through enabling act or parent act Parliament delegates powers to other persons or bodies
  • known as subordinate or secondary legislation
  • Orders in Council: drafted by Government, formally signed by Privy Council and Monarch
  • can be used to transfer responsibilities between Government departments, dissolving Parliament, compliance with EU directives and in national emergency
  • statutory instruments: made by Government Ministers within the area of their responsibility, used to update laws
  • By laws: made by local authorities and public bodies and confirmed by the appropriate Ministe, apply only to a local authority area or public body
  • 2011: 3133 statutory instruments introduced compared to just 30 Acts of Parliament
  • debate whether delegated legislation is subjected to adequate scrutiny before becoming law

Key Legislation

  • although UK has unwritten constitution many Acts of Parliament a have particular constitutional significance

    Magna Carta 1215

    • early and symbolic piece of legislation
    • limits the powers of a Monarch and sets out criteria for basis of consent make to laws
    • embodies important individual freedoms, such as right to trial by jury

    Bill of Rights 1689

    • political contract between Parliament and Monarchy which asserts Parliament supremacy
    • took away Monarch's ability to suspend Acts of Parliament
    • requires free Parliamentary elections and guarantees members' right to freedom of speech

    Act of Settlement 1701

    • recognises importance of judicial independence by providing security of tenure for senior judges
    • alters rules of succession to the throne: preventing Catholics from succeeding and giving precedence to male heirs

    Acts of Union 1706–7

    • united England and Scotland under a single Parliament of Great Britain
    • preserved the separate Scottish church and legal system

    Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949

    • codified convention that House of Lords is ultimately subordinate to democratically elected House of Commons

    European Communities Act 1972

    • incorporated EU Law into UK domestic law
    • important part of the debate on the limitations of Parliamentary Sovereignty

    Devolution Acts

    • Scotland Act 1998, Wales Act 1998 and Northern Ireland Act 1998
    • set up a devolved system of government
    • established the Scottish Parliament and Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland

    Human Rights Act 1998

    • incorporates European Convention on Human Rights into UK domestic law
    • provides extended protection of human rights: all legislation must be compatible and allows citizens to raise alleged breaches before domestic courts

    Constitutional Reform Act 2005

    • codified a greater separation of powers
    • enshrined judicial independence through reform of the role of Lord Chancellor, creation of new Supreme Court and Judicial Appointments Commission
This site is best viewed with style sheets (CSS) enabled and an up-to-date browser.