7 Enabling legislation
Earlier, you were introduced to the stages a draft piece of legislation goes through in order to become an Act of Parliament. Enabling legislation (primary legislation) follows the same process but the content of the legislation has not been fully outlined in the Bill. Rather, it outlines the nature of the legislation and explains what it wants to achieve. It is referred to as a parent Act or enabling Act as it confers powers to a government minister or ministerial body to develop the details of the legislation at a later date. This form of legislation is known as delegated or secondary legislation as it delegates the task of putting the flesh on the framework to a government minister or ministerial body. An example of delegated legislation is referred to as a statutory instrument (SI). An SI allows a government minister, such as the health minister or social security minister, to develop the legislative rules while implementing government policy. The minister is given the power to do this under the enabling Act and this is lawful as long as the minister operates within the powers (intra vires) of the enabling Act. Occasionally, a minister may be accused of abusing this power by acting outside the powers (ultra vires) of the enabling Act. The process for such an investigation is referred to as a judicial review. If this allegation is proven then the rules, codes or statutory instruments would not be lawful.