This might sound like a stupid question, as it is probably a very easy question. It's just I am new to studying law and want to get the vocabulary right. I am mostly a science and math orientated person and I am not good at English language / English litrature, which may be part of the reason I struggle with vocabulary.

Is the word "enact" only used for laws passed by Parliament i.e. an Act of Parliament? Can you use the word enact for delegated legislation?

And are consolidating statutes Acts of Parliament or Acts of Parliament and delegated legislation? I was thinking they may be delegated legislation as sometimes consolidating statutes are just amendments, corrections and minor improvements, which is what statutory instruments often are. It does not seem logical that you should go through the long rigorous law passing procedure of passing multiple readings in the House of Commons and the House of Lords just for amendments, corrections and minor improvements.

Also I have no professor to ask and the internet is not clear. I cannot seem to find the words enact and delegated legislation in the same sentence on the net.

2 Answers 2


What Does Enact Mean?

"Enact" means that a legislative body has finally passed a proposed law (a.k.a. a "bill") or proposed ordinance in a legislative capacity, causing it to become a law (a.k.a. an "act") or ordinance, rather than merely a proposal to pass a law or ordinance.

Your local council could enact an ordinance that was proposed to it to raise your rubbish collection fees, or parliament could enact a bill to reinstate the death penalty, or parliament could enact a bill to make an existing law gender neutral in its terminology.

In the U.S. when a regulation is brought into force to provide an executive branch department's interpretation or specification of something delegated to it in legislature an enactment, it would be customary to say that the regulation is "adopted" or "made" or "ordered" rather than "enacted".

But no one would be confused if you said that it was "enacted", in context, and British usage on this fine point might be different or evolving. The fact that your searches don't find "enacted" and "delegated legislation" in the same sentence, however, suggests that British usage hasn't evolved that far.

Minor Legislation

It does not seem logical that you should go thought the long righorous law passing proceedure of passing multiple reading in the House of commons and the house of lords, for just amendments, corrections and minor improvements.

Logical or not, this is generally what is done. Indeed, the House of Lords largely justifies its existence by finding minor flaws in legislation passed by the House of Commons and sending it back to the House of Commons with amendments, corrections, and minor improvements to pass again.

But it usually isn't hard to get political support for these kinds of housekeeping amendments and nobody talks about them during Question Time, or makes long floor speeches about them in other floor debates.

The "Bill To Correct Typos and Grammatical Errors In The Tax Revision Bill of 2020" is offered up for consideration on the merits when its turn comes up, and in the absence of objection, it is adopted by unanimous consent, and boom, the Tax Revision Bill of 2020 isn't ugly and doesn't look like it was written by someone who skipped primary school anymore. This makes everybody in parliament look better.

The logic of this is an "equal dignities" idea. It should be as hard to change something enacted by parliament as it was to enact it in the first place. Unilateral executive branch officials shouldn't be able to override a decision voted upon by the entire House of Commons and the House of Lords by himself or herself.

Delegated Legislation Distinguished

Delegated legislation is (mostly, at least) what we in the U.S. would call regulatory authority.

Delegated legislation is not delegated because it is unimportant. It is delegated because MPs lack the capacity to articulate what it should say as well as executive branch officials.

A typical example would be in the environmental protection area. MPs know that pollution that is dangerous to people is bad, but they delegate the authority to the agency to decide what that translates to in terms of parts per billion kilojoules of energy produced of lead or particulate matter or CO2. These amounts are determined by agency scientists helping the minsters and their underlings in the agency determine the right amount based upon lengthy reports that most MPs wouldn't understand because they did PolySci instead of chemistry in college.

A radically different example that gets across the same idea would be that the parliament might delegate to the Defense Minister responsibility for establishing terms of engagement for British soldiers stationed in Afghanistan (i.e. rules for when they're allowed to shoot people), because the Minster's up to date knowledge of the situation and familiarity with military protocols, further informed by advice from the Ministry's generals and admirals, would allow the Minister to provide a rule that is more appropriate to the situation, that is more understandable from a soldier's perspective, than the House of Commons made up mostly of people who haven't served in the military and aren't familiar with what is going on in Afghanistan lately, would.

  • Note that for primary legislation, the text will almost always (with very, very rare exceptions) have been drafted by the government (by civil servants and Parliamentary counsel) not by MPs themselves. Typically even amendments made by MPs are replaced (if agreed in principle) by ones drafted by the government. When doing Parliamentary campaigning I found the latter strange, but it is precisely because the government feels it knows how to do it. So competence in drafting is not a reason in the UK for secondary legislation even if it is in the USA. Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 12:50

Is the word "enact" only used for laws passed by Parliament i.e. an Act of Parliament? Can you use the word enact for delegated legislation?

Informally, if you were to use "enact" for both, people would understand what you meant. If it matters at all, it's only going to be in contexts where you want to be technically accurate.

Short answer: Acts of Parliament are enacted; delegated legislation is made.

Long answer: Every Act of Parliament begins with the Act's long title, followed by its enactment formula, which typically states:

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

By comparison, statutory instruments (SIs)(the main form of delegated legislation in the UK) typically begin as in this example:

The Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Made: 8th March 2021

Laid before Parliament: 9th March 2021

Coming into force: 31st March 2021

The Secretary of State makes the following Regulations in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 32(1)(d) and (e) and 43(2) of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.

(More details about SIs are available on Parliament's website.)

Moving on to the next part of the question:

are consolidating statutes Acts of Parliament or Acts of Parliament and delegated legislation?

With certain (often controversial) exceptions (see also this question), an Act requires another Act to amend it, regardless of the nature of the amendment. By definition, a consolidation statute does not change the effect of the law; it merely restates it (which may also involve repealing Acts if they no longer have any practical effect).

To quote from the Wikipedia page on consolidation bills:

Consolidation bills are introduced in the House of Lords which, by convention, has primacy in these matters. The Lords has the only substantive discussion on the bill, at its second reading, before the bill is sent to a Joint Committee of Parliament which may propose amendments to it. Subject to this, the Lords' third reading and all readings in the House of Commons are usually formalities and pass without debate.

Most consolidation bills are proposed in the first instance by the Law Commission, and it is this prior consideration that gives rise to the expedited process afforded to these bills. Every consolidation bill proposed by the Law Commission has been passed by Parliament.

In addition to drafting these bills, the Law Commission also prepares accompanying reports on both consolidation bills and their cousins, statute law repeal bills.

To address one final point:

as sometimes consolidating statutes are just amendments, corrections and minor improvements, which is what statutory instruments often are.

That is not the case. The purpose of a statutory instrument is to provide regulations (or rules, orders, directions, etc) where it would not make sense to include in the enabling Act, because the details are likely to change over time, and/or those details are not known at the time that the Act is going through Parliament. More broadly, Acts that grant the power to issue SIs provide a framework for creating regulations, but don't contain the regulations; that's what SIs are for.

To come at it from another angle: though parliamentary states like the UK don't have the same separation of powers present in presidential states like the US, the principle of delegated legislation is similar: the legislative branch passes an Act which delegates specific regulatory powers to the executive branch (or sometimes to other bodies).


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