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Advantages and Disadvantages of Delegated Legislation
Delegated legislation is defined as the act of transferring powers and functions through the Acts of parliament to other organisations such as ministries, local governments, public corporations, etc.
Laws made by these bodies are referred to as bye laws. Parliament finds it mere convenient to lay down the general principles of laws and then leave the administrative and technical aspects to these other bodies, whose powers are delegated by the parliament.
Delegated legislation is a special feature of modern government.
Merits of Delegated Legislation
Delegated legislation has the following advantages:
- It saves parliamentary time. Since there has been a gradual increase in government activities, it follows that the issues which require legislation nowadays are so many that it is practically impossible for the legislature alone to find enough time to carry out all the preliminary and detailed work involved. To save time and relieve itself the burden of legislation, the parliament only provides the broad outlines of laws and allows local and public authorities to fill in the details.
- Delegated legislation enables the legislature, and indeed the government, to make use of technical experts in law making. The fact that modern legislation is very technical in nature makes it imperative that the legislature should allow people with such technical skills to make inputs into legislation. Delegated legislation therefore allows the legislature to give some of its law-making powers to extra-legislative bodies with technical competence. For example, professional bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are allowed by law to regulate the activities of their members and consulted, as of right, on matters that affect their members or the profession itself.
- Delegated legislation allows for a high degree of flexibility in the making of laws. By nature, parliamentary procedures are very rigid and this may make it difflcult to introduce issues, which may later turn out to be germane to the law. Moreover, lawmakers are human beings with limited capacity to predict accurately the consequences of their actions or even foresee the problems, that may arise as a result of the application of the law. But the use of delegated legislation makes it possible to adapt laws to unknown future conditions.
- Delegated legislation is very useful in emergency conditions to deal with problems that require quick decision-making.
- Delegated legislation allows for experimentation of new policies.
Before a new idea is passed into law by parliament, it may be tried and tested in a local community by the use of delegated legislation. If it succeeds the policy, may then be introduced throughout the country though it may be dropped if it proved unviable. Before the adoption of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme nationwide, a pilot study was carried out in some Nigerian states.
Demerits of Delegated Legislation
The disadvantages of delegated legislation arise mainly from its tendency to undermine the power of the legislature to make law.
- Delegated legislation may be undemocratic. One basic feature of representative government and democracy is that those who make laws must be elected. But in the case of delegated legislation, those who are given power to make laws may not be elected. As such, delegated legislation is a violation of democratic principles.
- Delegated legislation undermines the powers of the legislature to make laws. The legislature has exclusive responsibility to make laws but with delegated legislation we have a situation in which law making is, to a large extent, taken from where it naturally belongs.
- By making delegated legislation, the executive is performing legislative functions and at the same time, enforcing the laws. This is a violation of the principle of separation of powers.
- The use of delegated legislation may lead to dictatorship in times of emergency. Under emergency conditions when constitutional guarantees are suspended, and there is a widespread resort to the use of delegated legislation, the executive may infringe on the liberties and rights of the citizens.
- Delegated legislation can be easily abused especially by an individual or a few people who hold important political positions.
- Delegated legislation are sometimes backdated, and therefore have retrospective effects. This is a breach of the principle of the rule of law, which says that any act considered to be an offence must be prescribed by law.
- There is inadequate consultation and publicity before the rules are made.
- Delegated legislation may be so many as to confuse the people. Yet ignorance is not an excuse under the law.