Delegated Legislation | Definition, Types, Merits and Demerits
Meaning of Delegated Legislation
A delegated legislation is a rule or regulation made by a person or body other than the legislature. A delegated legislation therefore has the force of a law. Like every other law, it has the full force of the law and can be enforced and adjudicated like a law made by parliament itself.
It is not possible for parliament to legislate in detail on all matters that are of interest to the people, and it becomes necessary for it to delegate some of its powers to ministers and public corporations that administer public utilities.
Another factor that fostered the growth of delegated legislation was the expansion of the scope and functions of the state at the turn of the 20th century. The state assumed power for some matters, which were previously handled by the private sector.
The state also introduced welfare programmes. The modern state, especially after the two world wars had to assume full responsibility for the provision of certain vital services and to undertake planning for the whole nation-state.
The expansion of the activities of the state means that the legislature can only legislate in broad terms and delegate the power to fill in the details to the bodies concerned. As such, delegated legislation developed out of necessity.
Historical Development of Delegated Legislation
The origin of delegated legislation is usually traced to the reforms carried out in Britain in the 1830s. As a result of the Industrial Revolution of the 17th century, several large industries were established which encouraged the migration of people to the manufacturing towns like Manchester and Birmingham.
New laws were therefore necessary to deal with factory conditions and the rapidly expanding cities. Parliament too was faced with the problem of authorizing the development of railways, water supplies, gas and electricity services. The legislature lacked the capacity to make all the needed laws.
But delegated legislation must be laid before parliament for 40 sitting days during which any member may raise a motion to annul it.
Merits of Delegated Legislation
- Reduction of work load: Delegated legislation has succeeded in reducing the pressure of work on parliament.
- Useful for emergencies: In case of an external attack, the executive can take quick decisions.
- It saves time: Delegated legislation saves parliament enough time, whose legislative machinery could break down if it were to enact all laws.
- Technical languages: It is useful where technical languages are involved in government policies.
- Efficiency: Delegated legislation makes for efficiency and precision.
- Experiment: It is useful where experiment is desired. Most local governments have achieved something realistic through this experiment.
- Adjusting to changing situation: With this development modern governments can adjust to changing situation and easily take care of contigencies.
Demerits of Delegated Legislation
- It violates the principle of the rule of law: Delegated legislation violates the principle of the rule of law which lays emphasis on the freedom of citizens.
- Lack of publicity: The numerous bye laws, rules and regulations are not known to the common citizen because they are not well publicised.
- It violates the principle of separation of powers: Delegated legislation also violates the principle of separation of powers and the sovereignty of the legislature.
- The executive: The executive may tend to grow more powerful than the legislature.
- Too many law making bodies: Delegated legislation involves too many law-making bodies. The power of the judiciary to review the activities of the legislature is made difficult.
- Abuse of power: This can manifest itself. The departments involved in this exercise can easily abuse such powers delegated to them.
- It is undemocratic: Most of the laws made by some of these bodies are draconian, and undemocratic and do not have the support of the people.
- The executive could become dictatorial: The executive arm seems to have too much powers at its disposal. It could make it become dictatorial.
- It violates the principle of parliamentary supremacy: This is because other bodies or organisations are equally involved in performing legislative functions.
- Legislative functions could be eroded: Laws made by these bodies may have a negative effect on legislative functions of parliament.
- It may not be acceptable: Most of the laws and rules enacted, may not be widely accepted because enough consultation was not made before their formulation and implementation.
- Parliamentary Control: The laws made by some of these bodies and their activities may lack effective parliamentary control.