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Last Updated: Monday, 14 October, 2002, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Delegated Legislation
how people use technology may now be closely monitored
The government included within the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act the ability to enact SIs in the future

In order to reduce pressure on parliamentary time, Acts of Parliament often give government ministers or other authorities the power to regulate administrative details by means of 'delegated' or secondary legislation.

This mostly takes the form of Orders in Council, Regulations and Rules known as Statutory Instruments (SIs).

These are as much the law of the land as are Acts of Parliament. SIs are normally drafted by the legal department of the ministry concerned and may be subject, when in draft, to consultations with interested parties. About 3,000 SIs are issued each year.

To minimise any risk that delegating powers to the executive might undermine the authority of Parliament, such powers are normally only delegated to authorities directly accountable to Parliament.

The relevant Acts concerned sometimes provide for some measure of direct parliamentary control over proposed delegated legislation, by giving Parliament the opportunity to affirm or annul it.

Parliament always has the right to consider whether the SI is made in accordance with the powers that it delegated.

SIs are often controversial since they give the government authority to amend the law without consulting the House of Commons.

One such example is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, voted into force two years ago and commonly known as RIP. The RIP gave certain organisations the right ot find out specific information about how people use technology. The government included within RIP the future ability to enact SIs.

A SI was proposed in June 2002 that would give an extended number of public and some private bodies the authority to view e-mails.

Under these changes the bodies would include the Post Office, the Office Of Fair Trading and the NHS, among others.



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