Primary and secondary legislation
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In the parliamentary systems of government, primary legislation and secondary legislation are two forms of law. Primary legislation consists of Acts of Parliament or statute. Secondary legislation (also called delegated legislation) is the granting of additional law-making powers to another branch of government by an Act or statute. In the European Union, primary and secondary legislation are two of the three processes of law. The third is supplementary law which includes International law and covers any gaps between primary and secondary legislation.
In parliamentary systems, of three branches of government—executive, legislative and judicial—the legislative branch is the most powerful. In other forms of government, such as democracy for example, the three branches of government are equal in power. When a parliament makes a law, called an act, it is binding on the other two branches of government. Acts are made by a majority vote of the legislature. The exact process differs in different parliamentary systems. In a bicameral (two-chamber) system there is usually a lower house (such as the House of Commons in the UK) and an upper house (such as the House of Lords). A new law starts out as a bill, usually in the lower house. It must pass both houses before it can become an act. Other systems use a unicameral or one-chamber legislation. In either system, an act becomes the law. Judges and the courts have almost no authority to challenge the validity of a law.
In the United States, primary legislation is, at the federal level, an Act of Congress. A statute that delegates authority or responsibility to an agency is called an authorizing statute. A law created by the executive branch of the United States Government or that of a state government as the result of primary legislation is called a regulatory law.
Secondary (also called subordinate) legislation is all other forms of legislation that are not Acts of Parliament. It is very similar to administrative law in the United States. The legislative branch of governments often delegates power to allow ministers to make secondary legislation. Secondary legislation also includes directives, regulations and decisions by commissions or councils. Most Acts of Parliament in the UK contain provisions to allow secondary legislation.
The two types of secondary legislation are delegated legislation and prerogative legislation.
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