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English Law Research Guide

A guide to researching English law in the Tarlton Law Library.

What is Secondary Legislation?

Secondary, or subordinate, legislation is all other legislation made in the United Kingdom that is not an Act of Parliament. There are two different types of secondary legislation: delegated legislation and prerogative legislation.

Delegated legislation is authorized by an Act of Parliament which delegates to specific authorities the power to make laws on defined subjects.  This is very similar to administrative law, and regulations, in the U.S. legal system.

Prerogative legislation is made by the Crown with its inherent law-making powers not dependent on Parliament. This type of secondary legislation is subordinate to Parliament, as Parliament is the supreme law maker of the UK.

This page will focus on delegated legislation, and more specifically on statutory instruments.

Types of Delegated Legislation

Statutory Instruments
Statutory Instruments are made in a variety of forms, most commonly Orders in Council, regulations, rules and orders.  The form to be adopted is usually set out in the enabling Act.

Church Measures
Church of England Measures are the instrument by which changes are made to legislation relating to the administration and organization of the Church.

Hybrid Instruments
Hybrid Instruments are Statutory Instruments that are ruled to be hybrid instruments because they affect some members of a group (be it individuals or bodies) more than others.

Special Procedure Orders
Special Procedure Orders are a form of delegated legislation to which special parliamentary procedure applies.  Part of this procedure gives those people or bodies who are especially affected by the order to petition against it to either House.

More About Statutory Instruments...

The Statutory Instruments Act of 1946 (1946 Chapter 36, 9 & 10 Geo. 6) defined the instruments by which statutory powers to make orders, rules, regulations and other subordinate legislation are exercised.  Prior to 1946, Statutory Rules and Orders were the means by which delegated legislation was made.  Statutory Rules and Orders began with the Rules Publication Act of 1893.  Prior to 1893, there was no consistent way by which delegated legislation was published.

When are Statutory Instruments Used?

A Statutory Instrument is used when an Act of Parliament passed after 1947 gives the power to make, confirm, or approve delegated legislation to:

  • the Queen, and states that the power is to be exercisable by Order-in-Council*; or
  • a Minister of the Crown and states that the power is to be exercisable by Statutory Instrument.

Statutory Instruments are also used when the Queen-in-Council or a Minister exercises power under a pre-1947 Act of Parliament that is legislative, rather than executive, in nature. 

*Note:  "Queen-in-Council" refers to the Crown's executive authority, while Queen-in-Parliament refers to the Crown's legislative role.

Interpreting Statutory Instrument Citations

Statutory instruments are numbered serially, by year. “SI 2008/1650” indicates that this is the 1650th statutory instrument passed in the year 2008.

Consult table T.2 of the Bluebook under “United Kingdom -- Statutes -- Regulations” (p. 321 in the 18th edition) for further citation information.

Statutory Instruments

Statutory Instruments are English administrative regulations, and are analogous to the regulations published in the United States Code of Federal Regulations

However, not all statutory instruments are published.  Statutory instruments passed before 1890 were published only on an ad hoc basis; statutory instruments with only local, private, or temporary applications were generally not published.  Those statutory instruments that are published are often published in a subject arrangement.

Beginning in 1890, annual editions of what were then known as Statutory Rules & Orders (SR&Os) were published.  This became a numbered series in 1894 following the passage of the Rules Publication Act 1893.  In 1946, Parliament passed the Statutory Instruments Act.

The collected sets of statutory instruments available in the Tarlton Law Library are:

Statutory Rules and Orders  1890-1947
This 58-volume set was published by Her Majesty's Stationary Office (HMSO) and is thus considered an official compilation of statutory instruments.  Tarlton only has the volumes from 1925-1936 and 1946. These are located in Closed Stacks and can be requested at the Circulation Desk.

Statutory Rules and Orders Revised to Dec. 31, 1903  1903
This 13-volume set published by HMSO includes all instruments in force as amended to Dec. 31, 1903. 

Statutory Rules and Orders Revised to Dec. 31, 1948  1948
This 25-volume set published by HMSO includes all instruments in force as amended to Dec. 31, 1948. 

Halsbury's Statutory Instruments  1986-2003
This 22-volume set published by Halsbury's arranges statutory instruments in a subject order. The library's set is not updated beyond 2003. This set is located in closed stacks and can be requested at the circulation desk.


To update Statutory Instruments, use the Current Law Statute Citator.

Statutory Instruments Online
All published statutory instruments from 1987-present, except for those that are generally of local application and therefore unpublished, are available on the UK Statutory Instruments page of

All draft statutory instruments published after November 1, 1997, and all new draft statutory instruments awaiting approval, are available on the UK Draft Statutory Instruments page of the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.

The OPSI also provides statistics of statutory instruments made by department during the time period covering 2007 - June 30, 2009.