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[Delegated legislation - the Privy Council]
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The Privy Council

Ministerial Orders

Ministerial Orders - as Orders in Council - are actually made by government ministers and formally passed by the Monarch and the Privy Council.


They are used as an alternative to other legislative forms when there is good reason, for example emergency.  When the Northern Ireland legislative council was suspended good government of the province was continued by Orders In Council.


Made by the Queen

Orders in Council, are in theory made by the Queen after consulting the Council.


The cabinet is a committee of the Privy Council so all cabinet ministers, current and past are Privy Councillors.


Privy Council meetings

The Lord President of the Council reads out a list of Orders-in-Council and the Queen says  "Agreed" this one word validates the Orders. These meetings are over in about five minutes.


There are usually only a handful of privy councillors present.  Full meetings of the Privy Council occur only on the death of a monarch and the accession of a new monarch, when the Council issues a proclamation of the accession and announces the name of the new Sovereign.


Order in Council banning Al−Qa’ida

In 2003 a Privy Council meeting made an order that banned dealings with Usama bin Laden, Al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, the meeting made the order that was laid before Parliament and was immediately law.  The minutes of the Privy Council meeting are here.


The meeting was at Sandringham on 21 January 2002 and became law on 25th January 2002 in the form of The Al-Qa'ida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2002.


The order gave effect to a Resolution of the United Nations to deal with problems in Afghanistan; it is a major piece of legislation carrying heavy penalties.


Orders in Council


See below for Orders of Council

Orders in Council are issued "by and with the advice of Her Majesty's Privy Council", and are usually classified as secondary legislation (although some can be primary legislation), and are made under powers given in a parent Act, so sometimes the Queen is making orders under the authority given to her by Parliament in the enabling act, hence Orders In Council are delegated legislation.


Used for a wide variety of purposes, such as for transferring responsibilities between Government Departments, or where it effects the constitution by extending legislation to the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.


Orders are usually made under the power conferred by the parent act (for example, for exercising control over 'dominions').


The Order in Council and the petrol strike

An Order in Council was used during the 'Petrol Strike' in 2000 - a fast moving protest about fuel prices which caused panic buying and dry petrol stations by taking special powers to preserve fuel supplies.


At a Privy Council meeting at Balmoral the Queen approved an order in council:

"because there is imminent in the United Kingdom a threatened emergency affecting fuel supplies which make it necessary in Her Majesty's Opinion that the government should temporarily have at its disposal exceptional powers for controlling the sources and availability of energy"

EU legislation and emergencies.

Orders in Council were used to transfer powers from Ministers of the UK government to those of the devolved assembles.

Examples of these are the The Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) Order 2003(Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 415 (S. 5)) and

The National Assembly of Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999 (SI 1999/672).

Some Orders in Council are actually Statutory Instruments but we have listed them separately because most text books do.


Orders in Council in particular.

Useful because they can be made when Parliament is not sitting.  Can be made by ministers to have immediate effect and then be approved by the Privy Council (PC) later (similar to Royal Assent procedure). 


Matters that would be ultra vires if passed under statutory authority are valid if passed under the Royal Prerogative


Orders usually laid in draft before Parliament, and are subject to similar controls as other types of statutory instrument.


Prerogative orders can be reviewed, in most cases, by the courts.

In 2007 the Court of Appeal ruled that the Chagos Islanders had been wrongly expelled by the Foreign Secretary from their homes in the Indian Ocean.

More here


Dependencies such as Guernsey

The laws passed by the Guernsey parliament must be approved by the Privy Council, which comes under the jurisdiction of Lord Chancellor.


The Government can also impose laws on dependencies by using an Order in Council.


The Privy Council


Orders of Council

  • Much of the day-to-day work of the Privy Council Office is concerned with the affairs of Chartered Bodies, the 400 or so institutions, charities and companies who are incorporated by Royal Charter. The Privy Council also has an important part to play in respect of certain statutory regulatory bodies covering a number of professions and in the world of higher education.

  • Councils are held by The Queen (she is not always personally present) and are attended by Ministers and the Clerk of the Council. At each meeting the Council will obtain Her Majesty's formal approval to a number of Orders which have already been discussed and approved by Ministers, much as Acts of Parliament become law through the giving of the Royal Assent after having been debated in Parliament.

  • An example of this type of SI is the General Optical Council (Maximum Penalty) Order 1994 (SI 1994/3327) which increased the maximum penalty that could be made by the GOCs Disciplinary Committee from £1000 to £1600.

  • A vast number or orders bring to an end burials at cemeteries that are full.


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