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How the government makes laws that we don’t know about until we break them

by Michael Doherty author of The I-CHING (RIP 1937-2023)

Before I go into the many Bills before parliament, it’s important that we understand why governments love secondary legislation.

Secondary legislation is totally undemocratic.

It gives government ministers the ability to make laws without the scrutiny of parliament.

They use Statutory Instruments (SIs) You may be more familiar with the United States term – Executive Orders.

Statutory Instruments (SIs)

In the UK there are about 3500 SIs published every year. That’s an average of 10 a day, most of which are never scrutinised by our elected MPs. In fact, many MPs are totally unaware of the existence of most of the SIs.

Here’s how it works: The government publish a Bill (that is, primary legislation to produce an Act of Parliament – a law) which sounds altogether reasonable and justified based on the requirements of a peaceful and prosperous society.

However, as usual, the devil is in the detail.

Also, as per usual, there are many terms used in the Bill that are not defined. These terms will be defined in secondary legislation. There is a reasonable case for this when our leaders have our interests at heart. Instead of having a Bill which is bogged down with technical details, they publish a Bill in a general form which should pass smoothly through parliament, leaving the technical details to be sorted out through ‘regulations’ at a later stage.

Enter the Statutory Instruments.

However, this seemingly reasonable process is wide open to abuse. It is employed by our beloved leaders to enact laws that would otherwise never survive the scrutiny of parliamentary debate.

Also, as they are not debated in parliament, we don’t even know they are happening.

And remember, ignorance of the law is no defence – no excuse.

You are subject to these laws even though you don’t even know that they exist.

There are two types of SIs – Affirmative and Negative. Which type it is is stated in the original primary legislation.

The Affirmative ones need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. They cannot be amended – they must be either accepted or rejected in total. The last time one was rejected by the Commons was in 197(43years ago) and the last time one was rejected by the Lords was in 2000 (22 years ago). They are usually ‘nodded through’ in minutes without a vote.

The Negative type (about 80% of all SIs) do not need to be approved. They become law on the day the minister signs them. There is a procedure to annul them but it has seldom been used.

In the hands of a tyrannical government such as the UK government:

Statutory Instruments are a deadly weapon

A bit more detail (from

The UK Government really likes this despotic legal system.

It can pass sprawling, incomprehensible, primary legislation without defining any of the most crucial precepts the new law is supposedly based upon.

For example, the Government is almost certainly going to manage to pass the forthcoming Online Safety Act, but hasn’t bothered to explain what key terms, such as “harm” or “disinformation,” actually mean.

Parliament will rubber stamp the Online Safety Bill into law as an Act and will empower the executive (Crown ministers) subsequently to use negative SIs—which Members of Parliament won’t even read, let alone oppose, to add the meat to the bones of the legislation.

The executive will prescribe whatever it, its favoured NGOs and its international “partners” wants to call “disinformation” or “harm” as it sees fit, whenever it chooses, using secondary legislation. Thus, the new law can “be enforced and operate in daily life” in the absence of any genuine parliamentary scrutiny or debate.

This is just about as dictatorial as it gets, but that’s the way government operates in reality

This article was previously written for Michael’s website but since his passing the site may vanish so with permission from his best friend Kelly Martin they are being republished here for OPENGLOS.

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