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What happens to statutory instruments under the negative procedure

The process is typically:

  • the Government formally presents (or ‘lays’) a statutory instrument by taking copies to the Journal Office (the instrument will already have been signed into law or ‘made’, but it usually won’t have come into effect yet: there’s a convention that negative statutory instruments should not come into effect until a minimum of 21 days after they’ve been laid)
  • the laying of the statutory instrument is recorded in the Votes and Proceedings
  • if no one objects to the statutory instrument, it comes into effect without any further action from Parliament or the Government
  • if an MP who objects to the statutory instrument tables a type of Early Day Motion (known as a ‘prayer’) calling for the statutory instrument to be annulled, the Government might find time for the prayer to be debated in a Delegated Legislation Committee or, very rarely, in the Chamber;
  • the debate might be followed by a vote in the Chamber to annul the statutory instrument, but if the debate has taken place in Committee, the Government don’t have to provide time for a vote in the Chamber
  • if a vote does take place in the Chamber and the motion is agreed within a specified period of the statutory instrument being laid (usually 40 days excluding days when both Houses are in recess or adjourned for more than four days), the statutory instrument is annulled, which means it stops having legal effect
  • if the motion to annul the statutory instrument is not agreed, the statutory instrument has effect without any further action from Parliament or the Government

Occasionally, a negative statutory instrument is laid in draft form. In this case, if a motion is submitted and agreed within 40 days, the statutory instrument is withdrawn, rather than being annulled.

If you want to object to a negative statutory instrument after the 40 days have expired, you can table a motion to revoke (rather than annul) the statutory instrument. Revoking a statutory instrument doesn’t stop it having legal effect.

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