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In many countries, a statutory instrument is a form of delegated legislation.
Statutory instruments (or 'regulations') are primarily governed by the Statutory Instruments Act 1946, which replaced the system of statutory rules and orders governed by the Rules Publication Act 1893.
Following the 2016 EU membership referendum and the subsequent publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, there has been concern that its powers enabling ministers to issue statutory instruments under the bill may enable the government to bypass Parliament. Although this has been criticised by some as being undemocratic, draft regulations must be "laid before" Parliament, which may always demand a full debate on contentious issues.
Devolved administrations also have the power to make Statutory Instruments within the heads of powers that are devolved to them.
Wales Statutory Instruments made by the Welsh Government are published as a subseries of the UK statutory instrument series—for example, the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2017 is numbered 2017 No. 714 (W. 171), meaning it is the 714th statutory instrument in the UK series and 171st in the Wales subseries.
In Scotland, statutory instruments made by the Scottish Government were governed by the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 following devolution until the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 came into force. Unlike Wales Statutory Instruments, Scottish Statutory Instruments are not published as a subseries of the UK series—instead, they are published separately by the Queen's Printer for Scotland. However, any UK statutory instruments dealing with reserved matters and applying only to Scotland are published in a UK subseries, such as the Insolvent Companies (Reports on Conduct of Directors) (Scotland) Rules 2016 numbered 2016 No. 185 (S. 1).: 12 
In the Republic of Ireland the term "statutory instrument" is given a much broader meaning than under the UK legislation. Under the Statutory Instruments Act 1947 a statutory instrument is defined as being "an order, regulation, rule, scheme or bye-law made in exercise of a power conferred by statute".
However, only certain statutory instrument are published and numbered by the Stationery Office, this being mostly where the statute enabling the enactment of delegated legislation required that any such legislation be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Two close equivalents of similar operation are
- Executive orders of the President of the United States, which give instructions to various federal agencies on certain actions they are to take in various cases. They have the force of law, but are subordinate to primary legislation (i.e. acts of Congress) which may constrain their effect, and are also subject to judicial review.
- Regulations of various government agencies (a form of delegated legislation) are issued by those agencies regarding subjects those agencies have jurisdiction or responsibility over, or in response to statutes of Congress directing them to take responsibility over a particular subject or issue. They are published in the Federal Register for public notice and comment before becoming valid, and unless objected to by Congress, become effective and have the force and effect of law.
Canada uses statutory instruments for proclamations by the Queen of Canada. For example, the Proclamation of the Queen of Canada on April 17, 1982 brought into force the Constitution Act 1982, the UK parts of which are known as the Canada Act 1982.
- UK Statutory Instrument regulations should be distinguished from EU Regulations which are legislative acts that become immediately enforceable as law in all member states simultaneously.
- "Statutory Instruments Act 1946 (c. 36, 9–10 Geo. VI)", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1946 c. 36
- What are statutory instruments, and do they show “contempt for democracy”? New Statesman
- Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament. The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2017 (SI 2017/714 (W. 171)) as made, from legislation.gov.uk.
- "The Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional Provisions) (Statutory Instruments) Order 1999 (SI 1999/1096)", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1999/1096
- Scottish Parliament. Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (asp 10) as amended (see also enacted form), from legislation.gov.uk.
- Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Statutory Instrument Regulations 2011 (SSI 2011/195) as made, from legislation.gov.uk.
- Her Majesty's Stationery Office (2006). Statutory Instrument Practice: A manual for those concerned with the preparation of statutory instruments and the parliamentary procedures related to them. Office of Public Sector Information.
- "The Insolvent Companies (Reports on Conduct of Directors) (Scotland) Rules 2016 (SI 2016/185 (S. 1))", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 2016/185
- Rule Making by Commonwealth agencies- June 30, 2009
- Consolidated Index of Statutory Instruments- March 31, 2011
- Republic of Ireland: