After Parliament has passed a Bill, it receives Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament. Provisions of an Act take effect upon Royal Assent unless provided otherwise. In practice, it is common to provide otherwise, with ministers being empowered by order to make commencement orders, stipulating the date on which the provisions, or particular provisions, shall come into force. I have previously drawn attention to the nature of such orders.
I recently initiated a Question for Short Debate (QSD) to draw attention to the problem of such orders. There are a plethora of legislative provisions that have never been brought into effect. Of Acts passed since 1997, no fewer than 147 have provisions that have never been brought into effect. There is one Act that is uncommenced in its entirety. This represents not only a major waste of parliamentary time – both Houses passing provisions that never have effect – but is also confusing to the public. If something is in an Act of Parliament, people quite naturally think it must therefore be the law. In my view, if provisions of an Act are not commenced within five years of the Act being passed, the provisions should cease to have effect. That would not only concentrate the minds of ministers, but also tidy up the statute book.
You can read the short debate, held in Grand Committee on 7 November, here.