Order-in-Council: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An Order-in-Council is a type of legislation in many countries, typically those in the Commonwealth of Nations. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the Queen by the Privy Council (Queen-in-Council), but in other countries the terminology may vary.



Although the Orders are nominally made by the Queen or her representative, her assent is now normally a formality only. What actually happens is that the Lord President of the Council (or usually a cabinet minister in other countries), reads out batches of Orders-in-Council drafted by the government in front of the head of state, who, after every couple of orders, says 'Approved'. They then pass into law, where they are fully effective. However several instances have been recorded where a governor has questioned the technical basis of a proposed regulation, refused assent, and the order has been returned to the relevant department for revision.

Types, usage and terminology

Two principal types of Order-in-Council exist: Orders-in-Council whereby the Queen-in-Council exercises the Royal Prerogative, and Orders-in-Council made in accordance with an Act of Parliament.

In the United Kingdom orders are formally made in the name of the Queen by the Privy Council (Queen-in-Council). In Canada they are made in the name of the Governor General by the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and in other places in name of the governor by the Executive Council (Governor-in-Council, Governor-General-in-Council etc.)


Prerogative Orders

An Order-in-Council made under the Royal Prerogative is primary legislation, and does not depend on any statute for its authority, although it may be overridden by an Act of Parliament [1]. This type has become less common with the passage of time, as statutes encroach on areas which used to form part of the Royal Prerogative.

Matters which still fall within the Royal Prerogative, and hence are regulated by (Prerogative) Orders-in-Council, include dealing with servants of the Crown, such as the standing orders for civil servants, appointing heads of Crown corporations, governance of British Overseas Territories, making appointments in the Church of England and dealing with international relations.

Traditionally, Orders-in-Council are used as a way for the Prime Minister to make political appointments, but they can also be used to issue simple laws as a sort of decree. Often in times of emergency, a government may issue legislation directly through Orders-in-Council, forgoing the usual parliamentary procedure[2][3] though most Orders of this sort are eventually formalized according to the traditional lawmaking process, if they are not revoked at the end of the emergency. However this power was later superseded by a statutory power to make such Orders-in-Council under the Civil Contingencies Act.

British Orders-in-Council may occasionally be used to effectively reverse court decisions applicable to British Overseas Territories without involving Parliament. Within the United Kingdom itself, court decisions can be formally overruled only by an Act of Parliament, or by the decision of a higher court on appeal.

In the rest of the Commonwealth they are used to carry out any decisions made by the Cabinet and the executive that would not need to be approved by Parliament. Professor Ramsay, of the University of British Columbia, says that in Canada there is no formal requirement to deposit Orders-in-Council with a registrar of regulations.

Orders-in-Council as Statutory Instruments

In this second case, an Order-in-Council is merely another form of Statutory Instrument (in the UK, regulated by the Statutory Instruments Act 1946), albeit subject to more formalities than a simple statutory instrument. This kind of Order-in-Council tends to be reserved for the most important pieces of subordinate legislation, and its use is likely to become more common. Like all statutory instruments, they may either be annulled in pursuance of a resolution of either the lower House (House of Commons in the UK and Canada or House of Representatives in the other realms), or the upper House (House of Lords in the UK or Senate in other realms) ('negative resolution procedure'), or require to be approved by a resolution of either House, or, exceptionally, both ('affirmative resolution procedure'). That said, the use of Orders-in-Council has been extended recently, as the Scotland Act 1998 provides that draft Orders-in-Council may be laid before the Scottish Parliament in certain circumstances in the same way as they would have been laid before the Westminster Parliament. From 2007, legislation put before the Welsh Assembly will be enacted through Orders-in-Council after following the affirmative resolution procedure.

An Order-in-Council of this type usually has the following form: "Her Majesty, in pursuance of [relevant section of primary legislation], is pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, as follows:"

For much of the period from 1972 to 2007 much Northern Ireland legislation was made by Order-in-Council. This was done under the various Northern Ireland Acts 1974 to 2000, and not in virtue of the Royal Prerogative.

Under the Government of Wales Act 2006, Royal Assent to Measures of the National Assembly for Wales is given by Order-in-Council, but this is not done by Statutory Instrument but in a form similar to that of a prerogative Order.[4]

Controversial uses


An order-in-council made by the Brian Mulroney government on 21 November 1988 created AMEX Bank of Canada, a Canadian banking subsidiary of American Express, although federal banking policy at the time would not ordinarily have permitted such an establishment by a foreign company.[5]

After the British Empire entered World War I on the Allied side, an Order-in-Council was made in Canada for the registration, and in certain cases for the internment, of aliens of "enemy nationality". Between 1914 and 1920, 8,579 "enemy aliens" were detained in internment camps.[6]

In July 2004 and August 30, 2006, Orders-in-Council were used to deny a passport to Abdurahman Khadr, a member of the infamous Khadr family, and who had previously been held in detention by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.

See also: Canadian passport: Refusal of passport

United Kingdom

Orders-in-Council were controversially used in 2004 to overturn a court ruling in England which held that the exile of the Chagossian islanders from the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) was unlawful. However, the High Court, in 2006, held that these Orders-in-Council were unlawful, saying "The suggestion that a minister can, through the means of an order in council, exile a whole population from a British Overseas Territory and claim that he is doing so for the 'peace, order and good government' of the territory is to us repugnant."[7] The UK government's appeal failed, with the Court of Appeal holding that the decision had been unlawfully taken by a government minister "acting without any constraint".[8] However the government successfully appealed to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords who overturned the High Court and Court of Appeal decisions.[9] The House of Lords decided [10] that the validity of an order in council made under the prerogative legislating for a colony was amenable to judicial review (see paragraph 35 of the decision). Further that it was not for the courts to substitute their judgment for that of the Secretary of State as to what was conducive to the peace, order and good government of BIOT. Nor were the orders Wednesbury unreasonable on the facts given the considerations of security and cost of resettlement. Further, none of the orders were open to challenge in the English courts on the ground of repugnancy to any fundamental principle relating to the rights of abode of the Chagossians in the Chagos Islands.

See also


  1. ^ Council of Civil Service Unions v. Minister for the Civil Service [1985] 374 at 399, per Lord Fraser of Tullybelton
  2. ^ Home defence and emergency planning 1972-2001, The National Archives, November 2005, p. 11, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/osp14.pdf, retrieved 2008-11-20  
  3. ^ Historical use: see Orders in Council (1807)
  4. ^ For example, the Order approving the NHS Redress (Wales) Measure 2008
  5. ^ Newman, Peter C. (July 30, 1990). "The brash new kid on the block. (American Express Co. opens Amex Bank of Canada amid controversy)"(column). Maclean's, July 30, 1990 v103 n31 p33(1)
  6. ^ Luciuk, Lubomyr; A Time for Atonement; The Limestone Press, 1988
  7. ^ Britain shamed as exiles of the Chagos Islands win the right to go home, Neil Tweedie, The Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2006. URL accessed 17 December 2006.
  8. ^ Chagos families win legal battle, BBC, 23 May 2007
  9. ^ BBC News: Chagos exiles ruling overturned 22 October 2008
  10. ^ R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2008] UKHL 61

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