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What is legislation?

Parliament is the legislative arm of government. The term "legislation" refers to laws (called Acts or Statutes) enacted by parliament. There is also subordinate legislation (eg. Regulations or Rules), where parliament delegates its law-making powers to other bodies. The Jamaican parliament generally follows the English Westminster System, where parliament comprises two separate chambers: the lower house and the upper house.

Bills

A Bill is a proposal for a law that is introduced into parliament. Most Bills are proposed by the political party in government, ie., the party holding the majority in the lower house. Whilst the role of the executive arm of government is to develop and administer policy, the role of the parliament (or legislature) is to examine and approve proposals for legislation and to monitor the effectiveness of its operation, often through the work of committees. Once passed by parliament and granted the Royal Assent by the Governor-General, the Bill becomes an Act.

Statutes (or Acts)

Statutes may be classified in various ways such as public, private, local, amending, consolidations, reprints, declaratory and cognate Acts. The formal structure of a statute follows a traditional pattern. For historical reasons, however, not every word in the document is formally part of the statute. For example, marginal notes, footnotes, endnotes and headings are not part of Commonwealth Acts.

Delegated Legislation

Also known as subordinate laws, they are made by individuals or bodies authorised to do so by parliament. Methods for making delegated legislation are prescribed by the statutes that authorise the particular form of delegated legislation. For instance, local government Acts may contain provisions for making by-laws by municipal councils. Delegated legislation must be made under the authority of a statute. It cannot exist on its own without a governing statute. A process involving signature, notification and tabling in parliament makes the most important forms of delegated legislation. Parliamentary involvement is required as a matter of constitutional principle.

Once the instrument is drafted, the Governor-General or Governor must sign it, generally on the advice of the Executive Council. The next step is to publish, usually in the government gazette, the text of the legislation or a notice that it has been made. Finally, it is tabled in parliament and unless there is a motion for the disallowance within a specified number of sitting days, the formal procedures for its making are complete. Failure to table the delegated legislation in parliament means that the legislation is void. In all jurisdictions, it is also quite common for a statute to specify a two-step procedure: signature by the relevant minister and notification in the gazette.

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