Primary legislation is brought about by way of a bill, which sets out proposed law presented to the Assembly for scrutiny and discussion.
The Assembly has the power to enact primary legislation for Northern Ireland.
A proposal for (i.e. draft of) legislation is referred to as a ‘bill’ until it is passed by the Assembly. Once a bill completes its passage through the Assembly and is given Royal Assent it becomes an Act of the Assembly.
Ministers, Committees and individual Members can initiate a bill and present it to the Speaker for consideration by the Assembly. If the Speaker is content that the proposals are within the Assembly’s competence the bill is then introduced and debated in the Chamber. It is then referred to the appropriate Statutory Committee for scrutiny. The Committee reports back to the Assembly allowing Members to consider the detail of the bill and to propose amendments. It is then considered further by the Assembly and a final vote is taken.
If approved, the Speaker will ask the Secretary of State to seek Royal Assent to enable the bill to become an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Statutory Rules are made to bring subordinate legislation law. Primary legislation (Acts) provides the powers to make subordinate legislation in the form of Statutory Rules (Regulations, Rules, Order and Bye-laws). In general terms primary legislation provides the framework and subordinate legislation contains the details. As primary legislation takes up Assembly time, changes and amendments to the content of various legal measures can be made more quickly by the subordinate legislation process.