Legislative reform orders are a type of statutory instrument. Under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, ministers can use legislative reform orders to change the law to remove or reduce burdens imposed by legislation or to promote better regulation.

The way legislative reform orders are scrutinised is not fixed. When ministers formally present (or ‘lay’) a draft legislative reform order, they propose what level of scrutiny it should face.

The Regulatory Reform Committee (a cross-party Committee of MPs) examines all legislative reform orders. It considers whether the minister has recommended the appropriate level of scrutiny and can require a higher level. It has 30 days to do this. The Committee also recommends whether the draft legislative reform order should be approved. There is an equivalent Committee in the House of Lords.

Under the negative procedure, the legislative reform order is presented in draft and is made unless either House objects to it within 40 days.

Under the affirmative procedure, both Houses have 40 days to consider the draft order and then have to actively approve it before it’s made.

Under the super-affirmative procedure, both Houses have 60 days to consider a proposal for an order. They can recommend changes to the proposed order. The minister has to have regard to these representations and can then decide whether to proceed with the order in the same or an amended form, and formally present (‘lay’) it as a draft order. This draft order then has to be approved before it can be signed into law (‘made’) by the minister.

For draft orders subject to the affirmative or super-affirmative procedure, the process of approving them depends on proceedings in the Regulatory Reform Committee:

  • if the Committee recommended approval without a vote, there is no debate on the motion to approve the draft legislative reform order
  • if the Committee recommended approval but only after a vote, the motion to approve the draft legislative reform order may be debated for up to one and a half hours
  • if the Committee recommended that the draft order should not be approved but the Government still wish to proceed, then the Government have to table a motion to disagree with the Committee’s report; the motion can be debated for up to three hours; if the motion is approved, MPs are asked to approve the draft order without further debate.

The Legislative Reform (Private Fund Limited Partnerships) Order 2017 is an example of a legislative reform order.