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Aspects of empowerment in legislation and education

Tuesday, December 6, 2022 - 17:00 to 18:00
Berrill Lecture, Theatre, Walton Hall, Open University, MK6 7AA

In her inaugural lecture, Professor Stephanie Pywell will explore some effects of the empowerment of individuals and organisations to make delegated legislation, including the regulations about wearing face coverings in 2020. She will also reflect on the empowering effect of education – especially that offered by The Open University.

Watch a trailer of Stephanie Pywell's lecture:

What do the 2020 requirement to wear face coverings, doctors’ fitness-to-practise rules, and the creation of The Open University have in common?

All those things were approved by laws made by individuals or organisations, rather than by Parliament itself.

These laws are ‘delegated legislation’ – a concept that isn’t widely understood.

In my inaugural lecture, I’ll explain how it’s made, and consider whether it’s sometimes misused – for instance, by making it possible to appoint ‘cronies’ to powerful positions without a normal recruitment process.

Join me to have your say.


It is impossible for the UK Parliament to pass all the primary legislation – Acts of Parliament – that would be necessary to regulate the myriad spheres of modern life. In 1948, therefore, Parliament created Statutory Instruments as the main medium through which it can empower specified individuals and organisations to make laws described as ‘delegated legislation’. There is far more delegated legislation than primary legislation, but it is a subject that is not widely studied or understood.

In theory, delegated legislation is subject to scrutiny by Parliament and the courts, but close examination of reports by Parliamentary Committees and the Hansard Society revealed that these ‘checks and balances’ – which are considered central to the functioning of the UK constitution – are not always effective. This leads to a blurring of the boundary between the law-making function of Parliament and the administrative role of Government Ministers, raising questions about whether it is true to say that Parliament really does have ultimate responsibility for legislation. Some examples of the effects of delegated legislation raise concerns about the use and extent of these delegated law-making powers.

Until 2015, students were taught that there are several types of delegated legislation, but Stephanie’s study of the document used by the Parliamentary lawyers who write the legislation proved that this classification system was incorrect.

Starting with the story of Stephanie’s unconventional path through formal education, the lecture ends with some brief reflections on the way in which education can empower individuals to achieve unimaginably high goals – such a professorship at The Open University.


Watch the webinar online

Please take the opportunity to have your questions answered by our speakers LIVE during the event:

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About Professor Stephanie Pywell

Stephanie Pywell is Professor of Law and Social Justice in The Open University Law School. Her 40-year association with the OU includes six years as a student, five as an Associate Lecturer and – so far – nine as a full-time academic. Her commitment to creating a welcoming and accessible learning environment for students is reflected in her creation and maintenance of qualification guides, study websites, and all the Law undergraduate module guides, as well as more conventional teaching on Level 1 modules. She won the OU Individual Teaching Award in 2019 for the 12 Introductory Steps to Law, which provide graduate entry students – who begin their study of Law at Level 2 – with essential background legal knowledge after about three hours’ work. Stephanie’s research interests are diverse: her article on delegated legislation has been described as ’a “go to” piece for anyone working in the area’, while her empirical work on the law governing weddings and related ceremonies was cited 19 times in the Law Commission’s 2022 report, Celebrating Marriage.

Timings Item
16:15 - 16:50 Registration and coffee/tea on arrival
17:00 - 17:45 Inaugural lecture: Aspects of empowerment in legislation and education
17:45 - 18:00 Q&A
18:00 - 19:00 Refreshments