Define Primary Legislation

Primary legislation, also known as an act of Parliament, is an integral part of the United Kingdom's political structure. Acts are divided into primary and secondary legislation, with the primary legislation taking precedence over all other forms of law.

Primary legislation is not subjected to scrutiny by the judicial branch, as the courts do not have the ability to question the validity of statutes. Primary legislation cannot be considered unlawful as it is itself the law in entirety.


Primary legislation's power is not limited to England alone. In 1707, Scotland and England formed a union which both abolished the Scottish parliament and granted Scotland seats at the British parliament, effectively centralising the government. Wales and England joined the British union in 1284. Wales has seats in the British parliament and is subject to any primary legislation passed by Parliament. Prior to joining the parliament, Scotland and Wales were only able to pass secondary legislation.

Legislative Branch

One of the differences between primary and secondary legislation are the branches of government that write and pass the laws. In the U.K., the legislative branch issues primary legislation, while the secondary legislation is passed by the executive branch. The legislative branch consists of Parliament, comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, while the executive branch consists of the king or queen of England and the prime minister.


In accordance with the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, acts of Parliament will be considered the supreme law in court cases. This means that in any event where laws conflict, the law passed by Parliament will supersede any other directives. The court has no authority to question the laws put into place as primary legislation. Primary legislation may be changed by new legislation being passed, but that must be done by Parliament.

Public Acts

The most prevalent form of primary legislation are public general acts. Public acts are legislation passed by Parliament that apply to the general public of the United Kingdom. Public acts are legislation like tax law, public safety measures and appropriation of resources. Public acts require majority approval from the executive and judicial branches, and must be signed by the queen in order to be made law.


In summation, primary legislation is defined as the supreme authority of law in the United Kingdom. It is considered primary due to its ability to override all other forms of law. Primary legislation is an act of Parliament and is comparable to an act of Congress at the federal level in the United States. Primary legislation includes acts both public and private and prevails over the United Kingdom in its entirety.