Acts and Statutory Instruments

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UK Volume 1950 to 2014

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  • Acts and Statutory Instruments: the volume of UK legislation 1950 to 2014

    Standard Note: SN/SG/2911

    Last updated: 19 March 2014

    Author: Richard Cracknell/Rob Clements

    Section Social & General Statistics Section

    While the number of Acts has if anything been declining over the last 20 to 30 years, the number of Statutory Instruments (many of which are not considered by or laid before Parliament) has been increasing. The number of pages of legislation has been higher in recent years compared with 30 or 40 years ago. This note looks at the volume of legislation over the last 60 or so years. It covers both primary and secondary (or delegated) legislation. Figures are shown for calendar years and parliamentary sessions, the length of which varies depending on the timing of general elections and Queens Speeches. The note is intended to deal with questions frequently asked of the Library; it does not consider the detailed background to any trends shown.

    Contents

    1 Calendar year data 2

    2 Pages of legislation 6

    3 Sessional data 1997-98 to 2012-13 8

    3.1 Bills & Acts 8

    3.2 Delegated legislation Statutory Instruments 9

    3.3 Time spent debating legislation 10

  • 2

    1 Calendar year data

    Legislation takes two main forms. Primary legislation consists of Acts of Parliament. Secondary, or delegated, legislation is generally made by Ministers under powers granted by Acts of Parliament. Most delegated legislation is in the form of Statutory Instruments. The charts below show, for the period from 1950 to date, the number of Public Acts which have received Royal Assent and the number of Statutory Instruments (SIs) made by UK Government departments and other UK authorities and registered by the Statutory Instruments Registrar. Since 1999, the Scottish Parliament has been able to pass Acts; these are also shown in the charts, as are Scottish Statutory Instruments made by the Scottish Administration since 1999. SIs made by the National Assembly for Wales since 1999 are included in the UK totals as they are numbered in the same series.1

    0

    20

    40

    60

    80

    100

    120

    1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010

    Acts passed 1950 to 2014

    Scottish Acts

    United Kingdom Acts

    There has been something of a downward trend in the number of Acts passed over the last 30 to 40 years, but the number of Statutory Instruments has steadily increased. Statutory Instruments vary enormously in their scope from substantial pieces of legislation to considerable numbers of orders temporarily restricting traffic on particular local roads.

    1 But not printed in the same volumes.

  • 3

    -

    500

    1,000

    1,500

    2,000

    2,500

    3,000

    3,500

    4,000

    4,500

    5,000

    1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010

    Statutory Instruments1950 to 2014

    Scottish SIs

    United Kingdom SIs

    Tables 1a and 1b (overleaf) give the data underpinning these charts. Consolidation and Tax Law Rewrite Acts are shown separately as these are, in effect, not new laws. The 1998 Scotland Act, Government of Wales Act and Northern Ireland Act gave differing degrees of legislative power to the three devolved legislatures and their Executives. The Scottish Parliament has had the most extensive and consistent legislative powers of the three, and Table 1b includes the numbers of Scottish Acts passed and Scottish Statutory Instruments made since 1999. Under the 1998 Government of Wales Act, the Assembly was able only to make delegated legislation under Westminster Acts; the numbers of SIs so made are included in the UK figures shown in Table 1b. From May 2007, the Assemblys legislative powers were enlarged to enable it to make Measures which, in effect, could do anything that could be done by an Act of Parliament in specified fields. The numbers of these Measures made are shown separately in Table 1b. Since May 2011, the National Assemblys powers have been enlarged again, and it can now make Assembly Acts in effect primary legislation. Twelve such Acts have been passed since 2012. The legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly was defined in terms of transferred, reserved, and excepted matters. Excepted matters can be legislated only by the UK Parliament or Ministers while reserved matters can be transferred by an Order in Council. Everything else was a transferred matter on which the Assembly can legislate. However, the Assembly was suspended on several occasions between 2000 and 2007, including from October 2002 to May 2007, during which periods the law was made at Westminster, mostly in the form of Orders in Council. Table 2 gives data for recent years.

  • 4

    Table 1a

    Number of Public General Acts and Statutory Instruments 1950 to 1989

    Northern Ireland Acts and Statutory Rules are not included

    UK

    Acts of which:

    Tax Law non- UK

    Consolidation Rewrite Consolidation Statutory

    Acts Acts Acts Instruments (a)

    1950 50 11 39 2,144

    1951 64 4 60 2,335

    1952 64 6 58 2,312

    1953 56 5 51 1,937

    1954 66 4 62 1,764

    1955 49 1 48 2,007

    1956 59 5 54 2,122

    1957 62 8 54 2,250

    1958 77 12 65 2,280

    1959 73 9 64 2,342

    1960 66 5 61 2,495

    1961 65 3 62 2,514

    1962 60 4 56 2,877

    1963 59 5 54 2,157

    1964 98 4 94 2,102

    1965 83 14 69 2,201

    1966 52 4 48 1,641

    1967 91 13 78 1,976

    1968 77 10 67 2,079

    1969 65 4 61 1,902

    1970 58 3 55 2,044

    1971 81 10 71 2,178

    1972 80 8 72 2,077

    1973 69 4 65 2,236

    1974 58 6 52 2,227

    1975 83 16 67 2,251

    1976 86 11 75 2,248

    1977 53 5 48 2,202

    1978 59 9 50 1,977

    1979 60 16 44 1,770

    1980 68 13 55 2,051

    1981 72 12 60 1,892

    1982 57 7 50 1,900

    1983 60 8 52 1,965

    1984 62 11 51 2,072

    1985 76 11 65 2,080

    1986 68 4 64 2,344

    1987 57 1 56 2,278

    1988 55 6 49 2,311

    1989 46 3 43 2,503

  • 5

    Table 1b

    Number of Public General Acts and Statutory Instruments 1990 to 2014

    Northern Ireland Acts and Statutory Rules are not included

    UK

    Acts of which:

    Tax Law non- UK

    Consolidation Rewrite Consolidation Statutory

    Acts Acts Acts Instruments (a)

    1990 46 4 42 2,667

    1991 69 6 63 2,953

    1992 61 10 51 3,359

    1993 52 9 43 3,276

    1994 41 3 38 3,334

    1995 54 6 48 3,345

    1996 63 6 57 3,291

    1997 69 7 62 Scottish 3,114 Scottish

    1998 49 2 47 Acts (d) 3,323 SIs

    1999 35 35 1 3,501 203

    2000 45 1 44 12 3,433 453

    2001 25 1 24 15 4,150 494

    2002 44 1 43 17 3,279 570

    2003 45 1 44 19 3,367 623

    2004 38 38 12 3,459 565

    2005 24 1 23 16 3,602 663

    2006 55 5 50 17 3,515 616

    2007 31 1 30 19 3,688 584

    2008 33 33 7 3,371 441 2

    2009 27 1 1 25 12 3,468 455 5

    2010 41 2 39 18 3,117 471 8

    2011 25 1 24 16 3,136 458 7

    2012 23 23 11 3,329 360 2

    2013 33 33 14 3,314 366 7

    2014 (b) 4 4 6 738 73 3

    (a) Total number of SIs numbered in the UK series. A small number of these each year are not used because the relevant SI

    is cancelled - between two and five per annum in recent years.

    (b) To 19 March

    (c) Measures were made between 2007 and 2011 after which the assembly gained the power to pass acts following a referendum held in 2011.

    No Measures could be passed as of May 2011.

    (d) One Scottish Act - the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 - has been a Consolidation Act.

    Excludes Northern Ireland Acts and statutory rules

    Sources: House of Commons Library

    www.legislation.gov.uk

    Measures/Acts of the

    National Assembly for

    Wales (c)

  • 6

    Table 2

    Northern Ireland legislation 2007 to 2014

    Orders in

    Acts Number (a) Pages (b) Council

    2007 3 509 3,554 11

    2008 13 511 2,749 2

    2009 9 433 3,171 2

    2010 16 436 2,204 0

    2011 29 442 1,792 0

    2012 5 462 .. 0

    2013 10 308 .. 0

    2014 (c) 2 80 .. 0

    (a) Total number of Statutory Rules numbered in the Northern Ireland series.

    (b) Local, revoked and temporary Rules are not printed and therefore not included here.

    Not yet available from 2012 onwards

    (c) To 19 March

    Sources: www.legislation.gov.uk and printed volumes of NI legislation

    Statutory Rules

    2 Pages of legislation

    An alternative measure of the volume of legislation passed by Parliament is the number of pages of legislation. The following chart shows the number of pages of Acts and Statutory In

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