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 Instruments in the published Stationery Office volumes. Considerable numbers of Statutory Instruments are not printed in these volumes (see footnote to Table 3). The data are for calendar years.

    -

    2,000

    4,000

    6,000

    8,000

    10,000

    12,000

    14,000

    16,000

    18,000

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

    Pages of Acts and Statutory Instruments1950 to 2012 (selected years)

    Statutory Instruments

    Acts

  • 7

    Table 3

    Pages of Acts and Statutory Instruments (selected years) 1911 to 2012UK legislation only - separate Scottish, Welsh and NI legislation is not covered

    Public and General

    Acts Statutory Instruments

    1911 430 330

    1921 220 1,080

    1931 280 1,050

    1940 370 1,970

    1950 720 2,970

    1955 540 2,340

    1960 850 3,020

    1965 1,340 4,730

    1970 1,110 4,880

    1975 2,060 6,210

    1980 2,110 5,440

    1985 2,380 4,760

    1990 2,390 6,550

    1991 2,250 7,626

    1992 2,678 8,964

    1993 2,645 7,944

    1994 2,335 10,143

    1995 3,001 9,688

    1996 3,150 10,233

    1997 2,060 8,599

    1998 2,469 7,403

    1999 2,096 10,693

    2000 3,865 8,712

    2001 1,594 10,760

    2002 2,868 9,109

    2003 4,030 9,378

    2004 3,470 9,574

    2005 2,868 12,933

    2006 4,911 11,440

    2007 3,186 12,172

    2008 3,204 10,812

    2009 3,384 11,888

    2010 2,722 ..

    2011 2,630 ..

    2012 2,761 ..

    Notes:

    The figures for Statutory Instruments relate to the number of pages in the Stationery Office bound set - this

    excludes some local and unpublished Instruments and, from 2000, those made by the Welsh ministers.

    The figures do not include Northern Ireland (Stormont) Acts, Orders in Council or Statutory Rules.

    Pre-1987 figures are adjusted to current page sizes.

    Sources: Annual volumes of Acts and SIs published by TSO

    The data underpinning this chart are in Table 3. Figures for Public and General Acts are available up to 2012 and for Statutory Instruments up to 2009.

  • 8

    3 Sessional data 1997-98 to 2012-13

    3.1 Bills & Acts

    Some statistics are also available for Parliamentary sessions, which vary in length. The latest available figures are for the 2012-13 session. Table 4 gives figures from a House of Commons perspective, that is it covers Bills that started in the House of Commons or were brought to the Commons having started in the House of Lords.

    Table 4

    Public Bills by session, 1997-98 to 2012-13

    Sitting Bills of which, Bills receiving

    days introduced (a) Government Bills Royal Assent

    1997-98 7 May 97-19 Nov 98 241 202 53 62

    1998-99 24 Nov 98-11 Nov 99 149 135 31 35

    1999-00 17 Nov 99-30 Nov 00 170 144 40 45

    2000-01 6 Dec 00-14 May 01 83 89 26 21

    2001-02 13 Jun 01-7 Nov 02 201 162 39 47

    2002-03 13 Nov 02-20 Nov 03 162 138 36 46

    2003-04 26 Nov 03-18 Nov 04 157 131 36 38

    2004-05 23 Nov 04-7 Apr 05 65 88 32 21

    2005-06 11 May 05-8 Nov 06 208 179 58 56

    2006-07 15 Nov 06-30 Oct 07 146 131 34 33

    2007-08 6 Nov 07-26 Nov 08 165 138 32 33

    2008-09 3 Dec 08-12 Nov 09 136 138 26 27

    2009-10 18 Nov 09-12 Apr 10 60 92 23 30

    2010-12 25 May 10-1 May 12 296 277 46 49

    2012-13 9 May 12-23 April 13 143 137 34 38

    (a) Bills that started in the Commons or were brought from the Lords.

    Sources: House of Commons Sessional Returns and Sessional Information Digest

    Bills fall into two main types: Government Bills and Private Members (back-bench) Bills. Almost all Government Bills are debated and subsequently become law (having passed through both Houses of Parliament); generally these receive Royal Assent in the same session in which they are introduced, but in some cases bills can be carried forward to the next session. Bills, including Government Bills, may be lost at the end of a session, especially when there is a General Election. Many Private Members Bills are introduced but are not discussed at all and, of those that are allocated time for debate, relatively few are passed. In the 2012-13 session, for example, 34 Government Bills were dealt with by the House of Commons, 27 of which started in that House and 7 started in the House of Lords. 28 of these became law and five were carried forward to the next session. Of the 141 Private

  • 9

    Members Bills that either started in the House of Commons or were brought to the Commons from the House of Lords, ten became law. Private Bills are a separate category of legislation. They are proposals to give specific powers over and above the general law, usually to corporate bodies. The numbers introduced into the House of Commons or brought from the House of Lords, and the numbers becoming law, were as follows.

    Table 5

    Private Bills by session, 1997-98 to 2012-13

    Sitting Bills Bills receiving

    days introduced (a) Royal Assent

    1997-98 7 May 97-19 Nov 98 241 17 9

    1998-99 24 Nov 98-11 Nov 99 149 9 4

    1999-00 17 Nov 99-30 Nov 00 170 12 7

    2000-01 6 Dec 00-14 May 01 83 7 5

    2001-02 13 Jun 01-7 Nov 02 201 9 7

    2002-03 13 Nov 02-20 Nov 03 162 7 5

    2003-04 26 Nov 03-18 Nov 04 157 6 6

    2004-05 23 Nov 04-7 Apr 05 65 6 0

    2005-06 11 May 05-8 Nov 06 208 5 4

    2006-07 15 Nov 06-30 Oct 07 146 6 3

    2007-08 6 Nov 07-26 Nov 08 165 12 3

    2008-09 3 Dec 08-12 Nov 09 136 7 1

    2009-10 18 Nov 09-12 Apr 10 60 10 3

    2010-12 25 May 10-1 May 12 296 10 4

    2012-13 9 May 12-23 April 13 143 103 10

    (a) Introduced into the House of Commons or brought from the House of Lords;

    includes suspended or revived Bills (those carried over from one session to the next)

    Sources: House of Commons Sessional Returns and Sessional Information Digest

    3.2 Delegated legislation Statutory Instruments

    The extent of parliamentary involvement in delegated legislation, most of which is carried out using Statutory Instruments, varies; it depends on the terms of the parent Act. Many SIs (for example, local instruments which have only to be formally signed off by a Minister and published to become law) receive no parliamentary scrutiny. Others are laid before parliament and are subject to the scrutiny of a (two-House) Joint Committee on Statutory

  • 10

    Instruments2 to determine whether they are within the powers given to ministers under their parent Act and whether they are properly drafted. Most SIs are, in practice, not subsequently debated and, of those that are, the majority are discussed not on the floor of the House of Commons but in a committee,3 after which they are simply reported to the House.

    Table 6

    Sitting Laid before Considered in Considered in

    days House House Committee

    1997-98 7 May 97-19 Nov 98 241 1,856 34 215

    1998-99 24 Nov 98-11 Nov 99 149 1,479 22 178

    1999-00 17 Nov 99-30 Nov 00 170 1,456 21 175

    2000-01 6 Dec 00-14 May 01 83 868 15 122

    2001-02 13 Jun 01-7 Nov 02 201 1,788 15 258

    2002-03 13 Nov 02-20 Nov 03 162 1,474 13 244

    2003-04 26 Nov 03-18 Nov 04 157 1,281 9 187

    2004-05 23 Nov 04-7 Apr 05 65 793 6 118

    2005-06 11 May 05-8 Nov 06 208 1,885 19 273

    2006-07 15 Nov 06-30 Oct 07 146 1,361 12 202

    2007-08 6 Nov 07-26 Nov 08 165 1,319 17 212

    2008-09 3 Dec 08-12 Nov 09 136 1,302 12 231

    2009-10 18 Nov 09-12 Apr 10 60 823 12 160

    2010-12 25 May 10-1 May 12 296 1,809 22 336

    2012-13 9 May 12-23 April 13 143 994 11 208

    Sources: House of Commons Sessional Returns and Sessional Information Digest

    Statutory Instruments laid before the House of Commons by session,

    1997-98 to 2012-13

    3.3 Time spent debating legislation

    Table 7 shows the length of time spent debating legislation in the House of Commons Chamber in each session since 1997-98, both in aggregate and as averages per sitting day. The table does not include debates in Public Bill and other Committees the bulk of the detailed debate on most Bills takes place in committee and the figures can, therefore, be affected by the Committee stages of some Bills (usually Bills of major constitutional importance or those which the Government wishes to pass very quickly) being taken on the floor of the House.4 There has been a general downward trend over the period covered in 2 Instruments which are required to be laid only before the Commons generally those relating to taxation are

    considered by the Commons Select Committee on SIs. 3 Generally the Delegated Legislation Committee, but can be the Scottish or NI Grand Committee. 4 See Bills whose Commons committee stage has been taken in committee of the whole House Parliamentary

    Information List SN/PC/5435

  • 11

    Table 7

    Time spent debating legislation in House of Commons Chamber

    Private

    Government Members' Private Statutory As % of

    Bills Bills (a) Bills Instruments Total all sitting time

    Hours:minutes

    1997-98 780:57 64:19 6:33 43:05 894:54 42.3%

    1998-99 396:38 60:36 8:24 37:02 502:40 36.5%

    1999-00 560:00 70:13 8:58 32:28 671:39 46.6%

    2000-01 242:35 38:50 7:39 26:22 315:26 45.7%

    2001-02 475:55 63:19 12:31 24:58 576:43 44.5%

    2002-03 415:02 63:02 6:25 18:12 502:41 39.1%

    2003-04 388:24 62:58 0:00 14:35 465:57 38.3%

    2004-05 198:49 19:26 0:00 9:30 227:45 42.5%

    2005-06 631:27 55:42 0:00 18:09 705:18 44.9%

    2006-07 298:11 61:17 2:32 18:01 380:01 34.0%

    2007-08 373:36 61:57 7:55 27:38 471:06 36.1%

    2008-09 257:50 61:11 3:56 19:37 342:34 32.5%

    2009-10 156:00 24:24 7:32 16:31 204:27 37.8%

    2010-12 652:14 75:40 16:27 30:18 774:39 33.0%

    2012-13 285:42 61:18 5:10 11:01 363:11 32.0%

    Average minutes per sitting day

    1997-98 194 16 2 11 223

    1998-99 160 24 3 15 202

    1999-00 198 25 3 11 237

    2000-01 175 28 6 19 228

    2001-02 142 19 4 7 172

    2002-03 154 23 2 7 186

    2003-04 148 24 0 6 178

    2004-05 184 18 0 9 210

    2005-06 182 16 0 5 203

    2006-07 123 25 1 7 156

    2007-08 136 23 3 10 171

    2008-09 114 27 2 9 151

    2009-10 156 24 8 17 204

    2010-12 132 15 3 6 157

    2012-13 120 26 2 5 153

    (a) Not including motions for the introduction of Ten Minute Rule Bills.

    Sources: House of Commons Sessional Information Digest and Sessional Diaries

    both the time spent debating legislation and in the percentage of the Houses sitting time taken up with legislative debate.

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