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Acts and Statutory Instruments: the volume of UK legislation 1950 to 2016

Published Friday, April 21, 2017

This paper looks at the volume of primary and secondary legislation in the UK from 1950 to the present day.

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This paper looks at the volume of legislation over the last 60 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 Queen’s Speeches.

While the number of Acts has generally been in decline over the last 40 years, the number of Statutory Instruments (many of which are not considered by or laid before Parliament) has increased.  The number of pages of legislation has been higher in recent years compared with 30 years ago.

UK Public General Acts

Primary legislation consists of Acts of Parliament. The number of Acts increased between 1950 and 1970 but has since exhibited a broad downward trend. 25 Acts of Parliament were passed in 2016, 12 fewer than 2015.

In 1999 the Scottish Parliament received primary legislative powers, i.e. the power to pass Acts. In 2016, the Scottish Parliament passed 22 Acts.

In 2011 National Assembly of Wales gained the power to make Assembly Acts, effectively primary legislation. Since then 28 Assembly Acts have been passed (6 in 2016).

The Northern Ireland Assembly can legislate on ‘transferred’ matters. 30 Acts were passed by the Northern Ireland assembly in 2016.

Acts passed 1950 to 2016

Statutory Instruments

Statutory Instruments (SIs) are a form of secondary legislation which can vary widely in scope. They are usually issued by Ministers under the powers granted by Acts of Parliament. In 2016, 1,242 SIs were made by UK authorities and 438 were made by the Scottish Administration.

Statutory Instruments 1950 to 2016

Sessional data

Statistics on Parliamentary sessions include information on how many public and private members’ bills were introduced and how many received Royal Assent.

In the 2015-16 session 26 Government Bills were considered in the House of Commons, 18 of which started in that House and 8 of which started in the House of Lords. 23 were given Royal Assent and became law. Of the 118 Private Members’ Bills that either started in the House of Commons or were brought to the Commons from the House of Lords, six were given Royal Assent.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7438

Author: Vyara Apostolova

Topics: Central government, House of Commons, House of Lords, Legislative process, Parliament

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