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Where does our legislation originate?

Posted by Helen Thursday, November 17, 2005

Say what you like about Lord Pearson of Rannoch but he is persistent. And a good thing, too.

This week he had a reply to a written question:

“What proportion of new United Kingdom legislation has originated in the European Union since 1998?”
A fair point, since we are told repeatedly that the proportion has gone down as the completion of the Single Market – something of a never-quite-achieved goal – came nearer and nearer.

Lord Triesman’s civil servants replied on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government:
“Based on the analysis of regulatory impact assessments carried out on EU and domestic legislation, we estimate that around half of all UK legislation with an impact on business, charities or the voluntary sector emanates from the EU. Analysis by the Library of the House of UK statutory instruments implemented annually under the European Communities Act, suggests that on average, since 1998, around 9 per cent. of statutory instruments originate from Brussels (Standard Note SN/IA/2888). The total volume of statutory instruments of course encompasses a wide range of instruments, including those, such as road closures, with purely local effect.”
I am not really sure why HMG needs to have quite so many caveats. For instance, why do they need to base the proportion on the regulatory assessments? Why not just add up the number of laws and statutory instruments that are passed in order to implement European legislation?

Of course, it is not quite so simple, as some European legislation is implemented by quangoes like the Food Standards Agency and the Environmental Agency. One wonders whether that is included in the assessment.

Then there is that business of “an impact on business, charities or the voluntary sector”. Lord Pearson asked about legislation. Are we to understand that there is legislation that has all that impact and legislation that does not? And if that is so, what proportion of the latter originates from the European Union?

Nor am I that impressed by the suggestion that 9 per cent of the statutory instruments are based on European legislation. Is that affirmative or negative SIs, one asks oneself. I think I must be very unlucky because on any given day that I happen to look at the list of the statutory instruments laid before Parliament I find at least 40 per cent originating in European legislation.

Presumably, on the days I do not look at the list there are no statutory instruments that implement European legislation at all. Otherwise, I cannot see how the figure of 9 per cent is arrived at.