An update. I don’t usually update old To The Point posts, but I thought I’d make an exception in the case of this one from last February. It was about the volume of legislation passed in various parliaments, particularly the parliament running from 2010 to 2015, under the Coalition. Now, of course, we have a new parliament and a new government, so we can compare what-is with what-came-before. Are the Conservatives doing more by themselves than they were with the Liberal Democrats?
The legislative boom of 2015. Part of the answer is in the charts above. For the sake of completeness, I’ve done one for the number of statutory instruments (pieces of secondary legislation that generally allow ministers to enforce or advance the provisions of an Act without having to deliver another Act through Parliament), but let’s concentrate on that which matters more: the one showing the number of Acts that made their way into law. As it happens, in 2015, despite the interruption of a general election campaign, Parliament passed 37 Acts. This was more than in any of the previous four years, and just below the average for the past 20 years.
The Coalition’s contribution… But the calendar year of 2015 was split between the Coalition and the current Tory administration. We can be more specific than that. In the Coalition’s final parliamentary session (June 2014 to March 2015), 36 Bills became law, including 26 tabled by the government. As I said in my original post, when I was arguing against the conventional wisdom that this was a Zombie Parliament, “If our political class is shambling into undeath, it’s going a peculiar way about it.”
…and the Conservatives’. And since the election? We might expect the Conservative Government, free from those dastardly Liberal Democrats, to have picked up the pace. Yet, so far, there have been just 18 Acts of Parliament, with a further 12 Bills working their way through the legislature. If all of those 12 pass, it would bring the total number of Acts to 30, with 27 of them originating from the Government. This is hardly a major acceleration. It’s not really an acceleration at all.
But why? Of course, legislation shouldn’t just be measured by its quantity, but also by its quality – and some of this Government’s Acts have been significant ones. Yet the numbers do still raise questions. Have they plateaued because this is, in effect, a second-term administration that is straining for new ideas? Is it because of the slenderness of the Conservatives’ majority? Or is it because of the grand distraction of the EU Referendum? Answers in the comments section, please.