Data published by think tank the Centre for Policy Studies found that while the number of Acts passed by governments over the past half a century had stayed approximately the same, the average number of clauses within them had doubled.
The report, entitled “Dangerous Trends in Modern Legislation... and how to reverse them”, said that between 1960 and 1965, the average number of clauses included in a new Act was 24, but between 2010 and 2015 it had risen to 49.
The 1960 annual volume of Public General Acts, the official edition of all Acts passed in that year, was 1,200 A5 pages long, while in 2010 the same document had grown to 2,700 A4 pages, it said.
It added: “This factor and others that reduce the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny of legislation are allowing the Executive to wield ever-greater power over Parliament. The ‘line-by-line’ scrutiny process has become diluted to such a degree that it can no longer be described as taking place. There are often lengthy and significant parts of a Bill that receive no detailed scrutiny at all at any point in its Parliamentary passage.”
The report’s author and lawyer Daniel Greenberg proposed adding two new “inexpensive” measures. He recommended that the explanatory notes for each Bill and Act “should record the scrutiny given to the legislation in each House”, and “should also record incidents of certain powers for subordinate and quasi-legislation that undermine Parliamentary control”.