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IIUC the primary sources of law in the UK are:

  • statute (acts of Parliament)
  • delegated legislation (statutory instruments)
  • case law
  • EU law

But can we pick one of those as being the main source of new laws?

  • 2
    I think you will need to clarify some terms. Delegated legislation can only derive from some other statute or common law provision; case law invariably has to take account of existing laws: and EU law has to be incorporated into UK law before it takes effect, though whether this has to be explicit will no doubt be argued over the next months. Does "main" mean 'largest volume', 'most important' or 'greatest impact on individuals'? And how would you measure whichever it is? – Tim Lymington Feb 5 at 17:45
  • Largest volume. – Ben Feb 5 at 18:43
4

By volume, it's almost certainly Statutory Instruments (SIs).

From the relevant page on legislation.gov.uk, we can see that the number since 2010 has ranged from 1241 to 3485 per year. Compare that to, say, Acts of Parliament (23 to 41 per year in that period).

The EUR-Lex page has some numbers relating to EU law. For example, in 2018, there were a total of 430 "legislative acts", and 1496 "non-legislative acts". Note that while EU Regulations become law directly in member states, EU Directives have to be implemented by domestic legislation. In the UK, this is normally done with SIs, which contribute to the numbers in the previous paragraph.

  • 2
    Precedent setting court cases would be a close runner up. The Court of Appeals for England and Wales heard 1,059 appeals in 2004, and the appellate courts of Scotland and the Supreme Court of the U.K. and the highest court in Northern Ireland also decide a significant number of cases each year. Also it matters what measure you use to count them, because usually a statutory instrument deals with only a single law, while a single court opinion may make law relative to multiple legal issues. On the other hand, many court precedents merely thinly restate existing law on facts that aren't novel. – ohwilleke Feb 5 at 22:44
  • @ohwilleke: that's probably worth turning into an answer. – Steve Melnikoff Feb 5 at 22:55
  • I don't really disagree with anything in your answer, which is probably still correct, so it isn't necessary. I'm just embellishing slightly and pointing out ambiguity in the question. – ohwilleke Feb 5 at 22:58

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