Nick Clegg’s claim that just seven percent of UK laws are made in Brussels as been disputed after it emerged that he had selectively quoted from a House of Commons paper.
In last night’s debate with Nigel Farage, Mr Clegg used research from the House of Commons Library to justify his claim, even though the paper itself points to a much higher figure.
The Commons report says: “over the twelve-year period from 1997 to 2009 6.8 percent of primary legislation and 14.1 percent of secondary legislation had a role in implementing EU obligations.”
Therefore, Nick Clegg has only quoted the effects on primary legislation, and ignored the 14.1 percent of secondary legislation. As secondary legislation makes up the bulk of UK laws, this gives us a significantly higher figure than the one quoted by Clegg.
The paper’s conclusion also states: “there is no totally accurate, rational or useful way of calculating the percentage of national laws based on or influenced by the EU”.
Clegg therefore misrepresented the Commons paper.
Using information from the government’s legislative database, writer and EU researcher Richard North writes that there are 3,969 General Acts (primary legislation) and 71,851 UK Statutory Instruments (secondary legislation) on the UK legal database.
There are also 20,868 EU acts (directives, regulations and decisions).
Furthermore, the EU acts can have all sorts of effects on UK legislation that cannot be readily measured. North points out that “it is impossible to make accurate comparisons, or come up with an accurate percentage, one with another. For a whole load of complex technical reasons, you cannot say that 20,868 EU acts represent “x percent” of the 75,820 UK laws.”
It is therefore highly problematic to give an exact percentage of UK laws that are affected by EU legislation, but it is certainly higher than the seven percent quoted by Clegg.
Last night’s debate was the first in a series between the Lib Dem and UKIP leaders on the subject of the EU. It was broadcast live on the LBC radio station, and an instant poll declared Farage the winner, with 57 percent saying he had performed the best.
The next debate will take place on 2 April and will be hosted by the BBC.