Magic Numbers

It’s a cliché to say it, but statistics are often really badly misused. People seem to accept figures about this or that without any verification or checking. A really good example was one that came up again this weekend with the Stuart Wheeler fuss in the Conservative party, and is often heard from Nigel Farage of UKIP: 75% of British laws come from Europe. The MEP Richard Corbett has written a very interesting piece (the Open Europe one) for the European Movement which includes this paragraph

As for the UK, two studies exist: one a paper by Edward Page in 1998, which analysed the effects of EU legislation on British law between 1987 and 1997 and a paper by the House of Commons library taking a similar approach between 1998 and 2005. Both papers take their figures from the statutory instruments passed with references to European legislation, with the library justifying this by asserting that “The vast majority of EC legislation is enacted by statutory instruments under section 2 (2) of the European Communities Act.” Page’s study produced a figure of 15.8% whereas the House of Commons library gave a final figure of 9.1%.

Now, of course I checked out the studies, and the House of Commons one is really interesting. Looking at the answers from departments, DTI (as was) and DEFRA are clearly the most affected, with their answers indicating around 50% of their legislation emanating from EU legislation. But several departments had no primary legislation and very little secondary legislation. So I suppose that’s what brings the average down to about 9-10% a year. Comments about the 50% generally refer to legislation that impacts on business, which makes sense given that the EU is still (whatever some people might think) predominantly an economic, trade and business union. But saying that the EU is responsible for 75% of UK legislation does seem to be over-egging the pudding. Unfortunately the Edward Page article is from a journal so I couldn’t read it, but as he quoted his own study in a book I did find on line and he said the figure was probably about 15%, I shall consider that as verification.

The EU in general and the Commission in particular is looked to for two things: regulation and money. Regulation above, so now I’ll show you the money – aid figures were announced today, which show that the EU (taken as the central budget and 27 Member States) is the biggest donor of development aid. We also announced the first financing decision to spend the Food Facility, set up to help those in the developing world who are threatened by food insecurity. Details on the Rep’s website.

1 Comment

Filed under Euromyths, European news

One response to “Magic Numbers

  1. Antonia,

    How does the old saying go? In descending order of credibility, there are “lies, damn lies & statistics” to which we should add “statistics used by politicians”.
    Even 9% of UK laws coming from Brussels sounds like too much to me, although I suspect it is considerably higher.
    When did we collectively decide to hand over our legislative powers to a “junta of Belgian ticket inspectors”? Probably when Heath took us in I guess, but he managed to conceal the truth from his own cabinet as well as the the UK population.
    I wish we had the balls to reject (or ignore) anything that isn’t in our national interest (like the French & the Greeks etc) but the ruling political class of whatever colour isn’t interested.
    Lets just say no for once – what could they do? Kick us out? (If only!)

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