The BBC is describing the new 20mph speed limit in urban Wales as "the £34m law" which appears to be a reference to "the cost of bringing in the new signs".

If one was to attempt to put a price on say drug prohibition or financial KYC regulation and based it on the costs of telling people about the law you would not be taken very seriously. It seems obvious that the primary costs are born either by the effort and lost opportunities resulting from compliance and the penalties born by those who do not comply. I have not noticed another example where a law is "priced" by the cost of informing people of the law, rather than these other most significant costs.

How common is it to price a law by the cost of putting up signs and the other ways of informing the public about the change of the change, as opposed to the costs born by the public by the presence of the law? If this is not common, why is it being used in this situation?

  • Unless you have another source using it differently, I think you're misreading that line. "£34m" there is acting as an adjective (as in "the new law", "the controversial law", etc) which provides more information to the reader about the law referenced in the previous line. It's not part of a noun phrase "the £34m law" which would identify the specific law. Given that, it's very common for articles about legislation to at least mention how much it's proposed to cost.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 7 at 9:23
  • Some newspaper writers referring to the law as "the £34m law" does not constitute "pricing the law" (whatever that means). Those writers are merely mentioning in passing that the law will (among many other things) cost £34m in new signs. You seem to be attributing to them the claim that this is the key defining characteristic of the law, but nowhere do they make this claim. (I could for example refer to a "7 January law" and by your logic you would claim that I am "dating the law", when in fact I am merely mentioning in passing one small characteristic of the law.)
    – user103496
    Commented Jan 7 at 9:33
  • @Bobson Links would help. From a google I can find sentences like "The US$100 million law suit" and "The £63 million Law School Building" but not a law described so.
    – User65535
    Commented Jan 7 at 9:34
  • @user103496 The point is that in this case the BBC is choosing to highlight this particular feature, a feature more politically charged than the date on which it was enacted. I cannot think of another such case, and as mentioned above I cannot find an example with google. This seems to me to make the point valid.
    – User65535
    Commented Jan 7 at 10:25
  • @User65535 That exact phrasing is unusual, but articles talking about how much a given law will cost the government are pretty common. One example: $12.5B, also: $48B, From the UK: £10B, also: £89B
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 7 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


I might be off because I don't know the specific rules in the UK or Wales. But from other jurisdictions I know proposals of laws to parliament have a specific form and must contain a number of sections. Beside the text of the law itself, a section describing the reason why it is neccessary, and detailed commentary on each provision, there is a mandatory section called (for example) "costs of implementation".

The purpose of this section is not to analyse the financial costs and benefits of a proposed law to society as a whole, but a much more practical matter: in case the law would be adopted, which changes to the state budget plan would be neccessary? The way I know these rules, they also prescribe that the financial items must be specified as detailed as possible.

This section of the proposal is then obviously part of the parliamentary deliberations, with those opposing having the opportunity to criticise what they think is missing from the list, and the proposers defending it as realistic. Some parliaments may have also rules that if the changes to the budget surpass a certain threshold, the law must be discussed not only by the committee responsible for its regulatory content, but also by the committee on budget affairs.

In your case, the costs of the road signs would certainly be listed, because the traffic administration would need to pay them from a distinct budget item. As noted in some comments to your question, the journalist reporting the issue may have picked only one point that grabbed his attention, while it is unclear if there were others in that proposal he/she ignored.

the effort and lost opportunities resulting from compliance

are not direct costs to the state budget. They would not be listed, unless the proposers (or the opposition in parliament) think the lost opportunities would amount to a significant loss in business volume and consequently, in tax revenues. Then the revenue loss, and only that, would have to be estimated.

the penalties born by those who do not comply

If the proposers think the amount of fines imposed on motorists will significantly change, these would also have to be listed, as a change in revenue for the state budget.

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