A while ago I came across the various readability indicators (overviews eg here and here). A popular one is the Gunning Fog Index which is mainly based on the length of words and sentences. It gives you a number: the higher the value, the less readable the text. It is said that a value of 12 is the threshold where a text gets beyond 'near-universal understanding' and requires a 'level of a
high school senior (ca 18 years old)'. U.S.
Now let’s test the question posed in the title for UK legislation. I randomly took three acts from 100 years ago (1 2 3 ) and three from this year (1 2 3), copied the text of these acts (if necessary limited to ten pages; omitting the table of contents), and pasted it to a Gunning Fog website.
The result: the 100-year old laws had the values 13.75, 15.65 and 10.75 while the current ones had 21.45, 19.77 and 19.42. Thus, the answer is a clear 'yes'.
Btw: how does my writing compare to it? I quickly calculated it for three of my recent academic articles: the values are 16.79, 16.06, 17.53: thus, fortunately, my writing is more readable than contemporary
legislation. And for this blog, it's
even just 12.44, thus close to the
magic number 12 where I’d have 'near-universal understanding'. UK