The number of new laws introduced in the UK rose by 16% last year, research has shown, casting doubt on the prime minister's pledge to cut down on red tape.

The survey by legal publisher Thomson Reuters showed that the number of laws introduced in the UK was 16% higher in 2014 than 2013, with 2,015 new acts and statutory instruments introduced compared with 1,736 in 2013.  

Of the new laws introduced in the year, 65% (1,312) came from Westminster, 15% (294) from the Scottish Parliament, 12% (244) from the Northern Ireland Assembly, and 8% (165) from the Welsh Assembly.

‘These figures highlight how eager the devolved executives are to make their mark,' said says Daniel Greenberg, author of Craies on Legislation. 'With public and political pressure to assign more powers to them seemingly irresistible, the volume of legislation stemming from outside Westminster is only likely to increase.’ 

In 2014 the total number of acts passed by the devolved executives exceeded the number passed in Westminster for only the second time. Thirty UK public general acts, which enact change across broad areas of law, were passed by the UK parliament in 2014 compared with 38 passed by the devolved legislatures. 

The only other year this happened was 2011 when the Northern Ireland Assembly - in an election year - passed 29 acts, including the Single Use Carrier Bags Act, the Sunbeds Act, and the High Hedges Act.

Acts passed by the Welsh Assembly in 2014 included:

• the National Health Service Finance (Wales) Act, which removes the obligation for local health boards in Wales to run balanced budgets;

• the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act, which reforms employment rules for agricultural workers; and

• the Control of Horses (Wales) Act, gives local authorities the power to seize horses which are in a public place.

The figures are drawn from online services Westlaw and Lawtel.

Greenberg said that government efforts to reduce the burden of legislation were likely to be confounded.

'The Deregulation Act illustrates how difficult it actually is to cut red tape. The purpose of the act is clear and simple enough – but comes in 116 sections and has 23 schedules. Digesting the changes made by the act could actually add complication for businesses at a time when most want to be focusing on growth,' he said.