By Daniel Hunter

The number of new laws introduced by the UK Government rose for the first time in three years in 2012, suggesting that part of the Government’s red-tape cutting agenda may have slowed, reveals research by Sweet & Maxwell, the leading legal information provider.

According to research using Sweet & Maxwell’s online services, Westlaw UK and Lawtel,1,466 new laws were introduced over the last year, compared with the 1,355 introduced in 2011, an 8% increase.

Sweet & Maxwell, a Thomson Reuters business, explains that almost 6 (5.8) new laws were enacted for every working day in 2012.

“This is a worrying indicator that part of the Government’s aim to reduce red tape for businesses by lowering the number of new laws has taken a temporary hit and may be running into difficulties,” says Daniel Greenberg, author of “Laying Down the Law”, which is published by Sweet & Maxwell.

“Although the ultimate aim of a lot of these reforms is to lighten the regulatory load for businesses, there is still a huge amount of change for them to digest at a time when they are battling a tough economic climate,” adds Daniel Greenberg.

“For example, the Localism Act is aimed at speeding up planning processes but the short term impact has been a wave of new regulations and procedures for businesses to absorb. This shows that even with the best intentions to avoid red tape, the immediate impact of any major reform agenda is almost invariably a headache for businesses as they grapple with the new ways of doing things.”

The Government recently pledged to cut the burden on businesses, by stepping up its ‘One-In, One-Out’ policy on the introduction of new regulations to a “One-in, Two-Out rule”. This means that from this year the Government is committed to ensuring that any increase in the cost of regulation must be at least matched by finding double the savings by reducing the regulatory burden for businesses elsewhere.

The Government has also introduced the “Red Tape Challenge”, to promote discussion on which regulations ought to be removed.

“It will be interesting to see whether the One-in, Two-out rule and other initiatives will have much impact and significantly reduce the volume of red tape with which small businesses have to battle,” says Daniel Greenberg.

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