Out-Law News 3 min. read

Pre-election ‘wash-up’ brings abrupt end to UK government legislative programme

The ‘wash-up’ that follows the recent call for a general election has brought an abrupt end to the UK government’s legislative programme, an expert has said.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak last week announced that a general election will be held on 4 July. It meant that the government had just two days to decide which laws to attempt to rush through the legislative process and which to abandon in the period known as the ‘wash-up’.

David Thorneloe, public law and legislation expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “Some lost bills had cross-party support so can be expected to return whatever the outcome of the election. This includes the Football Governance Bill and the so-called Martyn’s Law. However, it is not clear yet what will be the parties’ priorities for their first legislative programme after the election, so even these Bills risk further delay if the new government has more urgent priorities.”

Andrew Henderson, public policy expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “Businesses will want to monitor the parties’ manifestos and policy announcements for indications of which legislation can be expected to return after the election. It will also be important for businesses to engage with a new administration as early as possible after the election, as it looks to shape its priorities for the first legislative programme of the new parliament.”

The creation of an independent football regulator could be delayed until the 2025-26 season after the Football Governance Bill fell victim to the election. The bill follows issues such as the attempt to set up a European Super League, resulting in a government review of how the game is governed. The regulator would have had the power to sanction clubs breaking financial rules of English football and impose a solution for the distribution of broadcast revenue across the football pyramid.

The Renters (Reform) Bill was also not completed. In 2019, the aim to ban no-fault evictions, was set out. However, the passage of the bill faced challenges such as a request for greater protection for landlords.

The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill has fallen through. The legislation set out to ensure licences for oil and gas projects in the North Sea would be awarded annually.

The introduction of new arbitration rules for both businesses and individuals to resolve disputes without going to court have been paused as the Arbitration Bill was not taken forward. Additionally, the EU data protection regime replacement has been halted as the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill has not been passed. 

The government sought to ban public bodies from boycotting Israel through the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, but the legislation has been lost.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill was outlined as a priority for the prime minister as he called for a ‘smoke free generation’. The bill was set to ban anyone born after 2009 from buying cigarettes but had not yet completed its passage through the House of Commons.

Other abandoned bills include the Criminal Justice Bill, introducing a wide-range of laws including greater police powers to move on rough sleepers, and the Sentencing Bill, which would have required whole-life sentences for certain murders.

The government had not yet introduced into Parliament the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, also known as Martyn’s Law, by the time the election was called, so it will also face further delay before it can begin its parliamentary journey.

The bill would have placed a statutory duty on those responsible for qualifying events to take proportionate and reasonable measures to improve public safety and protection against the threat of terrorism. The bill included different requirements imposed depending on the size of type of events, introducing new health and safety duties on employers.

Some bills were passed, though, after an agreement reached between the main parties on which bills could be rushed through their final parliamentary stages before Parliament was dissolved. They were: Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill; Leasehold and Freehold Bill; Finance Bill; Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill; British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Bill; Victims and Prisoners Bill; Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill; Pet Abduction Bill. 

Ministers can still, in theory, exercise some powers to make secondary legislation while parliament is dissolved. This depends on whether the powers in question require a vote in parliament.

“However, ministers will usually only exercise these powers if the matter is essential and time-sensitive, given the pre-election period guidance,” said Thorneloe.

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