The Memo: Unfinished business and lost laws: What happens before a general election?

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Unfinished business and lost laws: What happens before a general election?

Erin Bradbury - 10 June 2024

The time has come for the next general election, and along with it the royal prorogation of Parliament. Essentially, that’s when Parliament officially shuts down – which must happen at the start of an election campaign during which time there will be no meetings, debates, or votes on laws. So Parliament dissolved on 30 May, meaning that every seat in the House of Commons will be vacant for the time being. So, what does this mean for draft legislation? Well, to put it bluntly, if it wasn’t passed during the 'wash-up' period (i.e. the run up to Parliament's dissolution), then it will be lost. 

This wash-up period allows the government to pass essential or non-controversial legislation which would otherwise not make it through because of the prorogation. Some draft legislation did survive the scrambling two-day wash-up. These include the Digital Markets Competition and Consumers Bill, the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, and the 2024 Sanctions Regulations Bill. A number of other bills relating to tax, digital regulation and disputes also made the cut.

However, some significant pieces of legislation have been lost. A few examples include the controversial Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which aimed to create a smoke-free generation; the long-awaited no-fault Renters (Reform) Bill, which was promised in 2019; and Martyn’s Law, the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill. The latter was named after a victim of the Manchester bombings and would have seen the introduction of training requirements and preventative plans against terrorism by venues across the UK. 

So, the future of these lost laws hangs in the balance for now, and we’ll have to wait and see what the next government will choose to revive.