Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament means 13 high-profile government bills have been lost, including a law protecting victims of domestic abuse and key pieces of post-Brexit legislation.
When Parliament is prorogued all existing bills making their way through the Commons and Lords are dropped, unless the government chooses to carry them over to the next session.
Only three pieces of legislation were carried over, meaning laws setting up post-Brexit arrangements for immigration, fishing, trade and agriculture as well as bills reforming divorce law, introducing tougher sentencing for animal cruelty and protecting public toilets all fell.
The bills can be re-introduced after Parliament returns on 14 October if the government chooses to do so but all progress made is lost and MPs and peers must start their scrutiny from scratch.
Preparing for Brexit
There are five Brexit-related bills that have dropped off, some of which were seen as important preparation for Brexit day, particularly in a no-deal scenario.
They cover trade, immigration, agriculture, financial services and fisheries.
Having entered Parliament in 2017, the Trade Bill would have given the UK the powers to implement new trade deals and set up a Trades Remedies Authority.
It had been through months of debate and re-writes in both Houses but stalled at the final hurdle after the House of Lords had approved changes that the government could have been defeated on in the Commons.
Because this bill was near the end of its parliamentary journey, it couldn’t have been carried over, meaning the government either had to pass it or lose it.
Shadow fisheries minister Luke Pollard said the Fisheries Bill was a “day one necessity” in the event of a no-deal Brexit and that there is no chance of passing the necessary legislation due to prorogation.
He called the loss of progress “a betrayal of coastal communities”.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers – who was responsible for the Agriculture and Fisheries bills – told a House of Commons committee on Monday that she was “enthusiastic about reintroducing them soon”.
Maddy Thimont Jack, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government, said “workarounds” would mean the Brexit bills would not be needed immediately in a no-deal scenario but that these would only “plug the gaps” and the legislation would be needed “pretty soon”.
The National Farmers’ Union called the fall of the Agriculture Bill as “totally unreasonable”, adding that there is now “no guarantee at all that the legislation will be in place to enable the government to begin its planned transition to a new farm support system in 2021”.
With a general election on the horizon, Parliament will be closed again. The Brexit bills will either need to be passed quickly – limiting scrutiny – or face another delay.
Another bill lost would have increased the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months imprisonment to five years in England and Wales.
Both Scotland and Northern Ireland already have laws to this effect.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home said they are “very disappointed” the bill has fallen and urge the government to lay it as soon as the Commons returns.
A planned reform to divorce law in England and Wales would allowed couples who have drifted apart to start immediate divorce proceedings.
Currently, unless allegations of fault are made couples must wait two or five years to officially separate.
Former Justice Secretary David Gauke said it would end the “blame game” and encourage amicable separations that were less disruptive to families.
Domestic Abuse Bill
A bill with cross-party support would have introduced a definition of domestic abuse to help victims and the public understand what type of behaviour it constitutes, helping more come forward.
Before it was dropped, multiple charities wrote to the PM urging him to keep the Domestic Abuse Bill as part of his agenda.
It was at the start of its parliamentary journey, so not much progress has been lost.
But Women’s Aid has now demanded a “clear, public commitment” that the legislation will be brought back after prorogation.
Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager Lucy Hadley said: “Survivors and domestic abuse experts have put years of work into creating this bill – it must be re-introduced in the next Queen’s Speech.”
A government spokesperson said it is “absolutely committed to legislating to support victims of domestic abuse”.
The now defunct Non-Domestic Rating Public Lavatories Bill would have removed business rates for buildings hosting public toilets effectively making the facilities cheaper to run, stopping future closures and ultimately increasing their numbers.
Ahead of the 2021 census, a bill that would add to it two voluntary questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in England and Wales has also collapsed.
The bill itself had won praise from LGBT charity Stonewall.
The government chose to carry over three bills including preparing for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and a law planning the second stage of the HS2 railway from West Midlands to Crewe.
A government spokesperson said: “We have all the necessary primary legislation in place for us to leave without a deal on 31 October and in a deal scenario we need to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
“The new legislative agenda will be set out in the Queen’s Speech in October.”