There are currently hundreds of bills still making their way through Parliament. These range from the big beasts like the Finance (No.2) Bill, which includes provisions on tax avoidance and tackling childhood obesity; and the Prisons and Courts Bill, containing significant services reforms, to the more obscure, like the Bat Habitats Regulation Bill.
Most of the major bills will likely make it through to the statute book in some form, but will spend the next two weeks in what is known as ‘wash-up’ – the period where negotiations between parties take place to see what can be agreed and what needs to be dropped. With two weeks to go until the dissolution of the current Parliament, this is what is likely to happen:
- Six major bills are currently in ‘ping pong’: they have been agreed by both Houses, but amendments are being negotiated. Some of these – including the Higher Education and Research Bill – have been controversial and the Government has suffered defeats in the Lords. As a result, these bills are only likely to make it through to the statute book with compromises.
- Of those bills that haven’t yet got to ‘ping pong’, two are still likely to make it through to the statute book – but again only by setting aside the most controversial aspects. The Criminal Finance Bill is scheduled to be back in the Lords next week and will have time to make it to the statute book if parties can agree. The Finance (No 2) Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons last night. The Government will want to make sure key provisions get through to maintain continuity of tax collection (for example, the renewal of income tax) and potentially also duty rises and anti-avoidance provisions. But as the tax professionals at the Chartered Institute of Taxation argue, it would be poor process for its 700 pages-plus of complex provisions to be passed in wash-up – with even less scrutiny than finance bills usually get. How much gets through will depend on what the Opposition is prepared to let go.
- The remainder – the Prisons and Courts Bill, the Local Government Finance Bill and the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill – have little prospect of making it through in time and will likely have to be restarted in the next Parliament.
It is worth noting that any bills that do not make it through in the next fortnight will face a busy time if reintroduced in the next Parliament – when Brexit legislation will be out in full force.
On top of legislation, there are also rafts of policy priorities that are currently being developed and implemented. Some of these are likely to carry on without too much disruption: the implementation of Universal Credit, for instance, will probably continue on its existing timetable with final rollout in autumn 2018.
But for others, the election creates disruption and delay:
- The Boundary Review changes will almost certainly now be delayed until 2022 at the earliest.
- The National Funding Formula reforms will also likely be delayed again, having already been pushed back a year.
- Mayoral elections will continue on 4 May but it is unclear if there will be more devolution deals after that.
- A white paper on grammar schools was expected in June but will most likely be delayed.
- The consultation on the initial industrial strategy documents ended on 17 April but it is unclear whether the Government will have time to make progress before purdah kicks in on 22 April.
Over the following weeks, we will monitor the status of legislation and policies to see how the election is affecting them. The table below is our first take on this – it captures what has already been announced and speculation on what might happen next. Keep watching for further updates.