June 12, 2024
As the UK approaches its next general election, a flurry of legislative activity—or lack thereof—has captured the attention of legal students, political analysts, and concerned citizens. The period before an election, often referred to as the “wash-up” period, sees a rapid attempt to pass remaining bills. However, many significant pieces of legislation are at risk of being sidelined. This article delves into the background, current status, implications, and future outlook of these potentially lost laws.


The Wash-Up Period

The wash-up period is a unique phase in the parliamentary process, occurring just before a general election. During this time, Parliament attempts to quickly pass as many bills as possible. Bills that fail to make it through this period often face uncertain futures, as they may be delayed indefinitely or require reintroduction by the next government.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration faces this exact scenario, with 16 critical bills in jeopardy. Sunak’s promise to deliver a secure and stable future now hangs in the balance as several key pieces of legislation may not pass before the election. These laws, spanning areas such as public safety, housing, and criminal justice, were intended to address pressing issues but now risk falling by the wayside.

Martyn’s Law: A Missed Promise

One of the most significant pieces of legislation at risk is “Martyn’s Law,” named after Martyn Hett, a victim of the 2017 Manchester bombing. This law aims to enhance security at public venues by requiring training and preventive measures against terrorist attacks. Despite Sunak’s commitment to Martyn’s mother, Figen Murray, to introduce this law before the summer recess, it is unlikely to pass before the election.

Martyn’s Law represents more than just a legal measure; it is a promise to improve public safety and prevent future tragedies. The delay in its passage raises concerns about the government’s ability to fulfill its commitments and protect its citizens.

Criminal Justice: Negotiations and Uncertainties

The criminal justice sector is also experiencing legislative turbulence. Key amendments to the criminal justice bill, including measures to combat “cuckooing” (where criminals take over a person’s home) and introduce a new offence for causing death by careless cycling, are still under negotiation. Although these amendments have unanimous support, time constraints may prevent their passage.

The delay in passing these amendments means that critical gaps in the criminal justice system remain unaddressed, potentially leaving vulnerable individuals without necessary protections.


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Renters Reform: A Broken Promise

The Renters Reform Bill, which aimed to overhaul the rental market, is another casualty of the election rush. This bill proposed to end no-fault evictions, ban fixed-term tenancies, and introduce a range of renter protections, including the right to have pets and a new ombudsman for the sector. The Conservative government, which promised these reforms in their 2019 manifesto, has failed to deliver.

Tom Darling, campaign manager at the Renters’ Reform Coalition, expressed the disappointment felt by many: “After waiting years for change, renters will have been badly let down.” The failure to pass this bill means renters continue to face instability and discrimination.

Leasehold Reform: An Uncertain Future

The Leasehold Reform Bill, intended to protect leaseholders from exploitative practices, is also in jeopardy. This bill sought to simplify lease extensions, cap ground rents which have been rising substantially in the last years, and ban new leaseholds on houses. Although Labour has indicated it might revive the bill, its recent policy reversal casts doubt on this commitment.

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, emphasised the need for reform: “Leasehold reform is much needed… However, to strengthen the measures further, those buying, selling, and renting out leasehold properties must be suitably qualified and regulated.”

Smoking Ban: A Derailed Initiative

Sunak’s flagship smoking ban, which aimed to gradually increase the legal age for cigarette sales, is another significant bill unlikely to pass. The proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill intended to make the next generation smoke-free. However, with the election looming, this ambitious plan may be abandoned, leaving Sunak’s legacy in tatters.

Football Governance and Media Bill: Partial Success

While many bills face uncertainty, some have made it through. The Media Bill, aimed at protecting UK broadcasters from competition with US streaming giants, successfully passed. This bill introduces regulations for streaming services and ensures public service broadcasters like the BBC maintain prominence.

On the other hand, the Football Governance Bill, which proposed an independent regulator for football, is unlikely to pass. Former Conservative minister Tracey Crouch acknowledged that the bill was too far from completion to be included in the wash-up process.

NatWest Share Sale and Anti-SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) : Abandoned Plans

The Treasury’s plan to sell shares of NatWest to retail customers has been shelved due to time constraints. Additionally, the Anti-SLAPPs Bill, aimed at protecting journalists and public watchdogs from strategic lawsuits designed to silence them, looks set to be discarded. This bill’s delay means continued vulnerability for those facing legal intimidation.


The wash-up period has highlighted the challenges of legislative prioritisation and the impact of political timelines on critical reforms. The failure to pass key bills such as Martyn’s Law, the Renters Reform Bill, and the Leasehold Reform Bill leaves significant societal issues unresolved. For UK legal students, this period offers a poignant case study in the intersection of law, politics, and societal needs.

The next government, whether continuing under Sunak or a new administration, will need to address these legislative gaps. The unpassed bills reflect ongoing issues that require urgent attention. Legal students and practitioners must stay informed and engaged, advocating for the swift reintroduction and passage of these essential laws.

In the coming months, the political landscape will shape the fate of these bills. Regardless of the election outcome, the need for comprehensive legal reforms remains clear, underscoring the importance of vigilance and advocacy in the legislative process.


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