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Update: laws that were and were not passed due to the general election announcement

Rishi Sunak’s announcement that a general election will take place on 4 July 2024 brought parliament to an end, with just two days of ‘wash up’ to decide which bills to pass and which to abandon.

Renters Reform Bill

Sadly on the abandon list was the long awaited Renters (Reform) Bill. This was the bill that only a year previously, on 17 May 2023, had been finally introduced to parliament with the promise to “deliver the government's 2019 manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 'no fault' evictions which will empower renters to challenge poor landlords without fear of losing their home.” It had not yet reached the House of Lords though, let alone been ready for Royal Assent, and although it is reported that Labour MPs would have supported the bill as it stood, the bill was not selected for debate in the final two days. It therefore falls to whoever forms the next government on 5 July to start again from the beginning with reforming the private rental sector.

Leasehold and Freehold Bill

Achieving more success was the Leasehold and Freehold Bill, which was the last of the bills to be passed, despite some opposition that a large and complex piece of legislation had been rushed through. 

This is the leasehold reform bill that relates to the requirements around leaseholders who want to “buy their freehold [and] increase standard lease extension terms to 990 years for houses and flats” and will also now “provide greater transparency over service charges” - however plans to remove or cap ground rent were dropped. The Act will also “remove barriers for leaseholders to challenge their landlords’ unreasonable charges at Tribunal”.

Additionally, leaseholders will benefit as the new Act:

  • Bans the sale of new leasehold houses so that, other than in exceptional circumstances, every new house in England and Wales will be freehold from the outset.
  • Removes the requirement for a new leaseholder to have owned their house or flat for two years before they can extend their lease or buy their freehold.

Other bills which were not passed

  • Football Governance Bill, which would have set up a new, independent regulator with powers to sanction any club that broke financial rules
  • Criminal Justice Bill - there was not enough time to cover the wide-ranging legislation
  • Sentencing Bill
  • Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which proposed annual licences for oil and gas projects in the North Sea
  • Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, the replacement for the EU data protection regime 
  • Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill “that sought to ban public bodies from boycotting Israel”
  • Arbitration Bill

What else did receive Royal Assent?

  • Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Act, which alongside strengthening online consumer rights also bans drip pricing and foreign governments owning UK newspapers.
  • Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Act, quashing convictions of sub-postmasters convicted in the Horizon scandal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Media Act
  • Pet Abduction Act
  • Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act
  • Building Societies Act 1986 (Amendment) Act
  • British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act
  • Zoological Society of London (Leases) Act
  • Victims and Prisoners Act, establishing a compensation body for the HIV and hepatitis C infected blood scandal, following the recent report.

On a lighter note, the government used s172 Licensing Act 2003 to order the relaxing licensing hours for licensed premises in relation to a “celebration period” to mark an occasion of “exceptional international, national or local significance” which in this case, was for later opening hours if England or Scotland reach the semi-finals or finals of the Euros (the football runs from 14 June to 19 July).

As Lord Sharpe of Epsom said, “much of the business of the Home Office is difficult, so it gives me pleasure that my last outing basically enables people to get properly on the lash—please drink responsibly. I wish England and Scotland all the best.”

Posted on 06/05/2024 by Ortolan

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