Blog

What is the state of the Government’s legislative programme as Parliament enters its Summer break?

21 Jul 2023
Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, the Minister with responsibility for the legislative programme in  her role as Leader of the House of Commons. ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, the Minister with responsibility for the legislative programme in her role as Leader of the House of Commons. ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

The Government’s legislative programme has made some high-profile progress in recent weeks but a considerable ‘last heave’ of legislative heavy-lifting remains to be done after the Summer recess, in what are now only a few sitting weeks before the end of the extended Session.

Dr Brigid Fowler, Senior Researcher, Hansard Society
,
Senior Researcher, Hansard Society

Dr Brigid Fowler

Dr Brigid Fowler
Senior Researcher, Hansard Society

Brigid joined the Hansard Society in December 2016 to lead its work on Parliament and Brexit, as well as contribute to its ongoing research on the legislative process, parliamentary procedure and scrutiny, and public political engagement. From 2007 to 2014 she was a Committee Specialist for the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, where she led on the Committee’s EU-related work. In the first six months of 2016 she was on the research team of Britain Stronger in Europe. She has also worked as assistant to an MEP in Brussels and as an analyst and researcher on EU and European affairs in the private sector and at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London.

After completing BA and MPhil degrees at the University of Oxford in PPE and European Politics, respectively, she spent the first part of her career focusing on the politics of post-communist transition and EU accession in Central Europe, and completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham on the case of Hungary. She has given media comment, appeared before select committees and published several journal articles and book contributions.

Get our latest research, insights and events delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter

We will never share your data with any third-parties.

Share this and support our work

When the 2022-23 parliamentary Session passed the one-year mark in May, we highlighted just how badly the Government’s legislative programme had fallen behind schedule, owing to a combination of political and economic instability and poor Bill preparation and parliamentary handling.

The most obvious sign of legislative progress for the Government since then is that, of the Bills it has introduced in the 2022-23 Session, more than half have now achieved Royal Assent. In May, the figure was 43%; but, especially after four Government Bills – including the flagship Illegal Migration Bill received Royal Assent on 20 July, the figure has jumped to 61% as Parliament goes into its Summer break. This percentage represents 34 of the 56 Bills that the Government has introduced so far in the 2022-23 Session (which include five Bills carried-over from the 2021-22 Session. Our figures for Government Bills include Hybrid Bills.).

However, having set out a highly ambitious programme of Bills in the May 2022 Queen’s Speech, the Government has effectively accepted that a significant share of them will not pass in the 2022-23 Session – by never introducing them, dropping them, or carrying them over for passage in 2023-24.

Furthermore, there are still 10 Bills to be disposed of before the Government can finally bring the 2022-23 Session to an end. Of these, nine must be passed: eight Bills which are already in their second House and so no longer eligible for ‘carry-over’, and the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill, which is set to be passed speedily after the Summer. The tenth Bill is the Renters Reform Bill, which is still in its first House and so eligible for potential ‘carry-over’.

After 7 November 2023 was announced as the date for the start of the next Session, there are probably a maximum of 22 remaining sitting days in the Commons and 24 in the Lords in which to finish proceedings on these Bills (on current sitting-day plans, and if Prorogation were to take place no earlier than 2 November). The Lords is highly unlikely to be able to adhere to its normal practice of not holding divisions during the September sitting. However, if proceedings on the remaining Bills go relatively smoothly from the Government’s perspective, it may have scope to bring the 2022-23 Session to a close more quickly.

When the House of Commons went into recess at the close of business on 20 July, and with no further proceedings on Bills expected in the House of Lords in its remaining two pre-summer sitting days, the status of the 56 Bills that the Government has introduced so far in the 2022-23 Session was as shown in the following chart:

Figure 1: Status of Government Bills, 2022-23 Session, as of 21 July 2023 (56 Bills)

Source: Hansard Society analysis based on parliamentary records

The 56 Bills that the Government has introduced so far in the 2022-23 Session break down, on our count, into 31 that were included in the May 2022 Queen’s Speech and 25 that were not. (The 25 include Finance and Supply Bills, which are so routine that they are not mentioned explicitly in the Speech.)

In our overview of the state of the legislative programme in May, we highlighted the low proportion of Queen’s Speech Bills that had achieved Royal Assent by that point (28%).

The two charts below show the status of the Bills in these two groups separately, as of 21 July, breaking down the data presented in Figure 1 above:

Figure 2: Queen's Speech Bills introduced in the 2022-23 Session: Status as of 21 July 2023 (31 Bills)

Figure 3: Non-Queen's Speech Bills introduced in the 2022-23 Session: Status as of 21 July 2023 (25 Bills)

Compared to the situation in May, the proportion of Queen’s Speech Bills that have achieved Royal Assent has now risen (to 45%); but so has that of non-Queen’s Speech Bills (from 64% to 80%), so the gap between the two groups has barely narrowed. The continuing relatively low figure for Queen’s Speech Bills partly reflects the fact that the Government has introduced a new tranche of Queen’s Speech Bills since March and almost immediately made most of them subject to carry-over motions.

The focus in the remainder of the 2022-23 Session will be on the 10 Government Bills that have yet to pass and for which a carry-over motion has not been agreed.

Of these, there are two Bills that are still only in their first House but otherwise in very different positions:

  • the Northern Ireland Budget (No.2) Bill received its Second Reading in the Commons on 10 July and is set to complete its further proceedings in a day each in the Commons and Lords respectively, on 4 and 14 September;

  • the Renters (Reform) Bill was introduced in the Commons on 17 May but has yet to be scheduled for a Second Reading; it will presumably need to be carried-over to the next Session if it is to survive.

The remaining eight Bills are in their second House and so are beyond the point at which they could be made subject to a carry-over motion: they must pass by the end of the Session.

These eight Bills can be placed into two groups reflecting the stage they have reached in the legislative process:

1. Bills that are already in ‘ping-pong’ and can therefore be expected to conclude relatively quickly, probably during September (three Bills). These are:

2. Bills that have yet to secure a Third Reading in their second House (five Bills).

Of these, three will definitely need to return to their first House once they have finished in their second, because the second House has amended them:

  • The Energy Bill is a Lords Bill which is now scheduled for its Report stage and Third Reading in the Commons on 5 September. The Lords have pencilled in their consideration of Commons amendments for 12 September.

  • The Online Safety Bill completed its Report stage in the Lords on 19 July and is scheduled for Third Reading there on 6 September. Having been carried-over from the 2021-2022 Session, the Bill missed the default deadline to complete its proceedings (one year since its First Reading in its first Session) and has seen the Commons agree two motions to extend the deadline, which now stands at 31 October.

  • The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is only due to finish its Report stage in the Lords on 13 September, and no date has yet been published for its Third Reading there.

The remaining two Bills in this group are the Non-Domestic Rating Bill and the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill. These await their Report stages and Third Readings in the Lords during September, and have not been amended in Committee there. If the Lords amend them on Report or Third Reading, these too will need to return to the Commons.

So far, six Bills are being carried over to the 2023-24 Session. These comprise:

1. Two Hybrid Bills, the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill and the Holocaust Memorial Bill. Hybrid Bills are subject to a different legislative procedure than Public Bills and can take very much longer to reach the statute book. (Indeed, provision has already been made for the High Speed Rail Bill to survive the end of the current Parliament.)

2. Four regular Government Bills, all of which were included in the May 2022 Queen’s Speech and, as carried-over Bills, must complete their passage during the 2023-24 Session: the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill; the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill; the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill; and the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Prime candidates to be either introduced after the Summer and carried-over into the new Session, or included in the November 2023 King’s Speech, are three Bills that in draft form have been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny:

There are also Bills that were included in the 2022 Queen’s Speech but either never introduced (Higher Education Bill, Modern Slavery Bill, Transport Bill), or introduced and abandoned (Schools Bill). The Conversion Therapy Bill has been promised in draft form for pre-legislative scrutiny “very shortly”.

Among new legislative items, the Explanatory Memorandum on the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) notes that the move requires UK primary legislation in three areas (technical barriers to trade, Government procurement and intellectual property).

Fowler, B. (21 July 2023), What is the state of the Government’s legislative programme as Parliament enters its Summer break? (Hansard Society blog)

Blog / How should Parliament handle the Seventh Carbon Budget - and why does it matter?

The Climate Change Act 2008 established a framework for setting carbon budgets every five years. But the role of Parliament in approving these budgets has been widely criticised, including by the Prime Minister. The Environmental Audit Committee has proposed improvements in the scrutiny process to ensure effective climate action, particularly in the context of the UK’s commitment to achieving 'Net Zero' emissions by 2050. These reforms will significantly alter the way Parliament handles the Seventh Carbon Budget in 2025.

18 Apr 2024
Read more

News / Tobacco and Vapes Bill: free vote blows smoke in Rishi Sunak's eyes - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 30

Rishi Sunak offered his MPs a free vote on his flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill and dozens concluded they could not support it. As well as exploring the politics of the Bill, Ruth and Mark discuss the concept of a free vote and how they have been deployed in previous parliamentary sessions.

19 Apr 2024
Read more

Guides / Private Members' Bills (PMBs)

Private Members' Bills (PMBs) are bills introduced by MPs and Peers who are not government ministers. The procedures, often a source of controversy, are different to those that apply for government bills. Below are 7 short guides that explain key aspects of the process, as well as data on the number of PMBs that are successful each Session, and our proposals for reform of the PMB system.

Read more

Blog / Two Houses go to war: the Safety of Rwanda Bill and the origins of the Parliament Act

The Parliament Act is being bandied about in the media again in connection with the Rwanda Bill. This blogpost explains why the Parliament Act cannot be used in relation to the Rwanda Bill and looks at the origins and key features of the Act to place the current debate about the role of the House of Lords in its historical context.

25 Mar 2024
Read more

Blog / Creeping ministerial powers: the example of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill

The Government’s flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill will ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2009. The genesis of the delegated powers in the Bill – dating back a decade - tells an important story about the way in which incomplete policy-making processes are used by Ministers to seek ‘holding’ powers in a Bill, only for that precedent to then be used to justify further, broader powers in subsequent Bills. This ‘creeping’ effect in the legislative process undermines parliamentary scrutiny of ministerial action.

15 Apr 2024
Read more