Washed out: the laws lost because Sunak called election

Image credit: Deryc R Sands. Parliamentary copyright CCLicense2.0

By Catherine Pepinster

A bill to enable a Holocaust memorial to be built near the Houses of Parliament is one of the only pieces of legislation to have been saved after the general election was called. The bill will be resurrected in the new parliament.

The Holocaust Memorial Bill was drawn up to remove restrictions on building a memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. It would also give the government powers to use public funds to build and operate the centre.

Hundreds of bills going through the parliamentary legislative process have fallen by the wayside since the date was set for the general election, announced by prime minister Rishi Sunak for 4 July.

Parliamentary procedure allows for a special “wash-up” period between the calling of the election and the proroguing of parliament so that some bills can get fast-tracked to royal assent. But this time “wash-up” lasted only two days, so very few bills made it.

Among those that did was the Media Bill — which is unusual because the legislation that passes during wash-up is normally considered uncontroversial and the government needs the support of the opposition to get it over the line in time.

Faith groups, however, had warned that the Media Bill was controversial. The bill, they said, had wording that removed protections for societally valuable public service content such as religious broadcasting. 

Dr Tony Stoller, who chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust, a charity supporting religious broadcasting charity, said: “Traditionally we have depended on our broadcasters to provide us with religiously literate and unbiased coverage of these issues. But if the bill is enacted in its present form, public service broadcasters will no longer be obliged to provide audiences with a range of programming which includes ‘education, sport, science, religion and other beliefs, social issues, matters of international significance or interest’.”

The Holocaust Memorial Bill is a rarity, in that it will be held in limbo until the new government is formed and the new parliament sits.

In May, the foreign secretary, Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, addressed a parliamentary gathering to mark Yom HaShoah, the Jewish community’s day to remember the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust, and said that the memorial was needed more than ever to combat antisemitism.

“We’re going to have to do more to combat it. While the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre is not the only answer, I think it is important because it will be there for future generations to see, not just the horror of what happened and how many people were murdered, but also to understand where antisemitism can lead, where hatred leads,” he said.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow secretary for international development, told the gathering that the Labour Party, if elected, was “100 per cent committed” to building the memorial.

Other bills linked to religion, and religious and ethical beliefs were, however, lost. They include:

  • The Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief Bill, brought by Conservative MP, Fiona Bruce, which would have ensured the continued appointment of the special envoy and make provision about the envoy’s functions. It began in the Commons, where it reached third reading. It fell after reaching second reading in the Lords.
  • Two abortion bills. The At-Home Early Medical Abortion (Review) Bill was a private member’s bill, sponsored by Baroness Eaton, a Conservative, to review into the risks associated with at-home early medical abortions. The Abortion (Gestational Time Limit Reduction) Bill, sponsored by crossbencher Baroness O’Loan, aimed to lower the gestational time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. Both had gone through second readings in the Lords. Also cut was the Foetal Sentience Committee Bill, another private member’s bill from the Lords, sponsored by Lord Moylan, a Conservative, which might well have had implications for abortion policy. It would have made provision for a foetal sentience committee to review current understanding of the sentience of the human foetus and to inform policy-making.
  • Conversion therapy bills. The life of two bills to limit conversion therapy — for long a controversial topic — has been cut short. Killed off were the Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill, to prohibit practices whose predetermined purpose is to change a person’s sexual orientation or to change a person to or from being transgender, introduced in the Commons by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, which got as far as its second reading, and the Conversion Therapy Prohibition (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Bill, which would have prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy, introduced in the Lords by Liberal Democrat Baroness Burt of Solihull where it reached the committee stage.
  • The Church of England. The CofE can breathe easy. The Liberal Democrat Lord Scriven’s Disestablishment of the Church of England Bill has fallen. The bill, which would have made provision for the protection of freedom of religion or belief, was backed by the National Secular Society. It called for the separation of church and state by removing the Church of England’s established status, abolishing bishops’ seats in the Lords and removing the monarch’s title “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”.
  • Palestine. Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, a Christian of Palestinian descent, introduced the Palestine Statehood (Recognition) Bill to recognise the state of Palestine. It made it to second reading in the Commons before being lost. Palestine statehood looks, though, as if it might be an election issue with Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner telling voters in her Ashton-under-Lyne constituency this week that Labour, if elected, would recognise a Palestinian state.
  • Asylum. The Asylum Application (Entry to the United Kingdom) Bill, sponsored in the House of Lords by Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford, would have allowed an annual number of humanitarian travel visas to the UK where there was a high chance that an asylum claim would be granted. The bishop has spoken many times in the Lords about asylum, including on the Church of England’s track record on conversion of asylum seekers to Christianity. Her bill had reached the second reading in the Lords.


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