On Tuesday 18 April the prime minister took Westminster and the country by surprise in announcing that she will be tabling a motion to the House of Commons to call for a General Election. On 19 April the House of Commons surpassed the two thirds majority needed to approve the motion by 522 to 13 and approved that a General Election will take place on 8 June.
What does the election mean for the legal profession?
- With Parliament being dissolved on 3 May, many of the Bills going through Parliament will not make it through the full legislative programme in time. Specifically, the Prisons and Courts Bill which includes measures on online courts, stops cross examination of vulnerable victims in certain family cases and reforms to whiplash will fall. If the Conservatives win the general election the Bill is likely to be reintroduced but will start its passage through Parliament from the beginning
- The Queen’s Speech was also to take place in May, however this will now be postponed until after the election when the new Government will set out its legislative priorities. If the Conservatives are successful we could see a number of Bills resurface along with the planned Great Repeal Bill.
- Plans for the Lord Chancellor to lay a post-legislative memorandum on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) to the Justice Select Committee are also likely to be stalled as the civil service goes into ‘purdah’. If the Conservative Government is returned then the review is likely to take place under a revised timeline. We may see other parties commit to a review of the LASPO in their manifestoes and Labour may fasttrack some of the conclusions emerging from Lord Bach’s Access to Justice Commission.
The central issue of the election will be the parties’ plans for the Brexit negotiations. The parties’ manifestos, likely to be published in mid-May, are expected to set out each party’s strategy and priorities for the negotiations with the EU. We may see more concrete positions on big issues such as an implementation period, the influence of the Court of Justice of the European Union and immigration.
We may also expect positions from all the major parties on the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights in their manifestos. The Conservative Government have stated that they will not seek to introduce a “British Bill of Rights” until after the UK has withdrawn from the EU but we could see them recommit to repealing the 1998 Act in their manifesto.
Over the next seven weeks, the Law Society will be engaging with the main parties to ensure the voice of solicitors and the significance of the profession’s role in the administration of justice is heard. This will include priorities on Brexit, access to justice and the rule of law.