Smoking ban among new laws scrapped because of surprise election

With Rishi Sunak setting an unexpected summer election, precious little time is left to get any outstanding legislation through before Parliament is suspended. Here are some key laws expected to be abandoned

Words by Maya Bowles, ITV News Westminster Producer

With the shock announcement of a surprise election on July 4, a number of key laws currently going through Parliament are likely to be scrapped.

Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday, May 30 for six weeks until the election, which means there's only a limited amount of time for laws to be passed before Westminster turns its attention to the election campaigns.

The government's flagship smoking ban, plans for an independent football regulator, and the troubled Renter's Reform Bill have all been canned.

The Finance Bill, which includes tax plans announced by the government has to pass, leaving less time for MPs to work through other legislation in the "wash-up" process.

Smoking ban

In April, the PM announced he was introducing a law which would effectively ban smoking in the UK, making it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2009.

The ban is one of Rishi Sunak's flagship policies, but it now looks like it may not ever actually become law. It was set to be one of the key achievements of Rishi Sunak's time in office, after he promised to introduce it during his speech at Conservative Party conference last year.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill has divided Tory MPs, many of whom view the policy as unconservative. But despite this, it managed to clear its first Commons hurdle in April.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins claimed when the Bill was announced that MPs have a “duty” to protect the next generation from the illnesses and harms caused by tobacco.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said on Thursday afternoon “a large number” of MPs support the plan.

Referring to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, Penny Mordaunt told the Commons: “I know this Bill was supported by a large number of people in the House. It is clearly something that the Prime Minister also feels very passionately about."

Football Governance Bill

In March the government announced they would introduce an independent football regulator, as part of the Football Governance Bill.

It would give powers to a body, which is separate from both government and football authorities, to license clubs in England's top five tiers.

First pitched nearly five years ago, it has been heralded as the possible solution to fixing "the game's broken financial model".

Conservative MP Tracy Crouch who introduced the Bill posted on X on Thursday morning saying "unfortunately the Football Governance Bill will progress no further and although there is a ready made Bill for the next Government ."

The Chatham and Aylesford MP, who is stepping down at the next election said she "won't be here to see it pass."

"A lot of people have poured their heart and soul into the Bill - officials, politicians, authorities, clubs and of course fans.

"I am 100% convinced there will be an Independent Regulator for football, thanks to the efforts of others and the desire for sustainability", she said.

Ms Crouch also pleaded with the Premier League and the EFL to "sit back down and start negotiating a deal."

Considering it has had cross-party support, there is an expectation that the Bill will resume its progress in the next parliament.

Renter's Reform Bill

One of the Bills also likely to be dropped is the Renter's Reform Bill. The Bill was was supposed to provide better protections for renters, but has been progressively watered down because of lobbying by Conservative MPs who are also landlords.

The central promise of the Bill was to end no-fault evictions, which allow landlords to kick tenants out without a reason but that has now been delayed until a review of the courts system can take place, to the outrage of campaigners.

The government first promised to ban what are called Section 21 notices five years ago.

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Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, which is made up of 20 housing and renter organisations, said: “In 2019 the Conservative Manifesto promised to deliver a better deal for private renters and an end to no-fault evictions.

“Renters in England – trapped in an unhealthy, unaffordable and insecure renting system – have been waiting five long years for action on that pledge.”

He said renters have been “so badly let down”, with the task of fixing England’s “broken renting system” falling to the next government.

Housing charity Shelter said renters have been “failed”.

Polly Neate, its chief executive, said: “Renters have been shouting from the rooftops about the urgent need for reform, but once again politicians have let them down.”

Labour have committed to abolishing Section 21 notices if they win the election, saying they will pass legislation that "abolishes Section 21 no-fault evictions immediately and decisively levels the playing field between landlords and tenants.”

Matthew Pennycook, Labour's Shadow Minister for Housing said: “The Tories' decision to cave in to vested interests and abandon their already weakened Renters Reform Bill leaves in tatters the promises they made to private tenants five years ago.

“If the Tories get back in, renters will remain exposed to spiralling costs, poor housing standards and the risk of homelessness from no-fault evictions."

Martyn's Law

There has also been much attention on what an election could mean for Martyn's Law, which would create tighter security at public venues, after the PM met with the mother of murdered Martyn Hett on Thursday.

The law was drafted after campaigning by Figen Murray, whose son Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017.

Under the new law, venues in the UK would need to have training requirements and a legal duty to produce preventative plans on terror attacks.

Ms Murray met on Wednesday with both the prime minister and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. After her meeting with the PM, she said he had promised her he would introduce the law before summer recess, but could not guarantee it passing before the next election.

But speaking to Good Morning Britain on Thursday, Ms Murray said she feels "misled" by the prime minister, but that she feels the Bill "absolutely will go through, because I will not stop until that day comes."

Shadow Commons Leader Lucy Powell expressed concern over the future of the legislation on Thursday: “The Prime Minister yesterday promised Figen Murray – mother of Martyn Hett, killed in that attack – that Martyn’s Law would be introduced before the summer recess.

“Regrettably that now seems unlikely, but I hope whoever is returned after the election can bring in Martyn’s Law as soon as possible", she said.

But Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said: "matters such as Martyn's Law, which is a brilliant initiative, will be part of the wash-up process and I hope to be able to update the House in the coming day."

Bills that form part of the wash-up

Infected Blood compensation

One of the laws which the government have confirmed will pass is the Bill tied to compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal.

Before the election was announced, the big news of this week was the final report into the infected blood scandal, and the announcement compensation would be paid to all those "infected or affected" by the end of the year.

But the compensation is tied to a Bill called the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which would set up a compensation body and pay interim payments. The Bill has been chosen as one of those which will go through in the "wash-up" stage.

Speaking in the Commons, Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt committed to passing the Bill: "I want to give my assurance to the victims of the infected blood scandal that this government stands by the commitments made earlier this week."

After years of injustice and a "cover-up" by the NHS and successive governments, any further delay to the payout would have caused serious upset to victims and their families.

On Tuesday Paymaster General John Glen said further interim payments of £210,000 for the most urgent cases will be made within 90 days, as he recognised "time is of the essence" with members of the infected blood community dying each week.

The government also said those living with HIV or at least two severe illnesses could be entitled to at least £2 million per person.

When asked on Thursday morning whether he would commit to get the compensation legislation through, the PM refused to do so, saying: "I'm going to do absolutely everything in my power to make sure the infected blood legislation gets through."

Post Office Offences Bill

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill is another piece of legislation backed by Parliament on Thursday.

The bill quashes all relevant convictions of offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting allegedly committed between 1996 and 2018 by people working in post offices in England and Wales that used the faulty Horizon system software.

It excludes those who have already had their case considered by the Court of Appeal. MPs on Thursday evening agreed with amendments made in the House of Lords, and the Bill now only requires royal assent to be implemented, which is expected to happen tomorrow.

The bill will apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, affecting those who were prosecuted by the Post Office, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or Northern Ireland authorities in the years 1996 to 2018.

Scotland's Parliament will pass its own law to a similar effect north of the border, because of Scotland’s distinct legal system.

Those whose convictions are quashed will then be eligible to receive compensation payments from the Horizon Convictions Redress Scheme, which will be set up after the legislation is passed.

There was some confusion, as peers believed 13 cases of sub-postmasters whose convictions were upheld by the Court of Appeal, or were refused permission for their case to be heard, would be added to the bill's remit.

But there was some confusion on the benches of the Upper House as senior Tory backbenchers claimed ministers had agreed during backroom wash-up talks to add the 13 cases to the scope of the Bill.

However, business minister Lord Offord of Garvel suggested this was not the case, telling peers: “Court of Appeal cases are excluded from the Bill because we believe the Government must tread carefully where judges in the senior appellant courts have considered a case.”

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

Among the Bills making it through is the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, which the government say will "slash unfair costs and crack down on exploitation."

The reforms will make it easier for leaseholders to purchase their freehold, sell the property, and also extend the lease.

There are almost five million leasehold homes in England.

Despite the Bill set to go through, some campaigners are disappointed with the legislation, because the proposed cap on ground rents has been taken out.

Media and Finance Bills

The Media Bill was also included in negotiations on Thursday. It also now only requires royal assent to become law after the House of Commons agrees with amendments made by the House of Lords on Thursday evening.

The Media Bill aims to "support the creative industries and protect public interest journalism." It includes repealing a law requiring media outlets to pay all legal costs in libel cases, regardless of who won.

The Finance Bill, which contains the government's taxation plans as laid out in the Budget, is also expected to be ushered through parliament before it is dissolved on Friday.

The Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on Thursday evening, ahead of a full debate on Friday.

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