Yesterday’s snap general election announcement has left the future of pending legislation and other government initiatives affecting lawyers mired in uncertainty.

A ‘wash-up’ period before the dissolution of the current parliament begins today, where the final bills that may become law will be considered. Any unfinished business is lost at dissolution and the government may need the co-operation of the opposition in passing legislation that is still in progress. In the past some bills have been lost completely, while others have progressed quickly but in a much-shortened form.

Bills still in progress include the the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill and the Renters (Reform) Bill. Reports are circulating that both the Renters (Reform) Bill, and plans for an independent football regulator are dead. 

The announcement also raises questions over other ongoing business, including for overstretched and underfunded legal aid practitioners pinning their future on the outcome of the government’s civil legal aid review. An overarching final report summarising the review’s evidence-building phase, green paper consultation and the government’s response to the call for evidence awas scheduled for July.

In addition, the introduction this October of fixed costs for clinical negligence now appears to be in doubt.

UPDATE: 2.30pm

The Law Society, and conveyancing and personal injury lawyers have urged MPs to not lose sight of issues relevant to the professions in the 'wash-up' ahead of the snap general election. But Chancery Lane conceded that legal aid reforms are set once again to be 'kicked into the long grass'.

Bills timetabled and likely to progress to royal asset include the Victims of Prisoners Bill, the Media Bill and the Post Office (Horizon Systems) Offences Bill. Among the remainder not tabled and likely to fail are the data protection bill, the Leasehold and Freehold Bill, Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation [SLAPPS] Bill and the post-PACCAR Litigation Funding Agreements (Enforceability) Bill. Talksc between government and opposition on which bills to rush through before parliament shut down tomorrow are ongoing.

A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘We expect the Post Office (Horizon Systems) Offences Bill will receive Royal Assent in the coming days. It is imperative that postmasters and others affected by the Post Office/Horizon scandal have their convictions quashed and gain access to compensation schemes before Parliament prorogues. But a piece of legislation this constitutionally significant requires adequate Parliamentary scrutiny time. This Bill has been pushed through both Houses at pace and the Law Society remains concerned that it could set a precedent of parliamentary intervention in the justice system.

 ‘We are disappointed that criminal legal aid and the Civil Legal Aid Review will be kicked into the long grass again. Although they are not directly impacted by the wash-up, it is likely that the General Election will mean the UK government will not be bringing anything forward before the new parliament. We would urge the next government to treat them as a priority.’

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, said: ‘We are clearly waiting to see what legislation is able to get passed over the course of the next week before Parliament is dissolved, but from a CA perspective there would be a priority ‘wish list’ if you like in terms of those bills currently going through. 

‘The Leasehold & Freehold Reform Bill would top that list, followed by the Digital Markets Competition and Consumer’s Bill, the Data Protection and Digital Identity Bill, and the Renter’s Reform Bill.  By passing these, we could solve many of the existing issues for leaseholders, plus sort out the problems of estate rentcharges and managed freeholds, plus we would have the environment to create a Property Agent regulator and also get rid of both cyber scams and fraud in property transactions with Digital ID and enabling Digital Signatures linked to digitally-verified ID.’

Kim Harrison, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said the next government 'must put injured people at the heart of policy-making, rather than continue to make them the victims of policy-making. The next biggest challenge coming up for injured people is the review of the discount rate. The government said it is committed to the principle of 100 per cent compensation and the next government must deliver on that principle.

‘We still need a formal consultation on the impact of the new fixed recoverable costs rules on vulnerable parties, which this Government committed to carry out no later than October 2026. APIL raised the issue of additional costs in cases involving vulnerable victims of negligence in its recent judicial review. While that action has concluded, our concerns have not gone away. We remain vigilant.

‘APIL will continue to push for long-overdue reform of the law on statutory bereavement damages, and for victims of asbestos-related lung cancer to get the full compensation they need. Despite the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) making a very clear recommendation that the limitation period for child sexual abuse cases should be removed, this Government’s initial view ahead of the current consultation is that it does not support this. 

 ‘The next government could and should get on and simply lift the limitation period for England and Wales. I believe with what is likely to be a new government, we have a real opportunity to continue to lobby parliamentarians for changes to be made that will assist injured and bereaved people.’