Legislation covering divorce and domestic abuse was killed off in the early hours of this morning as parliament was closed for five weeks.
All bills advancing through the Commons and Lords were halted, as the government brought forward prorogation. They may return in the next parliament if they are announced in the Queen’s speech of 14 October.
Among those affected is the Domestic Abuse Bill, which had its first reading in the Commons in July; and the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which had passed through two readings in the Commons and the committee stage.
Both had featured extensive cross-party work to draft the legislation and followed years of campaigning from parties seeking reform. Neither has been subject to a cross-over motion pre-prorogation and will have to be started from scratch in the next parliament, if the government chooses to bring them back.
The Domestic Abuse Bill sought to establish a domestic abuse commissioner and to prohibit cross-examination in person in family proceedings in certain circumstances. A similar effort had been made to stop cross-examination in the Prisons and Courts Bill, which was itself killed off when Theresa May called a snap general election in 2017.
Last week, charities and women’s rights organisations including Women’s Aid, Imkaan and the Centre for Women’s Justice wrote to the prime minister seeking assurances the Domestic Abuse Bill would be carried over.
Nicki Norman, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said Boris Johnson must confirm that protecting the rights and safety of survivors of domestic abuse.
Norman added: ‘Over two years, thousands of survivors have bravely shared their experiences of domestic abuse with the government and fought to improve support for women and children. They must not be betrayed.’
Uncertainty also continues over the fate of the provisions of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. In measures widely supported across the legal profession and which followed years of campaigning, the government had planned to introduce a no fault divorce and the option to file a joint divorce petition.
Former justice secretary David Gauke, who introduced the bill, tweeted today: ‘Disappointed that the suspension of parliament means that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has been dropped. Divorce reform is long overdue and the bill had overwhelming support amongst the public and in Parliament. I hope Parliament can return to this asap.’
Prorogation also puts a halt to the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure Bill), which was another stepping stone in the government’s court modernisation programme.
In a letter to MPs last month, Johnson pledged to speak with opposition parties to carry over bills which were then before the house.
‘If agreement cannot be reached we will look to reintroduce the bills in the next session, and details on this will be set out in the Queen’s speech.’