Nine new laws passed by UK government this week ahead of General Election in July

Nine new laws pushed through by the government ahead of the upcoming General Election have been revealed. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the General Election last week, with the country heading to the polls on July 4.

Due to the upcoming general election, Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 30 May. To prevent the billsl from falling at the end of this Parliament, the remaining stages have been fast-tracked.

This period of completing unfinished business before a general election is known as the ‘wash-up’. Mr Sunak is currently behind in the polls as voters look set to back Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader, as the next Prime Minister.

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The election has seen a few bills rushed through Parliament - affecting everybody from cat and dog owners to victims of historic injustices. Below are the details of the nine new laws and bills passed through the Commons and Lords...

Pet Abduction Act

Under the Pet Abduction Act 2024 – which was a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Anna Firth MP and Lord Black of Brentwood and supported by the Government – anyone found guilty of stealing a pet in England or Northern Ireland will face up to five years in prison, a fine, or both.

The new law recognises that cats and dogs are not inanimate objects but sentient beings capable of experiencing distress and other emotional trauma when they are stolen from their owners or keepers.

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill was first introduced into Parliament in November 2023 and was given royal assent on 24 May 2024, finally becoming law in England and Wales ahead of the general election.

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act 2024 (the Act) aims to improve the rights of residential long leaseholders of houses and flats in England and Wales.

The Act intends to make it easier for leaseholders to extend their lease, buy their freehold and take over management of their building. However, the proposal to abolish or cap ground rents for existing leaseholders, a key flagship aspect of the proposals, has been withdrawn.

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill will quash the convictions of postmasters and others in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who were charged with theft, fraud and related offences as a consequence of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

Nick Emmerson, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “We are pleased that postmasters and others affected by the Post Office/Horizon scandal now have their convictions quashed and can gain access to compensation schemes.

“We reiterate that a piece of legislation as constitutionally significant as this required adequate parliamentary scrutiny time. This bill has now been pushed through both houses at pace and the Law Society remains concerned that it could set a precedent for parliamentary intervention in the justice system.”

Victims and Prisoners Bill

This legislation establishes a compensation body for victims of the infected blood scandal, which saw 30,000 people infected with HIV and hepatitis C. The total cost of compensation could be in the region of £10bn.

In his report into the scandal, Sir Brian Langstaff said the NHS and successive governments had "repeatedly" failed the victims.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

The bill, announced in the King's Speech, aims to strengthen consumer rights online and tackle fake reviews. It bans the practice of "drip pricing" in online shopping, introduces a ban on foreign governments owning UK newspapers, and more.

“The CMA will have to publicly consult on proposed conduct requirements before they become binding, with various investigatory and enforcement powers to ensure compliance. The CMA must ensure that the obligations imposed under the conduct requirements are proportionate” said Tadeusz Gielas, competition law and consumer protection expert at Pinsent Masons.

Finance Bill

The Finance implements the measures announced in the spring Budget.

The Media Bill

The Media Bill scraps a never-enacted rule forcing media companies to pay the legal bills of people who sue them, even if they win. The aim of the Media Bill is to update the existing legislative framework on broadcasting governance following the UK's exit from the EU and to address technological changes, such as the rise of on-demand services.

The bill also seeks to provide for the sustainability of Channel 4 and regulate the powers, remit and audit of Welsh language channel S4C.

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill closes a loophole to ensure working fathers who lose their partner in childbirth will be given the right to "day one" paternity leave.

After a two-year campaign, the law was pushed through at the last minute after the surprise announcement of a 4 July general election. It made it through a very limited period of “wash-up”, when, in agreement with the opposition, the government speeds through remaining legislation before the end of a parliament’s term.

The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Bill

The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Bill makes it easier for Irish nationals to register for British citizenship. The bill would add a new registration route to the British Nationality Act 1981, so that Irish citizens who have been lawfully resident in the UK for five years could apply to be registered as a British citizen. Currently, people born in the Republic of Ireland after 31 December 1948 must apply for naturalisation if they wish to have British citizenship. This means that in addition to satisfying residency requirements, they must also pass a ‘Life in the UK’ test, prove they have sufficient language skills and pay a fee of £1,630.