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What Happens To Parliament Now That A General Election Has Been Called?

The Houses of Parliament pictured on May 23rd after the General Election was announced (Alamy)

4 min read

Parliament is wrapping up its final business ahead of the general election, following Rishi Sunak’s announcement on Wednesday that the country would go to the polls on 4 July.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt has laid out the legislation MPs will get the chance to look at again before the Commons is prorogued and then later dissolved for weeks as the campaigning gets underway. 

So what will happen to Parliament now the General Election has been called? 

 

What is happening in Parliament right now?

The Commons is currently in the middle of a process known as “wash-up”. 

According to the Parliament website, the term “refers to the last few days of a Parliament before dissolution” and points out that “the government may need the co-operation of the opposition of passing legislation that is still in progress”. 

Any business that is not finalised before the prorogation expected on Friday will be lost in its current form.

Mordaunt confirmed in her Business Statement to the Commons on Thursday that the Finance Bill, the Digital Markets Bill and Post Office Horizon Offences Bill will all get time in the Commons on Thursday. The Victims and Prisoners Bill, which will include mechanisms to compensate people impacted by the infected blood scandal, will be put before MPs on Friday.

She hinted that there could be further updates which could see other bills get time too. 

Parliamentary expert Dr Alice Lilly told PoliticsHome that in the coming hours the public won’t see very much of the process because “so much is just talks that happen behind the scenes between the whips” in the government and opposition teams as they negotiate what has the best chance of passing. 

Lilly, a senior researcher at the Institute for Government, predicted that the Post Office and Victims and Prisoners bills “are key ones because everybody seems to agree that they want to see those passed”. Both contain mechanisms for compensation for people affected by scandals, the Post Office for the Horizon scandal, and Victims and Prisoners for those impacted by infected blood. 

She expected there will be a “trickle of information” over the next day or so “about what’s fallen or hasn’t, but there’s probably a reasonable amount of stuff that has to get dropped either in whole or in part”. 

 

What is the difference between dissolution and prorogation? 

Parliament is due to be prorogued on Friday 24 May, and dissolution is expected six days later on Thursday 30 May. 

The prorogation and dissolution will be significant moments. 

The key difference between the two is that prorogation is the end of a parliamentary session, such as happens ahead of a King’s Speech, whereas the at dissolution is the moment that all MPs lose their seats. 

According to Lilly, “dissolution is the moment that Parliament, or at least the Commons, effectively ceases to exist.

“MPs stop being MPs, nothing at all can happen because basically there is no Parliament to do anything.”

In the days between prorogation and dissolution MPs are still in their positions, and can be in Parliament to do things such as clear out their offices. 

Members of the House of Lords remain members at dissolution as they are appointed rather than elected, but business in the Lords comes to an end during the time Parliament is dissolved. 

The gap between dissolution and the new Parliament can sometimes cause a disruption to constituency business, Lilly explained. 

“When you get MPs coming in after the election whether there’s a continuing MP or a new one there can often be a bit of a backlog to deal with,” she said. 

What happens to ministers and the government?

Unlike their position as MPs, ministers keep those jobs during an election campaign, Lilly explained. 

MPs on the government payroll will be able to get “on with the day to day job” of their role in government and “if they need to respond to emergencies they will obviously be able to do that” as the machinery of government does not cease to exist as a result of the election. 

In the event of a crisis, Lilly said that the “government would still be able to react to any kind of crisis or emergency” and “they might also involve the leader of the opposition” . 

“Stuff like that doesn’t necessarily require legislation, also depending on what is is there are various emergency powers that the government does have access to at points it needs them depending on what happened.” 

She added: “Ministers are still ministers, so they will still have those ministerial responsibilities and that will largely work as normal.

"There basically always has to be a government, there always has to be ministers and so the current ones stay [in their job] up until and if they need to be replaced by a new government and new ministers.”

 

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