Brexit has pushed attention away from a lot of underlying issues in society that affect people’s day-to-day lives.
Campaigners trying to change the law on issues like domestic abuse, animal welfare and divorce have seen their bills wiped out by Boris Johnson’s decision to end the current parliamentary session so that he can lay out the government’s plans in a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.
Sky News analysis has found 385 pieces of draft legislation have been ditched, with only three bills being carried into the next parliamentary session: on HS2, sentencing and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Charities, lawyers and politicians spoke to Sky News to reveal the human toll of the prime minister’s decision.
Better help domestic abuse survivors
A bid to create a domestic abuse commissioner and better help survivors has been stalled.
It would have enshrined a definition of domestic abuse in law, automatically given survivors special measures in criminal court to stop them being cross-examined by their victims and created a new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland.
Labour MP Jess Phillips, who used to work for the domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, said Mr Johnson had killed the bill by wiping the statute book clean.
Jo Sharpen, director of policy and projects at the charity Against Violence and Abuse (AVA), told Sky News: We are very concerned about the delay to implementing the domestic abuse bill.
Survivors and specialist organisations worked for years to create this bill and the two million people who experienced domestic abuse in the last year deserve support and protection.
With two women a week still being murdered by partners/ex partners, and a 13% overall fall in the number of domestic violence cases being referred to the CPS, it is vital that the bill be re-introduced in the next Queen’s Speech.
The prime minister said on Thursday that he was fully committed to tackling domestic abuse and so his Queen’s Speech will confirm we will be reintroducing domestic abuse legislation in the next session.
Making divorce more amicable
Another legislative overhaul canned was to make it easier for couples to get divorced.
It would have scrapped the need for the person seeking a divorce to give the reason as one of five facts – adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for two years, or separation for five years.
That would have been replaced with a single notification process, with the aim of reducing unnecessary distress caused by the allegations of adultery and behaviour that feature in the majority of divorces.
The bill nearly made it through most of the hurdles in the Commons, then would have needed completing in the Lords.
David Gauke, the justice secretary until this summer, said he was disappointed the bill had been dropped.
Divorce reform is long overdue and the bill had overwhelming support amongst the public and in parliament, he added.
Deborah Jeff, head of families at law firm Seddons, told Sky News it means husbands and wives who want to split have to do so on more acrimonious terms that are very unpalatable.
The ripples outwards are huge, and they’re touching all parts of society, all different backgrounds, professions, and we’re all feeling the impact of the significant delays now, she said.
It’s a very delicate time, wounds are quite raw and when they have to change course and blame the other party for the marriage having come to an end, it can – not always – but it can then impact on their discussions about the children because it increases the temperature, there’s a lot of bad feeling that needn’t be there.
It really creates an undertone that the legislation was designed to eliminate. So it’s really unhelpful to say the least.
Tougher penalties to protect animal welfare
Another legislative delay is to a bill that would have toughened up sentences for animal cruelty offences.
The maximum penalty would have been extending the current penalty of six months in jail and/or an unlimited fine to five years and the same fine conditions to target deliberate, calculating and sadistic behaviour.
The RSPCA told Sky News it was disappointed the bill had been dropped after long campaigning for a change in the law.
Current laws were simply not acceptable for a nation that prides itself on its love of animals because they do not reflect the severity of cruelty against animals or act as a deterrent, the charity added.
The bill came so close to being enacted – let’s not allow this important change to animal cruelty sentencing to slip through our hands.
Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at Blue Cross pet charity, also told Sky News the government had long promised to deliver increased sentences for animal cruelty and yet they haven’t managed to deliver on this.
That means England and Wales will still have some of the lowest sentences for animal cruelty in Europe, she added.
Scrapping business rates on public loos to stop them disappearing
Another bill culled was one to remove the business rates that public lavatories have to pay.
Campaigners say there has been a fast decline in the number available due to the upkeep costs, particularly impacting elderly and disabled people.
They were hoping to use the legislation to incentivise the building of toilets that are accessible to disabled people.
Baroness Thomas of Winchester, the Liberal Democrats’ Lords spokesperson on disability, told Sky News that while perhaps not the grandest of bills, it was set to have a significant impact on the lives of many.
This bill was supported by all sides of the Lords, and there was no reason for the government not to carry it over, she added.
What does the government say?
A senior government source told Sky News: The Queen’s Speech will allow government to bring forward an ambitious legislative agenda after too much dither and delay in parliament .
Complaints from MPs who have prioritised their time in the Commons to sabotage EU negations rather than delivering on domestic priorities will ring hollow with the public.
When he revealed his plan to suspend parliament, Mr Johnson said: We’re not going to wait until 31 October before getting on with our plans to take this country forward.
This is a new government with a very exciting agenda, to make our streets safer.
It’s very important we bring violent crime down, we need to invest in our NHS, we need to level up education funding across the country, we need to invest in the infrastructure that’s going to take this country forward for decades.
And we need to deal with the cost of living, moving to a high wage, high productivity economy, which is what I think this country needs to be.
To do that we need new legislation, we’ve got to be bringing forward new and important bills, and that’s why we are going to have a Queen’s Speech and we are going to do it on 14 October.