Welcome to our weekly feature courtesy of Sebastian Salek, the brains behind Clear the Lobby, working to bring you all the laws MPs are voting on this week, and explained in plain English!
By far the most popular request for Clear the Lobby is to include the results of the previous week’s results. That’s something we’ll pick up when Parliament returns from recess in September. For now, here is a list of all the laws this government has passed since last year’s election, explained in the usual style.
Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Act 2017
Aims to modernise the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (“ATOL”) scheme, the consumer protection scheme for package holidays that include a flight. Allows UK businesses to trade across Europe more easily and increases the scope to protect more consumers. Also builds in flexibility for the scheme to adapt to future trends, including changes as a result of Brexit.
Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act 2018
Allows members of the armed forces to serve part time, or to be restricted to certain geographic areas.
Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018
Aims to improve infrastructure for electric vehicles. Among other things, it sets minimum standards for charging points, making sure they are installed at all motorway service stations and large petrol stations, and require information about their whereabouts to be widely available.
City of London Corporation (Open Spaces) Act 2018
Gives extra powers to the City of London with respect to the open spaces it manages (such as Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest). These include cutting down trees, allowing animals to graze, letting buildings, and using land for events.
Data Protection Act 2018
Overhauls the UK’s existing data protection laws to keep up with technological change. Complements the General Data Protection Regulation, a piece of EU legislation that became enforceable on 25 May. Some parts of the GDPR allow member states a certain degree of flexibility, and this bill outlines the UK’s position in those areas.
Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018
Allows the regulator Ofgem to impose temporary price caps on energy companies’ default plans. The intention is to prevent people who haven’t switched tariff or supplier from paying above the odds. In 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority found that these default plans contributed £1.6bn of excess profits to the Big Six energy companies.
European Union (Approvals) Act 2017
Approves four draft European Council decisions, which then allows the UK to vote in favour of them in Brussels. The decisions are: to allow Albania and Serbia to participate in the work of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights as observers (because they’re candidate countries to join the EU), and to sign and conclude an agreement for Canada and the EU to work more closely on competition matters.
European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
The flagship Brexit law which repeals the European Communities Act 1972 on the day that the UK leaves the EU.
Finance Act 2018
Writes the November 2017 Budget into law.
Finance (No.2) Act 2017
Writes the March 2017 Budget into law.
Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018
Creates a single body to help members of the public manage their finances, consolidating services that are currently provided by the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and the Department for Work and Pensions. Also gives the Financial Conduct Authority the power to regulate claimscompanies (like the ones that help people win compensation for personal injury), and transfers the responsibility for investigating complaints against these companies to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018
Gives the government the power to introduce a permits system and trailerregistration scheme for hauliers (companies that transport goods) after Brexit. The aim is to allow them to continue to operate internationally. Note that this law doesn’t introduce these frameworks directly. Rather it gives the Transport Secretary the power to enact them at a later date.
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act 2018
Makes it a criminal offence to shine a laser beam towards a vehicle. It’s already a crime to shine a light at an aircraft which dazzles or distracts the pilot, but this law would extend that to lasers and all vehicles, including air traffic control.
New Southgate Cemetery Act 2017
Allows the cemetary to reuse its burial ground by permitting it to use space in existing graves where nobody has been interred for 75 years or more. Also allows for remains that have been buried for 75 years or more to be buried deeper, creating space above them for new graves.
Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Act 2018
Sets the amounts for Northern Ireland’s local government taxes, and extends cost control measures for the Renewable Heat Incentive (a failed scheme that has cost the public hundreds of millions of pounds). This falls to Westminster because the Northern Ireland government collapsed in January 2017 and a new one hasn’t been formed.
Northern Ireland Assembly Members (Pay) Act 2018
Allows the UK Northern Ireland Secretary to determine salaries and other benefits for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly when there’s no local government in place.
Northern Ireland Budget Act 2017
Authorises the Northern Ireland budget for the year ending March 2018. This falls to Westminster because the Northern Ireland government collapsed in January 2017 and a new one hasn’t been formed.
Northern Ireland Budget Act 2018
Authorises the Northern Ireland budget for the year ending March 2019. The settlement included £410 million of the £1 billion negotiated by the DUP at the 2017 election in return for backing the Conservatives. This falls to Westminster because the Northern Ireland government collapsed in January 2017 and a new one hasn’t been formed.
Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2018
Authorises departments and other public bodies in Northern Ireland to deliver public services for the remainder of the year ending 31 March 2018, based on the Northern Ireland Civil Service’s final budget plans. This is part of the emergency intervention from Westminster following the collapse of the Northern Ireland government.
Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018
Creates the legal framework to maintain the UK’s current level of nuclear safety after Brexit. This is currently handled by Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community).
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018
Allows the government to impose sanctions after Brexit (against countries like North Korea and groups like ISIS), and keep its anti–money laundering andcounter-terrorism financing efforts up to date.
Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Act 2018
Ensures that social housing tenants with a lifetime lease who need to leave their home because of domestic abuse are granted a new lifetime tenancy in the property they move to. This creates an exception to rules in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which will require local authorities in England to offer only fixed-term tenancies when they come into force.
Smart Meters Act 2018
The government is aiming to make smart meters (next-generation gas and electricity meters that give users real-time information on their energy usage instead of estimating bills) available to all households and businesses by 2020. This law gives the government a five-year extension until 2023 to implement the regulatory framework for them. It also ensures the national smart meter system will continue operating if the company that has the licence to run it (the Data and Communications Company) becomes insolvent.
Space Industry Act 2018
Outlines the legal framework for a space port in the UK. It covers areas including the licences required, training and fitness of astronauts, safety and security procedures and how criminal law applies to people on board a spacecraft.
Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2018
Authorises the use of government funds for the years ending 31 March 2018 and 13 March 2019.
Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Act 2017
Authorises the use of government funds for the year ending 31 March 2018.
Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Act 2018
Authorises the use of government funds for the year ending 31 March 2019.
Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Act 2018
Eliminates business rates for broadband operators that install new fibre on their networks, which the Government hopes will incentivise them to improve full-fibre (super-fast) broadband infrastructure in the UK. The policy was announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement and would apply until April 2022.