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Wash-up: What Happens to Bills before Parliament is Dissolved

Published Friday, April 21, 2017

This House of Lords Library briefing provides information about what happens to public bills before the dissolution of Parliament in the period known as ‘wash-up’.

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Public bills cannot be carried over from one parliament to the next in the same way that they can be carried over from one session to the next within the lifetime of a parliament. The period of the last few days of a parliament, during which unfinished business must be agreed by both Houses or lost at dissolution, is known as ‘wash-up’. During this period, because there is not enough time to complete parliamentary consideration in the usual way, the Government is reliant on the cooperation of the Opposition to secure its legislation. The Government and the Opposition reach agreements on the bills—or parts of bills—that should be hurried through their remaining parliamentary stages to reach the statute book before dissolution. Sometimes the Government is willing to drop certain bills, or certain provisions, to secure the passage of others. Sometimes parliamentary time is also provided during the wash-up for private member’s bills. 

Following the House of Commons’ vote on 19 April 2017 by 522 votes to 13 in favour of the Prime Minister’s motion that there should be an early general election, Parliament is now in a wash-up period. Parliament must be dissolved 25 days before the proposed date of the general election, meaning that for the election to take place on 8 June 2017, Parliament will be dissolved at one minute past midnight on 3 May 2017. All outstanding public bills must be dealt with before then (or before prorogation if that takes place earlier than dissolution) or they will fall at dissolution.

This Lords Library briefing provides background information on what happened during the wash-up periods before the 1987, 1992, 1997, 2005, 2010 and 2015 elections. (A more detailed analysis of the 1987–2010 period, prior to the passage of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, is available in the joint House of Lords and House of Commons Library note on Wash-up 2010

It also gives details of bills to be dealt with in the 2017 wash-up, including:

  • Government bills that are still before Parliament, the stage they had reached as at 21 April 2017, and the latest schedule for completing their remaining parliamentary stages.
  • Private member’s bills which have completed their passage through the House in which they were first introduced and are currently before the other House; and
  • Bills which have completed their passage through both Houses and are currently awaiting royal assent.

Lords In Focus LIF-2017-0037

Author: Nicola Newson

Topics: Elections, Legislative process, Parliamentary procedure

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House of Lords Library

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.