The Bill passed through the House of Lords at the end of June and is to be debated in the Commons on the first day after the summer recess, Tuesday 4 September 2018, just four weeks from today.
This will be its second reading stage, which is when the Government sets out the general principles of the Bill and the opposition signals its views on the proposals. No amendments will be taken, but they may be brought forward at the next phase, ie Committee stage. Dates have not been set for that, although information about the Bill’s scheduling reveals that “Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 9 October”.
So the Committee stage will be over by mid-October. But it may well have to start a good deal earlier than that if, as in the Lords, consideration in Committee is going to require two sitting days. With the Commons in recess for the party conference season from 13 September to 9 October, it could well follow that the first day in Committee has to be between 4 and 13 September. So we could be likely to see the detail of any initial amendments – whether from Government or opposition – by as early as mid-September.
Further amendments could be tabled on 9 October. The Bill would then proceed to its Report and Third Reading stages, which are taken on the same day. There is no fixed period after Committee stage for these. That said, we have the timetable quoted above and the Government’s stated intention to move “promptly” with this legislation, particularly as regards the discount rate measures in its part 2 (but recalling that even after it is enacted the secondary legislation and other practical aspects of the whiplash reforms in part 1 are not expected to be in place until April 2020).
These factors would tend to suggest – subject always to other pressures on Parliamentary time – that we might expect only a fairly short gap between 9 October and Report and Third Reading. After that, the Bill would return to the Lords for it to consider any amendments made in the Commons.
Parliament will sit largely uninterrupted for around ten weeks between 9 October and the Christmas recess on 20 December. Assuming always that the Bill is not defeated, it would seem to look likely (at the moment, at least) that it could complete all of its Parliamentary stages (including Royal Assent after consideration of amendments) in or around the end of this calendar year or early next. Once that happens, the 230 day period (set out in part 2 of the Bill) in which a new discount rate must be set starts to run. As that is a maximum period, it would appear to follow that it would be realistic to expect a new discount rate to take effect some time in the second half of 2019.
Authored by Alistair Kinley, director of policy and regulatory affairs