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30 May 20249 minute read

Westminster Watch: Parliament dissolved as general election build up begins

On 22 May 2024, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak requested permission from the King to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. Parliament has been formally dissolved today on 30 May.

Between Sunak’s announcement in the rain outside 10 Downing Street and election day on 4 July, usual activity across Westminster and Whitehall is suspended as political parties and their campaign operations come to the forefront.

Marking the return of its Westminster Watch series of client alerts, DLA Piper’s UK government affairs team has produced a comprehensive guide to the 2024 General Election period.



As a result of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, elections can be called at any time by royal prerogative.

For two days following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Parliament continued to sit until it was prorogued on the evening of Friday 24 May ahead of formal dissolution.

The time between an election announcement and the prorogation of Parliament is known as the “wash-up period”. Government uses this time to pass unfinished business through Parliament as quickly as possible. Political parties cooperate to agree the bills with sufficient all-party support for this expedited process.

Legislation that does not make it onto the statute book before the end of wash-up does not carry through to the next Parliament and is abandoned. The wash-up period does not have a fixed length. The two-day duration of this year’s wash-up was particularly short. By contrast, in 2017, Parliament sat for seven days between the general election announcement and prorogation.

Some legislation made it through, including:

  • The Finance Bill, putting into law measures announced in the Chancellor’s spring Budget.
  • The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, introducing new digital market regulation and added consumer protections.
  • The Leasehold and Freehold Bill became law at 18:30 on the evening of Friday 24 May. While increasing the powers of leaseholders, it did not include a planned removal of ground rent for existing leaseholders.
  • The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill, quashing the convictions of sub-postmasters and the Victims and Prisoners Bill, establishing a compensation body to pay out up to GBP10 billion to victims of the infected blood transfusions.

The Renters (Reform) Bill, set to ban no-fault evictions, Football Governance Bill, recommending the establishment of an independent football regulator, and Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, relaxing regulations around holding customers’ personal information, failed to make it through wash-up.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill, Criminal Justice Bill, Offshore Petroleum and Licensing Bill, Arbitration Bill and Sentencing Bill were similarly abandoned. There is, however, the possibility that elements of these bills could be re-introduced as new legislation after the opening of the next Parliament in July. As well as forcing the withdrawal of these Bills, curtailing the work of this Parliament has suspended the momentum of policy and regulatory development in other key areas.

The final decision as to whether to move forward with the GBP20 billion Sizewell C nuclear power project will now not be due until the end of this year. The next Contracts for Difference auction of wind farm licenses was due to take place this summer, although timelines will now be under review. The Department for Energy and Net Zero will now no longer respond to their consultation on reforming the electricity market.



Dissolution ends all business in the House of Commons. MPs will no longer be allowed to call themselves Members of Parliament and will lose all access to the Westminster estate until (and if) they are re-elected. Peers in the House of Lords retain their titles and privileges.

While MPs are no longer able to raise the issues of their constituents in Parliament, in practice both they and their staff continue in post, and in most cases constituency casework carries on. MPs’ staff cannot spend their time or any other parliamentary resources for campaigning work or political activity.

Government ministers retain their positions until a new government is formed after the election, albeit with a limited program of work. They can campaign during elections but must not leverage departmental resources or public money for party political ends.

From the evening of 24 May, Whitehall and the wider civil service, including local government and public bodies, entered the “pre-election period of heightened sensitivity” (formerly known as “purdah”). The government retains its responsibility to govern which means that essential and routine business continues, in order to keep public services functioning smoothly.

However, to maintain civil service impartiality, and to avoid the inappropriate use of official resources, significant policy decisions are delayed and public-facing activity is postponed until after the election. Officials are asked to decline invitations to speak at public events and new consultations must not be launched.

For example, water regulator Ofwat has deferred the publication of its Price Review 2024 Draft Determinations (announcing how much water companies will be allowed to increase their bills over the next five years) from 12 June to 11 July, after the election. This is to avoid the topic of the price of household bills becoming a news story that political parties could leverage in their campaigns.



After Parliament is dissolved and a Royal Proclamation issued, summoning a new Parliament and announcing the date of its first sitting, writs of election are drawn up in every constituency and formally issued by the monarch. From this point, campaigning formally begins in earnest.

The day of the General Election must take place 25 working days from the date of the dissolution of Parliament (30 May). As such, polling day lands on Thursday 4 July. By convention, every election since 1931 has been held on a Thursday (although this is not officially mandated anywhere).

During the campaign period, the Electoral Commission has a role in regulating campaign and election material, including leaflets and online advertisements. Printed and digital material must not, for example, make false statements about candidates or resemble a poll card.



Under legislation active between 1992 and 2019, political party manifestos were released between 18 and 29 days before a General Election. However, with the introduction of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, they may now be released at any time after the writ of election has been issued.

In the past, Labour and Conservative manifestos have tended to be published within a few days of each other. If this year’s election campaign period follows past precedent, we would expect this to be around 22 days before polling day, ie on or near 12 June.

Since 2010, Labour have taken the lead on publishing their manifesto first, with the Conservative manifestos launching shortly afterwards. By now, the manifestos of the major political parties are in their final drafts, with substantive content unlikely to be further adjusted (except in response to unexpected developments) before publication.

Labour’s manifesto will be centred on its five “missions for Britain”, of which the first is to secure the highest sustained economic growth in the G7. Key policy proposals set to appear in their manifesto include:

  • Founding Great British Energy, a publicly owned investment vehicle to support the delivery of clean power by 2030. Other energy policies include plans to ease regulations limiting the development of onshore wind farms and to broaden the windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers.
  • Investing up to GBP23.7 billion in green projects and infrastructure as part of a UK-wide industrial strategy.
  • Reform restrictive planning laws to build 1.5 million new homes as part of plans to “get Britain building again”.
  • Reforming business rates and reviewing tax reliefs while keeping corporation tax the same, closing tax loopholes for non-domiciled individuals and adding VAT to private school fees.
  • Providing increased security or workers, increasing sick pay and restricting zero-hours contracts.

Conservative policies announced in the first days of the campaign include:

  • Promising a “quadruple lock” on pensions, to raise the threshold that retirees pay income tax each year so that it stays ahead of the state pension.
  • Spending 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030 and re-introducing mandatory national service for young adults.
  • Committing to keep public sector debt falling as a share of GDP and net public sector investment below 3% of GDP (in the fifth year of official forecasts), as per the budget rules implemented in 2022.

Both of the major parties have pledged to reduce waiting times for NHS appointments and implement a variety of other improvements to the health service through increased funding. On immigration, both parties will aim to minimise the UK’s reliance on overseas workers. As for education policy, Labour plans to increase teacher recruitment while the Conservatives will reform A-Levels to more closely resemble the International Baccalaureate.

Key policy proposals appearing in the Liberal Democrat manifesto include:

  • Plans to deepen the trading relationship with Europe with the ultimate aim of re-joining the EU Single Market.
  • Introducing a range of targets and measures to achieve Net Zero by 2045, including the creation of an industrial strategy to invest in green technologies.
  • Reforming water companies into “public benefit corporations”, scrapping the existing regulator.
  • Imposing a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producer profits and abolishing the capital gains tax-free allowance for trusts.

The Reform party’s manifesto is set to include proposals to:

  • Cut taxes across the board, which includes reducing corporation tax to 20%.
  • Raise the minimum income tax threshold to GBP20,000 and abolish stamp duty for houses costing less than GBP750,000.
  • Cut NHS waiting times to zero in two years, funded by reorganising Bank of England quantitative easing debt.
  • Abandon all emissions targets, granting more oil and gas licenses in the North Sea.

The manifesto plans of the Liberal Democrats and Reform party – along with those of the SNP and Greens – would be of particular relevance should either of the major parties fail to achieve an outright majority on 4 July.



After the General Election, when all votes have been counted, the new Parliament will meet on Tuesday, 9 July. The House of Commons will elect a Speaker whose Royal Approbation will take place at a ceremony in the House of Lords. MPs and Lords must swear or affirm allegiance to the Crown before they take their seats in Parliament.

On 17 July, the State Opening of Parliament takes place. The King’s Speech is given, laying out the legislative priorities of the new government and marking the formal start of the parliamentary year.