The five steps to a Domestic Abuse Bill


Two years after the Government announced its commitment to a future Domestic Abuse Bill, are we any closer to seeing new legislation passed?

With the Domestic Abuse Bill the only legislation on the Government’s agenda aside from Brexit and the attention the latter is requiring of MPs, you might be forgiven for wondering whether a Bill might ever see the light of day.

But progress has been made in the wings – the consultation process ran last spring, following which the Government published its draft Bill at the start of this year.

So what happens next and when can we realistically hope to see an eventual Bill enacted?

  1. MPs and peers from all the major parties will come together in the recently-announced pre-legislative committee to scrutinise the draft Bill, take evidence from experts and publish a report with their recommendations before summer. Their role is to ensure the Bill is as effective as possible and meets the Government’s objectives of ‘transforming the response to domestic abuse’.
  2. After this, the Government will consider which recommendations to include in the Bill when it is ‘formally laid’ – put before Parliament – likely starting in the House of Commons. This is expected in the autumn. MPs will begin debating the principles of the Bill (e.g. whether it should be expanded beyond the justice system to include issues around housing, social security, immigration, and funding, etc.) MPs will then table and debate amendments. In this case, the Government typically either makes a concession which meets MPs halfway or gives them some sort of reassurance, leading to the withdrawal of the amendment. Alternatively, the amendment is voted on against the Government’s wishes and it either succeeds or fails.
  3. Once MPs have passed the Bill through the House of Commons, it moves to the House of Lords. A similar process is followed with the typically forensic lens of peers.
  4. Ping Pong: if peers make any amendments to the Bill, it returns to the House of Commons who consider the amendments and send it back to the Lords if they reject some amendments (which typically happens). This process continues until both houses agree on the final text of the Bill.
  5. Royal Assent – the Bill is now law ! Hopefully by the summer of 2020…