Probate fee increase shelved by PM's suspension of parliament

Monday, 16 September 2019
Last week's five-week prorogation of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had the side-effect of halting the progress of several items of pending legislation, including the drastic rise in probate fees set out in the Draft Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018.

The motion to approve the probate fees order has been scheduled for a vote in the House of Commons since February. The order increases probate fees from the current fixed fee of GBP215 by almost 3,000 per cent for large estates.

'Prorogation brings to an end the proceedings in both Houses for the current Parliamentary session', notes House of Commons researcher Graeme Cowie in a parliamentary briefing paper. 'Unless specific provision is made…no business of a previous parliamentary session may be carried over into the next session.’

The motions set down and orders made for business to be considered on future days all fall at prorogation, and statutory periods for parliamentary consideration of secondary legislation are suspended. The secondary legislation itself does not formally fall, says Cowie, but the motion to approve it would have to be re-tabled. As secondary legislation, the probate fees order has therefore not formally fallen. However, in practice, there may not be enough time to consider it in the next session, given the political circumstances.

The fate of primary legislation is clearer. Unless a special carryover motion is made at prorogation, any bill not yet enacted falls, along with the progress it had made through parliament.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2017-2019, introducing divorce on request of one spouse in England and Wales, is a key victim of this rule. The government does however have the option of re-introducing it in the next session, beginning with the Queen's speech on 14 October.

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