The call for a General Election means that Parliament will be dissolved on 3 May and the official campaign period will begin, with all major Government announcements and consultations on hold until the new administration is formed.
Below we have pulled together all the outstanding Parliamentary and Government business important to the bioscience sector and explained what will happen to it. All is subject to which party (or parties) forms the next Government.
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and Accelerated Access Review
The BIA has been feeding into a Life Sciences Industrial Strategy being led by Sir John Bell. Work will continue on this but it will now not be published until after the election, probably July at the earliest. Of course, this work depends on which party is in power. If it is the Conservatives – and Greg Clark remains the Business Secretary – we expect it to be business as usual. We were also expecting the Government’s response to the Accelerated Access Review to be published around the same time as the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy so this will also be delayed.
Work within Government on the wider Industrial Strategy will likely now be slowed but no announcements were expected until the autumn anyway.
Given the now pressing need to get Bills through Parliament before it dissolves for the General Election, it looks like the Government will need to make some concessions, particularly in the House of Lords. This process of pushing Bills through at the end of a parliamentary session is referred to as wash-up.
The Government has tabled an amendment in line with Lord Warner’s amendment to the Health Service Medical Supplies (Cost) Bill. Lord Warner’s amendment requires the Government to consider the impact of cost restriction measures on the life science industry and patient access to medicines. The House of Commons rejected Lord Warner’s amendment but the Government were defeated when the Bill went back to the House of Lords on 5th April. The new Government amendment will now be debated and voted on by the House of Commons on 25th April. After this the Bill will go back to the House of Lords on 26th, when we expect it will be approved.
The Higher Education and Research Bill has just completed its passage through the House of Lords, where several non-Government amendments were inserted in to the legislation, including one to prevent international students from being included in net migration figures. It has not yet been announced when the Lord’s amendments will be debated by the House of Commons but it is expected that Theresa May will have to back-down in relation to her long-standing opposition to removing foreign students from immigration figures if she wants to ensure the Bill is approved before Parliament dissolves.
Ratification of the Unified Patent Court
The Government announced in November that the UK will proceed with ratification of the UPC Agreement to bring this pan-European patent system into force. The secondary legislation to make this happen has cleared Parliament but one piece to establish the Life Sciences Division of the Court in London has not, meaning it will now not happen until after the election.
If this can happen quickly after the election then the UPC may be able to stay on track to be operational in December. However, this timeline could easily slip. Bioscience companies should consult their legal advisers now about how the UPC could affect their IP assets.
Parliamentary Committees, such as the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, will disband when Parliament dissolves and they will need to be re-formed following the election. In the House of Commons the membership of the Committees will undoubtedly change quite considerably. The membership of each Committee will depend on how many seats each party holds in the House and who they nominate to represent them. The Chair of each Committee will need to be elected. This process can take some time.
Being a snap General Election, the Committees are not prepared for the end of the Parliamentary session. Many of them have ongoing inquiries. A summary of what will happen to those of interest to the sector is provided below. If a Committee has published their report for an inquiry, the newly formed Government will be obliged to respond. Therefore, we can expect a flurry of Committee publications before 3rd May.
House of Commons Inquiries:
House of Lords Inquires: