New UK laws: Immigration, legal age change, peaceful protest crackdown and more

Changes to UK laws have been introduced this week. One of the most important changes pertains to the upcoming local elections, where voters will be asked for ID at polling stations. Also police have been given more power to crack down on peaceful protests.

It comes as a raft of legislation received Royal Assent this week in a final push ahead of the temporary suspension of Parliament. Several long-debated pieces of legislation made it through both Houses before the current session came to a close on Thursday as rebellious Lords were forced to back down in the face of the government’s 75-strong Commons majority. Controversial Bills including the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the Nationality and Borders Act have been wrangled over during the last year.

: Martin Lewis says half a million Brits have been underpaid – here’s how to claim Measures aimed at preventing animal cruelty will also become law, while an GBP86,000 cap on the contributions that individuals will make towards social care costs has also been passed. Several other bills, such as the one aimed at making people safer online, will need to be carried over to the next session after the government ran out of time to get them passed.

Around a third of the laws promised in last year’s Queen’s Speech didn’t pass in time. Both Houses of Parliament will return on Tuesday, May 10, and a Queen’s Speech to announce the government’s legislative programme for the new parliamentary session will take place on that day too. In partnership with the MEN, we have rounded up some of the laws that got Royal Assent just in the nick of time – and how they are set to impact you.

A group of Quakers are holding a peaceful protest in Huddersfield town centre

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts: Cracking down on peaceful protests and harsher punishments for criminals

The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act was granted Royal Assent on Tuesday in the final stage of a turbulent passage through Parliament. The bill grants the police additional powers to crack down on disruptive demonstrations – a controversial move which campaigners believe will infringe on people’s right to peacefully protest.

The new laws will make it a criminal offence to cause “serious distress, serious annoyance or serious inconvenience” without “reasonable excuse”. The bill also allows police to impose restrictions on marches whose “noise” could cause “serious disruption” to a nearby organisation. Opposition MPs and campaign groups made attempts to strip the bill of such powers right up until the bitter end, but they were unsuccessful.

However, the government has agreed to conduct a review of the new powers within two years of them coming into force. Under the new laws, the police will also be granted new stop and search powers to use against convicted knife offenders. The bill will also overhaul sentencing laws with the maximum penalty for those who assault police or other emergency workers, such as prison officers, fire service personnel or frontline health workers, doubling from 12 months to two years.

It also brings into force ‘Harper’s Law’, named after PC Andrew Harper, which will see the introduction of mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted of killing an emergency worker while committing a crime. Judges will be able to hand down life sentences to dangerous drivers who kill and the act halts the automatic early release of offenders deemed to be a danger to the public. In addition, domestic abuse victims will be given more time to report incidents of common assault or battery and higher maximum penalties, including up to life imprisonment, will be introduced for child cruelty offences.

The maximum penalty for criminal damage of a memorial will rise from three months to 10 years. The Judicial Review and Courts Act has also been granted Royal Assent. According to the government, this bill “delivers on a manifesto commitment to ensure courts are not open to abuse and delay and provides much needed flexibility on the outcome of Judicial Reviews”.

Peers had called on the government to amend the bill to grant bereaved families taxpayer-funded legal representation at inquests involving public organisations, but MPs voted to reject the changes earlier this week.

New UK laws: Immigration, legal age change, peaceful protest crackdown and moreIt’ll be you behind bars (well, just a fine, but you should be)

Animal welfare: A ban on glue traps and fines for poor pet care

A raft of new legislation around animal welfare is set to come into force. The new laws will ban the use of cruel glue traps, which are used to get rid of rodents. Animals can remain alive for 24 hours or more inside the traps, eventually dying of stress, exhaustion, dehydration or self-inflicted injuries.

Wildlife and domestic pets can also get stuck to the traps. Licences to use glue traps will only be issued to professional pest controllers on an exceptional basis, for example if they are needed to preserve public safety. The ban is set to come into force in the next two years.

Fines for people who fail to provide the proper levels of care to their pets, zoo animals and livestock will also be introduced and a breach of the law could result in a fine of up to GBP5,000.

Under the Animals (Penalty Notices) Act, fines could be handed out to pet breeders who fail to microchip puppies before being rehomed, horse owners who tether animals in a way that neglects their basic needs or a farmer transporting livestock that are not fit for travel. The government’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill has also gained Royal Assent. This will create a new Animal Sentience Committee, which will assess whether government decisions have taken account of the welfare of sentient animals.

The committee will publish reports that ministers will then respond to in Parliament.

New UK laws: Immigration, legal age change, peaceful protest crackdown and moreCaerwys Polling Station in Flintshire on Election Day. Stan Kendrick and Woody arriving to vote.

Elections: Photo ID at polling stations and preventing postal vote harvesting

Legislation that requires voters to present photographic ID at polling stations completed its journey through Parliament on Thursday.

Critics have suggested that the scale of the problem does not justify the move and have warned that it will hit voter turnout However, the government says the Elections Act “will ensure the electoral system remains secure, transparent and fair for generations to come”. The new laws will apply to all UK Parliamentary elections, mayoral and council elections and local referendums in England, and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales. According to government research, 98 per cent of voters already have an accepted form of ID.

However, a free voter card will be available from councils for people without one. An amendment to the bill that would see the list of accepted identification extended to include non-photo documents, such as birth certificates, bank statements and library cards, was rejected by MPs. Changes to election laws will also see the introduction of new anti-fraud measures for absent voters aimed at preventing postal vote harvesting.

Rules will be changed so that people can apply for a postal or proxy vote online through a new system. Local authorities will also be required to provide in-person voters with disabilities with specialist equipment to support them to vote if needed.

The voting system for mayoral and PCC elections will be changed to First Past the Post, meaning that the candidate who wins the most votes in each constituency is elected. In addition, the 15-year limit on British citizens overseas voting in elections will be removed.

A new electoral sanction for those convicted of intimidation against a candidate, campaigner or elected office holder will also be introduced. The government has said it wants the changes under the Elections Act to come into force “within the lifetime of this Parliament”. Do you agree with all these law changes? Have your say in the comments

Peers had previously called for leaseholder contributions to be capped at zero, effectively meaning that no leaseholder would pay towards the cost of remediation work, but this was rejected by the House of Commons. Under the new legislation, leaseholders will also be granted a retrospective right to sue developers for defective works up to 30 years after a home is completed. A new construction products regulator will also be created with the power to remove products from the market.

New UK laws: Immigration, legal age change, peaceful protest crackdown and moreYou have to now be 18 to tie the knot

Marriage: Raising the legal age to marry from 16 to 18

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act will raise the legal age of marriage from 16 to 18 in England and Wales.

The change is being made in an effort to crack down on child brides being forced into marriage. The current law in both England and Wales states that teenagers aged 16 and 17 are allowed to get married if they have consent from a parent. However, campaigners have warned that this loophole can be used to force people under 18 into marriage.

The new law will also see adults who help to facilitate forced marriages face up to seven years in jail and slapped with a fine. People who take children abroad to get married will also face jail time. Children being forced into marriage will not face any penalties or punishment.

New UK laws: Immigration, legal age change, peaceful protest crackdown and moreHome Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta

Immigration: Offshoring asylum and a ‘crack down’ on illegal immigration

The Nationality and Borders Bill, which includes plans for offshoring asylum, was eventually passed after a fierce Parliamentary stand-off.

The government has already struck a controversial immigration deal with Rwanda, which ministers have defended amid fierce criticism in recent weeks. The bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and allow asylum seekers to be treated differently based on how they entered the UK. Campaigners say the new legislation will have a detrimental impact on people seeking asylum and have argued that asylum should be judged on the dangers being faced, rather than how they have entered Britain.

The government argues that the new laws are aimed at cracking down on people-smuggling networks, and will deter illegal entry into the UK. This will “free up the asylum system so we can better support those in genuine need of asylum through safe and legal routes”, the government says. Under the new laws, people smugglers will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for illegally entering the UK or overstaying a visa will rise to four years’ imprisonment.

The government also said it will crack down on adults pretending to be children by introducing scientific methods for age assessment.

A number of changes to the bill, including a bid to enable asylum seekers to work if no decision had been taken on their claim after six months, were overturned by the Commons.

The new measures will be implemented over the coming months and into next year, the government said.