From new immigration laws to the COVID inquiry’s module on vaccines, 2024 is more than just a year to head to the polls.

A fter three prime ministers in 2022, 2023 was almost quiet in UK politics. Of course, there were seven by-elections, the firing of numerous senior cabinet ministers, MPs facing various sexual assault allegations and a former PM being found to have lied to Parliament – but all in all a pretty quiet time, relatively speaking.

But as January rolls around, let’s look forward, not back.

There will be an election – this was confirmed to journalists at an event in Downing Street last month. Rishi Sunak will have to face up to his poor polling numbers when the UK votes for the first time since the pandemic. But, whether it lands in spring or autumn will still hold some important moments outside of a new government.

From statutory inquiries to new laws on immigration, here are the political events coming in 2024 that we think you need to know about.

COVID inquiry

2023 was a wild year for the COVID inquiry – but it’s far from over. The statutory inquiry will first complete its module on political governance and decision-making, looking at Scotland in January, Wales in February, and Northern Ireland in April.

In the summer, it will begin hearing evidence for a new module on vaccines and therapeutics. This will cover vaccine rollout, vaccine uptake, and the UK Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme.

Voter ID

Although voter ID was required for local elections in May last year, 2024 will be the first time it has been used for a general election. Many human rights groups believe this will make it harder for voters who are already disenfranchised – and research has shown those from disadvantaged groups are less likely to have valid ID.

Renters Reform Bill

The landmark renting bill that is hoping to slightly tip the balance of legislation back in tenants’ favour will likely reach its final stages in 2024. That is, if it doesn’t face a fatal rebellion from the landlord backbenchers of the Conservative Party.

The heavily-delayed bill, first announced in 2019, will include a ban on no fault evictions (but with an unclear start date), create a register for landlords and abolish periodic tenancies. Many tenant campaigners say it is overdue and doesn’t go far enough.

— From new immigration laws to the COVID inquiry’s module on vaccines, 2024 is more than just a year to head to the polls.

Eradicating rough sleeping?

The Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto promised to end the “blight of rough sleeping” by the next election. At the time, then-PM Boris Johnson said homelessness “cannot be right” and pledged he would “work tirelessly” to end it.

openDemocracy found this was unlikely to happen, with some of the key policies aimed to help those without homes still in the pilot stage.

Minimum wage rises in April

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a rise in minimum wage from £10.42 an hour to £11.44 per hour, if you are over 21. This will come in on 1 April.

New migration rules

The government has spent hundreds of millions of pounds – and almost as many hours – fighting for its cruel Rwanda scheme, which was again found to be unlawful in November, this time by the UK’s Supreme Court. In response to that ruling, the government rushed through new legislation, hoping to reverse the findings of the Supreme Court and attempt to rule out future legal challenges.

This year, the Safety of Rwanda Bill will face amendments from MPs and the Lords, where it could struggle to make it to legislation in its current form going by the strong opposition from many in the Tories, let alone the opposition.

But what has been confirmed is a new range of measures intended to reduce legal migration to the UK, which impacts those whose loved ones aren’t UK citizens.

This includes social care workers not being allowed to bring partners or children on their visas. It also includes a hike in the minimum income requirement for someone’s spouse to be sponsored for a visa. The Home Office had planned to raise this to £38,700, but within weeks announced a U-turn following a fierce backlash, saying the threshold would rise to £29,000 instead. That’s still an increase of more than £10,000, though. These controversial changes are set to be introduced in spring 2024.

PMP Magazine


Text: This piece was first published in openDemocracy and re-published in PMP Magazine on 2 January 2024 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Dreamstime/Dominic Dudley.

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