Fixed-term Parliaments Act – again

45007I have just been reading the article, ‘Who governs Britain?’ by Simon Heffer in the latest issue of The New Statesman.  He falls into the category of those who get wrong the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.  He thinks that if a Cameron Government faced a new Parliament, lost the vote on the Queen’s Speech and then resigned, Ed Miliband would have 14 days in which to get a Queen’s Speech through, otherwise there would be another election.  Er, no.  The Government would have to be defeated on the motion ‘That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government’.  No other wording counts.  Only if defeated on that motion, and that motion alone, is the 14-day provision triggered, within which a new government has to be formed and gain a vote of confidence from the House or else an election takes place.  The resignation of a government does not trigger the 14-day provision.  It leaves open the potential for negotiations which are not time limited – indeed, they could go on and on and on…

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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6 Responses to Fixed-term Parliaments Act – again

  1. maude elwes says:

    This complicated set up is indeed of interest to us all. Or, should be.

    Please will you answer a question that has been rolling around the corners of my mind for sometime. Lets project that with this coming general election the voters decide none of those in the Commons are suitable candidates for their support. That in fact, the three or really two parties, Labour and Conservative, are unfit for office. You cannot include the LibDems in this as their vote is lower than the Greens presently. So on return we find the majority of seats taken up by either new parites, UKIP, Greens, etc., or plain Independents. Finally ridding us of the crew we cannot in conscience back any longer, as to do so is seen as cultural suicide for our country. What happens then?

    How do the back room boys deal with that? Has this happened at any time in our history? Can they set it up from the offset insuring they will remain for a full five years as this last lot did? Regardless of the public wanting them once they saw they were simply more of the same? Can the new kids on the block remove the old Sir Humphries stuck in their jobs endlessly in order to put an end to any real change to policy, as they have always done? In essence, can this democracy really bring about the change we want and so desperately need?

    • Lord Norton says:

      maude elwes: In terms of a sudden switch of seats to a different party or parties, the last occasion that would qualify would be in the period from 1918 to 1922 when Labour went from being a third party to the official Opposition, displacing the Liberals. Two years, later it formed a minority government, but did not survive the year.

  2. maud elwes says:

    LN, March 5th, is a very classical birthday for you. With best wishes, ME

  3. Tony sands says:

    Well done that you have proved to be the best informed on a legislative issue! Reading your posts on this issue I have the distinct feeling that you don’t like the legislation or is it the principle of legislating for fixed term parliaments that offends you? My most vivid political memory is of Jim Callaghan taunting Mrs Thatcher in 1978 singing, “Here was I waiting at the church …” . It didn’t do him much good but when this legislation was brought in, I felt that taking away a prime minister’s ability to manipulate the electoral cycle for party gain enhances democracy rather than diminishes it. Hasn’t the legislation provided the framework for a successful coalition? Without it I’m sure that we would have had an earlier election had the slightest crisis or favourable polls provided the PM with an excuse. Would you prefer to see this legislation amended or scrapped and if so why? Ps. Not quite delivered with Maude’s class, but belated birthday greetings. I hope u had a nice day – not working!!!

  4. James Hand says:

    Whereas the official website of The British Monarchy is just out of date – http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/QueenandGovernment/QueenandPrimeMinister.aspx (5th para)

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