Skip to main content

Fixed-term Parliaments Act

Volume 678: debated on Thursday 16 July 2020

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 led to parliamentary paralysis at a critical time for our country. It is for that reason that the Government made a commitment in our manifesto and in our Queen’s Speech to take forward work to repeal it. An announcement about that legislation will be made in due course.

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. She is absolutely right to highlight that the paralysis of the previous Parliament, which dithered, delayed and blocked the democratic will of the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, who overwhelmingly voted for us to leave the EU, should never be seen again. What assurances can she give my constituents that this reform can be achieved quickly and with support from all parts of the House to ensure that that kind of Brexit-blocking Parliament we saw last year will not be seen again?

There are two points to make to my hon. Friend. The first is that repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act had cross-party support. It was in the manifestos of both the Government and the Opposition, so I hope that that gives it a good wind, but it is also the case that the policy does need to be carefully developed and well scrutinised so that we do not repeat past mistakes with an important part of our constitution.

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer and associate myself with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis). The problem we had last year was that we had a Government who were manifestly unable to get their core legislative agenda through. They did not have the confidence of the House for that, but the House voted that it had confidence in the Government. I understand that repealing the Act will not necessarily get us back to the status quo ante, so what mechanism does she envisage will make sure that we can never again be in that position where the Government do not have the confidence of the House on their core legislative agenda?

I thank my hon. Friend for putting his finger on a very important part of what was wrong with that scenario and what is wrong with that legislation: it divorces the issue of confidence from the issue of calling an election. One thing we want to do as we look at its repeal is to make sure that that central tenet of the constitution and of parliamentary operation can be properly functional.

I look forward to the appearance of my hon. Friend before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee next week to discuss this matter at length. She will know that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act requires, by the end of November, a review committee to be established to review the Act in its entirety, so can she describe the arrangements for this Committee and its remit?

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, and I look forward to discussing more on this subject with him and his Committee next week, because it is very important and we have already begun to identify in these exchanges some of the things that need to be put right. Of course the Chair of the Select Committee is absolutely right in that the Prime Minister is required, between June and November this year, to make arrangements for a committee to undertake a review of the operation of the Act. Again, I look forward to bringing details about that forward in due course, and, as part of that, answering the particular points that he put about its composition and arrangements.