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Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill

Volume 695: debated on Wednesday 12 May 2021

Today, the Government will introduce the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill and, alongside this, will publish our response to the report of the Joint Committee on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

In delivering on the Government’s manifesto commitment to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (the 2011 Act), we have welcomed the valuable contributions of Parliament, noting in particular the work of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Lords Constitution Committee and the debates in the last Parliament.

It is in this context that the Joint Committee was appointed to fulfil the statutory duty to conduct a review of the operation of the 2011 Act, and also to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the Government’s draft Bill and Dissolution principles paper. The Government are particularly grateful to the Committee for how it has balanced its statutory responsibility to conduct a review of the current legislation alongside its scrutiny of the draft Bill, and its consideration of whether the Government’s proposal will put in place constitutional arrangements that allow for the effective operation of our parliamentary democracy.

To put in place arrangements that deliver increased legal, constitutional and political certainty around the process for dissolving Parliament, the draft Bill makes express legal provision to revive the royal prerogative powers relating to the Dissolution of Parliament (and the calling of a new Parliament) that existed prior to the 2011 Act.

In returning to this tried and tested system (where the Prime Minister is able to request a Dissolution from the Sovereign), a core constitutional principle is that the Government of the day draw their authority by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the House. The Government of the day are drawn largely from the membership of the House of Commons, and accordingly the House of Commons will continue to play a key role in our constitutional system.

Consensus and a common understanding of the principles that underpin the relationship between Parliament, Government, the Sovereign and the electorate is a fundamental part of our democracy. It is for this reason that, alongside the draft Bill, the Government published a draft statement of the constitutional principles that underpin the exercise of the prerogative powers to dissolve Parliament and call a new Parliament. In response to the Joint Committee report, the Government have also set out their view on the Joint Committee statement of “Principles and conventions on Confidence, dissolution, government formation”.

The Government welcome the opportunity to continue a constructive dialogue with members of the Joint Committee and, of course, all parliamentarians during the course of the debate on the Bill.