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Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill

Volume 819: debated on Thursday 24 February 2022

Third Reading

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


Moved by

My Lords, I thank your Lordships’ House for its expertise and careful work on the Bill. It has again demonstrated the constitutional, legal and political expertise that makes this House such a remarkable revising Chamber. The Government have valued those exchanges, as have I. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Butler of Brockwell, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the Front Benches for their co-operation and discussions.

We disagreed on the question of whether there should be a role for the other place over Dissolution. However, although we do not believe it is good practice for this place to seek to dictate procedure in the other place, we will of course now properly await their further opinion on this point. The Government will oppose your Lordships’ amendment in the other place, for all the reasons that I set out during the passage of the Bill. Our intention was to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and that remains our intention.

In conclusion, I thank the dedicated Bill team for its hard work over so many months, which I am sure was appreciated by colleagues on all sides. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part for their dedication in scrutinising the Bill and for their courtesy in our many meetings. It has been an honour to assist the Bill’s passage and serve your Lordships, and I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon, who is unable to be with us this morning as she is having a briefing at the moment, I thank the noble Lord for his usual courtesy in dealing with the House and for taking this Bill through it. I also thank the Bill team for the meetings that took place. As he said, we have had scrutinised the Bill well and made one change. We have sent that back to the other place, and we will wait for it to come back to us, and then we will have further debates on that. I know my noble friend is very grateful for the co-operation we have received on the Bill going through. I sat in on many of the debates, and the other Benches were fascinating to listen to. I think we have done our job well and properly, and we await the decision of the other place. I give our thanks to the noble Lord, other Members, the officials and the team in the Labour Whips’ Office for what they did.

My Lords, I add my thanks. It is important that we conduct legislation in the House, and off the Floor in between the different stages, in the way we did on this Bill and I hope will do also on the Elections Bill—a much longer and more complex Bill. Indeed, we discovered on Second Reading of that Bill yesterday that abolishing the fixed terms for Parliament has knock-on effects for third-party campaigning—a point made in yesterday’s debate. We in this House often deal with the complex interdependence of different aspects of the rules that govern our democracy. There will be a rising tide of opinion inside and outside Parliament that we need to look at some of these things fairly soon together, rather than in one chunk after another. I regret to repeat—the Minister will hear it yet again—that I did agree with the part of the Conservative manifesto that said there should be a constitutional commission. I hope it will be in the next Conservative manifesto, and I hope it will be in the manifestos of other parties and that it will then happen. Having said that, I look forward with interest to how the Commons will respond to the Lords amendment, and perhaps it will return here.

My Lords, I join in thanking everybody. I have two points, one serious and one less so. One is an entirely private thought, so nobody is listening to me saying this: I hope the Commons has enough time to look at the issues that arise in relation to this Bill. The other is of particular thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, who is not in his place, for reminding me of a lesson I learned when I did English language grammar—gosh, does that still exist? I was taught the auxiliary verbs “shall”, “should”, “will”, “would”, “may”, “can”, “must” and “do” and to appreciate the difference between “shall” and “must.”

My Lords, I have just a small observation on the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord True, that we were somehow telling the Commons to alter its procedures or advising it on its procedures in relation to this Bill. What we have done is say to the House of Commons that we are an unelected House, but we want it to think again whether it is wise for it, the elected House, to say, “No, we don’t want these powers of Dissolution at all. We think it is important they are carried out by the monarch.” I think that is a development without precedent anywhere in the world—the legislature saying it does not want these powers and wants to give them back to the monarch. That does put a slightly different construct on what we are asking the Commons to consider.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with an amendment.