Thursday, 13 May 2010

A fixed term Parliament?

The proposal for a fixed term Parliament is one way of underpinning the durability of the coalition government (the Liberal Conservative coalition as David Cameron significantly calls it). But is it constitutionally viable?

What the agreement says on this subject is: 'The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.'

First, I would question whether the House of Commons can 'bind' itself in this way. Second, how was the figure of 55 per cent arrived at? Is it because it would allow the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to call an election if they thought it was in their mutual interest?

One constitutional expert who happens to be a Conservative in the upper house has remarked: 'It is remarkable for claiming that there will be a "binding resolution". There can be a resolution but there is no provision for it to be binding. I wonder if the Queen has been told that her legal power to dissolve power is subject to a resolution of the House of Commons.' Indeed.

1 comment:

Blogbencher said...

Nothing the MPs do, nothing this coalition ever does, can ever be truly binding. A future Parliament has the power to repeal any bill or law it sees fit, by a 50% + 1 majority.

Example. 55% of MPs needed to approve dissolution of coalition and Parliament? Fine, law passed, everyone goes home happy. But that law can be repealed tomorrow if 50% + of Parliament vote to repeal it.

I would suggest that the 55% number is so that neither the Libs nor the Cons on their own could dissolve the coalition, since both have less than 50% of the MPs.