[First Published on Monday 19th September 2011]
The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Bill has received Royal Assent 14 months after its introduction in the Commons last July.
Criticised by some commentators as an act of political bargaining between the coalition parties, the Bill has been a controversial part of the Coalition’s constitutional agenda ever since its inclusion in last year’s Coalition Agreement.
The legislation dictates that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015, removing the Prime Minister’s power to choose a date of his own choice. According to the Bill, general elections will thereafter take place every five years.
Like the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act faced its greatest opposition in the House of Lords. A “sunset clause”, making it necessary for every new government to agree to its term being fixed at five years, was introduced by Lord Butler of Brockwell and approved twice by the Upper House in the face of opposition from the Commons.
The amendment was finally defeated in favour of a government concession to commit the Prime Minister to carry out a review of the provisions of the Act after the completion of the second fixed term in June 2020.
The arguments for and against fixed term parliaments can be found in more detail in the ConSoc briefing paper here.