House of Lords waters down fixed-term Parliaments legislation

In a vote this week the House of Lords decided to make it significantly easier for future Parliaments to change the rules for fixed-term Parliaments.

The legislation going through Parliament to remove the power of the Prime Minister to fix election dates to their own convenience cannot make them fixed in perpetuity as no Parliament can bind future Parliaments in that way. So the question is how difficult is it for a future Parliament to change the rules – and hence how rigidly fixed the terms of Parliaments really are.

The government’s proposals would have required future Parliaments to pass primary legislation to undo the rules for fixed-terms in future – a significant hurdle given the publicity and Parliamentary time involved in such a measure. However, the Lords has instead voted by the slim margin of six votes that for every future Parliament there would be a simple yes/no vote in each House, with that Parliament only being fixed if both vote yes.

MPs may yet overturn the amendment when the legislation returns to the House of Commons but even if they don’t, it won’t change the current plans for the next general election to be on 7 May 2015.

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This entry was posted in Election law.


  • Isn’t this a bit academic as *all* laws can, in theory, be changed or retracted at a later date?

  • Philip Peake 12th May '11 - 1:38pm

    It’s also difficult to imagine circumstances in which the HoC wouldn’t vote by greater than 55% for a dissolution if the PM asked for one anyway.

  • Requiring the tabling of primary legislation would massively limit the power of the PM to spring an election on anyone. It would have to be weeks if not months of notice, and would be seen by the public as rigging the system and suitably punished.

    In answer to the question: yes, this is why we need a constitution that Parliament cannot change. The notion that Parliament can do literally anything is medieval.

  • I should have thought that Liberal Democrats had long since been disabused of the notion that the UK Parliament is a representative body.

  • This needs fixing in the commons. If this amendment is allowed to stand then the whole bill effectively worthless IMHO.

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