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PM defends Parliamentary dissolution plans

Parliament

The Liberal- Conservative coalition’s plan to introduce a 55% rule before Parliament could be dissolved has come under intense scrutiny.

The measure was revealed in the coalition’s agreement published on Wednesday.

It reads: “This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.”

However backbench MPs, constitutional lawyers and campaigners have expressed serious concerns that the measure would undermine Parliament.

Under the current rule, a simple majority of MPs- 50% plus one- is enough to trigger a dissolution of Parliament, and thus a general election.

A ‘noto55’ campaign has been gathering pace on the social networking site Twitter.

The 55% rule would favour the Conservatives remaining in power because even if the coalition fell apart and the Liberal Democrats joined forces with other opposition parties, they would be unable to reach the 55% needed.

Tory backbencher Charles Walker said: “This is perhaps just a little too much for our unwritten constitution to bear”

However the Prime Minister defended the rule change.

“It is an important change and one I think should be welcome,” he said, on a visit to Scotland on Friday to meet First Minister Alex Salmond and other party leaders.

“I’m the first prime minister in British history to give up the right unilaterally to ask the Queen for a dissolution of Parliament. This is a huge change in our system, it is a big giving up of power.

“Clearly, if you want a fixed-term Parliament you have to have a mechanism to deliver it.

Downing Street said Labour had put through fixed-term laws in Scotland requiring 66% of MSPs to dissolve Parliament.

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One Response

  1. This article is factually innacurate and mistakenly argues against a key democratic reform. Here is the actual situation:

    The prime minister currently has the power to dissolve parliament but parliament does not have that power (if there is a no confidence vote the government either resigns or calls a new election).

    Parliament currently has the power to pass a vote of no confidence with 50%+1 MP.

    I understand the 55% rule as follows:

    The prime minister loses the right to dissolve parliament.

    Parliament gains the right to dissolve parliament but only if it has a 55% majority.

    Hence this increases the power of parliament and decreases the power of government to fix elections through timing.

    Note that votes of no confidence are still valid and by constitutional principle they either require the government to resign or a new election to be called. If the government does not have a sufficient majority to call an election then it would be obliged to resign.

    Assuming that the above is correct why might we oppose the measure?

    If a government falls but no other group of MPs is able to command a majority then there would be no government but also potentially no general election.

    However, this seems very unlikely to happen in practice as the house would almost certainly recognise that, there being no government, a general election was necessary. Most reasonable MPs would vote to dissolve parliament in this circumstance and 55% would easily be reached.

    So as far as I can see there’s no problem with the 55% rule.

    Also see:

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie/5999800/the-55-dissolution.thtml

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