New Forest East



[The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis) ... In fact, the Government and the Opposition both committed – in their manifestos, no less – to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. The Lords amendment would repeal that Act only to retain one of its fundamental flaws. That is not our wish or our intention and it does not meet the commitment that we made to the electorate.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I am hugely relieved to hear the Minister say that. I have stood in every election since 1997. Only when we saw the chaos caused by a Government who did not want to continue and an Opposition who did not want the chance to face an election could we see how dreadful that old system was. We need to get rid of it, bag and baggage.

[Michael Ellis: I agree with my right hon. Friend; there is of course a good reason why the 2017 to 2019 Parliament is referred to as the zombie Parliament.

I remind the House of the commitments that both parties made in 2019. The Conservatives committed to repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.]


Dr Lewis: How is it an abuse of power and a strengthening of the Executive for the Executive to say, “We want to go to the people and let the people decide whether we should be allowed to continue in government or be chucked out”?

[Alex Norris: The Lords amendment is a very modest safeguard to that in saying, “At least demonstrate that a majority of the legislature agrees with you.” It is not unreasonable to say that Parliament could be involved in the Dissolution process in the way that noble Lords have said. It is a modest hurdle. All it asks is that the Prime Minister of the day be able to command a majority, and in different scenarios.

I know that the Minister is keen to avoid hypotheticals, but we do have to think about how these powers may apply in future. In a balanced Parliament like the previous one, the amendment might mean that the Government work a little bit more broadly to secure the election. The right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) referred to the dreadful election of 2019. I would argue that it was the Government between 2017 and 2019 who were dreadful rather than the election itself, being a passive process. Indeed, the Minister characterised it as a zombie Government. Given that he served in that Government, I think he does himself a disservice in characterising himself in that way.]

Dr Lewis: I do not think it was a dreadful election – it was a brilliant election. What was dreadful was the fact that it was in the power of the Opposition to stop that election happening and to not allow the people to have their say.


[Brendan O'Hara: ... This Lords amendment seeks to place a very minimal check on the Executive’s power by making any Dissolution of Parliament a decision that has to have the support of the majority of this House. I do not think that our constituents would think that it is too much to ask for those who have been elected to this place, and who serve their constituents in this place, to have some say if a Parliament is to be dissolved early and a general election called.]

Dr Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, which is typically gracious of him. He calls it a “minimal check,” but the reality is that it is an absolute veto. If a Government do not have a majority in the House and if the Opposition sense that a Government might well win a majority if they went to the people, the Opposition are basically saying, “We are not going to allow the Government to get a mandate from the people.” That is precisely what would have happened in 2019 if Labour had not, for some reason, given way in the end.