In a report published today MPs conclude that the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill addresses an issue of acknowledged political concern, but is unnecessarily rushed and raises a number of legal and constitutional questions
Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, said,
"The severe lack of time which the Committee has had to scrutinise this important Bill, which addresses such a fundamental issue as when people get to vote, is not only frustrating but very disappointing.
"The Bill sits in complex legal territory and has suffered as a result of a scrutiny bypass."
The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee says a Bill of such legal and constitutional sensitivity should be published in draft for rigorous pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Committee’s report also looks at some of the detail of the Bill.
Length of the fixed-term
On the issue of fixed parliamentary terms, most of the opinion received by the Committee suggests a four year term, rather than the five years proposed by the Government.
The Committee warns that provisions in the Bill for ending a fixed term prematurely raise uncertainties and that ways to simplify the provisions should be explored. The Committee suggests options for consideration:
- Keep the clock ticking so a new government, elected following an early general election, would only last for as long as the remainder of the term of the previous Parliament
- Ensure that early general elections could be called only with cross-party agreement.
The Committee asks the Government to respond to the concerns expressed by the Clerk of the House about the impact of the Bill on parliamentary privilege.
About Parliament: Select Committees