Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg introduced the second reading of the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill in the Commons. It passed with a vote and will now be considered further in Committee of the Whole House.
Summary of the Bill
The Bill fixes the date of the next General Election at 7 May 2015, and provides for five-year fixed terms. It includes provisions to allow the Prime Minister to alter the date by up to two months by Order. There are also two ways in which an election could be triggered before the end of the five-year term:
- if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is found
- or if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the House or without division
Committee of the whole House
When a Bill passes its second reading and is considered in detail, this normally takes place in a Public Bill Committee held outside the Chamber. These Committees - which are made up of between 16 and 20 MPs - reflect the political makeup of the House, so the government always has a majority.
But occasionally a Bill will be considered by a Committee of the whole House and this discussion takes place in the Commons Chamber itself, where all MPs can take part.
Any Bill can be referred to a Committee of the whole House, but the procedure is normally reserved for finance bills and other important or controversial legislation.