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Fixed Term Parliament Bill – Lords stages

Published Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This standard note summarises the Lords stages of the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill

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Research Papers 10/54 Fixed Term Parliaments Bill and 11/09 Fixed Term Parliaments Bill: Commons Stages set out the provisions in the Bill and its passage through the Commons. The Fixed Term Parliaments Bill was introduced into the Lords as HL Paper 40 of 2010-11. It has had three days in committee, on 15th, 21st and 29th March. The Bill was reprinted as HL Paper 60.Report stage began on 10 May 2011 and ended on 16 May and the Bill was printed as HL Paper 69. Third reading was on 24 May 2011. Lords amendments (Bill 195) are available as amendments to HL Paper 40.

There were some major amendments to the Bill in the Lords, including a sunset clause, so that the Act’s provisions end unless resolutions to keep it in force are passed by both Houses in the next Parliament; and a new drafting of clause 2, so that there was no longer a certification requirement by the Commons Speaker with reference to a no confidence motion. The sunset clause remains at issue between the two Houses.

In Committee, the Government brought forward new clauses to require the elections for the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to be held in May 2016 rather than May 2015, to avoid a coincidence of election with a UK general election of 2015. This followed votes in the both the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales for such a change. The position in Northern Ireland will be considered after the Assembly elections there in May 2011. These changes were agreed without a division.

There was one other Government amendment to clause 1 which would require the Prime Minister to explain the reason for a change in the election date, due to exceptional circumstances. The amendment was recommended by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in its report on the Bill.

On the first day of report stage on 10 May, an amendment sponsored by the cross bencher Lord Pannick was added to the Bill by 190 votes to 184. The effect is to offer each new Parliament the option of applying the terms of the Bill, through the mechanism of an affirmative resolution in each House.

On the second day of report stage on 16 May, an amendment was made which replaced the wording of clause 2 on confidence motions. In particular, it removed the requirement for a Speaker’s certificate for a confidence motion. The amendment was accepted by the Government, following discussions at Committee stage and concern expressed by former Commons Speakers.

At Third Reading, the Government spokesperson, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, indicated that the Government would seek to remove the sunset clause when the Bill returned to the Commons. This happened on 13 July when the Government rejected the amendment. On 18 July the Lords continued to insist upon it, and the bill is now subject to ping pong between the Houses.

Commons Briefing papers SN05932

Author: Oonagh Gay

Topics: Constitution, Elections, Electoral systems, Parliament

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