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Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

Published Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 creates a five year period between general elections. Early elections may only be held in specified circumstances. The Act also extends the terms of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, so that the next elections are in 2016.

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The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 received royal assent on 15 September 2011 and came into force on that day. The Act has a major impact on the timing of parliamentary elections in the UK, as well as for devolved institutions. The Act sets the date of the next general election as 7 May 2015 and on the first Thursday in May in every fifth year thereafter. Early elections can be held only:

• if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House or without division or;

• if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the Commons within 14 days.

The Act applies until it is repealed, so future Parliaments will operate on a five year cycle. An attempt by the Lords to insert a sunrise provision so that the Act would apply only when adopted by each new Parliament was abandoned, following ping pong between the two Houses in July 2011. Instead, there is a requirement for the Prime Minister to establish a review of the Act in 2020.

The Act itself does not affect the operation of parliamentary sessions but from the spring of 2012, sessions have run from spring to spring.

The Act also provides for the next elections to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to be held on 5 May 2016, extending the normal four year term to five years. The Act did not specify an election date for the Northern Ireland Assembly, but Section 7 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 has now postponed the elections to 2016 and provides for the Assembly to move to fixed five year terms thereafter.

Commons Briefing papers SN06111

Authors: Richard Kelly; Oonagh Gay; Isobel White

Topics: Elections, Parliament

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