Prime Ministers will no longer have the right to call a General Election at a time of their own choosing after Parliament passed the historic Fixed-term Parliaments Bill.
The Bill, passed by Parliament last night, provides for General Elections to take place every five years in May, bringing to an end speculation about when an election might be called. The next General Election is scheduled to take place on 7 May, 2015.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said:
The establishment of fixed-term parliaments is hugely significant. For the first time, governments won’t be able to decide on the timing of elections to suit their own political ends. Instead, people will have certainty and stability in knowing how long a parliament can be expected to last.
Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:
With the passing of this Bill into law the Prime Minister and the Government have given away a significant power to the House of Commons. The timing of General Elections will no longer be subject to political game-playing, but are set in law. It is a significant step in this Government’s commitment to restore trust in politics and move power away from the centre.
Fixed-terms already exist for local government and the devolved legislatures. The Fixed-term Parliaments Bill will ensure that the opposition and the incumbent Government face the electorate on a set day whatever way the opinions polls are pointing at the time.
The Bill makes provision for elections to be called earlier under only two exceptional circumstances. Parliament can be dissolved early if:
- at least two thirds of MPs vote for dissolution
- a Government is unable to secure the confidence of the House of Commons within 14 days of a no-confidence vote.
For the no confidence vote, a simple majority of fifty per cent plus one will be required. The Fixed-term Parliaments Bill now goes forward for Royal Assent when it will formally become an Act.