By Richard Wood
The UK House of Commons has voted against an amendment that would have improved the government’s ill-thought out Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill.
The Bill was legislated for to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which ended the right of the prime minister to unilaterally call elections by fixing election dates and giving parliament the power to call elections if an early election is desired.
The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will see a return to unchecked executive power, with the prime minister able to call an election at a time of their choosing.
On Monday 14 March 2022, parliament had an opportunity to accept an amendment from the House of Lords that would have given parliament the power to decide when an election takes place, rather the prime minister. But unfortunately the House of Commons voted against the amendment.
Analysis – a strengthened executive at the expense of the legislature
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was an imperfect piece of legislation but it levelled the playing field by making the UK’s electoral processes significantly fairer.
The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will weaken UK democracy if passed in full. While not as damaging as the regressive Elections Bill, repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act removes the level playing field and gives electoral advantage to the governing party.
Having fixed election dates ensures that all political parties know when elections are due to take place. And giving parliament having the final say on when elections take place in unusual circumstances, ensures that the executive don’t have an unfair advantage.
This is already the case in Scotland at Holyrood. Westminster must learn from the Scottish Parliament to improve and protect our democracy.