Don’t give prime ministers the power to choose election date, say MPs

Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images

The power to choose the date of the next general election should not be handed back to prime ministers, a cross party committee of MPs has said.

Boris Johnson is committed to scrapping the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

He blames it for prolonging the Brexit paralysis that gripped Parliament last year.

But MPs looking into the issue say there should be no return to the days when the date of the next election was a matter for the government alone.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee says that would give an unfair advantage to the party in power.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the next UK general election will be on Thursday, 2 May 2024 – but Mr Johnson is seeking the power to go to the country before that date if he wants to.

‘Super majority’

In a new report, the committee says change is needed to prevent a repeat of last year’s “paralysis” when MPs refused to back Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal but would not vote for an election.

The deadlock was finally broken when the Commons passed a bill overriding the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, allowing December’s election to take place.

Image copyright PA Media Image caption Nick Clegg and David Cameron introduced fixed-term Parliaments

The government has to set up a committee next month to review the workings of the Act, which was brought in by David Cameron’s coalition government.

Then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wanted a guarantee that the Conservatives would not call an early election, leaving his Liberal Democrats stranded.

Under the terms of the Act, there can only be an early election if the government lost a vote of confidence or there is a two-thirds “super majority” in the House of Commons.

‘Level playing field’

Before the Act came into force, prime ministers were able to seek a dissolution of Parliament from the Queen to hold an early election, under so-called prerogative powers.

The committee argues against a simple return to that system, warning that it could lead to legal challenges.

It also makes the case for a five-year term to be the “default” position at Westminster.

Conservative MP William Wragg, who chairs the committee, said: “Although new legislation is required, our report shows

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