House of Lords waters down fixed-term Parliaments legislation

In a vote this week the House of Lords decided to make it significantly easier for future Parliaments to change the rules for fixed-term Parliaments.

The legislation going through Parliament to remove the power of the Prime Minister to fix election dates to their own convenience cannot make them fixed in perpetuity as no Parliament can bind future Parliaments in that way. So the question is how difficult is it for a future Parliament to change the rules – and hence how rigidly fixed the terms of Parliaments really are.

The government’s proposals would have required future Parliaments to pass primary legislation to undo the rules for fixed-terms in future – a significant hurdle given the publicity and Parliamentary time involved in such a measure. However, the Lords has instead voted by the slim margin of six votes that for every future Parliament there would be a simple yes/no vote in each House, with that Parliament only being fixed if both vote yes.

MPs may yet overturn the amendment when the legislation returns to the House of Commons but even if they don’t, it won’t change the current plans for the next general election to be on 7 May 2015.

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