Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill

(Committee stage)
Jim Shannon Excerpts
Monday 13th September 2021

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Chloe Smith Portrait Chloe Smith
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Yes, that is precisely the point, and that underlies a number of our considerations. In the place of a prescriptive statutory scheme, we can place our trust instead in the ability of people to choose against the behaviour that they observe from parties in Parliament.

Let me turn to new clause 5, which is also in the name of the hon. Member for Rhondda. It would require the House to start sitting 14 days after a general election. Although I agree that Parliament should meet as soon as possible after polling day, it is not necessary to codify that in legislation. Fundamentally, this is a similar type of argument. It is difficult to reconcile more extensive codification with the scheme of the Bill, and I shall set out the reasons why.

First, we think it is unnecessary to allow for such a 14-day period. Before and under the 2011 Act, the date of the first meeting of Parliament was set by the sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. In practice, Parliament has met within one to two weeks of a general election on all but two occasions since 1950. There are compelling practical reasons for a new Government to call a new Parliament as soon as possible. As I put it earlier, no Government can manage without supply. As the Joint Committee put it,

“without…the authorisation of the Commons to spend money…a modern administration could manage months at best”.

Ultimately, having won an election, any new Government would want to assemble Parliament to pass their Queen’s Speech at the earlier opportunity, and be able to move on to legislation and supply.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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If the largest party was trying to get a coalition, that might take more than 14 days. Is there provision in the legislation to cover that?

Chloe Smith Portrait Chloe Smith
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The hon. Gentleman makes precisely the point that goes to the new clause, which is that a Government would, I would have thought, want to assemble faster than 14 days, but there can be occasions when more than 14 days may be needed. Therefore, both these arguments point to flexibility, and that is my principal concern about the new clause.