Fixed-term Parliaments (Repeal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 6th March 2015.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit) 2:14 pm, 6th March 2015

There is a degree of flexibility in the provisions that allows for the premature dissolution of Parliament, and various scenarios are possible, including the one to which my hon. Friend has alluded.

In addition, the Act provides a number of useful advantages to the Government, Parliament and wider society. Not only does it provide greater predictability and continuity, enabling better long-term legislative and financial planning; it also provides much greater political stability. That is not the stability of the graveyard or a zombie Parliament, as Mr Slaughter alleged in his speech; quite the contrary. This is not a zombie Parliament; the Government have shown themselves to be active all the way through to these last few weeks.

Let us look at some of the statistics. In this Parliament, the House is due to sit for more days than in any of the three Parliaments under the last Administration. In the 2010-15 Parliament, we will sit for 734 days, compared with 718 days in the 2005-2010 Parliament, 585 days between 2001 and 2005, and 643 days between 1997 and 2001. By the end of March, 23 Bills will have been passed in this Session alone, of which four have received Royal Assent: the Finance Bill; the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill; the Childcare Payments Bill; and the Wales Bill. That compares with the 13 Bills in the last Session of the last Parliament under the Labour Government.

Fixed terms have allowed us to plan the legislative programme effectively and ensure that we have enough time for full parliamentary scrutiny, which is essential in our model of representative democracy. In this Session alone, we will have legislated on: modern slavery; consumer rights; reforming stamp duty; tackling serious crime; supporting working families with child care costs; reforming pensions; devolving powers to Wales and Northern Ireland; and counter-terrorism. The list goes on, but I wish to pick out three Bills as emblematic in demonstrating why this is not the zombie Parliament Mr Slaughter claims it is.

The Infrastructure Bill, as was, will provide a £3.9 billion boost to the economy over the next 10 years by improving the funding and management of our major roads, streamlining the planning process for major projects and supporting house building. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill backs entrepreneurs who run our small businesses—they are the backbone of our economy—and those who are looking for work. The Bill cracks down on costly tribunal delays, sets a deregulation target for each Parliament and helps businesses to get credit from banks, ensuring they expand and create jobs. The Pension Schemes Bill, as was, contains reforms that are the biggest transformation of our pensions system since its inception and will give people both freedom and security in retirement. By no longer forcing people to buy an annuity, we are giving them total control over the money they have put aside over their lifetime and greater financial security in their old age.

There is no sense in which this can be described as a zombie Parliament, given not only the quantity of Bills, but their quality and that of the scrutiny to which they have been subjected. This Government have published more Bills and measures in draft for pre-legislative scrutiny than has been done in any other Parliament, and we have more than doubled the number of Bills receiving multiple days of scrutiny on Report in this House.