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Queen's Speech — Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:26 pm on 27th May 2010.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 12:26 pm, 27th May 2010

That seems to me to be much the same thing. I am perfectly happy to accept that formulation: a majority plus one-a majority of one. A majority is a majority of one; in other words, 50 per cent of the votes cast plus one. That is the way that I have understood it; I may be corrected if I have got it wrong.

If the Government in office lose the confidence of the House of Commons, it does not necessarily follow that Parliament should be dissolved, even under our present system where there is no fixed-Parliament rule. But if you have a fixed-Parliament rule, you must have some protection against easy and arbitrary dissolution. As I understand it, the proposal for a requirement of 55 per cent has been formulated for that.

In Scotland, when the Labour Government introduced the Scotland Act, they produced a requirement for a two-thirds majority for a vote for dissolution. Fifty-five per cent seems rather reasonable in comparison with that. It has been suggested in some quarters that that is because of proportional representation in Scotland, but the only effect of proportional representation is to make a minority government more likely than it is under a first-past-the-post system. The voting in the Parliament is one Member, one vote, so, in my judgment, the analogy with Scotland is important.

That is a separate question altogether from the collapse of or loss of confidence in the Government. If the Government lose a vote of no-confidence on the basis that we have discussed-I will not repeat it again-the result is that the Government are out of office, and the question is whether someone else could form a Government. Your Lordships will remember that at one point in the transition Mr Gordon Brown mentioned the possibility of an alternative coalition in the present House of Commons, so the idea of there being more than one person capable of forming a Government in that situation is perfectly reasonable.

We look forward to the legislation in detail, and I hope that, in framing it, those responsible will look closely at the detail of the Scotland Act, which I do not want to go into at present but which includes a safeguard in relation to the time: if no view can be taken by a time limit, dissolution arises.