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Queen's Speech — Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:58 pm on 27th May 2010.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour 5:58 pm, 27th May 2010

The noble Earl has got it completely. That is exactly the point. The coalition Government can have an election whenever they want. They say now that it will be on 15 May 2015. Can noble Lords imagine a Prime Minister saying, in two years' time, that circumstances have changed, and that of course it was right then to commit themselves to 15 May 2015 but the right thing to do now is for the country to see whether, in the current circumstances, it wants to go on with the current Government. It is a totally bogus piece of legislation as far as concerns the current Government.

I was about to talk about what happens when the coalition splits up. On the basis of the 55 per cent, if it splits up and is then defeated in a vote of confidence by the 53 per cent of non-Tories, there would not be a Dissolution. Until Mr David Heath spoke on Tuesday there would have been, as I describe it, a zombie Government. There would not be an Opposition who wanted to form a Government and the Conservative Government would not have the confidence of the Commons. What would then happen? I assume that there would have to be an election. If there has to be an election in those circumstances, why is there this 55 per cent in the first place? It is obviously a botched attempt by the coalition to stay in power even though it had lost the confidence of the House of Commons. I hope that it will admit that as soon as possible.

That sort of problem is something that this House would be incredibly good at fixing. However, we read in the newspapers of an intention to stuff this House with 100 coalition-supporting Peers. I am sure that it is not true and that the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, will confirm that, because then Parliament would lose the one part of the body that has stood up to the Executive over the past 10 or 11 years.

The last point I want to make is that there was a sinister reference to the Salisbury convention by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Members of this House will remember that the Salisbury convention has at its heart the proposition that if the electorate has endorsed something-for example the Labour Party's proposals in 1945-it would be wrong for this House to reject it. It cannot seriously be suggested that because fixed-term Parliaments were referred to in the Liberal Democrat manifesto-the Liberal Democrats who lost more seats than they had before-that that represents endorsement by the electorate. If that is the case, then the coalition has very severely lost its way.