Amendment 2

Part of Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 25th January 2022.

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Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 6:45 pm, 25th January 2022

There are many circumstances in which crises can emerge. There are arguments that cut both ways. In the midst of a pandemic, does one want an election? In the midst of a war, does one want an election? We could go back to 1940 and say, “Surely, if the Prime Minister then, Neville Chamberlain, had sought a Dissolution, why would he not have been granted it? Would it have not been right for the electorate to say what the outcome should be?” My response to my noble friend would be to ask whether in those circumstances it would not be the responsibility of the House of Commons, and whether it did not have the authority to resolve that crisis. If the answer we come to is, “Oh, but, but, but…”, there are all sorts of circumstances and hypothetical scenarios that we can conjure up which would lead us to the assumption that the Prime Minister can go to Her Majesty or the monarch and request a Dissolution, but the House of Commons would not support it. I come back to the same question: by what authority does the Prime Minister make such a request? I support the amendment and have put my name to it because it brings us back, time and again, to precisely that point.

Professor Robert Hazell put it more elegantly when he gave evidence to the Joint Committee:

“The best way of protecting the monarchy is not to revive the prerogative power but to leave decisions about Dissolution where they belong—in Parliament, in the House of Commons.”

This amendment does that in the simplest and most effective way possible by making it certain that if a Prime Minister requested a Dissolution in future, he or she did so on the basis that a majority of the House of Commons had agreed. If not, by what authority would he or she do it?