Amendment 2

Part of Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 25th January 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Chair, Communications and Digital Committee, Chair, Communications and Digital Committee 7:15 pm, 25th January 2022

My Lords, like everybody else who has spoken in the Committee so far today, I share the objective of returning to the status quo ante and repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. But as some noble Lords who heard me speak on Second Reading may know, I do so for different reasons from that which the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, and most others have set out today. I supported the original legislation, and the reason why I think that it should be repealed is because something that I believed was a relinquishing of power to the electorate turned into a weapon that got used against the electorate, as my noble friend Lady Noakes has described.

That is why I think it is important that we go back to how we were before, rather than, at this point, seek to introduce something that would maintain a power that the House of Commons did not have before. I thought what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said when he introduced his amendment was interesting as he said this about where power lies. He carefully made the point that this was not about the current Prime Minister, this was about where power rests in this situation. Should it be with the Executive? Should it be with Parliament? I know that over the last few years the noble and learned Lord has raised many different examples of where there is an imbalance of power between the Executive and Parliament, and that there are some ways in which that needs to be looked at and that imbalance addressed.

I do not think we would be wise to try to introduce a power because of what happened a couple of years ago. The battle for power at that point, in 2019, between the Executive and Parliament was observed, in my view, by people outside Parliament as a battle that should not have taken place. It was power that should not rest in the hands of Parliament. Indeed, it should not rest, in a direct way if you like, in the hands of the Prime Minister. This was about a democratic mandate that was in need of being implemented. I think, for everybody’s interests, trying to introduce the amendment that has been proposed here would be unwise, and the best course of action would be to return to exactly what we had before.