Amendment 2

Part of Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 25th January 2022.

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Photo of Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury Conservative 7:30 pm, 25th January 2022

I am very pleased that the noble Lord asked that question, because the debates this evening have said that we do not think the monarch could conceivably refuse a request for a Dissolution, as the noble Lord has already said. Other speakers have said that the House of Commons would never refuse a Dissolution; that was the thrust of the noble Lord’s speech and the speeches of other noble Lords. We are being asked to put in a brake on the power of the Prime Minister, but we are told that the brake will never be exercised. What is the point of that? I come back to my question: what are the most inappropriate examples of a Prime Minister abusing their power by calling an election? I can think of only two. First, they might, for party-political reasons, seek the advantage of going early because they think they can get a bigger majority. We know that the electorate are not stupid. There are, throughout the whole country, Brendas from Bristol who will react to that—we found this in February 1974 and in 2017.

The other reason which I thought might be in the minds of noble Lords is if the Prime Minister of the day wanted to go to the country with what they thought would be a sole populist or undemocratic programme, and they were worried that the electorate might vote for it. That poses two problems. First, it is denying the public the right to choose the Government and policy they want. If you really want to exercise an effective brake for that sort of reason, you need a different Bill, because this Bill is designed to end the Fixed-term Parliaments Act and go back to the status quo ante. I believe, as my noble friend the Minister said, that this clause to give the House of Commons a veto—otherwise there is no point in giving the provision to it—drives a coach and horses through this Bill.