Early General Election — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:34 pm on 17th October 2022.

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Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 5:34 pm, 17th October 2022

The hon. Member makes a good point. Of course, all political parties will at times have disagreements. One of the things that makes me such a proud Conservative is the broad church of our operation, and I believe that it is that broad church that allows many of my colleagues with differing views to come together with shared values. That is why Conservatives, who have been elected and given a mandate, can change leadership but still have a Conservative Government delivering Conservative policies.

Earlier this year, delivering on a Conservative manifesto promise, Parliament passed legislation repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. It was a flawed piece of legislation, which ran counter to the core constitutional principles of our country, and I believe that it had a damaging effect on the functioning of parliamentary democracy. The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 returned us to tried and tested constitutional arrangements for dissolving Parliament and calling elections. It received broad agreement across the House, and I do not believe that a single Labour MP voted against its Second or Third Reading. By repealing the 2011 Act and it opaque provisions, it reaffirmed the convention that the Government hold office by virtue of their ability to command confidence in the House of Commons.

Members are in a privileged position to put views to the Prime Minister and senior colleagues, and I encourage them to do so. We have debates, such as this one, and other appropriate forums. The Government are entitled to assume that they have the confidence of the House unless and until it is shown to be otherwise. That can be demonstrated unambiguously only by means of a formal confidence vote. Thus, the Government, under the new Prime Minister, continue to command the confidence of the Commons.

The Prime Minister can call a general election at any time of her choosing by requesting the Dissolution of Parliament from the sovereign, which, if accepted, leads to a general election. As a result, the decision of when the next election will take place rests with the Prime Minister.

On the appointment of the Chancellor, who is currently giving his statement on the Floor of the House, the Prime Minister asked my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt to assume the role. As the Prime Minister has said, he is one of the most experienced and widely respected Government Ministers and parliamentarians. The Prime Minster has asked the Chancellor to deliver the medium-term fiscal plan, and he is giving a statement to the House as I speak. That will explain the support that the Government are giving.

The hon. Members for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) and for Newport West (Ruth Jones) mentioned the cost of living. That is very important to us; we want to get this right. We want to bring in the energy price guarantee. We have already given £400 to every household, with £1,200 going to the most vulnerable, and £150 back on council tax, along with other support. We want to help the most vulnerable in society and we want the right targeted packages. Of course, to do that, we need to have sustainable public finances and to show fiscal responsibility. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will talk about that today. We want to bring our debts down; we want to ensure that inflation is low; we want to ensure that interests rates are sensible. We do not set interest rates—the Bank of England does—but we want people to be able to afford their mortgages.

After I had bought my first house, the financial crisis happened—that was a difficult period for homeowners. We want to help people to get through this; we are a nation of homeowners. We want to protect people, including the most vulnerable, and, of course, we want people to be able to pay their energy bills and for their food shopping.