Robert Hazell gives evidence to Lords Constitution Committee about Fixed-term Parliaments Act
9 September 2019
Professor Robert Hazell gave evidence to the Lords Constitution Committee on 4 September in the first evidence session for their new inquiry into the operation of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA).
Prof Hazell gave evidence alongside Dr Catherine Haddon from the Institute for Government, and after Lord Norton of Louth and Dr Ruth Fox of the Hansard Society.
Key points from Robert Hazell’s evidence include the following:
- He mounted a defence of the Act, and reminded the Committee of its main benefits: electoral fairness, a reduction in prime ministerial power, and the potential for better long term planning in Whitehall
- It was far too early to write off the Act on the basis of just 8 years of operation. Useful lessons could be learned from European and other Westminster-style parliaments, which had far longer experience of fixed terms. The Unit had summarised the overseas experience in a detailed report in 2010
- The deadlock in the current parliament was more to do with a weak minority government, lack of discipline in the governing party, and the weakness of the opposition than anything to do with the FTPA
- It was still possible for the government to make any issue a matter of confidence, as Boris Johnson did for the vote on the business motion on the Ben Bill on 3 September
- The main gap in the FTPA was its silence on how an alternative government might be formed following a successful no confidence motion under section 2. The House of Commons would have to demonstrate that it could have confidence in an alternative government by passing a resolution to that effect, or an Early Day Motion, or a motion on a humble address inviting the Queen to appoint an alternative Prime Minister.