Fixed terms stop govts losing 'half the Queen’s Speech' - Sir George Young

Former chief whip defends impact of fixed-term parliaments in delivering legislative programme


By Jacqueline Tenreiro

06 Mar 2015

Fixed-term parliaments have helped curb uncertainty in policy delivery, Sir George Young has said.

The former Commons leader said the Fixed-term Parliament Act, introduced by the Coalition in 2011 to remove the power of the prime minister to call an election, had helped ensure that manifesto promises were delivered.

“When I arrived in Feb '74 I had no idea whether that Parliament would last five months or five years because the prime minister had the prerogative then to go to the palace and dissolve parliament,” he said at a UCL event on Wednesday.

“That has changed. There are very few people that are prepared to defend the fix term Parliament, let me just do so very briefly. The prime minister has effectively given away a prerogative he has, he’s given it back to parliament...

He added: “As a business manager, there is a lot to be said for a fixed term Parliament. You have five years in which to deliver the coalition agreement whereas previously after three years or four years the PM would push the button and off we went, and you’d lost half the Queen’s Speech. You had to start again if you had an election.”

Last week, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude also spoke out in favour of the act, saying it had helped bolster "effective government".

“One of the things that has taken us all by surprise, is that the reality is that a five-year parliament, as opposed to a five-year maximum with an expectation that the government that thinks it’s going to win an election will call an election after four years, gives you more than an extra year of effective government,” he said.

The act has been criticised by some MPs who say it has contributed to a lack of legislative activity.

Last year, Parliament rejected a motion, put forward by Frank Field and Sir Edward Leigh, to repeal the act. They argued it was “falsely marketed” as a method of executive power restriction and was designed solely to prevent the current Coalition parties from turning on each other.


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