» Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Asked for an explanation as to how Parliament would dissolve and how a general election would be called, and also, how would Parliament recall itself if it was not recalled by the Prime Minister, the PMS explained that with regards to recalling, a majority of MPs could call on the Speaker to recall Parliament. However, one of the things we had to consult on was the mechanism by which the majority of MPs would make their views known. On dissolution, it was for The Queen to dissolve Parliament on advice from the Prime Minister, but what we had said yesterday subject to consultation was that the Prime Minister would expect to only go to The Queen on the basis of a vote in the House of Commons first.

Asked how was the nation better off as a result of these proposed changes, the PMS said that the nation was clearly better off in relation to recalling Parliament, because if there were circumstances in which there were a majority of MPs that wanted to recall Parliament, but the Prime Minister did not want to, then there was a mechanism to allow that.

Asked if there had ever been an occasion when that had happened, the PMS replied that that had come up yesterday, but it was not for him to get into previous examples.

Asked if a majority would automatically trigger a recall, or would it ultimately be up to the Speaker, the PMS replied that what we had said in the document was that it would remain at the Speaker’s discretion to decide whether or not the House of Commons should be recalled based on their judgement on whether the public interest required it. It would be for the Speaker to consider the request from the majority of MPs.

Put that this surely would make it more difficult for Parliament to be recalled, the PMS said that this was in addition to the existing procedures.

Asked if we did not see someone using this as an excuse, the PMS replied that that would be looked at the time. What we were saying at the moment was that there was no mechanism, unless it was at the request of the Government and Prime Minister to recall Parliament. We were providing an alternative mechanism to allow the majority of MPs to recall Parliament if they so wished, but it was not the intention to make it more difficult.

Asked if there was a majority that did not include the Government in dissolving Parliament, could there be a general election, the PMS referred people to the document. It said that the Prime Minister would, by convention, ask the Monarch to dissolve Parliament, but there would be a vote in the House of Commons prior to that happening.

Put that if there was a vote in the House of Commons, it would be a whipped vote, the PMS said that that would be a matter for the circumstances at the time.

Put that if the Prime Minister did not wish Parliament to be dissolved and there to be a general election called, then the Prime Minister would whip his party and get a majority, so what was the point, the PMS said that this was not about the circumstances of the majority or non-majority of any particular Prime Minister at any particular time. There might be circumstances when the Prime Minister could not whip the majority.

Asked if the Prime Minister would not want a whipped vote on the dissolution of Parliament on a general election that he could lose, the PMS said that again, this would be something that would have to be considered at the time. At the moment, this was a matter that was entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister, and there was no role for a vote.

Asked to confirm if it would only be up to the Prime Minister to call the vote, and the Prime Minister retained the power, the PMS replied that the position was set out very clearly in the three paragraphs in the document.

Put that if the Opposition tabled a motion of no confidence in HM Government, and that succeeded, the Prime Minister by convention would resign, but by the new plan, the Prime Minister would get "two bites of the cherry" by having a vote in the dissolution of Parliament, the PMS said that there was going to be consultation on all these matters and they would all get raised.

Asked what would happen if Parliament said no, and would it then sit forever, the PMS replied that in legislative terms, there was a maximum term limit of five years.

Put that if troops were sent to conflict and there was a debate about whether they should be there or not, what would happen if the troops were in, the job was not done, but Parliament decided that they should come home, the PMS said that what we were talking about was the initial decision to deploy troops, rather than having ongoing votes whilst troops were in action. Obviously, there were a number of important operational security issues that needed to be taken into account, which was why we wanted to have a consultation on this before bringing forward a specific proposal.

Asked if the Prime Minister had the right to commit troops to preventing an atrocity, and where did the right of the Prime Minister lie, the PMS replied that the rights lay in deploying troops. In general, that was a power that he was restricting himself on through this consultation. A set of criteria would need to be developed that would form the basis of a Parliamentary resolution which would set out the circumstances in which a vote would be necessary. As we had made clear yesterday, what we did not want to do was to jeopardise our armed forces or put any operational security issues at risk.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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