Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

Last updated
Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011
Act of Parliament
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Long title An Act to make provision about the dissolution of Parliament and the determination of polling days for parliamentary general elections; and for connected purposes.
Citation 2011 c. 14
Introduced by Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister (Commons)
Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Advocate General for Scotland (Lords)
Territorial extent  United Kingdom
(England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)
Royal assent 15 September 2011
Commencement 15 September 2011 (Whole Act)
Repealed24 March 2022
Other legislation
Repeals/revokes Septennial Act 1716
Repealed by Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022
Relates to Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019
Status: Repealed
History of passage through Parliament
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (c. 14) (FTPA) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that for the first time set in legislation a default fixed election date for a general election to the Westminster parliament. Since the repeal of the FTPA, as before its passage, elections are required by law to be held at least once every five years, but can be called earlier if the prime minister advises the monarch to exercise the royal prerogative to do so. Prime ministers have often employed this mechanism to call an election before the end of their five-year term, sometimes fairly early in it, and critics saw this as giving an unfair advantage to the incumbent prime minister. While it was in force, the FTPA removed this longstanding power of the prime minister. [1] [2]


Under the FTPA, the next general election was automatically scheduled for the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general election, or the fourth year if the date of the previous election was before the first Thursday in May. However, the FTPA also provided two ways to call an election earlier. One was a Commons vote of no confidence in the government, which still required only a simple majority of voters. The other was a vote explicitly in favour of an earlier election, which required a qualified majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the Commons. [3] The first election under the FTPA was held on 7 May 2015. An early election was held in 2017, after Prime Minister Theresa May received approval to call it by a two-thirds majority. [4]

Under the FTPA, the next general election was scheduled for 2022, but the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019, passed with Opposition support, circumvented the FTPA, providing for an election on 12 December 2019 while otherwise leaving the FTPA in place. After winning the election, the Conservative Party committed to repealing the FTPA. [5] In fulfilment of this manifesto pledge, the government published on 1 December 2020 a draft Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill that would repeal the FTPA and revive the royal prerogative power of dissolving Parliament as it existed before the Act. [6] The legislation was formally announced as the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill in the Queen's Speech of 11 May 2021, and granted Royal Assent on 24 March 2022. [7]


Before the passage of the FTPA, and since its repeal, Parliament can be dissolved by royal proclamation by virtue of the royal prerogative. This originally meant that the British (previously English) monarch decided when to dissolve Parliament. Over time the monarch increasingly acted only on the advice of the Prime Minister, and by the 19th century, Prime Ministers had a great deal of de facto control over the timing of general elections.[ citation needed ]

The Septennial Act 1715 provided that a Parliament expired seven years after it had been summoned. That period was reduced to five years by the Parliament Act 1911. [8]

Apart from special legislation, enacted with great multipartisan support, during both World Wars to extend the life of the then-current Parliaments (1910-1918 and 1935-1945), Parliament never reached (or, as in the wars, exceeded) its maximum statutory length, as the monarch, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day, always dissolved it before its expiry. [9] The longest Parliament preceding the FTPA, other than during wartime, was the 51st Parliament (1992–1997), which lasted four years, eleven months and two days. [10]

The five-year maximum duration referred to the lifetime of the Parliament and not to the interval between general elections. For example, while John Major's government lasted four years, eleven months and two days; the period between the general elections of 1992 and 1997 was five years and twenty-two days. [8] [ citation needed ]

Reasons for change

The previous system had existed for a long time. Reasons for changing the system included:

  1. The previous system allowed the Prime Minister of the day to choose a date for a general election that was the most advantageous for their party. [11]
  2. The previous system could result in a period of political uncertainty before the possible calling of an early election if such an election was widely anticipated. [11]
  3. Under the previous system it was easier to cut short a Parliament and hold an early election in order to resolve political difficulties or remove instability. However, the outcome of the early election would not necessarily make those objectives easier to achieve.[ citation needed ]

Main parties' views

Until 2010 the Conservative Party's manifesto made no mention of fixed-term Parliaments. The Labour Party manifesto for 2010 said that it would introduce fixed-term Parliaments, but did not say how long they would be. The Liberal Democrat manifesto for 2010 included a pledge to introduce four-year fixed-term Parliaments. The 2010 election resulted in a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives having 306 MPs and the Liberal Democrats 57 MPs. The two parties negotiated a coalition agreement to form a government, and a commitment to legislate for fixed-term Parliaments was included in the coalition deal. [11] The journalist John Rentoul has suggested that one of the subsequent coalition government's motives for passing the legislation was a concern about its own potential instability. In this view the legislation was intended to make it difficult for either coalition partner to force an early election and bring the government down. [12]


Section 3(1) [13] of the Act originally stated [14] that Parliament should be automatically dissolved seventeen working days before the polling day of a general election. This was subsequently amended by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 to twenty-five working days. Section 1 of the FTPA provided for the polling day to occur on the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general election, starting with 7 May 2015.[ citation needed ]

The Prime Minister was given the power to postpone this date by up to two months by laying a draft statutory instrument before the House proposing that polling day occur up to two months later than that date. If the use of such a statutory instrument were approved by each House of Parliament, the Prime Minister had the power, by order made by statutory instrument under section 1(5), to provide that polling day occurs accordingly.[ citation needed ]

Section 2 of the FTPA also provided for two ways in which a general election could be held before the end of this five-year period: [15]

In either of these two cases, the Monarch (on the recommendation of the Prime Minister) appointed the date of the new election by proclamation. Parliament was then dissolved 25 working days before that date.[ citation needed ]

Apart from the automatic dissolution in anticipation of a general election, whether held early or not, section 3(2) provided that "Parliament cannot otherwise be dissolved". The FTPA thus removed the traditional royal prerogative to dissolve Parliament, [16] and repealed the Septennial Act 1715 as well as references in other Acts to the royal prerogative. The royal prerogative to prorogue Parliament – that is, to end a parliamentary session – was not affected by the FTPA. [17]


Under section 7(4)–(6) of the FTPA the Prime Minister was obliged to establish a committee to review the operation of the FTPA and to make recommendations for its amendment or repeal, if appropriate. The committee was required to be established between 1 June and 30 November 2020, and the majority of its members must be members of the House of Commons. On 10 November 2020, the House of Commons ordered the establishment of a Joint Committee pursurant to the FTPA and appointed the Commons members of the Committee. [18]


When introducing the Bill that became the FTPA into the House of Commons, Nick Clegg, then Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that "by setting the date that Parliament will [be] dissolve[d], our Prime Minister is giving up the right to pick and choose the date of the next general election—that's a true first in British politics." [19]

The government initially indicated that an "enhanced majority" of 55 per cent of MPs would be needed to trigger a dissolution, but this did not become part of the FTPA. Instead, the FTPA contains the two-thirds requirement. [20]

Proposed amendments that would have limited the fixed term to four years, backed by Labour, Plaid Cymru and the SNP, were defeated. [21]

Section 4 of the FTPA postponed the Scottish Parliament election that would have been held on 7 May 2015, moving the election day to 5 May 2016 to avoid it coinciding with the general election in the United Kingdom. [22]


Robert Blackburn QC, a professor of constitutional law, stated that "the status and effect of a no-confidence motion remains largely as it was prior to the Act". [23] Alastair Meeks, however, a lawyer writing on the website, argued that, as well as removing the Prime Minister's ability to set an election date at a time of their choosing, the FTPA significantly affected the British constitution. It removed the ability of the Prime Minister to make a vote on a policy a matter of confidence in the government, a tool that minority governments and governments with small majorities have used to ensure that legislation is passed in the House of Commons. This put such governments at risk of remaining in power without an adequate ability to legislate, increasing the necessity of coalition government. [3]

David Allen Green, a lawyer and journalist, and Andrew Blick, a legal academic, argued that the FTPA changed little in practice, since the Prime Minister could still, so long as at least a portion of the Opposition agrees, schedule an election at their pleasure. [24] [25] Blick also argued that the use of a supermajority requirement for the House of Commons, which is very rare in UK law, represented a move towards entrenched clauses in the UK Constitution. [26]

In 2017 Blick argued alongside Graham Allen, who chaired the House of Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform during passage of the FTPA, that the FTPA had failed "to deliver on one of its main stated purposes ... to reduce the discretion possessed by the Prime Minister in being able to determine the date of general elections". Allen and Blick argued, however, that this was an "admirable objective" and proposed that instead of being repealed the FTPA should be amended to provide additional safeguards. [27]

Views of politicians

During the passage of the FTPA, Graham Allen stated on second reading that his committee had not received ample notice for adequate scrutiny of the Bill and that there were "so many flaws in the Bill's drafting". [28] It was also reported that Allen was critical that the committee had not had sufficient time to consider whether a four-year term would have been more appropriate than the five-year term stipulated in the FTPA. [29] While he was still Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform [30] Allen wrote an essay in favour of codifying all the prerogative powers, and referred to his experience in challenging the prerogative powers of war. [31]

Views of political scientists

According to one political scientist, Colin Talbot, the FTPA made minority governments more stable than in the past, since events that previously might have forced a government out of powersuch as defeat of a Queen's Speech or other important legislation, loss of supply, or a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister rather than the government as a wholecannot formally do so. [32]

Lord Norton, a Conservative political scientist, argued that the FTPA significantly limited the Prime Minister's ability to obtain an early election, since the Opposition could prevent an election by voting against it. [33] This was borne out in 2019, as the Opposition blocked Prime Minister Boris Johnson's attempt to hold early elections on several occasions. [34] An Act of Parliament for an early election (the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019) was then passed, with Opposition support, by a simple majority.[ citation needed ]

Evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee (2019)

In September 2019 Junade Ali advised in written evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee that repeal of the FTPA should be pursued on the basis that, as A. V. Dicey noted, dissolution allows for the executive to appeal to the nation if it feels the House of Commons is no longer supported by the electors, allowing for the resolution of unforeseen constitutional crises by the electorate. [35] Ali argued that "The very legislative chamber subject to dissolution being, in all circumstances, required to consent to such dissolution removes essential oversight in a sovereign Parliament that can make or unmake any law whatsoever". [36] Ali reiterated his argument that even if the FTPA had codified prorogation powers, the executive could instead seek refusal of Royal Assent until an early election was called, which, Ali argues, "would likely cause far greater constitutional outrage" and codification would "threaten to transform political into constitutional crises" [37] This view was supported in a submission by Robert Craig, who stated: "The main justification for the Act appears to reside in an erroneous view that the political power to call an election is inappropriate in a political constitution." [38]

Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (2020–21)

A cross-party parliamentary Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, including 14 members of the Commons and 6 peers, was established on 27 November 2020 to review the operation of the Act and make recommendations as to its repeal or amendment. [39] Its report, published on 24 March 2021, concluded that the Act was flawed in several respects: the supermajority requirement imposed by the Act, the committee argued, risks "parliamentary gridlock" and "lacks credibility", as shown by the special legislation passed to circumvent the Act in 2019; the Act unduly circumscribed the powers of the Leader of the Opposition to bring forward motions of no confidence and of the government to declare issues to be matters of confidence; finally, the Act's definition of the 14-day period following successful motions of no confidence was unsatisfactory and may have allowed a government to force an election even in cases where an alternative government could be formed from the existing Parliament. [40] The chair of the committee, Conservative Lord McLoughlin, described the FTPA as "likely to be a short-lived constitutional experiment". [41]


Election held after a full five-year term on date fixed by section 1 of the FTPA

The 2015 general election held on 7 May 2015 was the only use of the FTPA to dictate the date of a general election. [42]

Election held after a two-thirds Commons majority for dissolution by section 2(1) of the FTPA

On 18 April 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to call a general election for 8 June 2017, bringing the United Kingdom's 56th Parliament to an end after two years and 32 days. The FTPA permitted this, but required two-thirds of the Commons (at least 434 MPs) to support the motion to allow it to be passed. [43] Jeremy Corbyn, then the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party indicated that he was in support of an election. The motion was passed the following day by 522 votes to 13 votes. [44]

As the FTPA required that general elections take place on the first Thursday in May, the date of the next general election after the 2017 election (assuming that no earlier elections were called) would have been 5 May 2022, meaning that the term would have been one month short of five years.[ citation needed ]

Motions that did not result in an election

2018 proposed motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister

On 17 December 2018, the Labour Party tabled a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister, Theresa May. As this was not a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty's Government in the form set out in the FTPA, its passing would not have resulted in a general election being called. Arguing that this would have no effect because of the FTPA, May was able to call it a stunt and deny it any time for debate. [45]

The SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party submitted an amendment to the motion that, if passed, would have changed the motion to meet the requirements of the FTPA. The government subsequently announced that the motion would not be given parliamentary time.[ citation needed ]

The following day, 18 December 2018, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party tabled a new motion of no confidence in the Government in the form set down in the FTPA. This was the first such motion to be tabled under the terms of the FTPA. [46]

2019 motion of no confidence in the government

Jeremy Corbyn, then the Leader of the Opposition, tabled a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty's Government on 15 January 2019, after the House of Commons rejected Theresa May's draft agreement on Brexit. [47] Ian Blackford, the Westminster leader of the SNP supported the decision. [48] The motion failed, the ayes having 306 and the noes 325. [49] Nigel Dodds, Westminster leader of the DUP, which had a confidence and supply agreement with the government, expressed the opinion that it was in the national interest for his party to support the government in the motion. [50]

2019 motions for a general election

Boris Johnson's government attempted three times to call an early general election by means of section 2(2) of the FTPA. Each motion achieved a simple majority, but did not meet the two-thirds requirement because opposition parties abstained. Eventually Parliament passed the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019.[ citation needed ]

First motion

On 3 September 2019, the government tabled a motion under the FTPA to trigger an early general election, requiring the votes of two-thirds of MPs. However, Labour refused to support the motion until legislation to delay a no-deal Brexit had been passed. [51] On 4 September, there were 298 votes for the motion and 56 against, with 288 abstentions, well short of the two-thirds supermajority required. [34] On 6 September, four opposition parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid Cymru – agreed not to support any parliamentary vote for a general election until after the next meeting of the European Council, which was scheduled for 17–18 October 2019. [52]

Second motion

On 9 September, another motion for an early election was tabled by the government. It failed by 293 votes to 46, with 303 abstentions [53] [54] [55] [56]

Parliament was prorogued on the same day, until 14 October. [57] The prorogation was later deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court and proceedings were resumed on 25 September. [58] [59] [60]

Third motion

On 24 October 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention to call a general election via a motion under the FTPA to be tabled on 28 October. [61] Jeremy Corbyn, then Leader of the Opposition, indicated that he would support an election only if Johnson pledged to take a no-deal Brexit off the table. [62] On 28 October, the motion failed despite a vote of 299 to 70 because mass abstentions by the opposition prevented the forming of the two-thirds majority required under the FTPA. [63] [64]

No further motions under the FTPA were attempted in the 2017–19 Parliament, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 to the House of Commons on the same day, which triggered an election after it was passed.

Circumvention in the 2019 general election

The Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 was introduced on 29 October 2019 by Boris Johnson [65] following the failure to secure an election by a two-thirds majority the previous day. The Bill was fast-tracked through the House of Commons on the same day it was introduced, [66] the following day Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Leader of the House of Lords) introduced the Bill in the House of Lords and it received its First Reading. The Bill completed all stages the following day (30 October) without amendment and was presented to the Queen for Royal Assent. In accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, at 4:27 PM on 31 October, Royal Assent was notified to the House of Lords and notified in the House of Commons at 4:35 PM. [67] The Bill became law within three days from introduction to Royal Assent, an uncommonly short time. [68] [69]

The Act circumvented the FTPA to provide for a general election on 12 December:

1 Early parliamentary general election
(1) An early parliamentary general election is to take place on 12 December 2019 in consequence of the passing of this Act.
(2) That day is to be treated as a polling day appointed under section 2(7) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. [70]

At 12:01 AM on 6 November, Parliament was dissolved, as the FTPA required that dissolution must happen 25 days before a general election with all seats in the House of Commons becoming vacant. [71]

The 2019 act referred to the FTPA but did not amend it. The FTPA remained in force unaltered until its repeal in 2022; the effect of the 2019 act was only to interrupt its operation. The two acts did not legally conflict, owing to the British constitutional principle of Parliamentary sovereignty, that Parliament has "the right to make or unmake any law whatever", and constitutional laws are of no different status. [72] [73]

Other effects

In 2016, in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, a petition was created on the Parliament petitions website that called for a general election after former British Prime Minister David Cameron revealed that he had had investments in an offshore trust. [74] After the petition had passed the threshold of 100,000 signatures, the government response cited the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in its reply, and stated that "no Government can call an early general election any more anyway". [75]

In 2017, the journalist John Rentoul writing in The Independent newspaper argued that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act indirectly caused the election loss of Theresa May's majority in the 2017 election. Technicalities made her choose an election campaign of seven weeks, 2–3 weeks longer than usual, which, Rentoul argued, lost her the majority. [12]

Losing the parliamentary vote that follows a speech from the throne (also known as a King's or Queen's Speech) has traditionally been seen as having the same consequences for a government as losing a vote of no confidence. Although this was not the case under the Act, the consequences of losing a vote on the Queen's speech were still considered significant. Theresa May delayed the Queen's speech that was expected in spring 2019, partly as a result of concerns about the prospects for winning a parliamentary vote on it. [76]


Proposals for repeal and replacement

The Conservative Party manifesto at the 2017 general election proposed repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. [77] However, Theresa May's government failed to win a House of Commons majority at that election and did not attempt to repeal the act. [78] The Conservative Party reiterated the commitment to repeal the act in its manifesto for the December 2019 election, at which it won a majority. The manifesto stated that the Act "has led to paralysis at a time the country needed decisive action". [5] [79] The first Queen's Speech following the election confirmed that "work will be taken forward to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act". [80]

Lord Norton of Louth commented that repealing the Act would require a new Act of Parliament, and that if the duration of parliaments was to be limited, arrangements for this would need to be included in the new Act because the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 had repealed pre-existing legislation governing the duration of parliaments. [16]

2020 private member's bill

After the December 2019 election, on 3 February 2020, a private member's bill to repeal and replace the FTPA was introduced in the House of Lords by Conservative peer Lord Mancroft. The bill would have established five-year parliaments, the next election to be on 2 May 2024, unless an early election is called by royal proclamation dissolving Parliament. This would have substantially restored the position before the FTPA. Additionally, the bill would have confirmed that the monarch has power to prorogue Parliament until a time of the monarch's choosing. Under the bill, the monarch's actions, and government advice to the monarch about those actions, would not have been justiciable. A second reading was not scheduled for the bill, which failed with the prorogation of Parliament on 29 April 2021. [81]

Proposals for reform

Since the Act abolished the old prerogative powers, for example the royal power of dissolution, some legal experts such as Raphael Hogarth argued that it would not be possible simply to revive them even if that were desired. The Act might instead be reformed, in particular to specify what steps should occur during what has been called the "messy fortnight" after a motion under the Act is passed and to clarify whether pre-existing types of vote amounting to no confidence, such as rejection of the Budget, continue to require a government's resignation. [82]

This position was rejected in 2020 by the government, which opted to explicitly revive the royal prerogative in its draft legislation repealing the Act. [83] Whether this would in fact constitute a restoration of the prerogative or the creation of a new statutory power is debated by legal experts, with former Supreme Court judges Baroness Hale and Lord Sumption arguing that the prerogative could be revived, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey that it could not, and Stephen Laws, a former First Parliamentary Counsel, stating that "if Parliament wants the power to be the same as it was before 2011, then it is the duty of the courts to see it as such". [84]

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022

The government published on 1 December 2020, for consideration by the parliamentary Joint Committee on the FTPA, a draft Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill which would repeal and replace the FTPA. [6] The draft, accompanied by a statement of the underlying principles, provides for revival of the royal prerogative powers as to dissolution of parliament and summoning of a new parliament "as if the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 had never been enacted", with the effect of restoring maximum five-year parliaments. It adds (which is new) that a court "may not question" (a) the "exercise or purported exercise" of those powers, (b) "any decision or purported decision relating to those powers" or (c) "the limits or extent of those powers". [83] Retitled the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, it was announced formally in the Queen's Speech of 11 May 2021 and introduced to Parliament the following day. [85] [86] The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act was granted royal assent on 24 March 2022, repealing the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 as part of the act's provisions. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

A general election is a political voting election where generally all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation, state, or territory's primary legislative body, and are different from by-elections . In most systems, a general election is a regularly scheduled election where both a head of government, and either "a class" or all members of a legislature are elected at the same time. Occasionally, dates for general elections may align with dates of elections within different administrative divisions, such as a local election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Commons of the United Kingdom</span> Lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster in London, England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parliament of the United Kingdom</span> Legislative body

The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It meets at the Palace of Westminster, London. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the sovereign (King-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. In theory, power is officially vested in the King-in-Parliament. However, the Crown normally acts on the advice of the prime minister, and the powers of the House of Lords are limited to only delaying legislation; thus power is de facto vested in the House of Commons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parliamentary system</span> Form of government

A parliamentary system, or parliamentarian democracy, is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the support ("confidence") of the legislature, typically a parliament, to which it is accountable. In a parliamentary system, the head of state is usually a person distinct from the head of government. This is in contrast to a presidential system, where the head of state often is also the head of government and, most importantly, where the executive does not derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature.

A snap election is an election that is called earlier than the one that has been scheduled.

The dissolution of a legislative assembly is the mandatory simultaneous resignation of all of its members, in anticipation that a successive legislative assembly will reconvene later with possibly different members. In a democracy, the new assembly is chosen by a general election. Dissolution is distinct on the one hand from abolition of the assembly, and on the other hand from its adjournment or prorogation, or the ending of a legislative session, any of which begins a period of inactivity after which it is anticipated that the same members will reassemble. For example, the "second session of the fifth parliament" could be followed by the "third session of the fifth parliament" after a prorogation, but the "first session of the sixth parliament" after a dissolution.

A fixed-term election is an election that occurs on a set date, and cannot be changed by incumbent politicians other than through exceptional mechanisms if at all.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parliament Act 1911</span> United Kingdom legislation

The Parliament Act 1911 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is constitutionally important and partly governs the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two Houses of Parliament. The Parliament Act 1949 provides that the Parliament Act 1911 and the Parliament Act 1949 are to be construed together "as one" in their effects and that the two Acts may be cited together as the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom is dissolved automatically five years after the day on which it first met or earlier by the Sovereign by royal proclamation made by virtue of the royal prerogative. The prerogative power to dissolve Parliament was revived by the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, which also repealed Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. By virtue of amendments made by the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act to Schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983, the dissolution of Parliament automatically triggers a general election for the next Parliament.

In the United Kingdom, confidence motions are a means of testing the support of the government (executive) in a legislative body, and for the legislature to remove the government from office. A confidence motion may take the form of either a vote of confidence, usually put forward by the government, or a vote of no confidence, usually proposed by the opposition. When such a motion is put to a vote in the legislature, if a vote of confidence is defeated, or a vote of no confidence is passed, then the incumbent government must resign, or call a general election.

The United Kingdom has an uncodified constitution. The constitution consists of legislation, common law, Crown prerogative and constitutional conventions. Conventions may be written or unwritten. They are principles of behaviour which are not legally enforceable, but form part of the constitution by being enforced on a political, professional or personal level. Written conventions can be found in the Ministerial Code, Cabinet Manual, Guide to Judicial Conduct, Erskine May and even legislation. Unwritten conventions exist by virtue of long-practice or may be referenced in other documents such as the Lascelles Principles.

The European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill 2017–19 was a private member's bill of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make provision for the holding of a “public vote” (referendum) in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar following the conclusion of negotiations by Her Majesty's Government and the European Union on whether to support the proposed exit deal for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union or to remain a member state of the EU. The bill was sponsored by English Labour Co-operative MP Gareth Thomas. The bill failed upon the conclusion of the parliamentary session in November 2019, and withdrawal took place on 31 January 2020 without a second referendum.

In United Kingdom constitutional law, prorogation is an act usually used to mark the end of a parliamentary session. Part of the royal prerogative, it is the name given to the period between the end of a session of the UK Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session. The average length of prorogation since 2000 is approximately 18 days. The parliamentary session may also be prorogued before Parliament is dissolved. The power to prorogue Parliament belongs to the monarch, on the advice of the Privy Council. Like all prerogative powers, it is not left to the personal discretion of the monarch but is to be exercised, on the advice of the prime minister, according to law.

This is a timeline of major events concerning Brexit, starting from the referendum, running through Brexit day on 31 January 2020, and on to 1 January 2021.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019</span> United Kingdom legislation

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019, commonly informally referred to as the Benn Act after the Labour MP Hilary Benn as Chair of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee who introduced it, was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that required the Prime Minister of the UK to seek an extension to the Brexit withdrawal date—then scheduled for 31 October 2019—in certain circumstances. The main provisions of the Act were triggered if the House of Commons did not give its consent to either a withdrawal agreement or leaving without a deal by 19 October 2019. The Act proposed a new withdrawal date of 31 January 2020, which the Prime Minister was obliged to accept if the proposal was accepted by the European Council.

On 28 August 2019, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was ordered to be prorogued by Queen Elizabeth II upon the advice of the Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, advice later ruled to be unlawful. The prorogation, or suspension, of Parliament was to be effective from between 9 and 12 September 2019 and last until the State Opening of Parliament on 14 October 2019; in the event, Parliament was suspended between 10 September and 24 September. Since Parliament was to be prorogued for five weeks and reconvene just 17 days before the United Kingdom's scheduled departure from the European Union on 31 October 2019, the move was seen by many opposition politicians and political commentators as a controversial and unconstitutional attempt by the prime minister to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of the Government's Brexit plans in those final weeks leading up to Brexit. Johnson and his Government defended the prorogation of Parliament as a routine political process that ordinarily follows the selection of a new prime minister and would allow the Government to refocus on a legislative agenda.

<i>R (Miller) v The Prime Minister</i> and <i>Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland</i> 2019 UK Supreme Court constitutional law cases

R (Miller) v The Prime Minister and Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland, also known as Miller II and Miller/Cherry, were joint landmark constitutional law cases on the limits of the power of royal prerogative to prorogue the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Argued before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in September 2019, the case concerned whether the advice given by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to Queen Elizabeth II that Parliament should be prorogued in the prelude to the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union was lawful.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019</span> United Kingdom legislation

The Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made legal provision for the holding of the 2019 United Kingdom general election on 12 December 2019.

The powers of the prime minister of the United Kingdom come from several sources of the UK constitution, including both statute and constitutional convention, but not one single authoritative document. They have been described as "...problematic to outline definitively."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022</span> UK constitutional legislation

The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that repealed the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 and reinstated the prior constitutional situation, by reviving the prerogative powers of the monarch to dissolve and summon parliament. As the monarch exercises this power at the request of the prime minister, this restored the power of the prime minister to have a general election called at a time of their choosing.


  1. "Labour fears Johnson is preparing for a 2023 election". Financial Times. 1 June 2021. Retrieved 3 January 2022. The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced by David Cameron’s coalition government removed the longstanding power of the prime minister to call a general election and instead created what should normally be a five-year period between polls.
  2. "Is axing fixed-term parliaments a good idea?". BBC News. 7 March 2021. Retrieved 3 January 2022. In 2011, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA) set the length of time between general elections at five years - and transferred the power to call an early election from the prime minister to MPs.
  3. 1 2 Alastair Meeks (5 May 2015). "New Rules. Britain's Changing Constitution". Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  4. "Strengthen Our Hand in Europe? No, a Landslide for May Would Weaken It". The Guardian. 2 May 2017.
  5. 1 2 "Get Brexit Done: the Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2019" (PDF). Conservative and Unionist Party. p. 48. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  6. 1 2 "Government to fulfil manifesto commitment and scrap Fixed-term Parliaments Act". 1 December 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  7. 1 2 Blewett, Sam (11 May 2021). "A brief look at the Bills included in the Queen's Speech". Evening Standard . Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  8. 1 2 Fixed-term Parliaments Bill - Constitution Committee. "CHAPTER 3: The length of the parliamentary term and election timing". Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  9. Anthony Wilfred Bradley, Keith D. Ewing (2006). Constitutional and Administrative Law. Pearson Education. pp. 187–189. ISBN   978-1-4058-1207-8.
  10. Wood, Richard (26 October 2017). "7 Longest-Lasting British Parliaments – When Will This One End?". HITC. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  11. 1 2 3 "Q&A: Fixed-Term Parliaments". BBC News. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  12. 1 2 John Rentoul (17 June 2017). "How George Osborne and David Cameron Lost the Election for Theresa May". The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  13. "Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011". section 3, Act of 2011. UK Parliament.
  14. "Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011". Act of 2011. UK Parliament. (as originally enacted)
  15. Scot Peterson (25 October 2016). "Some Think Theresa May Should Call a General Election. Here's Why She Can't". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  16. 1 2 Lord Norton of Louth (8 October 2016). "Repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act?". The Norton View.
  17. Joe Marshall (8 April 2019). "Proroguing Parliament". The Institute for Government. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  18. "Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act - Hansard". Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  19. "AV Referendum Question Published". BBC News. 22 July 2010.
  20. George Eaton (12 May 2010). "Fixed-term Parliaments Won't Prevent a Second Election". New Statesman. London. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  21. "Four-year Fixed-term Parliament Bid Defeated". BBC News. 16 November 2010.
  22. "Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, section 4". Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  23. "Oral evidence - Status of resolutions of the House of Commons - 23 Oct 2018 Q100".
  24. Green, David Allen (18 April 2017). "The Fixed-term Parliaments Act has failed". Financial Times.
  25. Blick, Andrew (17 May 2017). "Good Idea, Bad Outcome: Whatever Happened to Fixed-Term Parliaments?". London School of Economics and Political Science.
  26. Blick, Andrew (2016). "Constitutional Implications of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011". Parliamentary Affairs. 69 (1): 19–35. doi:10.1093/pa/gsv004. The UK has no written constitution. Yet entrenchment in some forms has had a part in UK constitutional conceptions. Moreover, in recent times this role has grown. Some precedent for supermajorities, for instance, has appeared through the provision in section 2 of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 for early general elections following support from two-thirds or more of MPs.
  27. Blick, Andrew; Allen, Graham (12 July 2017). "Protecting Even Prime Ministers from Themselves: Why Fixed-Term Parliaments Seem a Good Idea". British Politics and Policy at LSE. London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  28. "Fixed-term Parliaments Bill - Hansard". Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  29. "Five-year parliaments 'too long'". BBC. BBC News. 10 September 2010.
  30. Allen, Graham (28 May 2015). "The UK government says no to democratic reform". Oxford University Politics Blog. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  31. Haseler, Stephen; Allen, Graham (2014). A Federal Constitution for a Federal Britain. London: Federal Reform Foundation. ISBN   978-1326112714.
  32. Talbot, Colin (3 May 2015). "Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, a Minority Government Doesn't Need a 'Confidence and Supply' Arrangement to Be Able to Govern". London School of Economics. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  33. Lord Norton of Louth (18 April 2017). "We Need to Talk about the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 to Understand Theresa May's Election Plans". Political Studies Association.
  34. 1 2 "Boris Johnson's Call for General Election Rejected by MPs". BBC News. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  35. Kirby, James (2019). "A. V. Dicey and English constitutionalism". History of European Ideas. 45 (1): 33–46. doi:10.1080/01916599.2018.1498012. ISSN   0191-6599. S2CID   149849188.
  36. Ali, Junade (26 September 2019). "Junade Ali – written evidence (FPA0011)" (PDF). House of Lords Constitution Committee.
  37. Ali, Junade (24 September 2019). "The Fixed Term Parliament Act: A Recipe for Constitutional Crisis and Prorogation?". Oxford University Political Blog.
  38. Craig, Robert (7 October 2019). "Robert Craig, University of Bristol – written evidence (FPA0013)" (PDF). House of Lords Constitution Committee. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  39. "Joint Committee on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act established: Lord McLoughlin elected as Chair, written evidence deadline Monday 4 January". 27 November 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  40. "Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act: Report". 24 March 2021. p. 3. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  41. Slingo, Jemma (24 March 2021). "'Major flaws': parliamentary committee backs repeal of fixed-term act". The Law Society Gazette . Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  42. Uberoi, Elise; Kelly, Richard (14 January 2020). "The Fixed-term Parliaments Act". House of Commons Library. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  43. "House of Commons Debate 5 July 2010 c 23". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  44. "General Election 2017". The Guardian. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  45. "Downing Street Rules Out Parliament Time for Corbyn's 'Stunt' No-Confidence Motion in May". 18 December 2018. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  46. Sean Morrison (19 December 2018). "Brexit news latest: Opposition Parties Table Vote of No Confidence in Government". Evening Standard.
  47. Sean Morrison (16 January 2019). "What is a Vote of No Confidence? Could Jeremy Corbyn Spark a General Election after Brexit Deal Vote? How Does It Work?". London Evening Standard.
  48. "Ian Blackford Says SNP Will Back Jeremy Corbyn's No-Confidence Motion". Herald Scotsman. 15 January 2019.
  49. "May's Government Survives No-Confidence Vote". BBC News. 16 January 2019.
  50. "Supporting PM 'in the National Interest' Says Dodds Ahead of No-Confidence Vote". ITV News. 16 January 2019.
  51. "Brexit: PM in New Battle after Commons Vote Defeat". BBC News. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  52. "Brexit: Opposition Parties to Reject PM Election Move". BBC News. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  53. Diver, Tony; Sheridan, Danielle (9 September 2019). "Brexit Latest News: Boris Johnson's Second Bid to Call General Election Fails as Parliament Prorogued". The Telegraph.
  54. "LIVE: Boris Johnson Fails for Second Time with Bid for Snap Election". Sky News.
  55. "No Snap Election: MPs Reject Johnson's Demand for Second Time".
  56. "Boris Savages & Accuses Corbyn With Final Words Before Suspending Parliament For 5 Weeks". Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  57. "Brexit: Boris Johnson's second attempt to trigger election fails". BBC News. 10 September 2019.
  58. Bowcott, Owen; Quinn, Ben; Carrell, Severin (24 September 2019). "Boris Johnson's Suspension of Parliament Unlawful, Supreme Court Rules". The Guardian.
  59. Jarvis, Jacob (24 September 2019). "Bercow Tells MPs to Return to Parliament Tomorrow Morning". Evening Standard.
  60. Brennan, Paul (25 September 2019). "UK Parliament Resumes After Prorogation Ruled Unlawful". Al Jazeera.
  61. Yorke, Harry (24 October 2019). "Labour in Chaos as Jeremy Corbyn Refuses to Back Election Even If Brexit Delayed Until Jan. 31". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  62. Stewart, Heather; Boffey, Daniel (25 October 2019). "Johnson Seeks 12 December Election After Shelving 'Do or Die' Brexit Pledge". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  63. "MPs Reject 12 December Election Plan". BBC News. 28 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  64. Mason, Rowena (28 October 2019). "Boris Johnson Fails in Third Attempt to Call Early General Election". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  65. "Order Paper No.10: Part 1" (PDF). House of Commons. 29 October 2019.
  66. Newson, Nicola (30 October 2019). "Early Parliamentary General Election Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages".{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  67. "Royal Assent - Hansard".
  68. "Civil Partnership - Hansard". Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  69. "Bill stages — Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 — UK Parliament".
  70. "Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019". UK Parliament. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  71. "Dissolution of Parliament - News from Parliament". UK Parliament.
  72. Ali, Junade. "The Fixed Term Parliament Act: A Recipe for Constitutional Crisis and Prorogation?". OxPol. Oxford University.
  73. Blick, Andrew (1 January 2016). "Constitutional Implications of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011". Parliamentary Affairs. 69 (1): 19–35. doi:10.1093/pa/gsv004. ISSN   0031-2290 . Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  74. "Petition calls for General Election this year after David Cameron admission". Metro. 8 April 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  75. "Hold a General Election in 2016". UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  76. Nicholas Watt (29 April 2019). "Theresa May 'unlikely' to hold another Queen's speech". BBC News. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  77. Conservative Party 2017 manifesto Archived 30 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine , p. 43
  78. "Fixed-term Parliaments Act: What is it and why does it matter?". 26 June 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  79. Kettle, Martin (12 December 2019). "If the exit poll is right, this election will transform British politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  80. "Full transcript: The Queen's Speech". The Spectator. 19 December 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  81. "Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill [HL]". Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  82. Hogarth, Raphael (27 November 2019). "The FTPA is a bad law – but it should not be replaced with something worse". Institute for Government. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  83. 1 2 Cabinet Office (1 December 2020). "Policy paper: Draft Fixed-term Parliaments Act (Repeal) Bill". Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  84. Walker, Alex (19 February 2021). "The Joint Committee on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act: an update". The Constitution Society . Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  85. "Queen's Speech 2021: Key points at-a-glance". BBC News. 11 May 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  86. "Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill". Retrieved 12 May 2021.

Further reading