Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Major change to constitution.....who noticed? Who cared?

I was wondering about the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill and have only just noticed that it received Royal Assent on 15th Sept last year....strange how nobody takes any notice of big changes to our constitution, which pass through Parliament unnoticed. I posted on this many moons ago here. Essentially the ancient power of the Crown to dissolve Parliament (usually de facto exercised by the PM) at will has been replaced by an automatic dissolution and general election every 5 years. Far more interesting than this however are the provisions pursuant to which HMG can be brought down and replaced on a general election. The convention was that HMG falls on a vote of no confidence by a simple majority of the House of Commons. Not any more - now should there be such a vote, the Act gives HMG 14 days in which to avoid a dissolution by obtaining a vote of confidence by simple majority. Alternatively a dissolution can be obtained by a vote for an early election securing 2/3rds of total votes of all MPSs. In other words the power to topple HMG by a simple majority vote in the H of C has been abolished and HMG has secured the protection of having to loose two votes of simple majority in a 2 week period or loose the confidence of 2/3rds of the Commons. Why does HMG need such protection? Because HMG cannot relly on a Commons majority vested in the party discipline of a single party.  In other words this coalition Govt has protected itself with this Act. This is an exceptional example of our need for an entrenched constitution - the elected dictatorship has embedded itself with this Act without the need to bother itself with a constitutional amendment such as you might find in most liberal democracies. It always surprising me that such self-interested violence can be done to our constitutional arrangements without anybody really noticing or caring.......

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