The Government has today introduced a short Bill to try and hold an early general election on 12 December 2019. The Bill will be fast-tracked if the Business motion is agreed to by the Commons with the aim of passing all its Commons stages today.
This Insight explains the purpose of the Bill.
Recent attempts for an early general election
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA) a motion for an early general election needs to be passed. If there is a division, 434 MPs need to agree with the motion for it to pass.
On Monday 28 October the Government made a third attempt to pass the necessary motion to hold an early general election. Prior to this, on 4 September 2019, 298 MPs voted in favour of the motion and 56 against. On the 9 September the House voted 293 to 46. On each occasion the motion failed because it did not secure the necessary 434 votes in favour.
On Monday, the Prime Minister said that if passed he would recommend an election be held on 12 December 2019. The first meeting of the new Parliament would take place before Christmas. The vote on Monday was 299 votes for to 70 against.
Why a new Bill?
After failing to get the required 434 votes, the Government announced it would introduce a Bill on Tuesday 29 October 2019 to allow for an early general election on 12 December.
Unlike an early general election motion under the FTPA, a Bill amending the law does not need the 2/3 super-majority to pass. It only requires a simple majority.
The Bill also needs to pass all its stages in the House of Lords before being granted royal assent.
What will the Bill do?
The Bill introduced by the Government says there will be a general election on 12 December. Under the terms of the FTPA the next election after 12 December would be scheduled for Thursday 2 May 2024.
How does it achieve this?
Clause 1 (1) of the Early Parliamentary General Election Bill says:
An early parliamentary general election is to take place on 12 December 2019 in consequence of the passing of this Act.
Clause 1 (2) then goes on to say that polling day will be treated as if it had been triggered under the section of the FTPA that allows for early elections.
The FTPA allows for early elections. It also includes provisions to recalculate the date of any subsequent election and allows for the dissolution of Parliament in line with the statutory election timetable.
Read: Library briefing on the Act for more detail.
The Early Parliamentary General Election Bill makes no changes to the working of the FTPA. It simply sets a specific day for the next general election, if passed.
What would the election timetable be?
The Bill makes no changes to the election timetable.
The election timetable is set out in legislation (the Representation of the People Act 1983, as amended) and is 25 working-days. Dissolution and issue of the election writs is day zero. The receipt of the writs is day 1 and polling day is day 25.
There is a bank holiday in Scotland on 2 December. A bank holiday in any part of the UK is disregarded for general elections.
Parliament will need to dissolve on Wednesday 6 November 2019 for polling day to be Thursday 12 December.
Dissolution occurs just after midnight at the start of the day. The Bill would have had to have received royal assent and the proclamation setting polling day would have to be issued by the end of Tuesday 5 November.
Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, House of Commons Library.
About the author: Neil Johnston is an election specialist at the House of Commons Library.