Peers have been told that a “particularly beleaguered” Prime Minister must not be allowed to have the sole power to call and early general election amid his “personal difficulties.”
The House of Lords have dealt a defeat over the government’s plans to change how general elections can be called.
Conservative former Minister Lord Cormack claimed that Boris Johnson will be able to “threaten his parliamentary troops” amid his “personal difficulties” in calling an early election.
The coalition government introduced the Bill would repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA) which helped provide stability as it ensures a general election can only happen every five years.
Under the current Act the House of Commons can trigger elections, but the Prime Minister could return to power under the proposed legislation.
When Theresa May was Prime Minister the FTPA led to a stalemate during the turbulent parliamentary session the government has said.
Peers in the House of Lords voted by a majority of 40 (200 in favour, 160 against) for an amendment allowing MPs to hold a vote on whether Parliament is dissolved, there will be a simple majority required for a general election to be allowed to happen.
Lord Cormack said, “I do not think it is right that a Prime Minister, particularly a beleaguered Prime Minister, should be able to threaten his parliamentary troops to plunge the country into uncertainty merely because he is in personal difficulties.
“Not one of us knows what is going to happen in the coming days, weeks, and months… but what is important is there should be a seemly transition which does not involve compromising the integrity of the Sovereign, particularly in this year of all years, and that there should be a clear opportunity for the House of Commons to decide whether they wished to plunge the country into a general election or not.
“All this amendment does is to give that chance to the House of Commons.”
Lord Bridges of Headley wanted a system whereby a Prime Minister can be allowed to call a general election which happens, with “No ifs, no buts, no parliamentary votes, no court cases.”
The Conservative former minister added, “It is indeed one person’s decision to call an election, but that decision should automatically give power to millions of people who can pick up that stubby pencil and decide on the future of the country.
“Power rests with them and if they want to punish the Government for calling an election early, as we saw to our costs, they can do so.”
But Labour frontbencher Baroness Smith disagreed, she said, “The fundamental basis of our democracy is that power flows from the ballot box to the elected chamber of Parliament, the House of Commons, and the Government derives its authority from the House of Commons and it is responsible to the House of Commons.”
Cabinet Office minister Lord True described the FTPA as “a failed 21st century experiment.”
Lord True added, “It risks recreating the conditions of the very paralysis we all lived so recently and which we all told ourselves that we would never want to see again.
“My lords, we should not risk returning to that, we should reflect on the wisdom of ages, we should take pride in our constitutional practice over generations before 2011, and reject this amendment.”
The House of Commons will consider that Lord’s amendment Bill later this year.