Attempts to end fixed-rate terms fails

Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament
Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament
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MPs have rejected a call to repeal laws which create fixed five-year terms for Parliament.

In an unusual vote on backbench business, MPs voted 68 votes to 21, majority 47, against a motion tabled by MPs including Tory Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) and Labour’s Frank Field (Birkenhead).

Sir Edward said stipulating the duration of parliaments was a “restriction on democracy”, unnecessarily rigid and encouraged front-loading of Bills.

He also warned that it contributed to the growth of extremism as he called for a return to the previous system under which the prime minister had the right to call a general election at any time.

Calling for the Act to be repealed, he said: “Fixed-term parliaments were marketed to us as a restriction on the excessive power of the executive. In reality, they are a restriction on democracy. I think this undermines the whole democratic legitimacy of the Government.

“This is a hash job. It was designed to keep both parties in the coalition from doing a runner on each other. It was never thought through properly.

“It was always going to be a loveless marriage. Fixed-term parliaments were a pre-nup settlement drawn up between two parties who were never in love. Indeed, they had to bind their marriage in barbed wire.”