Friday, 26 March 2010

Dissolution: A constitutional wash up?

In English history Parliaments were sometimes given names such as the Long  Parliament and the Rump Parliament.   I wonder what people might call the present Parliament?  Maybe, the Expenses Parliament?  It was first summoned to meet on 11th May 2005 and, perhaps to the relief of many, must end by midnight on 10th May 2010.  We do not have "fixed term" Parliaments and the maximum period permitted by law is now 5 years.  Very soon, the Prime Minister will make a request to H.M. The Queen that Parliament be dissolved.  Dissolution is a Royal Prerogative act.   [See here].

It is usual to announce the dissolution a few days in advance so that Parliamentary business can be finished.  This so-called "wash up" period is often used to seek agreement with the Opposition as to which legislation can be quickly passed through and it looks like the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill might get through on this basis.  I would hope not since it would enable important constitutional changes to become law without the detailed consideration which they ought to be given.

The White Paper which preceded the Bill contained ideas to reform "war powers" and the role of the Attorney-General.  Those major issues are not in the Bill and they seem to have been "kicked into the political long grass" but very important matters remain.  The idea that constitutional reform can be nodded through as part of the wash up is perhaps another argument favouring a written constitution which could only be amended following a procedure which is more restrictive than that for ordinary legislation.


  1. The "Airstrip One" Parliament? (Or , possibly, the "Inner Party" Parliament?)

    The "Thank that's over" Parliament?

    The "Busy, busy, busy" Parliament?

  2. Hah - forgot to preview and the punctation caused an error. That was supposed to be the "Thank {insert deity or moral thinker of choice} that's over" Parliament.