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Parliament Dissolution in United Kingdom

Background

During a General Election period the Government retains its responsibility to govern and Ministers remain in charge of their departments. Essential business must be carried on. However, it is customary for Ministers to keep to a minimum decisions which would initiate new action of a continuing or long-term character. Decisions on matters of policy on which a new Government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present Government should be postponed until after the Election provided such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money.

Procedures

Laying of instruments and drafts

After the dissolution of a Parliament, and until the meeting of its successor, there is no Parliament in existence and no document can be laid before either House.

Where a document has been laid before a dissolution takes place, the question whether it must be re-laid when the new Parliament meets depends upon the provisions of the relevant Act or Acts and upon the practice or Standing Orders of the two Houses.

The following need not be re-laid:

  • Drafts requiring approval and instruments requiring approval before coming into force (these are exempted from relaying by the practice of each House.
  • Instruments requiring approval within a specified period to remain in force: in all known cases time during which Parliament is dissolved is excluded from the specified period by the enabling Act and, as a corollary, relaying is not required. (If there were no such exclusion the instrument would have to be re-laid.)
  • Negative drafts (class (iv)) and negative instruments (by section 7(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 time during which Parliament is dissolved is excluded from the 40-day period prescribed by sections 5 and 6, the corollary being (as in b) above) that relaying is not required.
  • Special procedure orders: these are exempted from relaying by the practice of the House of Lords and by virtue of Private Business Standing Order No 247 of the House of Commons, and proceedings begun in the last Parliament may be resumed in the new Parliament. Time during which Parliament is dissolved is excluded from the petitioning period of 21 days (see Private Business Standing Orders, House of Lords No 201A, House of Commons No 247) and from the resolution period of 21 days (see Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945, section 4(1)).

Instruments and drafts of the above categories should if possible be laid before a dissolution takes place, so as to avoid delay in the completion of the parliamentary procedure.

The following must be re-laid, for the full period prescribed by the enabling Act, when the new Parliament meets:

  • drafts required to be laid for a stated period without being subject to resolution (eg under National Savings Bank Act 1971, section 26(4));
  • schemes laid under the Mining Industry Act 1920, section 18(3).

Date of laying: the italic heading

A statutory instrument should (unless exempt) be printed as soon as possible after it has been registered (see in this legal Encyclopedia for more information). If the printing takes place when Parliament is dissolved, the normal italic heading ‘Laid before Parliament’ should be replaced by ‘To be laid before Parliament’ when it is not necessary to specify a date. If the instrument will come into force before it can be laid before the new Parliament (see Letter to TSO below) this heading should be printed below the ‘Coming into force’ heading.

Letter to TSO

If an instrument or draft is required to be laid and is sent for printing whilst Parliament is dissolved, the letter to TSO (see Forms and Precedents in this legal Encyclopedia) should be amended as follows:

Paragraph 5.6 should read: “To be laid before [Parliament or the House of Commons]”.

Notification to the Speaker of the House of Lords and the Speaker of the House of Commons

Where an instrument cannot be laid because Parliament is dissolved, and it is essential to bring it into force before the new Parliament has met, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the Speaker of the House of Commons must be notified in accordance with the procedures which apply when any instrument is laid after it has come into force (see in this legal Encyclopedia for more information). The Speaker of the House of Lords remains in office notwithstanding dissolution, and the notification to him should be sent on the day the instrument comes into force. The Speaker of the House of Commons, however, vacates his office upon dissolution, and such notification cannot be sent until the new House of Commons has assembled and elected a Speaker.



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  • Article Name: Parliament Dissolution
  • Author: International
  • Description: Background During a General Election period the Government retains its responsibility to govern and Ministers remain in [...]

This entry was last updated: December 22, 2016

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