Informing the Review of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act with Comparative Evidence
Petra Schleiter, Professor of Comparative Politics, and her co-researcher Tom Fleming (University of York) have provided evidence to the Joint-Committee inquiry into the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), in which they recommend that the act is reformed.
Petra and Tom's research into comparable democracies has informed the UK Government's statutory review of the FTPA, which is scheduled to report its findings before the end of February 2021.
Their evidence suggests that fixed parliamentary terms generally work in delivering the broader, principled goals of the FTPA, such as increasing parliamentary stability (on average) and reducing the executive's power to time early elections in favour of their own party.
However, the Brexit process has placed intense strain on the UK’s constitutional rules governing executive-legislative relations, including the FTPA, and has brought to the fore some of the unintended consequences of the Act.
Reflecting on these challenges, the researchers suggest reform not repeal of the Act, recommending two areas of opportunity:
"A revised Act could be improved by providing parliament with greater control over the precise timing of early elections and over prorogation. In both areas, the UK’s current rules give the government a normatively undesirable, and internationally unusual, degree of power over parliament.
"A modified FTPA could address these issues, provide greater clarity and predictability, safeguard the role of parliament and prevent executive overreach."
Throughout their project, the two researchers have worked closely with policy makers, delivering their findings to multiple committees, including:
- providing written evidence to the Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act inquiry into the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (January 2021),
- written evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) inquiry into the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission (November 2020),
- oral and written evidence to the House of Commons PACAC inquiry into the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (April 2020),
- oral and written evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee Inquiry into the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (2019).
- The Constitution Society: 'How could the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 be improved?' by Thomas Fleming and Petra Schleiter, 1 December 2020
- LSE Blog: 'Should the government be able to suspend parliament?' by Petra Schleiter and Thomas Fleming, 20 July 2020