Blog Type, IPT Blog | April 2017

General Election 2017: What Happens Next?

On Tuesday 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister announced her intention to seek an early general election. The next general election was due to be held on Thursday 7 May 2020.

However, due to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, in order to call an early election a motion must pass the House of Commons by at least two-thirds or without division. This motion was put to the House on the 20 April and MPs voted for an early election by 522 votes to 13 - a majority of 509.

Now that the motion has been passed and the election date has been set for Thursday 8 June 2017, what happens next?

Dissolution

As is laid down in statute, the dissolution of Parliament must take place 25 working days before the proposed polling day. In reality this means that the dissolution of Parliament will take place at 00:01 on Wednesday 3 May 2017. The Prime Minister is likely to see the Queen the day before in order to formally ask her to dissolve Parliament.

The House may prorogue before dissolution; however it will be suspended rather than formally dissolved. The Queen formally prorogues Parliament on the advice of the Privy Council and prorogation usually takes the form of an announcement on behalf of the Queen, read in the House of Lords. It is similar to the State Opening as both Houses gather in the House of Lords to hear the announcement. The prorogation announcement outlines the major bills which have been passed during the session and after the announcement both Houses are officially prorogued until the State Opening of Parliament.

Wash-up

Once dissolution has taken place, any bills which have not completed their journey through Parliament and have not received Royal Assent will fall. In order to prevent this and to aid the passage of important legislation, a ‘wash-up’ period will take place before dissolution where the Government and Opposition will agree on speeding up the scrutiny process on certain pieces of legislation. Once the Government reaches an agreement with the Official Opposition, the House will be asked to approve the wash-up timetable 

Purdah

Purdah is the period of time immediately before elections or referendums where there are restrictions on the activity of civil servants and Ministers. Generally, Purdah starts on the day Parliament is dissolved and lasts until after Polling Day.

Purdah restrictions are not regulated by law but are governed by conventions which are based upon the Civil Service Code and the guidance is issued to civil servants ahead of the election.

Manchester Gorton by-election

Whilst the House of Commons has approved the motion to hold an early general election on the 8 June, there are concerns about the Manchester Gorton by-election which was triggered by the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman and is due to take place on the 4 May.

If Parliament is dissolved on the 3 May as is planned, the new MP would find themselves elected to a Parliament which no longer exists. This is an issue which has been debated in the House of Commons and the Leader of the House, David Lidington, set out that there is “no statutory provision for cancelling a by-election when a general election is in progress”. The Government, Electoral Commission and Manchester’s Returning Officer are currently seeking legal advice and discussing the implications in order to resolve this matter.

Apparently, the most recent example of a case similar to this dates back almost 100 years to 1923 when a returning officer cancelled the by-election as they regarded the by-election writ as having been superseded.

The Industry and Parliament Trust will be posting a series of election blogs over the coming weeks which will be available on the IPT blog page.