British Coalition Politics and Royal Prerogatives
Nash, Michael L., Contemporary Review
THIS is a time of political flux for Britain coping with the Coalition Government formed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats after the election in May. Perhaps it has been developing for a long time, but the proposals of the Coalition Government for constitutional change have brought it sharply into focus.
The centre piece of the constitutional shake-up, as The Times reported on July 6th, is a plebiscite or referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Voting (AV) system in place of the present First-past-the-post method. This would itself impose fixed five-year Parliaments. (Australia is the only major country to use AV and it has now produced the current uncertain election results.)
Fifty MPs would lose their seats under boundary changes to the constituencies, and the number of MPs would therefore be 600 instead of the present 650; constituency sizes would be equalised as much as possible. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, made this a condition of any legislation to introduce Alternative Voting.
Of considerable significance is the proposal that the power to dissolve Parliament, at present exercised by the Prime Minister, using the Royal Prerogative, should move to MPs, who will need a two-thirds majority in a Commons vote to force an election.
This signified the first major U-turn of the Coalition Government. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister, had previously proposed that a 55 per cent Commons majority would be needed to dissolve Parliament after the loss of a No Confidence motion. This proposal had drawn the ire of David Davis, the Tory MP whom Cameron had defeated for the leadership of their party. Davis, writing in The Daily Telegraph, had said that the proposal to alter the circumstances under which a Parliament can dismiss a failing government 'is a massive constitutional change and strikes at the heart of Parliament's ability to hold the Executive to account'. He went on: 'the proposal could even compromise the position of the monarchy and one of the most important roles of the monarch is to dissolve Parliament, in the event that the government can no longer command sufficient votes in the Commons to govern effectively. This is why a vote of No Confidence is fixed at 50 per cent plus one. If you cannot command that number of votes, you cannot deliver either your legislative programme or your budget'.
On the proposals for the new Dissolution rules, both Labour and some Conservative MPs have questioned the need for new …
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Publication information: Article title: British Coalition Politics and Royal Prerogatives. Contributors: Nash, Michael L. - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 292. Issue: 1698 Publication date: Autumn 2010. Page number: 317+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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