Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (c. 14) (FTPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that for the first time sets in legislation a default fixed election date for a general election to the Westminster parliament. Before the passage of the Act elections were required by law to be held at least once every five years, but could be called earlier if the Prime Minister advised the monarch to exercise the royal prerogative to do so. Prime Ministers often employed this mechanism to call an election before the end of the five-year term, sometimes fairly early in it, and some critics saw this as giving an unfair advantage to an incumbent Prime Minister. The FTPA removed this longstanding power of the prime minister.[1][2] Prior to the FTPA, an election could also take place following a vote of no confidence in the government: such a motion would be passed with an ordinary simple majority of those voting in the House of Commons and would, according to constitutional convention, force the government to resign, at which point the Prime Minister would generally advise the monarch to call for a new election.

Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision about the dissolution of Parliament and the determination of polling days for parliamentary general elections; and for connected purposes.
Citation2011 c. 14
Introduced byNick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister (Commons)
Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Advocate General for Scotland (Lords)
Territorial extentUnited Kingdom
(England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)
Royal assent15 September 2011
Commencement15 September 2011 (Whole Act)
Other legislation
RepealsSeptennial Act 1716
Relates toEarly Parliamentary General Election Act 2019
Status: Current legislation
History of passage through Parliament
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

Under the FTPA the next general election is automatically scheduled for the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general electionor the fourth year if the date of the previous election was before the first Thursday in May. However, the FTPA also provides two ways to call an election earlier. One is a Commons vote of no confidence in the government, which still requires only a simple majority of those voting. The other is a vote explicitly in favour of an earlier election, which requires a qualified majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the Commons.[3] The first election under the FTPA was held on 7 May 2015. An early election was held in 2017, after Prime Minister Theresa May received approval to call it by a two-thirds majority as provided in the Act.[4]

Under the FTPA the next general election was scheduled for 2022, but the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019, passed with Opposition support, circumvented the FTPA, providing for an election on 12 December 2019 while otherwise leaving the FTPA in place. The date for the next election is now scheduled by the FTPA for the fifth year after the election of 2019, in May 2024subject to the possibility of an earlier election under the FTPA. The governing Conservative Party is committed to repealing the FTPA.[5] In fulfilment of this manifesto pledge, the government published on 1 December 2020 a draft Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill that would repeal the FTPA and revive the royal prerogative power of dissolving Parliament as it existed before the Act.[6] The legislation was formally announced as the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill in the Queen's Speech of 11 May 2021.[7]

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