House of Commons - Explanatory Note
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Session 2001- 02
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Prime Minister (Office, Role And Functions) Bill



These notes refer to the Prime Minister (Office, Role and Functions) Bill

as introduced in the House of Commons on 28th November 2001 [Bill 60]




1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Prime Minister (Office, Role and Functions) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 28th November. They have been prepared by the sponsor of the Bill, Mr Graham Allen MP, in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction will the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.     Clause 1 provides for the appointment of the Prime Minister with the consent of the House of Commons, which is to be given within 7 days of a general election or a vacancy in the office. Except where a vacancy arises during the lifetime of a Parliament, no one shall be appointed Prime Minister unless he or she has been declared a candidate for the office at the previous General Election. Under the clause, this could be achieved either by a declaration of the political parties contesting the election, or by a separate election for the office of Prime Minister.

4.     Clause 2 provides for the Prime Minister's term of office to end with the election of a new Parliament, or the loss of a vote of confidence in the House of Commons.

5.     Clause 3 sets out the functions of the Prime Minister. Under subsection 3(g) he or she may appoint ministers who are not members of either House of Parliament, but for each Department of State he or she must appoint at least one member of each House as a Minister.

[Bill 60-EN]                                              53/1

6.     Clause 4 allows the Prime Minister to delegate any of the functions listed in Clause 3 other than the appointment of ministers and the most senior staff in the civil service, the armed forces and the security services, or the declaration of war or a state of emergency. The clause also provides for the Prime Minister, or ministers, to be accountable for anything done or said in the Prime Minister's name.

7.     Clause 5 gives a general power for the Prime Minister to appoint a Primne Minister's Department, or to make appointments elsewhere in the civil service or to public bodies.

8.     Clause 6 invests the Prime Minister with almost all the surviving prerogative powers of the Crown, but not the dissolution or prorogation of Parliament. The Prime Minister's use of these powers must be linked to the discharge of any of the functions set out in Clause 3. Subsection (2) and Schedule 1 would allow him to use certain specified powers under delegated authority from Her Majesty, and to accept the consequent responsibility. Subsection (3) denies to the Prime Minister any legal immunity attached to the Crown. Subsection (4) requires the Prime Minister to report any use of Prerogative powers to the House of Commons within 7 days, unless the Speaker agrees that such reporting would prejudice national security, the administration of justice or the prevention and detection of serious crime.

9.     Clause 7 establishes that the Prime Minister may lawfully use any statutory power which is given to a Secretary of State.

10.     Clause 8 is declaratory of the Prime Minister's obligations to act justly, fairly, reasonably and lawfully, and subject to the ultimate authority of the House of Commons.

11.     Clause 9 obliges the Prime Minister, ministers and other persons under his or her authority, to account to each House of Parliament, in such ways as it prescribes.

12.     Clause 10 makes the Prime Minister the authoritative source of what represents public policy on any matter for which he or she is responsible within the United Kingdom.

13.     Schedule 1 specifies certain prerogative powers for which the Prime Minister shall take responsibility. They do not include the dissolution or prorogation of Parliament, or the appointment of judges, officers of the armed forces or the police, and tax commissioners. Other appointments and honours are dealt with in Clause 6. Paragraph 13 refers to certain prerogative powers of great antiquity .


14. The Act will come into force on Royal Assent.

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Prepared: 7 December 2001