Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill Contents

Appendix 2: Lascelles and Dissolution Principles

Lascelles Principles

The Lascelles Principles were a constitutional convention which referred to the conditions under which a request for a dissolution might be denied by the monarch. These were:

(1)The existing Parliament was still vital, viable and capable of doing its job.

(2)A general election would be detrimental to the national economy.

(3)Another Prime Minister could be found who could carry on the government, for a reasonable period, with a working majority in the House of Commons.

The Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act considered that these principles “used to be taken to be a reliable guide as to the nature of the Monarch’s veto over dissolution from 1950 to at least the 1990s”.37

Dissolution Principles38

In restoring the pre-Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 position, the United Kingdom is returning to a position where the Prime Minister (by virtue of commanding the confidence of the House of Commons), can advise the monarch to dissolve Parliament at a time of their choosing.

The circumstances in which a Prime Minister might seek a dissolution are underpinned by two core constitutional principles:

(1)The Prime Minister holds that position by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons and will normally be the accepted leader of the political party that commands the majority of the House of Commons.

(2)The monarch should not be drawn into party politics, and it is the responsibility of those involved in the political process to ensure that remains the case. As the Crown’s principal adviser this responsibility falls particularly on the incumbent Prime Minister.

A return to the pre-2011 status quo ante will also restore the position whereby the Prime Minister, having lost a designated or explicit vote of confidence, can either resign or seek a dissolution, which would usually be granted and lead to an election.

The monarch, by convention, is informed by and acts upon the advice of the Prime Minister so long as the government appears to have the confidence of the House, and the Prime Minister maintains support as the leader of that government.

37 See Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Report (Session 2019–21, HC 1046, HL Paper 253), para 129

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