All 1 Lord Desai contributions to the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill 2021-22

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Tue 25th Jan 2022

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill

Lord Desai Excerpts
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, we are very much indebted to the noble Lord for his background in this matter. It is important to remember that there are Dissolution principles to be settled before this situation arises. From time to time they have been revised, but I do not think they have been revised for some time now, and obviously it is appropriate that they should be before a further action is required.

It seems there is an academic argument about whether, once the prerogative powers are stopped as they were by the original Act, they can be revived—and this academic discussion occupies quite a lot of pages. So far as I am concerned, if Parliament says, “You go back to where you were before we did this”, that seems perfectly possible and should be followed. I therefore agree with my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth that it is desirable to put that in the Bill. I do not think it is at all likely that anything of the sort that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, has mentioned is likely to arise, because the Dissolution principles make that very plain. It is in the form of a request because of its importance, but it will be taken in accordance with principles that are well settled. I very much support this proposal and the basis on which it rests.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, if I may intervene in this debate, I think it is still important that what used to be the custom and convention be clarified on paper. This is for a very simple reason. While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, that it is inconceivable that a monarch could refuse the request of a Prime Minister, there is always a possibility. For example, in India, which has a constitution based very much on British lines, the president is elected by the Parliament, and very often he or she is a partisan person and would be unable to refuse the Prime Minister under any circumstances. We have to reserve the power of the monarch. If what the Prime Minister is saying does not smell good when he or she is asking for a dissolution, the monarch should have the power to say no.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with all those who have said that my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth has done us a very considerable service. He reminded us of the formidable words of Alan Lascelles, private secretary to George VI in 1950. We should, at all times, keep those Lascelles words in mind:

“It is surely indisputable (and common sense) that a Prime Minister may ask—not demand—that his Sovereign will grant him a dissolution of Parliament; and that the Sovereign, if he”—

or, we should add, she—

“so chooses, may refuse to grant this request.”

It is the existence of this power that has ensured, and will continue to ensure, that no Prime Minister has asked improperly for a dissolution in our history.