Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA), the interval between general elections is set at five years. Parliament can only be dissolved earlier than this in the following circumstances: if a motion to hold an early election is passed in the House of Commons by a two-thirds majority; or if the government loses a vote of no confidence and no alternative government is formed within 14 days.
The Government has said it intends to repeal the FTPA and re-establish the prerogative powers used to dissolve and recall Parliament before the passing of the FTPA. The Government has argued that, during the 2017–19 parliament, these restrictions on the ability of the prime minister to call an early general election had led to parliamentary gridlock. It has also argued that the FTPA is undemocratic as it has prevented general elections that might otherwise have taken place.
The Labour Party has also stated its support for repealing the FTPA. However, it has argued the House of Commons should retain the power to dissolve Parliament.
The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill was introduced by the Government in the House of Commons on 12 May 2021. The bill is intended to:
- Repeal the FTPA.
- Revive the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament and call a new Parliament.
- Establish that certain powers in the bill are non-justiciable.
- Require Parliament to be dissolved on the fifth anniversary of the day on which it first met, if an early election had not already been called.
During second reading and committee stage, MPs raised concerns about the bill. Labour and SNP MPs argued that, by re-establishing the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament, the Government would be able to time general elections to their own advantage. MPs also debated whether the Government should reduce the length of the election period.
The bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 14 September 2021.