Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Any clear expression of ‘no confidence’ could topple Government, warns Committee

A report published yesterday by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee advises that Parliament’s power to remove the authority to govern through a no confidence motion has been unaffected by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

Interim report on confidence votes

Mid-way through its inquiry examining the status of resolutions of the House of Commons, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has published an interim report, The Status and Effect of Confidence Motions and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Taking into account the changes made by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the Committee has considered the mechanisms leading to a change of government or a general election in circumstances where the Government lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, yesterday said:

“Our report addresses questions that were left unanswered after the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 changed the way general elections in the UK are called.

It is fundamental to our democratic system that the Government commands the confidence of the elected House of Commons. We have made clear for both MPs and the public what would be expected to happen if the House were to express ‘no confidence’ in the Government. These are very important times and it is vital that people have a clear understanding of how these new and untested procedures operate and interact with long-established constitutional conventions.”

The Committee concludes in the report that:

  • The Government's authority to govern rests on the confidence of the House, however it chooses to express it.
  • The procedure set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act is the only process through which a general election can be triggered.
  • If a statutory vote of no confidence is passed under the Act, the Government has 14 days to pass a motion of confidence. If this does not happen, there will be a general election.
  • However, the long-standing convention of using ‘motions of no confidence’ to express the will of the House that the Government no longer has the authority to govern, has not been altered by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
  • However, the House of Commons expresses ‘no confidence’ in the Government, if it cannot be restored, the Prime Minister would be expected to resign, but only when the Prime Minister can recommend an alternative person who can command the confidence of the House.

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