Boris Johnson’s early election legislation isn’t the single line threatened – but at only 15 in length, it does not exceed a page.
Conservative MPs were sent the bill that if passed will facilitate the United Kingdom’s first December election since 1923 by government whips this morning.
It overrides the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, which specifies that the next election must be held on 5 May 2022 unless two-thirds of MPs vote for an earlier poll. The Prime Minister has failed three times to assemble the necessary supermajority, most recently last night.
The bill’s deliberately narrow scope and tight drafting as good as guarantees a procedural row over whether it can be amended, and to what effect.
While changing the date from 12 December to 11 December or 9 December – the latter of which is favoured by the Liberal Democrats and SNP – will be relatively straightforward, the legislation has been drawn up in such a way as to preclude more ambitious changes, such as allowing 16- and 17-year-olds and EU nationals to vote.
While John Bercow has form for allowing amendments to legislation that would appear to fall outside its scope — in this case, the timing of the election — Lindsay Hoyle, his deputy, will adjudicate on amendments at committee stage. He will almost certainly rule any seeking to change the franchise out of order.
The full text of the legislation, shared with the New Statesman by a Conservative source, is below.
1 Early parliamentary general election
(1) An early parliamentary general election is to take place on 12 December 2019 in consequence of the passing of this Act.
(2) That day is to be treated as a polling day appointed under section 2(7) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.
(3) This early parliamentary general election is to be treated as taking place in accordance with section 2 of that Act for the purposes of—
(a) section 96A(9) of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (benefit cap: review), and
(b) section 23(8) of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (duty on Secretary of State to publish reports on economic impact on business activities of regulatory provisions).
2 Commencement and short title
(1) This Act comes into force on the day it is passed.
(2) This Act may be cited as the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019.