An Unfortunate Choice of Words

Yesterday, the Queen issued a royal proclamation summoning a new Parliament. The wording of the document has been substantially revised in light of the changes brought about by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Obviously, it no longer references dissolution, but there has been another, more subtle, change. Previous proclamations ordered the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to issue writs for the election of MPs and the summoning of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. But yesterday’s proclamation simply states that writs are “to be issued by Our Chancellor of Great Britain for causing the Lords Spiritual and Temporal who are to serve in the said Parliament” (emphasis mine).

The Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland still have the authority to issue writs for the election of MPs, but their authority is now derived from section 3(3) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act instead of the royal prerogative. Meanwhile, section 3(4)(b) of the Act specifically states that the royal proclamation summoning a new Parliament can’t deal with the matter of who issues the writs for a new Parliament.

This was probably intended to recognize the fact that the electoral duties of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State are now on a statutory footing, but it has the unfortunate consequence of removing the Commons entirely from the royal proclamation. It’s more than a little absurd that the proclamation only mentions the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. Surely there is some way to respect the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act without making it seem like Parliament consists of only the House of Lords!

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