We know exactly when the current parliament will end: 30 March. But we have no idea yet when the new parliament will begin.
The date for the assembly of what will be the 56th parliament of the United Kingdom has yet to be announced. This has been worrying Labour MP Graham Allen, chairman of the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform committee. Rather than entertain any more uncertainty about the timetable of events after the election, Allen is arguing that parliament needs to fix a date for its recall. He is suggesting that date be 9 May, just two days after the election.
This would involve MPs sitting on a Saturday, which is almost unheard of in modern political history. 9 May is also the occasion for a number of official VE day commemorations, which many senior politicians are due to attend.
Nonetheless Allen wants parliament back in business less than 48 hours after polls have closed, in order to consider the composition of the next government.
He says: “If the result of the general election is not clear-cut, the days immediately after it should not be characterised by a private fix by the party leaders, where newly elected members of parliament and their parties are bypassed.”
In 2010 parliament did not meet until 12 days after the election. A similar interval this year would mean MPs would not be due at Westminster until 19 May. The State Opening of Parliament would traditionally follow a week later, on 26 May – although given this would be the day after a bank holiday, I’m not so sure.
I agree with Allen that it is a bit silly we don’t yet know anything about when the new parliament will begin, especially as we’ve known for ages when the old parliament will end. Recalling MPs on 9 May does seem a bit hasty, though.
We should get the date for the summons of the new parliament before dissolution, i.e. before 30 March.