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Lord Mackie of Benshie: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, obviously has a point here. However, the solution in the Bill is much simpler and also avoids having close-to general elections. The solution of the noble and learned Lord is rather more complicated. Therefore, I should prefer to leave the matter as it stands in the Bill.
Lord Hardie: I understand that the noble and learned Lord's amendment seeks to provide that a parliament elected at an extraordinary general election will sit for a period of approximately three years. It ranges between the periods indicated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon. By contrast, the Bill provides that, except in one limited circumstance, where a parliament is elected at an extraordinary general election, that does not disturb the pattern of four-yearly cycles set out in the Bill. In other words, regardless of any extraordinary general election, the next ordinary election goes ahead as though there had been no extraordinary general election.
The only exception to that is where the extraordinary general election falls less than six months before the date on which the next ordinary election would have taken place, in which case that ordinary election does
It may be helpful if I outline why we have provided for that. The Bill as drafted severely limits the attraction to any executive of forcing an extraordinary general election. It makes sure that even if an executive succeeded in forcing such an election, the four-yearly cycle will continue regardless.
As I understand the noble and learned Lord's argument, it is that if a parliament is to be elected, then there is a case for ensuring that it sits for some substantial period and thereby avoiding two elections in quick succession. However, we do not believe that those arguments are persuasive when set against the importance of ensuring that there is as little scope or incentive as possible for the executive to influence the timing of elections.
We appreciate that there may be scope for the rare occurrence, which it is hoped would never happen, of a parliament being elected for a period in excess of six months with another election taking place thereafter. It
Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: In the fullness of time we shall find out whether or not the balance struck by the Government is correct. Again, it is not a matter of earth-shattering importance and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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