December general election another step closer after clearing Lords

Legislation to trigger a pre-Christmas general election is heading for the statute book after clearing the House of Lords.

The unamended one-page Bill, which has already been passed by the Commons, was given an unopposed third reading by peers.

The legislation will now go forward for Royal Assent enabling Parliament to be dissolved on November 6, paving the way for an election on December 12.

The Early Parliamentary General Election Bill sets aside the provisions of the Fixed-Term Parliament’s Act, meaning the Government did not require a two-thirds “super majority” to get it through the Commons.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves for the final Prime Minister’s Questions before the general election (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson watched on earlier on Wednesday, Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, opening the debate, said an election “presents a chance to resolve the impasse this country has endured for too long”.

She added: “Having an election will allow us to all put our cases to the public, gives them the opportunity to decide how they want to move forward, and to ensure the new government has time to act before January 31 2020.”

Once the Bill receives its Royal Assent, it will pave the way for Parliament to be dissolved on November 6, leading to the first December poll in almost a century.

It came as Jeremy Corbyn accused the Tories of putting the NHS “up for grabs” as he clashed with Mr Johnson in the final Prime Minister’s Questions before the general election.

The two leaders used their encounter over the Commons despatch box to draw the battle lines for the forthcoming campaign, with the future of healthcare set to be a key issue.

Amid noisy scenes, the Prime Minister warned that a Labour government would result in an “economic catastrophe”, ruining the country’s ability to fund the NHS.

Mr Corbyn sought to go on the offensive over the NHS, accusing the Conservatives of imposing the “longest spending squeeze ever in its history”.

POLITICS Brexit ElectionTimetable
(PA Graphics)

The Conservatives go into the election – which Mr Johnson finally secured at the fourth time of asking – well ahead in the polls.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister cautioned against any complacency when he addressed his MPs on Tuesday evening, saying they faced a “tough” election battle.

The Tories can expect to come under pressure in Leave-supporting constituencies from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party over Mr Johnson’s failure to deliver on his “do or die” promise to take Britain out of the EU by October 31.

At the same time, they face a challenge from the resurgent Liberal Democrats – which are promising to stop Brexit altogether – in pro-Remain areas.

Party leader Jo Swinson said the Lib Dem message was resonating with voters, arguing neither Mr Johnson nor Mr Corbyn was fit to be prime minister.

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