A motion of censure falls short of a full no confidence vote in the government—but it could be used to show parliament has lost faith in the Prime Ministerby Alice Lilly / December 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Theresa May has survived one major challenge to her leadership. Rumours persist, though, that another challenge could come in the Commons in the form of a relatively rare parliamentary procedure—a motion of censure against the Prime Minister.
Crucially, this would be different from a full no-confidence motion. Motions of censure can be tabled, in the form of an Early Day Motion, to criticise the conduct of an individual minister—including the Prime Minister. But if debated, and if passed, it would not trigger the same process that a no-confidence motion would.
Under the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act, no-confidence motions have changed. Now, if a government loses a formal vote of no confidence, it sets a clock ticking. If, within 14 days, no alternative government can be formed that secures the explicit confidence of the Commons, then a general election will be called.
But this would not be the case if a motion of censure against the Prime Minister were debated and passed. This situation would place considerable political pressure on Theresa May, but it would not automatically trigger a countdown towards an early election.
This is why a motion of censure is being discussed as a prospect. While it is clear that a significant number of Conservative MPs no longer want Theresa May as their leader, they are also deeply reticent about the prospect of a general election. These MPs would therefore be highly unlikely, yet, to support a formal no-confidence motion against May’s government. The same is true of the Government’s confidence-and-supply partners, the DUP, who are unhappy with May but are still implying they would support her in a confidence vote.
A motion of censure is a way the Prime Minister’s unruly MPs can pile pressure by collecting signatures against her (though some MPs may be less willing to do this publicly than they were in the secrecy of the Conservative leadership ballot) without automatically beginning a countdown to an election. And for Labour and the other opposition parties, this would offer a clear means to embarrass the Government.
However, those around the Prime Minister are unlikely to be too worried by such a threat, as it faces a major stumbling block: parliamentary time.
Conventionally, if the official Opposition tables a motion of no-confidence,…