Septennial Act 1716

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The Septennial Act 1716[1]
Long title An Act for enlarging the Time of Continuance of Parliaments, appointed by an Act made in the Sixth Year of the Reign of King William and Queen Mary, intituled An Act for the frequent meeting and calling of Parliaments
Chapter 1 Geo 1 St 2 c 38
Introduced by Duke of Devonshire[2]
Territorial extent England and Wales and Scotland
Dates
Repeal date 15 September 2011
Other legislation
Amendments Parliament Act 1911
Repealing legislation Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011
Status: Repealed
Official text of the Septennial Act 1716 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

The Septennial Act 1716 (1 Geo 1 St 2 c 38), also known as the Septennial Act 1715, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. It was passed in May 1716.[3] It increased the maximum length of a parliament (and hence the maximum period between general elections) from three years to seven. This seven-year ceiling remained in law from 1716 until 1911.

The previous limit of three years had been set by the Triennial Act 1694, enacted by the Parliament of England. The ostensible aim of the Septennial Act was to reduce election expenses, but it also had the effect of keeping the Whig party, which had won the 1715 general election, in power for a longer time – the Whigs won the eventual 1722 general election.

The Act did not require parliament to last for a full term, but merely set a maximum length on its life. Most parliaments in the remainder of the eighteenth century did indeed last for six or seven years, with only two lasting for less time. In the nineteenth century the average length of a term of the Parliament of the United Kingdom was four years. One of the demands of the mid-nineteenth-century Chartists (the only one which had not been achieved by the twentieth century) was for annually-elected parliaments.

The Septennial Act was amended on 18 August 1911 by section 7 of the Parliament Act 1911 to reduce the maximum term of parliament to five years. During the First World War a series of Acts was passed to prolong the life of the parliament elected in December 1910 until the end of the European war in 1918; a series of annual Acts was also passed during the Second World War to prolong the parliament elected at the 1935 general election until the European war had ended in early 1945.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 repealed the Septennial Act in its entirety.

Provisions[edit]

The text of the Act is very short. As in force prior to its repeal it stated:

Be it enacted ...that this present Parliament, and all Parliaments that shall at any time hereafter be called, assembled, or held, shall and may respectively have continuance for seven years, and no longer, to be accounted from the day on which by the writ of summons this present Parliament hath been, or any future Parliament shall be, appointed to meet, unless this present or any such Parliament hereafter to be summoned shall be sooner dissolved by his Majesty, his heirs or successors.[4]

Prolongation of Parliament during the First World War[edit]

The Parliament elected at the December 1910 general election, and which first met in late January 1911, was due to expire in early 1916 in accordance with the five-year limit set by the Parliament Act 1911. Because of the ongoing war in Europe, a series of Acts was passed to prolong its life until the fighting had ended.

Short title Citation Date of assent Maximum duration of the existing Parliament
as extended by the Act
Parliament and Registration Act 1916 5 & 6 Geo. 5 c. 100 27 January 1916 5 years and 8 months
Parliament and Local Elections Act 1916 6 & 7 Geo. 5 c. 44 23 August 1916 6 years and 3 months
Parliament and Local Elections Act 1917 7 & 8 Geo. 5 c. 13 26 April 1917 6 years and 10 months
Parliament and Local Elections (No. 2) Act 1917 7 & 8 Geo. 5 c. 50 29 November 1917 7 years and 6 months
Parliament and Local Elections Act 1918 8 & 9 Geo. 5 c. 22 30 July 1918 8 years

Prolongation of Parliament during the Second World War[edit]

The duration of the Parliament elected at the 1935 general election, and which first met in late November 1935, was also extended by a series of Acts passed to prolong its life until the fighting in Europe had ended. In contrast with the previous war's legislation, this was achieved more simply by a series of annual prolongations.

Short title Citation Date of assent Maximum duration of the existing Parliament
as extended by the Act
Prolongation of Parliament Act 1940 3 & 4 Geo. 6 c. 53 6 November 1940 6 years
Prolongation of Parliament Act 1941 4 & 5 Geo. 6 c. 48 11 November 1941 7 years
Prolongation of Parliament Act 1942 5 & 6 Geo. 6 c. 37 22 October 1942 8 years
Prolongation of Parliament Act 1943 6 & 7 Geo. 6 c. 46 11 November 1943 9 years
Prolongation of Parliament Act 1944 7 & 8 Geo. 6 c. 45 17 November 1944 10 years

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title was authorised by the Short Titles Act 1896, section 1 and first schedule.
  2. ^ Noorthouck, John (1773). "Ch. 19: George I". A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark. Book 1. pp. 306–325. Retrieved 2008-06-12. "the bill originated in the house of peers, where it was introduced by the duke of Devonshire" 
  3. ^ Lease, Owen C. "The Septennial Act of 1716." The Journal of Modern History 22, No. 1 (1950): 42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1875879 (retrieved 30 December 2013)
  4. ^ The Statutes, vol. 2 (1871), p. 257

External links[edit]