Orders of the Day — Electoral Administration Bill
David Heath (Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs & Shadow Leader of the House, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs); Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat)
May I say what a pleasure it is to follow Mr. Devine, who made a remarkably fluent and assured maiden speech? He is absolutely right that his predecessor, Robin Cook, can only be described as a great parliamentarian, whom many of us will miss as a colleague and friend. It is a difficult to act to follow, which he appreciates, but he has made a very good start. I just hope for his sake that the hospital is still open in four years' time—many are not.
I have no illusions that there may be contained excitement outside this place about our proceedings this evening, but the Bill is extremely important. It deals with a critical element of our democracy—our voting system. I welcome the Bill. It is a modest Bill, which has gross omissions that I shall seek to point out, but what it does contain is welcome. I must say to Mr. Heald that I am amazed that even the modern, opportunistic Conservative party can find any reason to decline to give a Second Reading to a Bill that contains measures that we all want introduced, and to deprive Parliament of the vehicle for further such measures. It is a tactical mistake. I hope that he will reconsider that position later, as it is important that we move forward as a united House as far as possible in seeking to reduce fraud and maintain the integrity of the voting system.