Electoral Law

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th June 1976.

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Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes 12:00 am, 24th June 1976

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he intends to refer the additional member system as recommended by the Hansard Society to any Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform.

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford

The Hansard Society has made an interesting proposal, but I cannot yet say whether it will be within the terms of reference of the Speaker's Conference on Electoral Law.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, apart from whether it is within the terms of reference, there are many people in the Houses of Parliament and outside who are concerned at the way the Government appear to be dragging their feet in not setting up this Speaker's Conference? Will he expedite the matter?

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford

Yes, we should like to get on and get the Speaker's Conference set up. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is correct about the Government dragging their feet. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made suggestions to other party leaders on the terms of reference. The replies have been received, but only fairly recently. It is a matter for the Prime Minister, in consultation with the leaders of the other parties, to determine the terms of reference. I agree that there are a number of matters of ongoing business, apart from wider and more controversial issues, on which it is important to have the Speaker's Conference reconvened. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that it will be convenient to you that that should be done at a fairly early stage.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Hammersmith Fulham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this system of voting is not recommended by the Hansard Society or by the commission appointed by it, and that the Hansard Society takes no responsibility for the commission's report?

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford

Quite so. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that correction. As an ex-Chairman of the Fabian Society—I believe that my right hon. Friend may be as well—I should be aware that bodies can sponsor inquiries without taking any responsibility for the nature of their results.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

Apart from the rather more esoteric remedies that are proposed by one source or another, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that action is urgently necessary by reason of the gross disparities of electorates thrown up by the present system, as evidenced by his Department's answer to my Question a fortnight ago?

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford

With respect—this is most exceptional for the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I do not think that his supplementary question bears directly upon the Question or upon a Speaker's Conference. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the disparities which arise within the time scale which the House has laid down in which the Boundary Commission should do its work. In fact, the commission is doing its work within that time scale. It is moving towards the earliest possible date within the span allowed to it. One of its objectives will be precisely to correct such disparities.