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Orders of the Day — European Assembly Elections Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1977.

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Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford 12:00 am, 7th July 1977

It is not a major matter and does not present an insuperable difficulty for the Boundary Commissions.

There are no precedents for the Boundary Commissions being briefed in this way. But it is a common practice in nationalisation and other measures to set up shadow boards and make other appointments long before the measure receives Royal Assent. I urge the Government to consider that. I make this plea not because I am in favour—but it is reasonable for those who want to consider this method to be assured that it will be a practical proposition if that is the wish of the House.

I started off in favour of the first-past-the-post system. I am now convinced that we should adopt PR for Europe. The simple majority system is relevant for Westminster, where we are electing a Government, but we are not doing that in Europe. We are electing a consultative Assembly. If we adopt the first-past-the-post system just to protect the Westminster system, and our own smaller parties get no representation, there will be a reaction even among Labour and Conservative voters, who will believe that that is not fair. Rather than pressure lessening for PR at Westminster, it would increase if the first-past-the-post system were adopted for Europe.

I am glad that the Government have decided on a deposit of £500 and that the number of the sponsors, including proposer and seconder, should be 50. These were the first thoughts of the Select Committee. Its second thoughts put the deposit figure too high, at £1,000. The Committee also recommended that the sponsors should come from each constituency in the new system, which would have been difficult to operate. I regard the new figures as more satisfactory.

I do not want to take too much time, since other hon. Members want to speak. I hope that the Bill receives a Second Reading by a large majority. However, there is another matter that we should not avoid. I hope that the Bill will make good progress.