Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon 12:00 am, 7th July 1977

The hon. Gentleman does scant justice to the Home Secretary, who in his speech yesterday made it quite plain that he is personally in favour of the system, and I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should question the Home Secretary's good faith. The right hon. Member for Dartford, who is Chairman of the Select Committee, has likewise been converted. There are many in his own Conservative Party who take this view, and he must not automatically assume that everyone is so wedded to the system in which, obviously, he passionately believes. Let us put it to the vote, and we shall see what happens.

I believe, therefore, that the Boundary Commissioners would have very great difficulty in starting work until they knew the number of seats. We do not know whether those for Scotland and Wales would go up or stay as they are. One cannot work out the quota until that is known. We will change in five years to some form of proportional system, anyway, I know perfectly well, because no one in Europe has the first-past-the-post system, and would not be found dead with it. In Europe it is regarded as a crazy system, and part of our archaic system of politics. I cannot see why we should change twice. Why not change to a proportional system now and go most of the way towards what will be the system in five years' time?

The only advantage of the first-past-the-post system is that the results would be so undemocratic and unrepresentative that they would, as the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) said, discredit the system in this country even more. I must say that there are times when I should not mind seeing that happen.

If we want to get the Bill through, the Leader of the Opposition will have to be far more flexible than she has been hitherto in looking at alternative electoral systems. We must see how we can get this legislation through quickly.

I do not see why British citizens living abroad should not be able to vote. I believe that the change in the deposit figure is right. I do not think that £500 and 50 signatures is very much for a business man to enable him to send brochures free of charge through the post to several million people. We might have to increase the number of nominations.

I take it that we are making the hon. Member for Banbury and the hon. Member for Newham South (Mr. Spearing), whose views I respect, unhappy, but we are trying to have a greater democratic influence in Europe, and for my part I hope that there will be an enormous majority for the Second Reading tonight.