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Arbuthnott Report

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2006.

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Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire 2:30 pm, 28th February 2006

What assessment his Department has made of the Arbuthnott report on electoral arrangements in Scotland.

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on the day of publication, and as I confirmed in the recent Adjournment debate secured by my hon. Friend on the Arbuthnott report, we now have an opportunity for consideration and debate, and we will respond to the proposals in due course.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. I understand the practical problems associated with changing the voting system in time for the 2007 elections, but does my hon. Friend agree that it would be possible to introduce legislation in this Parliament to change it in time for the elections in 2011?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

My hon. Friend is quite right to say that we have ruled out the possibility of legislating in advance of the 2007 elections. They are only just over a year away, and preparations for them are very much under way. I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Arbuthnott commission for the work that they have done. We now need to respect their work by giving it the most careful consideration possible.

Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

When considering the Arbuthnott commission's report, will the Minister pay special attention to its observations on the benefits of having a system of proportional representation for UK parliamentary elections? Although that was not one of the report's recommendations, it was a subject on which the commission took evidence. Will the Minister give the matter careful consideration when responding to the report?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see what our response to the report says.

Photo of Rosemary McKenna Rosemary McKenna Labour, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

We all welcome the hard work that went into the Arbuthnott commission's report, but many of us were disappointed at one aspect of it in particular, namely that it did not recommend the abolition of the practice of standing in the list and in a first-past-the-post election. Will the Minister assure us that that matter will be considered when these issues come before Parliament?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

My hon. Friend is quite right to point out that Sir John Arbuthnott did not recommend that change; indeed, he specifically recommended that it should not be made. No such change will be made before the 2007 elections, and any change that could be made would undoubtedly affect only subsequent elections.