New Clause 88 — Referendum on voting systems

Part of Bill Presented — Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 9th February 2010.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Secretary of State (Justice) 6:45 pm, 9th February 2010

Yes, my hon. Friend makes a good point. The evidence of the Government's motivation is overwhelming, and it comes from their own supporters. Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, a founder member of Charter 88, said:

"It smacks of the usual scheming and calculation-just what political reform should be designed to end."

Labour's former Mayor of London said:

"Many people like myself who have long fought for a truly representative voting system will be left with no alternative but to support first-past-the-post because the AV alternative is even worse...Those voters who have backed one of the two strongest candidates in a constituency get no further say in the process, whereas those who have voted for minor parties and crank candidates then get a second vote to determine the outcome between the two leading parties."

Mr. Purchase says:

"First past the post is the only sensible system"-[ Hansard, 16 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 156.]

while Mark Lazarowicz says that

"the alternative vote system...can be even more disproportionate in its effects than the first-past-the-post system"-[ Hansard, 16 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 155.]

As I said at the beginning, this proposal is guff. As was rightly highlighted by my hon. Friend Sir Patrick Cormack, the straightforward point is that the Government know very well that this debate is going nowhere. We are now on the sixth day of the Committee stage of a major constitutional Bill. The House is about to break for 10 days. There will have to be Report and Third Reading, and there is not the slightest prospect of this legislation's reaching the House of Lords before the very end of the month or early March for Second Reading. On all the evidence, this House will finally have died into Dissolution by the end of March or early April.

All the posturing that the Government have fed us this evening, all their insistence on the importance of party loyalty from their own Back Benchers-many of whose views I respect and many of whom are clearly unhappy with the proposals-are for the shortest-term political advantage. With spin, a bit of media management and some smoke and mirrors, the Government try to make out that this is something new in new Labour. In fact, as far as I can see, it is the dying jerks of a Government who have run out of ideas. That makes it all a bit miserable, but the fact that the Liberal Democrats are prepared to sign up makes it a complete charade. We will oppose the proposals.

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