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 Frank Field Frank Field Labour, Birkenhead 6:45 pm, 9th February 2010

After that happy start, I rise again to speak to new clause 88; in passing, I shall obviously want to speak to the amendments tabled in my name on the amendment paper.

I want to pick up the theme on which Mr. Grieve ended and which Sir Patrick Cormack noted earlier. I hope that whoever is in the control box allowing what we say today to go out on the network has already pulled the plug in that it must be worrying for our constituents to watch us seriously debating a measure that we know will not affect legislation, the election result or whether we have a referendum.

In tabling my amendments, which I cannot yet move, Sir Alan, I hoped to turn this debate into a general discussion of parliamentary reform. One theme unites many of us on both sides of the House-the uncomfortable fact that a large number of us are returned to the House with only minority support. What we do about that is the beginning of the debate, not the end of it.

What worries me about the proposals that we are debating is that it is not difficult to imagine some of our colleagues initially being clear winners against three or four other candidates, but, through a process of elimination, losing their seats because the votes eventually go to the runner-up. There is a terrible illogicality in having a system in which a candidate can have a clear lead in the first-preference votes, but in which the second or third-preference votes become equal to the first-preference votes in further stages of the counting. Clearly, those other votes are not equal to the first-preference votes; if they had been, people would have voted differently in the first place.

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