New Clause 88 — Referendum on voting systems

Part of Bill Presented — Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 9th February 2010.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 7:00 pm, 9th February 2010

I am sorry that I do not agree with either of the points that Mr. Field made. That is unusual for me, because usually I agree with his points. The first was that under preferential voting systems, people effectively have more than one vote. That is not the case, because as Martin Linton pointed out, they have one vote but are effectively asked what they would do with it if their first-preference candidate were not standing. That is called tactical voting, which happens all over the country in every general election, but in a preferential voting system it is done more formally and rationally, and people do not have to guess.

The right hon. Gentleman's second point was in favour of the French system. I am sorry that I cannot follow him on that either, even though, unlike Mr. Drew, I am generally a great admirer of all things French. The electoral system in France has had an unfortunate effect not just on its politics but on its culture and way of life, because it has split the whole country into two large camps of left and right. France suffers constantly from that, and we should not go down that route. It would have the effect-perhaps many Members would welcome this-of taking us back to a bipolar system that is very difficult to break into. It is very difficult for new views to come through in such a system.

It seemed to me that Mr. Grieve had only one argument, which defeated his own case. It was that he was against AV because it could be less proportional than first past the post, which is true. If he accepts that argument, he should therefore accept that as the single transferrable vote system, for example, is more proportional than first past the post, it is better and fairer according to his own argument. The Conservative case therefore seems self-contradictory.

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