New Clause 88 — Referendum on voting systems

Part of Bill Presented — Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 9th February 2010.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 7:30 pm, 9th February 2010

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no such pact now.

The AV system is not proportionate, it does not allow a choice of candidates between members of the same party, and it still allows safe seats. Those, for us, are major disadvantages. STV, the system that we propose in amendment (b), solves all those problems. STV is simply AV in multi-member constituencies, but it is far more proportionate. The results overall from Northern Ireland, for example, show a very high degree of proportionality, even in seats with four or five members. The Scottish local government version is less proportionate. That is because it uses smaller seats with smaller numbers of members. In practice, across the whole country, if there were constituencies with between one and six members, the result would be a very high degree of proportionality.

What is the advantage of proportionality? That is at the heart of the debate about whether we should move to a proportional system, as opposed to AV, and at the heart of the problem of legitimacy. That is why the Secretary of State was right to mention legitimacy. It is not a peripheral issue. The real problem with our politics is that this place is politically unrepresentative. It is so unlike the politics of the country that people do not recognise it. People here do not think so, but they wouldn't, would they?

The situation is like that before the Reform Act of 1832. The Members in that Parliament thought they were perfectly representative and there was no reason for reform. But we cannot go on with a political system under which unpopular Governments are elected by a little more than a third of those voting and push through policies that two thirds of those voting have just voted against. The Governments of this country-all of them-are unpopular the day they are elected.

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