New Clause 88 — Referendum on voting systems

Part of Bill Presented — Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 9th February 2010.

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Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 8:00 pm, 9th February 2010

I will not attempt to follow Martin Linton in detail. I want to make a brief speech, because I know that many colleagues wish to take part in the debate.

I want to make just a few points. First, I regret the fact that time is being spent on this proposal, because there is absolutely no chance of its reaching the statute book. We all know that, and that includes the Government. We are wasting parliamentary time, as this Parliament ebbs out to a rather inglorious close. Those who would like us to be properly debating the subject of this afternoon's statement-after-hours doctors services-or the issue of higher education cuts will see this as yet another example of parliamentary navel gazing. There is no public demand for this change. We are debating it for one reason only. That is that the Prime Minister feels that there is likely to be a hung Parliament-I am not saying that I agree with him-and he is offering an olive branch to another party, which he thinks might help to sustain him in office. It is cynical and as simple as that.

I shall not be contesting the next general election. I shall miss this place greatly. I have always had the great advantage of being returned with over 50 per cent. of the vote, and I believe that those of us who have always been in that position have a case to answer. However, the answer is most certainly not AV. If I go to vote-I dare say that this applies to most people in the Chamber tonight-I do not wish to vote for a second preference candidate. I know whom I want to vote for, and if that person and that party were eliminated, I should want time to reflect.

That is why the only other system that I would contemplate-although I am very happy with the status quo-is the one that was advanced in a brief but telling speech by Mr. Field. The two-round election is a simple system, and it has a degree of fairness about it. If a Conservative voter went to the polls and found that the Conservative candidate was not in the first two, there would be time for that voter to reflect on the track record of those who remained, on their affinity with the local community, and on their views on issues that were perhaps not political but moral in nature. The voter could weigh up all those factors and cast their vote accordingly for one of the two candidates and, at the end of the day, one candidate would emerge with over 50 per cent. of the vote. I know that, under that system, there can very occasionally be a tie, but the right hon. Gentleman looks after that eventuality in his amendment.

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