Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:03 pm on 6th September 2010.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne 8:03 pm, 6th September 2010

What I am saying to Martin Horwood is that under the AV system, party negotiating teams will more often decide the outcome of a general election than will the public or the electorate, which will not increase confidence in democracy, but further erode confidence in it. "Are we to believe these manifestos?" is what people will say, as they see politicians saying one thing in the manifesto and then doing something different among themselves in a smoke-filled room.

Let us remind ourselves, colleagues, that the second part of the Bill, which is concerned with AV, is purely there to appease less than 10% of the House. That is the future of permanent coalition Government-deals to appease minority parties. I am extremely nervous about this Bill, which I do not think has been properly thought through. It has been presented, brought forward and debated in haste.

I will say this, however. I am extremely pleased that my right hon. Friend Mr Cameron is the Prime Minister. I could not think of a better one. That is why on this one occasion-I say this particularly to my Whip-out of loyalty to the Prime Minister and for no other reason, I shall support this Bill on Second Reading. After that, however, every vote that I enter into, for the rest of the Parliament, will be a free vote. The Whip need not concern himself too much, because I am a Conservative to my core. Every fibre in me is Conservative. On most occasions, therefore, I will happily walk through the Division Lobby with my party. However, there will be occasions when I exercise my right, as the elected representative of Broxbourne, to disagree with my party. In essence, that is what I am, and it is what we all are: representatives coming from constituencies, to use our judgment on the great issues of the day.

I am representative of neither the Whips Office nor No. 10. More than anything, people in this country are crying out for independent-minded, honest, brave Members of Parliament, who put being a legislator and sitting in this place above all else. Too often, we are viewed as coming to this place with an aspiration to become a Minister. I say to my constituents that there is no greater honour than being the Member of Parliament for Broxbourne; there is no greater honour than being a Member of Parliament. If we begin to focus on our constituencies and remember why we are put here, we restore confidence in politics.

We have had a difficult few years, but if colleagues genuinely feel that they do not have the character to represent their constituents bravely in this place, they should stand down now and let someone else take their place.