Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:12 pm on 6th September 2010.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales) 8:12 pm, 6th September 2010

I have three strong concerns about the Bill: the date of the referendum vote; the fact that there is not a proportional election system on the ballot paper; and the means of reducing the number of Members of Parliament, which will affect Wales more significantly than any other part of the United Kingdom.

Plaid Cymru has long advocated voting reform for elections to this House, so we welcome the fact that a new UK Government have put the issue on the agenda. As currently drafted, however, the Bill will be a massive missed opportunity. If there is to be a referendum, it should be on whether we take the more radical step of adopting the single transferable vote for elections and having a genuinely proportional system. In Committee, we will support amendments to achieve that, and we will expect support from those MPs who in February supported such an amendment to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill.

We are concerned about the date for the referendum indicated in the Bill, as it would clash directly with elections for the devolved Parliaments. Two separate reports, from Gould and Arbuthnott, pointed to the difficulties with holding multiple elections on the same day. There is no reason why the voting reform referendum needs to be held on the same day as elections to form the Celtic Governments. It is, at best, insensitive for the UK Government to proceed with 5 May 2011 as the date. It would make much more sense to hold the referendum on part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 on that date, which was ruled out by both UK coalition governing parties.

We will argue that a new date should be set on which no other election is taking place, to avoid the accusation that the Government in London are riding roughshod over the interests and concerns of the devolved countries.