Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 6th September 2010.

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Photo of Roger Godsiff Roger Godsiff Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green 6:06 pm, 6th September 2010

I am most grateful for being called to speak in this important debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wish to say at the outset that I support the Government's proposal to hold a referendum on the alternative vote system. I supported my Government when they introduced their proposals on 9 February and I have not changed my views since. I reread the record of the debate on 9 February and found it interesting that not one of the Conservative MPs who spoke was in favour of having a referendum on AV and that the Lib Dems' spokesperson made it clear that their support for the proposal was only on the basis that they wanted to get rid of the first-past-the-post system and have proportional representation. I make those points in view of what I am going to say in a moment.

I repeat that I have always supported the AV system, because it is not proportional representation-Jonathan Evans pointed that out- but an improved version of the first-past-the-post system, whereby the winning candidate has to get 50% plus one vote. Although I welcome the proposed referendum on AV, I very much regret the fact that the Government, despite their saying that they are being radical, have not been prepared to be even more radical; they could have not just proposed that there should be a referendum on changing the voting system to AV, but had another question on the ballot paper asking whether people wished to have obligatory voting in the United Kingdom. That happens in Australia, which also uses AV for its House of Representatives. It is not just me saying this, because the Electoral Commission and the Select Committee on Home Affairs have both said that there should be a proper public debate on this issue.