It is a pleasure to follow Mrs Main, whose speech has demonstrated an aspect of what has been an interesting debate. I have sat through a fair amount of it, but have heard few speeches from any party that have been in favour of the Bill. I am sure that that will be reflected in the vote later; I certainly hope so.
I shall deal mainly with the reduction in the number of seats in the House. We welcome the fact that the Prime Minister declares himself to be a Unionist. However, from a Northern Ireland perspective, it is an irony that one of the first things that this self-declared Unionist Prime Minister should have put forward is a proposal to reduce the representation of Northern Ireland in Parliament, given that it was a concession from a Labour Government back in the 1970s that increased the number of seats. That irony will not be lost on the people of Northern Ireland; it certainly will not be lost on those who voted for the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force, or UCUNF, alliance. The Prime Minister did not tell the people of Northern Ireland about the proposal when he was campaigning for votes there, in alliance with the Ulster Unionists; the people, of course, gave their answer to that call. Voters will feel entirely vindicated for having given their overwhelming endorsement to the Democratic Unionist party.
I entirely agree with what Paul Murphy said about the need to build a coming-together and consensus among all sections of the different parties in the House on major issues of constitutional and political reform. That clearly has not happened on this issue. It has been rushed through. Mr Allen, the Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, eloquently laid out the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny given to the Bill. This is a major reform, yet it is being rammed through the House as a result of a coalition agreement.
The hon. Member for St Albans graphically described the nature of that agreement. No mandate for this measure was sought at the last election by either the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives. At the end of the day, if the Bill goes through the House and there is a referendum, I fear that the people of the United Kingdom will give their vote in dramatic terms-delivering a verdict not only on the issue, but on how it has been handled by the coalition Government.