Clause 1 — Referendum on the alternative vote system

Part of Royal Commission (London) – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 12th October 2010.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 7:00 pm, 12th October 2010

Exactly.

There was a meeting yesterday-perhaps I am giving away what was discussed in a private meeting, but so what, as it adds interest to the debate-and someone from the no campaign came along and said, "Well, we have done all our calculations and we think that we are now perhaps more likely to win if the referendum is on the same day because the C2 vote is likely to be in our favour"-but who cares? Stuff these sorts of arguments. When we pressed this man, he was not able to adduce any firm evidence one way or the other. The fact is that nobody knows whether their side of the argument is more likely to win on 5 May or 2 June or whatever.

Surely what is important is that the arguments around AV are complex. I know that you would immediately rule me out of order, Mr Hood, if I started rehearsing all the arguments in favour of or against AV. I am sure that the Committee accepts, however, that at first sight the issue looks quite easy. It might be said, "Well, we have this first-past-the-post system, which is clearly not proportional and seems unfair to one party, the Liberal party, which gets many more votes nationally than can be justified by the number of seats it gets in this House, so we should have a fairer system." At first sight, then, someone might think, "Well, I am a progressive and fair person"-actually, the Committee might not agree that I am a progressive and fair person, but I can be if I try, as I do occasionally, to behave myself-"and should accept the change." Looking at the issue in more detail, however, it gets more difficult.

A document from the Library details how an individual election might pan out, which might lead us all to start scratching our heads. Do we all know that the Government's favoured option is for "optional preferential voting"? How many members of the public have got their heads around "optional preferential voting"? Indeed, how many Members in their places in Committee now-apart from the lone Liberal or couple of Liberals, whom we know to be anoraks-understand it? We all know, of course, that the optional preferential voting system is an AV system that does not require the voter to give preferences for every candidate, but there are other AV systems, and those arguments have to be teased out. Would it be fairer to force people to vote for every candidate? Would it be fairer to have the system used in the London mayoral elections, where one or two candidates are voted for? Or should we vote for the system that the Government are proposing? As we can start to see, the issues are complicated. Should we not therefore have a chance to tease out these issues over three or four weeks, given that we are changing the entire way of voting for the House of Commons?