Clause 1 — Referendum on the alternative vote system

Part of Royal Commission (London) – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 12th October 2010.

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Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Labour, Dunfermline and West Fife 7:15 pm, 12th October 2010

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. Given the current Liberal Democrat poll ratings, however, I look forward to them receiving a round thumping in May, both in my area and across Scotland. The Deputy Prime Minister is so out of touch with Scotland that he is not aware of just how unpopular he has become in the past five months. The hon. Gentleman's point about the Deputy Prime Minister's logic does stand, however.

There are a number of specific reasons why we have chosen 8 September 2011. First, that would allow us sufficient time to overcome the voter fatigue that I touched upon. It would also provide for several months of campaigning by those of all parties in a non-party political manner. Those colleagues who wish to campaign for a yes vote can come together without party badges and work for that, and those colleagues who wish to campaign for a no vote can also come together without the baggage of our party affiliations.

We also appreciate that there are other elections scheduled for spring 2012, spring 2013 and spring 2014, and we believe that it is important to be consistent and logical in our approach, which rules out those slots. We have therefore sought to find a date that provides sufficient breathing space between all those elections. We are also mindful of the advantages of good weather in ensuring strong voter turnout, and the clocks have not yet changed in September-although I accept that a private Member's Bill that might deal with that is coming up in December. That issue needs to be balanced against the argument about clashing with school holidays; we have had many discussions about that in the Chamber. As Mr Jenkin mentioned, having the referendum in September of next year would also provide ample opportunity for the six-month period of grace for the Electoral Commission to carry out its due diligence. Finally on the argument for September, as has been mentioned, in 1997 we held two referendums in September in Scotland and Wales, very successfully with excellent turnout and a seamless process. That followed, in particular, a constitutional convention in Scotland, in which I know you played an active role, Mr Hood.

The Deputy Prime Minister claims that the idea of fair votes is what motivates the referendum, but it now appears that, shamefully, the Liberal Democrats in government will act unfairly in order to try to achieve their ends. It is not too late for the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government to do the right thing: to listen to the united voice of Labour, nationalist and Unionist politicians across the United Kingdom and accept the rational and fair date for the referendum.