Clause 1 — Referendum on the alternative vote system

Part of Royal Commission (London) – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 12th October 2010.

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Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance, Belfast East 7:45 pm, 12th October 2010

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I would go further: the problem is not just events on the day; accounting for expenditure on each of the three elections, and managing to keep that expenditure separate enough to satisfy electoral rules, will prove challenging during the campaign.

I want to reiterate a point that has been raised about the opportunity for cross-party co-operation. Those who support electoral reform may want to form a yes campaign, and those who are opposed may want to form a no campaign. Their ability to do so is significantly inhibited if the local government and Assembly elections are on the same day as the referendum, because people will be in full party election mode in the run-up to the date. The effectiveness of any yes or no campaign in areas where there are other elections taking place at the same time will be significantly diminished.

I support the moves being made to reform the electoral system, but the date should be reconsidered. I do not believe that 5 May is an appropriate date. I do not believe that there was significant consultation with regional Administrations about how having the referendum on that day would impact on their area. The issue should be thought through again to ensure that the fullest, frankest and most open debate can take place, and to ensure that when the electorate come to the ballot box, they are fully informed of why they are there.