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Clause 1 — Referendum on the alternative vote system

Part of Royal Commission (London) – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 12th October 2010.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 9:00 pm, 12th October 2010

My hon. Friend Nick Boles, who does not appear to be present at the moment, said that he might be the only speaker for the Government. Fortunately my hon. Friend Mr Williams chipped in with some additional support. I can reassure him and, indeed, the Chief Whip that I too intend to speak on behalf of the Government.

All the amendments seek to delay the date on which the referendum takes place, either proposing a specific alternative or suggesting a mechanism enabling the date to be determined later. Some, including amendments 4 and 126, are intended to prevent the combination of the referendum with other polls.

I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed about the combination of the polls next May, but they ignore the fact that it is not unusual to combine elections. Many of us, either this year or in 2005, were elected at a general election, determining who would govern the country, on a day on which people were voting in other elections. I therefore do not think it reasonable to suggest that people are not capable of making decisions about various levels of government and voting on referendums on the same day.