Elections Bill (Instruction)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:40 pm on 20th September 2021.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 8:40 pm, 20th September 2021

It is a generally accepted truth—and, indeed, a fundamental truth of politics—that just because a Government can do something does not necessarily mean that they should. It is quite a while since we saw such a clear and clamant example of that truth as we have before the House tonight.

The Government appear to have been caught on the hop, suddenly noticing, after 20 years, that the Mayor of London is elected using a second vote. I think we have to have some sympathy for them—we know that there are some on the Government Benches who would never claim to be speedy learners—but it is still quite important that this House should be allowed to do the job that we are all sent here to do. I remind the Government that the day will come when hon. and right hon. Members currently sitting on the Government side of the Chamber will be sat on the Opposition side, and they will then find the truth of the way in which they seek to treat this House today; and that is a fairly tawdry truth, I have to say.

There is a lot more to the various devolved offices mentioned in the instruction than simply the electoral system. One reason why these offices were to be elected using a proportional or semi-proportional system was that it was felt necessary to have proper protections because significant powers were being devolved. Indeed, had it been known at the time that these offices would later be elected by first past the post rather than an alternative system, the House may have taken a different view at that time. Due to the way in which the Government have gone about this, it will not be open to the House to take a different view, because instead of re-examining and reopening the powers of these offices as a whole, we will be looking only at the manner in which they are elected. It is for that reason that the road the Government have gone down tonight is ill advised and will ultimately provide the citizens with poorer representation as a consequence, which is why my hon. and right hon. Friends and I will be opposing the motion tonight.