Elections Bill (Instruction)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:43 pm on 20th September 2021.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North 8:43 pm, 20th September 2021

I think there has been some grumbling on the Conservative Back Benches that the House has been detained by this motion and there have been all kinds of Divisions this evening. Well, we on the Opposition Benches wanted to keep reforms such as call lists, remote voting, remote participation and proxy voting. The Government were the ones who were determined to bring all of this back and to have the House in its full glory, so they are not really in any position to complain about that kind of thing.

We wait ages for a cognate motion to appear and then two come along at once. As Caroline Lucas said, it was just last week that Chris Bryant tabled one of these motions, but he did it before Second Reading—right at the start of the scrutiny process of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, which we considered that day.

In this case, the Government were already well out of the traps. The Elections Bill is on its way. The House has approved the principles of the Bill on Second Reading, but that did not include what the Government are now trying to shoehorn into it. This is a further demonstration of what we warned of on Second Reading; it is significant and radical constitutional reform that is generally undermining the democratic principles that are supposedly enjoyed on these islands, and it is being done in a very sleekit and piecemeal fashion in the hope that nobody will notice. Well, we are noticing it and we will call it out.

I would be grateful if the Minister could reply to the various points that have been made by my hon. Friends and in my own interventions about precisely how this will work. Who will lead for the Government on the Bill now that the Department has changed? How do we pronounce the name of the Department, by the way? Maybe he can tell us how the new acronym is supposed to be pronounced, because no one else seems to understand. How will the Government bring forward amendments? Are they going to table amendments in Committee and then we have to table amendments to the amendments in order to try to achieve some kind of scrutiny? Are they going to bounce it through the House on Report, because according to the current programme motion we only have up to an hour before the moment of interruption on whatever day it comes forward? Or maybe they will just put it all through in the House of Lords, because frankly that would be about as democratic as everything else they are trying to do.

This is yet another power-grab by this Conservative Executive and people can see absolutely right through it. While they are going backwards with their introduction of first past the post for local elections in England and Wales, the devolved institutions, of Scotland in particular, will continue to increase democratic participation by increasing the franchise and increasing the accountability and proportionality of the representation in the electoral systems that we have. The Minister asked in a sedentary intervention on my hon. Friend Brendan O’Hara what system elected us. Well, yes, we were all elected under first past the post, and the first thing that our leader at the time, Angus Robertson, said when he got up in this House was to recognise the disproportionate result that was achieved in Scotland in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Our amendment has not been selected, but I will tell the Government this: if they want to introduce proportional representation for election to the House of Commons, bring it on.