Proportional Representation: House of Commons — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:48 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 4:48 pm, 23rd April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans. As I represent a Scottish constituency, I work alongside Members of the Scottish Parliament who were elected under both constituency-based and regional-based systems, as well as local councillors who were voted in under the STV system, as Mr Carmichael mentioned. We come from a culture where there is reasonably fair cohabitation of proportional representation and majoritarian systems.

I am fairly open-minded about the idea of different electoral systems. The key thing is for us to agree that there needs to be a thorough constitutional convention. It is high time that every aspect of the entire structure of Westminster’s governance was reviewed. I am sure we have a litany of ideas about reform of the structure—not just the electoral system, but the second Chamber and the way Westminster interfaces—and that is certainly what the Labour party advocates.

There are certainly problems with the way the Scottish Parliament’s structure works. Combining regional lists and constituencies creates an imbalance between the different types of MSPs, which often leads to problems. When we talk about PR, we have to take cognisance of the fact that there are different methods of PR. The system can also lead to distortions. Even in the last Westminster election in 2017, Labour gained 27% of the vote in Scotland but only 11% of seats. That is a clear imbalance. The Scottish National party achieved, I think, 36% of the vote and won 59% of the seats. Those clear imbalances could be corrected within regions under a more proportional system.

I supported the alternative vote compromise, introduced as a condition of the coalition Government agreement. That would have maintained the benefits of the constituency link, which have been mentioned, while allowing at least a majority to be established in support of electing a Member of Parliament. That seemed a reasonably sensible staging post towards a further review, but it was a great disappointment that that was rejected in a referendum.