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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

I thank the hon. and learned Lady for that important point. It is critical that that spirit underpins any test in a plebiscite. Another example is, of course, the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, with the Scottish constitutional convention. She may say that the Scottish National party was not always supportive of that process, but in the end we arrived at consensus and an overwhelming result in the 1997 referendum, and we delivered a Scottish Parliament in 1999. It is a tried and tested model. That is in stark contrast to the rather more contentious referendum in Scotland in 2014 and across the UK in 2016.

We must think carefully about how referendums are framed, how they are delivered and how they are presented to the people for discussion. If they are unnecessarily contentious, we see no resolution and no popular consent; if we get a very narrow result, a large cohort of the population feels that it has been cheated.

I am open-minded about what we could arrive at in electoral system reform. The current system is clearly not fit for purpose, but I am not hung up on any one model. For example, there are problems with the Scottish Parliament system, which could be reformed and further enhanced. The combination of the list and the constituency link is not entirely coherent, and after 20 years of devolution, that question ought to be considered. The fundamental thing we must all agree on is an urgent need for a constitutional convention across the UK, to provide a root-and-branch review of our entire political system. Hopefully, through that, we can arrive at a system that is fit for this century.