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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:54 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich 4:54 pm, 23rd April 2019

The hon. Gentleman is right. Broadly, there is a strong case and good evidence that in countries with proportional representation, or a more proportional system, there tends to be more consensus government, which tends to recognise certain common goods. Today, there is an urgent question in the main Chamber on climate change. In many other countries in Europe, climate change’s importance in the legislative agenda is reinforced by that sort of consensus politics.

For example, the work done by the former leader of the Labour party, Edward Miliband, when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the latter part of the last decade, was broadly supported across the House, but if there had been a sudden lurch to a Government who perhaps did not believe in climate change, a lot of that work could have been undone under the British system. That is much harder to do under a proportional system, under which there has to be much more work through consensus between political parties. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to make that point about the sort of politics that many of us here would like to see.

I want to allow other hon. Members to speak, so I will be very quick. In my view, if we are to have a PR system that is effective, it has to maintain the constituency link. It also has to ensure that we deal with the issue of having a potential threshold, even under PR, for election, be it 5% of the electorate in a particular area or whatever. The best way of doing that, I believe, is by doing something broadly along the lines of what we have currently for the European elections—perhaps not on the basis of a large-scale region, but on a county basis or a city-regional basis. That would allow people in, for example, London, where boroughs identify together, to elect from those boroughs a proportional number of MPs from different parties, according to how those electors voted.

That strikes me, in comparison with our current political settlement, as a much fairer way of electing people. It certainly would have given a voice in 2010 and 2015 to the 25% of constituents in Suffolk who voted for the Labour party but did not have any MP to represent them. I hope that, going forward, it would also give rise to the more consensus-based politics on the big issues of the day, such as climate change, and other forms of policy making that all of us here, I hope, believe in.