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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 5:17 pm, 23rd April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans.

I confess right away that I am not a recent convert to PR; there has been no damascene conversion for me. One of the reasons why I joined the Liberal Democrats when I did was that it seemed obvious to me that the current system has a fatal flaw. That was obvious to me from a young age, because my parents lived in a safe seat, but did not vote for the party that won every single time for as long as that party existed, until 2015. I learned at an early age that first past the post does not represent everybody.

I am not one of the Members in this House who has been elected by proportional representation, although there are many. My hon. Friend Jamie Stone was elected to the Scottish Parliament by proportional representation, as were many Government Members, yet this place remains the only national Parliament in the EU that uses first past the post. We often get caught up in talking about percentages, representation and types of PR, but if we look at first past the post, there is only one figure that really matters: 44% of the votes cast are meaningless. Those people are failed by a system that sets one party against another.

Living as I do in Scotland under a PR system at every level—except the Westminster level—I see the difference. I see the difference in a Scottish Parliament that has had, with one exception, minority Governments, and has been forced to find consensus and a way that suited the majority of the people represented in that Parliament. As was mentioned by my hon. Friend Jo Swinson, who is just leaving, we also have PR at council level in Scotland, and a direct link between the voters and their representatives.

Next time we find ourselves in deadlock in Parliament, where one side cannot win over the other—I am sure it will not be long in the current political climate—we should think how different it would be if we had a proportional representation system, in which we all had constituencies and constituents watching what we were doing, but also had a way of being forced to find consensus, and had more than two big power brokers that had everything at stake and no reason to listen to anybody else.