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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:49 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 5:49 pm, 23rd April 2019

I will not, given the time. I want to allow time for the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge who secured the debate to wind up.

In 2011, the United Kingdom conducted a referendum on whether the voting system to elect Members of Parliament should be changed from first past the post. The system on offer was the alternative vote system, which would allow electors to rank their candidates in order of preference, and if one candidate received more than half the votes, they would be elected. The point was made that it was very similar and would not affect seats where people already had more than 50% of the vote.

Electors voted overwhelmingly against changing the system. More than 13 million people—more than two-thirds of those who voted—voted in favour of retaining first past the post. It would be hard to justify ignoring the democratic verdict in the referendum, and equally hard to make a case for a further referendum on a more radical reform such as proportional representation, when that more modest AV proposal was defeated so resoundingly.

This has been an interesting debate and I thank hon. Members for their contributions. Hon. Members from all parties have talked about the importance of ensuring popular engagement, transparency and integrity in our electoral system. I take on board the comments of the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood. There is work to be done to ensure that people feel engaged in our democratic system—that they feel they have a stake and a voice in it.

I tentatively say to hon. Members present that one of the times when people felt they had a direct say in the future of their country was when they voted in the June 2016 referendum and every vote in every part of the United Kingdom counted for exactly the same. Many feel that the way to restore and introduce trust to our electoral system is to deliver the result of that referendum.

For now, the Government have no plans to change the voting system for elections to the House of Commons. Although the debate has been of interest, the Government will focus their time on other areas to build wider democratic engagement and the faith in our democratic system that we all wish to see.