The Committee have looked in detail at the Bill as part of their role to examine the constitutional implications of all Bills coming before the House of Lords. They consider both major sections of the Bill:
- To hold a referendum on moving from First-past–the-post to an alternative vote system for general elections;
- To equalise the size of Parliamentary constituencies and reduce the number of MPs.
In both areas the Committee express concerns.
On the AV referendum the Committee stress that is ‘regrettable’ that the Government failed to consult with the devolved institutions on combining the referendum with elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.
They also criticise the rushed nature of the legislative process employed and say that as the Bill to hold the referendum was only introduced 6 months before the proposed referendum date there is a danger that the deadlines set out by the Electoral Commission to organise the referendum and register campaign organisation may not be met.
On the equalisation of the size of Parliamentary constituencies the Committee state that the Government should have considered the role and functions of MPs before deciding on an appropriate size for the House of Commons.
They also say that the Government have not made a proper assessment of the impact of a reduction of the size of the House of Commons on the relationship between the Government and Parliament. The Committee suggest that pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation on the proposals to equalise constituency size would have allowed a better assessment of whether the new rules on equalisation are overly rigid.
The report is to have its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday 15 November.
Commenting, Lord Norton, Member of the Lords Constitution Committee, said:
“We are very concerned with the way this Bill was introduced into Parliament so quickly.
With regard to the AV referendum aspect of the Bill it is regrettable that the devolved assemblies were not given an opportunity to give their views on the timing and its clash with elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.
We also think the Government needs to think more carefully about proposals to equalise the size of Parliamentary constituencies.
Before introducing those proposals there should have been serious consideration given to the role of functions of MPs, and the impact on the relationship between the Government and Parliament if the number of MPs is reduced, therefore lowering the percentage of MPs not on the Government ‘pay roll’.
This could have been avoided had there been a proper process of consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny prior to the Bill being brought forward.”
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