Members of the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment that will allow flexibility on the date of the referendum to change the voting system at the next General Election, during the second day of committee stage of the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill on Monday 6 December.
Lord Rooker introduced the amendment which allows the referendum to be held on any date before 31 October 2011. Lord Rooker explained that the amendment would mean that government could still fulfill their intention of having the referendum on 5 May 2011, but that it is a ‘contingency and a lifeboat’ if this was not possible.
The Deputy Speaker, Lords Geddes, explained to the House that if Lord Rooker’s amendment was agreed to amendments 7 to 12, which were also proposals concerning the date of the referendum, could not be considered.
The amendment was agreed to – a defeat for the government by 199 votes to 195.
Members of the Lords also voted against an amendment, introduced by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, which would have prevented the referendum from taking place on the same day as local government, Welsh Assembly or Scottish Parliament elections. This amendment was defeated – 210 votes to 166.
Discussion included the:
- difficulty of achieving Royal Assent for the Bill in time to make arrangements for the referendum by 5 May 2011
- public’s understanding of the Alternative Vote system and whether there was a need for an information campaign
- possibility of confusing the public by holding the referendum on the same day as local elections
- proportional vote system.
Proposals for amendments to a Bill are published in a marshalled list of amendments one day before the Bill stage takes place.
Committee stage of the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill continues Wednesday 8 December when further amendments will be discussed.
The Bill provides for the next General Election to be held under the Alternative Vote system, provided this change is endorsed in a referendum on 5 May 2011 and boundary changes have been made to reduce the size of the House of Commons to 600.
Committee stage involves the detailed line-by-line examination of the separate parts - clauses and schedules - of the Bill. Any Member of the Lords can take part.
Committee stage can last for one or two days to eight or more. It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.