Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

10 February 2011

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill completed its report stage in the House of Lords on Wednesday 9 February. Members of the Lords voted in favour of an amendment that allows for a bigger variation in the number of voters in parliamentary constituencies in exceptional circumstances.

Lord Pannick introduced Amendment 22D, which increases the variation in the number of voters in each constituency to 7.5% instead of the 5% proposed in the Bill. Lord Pannick described his proposal as a ‘compromise amendment’ that recognised the need for consensus on an ‘important and sensitive’ area.

The amendment was agreed to by 275 votes to 257 – the fourth defeat for the Government in the House of Lords during debate on this Bill.

Members of the Lords voted on four other amendments on the third day of report stage.

Amendment 25, moved by Lord Teverson, proposed that all parts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly should included in whole constituencies. The amendment was defeated by 250 votes to 221.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton introduced amendment 25ZB which proposed that the number of constituencies allocated in any part of the UK should not reduce the current number of seats by more than 10%. The amendment was defeated by 247 votes to 191.

Lord Falconer also moved amendment 27F, which sought to decrease the number of government ministers in proportion to the reduction in the size of the House of Commons. The amendment was defeated by 161 votes to 222.

Amendment 30A, moved by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, proposed that Clause 11 – on the number and distribution of parliamentary seats – should not come into effect until legislation limiting the size of the House of Lords has been introduced. The amendment was defeated by 136 votes to 195.

Amendments, 27D, 28A, 34B and 34C, 34D to 34AS, 34T, 34AU and 34AV, 34AW and 34AX, 36 and 37, 38, and 39 were agreed to without votes.

Third reading – a final chance to amend the Bill – is scheduled for Monday 14 February.

Report stage: day two

An opposition amendment to alter Government proposals for public consultation on the redrawing of parliamentary constituency boundaries was defeated by four votes in the House of Lords during the second day of the report stage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – the ‘Alternative Vote’ Bill – on 8 February.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton introduced amendment 27GA. This amendment sought to revise amendment 27G, moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness.
 
Lord Wallace’s amendment proposed a system of ‘public hearings’ lasting no longer than five weeks to replace the existing public inquiries on proposals for changes to constituency boundaries.

Lord Falconer’s counter-proposal, in amendment 27GA, was intended to provide a ‘streamlined’ and ‘non-formal’ process of public inquiry which could last for up to four months.

Amendment 27GA was defeated by 266 votes to 262. Government amendment 27G was agreed without a vote.

The division was one of four votes during day two of the report stage.

Amendment 16HA, introduced by Lord Wills which sought to introduce a Committee of Inquiry on Parliamentary Constituencies, was defeated by 287 votes to 201.

Amendment 16J, moved by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, sought to change the Bill so that the date of the next boundary review would be set by the Boundary Commission, rather than the Government, and ensure that local authorities had taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to provide a complete and accurate electoral register. The amendment was defeated by 266 votes to 192.

Amendment 18F, also moved by Lord Falconer, sought to fix the size of the House of Commons at its current number of 650 seats, rather than the proposed reduction in the Bill to 600 seats. The amendment was defeated by 252 votes to 171. 

Report stage: day one

The House of Lords agreed to an amendment to make the result of the planned referendum on an 'alternative vote' system for general elections non-binding if less than 40% of voters turn out during the first day of the report stage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill on Monday 7 February.

Lord Rooker introduced the amendment – the first proposed during the report stage of the Bill – 1A to Clause 1: Referendum on the alternative vote system: “( ) If less than 40% of the electorate vote in the referendum, the result shall not be binding.”

Lord Rooker explained that the amendment would not prevent the proposed change in the Bill to an ‘alternative vote’ system for general elections, but would ‘make the referendum effectively consultative’ if there was a turnout of less than 40% of the electorate. ‘If it is indicated by the people of this country that they are not actually four-square behind it, the amendment allows us, in certain circumstance, to have an assessment and to rethink the way forward,’ he said.

The amendment was agreed to by 219 votes to 218 – a defeat for the Government.

Members of the Lords agreed without voting to amendment 2A to Clause 1:  “(2A) The referendum is to be held on 5 May 2011 unless before then an order is made under subsection (2B)” and amendment 7B, also moved by Lord Rooker.

Members of the Lords voted on amendment 5 to Clause 4 : Combination of polls, introduced by Lord Knight of Weymouth. Explaining the amendment Lord Knight said there were specific problems with combining voting on a referendum with voting for elections. The amendment was defeated by 232 votes to 154. 

Further information

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill makes provision for a referendum on 5 May 2011 on changing to an ‘alternative vote’ system for general elections and redrawing constituency boundaries to reduce the size of the House of Commons.

Report stage provides further opportunity to consider all amendments – proposals for change – to a Bill.

Image: Press Association

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