MPs sound alarm bell over Voting System and Constituencies Bill

11 October 2010

A cross-party committee of MPs warns that the rushed timetable of one of the government’s flagship bills could risk restoring the public’s faith in Parliament while significantly limiting scrutiny of the bill’s impact

A report by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee says that for primarily political reasons, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill links two provisions which could have been considered separately.

Graham Allen MP, Committee Chair, said:

“It is highly regrettable that on issues which seek fundamentally to change the political establishment in the UK, issues which must be got right, the government appears in danger of falling into a pattern of speed-legislating.”

Referendum on the alternative vote

Of particular concern to the committee is that if either House substantially amends the rules for holding the referendum on the alternative vote, the government may have to reconsider the date of the vote or run the risk of serious administrative difficulties which could undermine the outcome.

The committee stresses that voters must understand what they are voting for and that recommendations by the Electoral Commission on the intelligibility of the referendum question should be implemented.

Boundary reforms

The committee raises further concerns about the bill. It says the government’s failure to attempt to reach cross-party consensus on its boundary reform proposals adds fuel to the fire for those claiming the bill is being brought forward for partisan motives and may embolden future governments to do the same.

The committee also questions why the public is not being offered a referendum on constituency boundary reform, which significantly affects how voters are represented in Parliament.

While the committee agrees that there may be a case for reducing the number of MPs, it says the Government has singularly failed to make it.

The impact of boundary reforms on local politics appears to have been given little or no consideration and the committee expresses concern about the potential impact of the current proposals on the ability of MPs to fulfil their responsibilities to their constituents.

Preserved constituencies

On electoral quota requirements, the committee suggests the House of Commons considers further exceptions to those already proposed where it is the wish of voters to be under-represented in Parliament in order to preserve strong local ties.

Further information

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