‘Alternative Vote’ Bill passed into law

17 February 2011

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – the ‘Alternative Vote’ Bill – received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on Wednesday 16 February

The House of Lords voted against an amendment insisting on a voter turnout threshold of 40% for the result of the referendum on the voting system to be binding. The amendment had returned from the House of Commons where it was overturned earlier in the evening.

Members of the Lords defeated amendment A1 to Motion A – moved by Lord Rooker, which sought to make the result of the referendum non-binding if less than 40% of the electorate voted – by 221 votes to 153.

Earlier in the day, the House of Lords had insisted on the amendment voting to agree to it by 277 votes to 215 – a defeat for the Government by 62 votes. The Bill was returned with this amendment to the House of Commons for it to consider the Lords amendment for a second time. The amendment was defeated in the House of Commons by 310 votes to 231.

The House of Lords considered two other motions in relation to Commons disagreement and reasons during its earlier debate.

Members of the Lords voted – by a majority of one – against Motion B1, moved by Lord Pannick, to insist on allowing greater discretion on variation between the size of constituencies. This means that the issue of how much variation is allowed in the size of constituencies has now been settled at plus or minus 5%.

Motion C was agreed to without a vote. The motion contained Commons amendments in lieu of a proposal, agreed during report stage in the House of Lords, that all parts of the Isle of Wight must be included in a whole constituency. The Commons amendments make clear that there will be two constituencies for the Isle of Wight.

The Bill returned to the House of Lords with further amendments and reasons for those amendments from the House of Commons, which debated the Lords amendments on Tuesday 15 February.

Further information

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act allows for a referendum on changing to an ‘alternative vote’ system for general elections to be held on 5 May 2011 and the redrawing constituency boundaries to reduce the size of the House of Commons from 650 seats to 600.

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill was returned to the Commons following its third reading in the House of Lord on Monday 14 February.

Both Houses must agree on the exact wording of the Bill for it to receive Royal Assent and become law. A Bill may go back and forth between each House – known as ‘Ping Pong’ – until agreement is reached. 

When a Bill has completed all its parliamentary stages in both Houses, it must have Royal Assent before it can become an Act of Parliament (law).

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