Mark had hoped to make a contribution to the Third Reading of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill but in the event was unable to speak. 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.
Had Mark spoken, he would have made the following points:
- It is depressing to reflect that we shall have to rely on the House of Lords to take up the cause of effective scrutiny of this highly unsatisfactory legislation.
- My objections are not to the AV element of this Bill. I accept the political realities of the coalition and this was part of the deal. I have a word of warning to my Conservative colleagues, however:- (i) the turnout is likely to be low so there is a risk of AV getting through on the basis of 1 in 5/1 in 6 of the electorate. (ii) it could be a Trojan Horse for the proportional system of STV without a further referendum.
- No, my concerns are with the part of the Bill that can all too easily be portrayed as being rammed through the House of Commons as to the partisan advantage of the coalition, not – as is right for any constitutional change – with proper historical perspective.
- I agree with equalisation of electorates and reject the Opposition’s special pleading especially in Wales where there is massive overrepresentation. But this must surely apply to all constituencies with no exceptions.
- Why not 650 MPs pending any full reform of the House of Lords?
- It is depressing that the House of Commons will become ever more a creature of the Executive while House of Lords reform will grind to a halt. While we reduce the number of elected representatives, we are increasing the unwieldy size of the Lords which will continue to exercise yet more patronage. (650 is apparently too big for the House of Commons but 776 and rising is fine for the House of Lords).
- The expenses scandal has not gone away. While there is the prospect of prison for some ex-Members, at the same time we seem to have House of Lords ‘exemptions’. This is an absolute mess.