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Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill returns to the Commons

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

So the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (always fun to type that, so I shall all it PVSC) returns to the Commons today.

MPs will debate the amendments made in the House of Lords. These include a 40% turnout threshold so that if less than 4 in 10 people vote, the result will not be binding.

In the second part of PVSC, which relates to the redrawing of constituency boundaries, the Lords want to change the margins that constituency size can vary by. The Government wanted this to be 5% either way—so that the Boundary Commission can create constituencies within 95% and 105% of the electoral quota. The Lords want to increase this to 15% (7.5% either way).

The Amendments to be put forward today—click here for a full list—indicate that the Government will oppose both of these.

Interestingly, the amendment paper shows that there will be a Government move to introduce two constituencies “in the Isle of Wight”. Original proposals had two constituencies for the Isle of Wight, but with one split between the island and the mainland. This was—rightly in my view—met with some opposition and the Lords wanted to maintain the current arrangements of having one, exceedingly large, constituency.

I suspect that this amendment will have support one side of the house. It will, in effect, create two Tory constituencies. Chris Bryant summed up the general feeling:

The Govt amendment on the isle of wight is pure gerrymandering, creating 2 small Tory seats. If geography matters there, why not everywhere?

In general, expect dissent from both backbenches.

Labour will oppose the plans to reduce the number of MPs and there are bound to be arguments about whether it is right to draw constituencies based on the number of registered voters. This is a crucial point as the numbers can change and MPs are not just the representatives of those people who are registered to vote.

Both sides are also likely to be displeased with the programme motion that will take place before the debate. This will limit discussion of the Lords Amendments to just four hours.

But with the Government needing to get the PVSC passed before the close of play tomorrow, time is at a premium.

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Parliamentary Voting System and Constituency Bill latest

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituency Bill will return to the Commons on Tuesday as MPs debate the amendments made in the Lords.

The Bill has to become legislation by next Wednesday if the AV referendum is to take place on the 5th May as planned.

The key amendment is the introduction of a 40% turnout threshold, meaning that 1 in 10 of eligible voters must take part for the result to stand. Tory MP Bill Cash tabled a similar motion when the Bill was last in the Commons, but it was soundly beaten 549 votes to 31.

The problem with this threshold is that you could argue it should apply to all elections—why just apply it to an AV referendum?

Tory backbenchers could jump on a separate amendment—relating to the size of constituencies—in order to delay the Bill. The Bill originally wanted the number of votes in each constituency to be within 5% of a number around 76,000. The Lords have increased this to 7.5%.

With Conservatives and Labour opposing different parts of the Bill, there may be some entertaining “ping-pong” action to ensure that Wednesday’s deadline is met.

—update 11/2/11 There should be a written statement from Nick C laying out the Government’s response to the Lords amendments, so keep your eyes peeled!

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To AV or not to AV?

February 9, 2011 2 comments

Ever since the possible referendum on changing from First Past the Post (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV), I’m been trying to work out what I’m going to do.

I’ll either vote in favour of AV, or not vote at all. I despise FPTP-but I don’t see that AV is a marked improvement.

I would prefer the Single Transferrable Vote, but thanks to the Coalition agreement, that’s not an option.

I’m leaning towards supporting the AV campaign. Not for any principled reason but more out of party loyalty. I’m starting to wonder just how damaging to the party and to the coalition if the referendum is lost.

Or, thanks to new amendments from the Lords, if AV wins the day, but the 40% turnout threshold isn’t met.

Hmm…

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