Skip to main content

Local Government Elections

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


What consultations he has had with the First Minister on the date of the local government elections in Wales. [116423]

I have discussed with the First Minister my view that, although the date of local government elections is a matter for the National Assembly, it should be combined with the European elections a month later.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Would it not also make sense if, as well as having the Euro elections and the council elections on the same day, both elections took the form of an all-postal ballot? If European countries can have different systems for the European parliamentary elections, why cannot we in the United Kingdom opt to conduct ours via an all-postal ballot system, so as to increase the turnout and give greater to access to voters?

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The Government are considering this matter and trying to encourage more postal voting. Indeed, many more postal votes were cast in Wales—there were four times as many in my own borough—as there were in the last Assembly elections. That is an encouraging trend, but my hon. Friend raises a valid point.

A commission recently reported on electoral arrangements for local government in Wales and made recommendations about the introduction of voting at 16 and the use of a proportional system for voting. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with colleagues in the Assembly about introducing those recommendations?

I am horrified by the Secretary of State's first response. The local elections were moved by a full 12 months so that they would not be on the same day as the Welsh Assembly elections, and the turnout was a miserable 38 per cent. I know that the Secretary of State is not keen for the people of Wales to have a say in how they are governed, but will he please give an assurance that the local election date will not be moved by another month? Also, while we are at it, let us have a vote on the European Convention.

I shall come back to the question of Europe in a minute, if you will allow me to do so, Mr. Speaker. On the Welsh side of the hon. Gentleman's question, the turnout in the English local elections was only 30 per cent. The Government are planning to hold the European elections and the English local elections, including the Greater London elections, on the same day next June. There is a strong case for doing the same in Wales. On Europe, this Labour Government have held more referendums than any other Government. [Interruption.] The Conservatives have never held a referendum on anything. The treaty that will come out of the European Convention will be subject to exactly the same parliamentary procedures. [Interruption.]