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Alternative Vote System

Volume 504: debated on Wednesday 20 January 2010

Q7. What recent discussions he has had on the use of the alternative vote system for general elections; and if he will make a statement. (311696)

I have given a commitment that a referendum will be held early in the next Parliament so that people can decide whether they want to move to the alternative vote system.

Although there is no such thing as a perfect electoral system, the alternative vote would mean that every Member of Parliament returned would have the support of at least 50 per cent. of the local electorate. Unlike any proportional representation system, it would also maintain, and indeed strengthen, the constituency link that is so vital for all Members of Parliament. Will the Prime Minister therefore consider whether he can trust Members of the House and, ultimately, members of the public to have a serious discussion on electoral systems and consider what system they should use to send people here?

Ultimately, this must be decided by members of the public in a referendum. The advantage of the alternative vote system is that it retains the constituency link, which I believe is important not just to Members of the House, but to the whole population. Given the issues that have arisen about trust in politics, there is a case to be made for every Member coming here to have the support of more than 50 per cent. of the electorate, as a result of the alternative vote system. I believe that there is a case for a referendum on this issue, and that those who wish for reform will wish for a referendum on that basis.