Skip to main content

Electoral System (Referendum)

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2011

4. What assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the adequacy of the time available for provision of information to the public on the forthcoming referendum on the alternative vote system for elections to the House of Commons. (42464)

The Electoral Commission believes that there is sufficient time for it to provide factual information to the public on the alternative vote and first-past-the-post voting systems and for campaigners to put across their arguments effectively. The commission has been preparing for the referendum since the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill was introduced in Parliament last summer.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. However, in response to an earlier question he indicated that the Electoral Commission will not even designate the yes and no campaigns until the end of March, or thereabouts, leaving only April and five days in May for the campaigns. Is that really long enough?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. The designation of the yes and no campaigns will happen as soon as possible after 15 March—anyone can bid to become part of those campaigns before then—and in any event by 29 March. The Electoral Commission is confident that the campaign period is adequate for the purpose.

Will the hon. Gentleman condemn the outlandish and wholly fictitious claims being made by the no campaign about the costs of introducing the alternative vote if there is a yes vote? These include claims about voting machines, which the Electoral Commission has confirmed would not be necessary, about the cost of the referendum itself, which will be the same whichever campaign wins, and about the cost of an education campaign, which the commission has made quite clear would not be necessary. Will he deprecate those false claims?

I am delighted to say that it is not the role of the Electoral Commission to act as a referee between the yes and no campaigns. It is up to those campaigns to make their political arguments and rebut those with which they do not agree.