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House of Lords Reform (Referendum)

Volume 543: debated on Thursday 26 April 2012

4. Whether the Electoral Commission has had any discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister on a referendum on the Government's proposed reform of the House of Lords. (105435)

The Electoral Commission has had no such discussions. If there should be a referendum on House of Lords reform, the commission’s priorities are that any referendum should be well run in every part of the UK, and that the questions put to the voters should be intelligible and unbiased.

Given the effective and efficient way in which the Electoral Commission oversaw the referendum on the alternative vote system last year, does he agree that the commission is indeed well equipped to handle a referendum on the House of Lords or, indeed, any other matter of momentous constitutional change?

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is, of course, a matter for this Parliament whether or not there will be a referendum on House of Lords reform. When it comes to it, the Electoral Commission will do all it can to ensure that the success of the alternative vote referendum last year is replicated. I am not necessarily talking about the outcome of the referendum—although I am really—but about it being well run and about the question put to voters being clear and unbiased.

In possible discussions between the Electoral Commission and the Deputy Prime Minister, will the point come up that any election to the House of Lords will rebalance the powers between this House and that House—a constitutional matter that I submit should become automatically liable to a referendum for popular approval?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, but I am afraid that it is not a matter for the Electoral Commission.