Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Edward Leigh Attacks Alternative Voting Reform as 'Extraordinarily Dangerous'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat (Sheffield Hallam), has defended the government's plans to hold a referendum on changing the Westminster voting system against claims that its proposed timing is 'extraordinarily dangerous'.

At question time on Tuesday, 27th July 2010, Mr. Clegg said holding the ballot on whether Members of Parliament should be elected by the alternative vote method on the same day as next May's elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, as well as local authorities in England, would boost turnout and save money.

Above: Edward Leigh MP quizzing
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
But Conservative, former minister, Edward Leigh MP, Conservative (Gainsborough), asked the deputy prime minister:
"Notwithstanding the fact that my new and best Right Hon. Friend would, I am sure, now deprecate the fact that if we had had the alternative vote in 1997 the Conservative party would have been reduced to a pathetic rump of 65 MPs, does he not think that precisely because AV is not proportional, it raises complicated questions? It is extraordinarily dangerous, therefore, to have the referendum on the same day as other elections, namely the Scottish elections. We need a proper debate on the issue."
Mr. Leigh is one of forty-four Conservatives backing a motion, tabled by Conservative backbencher Bernard Jenkin, which urges the coalition government to rethink its plans, warning that they contradict advice issued by the Electoral Commission.

But Mr. Clegg replied:
"About 84% of voters in England will be voting in any event next May. In Scotland and Wales everybody will be entitled to vote.

"About 39 million people will be anyway invited to vote next May and it seems to me, instead of asking people to constantly go back to polling booths to cast separate votes, it is perfectly right to say on a very simple issue, yes or no, to invite them to do so at, by the way, lower cost to the Exchequer - it saves around £17m - on the same day as other elections."
In response to criticism from Labour backbencher Jim McGovern about the failure of the government to consult the Scottish Parliament about the timing of the vote, Mr Clegg told MPs:
"I think it is disrespectful to the voters and people of Scotland to suggest that somehow they are incapable of making two decisions at once."

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