Proportional Representation March 2017

Thank you for contacting me regarding the voting system for House of Commons elections. 

I agree that Parliament needs to be representative of communities across Britain and to reflect different views and concerns. I believe that we must start by making it easier for people to register to vote and to engage more regularly in politics and local decisions.

I appreciate that there are concerns about the current First Past the Post System (FPTP), which is used to elect MPs, and that this has been heightened by the results of the 2015 General Election. I understand that there have been a number of petitions on this matter and I am also aware that the Make Votes Matter campaign states that nearly half a million people have signed petitions calling for voting reform.

The Government has repeatedly stated its view that FPTP is the best system for elections to the House of Commons and has said that it has no plans to change the voting system for general elections.

There are, of course, strengths and weaknesses to all voting systems. FPTP does have a history of generally returning stable, single-party governments and of retaining the constituency link, both of which I think are important benefits to our electoral system.

I appreciate, however, that there is a case to look in detail at our electoral system and that forms of proportional representation are already used in the devolved administrations across the UK, as well as in local authority elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, which I used to chair, looked into electoral reform. We called for the Government to research the different possible systems and consult the public on any proposed change to the electoral system. I hope that the Government follows through with this recommendation.

While the 2011 referendum on the introduction of the Alternative Vote was defeated by a margin of more than two to one, I do not think electoral reform should not be off the agenda if there is a public support for it. More widely, I believe it is vital that our politics connects and engages with the public and I am open to proposals that can help achieve this.

I note that Early Day Motion 591 calls on the Government to introduce a system of proportional representation for elections to the House of Commons.

As you may be aware, the Leader of the Opposition has announced that electoral reform will be considered as part of a Constitutional Convention conducted by the Opposition. 

More widely, I believe it is vital that our politics connects and engages with the public and I am open to proposals that can help achieve this. For example, I support lowering the voting age to 16 as I believe this will help energise and engage young people and ensure their voices are heard. I think that extending the franchise should be accompanied by improved citizenship education and wider youth engagement.

The Representation of People (Proportional Representation) Bill was presented to Parliament as a Ten Minute Rule Bill in 2015. The Bill sought to amend the Representation of the People Acts to provide for the introduction of proportional representation as a method for election a certain number of MPs. I was one of the 27 MPs who voted in support of this Bill, however, the motion to bring the bill was defeated by 164 votes in December 2015.

Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views.