Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Sixth Report


Analysis of Response Forms Returned by Members of the House

Summary of responses

1. 419 Members (64%) returned their response forms before the deadline.

2. The options with the greatest number of first preferences were:
Current system53%
Fingerprint readers13%
Smart cards13%

3. The 'acceptability' ratings of the main options were:
Current system70%
Fingerprint readers49%
Smart cards45%

4. There was support for the idea of recording abstentions, but not for the other possible procedural changes.


5. The deadline for the return of response forms was Wednesday 20 May. In fact all forms received by 6.00 pm on Thursday 21 May were included in the analysis. 17 more forms arrived on Monday 1 June, too late for full analysis, but their first preferences have been incorporated into the figures given in paragraph 11 below.

6. The responses were collated by the Committee Assistant. Some were incomplete, but where the Member's intention was obvious (for example, when a Member expressed a preference for a particular option in response to Q2, but did not mark it 'acceptable' in response to Q3) we have completed them. Others were self-contradictory: for example, a Member might have expressed a preference for fingerprint readers in response to Q2, but 'strongly agreed' with the statement in Q4(e) expressing objection in principle to the use of fingerprint recognition in voting systems. Such responses have had to be taken at face value.

7. The responses to each question have been analysed both by 'cohort' according to date of first election to the House (the three cohorts are referred to throughout as (i), (ii) and (iii)), and also in total. The totals have also been expressed as percentages of the number of respondents. Not all the percentages add up to exactly 100% because of rounding.

8. The responses to Q4 have been weighted according to whether Members "strongly (dis)agreed" or "tended to (dis)agree". A positive score indicates agreement with the relevant statement; the higher the score, the greater the enthusiasm. A large number of "don't knows" or "don't cares" tends to pull a positive or negative score back towards zero.

9. The full results are annexed to this note.


10. 419 out of a possible 657 response forms (64% of the total) were returned. Just over 70% of newly elected Members responded, and nearly 60% of Members first elected before 1997.

11. Answers to Q2 ("Please indicate which one if any of the voting systems discussed in the consultative paper would be your preferred option") were as follows:

Including late responses:
Current system221(53%) 227(52%)
Smart cards54(13%) 55(13%)
Fingerprint readers55 (13%)57(13%)
Touch screens/smart cards10 ( 2%)11( 3%)
Touch screens/fingerprint readers19 ( 5%)20( 5%)
Infra-red handsets18 ( 4%)20( 5%)
Other/none of these/no preference expressed/spoiled 4(10%)46 (11%)

12. The retention of the current system received more first preferences than all the other options put together.

13. Answers to Q3 ("For each option, please indicate whether you would find it acceptable or unacceptable") were as follows:
Acceptable Unacceptable
Current system292(70%) 113(27%)
Smart cards187(45%) 209(50%)
Fingerprint readers205 (49%)194(46%)
Touch screens/smart cards127 (30%)262(62%)
Touch screens/fingerprint readers143 (34%)248(59%)
Infra-red handsets121 (29%)271(65%)

14. The current system was the only one rated 'acceptable' by more than half the responses. Fingerprint readers were rated 'acceptable' by almost half, but the answers to Q4(e) indicated that 38% of Members who responded objected to them in principle. All the other options were rated 'unacceptable' by at least half the responses.

15. Q4(a) ("Abstentions should be recorded") elicited a positive response, with 54% agreeing or strongly agreeing.

16. Responses to Q4(b), on the possible holding over of divisions, showed that opinion was evenly divided; but those who disagreed with the idea felt more strongly on the subject that those who agreed with it. 38% of responses indicated strong disagreement.

17. Responses to Q4(c) indicated strong opposition to the idea of reducing the period allowed before the locking of doors into the division lobbies. Members' comments indicated that many had not appreciated that the suggestion was put forward in the context of an electronic system which would make it possible to complete a division in less than 8 minutes; but since that system was convincingly rejected the point is immaterial.

18. Responses to Q4(d) indicated strong support for the retention of separate 'Aye' and 'No' lobbies.

19. Responses to Q4(e), on the principle of using fingerprint recognition, showed that opinion was divided; but 32% objected and a further 6% tended to object.


Q1.  Please indicate when you were first elected to the House.
(i)Before April 1992 179(out of 300)(60%)
(ii)April 1992-April 1997 66(out of 114)(58%)
(iii)May 1997 or later 174(out of 243)(72%)

419 (out of 657)(64%)

Q2.  Please indicate which one of any of the voting systems discussed in the consultative paper would be your preferred option.

Q3.  For each option, please indicate whether you would find it acceptable or unacceptable.

Q4.  Please indicate to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements.

Strongly agree
Tend to agree
Neither agree nor disagree
Tend to disagree
Strongly disagree
No opinion

(a) Abstentions should be recorded

Weighted score:
 + 0.29

(i)   40
(ii)   18
(iii)   69
127  (30%)

(ii)   34
(iii)   16
(iv)   52
102  (24%)

(ii)  12
(iii)   6
(iv)  13
31  (7%)

(ii)  27
(iii)  14
(iv)  16
57  (14%)

(ii)  56
(iii)  12
(iv)  21
89  (21%)

(ii)  10
(iii)   0
(iv)   3
13  (3%)

(b) Where possible, it would be better for divisions to be held over, so that all votes can be taken one after another at a convenient time, instead of holding divisions immediately at the end of each debate.

Weighted score:
 - 0.08

(i)   35
(ii)   19
(iii)   74
128  (31%)

(i)  21
(ii)  13
(iii)  37
71  (17%)

(i)   4
(ii)   1
(iii)   7
12  (3%)

(i)  20
(ii)   7
(iii)  15
42  (10%)

(i)   96
(ii)   25
(iii)   38
159  (38%)

(i)  3
(ii)  1
(iii)  3
7  (2%)

(c) In principle, I would support reducing the time between the calling of a division and the locking of the lobby doors below the minimum eight minutes currently laid down in the Standing Orders.

Weighted score:
 - 1.33

(i)   7
(ii)   5
(iii)   7
19  (5%)

(i)  14
(ii)   3
(iii)  12
29  (7%)

(i)   7
(ii)    1
(iii)   8
16  (4%)

(i)  17
(ii)  15
(iii)  29
61  (15%)

(i)  128
(ii)   41
(iii)  113
282  (67%)

(i)   6
(ii)   4
(iii)   5
12  (3%)

(d) I would object to any changes which involved abolishing separate lobbies for 'Ayes' and 'Noes'.

Weighted score:
 + 0.92

(i)  124
(ii)   43
(iii)   63
230  (55%)

(i)  16
(ii)   9
(iii)  38
63  (15%)

(i)   8
(ii)    3
(iii)  22
33  (8%)

(i)   9
(ii)    3
(iii)  18
30  (7%)

(i)  17
(ii)    8
(iii)  28
53  (13%)

(i)   5
(ii)    0
(iii)   5
10  (2%)

(e) I would object in principle to any voting system using fingerprint recognition.

Weighted score:
 - 0.07

(i)   79
(ii)    25
(iii)   30
134  (32%)

(i)  13
(ii)    3
(iii)  11
27  (6%)

(i)  16
(ii)   11
(iii)  19
46  (11%)

(i)  22
(ii)    8
(iii)  34
64  (15%)

(i)   46
(ii)    15
(iii)   70
131  (31%)

(i)   3
(ii)    4
(iii)  10
17  (4%)

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