Parliamentary Voting System
and Constituencies Bill
1. This Bill had its Second Reading on 15 and
16 November. Part 1 makes provision for a referendum on whether
to change the voting system for UK parliamentary elections, including
provision ("the alternative vote provisions") to amend
existing electoral legislation in the event of a majority of "yes"
votes in the referendum. Part 2 provides for the number of UK
parliamentary constituencies to be reduced to 600, and for the
Boundary Commissions' future recommendations as to constituency
boundaries. Despite its size, the Bill contains few delegations
of legislative power. The Cabinet Office have prepared a memorandum
and a supplementary memorandum explaining the delegated powers.
The supplementary memorandum is printed in Appendix 2.
Commencement/Repeal Order Clause 8
2. If the referendum produces a "yes"
outcome, the Minister must make an order under subsection (1)
of clause 8 bringing the alternative vote provisions into force
on the day determined under subsection (3); in the event of a
"no" outcome, he must make an order under subsection
(2) repealing those provisions. The orders are not subject to
any parliamentary procedure. Subsections (1) to (3) afford the
Minister no choice about making an order, or about what it must
contain. But subsection (4) enables the commencement order under
subsection (1) to include transitional and saving provision. That
in itself is not unusual; but, for an important constitutional
measure of this kind, there is a judgement to be made about whether
the additional delegation in subsection (4) is appropriate without
any parliamentary control.
3. Paragraph 5 of the supplementary memorandum
from the Cabinet Office explains that the government may wish,
when bringing the alternative vote provisions into force for a
proposed general election in 2015, to retain the existing voting
arrangements for, say, any by-election that takes place between
the commencement of the new provisions and that general election.
But the power could be exercised to retain the present arrangements
for other purposes too. In this particular case, therefore, the
power to include transitional and saving provision may determine
which form of voting system is to apply in the case of a particular
parliamentary election. That is a significant power, which ought
to be subject to Parliamentary control. The Committee therefore
recommends that an order under subsection (1) which includes transitional
or saving provision made under subsection (4) should be subject
to the negative procedure.
1 Both the original memorandum and the supplementary
memorandum are available on the Committee's web pages: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/delegated-powers-and-regulatory-reform-committee/bills-considered/ Back