Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill - Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee Contents

Seventh Report

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[1].

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: Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010