[First Published on Friday 30th July 2010]
The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.
On 22nd July 2010 a bill was introduced in Parliament providing for a referendum on the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Commons and a reduction in the number of MPs, together with an equalisation of the sizes of constituencies. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill provides for an asymmetrical linkage between these two sets of proposals:
- Assuming the Bill is passed, the boundary changes take effect at the time of the next general election whatever the result of the referendum
- Even if there is a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, Alternative Voting will not be introduced unless the boundary changes have been made. Alternative Voting is explained in more detail here.
Is a referendum even necessary?
There is no constitutional precedent which suggests that a referendum is required to change the voting system for the House of Commons. In the first half of the 20th century there were two separate attempts (in 1917-18 and 1929-30) at legislation to introduce a form of AV. Both attempts ultimately failed, but neither the supporters nor the opponents of these measures believed that a referendum was required.