HC Deb 14 June 1989 vol 154 cc890-1
2. Mr. Fearn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards a uniform electoral system for the European elections.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

There are no current proposals for a uniform electoral procedure for European parliamentary elections.

Mr. Fearn

Does the Minister agree that at the forthcoming European elections Britain will be seen as the odd man out in not having a fair voting system?

Mrs. Chalker

No, and the hon. Gentleman ought to know that the right of initiative for a uniform voting procedure lies with the European Parliament and not with individual member Governments or with the Council of Ministers.

Mr. William Powell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her answer is widely welcomed by Conservative Members and that nothing could be more absurd than trying to dive into a universal system of proportional representation throughout the European Community? Will my right hon. Friend look into the unsatisfactory system of having a separate election day in June so that in future British European elections can be held on the same day as local elections in May?

Mrs. Chalker

Counting of votes in this country for European elections cannot begin until the close of polls in other European countries. It would be inappropriate to have a gap from May to June, which is when the European elections are always likely to be held, before the votes cast in May can be counted.

Mr. Janner

Does the Minister not realise that it makes no difference which electoral procedure is in force tomorrow because Labour will sweep to victory and the population of this country, not least in the marginal seat of Leicestershire, will show the Thatcher Government just what it thinks of them, which is very little indeed?

Mrs. Chalker

I have always had faith in democracy, even when, occasionally, as in 1974, it elects a Government of the wrong colour. We must ensure that democracy prevails in many more countries.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Did my right hon. Friend regard it as even remotely fair when the small minority of Liberals in the German Government decided to abandon the Socialists and turn to the Christian Democrats and thus bring about a change of Government without reference to the German electorate?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend has explained what can happen in some countries as a result of the list system, which gives central control to the parties and allows a change of policy without further reference to the electorate. While it may be liked by some, a list system would not give the current leader of the British Labour group in Strasbourg the chance to be re-elected.