HC Deb 21 May 1992 vol 208 cc487-8
7. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any plans to consider changing the voting system for elections in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hanley

There are currently no plans to do so.

Mr. Hughes

I guessed as much. In that case, would Northern Ireland Ministers like to make representations to their colleagues in the Home Office, as it might end a ridiculous anomaly if, for the next European elections, the rest of the United Kingdom had the same voting system as Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic?

Mr. Hanley

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that there are special circumstances in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend accept that, in the last election, the existing voting system managed, out of 17 elected Members of Parliament, to produce five different political groupings, which is what the Liberal Democrats want to see throughout the country in their support for proportional representation? Would it not be better to get the mainland parties working in Northern Ireland to get elected there, so that, rather than voting for just local parties, people can vote for national parties?

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend's knowledge of Northern Ireland is second almost to none.

Mr. Trimble

No doubt the Minister will recall the Prime Minister, not long ago, describing proportional representation as an undemocractic form of government. The Minister might like then to consider why his Government retain proportional representation in part of the United Kingdom for local assembly elections, when we have them, and for European elections. Will he inform the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that, of all forms of proportional representation, we with experience of it can assure him that the single transferable vote is the worst of the lot?

Mr. Hanley

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's question. He is living proof of the wisdom of the first-past-the-post system. I repeat what I said earlier. Northern Ireland has special circumstances, and therefore we shall deal with it specially.