HC Deb 07 July 1994 vol 246 cc439-40
7. Mrs. Anne Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to seek to change the electoral system for the election of UK Members to the European Parliament.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

We have no current plans to do so.

Mrs. Campbell

Does the Minister realise that if the United Kingdom had already adopted a more proportional system of electoral representation, the number of seats gained by the Conservatives in the recent UK elections would have risen from an utterly abysmal 18 to a merely awful 23? How many devastating election results will the Conservatives have to suffer before the Minister changes his mind?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Lady can probably see merit in the prison system— [Interruption.] I am still on the last question. The hon. Lady can probably see some merit in the present system as it looks as though it may have temporarily benefited her party. In the longer run, we should look at the basic merits of the system. Our single Member constituency, with its direct relationship with the electorate, is one on which we set great value. Our representation in the European Parliament consists of those candidates who received the highest number of votes in their constituencies. I do not complain about that, but I am certain that next time many more Conservative candidates will get a higher vote.

Mr. Garnier

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the only change that we need in the European parliamentary election system is to require Opposition parties to talk about European issues at European elections?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, or talk about the real issues at any election.

Mr. Rooker

Does the Minister appreciate that, with the ever-closer union in Europe and the extra powers that have been given to the European Parliament—democratically elected though its Members are—more and more people will begin to question the disparity in numbers between Members from various countries in that Parliament. Luxembourg, whose population is less than half that of Birmingham, has six representatives. In addition, the different electoral systems throughout Europe, as well as within the United Kingdom, distort the European Parliament.

Mr. Lloyd

All countries have universal suffrage and all countries have slightly different ways of electing their European Members. Common rules need to be justified by common benefits. It is not obvious that any country would benefit from harmonising the electoral systems.