HC Deb 10 November 2003 vol 413 cc17-8
22. Mr. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland)

What discussions the commission has had with the Scottish Executive in connection with the single transferable vote and local government elections. [137044]

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking)

My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) is abroad on parliamentary business, and I have been asked to reply. The commission has responded to a Scottish Executive consultation exercise on the matter, stating that local government elections in Scotland do not fall within the remit that it has been given by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and that as a matter of policy it does not offer views on the merits or otherwise of particular voting systems. Accordingly, the commission offered no substantive views on the use of STV—the single transferable vote—in Scottish local elections.

John Robertson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, following the introduction of the single transferable vote in the Scottish local government elections, we will have four different kinds of electoral system within Scottish boundaries? As Scottish parliamentary elections and local government elections are taking place on the same day, would the Committee consider looking at the possibility of both using the same system, namely STV?

Mr. Malins

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but in response to the suggestion that the voting system for the Scottish Parliament should be changed, the commission has said that as a matter of policy it does not express a view on the merits or otherwise of particular voting systems. However, he has made a fair point about the electorate's ability to understand what is going on, and the confusion that may arise if many different systems are operating. The commission's research reports, which were published last year, considered public attitudes to voting systems in the 1999 elections, and showed that understanding of the system was a factor that affected the decision about whether or not to vote in a small percentage of cases. The commission's statutory reports on the 2003 elections in Scotland and Wales will certainly draw on the results of research on public opinion to measure the electorate's comprehension of different voting systems.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there were STV for local authority elections in Scotland there would be an end to those undemocratic, monolithic Labour councils, such as the one in Glasgow, which received a minority of the vote but is controlled with a massive majority?

Mr. Malins

I can do no more than repeat that the commission has said that it does not express a view on the merits or otherwise of particular voting systems, but the hon. Gentleman has made his point in his usual forceful way.

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