Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

During a debate on the allocation of Parliamentary time to debate the Bill, Charles asks why the Bill needs to be rushed through the House and, in particular, why the referendum needs to be held next year?

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): The Minister is being very generous, but bearing in mind that there will not be a general election until 2015, surely there is not that much of a rush to get this measure through the House.

Mr Harper: My hon. Friend is right that the coalition Government are strong and that there will not be an election until 7 May 2015, as set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill. The Deputy Prime Minister has made it clear, however, that we want the referendum to take place next year in order to make progress, and we also need to kick off the boundary review, ensuring that it reports in good time before the next election. That will allow parties across the House to select their candidates. We have secured a balance between moving at a reasonable pace, while also allowing adequate time for proper parliamentary debate. I think that we have done so.

Mr Walker: But why must we have the referendum in May next year?

Mr Harper: We made a commitment in the coalition agreement to have the referendum, and the Government believe that we should arrange to have it at an early opportunity, putting the question to the electors so that they can decide what voting system they want to use in the next election. That is the decision that the Government have made, and that is the view with which I will ask the Committee to agree later today. The House has already agreed with it in principle.

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