European Parliamentary Elections Bill — 25 Nov 1997
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Government were elected in May with firm commitments to improve the democratic process in this country. As the House knows, our programme of constitutional reform is already well advanced. It gives me great pleasure to add another item to the list of manifesto commitments that are being fulfilled.
In the manifesto, we promised to introduce a proportional voting system for elections to the European Parliament; the Bill does just that. It will enable the 1999 and subsequent elections to the Parliament to be conducted using a proportionally based regional list system.
The Bill has had a long genesis. Twenty years ago yesterday, a Bill to provide direct elections to the European Parliament was introduced into the House following a White Paper in April 1977. The Bill initially provided for a regional list system, but in December 1977, the House voted by about 100 votes to reject that system and instead to put in its place one based on first past the post. It is that system which has remained in place ever since.
The first direct elections to the European Parliament took place in June 1979. Since then, for almost all of the past 20 years, the European Union has been attempting to ensure that elections to the European Parliament in each of the member states are based on common principles. The system that we are proposing in the Bill is in conformity with those principles.
A regional list system of elections to the European Parliament has been Labour party policy for a number of years. In 1993, Professor Raymond Plant, as he then was, who is now a distinguished Member of another place, produced a report for another place--I am sorry, for the Labour party--
Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire):
It is another place.
Is that supposed to be an improvement? Is that supposed to be what the Home Secretary started by telling us was a simpler system? The House does not believe a word of it.
Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--
The House divided: Ayes 355, Noes 150.
MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party are marked in red. Also shows which MPs were ministers at the time of this vote. You can also see every eligible MP including those who did not vote in this division.