Headlines: October 30th, 1998

The Government says it wants to launch a major national debate, following the receipt of Lord Jenkins’ report into Britain’s voting system.Responding to the report, Home Secretary Jack Straw said: “The Government wants to study the report in detail. It is also keen to encourage a wide debate in Parliament, in political parties and across the country as a whole.

“No decisions have been taken as to the timing of a referendum on this issue. The Commission’s report makes clear that the system recommended could not be introduced until the election after next. There are a number of practical measures that need to be taken into account.”

The change proposed entails the majority of constituency MPs being elected as now, plus further MPs being chosen from party lists to reflect the overall level of support for particular parties from voters.

To be implemented there would need to be a change in the law. It would also be necessary to re-draw constituency boundaries to make them bigger, if numbers of MPs are to be kept down to current levels.

In its report, the Commission accepts that “we cannot realistically expect our recommendations to be in operation at a general election in much less than eight years.”

The Government says it will also want to weigh Lord Jenkins’ proposals against the recent report on the Funding of Political Parties by the Committee on Standards on Public Life and the current reform of the House of Lords.