|Act of Parliament|
|Long title||An Act to make provision for a referendum on the voting system for parliamentary elections and to provide for parliamentary elections to be held under the alternative vote system if a majority of those voting in the referendum are in favour of that; to make provision about the number and size of parliamentary constituencies; and for connected purposes.|
|Introduced by||Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ( )|
Lord McNally, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords ( )
|Relates to||Representation of the People Act 1983, Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000|
|History of passage through Parliament|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Text of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk.|
The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 (c. 1) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made provision for the holding of a referendum on whether to introduce the Alternative Vote system in all future general elections to the UK Parliament and also made provision on the number and size of parliamentary constituencies. The Bill for the Act was introduced to the House of Commons on 22 July 2010 and passed third reading on 2 November by 321 votes to 264. The House of Lords passed the Bill, with amendments, on 14 February 2011, and after some compromises between the two Houses on amendments, it received Royal Assent on 16 February.
The Act brought together two different constitutional aims of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition:
Part 1 of the Act comprises sections 1 to 9. Section 1 sets out the question to be put to voters, in English and Welsh. Section 4 sets out provisions associated with the date of the Referendum, whereby the date for the poll and one or more 2011 United Kingdom local elections, 2011 Scottish Parliament election, 2011 National Assembly for Wales election or Northern Ireland Assembly election, 2011 will be taken on the same day. Section 9 set out amendments to the Representation of the People Act 1983 if the vote was "Yes".
The act legislated for a referendum to be held in the United Kingdom on whether to introduce the alternative vote electoral method of electing Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in all future UK general elections on Thursday 5 May 2011. The referendum would be conducted by the Electoral Commission and overseen by an appointed Chief Counting Officer (CCO) and a Deputy Chief Counting Officer (DCCO) who would declare the final result for the United Kingdom. The Electoral Commission is the public body under the terms of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 that was given the task to raise public awareness ahead of polling day, and to oversee the conduct of the referendum.
The question that appeared on ballot papers in the referendum before the electorate under the act was (in English):
At present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the "alternative vote" system be used instead?
Ar hyn o bryd, mae'r DU yn defnyddio'r system "y cyntaf i'r felin" i ethol ASau i D?'r Cyffredin. A ddylid defnyddio'r system "pleidlais amgen" yn lle hynny?
permitting a simple YES / NO answer (to be marked with a single (X)).
The original proposed question in English was:
Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the "alternative vote" system instead of the current "first past the post" system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?
Ydych chi am i'r Deyrnas Unedig fabwysiadu'r system "bleidlais amgen" yn lle'r system "first past the post" presennol ar gyfer ethol Aelodau Seneddol i D?'r Cyffredin?
permitting a simple YES / NO answer (to be marked with a single (X)).
This wording was criticised by the Electoral Commission, saying that "particularly those with lower levels of education or literacy, found the question hard work and did not understand it". The Electoral Commission recommended a changed wording to make the issue easier to understand, and the government subsequently amended the Bill to bring it into line with the Electoral Commission's recommendations.
Under the provisions of the Act, the designation of a "voting area" (also known by some as "Counting areas") on the day of the referendum was to be overseen by "Counting officers" (CO) who were to declare the results of their local areas within the United Kingdom and Gibraltar is as follows:
The act also provides provision for the results from the "voting areas" to fed into twelve "regional counts" to be overseen by "Regional counting officers" (RCO) which were appointed in the following areas and declared the results for their areas as used under the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 but with the exception of Gibraltar which did not participate in the referendum:
The regions each declared their results once all local voting areas had declared their local results late on Friday 7 May 2011. There was no provision under the Act for any national or regional recounts by the Chief Counting Officer and Regional Counting Officers.
The right to vote in the referendum applied to UK residents who are British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens, in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and the Representation of the People Act 2000. Members of the House of Lords were able to vote in the referendum. Citizens of other EU countries resident in the UK were not allowed to vote unless they were citizens of the Republic of Ireland, Malta or Cyprus. The same Acts permitted UK nationals who had lived overseas for less than 15 years to vote. Voting on the day of the referendum was from 0700 to 2200 BST (Western European Summer Time). Also under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 2000 postal ballots were also permitted in the referendum and were sent out to eligible voters some three weeks ahead of the vote. The minimum age for voters in the referendum was 18 years, in accordance with Representation Acts (above). A House of Lords amendment proposing to only make the result of the referendum valid if the national turnout was higher than 40% was defeated in the House of Commons.
The result was declared by Chief counting officer (CCO) and the then chair of the Electoral Commission Jenny Watson on Saturday 7 May 2011 after all 440 voting areas and the 12 regions of the United Kingdom had declared their results on a national turnout of 42%. The decision by the electorate in all four countries was a decisive "No" to adopting the alternative vote system in all future United Kingdom general elections.
|Invalid or blank votes||113,292||0.59|
|Registered voters and turnout||45,684,501||42.20|
|Source: Electoral Commission|
Results by counting regions
|Votes||Proportion of votes|
|East of England||4,263,006||43.1%||530,140||1,298,004||29.00%||71.00%|
|North East England||1,968,137||38.8%||212,951||546,138||28.05%||71.95%|
|North West England||5,239,323||39.1%||613,249||1,416,201||30.22%||69.78%|
|South East England||6,288,366||43.1%||823,793||1,951,793||29.68%||70.32%|
|South West England||4,028,829||44.6%||564,541||1,225,305||31.54%||68.46%|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||3,835,075||39.9%||474,532||1,042,178||28.52%||68.71%|
Results by constituent countries
|Votes||Proportion of votes|
The alternative vote system provisions within the Act were repealed following the decisive "No" vote in the referendum on 8 July 2011 via a Statutory Instrument.
Part 2, comprising sections 10 to 13, amends the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 including replacing Schedule 2 to introduce changes to the boundaries and number of UK constituencies, and the processes for their review. The changes for constituencies include:
The bill instructed the boundary commissions to undertake the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies before 2014, which would have involved a significant redistribution of seats between the four parts of the UK and the near-equalisation of constituency sizes by registered electorate. In accordance with this, the Boundary Commissions began a full revision of constituency boundaries with an instruction to reduce the number of constituencies to 600 and to recommend constituencies which are no more than 5% above or below the standard size. However, in August 2012, Liberal Democrats party leader Nick Clegg announced that his party would oppose the implementation of the new constituency boundaries as a reaction to the failure of the government to enact House of Lords reform. In January 2013, the Government lost a vote on this timetable, which effectively ended the entire process. The boundary commissions were required to produce their reports by 1 October 2013 but they announced the cancellation of the reviews on 31 January 2013.
The Act does not alter the structure and independence of the various boundary commissions that are responsible for carrying out reviews of constituencies.
As per section 19, the majority of the provisions of the Act came into force upon Royal Assent. However, under section 8, the alternative vote provisions could have come into force only if more votes were cast in the referendum in favour of the answer "Yes" than in favour of the answer "No"; and the Order in Council giving effect to the new boundaries had been made. In any case, the referendum was resoundingly defeated, and so the alternative vote provisions were repealed on 8 July 2011.
The initial timeline for consideration of the Bill was set out at the beginning of the process.
The Bill passed through the House of Commons on schedule. The committee stage in the House of Lords began on 30 November 2010, and on the second day of Committee stage debate the Government were defeated when an amendment moved by Lord Rooker allowing the date of the AV referendum to be varied from 4 May 2011 was carried by 199 to 195.
Labour Parliamentarians opposed the sections of the Bill relating to constituencies, asserting that it amounted to a 'gerrymander', and urged the Government to divide the Bill into two so that the section relating to the referendum on voting systems could be passed swiftly. The Prime Minister dismissed requests that the two elements of the Bill should be split.
By the middle of January, with the Bill having had eight days of consideration in Committee in the House of Lords, the Government voiced concern about the length of time being taken for a Bill which needed to be enacted by 16 February in order to allow the planned referendum to take place in May. Three of the Lords' four sitting days in the following week were set aside for the Bill and the Prime Minister's spokesman commented that some could be long days, with the House possibly sitting all night. The Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, complained that "the Labour peers are on a go-slow" and filibustering the Bill. He was reported to be considering introducing a guillotine motion to the debate, which would have been an unprecedented move for the House of Lords.
On 17 January, consideration of the Bill in Committee began at 3:10 PM. After a dinner break for an hour in the evening, at 11:38 PM the House had completed debate on only one amendment. Lord Trefgarne moved a rare closure motion "that the question be now put" which was carried, bringing an end to debate on a second amendment. After fending off Labour attempts to adjourn the House at 12:14 AM, 3:31 AM, and 9:01 AM, the sitting continued until 12:52 PM on 18 January. In order to keep Peers present during the all night sitting, the Coalition provided refreshment and arranged for celebrity Peers such as Julian Fellowes and Sebastian Coe to give talks. Parliamentary officials turned two committee rooms into makeshift dormitories for male and female Peers. During the whole sitting, only eight amendments were debated.
The convenor of the Crossbench Peers, Baroness D'Souza, made it clear that she would strongly oppose any attempt to guillotine debate, and at the end of January Strathclyde announced that (after discussion with Labour through the 'usual channels') the Government would bring forward a "package of concessions" in order to break the deadlock. The Committee stage concluded on 2 February after 17 days of debate.
Upon launching the bill, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that "by making constituencies more equal in size, the value of your vote will no longer depend on where you live, and with fewer MPs the cost of politics will be cut." While Labour promised a referendum for AV in their election manifesto, they announced that they would nevertheless oppose the Bill, saying that the constituency boundary changes would help the Conservatives.
There was strong cross-party opposition to the bill in Cornwall as the boundary of Cornwall will not be respected when constituency boundaries are drawn up. Commenting on this, Prime Minister David Cameron said "It's the Tamar, not the Amazon, for Heaven's sake." Around 500 people gathered at a rally in Saltash organised by its mayor, Adam Killeya. Guest speakers included Conservative MP Sheryll Murray, Liberal Democrat MP Steve Gilbert, and Mebyon Kernow councillor and deputy leader Andrew Long. Speaking to the crowds, Steve Gilbert said that "This is Cornwall and over there, that's England. When David Cameron said this is not the Amazon he was right... it's much more important." On the same day the Cornish and Celtic campaigner Michael Chappell announced that he would be going on hunger strike over the boundary issue.
During the bill's second reading in the House of Commons, Nick Clegg said that the bill would help "restore people's faith in the way they elect their MPs" while Shadow Deputy Prime Minister Jack Straw called it "deeply flawed and partisan".
In October 2010, the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee reported on the bill.