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MS-12 - Constitutional Reform


General Goose
(@general-goose)
Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 362
Topic starter  

Mr Speaker,

I rise today to update the House on the implementation of the Reform Act. 

With regards to the lowering of the voting age to 16, under part 1 section 1(6) of the Act, and with regard to preserving the right to vote for British expats, under part 1 section 1(7), this government is happy to report implementation of those changes are going well. The six upcoming by-elections will be held under an expanded franchise, as will the planned referenda and Senate elections. I am in consultation with civil servants at the Department of Education on rolling out a registration drive in schools and colleges. 

The special Senate elections will be held, in compliance with the Reform Act’s text, on the first Thursday of the first May in 2016.

A date of March 24 has been chosen for the referendum on Cornish devolution. This date has been chosen on the advice of the civil service, to allow devolved Cornish elections to be held concurrently, in the event of a yes vote, with other devolved legislative elections. The question will be “do you agree that there should be a Cornish Assembly as proposed by the government?” - we are asking the Electoral Commission to give consideration to this wording, although it follows the format and style of the 1997 devolution referendums. As such, we expect the question’s wording to be broadly acceptable to most. 

A date of June 23 has been chosen for the referendum on Single Transferable Vote. The question will be “at present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the "single transferable vote" system be used instead?” Again, we are sending this to the Electoral Commission for consideration and have based this wording on a prior referendum.

The official position of this cabinet will be to support a ‘yes’ vote on both questions.

Graham Adiputera (Lib Dem - Sutton and Cheam)
Deputy Prime Minister
Liberal Democrat Leader
Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Climate Change
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Technology

Parliamentary - 36
Media - 53
Policy - 48


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Macmillan
(@dylan-macmillan)
MP for North East Bedfordshire
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 560
 

Mr Speaker,

What is done is done and I congratulate the Government for managing to bludgeon their legislation through the Houses of Parliament. Clearly manifesto commitments mean less to the Prime Minister than the people of Scotland, pensioners, and refugees have done to this government throughout its term in office. I will address each of the points outlined by the Deputy Prime Minister in turn but my first question will be about votes for 16 year olds. What does the Right Honourable Gentleman envisage the roll out for registration to entail for young people? Will it be a cacophony of grey civil servants speaking in school assemblies, a national poster campaign, adverts in prime time television? I look forward to further updates on this matter. Furthermore Mr Speaker how does the Government intend to prevent teachers and other school staff from exerting influence over students with regards to voting preferences? Whilst many will no doubt keep out of it some may try and influence young minds and we should ourselves be mindful of that fact by establishing additional protections and rules surrounding this area.

I look forward to the Senate special election Mr Speaker, having written that portion of the bill myself it does fill me with some pride to know that even after the passage of the Scotland and Wales Acts the opposition continues to drive policy discourse even if it is as a small part of an otherwise shoddy bill.

On to the referenda Mr Speaker. I do think it is a particular shame that the Government have decided that such important issues should be decided by the Whips' Office rather than by the consciences of individual MPs. It is clear that the Liberal Democrats want to ensure that the country gives the right answer this time after their plans were rejected in 2011 so I am not surprised that they have opted to use force to push the Labour Party into supporting electoral reform. The Conservative Party believes in the strength of its arguments, we believe passionately that FPTP is the better system for government, but if we have members, MPs, or Shadow Cabinet members who disagree with this assertion they shall be free to campaign for STV in the referendum, there shall be no whipping operation or threat of the sack should they take the opposing view. The same is to be said for the referendum on Cornish devolution.

Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition (2014-16)

Prime Minister (2014)

Parliamentary Experience: Novice (25)
Media Experience: Experienced (62)
Policy Experience: Novice (29)


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General Goose
(@general-goose)
Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 362
Topic starter  

Mr Speaker,

While of course it is not great when the leader of the opposition sees fit to start a speech to this body with inaccurate insults, it is something we are all used to by this point. The notion that this measure represents a dereliction of manifesto commitments is not a true one, and his attacks on this government's record on pensions, refugees and Scotland are not accurate, but, of course, the leader of the opposition can never resist an opportunity to work in his talking points. 

Mr Speaker, the details of the voter registration drive will, of course, use whatever techniques are deemed to be most appropriate and most efficacious. We will, for example, be learning from what worked and didn't work in the by-elections. I do intend to keep the House further updated on this matter, but the basic character of the government's approach will be an evidence-based one. I believe that is the most appropriate course to take on this issue - more detailed involvement from ministers would, rightly, raise questions of conflict of interests. This will not just be a government campaign, however - parties, civil society, and campaigning groups will all be doing their own activities on the matter. 

As to preventing the undue influence of teachers' political views on students, we will of course be monitoring this issue and updating guidelines and regulations currently in place as and when the evidence calls for it. Promoting skills such as critical thinking, and expanding government investment in civics education, have been at the core of this government's educational strategy, and so we hope to continue building on those efforts going forward. 

Mr Speaker, as the party opposite knows full well, the government's position on constitutional reform matters was decided at the very start of this government. This government - both parties - committed to supporting electoral reform at that stage. That was done transparently, that was done explicitly, that was done with the agreement of both parties. We are keeping that promise. There is no use of force, nothing of the sort. Just an agreement both parties made that is being delivered upon, in full. 

And, Mr Speaker, it looks like we now have a case of the leader of the opposition demanding one rule for others, another rule for himself. Mr Speaker, when he was in government, he was very insistent that both parties in coalition adhere to collective cabinet responsibility on all fundamental issues of government, that, in fact, the whips' office rather than the individual consciences of MPs determine how they vote on all manner of issues. He refused to listen to any attempt to switch to a new model of decision-making because he was very insistent that the whips' office have the final say. Mr Speaker, why is he now condemning this government for adhering to that standard in one specific issue where both parties have already agreed to do so? 

Graham Adiputera (Lib Dem - Sutton and Cheam)
Deputy Prime Minister
Liberal Democrat Leader
Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Climate Change
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Technology

Parliamentary - 36
Media - 53
Policy - 48


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