Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 15:31 GMT
Jenkins delivers PR verdict
Lord Jenkins: Report backs "AV Top-Up"
Radical change that would end the traditional way of electing UK Members of Parliament has been recommended by a government commission.
The long-awaited report by the Independent Commission on Electoral Reform - chaired by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Jenkins - backed a mixed system described as the "Alternative Vote-Top Up" (AV Top-Up).
"It's a question in my view of fairness."
The rest would be elected on a corrective top-up basis designed to reflect voters' party preference more accurately.
Electors would get two votes - one for their choice of constituency MP and the other for the top-up MP.
The report suggests that an independent Electoral Commission be established to oversee the referendum - promised by the government - on whether to reform the voting system.
The commission would also oversee an education programme for voters before the referendum.
The report does not suggest when the referendum should take place.
It makes clear the proposed new voting system could not be introduced until the election after next.
He said the government was keen to encourage a wide debate in parliament, political parties and across the country as a whole.
He added that "no decisions have been taken as to the timing of a referendum on this issue" and gave no indication as to whether the government would back the commission's recommendations.
He added: "The report should be debated fully and properly in parliament and in the country as well as in the Labour Party."
A commons debate on the subject is expected next week.
The prime minister's official spokesman said a referendum in this parliament remained "an option" but insisted there was no urgency to resolve the issue.
Tories pledge anti-reform alliance
The Conservative responded to the report by pledging a cross-party fight against any moves to reform.
"There will be a broad coalition of opposition to this - the broader it is the stronger it is," he said.
"I'm sure if it came to a referendum campaign those of us who opposed it would be prepared to work together."
Mr Ancram told a news conference he did not even want the proposals to be put to a referendum, and said: "I would like to see this die now."
Its remit was to look at the need for broad proportionality, extending voter choice while maintaining a link between MPs and constituencies.