Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 14:15 GMT
The Jenkins Report: What it says
Here is the full list of recommendations and conclusions contained in the report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System:
1. The commission's central recommendation is that the best alternative for Britain to the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system is a two-vote mixed system which can be described as either limited AMS [additional member system] or AV top-up.
The majority of MPs (80 to 85%) would continue to be elected on an individual constituency basis, with the remainder elected on a corrective top-up basis which would significantly reduce the disproportionality and the geographical divisiveness which are inherent in FPTP.
2. Within this mixed system the constituency members should be elected by the alternative vote (AV). On its own AV would be unacceptable because of the danger that that in anything like present circumstances it might increase rather than reduce disproportionality and might do so in a way which is unfair to the Conservative Party.
With the corrective mechanism in question, however, its advantages of increasing voter choice and of ensuring that in practice all constituency members (as opposed to little more than half in recent elections) have majority support in their own constituencies become persuasive.
3. The commission recommends that this system should be implemented throughout the UK.
4. The commission recommends that the second vote determining the allocation of top-up members should allow the voter the choice of either a vote for a party or for an individual candidate from the lists put forward by parties. They should therefore be what are commonly called open rather than closed lists.
5. The commission recommends that, in the interests of local accountability and providing additional members with a broad constituency link, additional members should be elected using small top-up areas.
The commission recommends the areas most appropriate for this purpose are the "preserved" counties and equivalently sized metropolitan districts in England.
In Scotland and Wales, we see no reason to depart from the units which are used for the return of additional members to the parliament in Scotland and to the assembly in Wales with respectively eight and five top-up areas.
In Northern Ireland there should be two top-up areas each returning two members. In England the top-up members would therefore in effect be either county or city-wide members from 65 different areas.
6. The commission recommends that the top-up members should be allocated correctively, that is on the basis of the second vote and taking into account the number of constituency seats gained by each party in each respective area, according to the following method:
7. The commission recommends that the proportion of top-up members needed for broad proportionality without imposing a coalition habit on the country should be between 15% and 20%.
8. The commission recommends that the allocation of top-up seats to areas should ensure that the ratio of constituency to top-up members is, as far as is practicable, equal in the four constituent nations of the UK.
The allocation of top-up members to the areas within each of those parts should ensure that each area has at least one top-up member with the remainder being allocated to those areas with the greatest number of electors. Northern Ireland should have two top-up areas.
9. The commission recommends that the right to put forward candidates for top-up member seats should be limited to those parties which have candidates standing for election in at least half of the constituencies within the top-up area.
10. The commission stresses that all members of the House of Commons, whether elected from constituencies or as top-up members, should have equal status in Westminster.
11. The commission recommends that top-up member vacancies, which are unlikely to be more than two or three a parliament, should be filled by the candidate next on the list of the party holding the seat.
If there is no available person the seat should remain vacant until the next general election. Constituency vacancies would of course be filled by the normal by-election procedure.
12. The commission believes that changes to the existing Rules for the Redistribution of Seats will be integral to the successful implementation of the new system.
Bias should be reduced by the use of a single electoral quota for the UK; and the Boundary Commission should be given a statutory power to take account of population movement and thus help to keep the result of their work more up to date.
13. The commission recommends that there should be a properly planned publicly-funded but neutrally-conducted education programme to prepare voters for the decision they will be required to make in the referendum.
14. The commission concludes that the education programme and oversight of referendums generally should fall to an independent commission. This role would fall naturally to an Electoral Commission.
15. The Commission recommends that an independent Electoral Commission should be established to advise parliament on and have oversight of electoral administration and related matters.
16. The commission recommends that the government should put in place arrangements to review the new system after, say, two general elections.
17. The commission recommends that substantial further changes should not be made without a second referendum.