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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008, 17:28 GMT
PR rejected for general elections
Polling station
The government says general elections work well
Ministers have backed the UK's voting system after a review said a move to Proportional Representation (PR) would not boost turnout.

In 1997 Labour pledged a referendum on scrapping "first-past-the-post" voting, which opponents say is unfair.

The policy was later dropped but Gordon Brown promised to revisit the issue when he took over as prime minister.

A review of PR voting in Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and European elections said voters were confused.

The report said PR had resulted in more parties being represented in the devolved administrations but also had a tendency to produce coalition governments.

Referendum pledge

If PR was introduced in Westminster elections, constituencies could be represented by more than one MP, said the review.

The current voting system for UK general elections works well
Michael Wills
Justice Minister

But there is no guarantee PR would increase turnout in a general election or make Parliament more diverse, the report says.

It also warns that it could cause complications between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Justice Minister Michael Wills said the review was "an important contribution to the ongoing debate about voting systems".

He added: "We hope this review will inform that ongoing debate but we do so in the firm belief that the current voting system for UK general elections works well, and that any future change would require the consent of the British people in a referendum.

"Voting systems must not become a focus of partisan action but need to endure for many years."

Voters have waited seven years for the government to deliver on this - I trust the government doesn't expect them to wait another seven
Electoral Reform Society

But campaigners accused Mr Wills of "spinning" the result of a limited "desk bound" review to suit their own political ends.

A spokesman for Make My Vote Count said: "There has been no attempt by the government itself to ask voters about their experiences and opinions."

And he said the government's claim that current UK elections work well was "hard to substantiate - either from polling data or from the review itself".

'Red herring'

The Electoral Reform Society said the review should be the start of a process towards a shake-up of the electoral system not the end of it.

Chief executive Ken Ritchie said: "How MPs are elected should not be a matter just for MPs - that is why we want a process that allows ordinary electors a say.

"Voters have waited seven years for the government to deliver on this. I trust the government doesn't expect them to wait another seven."

He dismissed the government's view that reform of how the Commons is elected should wait for Lords reform as a "complete red herring".

Of the three main parties, only the Liberal Democrats are committed to proportional representation at Westminster and are likely to push for it as the price of a deal with Labour or the Tories in the event of a hung parliament after the next general election.

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16 Mar 04 |  UK Politics

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