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Government publishes referendum question and confirms plans to change boundaries

The question voters will be asked in next year’s referendum on whether or not the country should adopt the Alternative Vote system was yesterday made public for the first time, as the Government publishes two Bills on constitutional reform.

The wording of the question is contained in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which will also reduce the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 MPs and establish boundary reviews to create more equal sized constituencies. The Bill was introduced to the Commons for its first reading alongside the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill.

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill makes detailed rules for the running of the referendum, which is set to take place on 5 May 2011. Voters will be asked: 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?

The question will also be made available in Welsh: Ydych chi am i'r Deyrnas Unedig ddilyn y system "pleidlais amgen" yn lle'r system gyfredol "y cyntaf i'r felin" ar gyfer ethol Aelodau Seneddol i Dŷ'r Cyffredin?

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said:

“With the introduction of these Bills, fundamental reform of our politics is finally on the way.

“The Coalition Government is determined to put power where it belongs – with people. You will decide how you want to elect your MPs. 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. And, by setting the date that parliament will dissolve, our Prime Minister is giving up the right to pick and choose the date of the next General Election – that’s a true first in British politics.”

The Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, also introduced today, provides for general elections to occur every five years on the first Thursday in May, removing the power of the Prime Minister to call an election without Parliament’s consent. This will prevent a Government dissolving Parliament for its own political advantage. General Elections will be held earlier if two thirds of all MPs vote in favour of dissolution or if there has been a vote of no confidence in a Government and an alternative Government fails to gain the confidence of the House of Commons within 14 days. The Bill does not alter the present arrangements for a vote of no confidence, which requires a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one.

The second readings of the two Bills will take place after the summer recess.

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is statutorily required to consider the intelligibility of the question and will report after the summer. Parliament will consider the Commission’s comments and will have the final say.
  2. For further media enquiries, please contact Katherine Pateman at the Cabinet Office Press Office on 0207 276 0516.
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