Summary of Lord Jenkins' Report

Daniel Davis cicero13 at
Mon Nov 2 01:36:27 PST 1998

                 The Report of the Independent Commission on the Voting

                 Recommendations and Conclusions

                 1. The Commission’s central recommendation is that the
best alternative for Britain to the existing First Past
                 The Post system is a two-vote mixed system which can be
described as either limited AMS 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
                 geographical divisiveness which are inherent in FPTP.

                 2. Within this mixed system the constituency members
should be elected by the Alternative Vote. On its own
                 AV would be unacceptable because of the danger 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 operation,
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. Lord Alexander would, however,
                 prefer to retain FPTP for constituency elections for
the reasons outlined in the attached note.

                 3. The Commission recommends that this system should be
implemented throughout the United Kingdom.

                 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

                 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

                      The number of second votes cast for each party
will be counted and divided by the number of
                      constituency MPs plus one gained by each party in
each area;
                      The party with the highest number of second votes
after this calculation will be allocated the first
                      Top-up member;
                      Any second additional member for an area will be
allocated using the same method but adjusting to the
                      fact that one party will already have gained a
Top-up member.

                 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%. A decision on the exact
                 proportion of Top-up members needed should be governed
by the considerations set out in paragraphs
                 151-154 of this report, which relate to other changes
in the pipeline such as the reduction in number of
                 Scottish seats and the work of the Boundary

                 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
                 United Kingdom. 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. For the reasons outlined
in paragraph 142 Northern Ireland should have two
                 Top-up members in 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

                 12. The Commission believes that changes to the
existing Rules for the Redistribution of Seats (Schedule 2
                 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986) 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 United Kingdom; and the
                 Boundary Commissions should be given a statutory power
to take account of population movement and
                 thus help to keep the result of their work more

                 Secondary Recommendations

                 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

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