FURTHER EVIDENCE of the gradual shift of Labour towards voting reform came yesterday as Lord Underhill, a member of the party's Plant committee on electoral systems, signalled his support for proportional representation during a Lords debate.
Lord Plant, who chairs the working party due to report to the national executive committee in April, emphasised to peers that the final choice was between first past the post, an 'alternative vote' system and a 'mixed member' system similar to that chosen by a referendum in New Zealand.
The second two involve all MPs standing for election, rather than some being selected from party lists. Lord Plant is understood to personally favour the third, while reaffirming his opposition to the single transferable vote (STV), the system the Liberal Democrats would most like to see but which they have, in effect, accepted is a remote prospect.
STV was 'too complex' for voters to understand the relationship between the casting of votes and the result, Lord Plant said, adding that the counting system was 'chaotic'.
Lord Underhill said the time had come to 'seriously consider whether we should change first past the post'.
He added: 'I think the public wants to change. It is now a question of sitting down and working out the detail.'
Labour MEPs, meanwhile, were accused in their absence by the Liberal Democrats of blocking any chances of British MEPs being elected by a proportional system in the 1994 contest.
The complaint came from Lord Bonham-Carter, a Liberal Democrat front-bench spokesman, commenting on the scrapping by the European Parliament of a debate scheduled for yesterday on the De Gutch report into the introduction of EC-wide uniform electoral procedures.
Lord Bonham-Carter said the report, which reflected article 138 the Treaty of Rome, had been presented to the European Parliament and adopted in November last year. 'It is deeply regrettable that they have postponed a decision on the report until the summer. This means that any change cannot be made in time for the 1994 elections.
'This postponement was due, I regret to say, to the lobbying of the Labour Party who still cannot make up their minds.'
The Liberal Democrats have sued the European Parliament over its failure to start the process of introducing a uniform system. Judgment by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is due in March, following a hearing of the complaint on Tuesday.
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