On 16 March 2021, my Rt. Hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, announced to the House that the Government would be introducing legislation to change the voting system for all Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), Combined Authority Mayors, and the Mayor of London.
This legislation, due to be brought forward when Parliamentary time allowed, would see the voting systems change from the confusing and over-complicated Supplementary Vote system to the tried and tested First Past the Post system.
I am pleased to announce that the Government intends to bring forward these changes in an amendment to the Elections Bill at Committee stage. Including these changes in the Elections Bill will ensure that they are implemented ahead of the next scheduled PCC elections in May 2024. This timetable will give good notice to all future candidates and electoral administrators of the change in voting system to First Past the Post well in advance of these elections, in accordance with Electoral Commission guidance.
Additionally, I can announce that the voting system for Local Authority mayors in England, which are also currently on the Supplementary Vote system, will be changed to First Past the Post. This will ensure that all Mayoral elections across England will have a consistent voting system.
These changes will allow us to deliver on the Government’s manifesto commitment to continue supporting the First Past the Post system. Given that two thirds of voters voted in favour of retaining First Past the Post for Parliamentary elections in the 2011 nationwide referendum, these changes also reflect the view of the British people.
In this May’s London Mayoral elections, the Supplementary Vote system saw hundreds of thousands void, wasted or blank votes cast, reflecting voter confusion and the complex system. In a speech to this House in 1931, Winston Churchill when describing transferable voting said “the decision is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates.”
The Supplementary Vote system as used in England and Wales is found nowhere else in the world. The nearest similar system where voters rank up to three candidates – the Contingent Vote system – is used only in Sri Lanka; by contrast, First Past the Post is the world’s most widely used electoral system. The Government believes that First Past the Post is a more straightforward way of electing representatives, which is transparent to both voters and administrators and results in a more accessible system.
The change to First Past the Post will provide clear local accountability in a readily understandable way, making it easier for voters to express a clear choice: the person chosen to represent a local area will be the one who directly receives the most votes.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords