Speaking in the debate on the General Election, Iain Duncan Smith intervenes to question why it makes a difference where a student casts their vote and to raise concerns at rushing changes to the constitution as demonstrated by the failure of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
I was listening very carefully to the speech my hon. Friend is referring to and I was struck that there was no real explanation why it makes a difference where a student casts their vote, whether at home or at university. They can do a postal vote if necessary.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. Evidence shows that 70% of students cast their vote in their hometown in any event. It seems to me to make no difference whether it is during term time or not. In fact, that seems to miss the point. Most terms end on 13 December, not on 12 or 9 December. Most close on either 13 December or the week after. Therefore, this wheeze—it does seem to be a wheeze and a point of division, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole said—does not even work at face value, because students will still be in place on 12 December.
I was a member of the Government at the time of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and was therefore bound to support the proposals. However, I recall that one of the discussions that took place was that there should be a sunset clause, meaning that the provision’s short purpose, which was to do with sustaining a Government at the time, would have gone away and we would have returned to the other method. I did make the point, as I am sure my hon. Friend has, that when we fiddle with the constitution without proper checks and balances, there will almost invariably be very heavy consequences, but that point was never quite taken.
Indeed. It is when sunset comes to an end that Dracula comes out of his crypt. I am not referring to my right hon. Friend, of course. What I am saying, however, is that the consequences of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act have been abominable for the proceedings in this House.