The first ever referendum giving voters a say on how their MPs are elected will be held on 5 May 2011, following the successful passage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.
The Act which also makes votes fairer by ensuring that constituencies are more equal throughout the country received Royal Assent last night.
Voters will be asked to choose between keeping the existing First Past The Post system or adopting the Alternative Vote (AV). The government is neutral on the outcome and the poll will be conducted independently by the Electoral Commission.
Work will also begin immediately to redraw constituencies throughout the country, so that they are more equal in size and electors everywhere have a fair say in the outcome of a general election. As part of the reform, the number of MPs will also be reduced from 650 to 600, bringing down the size of the House of Commons and cutting the cost of politics. The review of constituencies will be conducted independently by the Boundary Commissions.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
This is a real milestone in restoring trust in our political system and making our democracy fairer. Constituencies will be redrawn, so that votes are more equal throughout the country. And, for the first time, through a referendum, voters will have a say in the system they use to elect their MPs.
Together, these measures will help put the expenses scandal behind us and start to restore trust in our political institutions.
The Act is a key part of the Government’s programme of constitutional reform, which is designed to restore trust in politics and move power away from Government to the people. Other reforms underway include the establishment of Fixed-term Parliaments, reform of the House of Lords and the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration.