New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: Will the right hon. Gentleman [Jack Straw] confirm that in the course of the competitive negotiations with the Liberal Democrats as to which side was going to form a Government, his party offered the Liberal Democrats a deal whereby AV would be rammed through this House without a referendum?

[Mr Jack Straw: The answer is no. I would also say to the hon. Gentleman that a very significant proportion of Labour Members, including myself, would never have accepted such a proposition had it been put forward – let us be absolutely clear about that.]

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Dr Lewis: I thank the Deputy Prime Minister [Nick Clegg] for giving way. He will have heard the answer that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) gave when I asked him whether it had been the case that the outgoing Labour Prime Minister had offered, during the coalition negotiations, to ram through the alternative vote without a referendum. I am not giving away any trade secrets when I say that Conservative MPs were told that that was the case. The Deputy Prime Minister is in a position to know. Were the Liberal Democrats offered by the Labour Party the alternative vote without a referendum? Can he set the matter to rest?

[The Deputy Prime Minister: The answer is no. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) was right. That was not offered by the Labour Party in those discussions. The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) is right  – I should know whether it was offered or not.]

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