Brown set to introduce sweeping election reform

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced today that he will seek parliamentary approval for a referendum to ditch the first-past-the-post voting system for Westminster elections.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced today that he will seek parliamentary approval for a referendum to ditch the first-past-the-post voting system for Westminster elections.

Mr Brown said that the switch to the Alternative Vote system could be part of a "new politics" which would restore public trust in Westminster in the wake of last year's expenses scandal.

In a wide-ranging package of planned reforms, he also confirmed that a draft Bill to create a democratically accountable House of Lords will be published within the next few weeks.

He also gave his backing to parliamentary reforms to give MPs more power over the running of the Commons, new avenues for public petitions to be submitted for debate in the House and the swifter release of official documents under Freedom of Information laws.

As part of moves towards the creation of a written constitution by the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015, Mr Brown announced that he had asked Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell to codify the unwritten rules governing the operation of central government.

A separate working group will also identify the principles behind the constitutional relations between the state and the individual.

Amendments being tabled today to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill are understood to provide for MPs to vote on whether a referendum should be held on the use of the Alternative Vote in Westminster elections.

It is thought that the Commons will vote on the issue before it rises for its half-term break next Wednesday, and Mr Brown's spokesman this morning insisted that enough parliamentary time remains for it to reach the statute book ahead of the election, which must take place by June 3.

Mr Brown today confirmed that he will campaign for a move to AV - under which voters rank candidates in numerical order, rather than simply placing an X on the ballot paper - in the referendum, which he said should be held by October 2011.

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