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Clause 2


Mr. Öpik: I beg to move amendment No. 93, in page 1, line 15, after 'of', insert

'members for each Assembly constituency'.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 94, in page 1, leave out lines 16 and 17. No. 22A, in page 1, line 16, leave out from 'constituency' to end of line 17. No. 23A, in page 1, line 18, leave out from 'constituencies' to end of line 20 and insert

'shall initially be the parliamentary constituencies in Wales, which shall be subject to periodic review by the Boundary Commission for Wales with like powers and in like manner as in the case of parliamentary constituencies.'. No. 95, in page 1, line 18, leave out from 'constituencies' to 'shall' in line 19. No. 110, in schedule 1, page 70, line 5, leave out 'the parliamentary constituencies in' and insert
'determined by the Boundary Commission for'. No. 111, in page 70, leave out lines 7 to 11. No. 112, in page 70, leave out lines 12 to 14.

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No. 113, in page 70, leave out lines 16 to 22. No. 114, in page 70, line 24, leave out from 'where' to second 'the'. No. 115, in page 70, line 26, leave out 'electoral region' and insert 'constituency'. No. 116, in page 70, line 27, leave out 'electoral region' and insert 'constituency'. No. 117, in page 70, line 31, leave out 'electoral region' and insert 'constituency'. No. 118, in page 70, line 33, leave out from 'constituency' to 'and' in line 34. No. 119, in page 70, leave out from beginning of line 44 to end of line 2 on page 71. No. 120, in page 71, leave out lines 3 to 7. No. 121, in page 71, line 10, leave out 'electoral region or regions' and insert 'constituency or constituencies'. No. 122, in page 71, line 13, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 123, in page 71, line 18, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 124, in page 71, line 19, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 125, in page 71, line 44, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 126, in page 71, line 45, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 127, in page 72, line 1, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 128, in page 72, line 3, leave out 'electoral regions' and insert 'constituencies'. No. 130, in page 72, leave out lines 7 to 43. No. 191, in page 72, leave out lines 10 to 14. No. 129, in page 73, line 6, leave out 'electoral region' and insert 'constituency'. No. 131, in page 73, line 8, leave out from 'within' to end of line 9 and insert 'the Assembly constituency'. No. 49, in clause 4, page 2, line 38, leave out from 'have' to end of line 15 on page 3 and insert--
'a single transferable vote, that is to say a vote--
(a) capable of being given so as to indicate the voter's order of preference for the candidates for election as members for the constituency, and
(b) capable of being transferred to the next choice--
(i) when the vote is not required to give a prior choice the necessary quota of votes, or
(ii) when, owing to the deficiency in the number of votes given for a prior choice, that choice is eliminated from the list of candidates.'. No. 11, in page 2, line 38, leave out 'two votes' and insert 'one vote'. No. 12, in page 2, line 39, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 3. No. 58, in page 3, line 4, leave out 'the simple majority system' and insert
'a preferential voting system whereby the voter indicates his or her preference for the candidates by marking the ballot paper1, 2, 3, etc., with the votes of the last candidate being transferred on the basis of second preferences until one candidate has 50 per cent.+ 1 of the votes cast.'. No. 13, in page 3, leave out lines 5 to 15.

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No. 102, in clause 8, page 5, line 18, leave out from 'only' to end of line 20 and insert
'one vote; and the member shall be returned under the system in section 4 above'. No. 32A, in clause 10, page 6, leave out lines 28 to 30. No. 106, in clause 14, page 9, line 1, leave out from 'member' to 'is' in line 3. No. 107, in page 9, line 3, leave out from 'member' to first 'his' in line 5. No. 108, in page 9, line 7, leave out from first 'member' to second 'he' in line 8. No. 109, in page 9, line 13, leave out from 'member' to end of line 15.

Mr. Öpik: I am tempted to shout "House", but not sufficiently tempted actually to do so. It is interesting to commence this debate having just had a Division because voting systems are what we want to discuss. In simple terms, the Liberal Democrats propose the replacement of the system in the Bill with a single transferable vote system. Our amendments pave the way for STV in multi-Member constituencies by removing the references to the electoral regions. The system would achieve the main aims of an electoral system: proportionality, voter choice and constituency link. Naturally, the boundary commission would determine the boundaries of the STV constituencies. It is a fairly straightforward process. STV would allow for single-Member constituencies in rural areas with sparse populations. It is important to stress that in some areas STV can still provide single-seat constituencies. The purpose of our proposal is to ensure the fairest achievable system of proportional representation for Wales. The Labour party's acceptance, about 18 months ago, of the case for proportional representation in the Welsh assembly was a source of great celebration among Liberal Democrats. It was with some delight that we prepared our amendments, safe in the knowledge that the strategic argument for a proportional representation system had been won. Not only the Liberal Democrats called for an STV system to maximise voter choice. The Electoral Reform Society, the Parliament for Wales Campaign, the Movement for Welsh Democracy, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have been united in the belief that STV provides the best system of proportionality that we can have. I shall briefly explain the system in the Bill--the additional member system with closed party lists--without going through every excruciating detail. Every voter has two votes: one for a constituency Member and one for a party list. The constituency Member is the same as we have now--40 constituencies with 40 Members elected by the first-past-the-post system. An additional 20 Members will be elected from a closed party list to correct the disproportionate effects of first past the post. To make up the 20, four will be elected from each of the five old European constituencies that make up the new assembly's electoral regions. That is huge progress; for the first time, Wales has a serious chance of getting a national elected body proportionate to the votes cast. As we all know, first past the post has regularly and monotonously created an unrepresentative outcome. That was clearly the case on 1 May, when an overwhelming majority of Labour Members were elected to the House

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despite the fact that Labour had only a minority of the vote. To that extent, we praise the Government for their foresightedness and for their willingness to carry through a promise made before their election. We seek to amend the proportional system to make it even more proportional, on the basis that we are now arguing about the details and how to improve our system of election to make it as transparently fair as possible.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan: The hon. Gentleman said that he was seeking to make the system even more proportional, but do not studies of the 1 May general election result show that only the additional member system would have given a more proportional result than first past the post? STV would have given a less proportional result than AMS.

Mr. Öpik: There have been various surveys, but they have consistently failed to assess--indeed, they cannot realistically assess--how voting intentions would have changed had a truly proportional system been in use so that people did not have to take a gamble or make some tactical calculation before casting their votes.

Mr. Donald Anderson: How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. Öpik: We do not know. That is one of the interesting elements of our debate. We can be fairly sure from what happened on 1 May that people voted tactically to help remove the Government. Few would question that. [Hon. Members: "Name names."] I do not want to mention individuals, on the ground that it would be a major retrograde step for my political career for me to bring the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats into this--unless he wants to intervene. People voted in a way that showed that they were thinking of more than the simple casting of a vote for one party. They were thinking about the bigger picture--the effect that their vote would have. On that assumption, we are seeking to look beyond the simple calculations of the percentages of polls that have occurred in the past to how to remove the element of gambling in which voters have to indulge at present. How can we ensure that voters can vote according to their preferences and consciences, safe in the knowledge that the electoral system will do the rest on their behalf? One of the assumptions of STV systems is that voters should not be expected to be experts on the electoral system and that the structure should serve them rather than make them study tables, graphs, advice in newspapers and what their friends are doing. For that reason, STV has generally been regarded as very successful.

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