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Mr. Rhodri Morgan: It is next to Bavaria.

Mr. Davies: I am sorry to say that Baden-Wurttemberg has a closed list system, so I cannot use it as an example.

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Most of Germany has a closed list system. When I went to East Germany years ago, it had such a system. The people there told me that it was similar to the one in West Germany, except for Bavaria. They were right.

As the excellent pamphlet tells us, the Germans have that system--and it is part of their history and I do not criticise them for it--because of the problems of the Weimar Republic. One can understand why Germany needed a strong party-based system at that time, but the world has moved on and no doubt one day the German constitution will have to move with the rest of the world.

At least I can give my hon. Friends Bavaria. If one of the German Lander is doing something, it must be right and good. We in Wales should follow that example. I say to my hon. Friends: please consider the matter again. We will pay a price for this centralism unless something is done about the closed list system. Let us have at least an open list system. Then at least the additional member system will be slightly better than it is at present.

Mr. Dafis: Amendment No. 191 provides some flexibility in relation to the boundaries of the regions for the additional member lists. The regions are based on the European electoral regions, which will no longer operate at the time of the election for the National Assembly for Wales. It is important that the areas represented by Members elected under the additional member system bear some relationship to community and geographic reality, and are not simply based on numbers, which the Bill emphasises.

The Wales Mid and West European constituency best demonstrates the absurdity of merely emphasising numbers. That constituency covers an area extending almost from Llandudno, in the north, to Pembrokeshire and includes all of Powys and Llanelli. It is impossible to imagine a more disparate region. The region has absolutely no unity or cohesiveness and is extremely difficult to represent. I do not envy the Member of the European Parliament who must try to represent it, as it is difficult to keep in contact with one's constituents.

Members elected under the additional member system should have a type of constituency to which they are linked, and the regions from which they are elected should be more manageable than European constituencies. Although the Government will not accept amendment No. 191, I hope that, to achieve a sensible system, they will seriously consider making constituencies manageable, rather than simply emphasising numbers.

Amendment No. 58 supports Liberal Democrat amendments in favour of the single transferable vote system. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) spoke against proportional representation, although he seemed to say that the additional member system had even greater deficiencies than the STV system. It has been suggested that the STV system weakens the link between the Member and the constituency. The experience in the Republic of Ireland, however--my comments are based on my meetings with Irish TDs and on seeing them work together--belies the idea that the link is weakened. Although their constituencies are considerably larger, they are not unmanageable.

Electors in an STV system can choose their assembly Member, rather than merely voting for a party, as in the additional member system. Such a connection would

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provide a stimulus to a Member of the Assembly to be a good constituency Member. Therefore--as the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said--an STV system empowers electors rather than political parties, because electors, not a party, decide which Member will be elected.

It has been suggested that an STV system is complex, and that it is difficult for electors to understand the ballot paper, which contains so many names that are arranged in party lists. Again, however, the Irish experience overwhelmingly shows that that is not true. Although the system seems complex, it is well understood in Ireland. Moreover, the Irish clearly appreciate the influence that the system gives them over a party's selection of candidates. The parties themselves must also consider which of those they include on their lists are most likely to be electable. It is, therefore, a way in which electors can influence the party's choice of candidates, which is perfectly reasonable.

The Irish experience demonstrates that STV produces a less confrontational style of politics in which members of different political parties representing the same constituency work well together. That sometimes happens under the current system when those representing adjoining constituencies work together in the interests of the region, but I was particularly impressed by what I saw in Ireland.

STV also encourages coalition Governments. It has been suggested that coalition Governments create constant instability. However, the Irish Government have displayed a significant continuity of policy over several decades, instead of swinging from one set of policies to another. That must have something to do with Ireland's outstanding economic success. A striking continuity of policy has run through successive Administrations comprising different combinations of political parties. There is, therefore, no evidence from the Irish experience that the accusation of instability has any substance.

The strength of the case for STV has persuaded Plaid Cymru to change its policy. We have moved from supporting the additional member system--although it was a little more complex than that--to supporting the STV system.

We know that the amendment will not be accepted tonight, but we have put down a marker to highlight the virtues of the STV system. We hope that at some stage there will be an opportunity to introduce STV in Wales, and perhaps on a broader basis, as it is a preferable system.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: I agree with some of the remarks by the hon. Members for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) and for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik). They stressed the importance of the link between the Member and the constituency, not just because it tends to give people what they want, but because it is representative of the British constitutional and electoral systems.

I shall make one or two brief comments. I make no apology for repeating myself, as one of my concerns about devolution and the constitution of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh assembly is the drift--although it is somewhat driven--towards European politics.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that there is no constitutional bar to Britain joining a single currency. The United Kingdom is being broken up into regions.

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Proportional representation is also an alien concept. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) spoke about its dangers.

Mr. Allan: Does the hon. Gentleman feel that proportional representation is more or less alien than eating horses and having toilets that are holes in the ground?

Mr. Robertson: I am not sure whether I should welcome that intervention, but I feel that proportional representation and devolution are totally alien to British political life.

The concept of political parties having to register or be part of the constitution is also totally alien, as is the fact that people will be asked to vote for a political party rather than a person, even though they support that political party. The fact that Members will serve those who compile a list rather than the people whom they are supposed to represent is another element of an alien system. The fact that there will be gatherings of groups to keep the whole thing going is also alien to the British way of life.

I am perplexed that so many hon. Members are smiling or laughing at what I am saying. It may be somewhat comical, but I challenge them to point out where I am wrong in saying that the system is alien to the British way of life. It is not what people in this country expect or what they have grown up with. I agree with the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), who said that the issue will come back to haunt his party. I ask the Government to take note of him and many others from various parties, who, although I do not agree with everything that they have said, have already come up with many objections to the system.

9.15 pm

Mr. Evans: I thank the Government for their generosity in devising a system for the assembly that throws a lifeline to the Conservative party--or that is what we are supposed to believe. However, the Secretary of State must forgive me for being suspicious of his lifeline. I know that he is a charitable person, but I did not realise that his charity extended as far as the Conservative party.

A pick-and-mix assortment of systems is offered for the European elections, the assembly in Wales and the Parliament in Scotland. In addition, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead is looking at various systems that may be used for Westminster. The Liberal Democrats advocate the single transferable vote. I fully understand why they support that system. It may have something to do with their belief that they might be the depository of all the second votes from Tories and Labour supporters. In their virtual reality world, they may think that under STV the assembly will be packed full of Liberal Democrats trying to keep out the Tories and--

Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West) rose--

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