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Mr. Evans: I have only three minutes. I hope that hon. Members will be understanding. I can imagine the system that the Liberal Democrats are thinking of.

With a closed list system, the parties have disproportionate power over their candidates. I have grave reservations about centralising that power in political

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parties. It is transferring power not from the parties to the people, but from the people to the parties, particularly from the people who work for political parties in the constituencies.

I also have grave reservations about having two Members representing the same area--a constituency Member and a regional Member. The ordinary electors are already confused about the different responsibilities of different tiers of government. With the assembly, we shall have more tiers of government than Elizabeth Taylor has had tiers on her wedding cakes. The demarcation of responsibility between tiers of government is not clear. Even within one tier of government, people will not know whether to write to their constituency assembly Member or their regional assembly Member, who may be from different parties. There will be massive conflict.

We already know that conflict exists between the members of different parties, and one can only imagine the conflicts that would exist between members of the same party. If the Prime Minister does not get on with his Chancellor of the Exchequer, although they are in the same party and even the same Government, we can only imagine what will happen if we have that form of proportional representation.

I disagree strongly with the system suggested by the Liberal Democrats, which would produce 10 extra politicians. One of the strong arguments that won us a lot of votes in the referendum was, "Do you want to spend the money on politicians or on the people?" We got the result there, but the Liberal Democrats have not been listening and have suggested a system with 10 more politicians. That would cost about £1 million with all the salaries and expenses, and the people would prefer to see the money spent on services.

Dr. Marek: I am making a brief intervention in support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). We want not a closed list but an open list. The people of Wales will want to be able to decide whom to vote for and whom not to vote for. That is important.

However, if we are to have closed lists, I wonder whether the Minister can promise us that all members of the Labour party will be able to vote to decide the order within the closed list. I do not want some shadowy group of people in Labour party headquarters at Millbank to decide the order. That ought to be done in Wales.

Mr. Win Griffiths: To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) directly, let me say that what he has asked about is one of the things still to be decided in the Labour party. He will have a chance to say something about it at a later stage--and we shall be able to debate the issues of open lists tomorrow.

Until I heard the speech by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson), and his peroration about aliens, I had not realised that the electoral system that we propose would form a suitable case for investigation in "The X Files".

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) may have thought that he was on to a winner in proposing amendments to clause 4, but I have to disappoint him because we do not support the amendments that would introduce the single transferable vote. We made it clear in the referendum campaign that we would use the additional member system. That is the best way of achieving a new

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inclusiveness and an element of proportionality in Wales, and it was endorsed in the referendum vote on 18 September.

We believe that that system best serves the constituencies, with a representation that reflects the whole of Wales. It will not be too complex for voters to understand or officials to administer--unlike STV, under which we would have to have constituencies with three to five members. Some of the constituencies in rural Wales, such as mid-Wales, west Wales and north Wales, would be very large.

There is also great potential for voter confusion. For example, we know that, although the Irish Republic has had STV since 1923, there are 10 times as many spoilt ballot papers in general elections in Ireland as there are in Wales. Moreover, the counting process is exceedingly complex. In most of Ireland, there are constituencies of between 60,000 and 75,000, but the Welsh constituencies would be bigger. Even in Ireland, there are sometimes as many as 11 or 12 counts--15 were recorded in one constituency--and they take two days to complete. That is not the best system.

As for representation for women, as the hon. Gentleman is a member of the British islands parliamentary group, he will know that there are only two women in the group, and that at present the representation of women in Ireland is no better than in the United Kingdom. From his discussions with members of the Dail, he will also know that they would dearly love to get rid of STV, were it not so entrenched. The German example that the hon. Gentleman used lends no credence to what he had to say. Indeed, it is a warning to political parties to ensure that their selection processes are open.

The official Opposition, of course, want to keep the old first-past-the-post system for elections in Wales. It is for the political parties to tackle the criticisms levelled by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) in respect of selecting members, especially for the regions, and allocating their roles. They will not be free-wheeling, independent, forget-the-party members. They will be elected by the voters of Wales to represent the political parties that they have chosen to support. I hope that any Conservatives who may be elected in the process will exhibit enough allegiance to the Conservative party to agree on useful ways of proceeding in the National Assembly for Wales--that is to say, if any of them get elected for the constituencies, which we have yet to see.

Criticism of the additional member system implies criticism of every country in the world that uses it. Does the right hon. Member for Devizes really think that the German system, which Britain was chiefly responsible for creating, has served that country badly or has led to more political and democratic problems than we have suffered since the war? We can agree to differ about what we believe to be the most effective system, but there is no empirical evidence to suggest that first past the post is better than any sort of additional member system.

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However gradually the Opposition parties arrive at their positions, they will certainly want to ensure at least an element of proportionality. They can do so by supporting our original proposition.

Mr. Öpik: It was remiss of me not to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the Electoral Reform Society, not just to my speech tonight, but to the general debate on STV and proportional representation.

An alien system, in my view, is one that consistently delivers majority government in the UK with a minority of the vote, as happened in 1992 and 1997. I shall tell the House what I mean by stability. I mean the Republic of Ireland, which now enjoys a standard of living exceeding that of the United Kingdom. Another example would be Germany, which managed to absorb 17 million people on the breadline without going bust in the process. Both countries use PR systems.

I shall tell the Committee what is not acceptable: a system that merely harms one party or prefers one party to another. The reason for change is justice. Social justice is democratic justice. We should not measure the stability of a nation by the frequency with which it changes Administrations. We should measure it according to the country's economic, cultural and social stability. Germany and the Republic of Ireland have shown that stability in spades.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) suggested that I might be new-fangled. I assure him that I am old-fangled. I am, for instance, a strong monarchist, as many people know. I still love a T-bone steak, if I can find one. What I do not want to have to tolerate are iniquities from the past and the first-past-the-post system is one of those iniquities.

Interestingly, the right hon. Member for Llanelli seems to agree with many of our tenets for proportional representation. For one thing, we believe in an open system. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram)--

Mr. Denzil Davies rose--

Mr. Öpik: I have not the time to give way.

Mr. Davies rose--

Mr. Öpik: Well, I shall briefly.

Mr. Davies: I made it clear at the beginning of my speech that I was not in favour of proportional representation. All I said was that, if we were to have that sort of system, I should prefer an open to a closed list.

Mr. Öpik: I accept that point and shall move on swiftly. Perhaps we can discuss it further over a pint after the debate.

The constituency and Member link is absolutely right. STV is the one PR system that establishes a 100 per cent. link between elected Members and constituents. A list system does not do so.

We also discussed the fact that the system is an alien proposition, but it is already here, in Northern Ireland and in many organisations. If it makes Wales an alien nation,

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I would be happy to live in an alien nation. Perhaps we can import some of that alien thinking back to the rest of the United Kingdom and improve democracy here as well.

In conclusion, this is a debate not about old and new, but about fair and unfair. It is a debate not about stable and unstable, but about undemocratic and democratic processes. That is our argument for STV and if we cannot get it, it is our case for an open-list system. We are glad to have got this far and we praise the Government for the steps that they have taken in moving towards proportional representation. We sincerely hope that this is not the destination, but merely a staging post on a greater journey.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 43, Noes 335.


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