Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Dalyell: Here am I defending the interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament. It is very unfair to put them in the position of fighting like Kilkenny cats, squabbling like ferrets in a sack and having the sword of Damocles over them from the very beginning. To put it bluntly, we have the prospect of repeating what happened over Glasgow, Central 30 or 40 times over, writ large from the beginning. Is that fair on the people involved?

Mr. McLeish: With the greatest respect, I do not want to embrace my hon. Friend's extravagant tones concerning ferrets and cats. I think that I have captured the essence of the argument. If we establish a Parliament of 129 Members, there is an expectation that they might want to continue. That is why addressing the realpolitik of the Parliament is part of the wider consideration.

With those few remarks, I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland will withdraw his amendment, and allow us to complete that consideration.

Mr. Wallace: The debate has been useful, particularly the observations and the extended metaphors of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), which illustrated the kind of circumstance that would all too readily arise in the Scottish Parliament if a quarter of

12 May 1998 : Column 226

its Members had a death sentence hanging over them. Of course, they would not know which quarter that would be, which would make the ferrets in the sack scramble even more.

The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan) made the important point that, although the Government have, to be fair, preserved the 73:56 ratio, the ratio tends to be less proportional when it is applied to fewer people.

I note what the Minister has said. I am encouraged by his remarks--not least his opening comment that the Government could not accept the amendments at present. No doubt my hon. and noble Friends in another place will seek to table them again to ensure that we do not lose sight of the issue. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4


Mr. McLeish: I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 3, line 12, at end insert--

'( ) A registered political party's regional list has effect in relation to the general election and any vacancy occurring among the regional members after that election and before the next general election'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: Government amendment No. 27.

No. 10, in page 3, leave out lines 33 to 35.

No. 109, in clause 5, page 3, line 37, at end insert--

'[1A] A registered party's regional list must be displayed in a prominent position at each polling place for inspection by any voter.'.

No. 3, in page 3, line 39, after 'may', insert

'(subject to subsection (4) below)'.

No. 11, in page 3, line 40, leave out 'a "regional', and insert 'an "additional member'.

No. 12, in page 3, line 40, leave out from 'vote' to end of line 42.

No. 66, in page 3, line 41, after '(a)', insert

'a candidate who is a member of'.

No. 13, in page 4, leave out lines 1 to 3.

No. 4, in page 4, line 3, at end insert--

'(4) Where an elector gives his vote under section 1(2) for a candidate representing a registered political party, he shall be deemed to have given his additional member vote under this section for the same registered political party and that vote shall be counted accordingly.'.

No. 14, in clause 6, page 4, line 9, leave out 'regional'.

No. 15, in page 4, line 9, leave out second 'the', and insert 'constituency candidates of that'.

No. 67, in clause 7, page 4, line 28, leave out from 'order' to 'except' in line 29 and insert

'of the number of votes cast for the candidates, with the candidate with the highest number of votes being elected first and so on'.

Government amendment No. 28.

12 May 1998 : Column 227

No. 17, in clause 8, page 5, line 4, leave out from second 'the' to 'within' in line 5, and insert 'vacancy occurs'.

Government amendments Nos. 29 and 30.

No. 68, in clause 9, page 5, line 26, leave out from 'them' to end of line 27 and insert

'received the greater number of votes.'.

No. 16, in page 5, leave out lines 32 and 33 and insert--

'(7) A vacancy in the seat of a regional member shall not be filled if it occurs within the period of three months ending with the day on which the poll at the next general election would be held, disregarding section 2(5).'.

No. 71, in clause 10, page 5, line 42, at end insert--

'(1A) For the purposes of an election for membership of the Parliament section 1(c) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 shall have effect with "16" substituted for "18".'.

No. 18, in page 5, line 44, after 'constituency', insert 'or regional'.

No. 19, in page 5, line 44, leave out from 'member' to the end of line 1 on page 6.

Government amendments Nos. 31 to 34.

No. 69, in schedule 5, page 62, line 11, leave out 'except the franchise'.

No. 70, in page 62, line 11, at end insert--

'Section 1(c) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (the minimum voting age for elections to the Parliament)'.

Mr. McLeish: In view of the number of amendments that other right hon. and hon. Members have tabled, I shall try fairly quickly to explain the purpose behind the Government amendments. At this stage, I shall not comment on the other amendments in the group, but with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will deal with them if I get an opportunity to wind up the debate.

Amendment No. 26 makes provision for a party list to have effect in relation to a general election to the Parliament and to any vacancy occurring among regional Members after that election and before the next general election. That makes it quite clear that vacancies for regional Members will be filled from the list presented to the electorate at the general election.

Amendment No. 27 makes it clear that a registered party's list of candidates for the purposes of the election of regional Members could contain only one name if the party so wishes.

I turn to amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30. Amendment No. 28 effectively provides that, where a person on a party's list is returned as a Member, that person should be removed from that list so that he or she would not thereafter be available to fill a vacancy. That corrects a possible anomaly, whereby a Member loses his or her seat through failure to take the oath or by disqualification, but because his or her name is still on the party list, he or she would arguably be entitled to be returned to the Parliament again. If a Member refused to take the oath or was disqualified, he or she should not be considered by the returning officer, and under the amendment, could be removed from the list.

Amendment No. 34 ensures that the order to be prepared under clause 11 can make detailed arrangements for what will happen if two regional parties or individual candidates get the same number of votes. It will also enable the order to regulate the filling of regional

12 May 1998 : Column 228

vacancies. For example, it has been pointed out that, as the Bill stands, a candidate on a party's regional list who had subsequently resigned from the party could still be returned to fill a vacancy that subsequently arose. That would clearly be absurd.

The House may be interested to learn that we have established a working group involving the four main parties in Scotland, electoral administrators and returning officers to consider the detailed arrangements for the elections. The group will be of assistance to the Scottish Office in preparing the order.

Amendments Nos. 33 and 32 simply improve the drafting of the Bill. I urge the House to accept the Government amendments.

Mr. Ancram: All the Government amendments seem to be moving in a sensible direction, so I shall not comment on them in depth, except to say that here we are again dealing with clause 4, which refers to enactments providing for the registration of political parties, yet we have still not seen the draft legislation. I have protested before about this; it is outrageous. Three Bills have gone through the House without our having seen the draft legislation. We were promised it at the end of March, then soon after Easter. Now, it is the middle of May, and we still have not got it. I register once again a strong protest about that.

The main Conservative amendment, No. 4, relates to the question of split-ticket voting, to which I have referred before. Under the present system, it is possible, by registering a different party name from that under which candidates stand in direct elections, to enhance the number of seats won. I have given figures previously to indicate how that can be done. It is a way of manipulating the system against the spirit of proportionality, and is of considerable concern.

For instance, if last May's figures for the Glasgow electoral region were replicated exactly under the additional member system, Labour would have won 10 seats on direct elections and two on the list system--a total of 12. The Scottish National party would have won three seats on the list--a total of three--and the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would have won one each on the list.

If a party splits its ticket and uses an alter ego party, such as the Co-operative party, which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) has mentioned, and candidates do not stand under Labour on the list system, a totally different picture emerges. Labour would win 10 seats on direct elections and six on the list under the Co-operative party banner. The SNP would win one list seat and the other two parties would win none.

The Secretary of State shakes his head, but that analysis was done by a very senior political lecturer in Aberdeen on behalf--I understand--of the Labour party. It shows that there is a fault. Having tried other methods, we are simply trying in amendment No. 4 to get around the problem by having not two votes but one, so that the vote cast in direct elections for a candidate would count for that candidate's party on the indirect list. That would avoid party manipulation. I admit that it produces a result that would not allow for individual candidates on the

12 May 1998 : Column 229

regional list, but I hope that the Government will consider it seriously as a way in which to get away from a very dangerous weakness in the system.

Next Section

IndexHome Page