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Mr. Caplin: It is true.

Mr. Sayeed: The hon. Gentleman may learn something if he listens. He seems to forget that 38 of the

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53 Cross-Bench peers--I have a list here and I have counted--who voted in a Division on 12 November voted against the Government. More than 70 per cent. of those peers who owe no party allegiance voted against a Government measure because the principle was wrong.

Mr. Caplin: Will the hon. Gentleman accept that in all the three votes on this issue in the other place, the Conservative party's victory--if that is what it is--has occurred because of the votes of hereditary peers?

Mr. Sayeed: The critical point is how those who owe no party allegiance vote, and it is absolutely clear that on 12 November over 70 per cent. of them failed to support Labour's proposals. Indeed, on that date not one Labour or Liberal Back-Bench peer spoke in favour of the Government's measures, just as on 10 November not one Labour Back Bencher made a speech supporting the Government's proposals.

Mr. Andy King (Rugby and Kenilworth): Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether the measure would have been passed in the other place if the hereditary peers had been discounted?

Mr. Sayeed: That is not the critical point. We must consider how those who owe no party allegiance vote, because that is probably the best way of judging the merits of an argument.

Mr. Beith: I recall that the situation was the same with the poll tax, but I do not remember Conservative Ministers coming to the House and saying, "We are dropping this measure because we have counted the Cross-Bench peers and more of them voted against it than voted for it."

Mr. Sayeed: The right hon. Gentleman should deal with this specific measure, on which his party does not have a very honourable position to defend.

Mrs. Dunwoody: Perhaps I should point out that, if the then Conservative Government had had the common sense to abandon the poll tax because of the result that they achieved in the House of Lords, they might not have got into nearly so much trouble.

Mr. Sayeed: I thank the hon. Lady for her assistance in supporting my arguments.

It is quite surprising that not one Back-Bench Labour peer or Labour Member in this place has spoken in support of the Government's proposals. It is even more surprising bearing in mind the subservient nature of Labour Back-Bench questions and how Tone's clones have been parachuted into the House of peers--not because they have any merit but because they are friends of the Prime Minister. Even they were not prepared to support the Bill. I suspect that that is because this debate is not about closed lists versus open lists--although I believe that open lists are far superior and more democratic.

I believe that not one Labour Back-Bench Member of Parliament or Labour Back-Bench peer is prepared to support this measure because of the way the Labour party intends to operate closed lists. That is the real reason and that is what has really stuck in their craw.

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It is worth reminding the House of the speech made by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) on10 November. He said:

The hon. Gentleman continued:

    "he came from outside the area and we in Wales had no knowledge that he was interested in being on the list in Wales and he was not considered as one of those in contention for a place on the list by the Labour party members in north Wales. Yet there he is in third position and the candidate for whom 98 per cent. of Labour members in north Wales voted is in fourth position--an unlikely winning position for the Labour party in the elections.

    That cannot be right."--[Official Report, 10 November 1998;Vol. 319, c. 228.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Hansard is available to every hon. Member, so the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) does not need to read an extract from it verbatim. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and perhaps he should now move on.

Mr. Sayeed: I thank you for your help, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Wrexham--a Labour Member and a former shadow Minister--was making the point that this system cannot be right because it is not open and it is undemocratic.

I think that even the Home Secretary is seized of that argument. I believe that, if the Labour party had chosen the system that we favour, whereby the party membership selects, openly and democratically, both those who should be on the list and the order in which they should appear, we would not have seen this Bill return from the Lords again. However, the Labour party has not done that. Its operation of the closed list is so undemocratic that I consider it an affront to democracy.

Mr. Caplin: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the south-east--where my constituency of Hove is located--our Member of the European Parliament, Mr. Brendan Donnelly, has been de-selected by his own party not because of any democratic views but because of his views and those of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the single currency?

Mr. Sayeed: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's assistance, but he has got it totally wrong. Mr. Donnelly was not selected by the party members who attended a selection conference. The hon. Member for Wrexham made the point that the candidate in north Wales who received 98 per cent. of the votes was placed in such a low position on the list by the party executive at Millbank that he had no chance of getting elected. That is wrong.

Mr. Loughton: My constituency adjoins that of the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin), and I know that almost 2,000 members of the regional Conservative party voted to put that MEP in that position on the list. Does my hon. Friend know how many members of the Labour

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party in the south-east region had an opportunity to select the candidates that will appear on the ballot paper representing the Labour party?

Mr. Sayeed: I have not been to Millbank tower, so I do not know whether it is one, two or three apparatchiks. However, I presume that the Prime Minister will decide what the party gets.

I was interested to listen to the Home Secretary's speech tonight, which was surprisingly half-hearted. It was slightly jokey--as most of his speeches are--but it was extraordinarily shallow. I believe that the Home Secretary's heart is no longer in this Bill. His amendments to the Bill are so banal that he must recognise that he has no chance of placating the Lords. I suspect that, after consulting his friends in the parliamentary Labour party, he has concluded that closed lists are undemocratic. He has never been a particular supporter of proportional representation, but he now recognises that this is an opportunity to double-cross the Liberal Democrats. He will not only double-cross the Liberal Democrats by ensuring that we do not get PR for European elections but he will ensure that we do not get closed lists, which his parliamentary party does not want. He will then blame--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is associating the Prime Minister with a double cross. I hope that he is not suggesting that a Member of this place would do anything underhand.

Mr. Sayeed: I am glad to clarify my comments. First, I was referring to the Home Secretary and, secondly, I did not say that he was double crossing anyone. I suggested that he had the opportunity to double-cross the Liberal Democrats--there is a difference.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should make himself clear. I hope that he is not suggesting that any Member of the House would do anything underhand. If he says that he is not trying to do that, I am happy to let him continue.

Mr. Sayeed: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Of course I would not even suggest that the Home Secretary would attempt to double-cross any other person or do anything underhand. I am saying that this is a way of getting at the Liberal party. This is a way of preventing PR. This is a way of getting rid of closed-list systems, which he knows that Labour Back Benchers do not like. As he has shown, he is in a position to blame the change of direction on hereditary peers, however erroneously ascribed that blame is.

We know for certain, however, that the way in which the Labour party intends to operate the Bill, if passed, is an affront to democracy. It will allow the Labour party--the Labour party machine--to determine who is elected; and the responsibility of those who are selected and, consequently, elected will be, not to the electorate, but to the Labour party machine.

Mr. Beith: I must be a bit naive. Surely the hon. Gentleman understands that, if he succeeds and the Bill fails, first, more Labour MPs will be elected than under the present system, and secondly, it will be open to the central machinery of the Labour party, through the selection panel system, to ensure that only those that it

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wants are elected. Therefore, the results that he fears will happen in much larger measure if he succeeds in killing the Bill.

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