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Mr. Edward Davey: The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by extolling the virtues--including maturity--of the people of London. Surely he is not suggesting that, despite that maturity, they could not make their preferences in the order one, two, three, four, five.

Mr. Brooke: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. My peroration is devoted to that subject, so if he will forgive me I will answer him then. You will be delighted to hear, Mr. Martin, that I shall come to my peroration very shortly.

In passing, I may be the most recent Member present to have visited Sri Lanka. We had a wholly admirable Sri Lankan driver, who told us that he had not voted in

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the last six presidential elections in Sri Lanka, but he then rather spoilt the effect, in the context of this speech, by saying that he was of so conservative a temperament that he would be happy if the British were to return. It just shows that London cab drivers are not the only ones in the world to play to their passengers guessed-at predilections.

However, the heart of this debate is the proposition in the opening speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) that the Government are asking us to tackle too many new voting systems at once. I do not share the views of the Scottish judge that a change for the better is a contradiction in terms, and I am not averse to experiment, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and it is possible to discredit that thing in the process. That is why I believe that the people of London will be better off staying with the system with which they are wholly familiar, and should not be asked to try a whole series of new systems simultaneously.

Mr. Raynsford: We have had a wide-ranging debate. We have done a veritable world tour, covering areas as far apart as Alabama, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea, and now we return to London.

As the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) reminded us, the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) opened the debate by claiming that there were too many different voting systems. I have to accept that the Liberal Democrat party has given the impression that the debate is all about a plethora of voting systems, but the Government's proposals are not complex and detailed or prolific.

Last night we discussed, and decided on, voting arrangements for the assembly. Tonight we are considering the voting system for the mayor. We are not offering a range of voting systems; we are offering one simple voting system--the supplementary vote. The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk said that she wanted a mayor elected with a clear majority--not the least worst candidate. We agree whole-heartedly. That is why we do not support the Liberal Democrat advocacy of the alternative vote system, under which it would be possible for a mayoral candidate to be elected with very limited first preference support, simply on the basis of second, third, fourth, fifth and umpteenth preference votes from people who saw that candidate as the least worst on offer. That is not a good recipe for a mayor with a strong mandate to deliver effective government for London, and we reject the Liberal Democrat amendments proposing that system.

Mrs. Lait: We are discussing only the election of the mayor at the moment but, unless I am mistaken, on election day--4 May in the year 2000--Londoners will be confronted with three electoral systems in the polling station. Can the Minister assure me that the Government will fund education to promote awareness, and fund training for polling agents, presiding officers, electoral registration officers and so on, so that they are capable of dealing with the voter rage that is bound to follow, and so that they may have counselling afterwards for its effects?

Mr. Raynsford: Mr. Martin, I shall not risk incurring your wrath by straying into that territory, which is far

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from the subject of the amendment before us. The amendment is specifically about voting arrangements for the mayor--arrangements for people to vote on a single ballot paper, in the way that they do in elections for a Member of Parliament or councillors, and which will not involve additional costs or expenditure. We shall deal with those matters at the appropriate moment. I assure the hon. Lady that we shall make appropriate arrangements to ensure that the first election for the mayor and assembly of London can be handled efficiently, and that reasonable costs incurred by local authorities conducting those elections will be reimbursed through the normal and appropriate mechanisms. However, that is far from the subject of the debate.

The supplementary vote does not have the effect of the alternative vote, which could allow a candidate incapable of getting substantial support on a first preference vote to win. The supplementary vote ensures that only a candidate who can come in the top two on the first preference can go forward and, ultimately, win. It therefore ensures that the winning candidate must have a large measure of first-preference support.

The system has been discussed many times, and was recommended most recently by the Plant committee, established earlier in this decade--or perhaps toward the end of the last--with a very distinguished membership, including my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours).

Mr. Campbell-Savours indicated dissent.

Mr. Raynsford: I am wrong to say that my hon. Friend was a member of the committee; he submitted evidence to it, and the committee recognised the good sense of his evidence and recommended the supplementary vote system, which he had advocated. I pay tribute to his advocacy, for many years, of an electoral system that ensures the election of a candidate who commands substantial support, and which ensures that, in a situation such as a mayoral election for London, in which there may be many candidates, no candidate can win on the basis of very limited support, simply because of the wide spread of voting preferences. As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) put it, it is a superior majoritarian system of voting. That is why we have adopted it.

Mr. Edward Davey: Can the Minister confirm that, under SV, the winning candidate may gain less than a majority of the votes of the people of London?

Mr. Raynsford: It is certainly possible that, under SV, the winning candidate will not secure 50 per cent. of the votes cast, because only the second preference votes of the defeated candidates--those not in the first two places--will be reallocated, and some of those votes may not be for candidates in the top two places. However, that does not in any way negate the value of the supplementary vote system. That system ensures that--as in France--only two candidates who have secured substantial support in the first preference vote can proceed to the second stage, so that only strong candidates with real backing are in the final run-off, and those are the two whose total votes, with the second preferences added, ultimately determine the outcome.

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The amendments before us would change the method of election for mayor from that recommended by the Government. The Conservative amendments would restore a first-past-the-post system, requiring a simple majority. The Liberal Democrat amendments would replace the supplementary vote system with the alternative vote system. Neither proposition is acceptable to us. The White Paper clearly said that we had considered those alternative arrangements, and made it clear why we had rejected them in favour of the supplementary vote system.

The election of the first mayor of London will be the first time that we, in the United Kingdom, have a directly elected executive fulfilling a major responsibility such as that which the mayor of London will fulfil. In itself, that appears to us to call for a method of election the result of which attunes itself as closely as possible to the expressed views of the electorate, and which delivers to the candidate the strongest mandate possible. That is why we have proposed election by the supplementary vote system.

We want a strong mayor, with whom the people of London can identify, and whom the majority of those who vote will feel that they have had a say in choosing--if only by the use of the second vote. I am therefore unable to accept the Conservative or the Liberal Democrat amendments, which would change the electoral system for mayor. I invite the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to withdraw their amendments.

Amendment No. 48, also tabled by the Liberal Democrats, is wrong and wrong-headed. The intended effect of the amendment is to allow the assembly to take a tie-breaking decision when two candidates for the office of mayor receive an exactly equal number of votes during the election. Such a situation is exceptionally unlikely. We are talking of an electorate of 5 million, and 5 million votes, or a proportion of them, cast between a range of candidates with first and second preferences is exceptionally unlikely to produce the situation that is suggested. However, irrespective of that, the amendment is wrong because it is technically defective. The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow), who introduced it, seems not to have read subsequent provisions in the Bill. If he had, he would know that clause 4(7) requires the returning officer to determine who has been elected as the mayor, and constituency assembly members, before the returning officer can decide who are the London members of the assembly. Therefore, after the first elections to the GLA an assembly will not exist until after the tie-breaking decision would need to be taken. As I have said, the situation that has been suggested could not happen. At the second and subsequent elections the decision would have to be taken not by the new assembly but by the outgoing assembly, and clearly that would be nonsensical.

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