Previous SectionIndexHome Page

David T.C. Davies: It will never happen, but a candidate on a list would have a vested interest in ensuring that his colleague standing in a winnable seat did not win. Would not that cause problems to the parties that currently benefit most from regional lists?

Mr. Murphy: It is for the individual parties to sort out how they select people for election.

That is a problem of the system. The additional member system that we have as a result of the 1997 settlement is fundamentally flawed. People do not understand it. They do not understand how an individual can stand in two ways for the same body on the same day in the same election and be defeated, then get elected a matter of an hour or two later. Equally if not more confusing is the fact that, in my constituency and in those of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the south Wales valleys, thousands upon thousands of people vote Labour on their second vote, yet none of those votes is counted. I do not understand the logic of that. I can understand the technicalities, because I taught the subject many years ago when I was a teacher in a college of further education, but as an elector or as an elected representative, I think that it is terribly confusing and ought to be changed.

How can the system be changed? We should keep the 40 first-past-the-post AMs and the 20 top-up AMs should be elected on an all-Wales list based on strict proportionality, so that people are elected according to the number of votes cast throughout Wales for their party. That would be easily understood by the people of Wales. In the months and years ahead, there is a debate
9 Jan 2006 : Column 64
to be had about what changes might be made. If none is made, the top-up system will become increasingly discredited.

Mr. Grieve: The method that the right hon. Gentleman proposes has something to commend it, but if such a system were to be adopted, there would be nothing to prevent the mischief about which the Secretary of State is so exercised, of someone on an all-Wales list identifying himself with a particular locality, which he wanted to seize in future under first past the post. Does not the argument advanced by the Secretary of State debase the debate that we ought to be having on the matter, on which the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) is making an important point?

Mr. Murphy: Someone on an all-Wales list standing in a strictly proportionate election going to a particular constituency and fighting it would be much less of a problem than it is now. Now, elections are fought on electoral subdivisions of Wales and in those much smaller divisions it is more than possible—indeed, it is happening—for individual list Members to go to a constituency and campaign to get elected as a candidate under first past the post. That is wrong, because the 20 top-up Members should bring something different to the Assembly and thus enhance it. That would be more likely if they were elected as I have suggested.

I hope that the Bill receives its Second Reading today, because the people of Wales are served by all of us who are elected for that purpose, whether we serve in the House of Commons, the Assembly or local government. We are all there to serve those whom we represent and I believe that the Bill gives us an opportunity to improve the quality of life of all Welsh people.

6.7 pm

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I agreed with almost every word that the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) said. He is right to say that the Bill will have long-term ramifications for Anglo-Welsh relations and the way in which our country develops.

I represent the border town of Shrewsbury. We have a long border with Wales and there are many issues common to Shrewsbury and Shropshire and the good people of Wales. Just last week, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who has now left the Chamber, came to the Royal Shrewsbury hospital in my constituency to fight for the services it provides because the vast majority of his mid-Wales constituents cross the border to use our services.

The United Kingdom is, in my view, one country—I am passionate about that—but the Bill and some previous pieces of legislation drive a wedge between England and Wales. When we cross the border, there are no passport checks or barriers, yet Parliament is starting to create huge gulfs between our two peoples. I shall give three or four examples of the way in which barriers are being erected between our two countries.

The first example is the Royal Shrewsbury hospital. Given the difference in policy of the Welsh Assembly and our authorities, my hospital in Shrewsbury loses more than £2 million every year. That is because the
9 Jan 2006 : Column 65
Welsh health authorities pay a different amount for their patients coming across the border compared with English patients. That is repeated over and over again in local newspapers. Shropshire newspapers state that we are subsidising the Welsh and ask why the Welsh should pay less. This is bad for cross-border relations.

Mr. David: What is the hon. Gentleman's policy for resolving that problem, as he sees it?

Daniel Kawczynski: Although I believe in devolution, I believe also that there must be some form of joined-up government. The Welsh Assembly must be thinking along similar lines on certain issues, such as health, when it comes to cross-border services. That should certainly be taken into consideration.

I move on to targets and hospitals. One of the problems for the Welsh is that, because the Assembly pays less for patients, they have to face far longer targets. If someone is Welsh and he or she comes across the border to use my hospital, they will have to wait far longer for their operation than my constituents wait. Many Welsh citizens say to me that they feel second-class citizens because of the waits that they face, and that they find them entirely unacceptable.

My constituents are treated differently from Welsh citizens when it comes to prescribing drugs at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital. Some Welsh patients receive drugs that my constituents are not allowed to have, and vice versa. This is appalling. Surely the Labour Government, a Government who talk so passionately about the NHS, should be talking about ensuring that services and drugs for patients are the same at a hospital, no matter where they come from.

I represent a border town and there are many farmers who own property on both sides of the border. They are frustrated by the differences in single farm payments with which they have to cope. These farmers get together at the Minsterley show every year to talk about how they are being treated in Wales and how they are being treated in England. Division is caused between the two sets of people.

The Secretary of State talked about accountability. I shall give one example of where the Welsh Assembly is not proving accountable to people in England. There is a major project on the Welsh-English border—the Middletown bypass—that is being considered by the Welsh Assembly. This huge bypass will come across the border into my constituency, yet it will be adjudicated on by the First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, and the Welsh Assembly. We will have no input. Many acres of Shropshire countryside will be devastated by a huge bypass but we in Shropshire will have no say. We feel, as the Welsh felt in the past, a lack of accountability.

I shall talk about jobs, about which I feel passionately. Unemployment has increased in my constituency by 25 per cent. over the past 12 months. We have lost many jobs across the border to Wales. Welsh Members may say, "That is great. We are doing a better job than you are in attracting jobs." However, we are a united kingdom. We should be focusing on jobs throughout the country and not on poaching jobs from either side of the border on the basis that the Welsh Development Agency gives larger grants.
9 Jan 2006 : Column 66

Ian Lucas: For the hon. Gentleman's information, Wrexham and Alyn and Deeside are not in the objective 1 area and do not receive grant aid, in contrast to areas of Shropshire that receive grant aid under EU regulations.

Daniel Kawczynski: I am talking about the difference between Shrewsbury and Montgomeryshire, which affects Shrewsbury. The hon. Gentleman will have to speak to my counterpart on his side of the border.

Mrs. Gillan: Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the catalogue of issues that need resolving, it would have been an improvement to make the Welsh Assembly work better for the people of Wales and the people of the United Kingdom before the Secretary of State sought to change the way in which it legislates, and that his priorities are completely wrong? Instead of improving things for the people of Wales, he has sought once again to move the goalposts.

Daniel Kawczynski: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. She has encapsulated in a far better way than I have the main thrust of my speech, which is that the proposed legislation is moving ahead quickly before certain fundamental issues that affect both our countries are addressed. Unless someone lives in a border area, as I do, he or she may not feel the deep concerns and passions that are felt by myself and by my constituents in respect of anomalous cross-border issues.

I recently met directors of a large American company who basically admitted to me that they had played us off one against the other—the Welsh Assembly and the English authorities—and that they drove up the grants that they demanded. I urge the Secretary of State and the Government to bear in mind the effect that their proposed legislation will have on English areas near the border.

6.16 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page