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Mr. Murphy: Those Members did not receive such postbags because only one of them was elected to the Assembly under the first-past-the-post system. [Interruption.] We do not need e-mails and letters. Let us walk around the streets and go to the markets in our constituencies to talk to the people whom we represent and who know about politics. Despite what the Electoral Commission, academics and e-mails say, those people will say that the system is flawed and discredited. They will certainly say that it is unloved.

Much against my better judgment, I supported the system when I was a member of the Government. In the early days when we discussed the best system for the National Assembly, my personal preference would have been for first past the post. There is no better system than one that has a direct link between the Member in the Assembly or Parliament and those who elected him. If we are to have a different system—I accept that there
 
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is a case for having a slightly different system for the devolved institutions—it is right to consider the alternatives. However, I simply think that the one that has been chosen is the worst of the lot.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I have been to Splott market, as a matter of fact, because my daughter lived in Splott until very recently, but I have not heard anyone in Splott showing any concern about the subject, and much less in the part of north Wales that I represent. May I take the right hon. Gentleman back briefly to the point about the d'Hondt system made by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr.   David)? The right hon. Gentleman says that the existing system is complicated, outmoded and flawed. Would he thus support our amendment to clause 29 that would stop the use of that system for determining the composition of Committees?

Mr. Murphy: I will have a look at the amendment when it comes up, but we are dealing with something totally different at the moment. The hon. Gentleman will recall that I referred to the markets when talking about the way in which the Assembly relates to people in Wales and their lives, whether that is due to its impact on the health service, education or any other matter. An electoral system that cannot be, and is not, understood by people is flawed. The problem is that the second system that we are using does not produce a result that is proportionate to the votes cast for the second group of Assembly Members. I could live with it if the system was properly proportionate, but those Members are added to first-past-the-post Members and people simply do not understand how their votes can pile up, yet be useless.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I am listening to the debate with great interest, although I suggest that we might be pre-empting a later group of amendments about the process. As we are having such a discussion, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? If he thinks that the public are so dissatisfied because people who do not win an election in a constituency can nevertheless be elected, will he explain why he does not feel ashamed of being a member of a party that refuses to change an electoral system that is such that his party can become the Government of the United Kingdom with one third of the vote? Two thirds of the electorate voted against Labour, yet it formed the Government. The logical consequence of what he says is presumably that he would also like to change—

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sylvia Heal): Order. The hon. Gentleman's comments are very wide of the amendment.

Mr. Murphy: As tempted as I am to comment on the hon. Gentleman's points, I shall leave that for another debate.

Amendment No. 110 is precisely about consultation. I am expressing my personal views to the Committee. The   hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs.   Gillan) talks about e-mails and other hon. Members mention letters and a lack of consultation, but the amendment would allow us to find out people's opinions. I am not prepared to listen to the Electoral
 
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Commission so that it can make up my mind on what the people of Wales think. There should be a properly co-ordinated and constituted consultation on the nature of our electoral system. That might result in agreement with the system that we have. I simply say that if a system is not understood, it is not a good system.

Mrs. Gillan: Does it follow that the right hon. Gentleman will support our amendments to the provisions in clause 7 that will bring about changes to the electoral system with absolutely no consultation of the people of Wales whatsoever?

Mr. Murphy: I assume that the hon. Lady is referring to the proposed changes regarding dual candidacy. One of the bad effects of the present system is that it creates problems of dual candidacy, which I shall not discuss now because that is for another time this afternoon. Such problems result directly from the existing system. That is why I think that it should go, but that is not the purpose of the amendment. The amendment would establish consultation. We should ask the people of Wales what they think about the system.

There are a number of alternatives. Some years ago, several of us suggested that there should be 80 Assembly Members, with two elected for each constituency. That would have solved the problem of gender balance in my party. We would have been able to elect those Members by the alternative vote, which would have been a different method from the first-past-the-post system. Lord Richard recommended using the single transferable vote. I am not too keen on that, but it would produce something that was more understandable than the existing system. I would not support it, but at least I can see the sense behind it, which is not the case for the existing system.That is why I support the amendment. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister will consider it carefully and reflect on the need to ask people in Wales what they think about the current system. There is a risk to the legitimacy of the Assembly and to solid, firm, sound and strong government because of the results that the current system produces. Worst of all is the fact that the system is not easily understood by the people. That makes it a bad system.

There are many ways of reforming the arrangements—a single vote, a single constituency for the top-up Members from the whole of Wales, or some other system— but the present system is not doing the job. In my view it should go, but at least we should examine it.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): I too shall speak in favour of the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas), and I shall take up a couple of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) about the confusion in the current system. The amendment is sensible because, as we are asking for a referendum about more powers, and the Assembly creating Acts, it is only right and proper that we should consider how Members are elected to carry out that new responsibility, and also how many Members are needed to conduct proper scrutiny of the additional responsibilities and powers that will be bestowed if the referendum supports them.

One concern about the amendment is that it curtails the consultation to 120 days. That is a little ambitious. However, if the Assembly and the two Houses of
 
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Parliament allow additional powers, I presume that the debate will already have begun, and people will be finding out how the scrutiny works, and whether additional Members are needed.

In my opinion, additional powers and responsibilities will mean additional Members. The part of the Bill that will come into force is about enhanced powers, and I believe that there is flexibility within the current arrangements for the National Assembly to deal with those powers. However, for full primary legislation we need to examine the number of Assembly Members who will undertake that work, so I am grateful that the amendment was tabled.

The present electoral system is flawed and confusing to members of the public. In 1999 I was a candidate in the Ynys Môn constituency. I was the runner-up, I have no complaint about the fact that the people voted for their candidate. That time was the high-water mark for nationalism in Wales, and the nationalists had a runaway success; ever since then they have been in continuous decline, and I think that that will go on into the next Assembly elections. The winner won, and the first-past-the-post system clearly identified who the people of Ynys Môn wanted as their Assembly Member. I was the runner-up, yet through the list system the Conservative, who came third, was elected as an Assembly Member. The runner-up was out of the game, but the candidate who came third was elected. If that is not confusing for people, I do not know what is.

Lembit Öpik: I apologise for being out of order before, Mrs. Heal, but given the nature of the hon. Gentleman's argument, I am sure that I will be in order if I now ask him to explain how he justifies to people who are confused the fact that a party that two thirds of the electorate voted against formed the Government. How would he justify that, according to the democratic principles that he is now supporting?


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