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Mr. Hain: That is not certain at all. In fact, if there was an expansion of the list system it is quite possible that many more Labour Members would be elected, as we do not have any list Members at present. In the 1999 elections, one was returned from Mid and West Wales, but that was the exception. The political effect is not obvious, but there would be one.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hain: No, I should like to make progress in dealing with matters raised by hon. Members who have been present throughout our proceedings.

Amendment No. 67 and related amendments propose that the Assembly's electoral system should be changed, and that the single transferable vote system should be introduced. The Plaid Cymru amendment proposes that the 80 Assembly Members should be elected from the five regional constituencies which were formerly used for the election of MEPs and which would be created from the existing electoral regions. Each constituency would return 16 Members. That is a fundamental change, and it would mean that Assembly Members would serve gigantic constituencies, both geographically and in terms of the number of electors. It would damage severely the important link between constituency Assembly Members and the people they serve. The Mid and West Wales constituency, for example, would stretch from Harlech to Welshpool and from Fishguard to Crickhowell, and would thus be an enormous area to try to represent. The North Wales constituency would extend from Holyhead to Wrexham, and South Wales West from Gower to
30 Jan 2006 : Column 77
Bridgend, and so on. Two of the constituencies would have almost 0.5 million electors, and even the smallest would have nearly 400,000.

Mr. Llwyd: Under the status quo, the North Wales is exactly as the right hon. Gentleman describes. At the first Assembly election, Simon Thomas, who represented Ceredigion in the House, served as a list Member for an area extending from Eglwysbach in the Conwy valley in the north of my constituency, five minutes from Llandudno, all the way down to Fishguard. Things were far worse than they would be under our proposal.

Mr. Hain: That takes us to list Members as opposed to constituency Members, who represent constituencies of a manageable size. If the people who elect constituency Members do not like them, they can get rid of them. The problem with the STV system is that it is difficult to get rid of a particular Member whom the electorate think is underperforming or with whom they disagree politically. The STV system breaks the fundamental principle at the heart of our parliamentary system—the link between the elected Member and their constituency—which still forms the base for our devolved legislatures.

If we compare our experience in the United Kingdom with that across the rest of the European Union, it is interesting to consider the close links between Members and constituencies in the UK. Those links increase democratic accountability between hon. Members and Members of the devolved legislatures and their electorates, which is a point that does not apply in vast multi-Member constituencies and still less in list systems.

Lembit Öpik: Is the Secretary of State speaking in a personal capacity or on behalf of the Government in opposing the system that was used to elect our Members of the European Parliament?

Mr. Hain: Changing how we elect our Members of the European Parliament has not been a happy experience. From my vantage point in Welsh Labour, although I guess that this is generally true, I have noticed that individual Members of the European Parliament used to have a relationship with their constituency. They were able to attend civic functions and party meetings, which led to the constant injection of European issues into the wider political culture. Since that relationship was broken, accountability has not been the same. In retrospect, whatever the advantages of that change—it was introduced to try to obtain fairer representation—it served to break the link between MEPs and local electors.

Lembit Öpik: The point is important in terms of understanding the Government's position: is the Secretary of State saying that the Government regret changing to large constituencies?

Mr. Hain: I have not said that. In Wales—I am not aware of a difference elsewhere in the United Kingdom—the relatively organic relationship between individual MEPs and the electorate has been broken, and I have noticed a decline in interest in European issues and in the quality of debate.
30 Jan 2006 : Column 78

The practical consequences of the amendment would seriously affect voters. The ballot paper would contain 16 candidates and four parties for each regional constituency, and it would be even bigger with 80 Members—if it were to include party logos, I do not know how big it would be.

The alternative proposition—the creation of multi-Member constituencies containing between 90,000 and 220,000 electors—reminds me of Liberal Democrat proposals on STV in the 1980s. Those proposals would have created lots of constituencies in urban areas, making it easier for Liberal Democrats to get elected in Labour-controlled areas, but a smaller number of constituencies in rural areas, where it would have been more difficult for Labour Members to get elected. In our democratic system, constituencies are of a relatively manageable size, and if the electorate do not like an individual Member, they boot them out, which is an important feature to retain.

Amendment No. 7 would confer on the Secretary of State the power by order to change the number of Assembly constituencies. It would not be sensible to give the Secretary of State such an unfettered power, which would have serious democratic consequences.

For those reasons, the Government are not willing to accept the amendment. We propose to retain the existing electoral system, which we will improve. After improvement, the system will still have imperfections, but it will have far fewer imperfections than the fundamentally flawed STV system.

Jenny Willott: I am not satisfied by the Secretary of State's response. For the Liberal Democrats, this is a matter of principle. We think it important that people get what they vote for, which is why I have no alternative but to divide the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 46, Noes 428.

Division No. 145
[6.56 pm


Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, Malcolm
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Gidley, Sandra
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hemming, John
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam
Pugh, Dr. John
Robertson, Angus
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Weir, Mr. Mike
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Roger Williams and
Lorely Burt


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Allen, Mr. Graham
Amess, Mr. David
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Balls, Ed
Barker, Gregory
Barlow, Ms Celia
Baron, Mr. John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benn, rh Hilary
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brennan, Kevin
Brokenshire, James
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browne, rh Mr. Des
Browning, Angela
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Butler, Ms Dawn
Butterfill, Sir John
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Conway, Derek
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curry, rh Mr. David
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Dowd, Jim
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Forth, rh Mr. Eric
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gapes, Mike
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harper, Mr. Mark
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Healey, John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hendry, Charles
Heppell, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lammy, Mr. David
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Lloyd, Tony
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Main, Anne
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Maples, Mr. John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Mr. David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Mundell, David
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Mr. George
Owen, Albert
Paice, Mr. James
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Rammell, Bill
Randall, Mr. John
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Scott, Mr. Lee
Seabeck, Alison
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Jeremy
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Claire Ward

Question accordingly negatived.

30 Jan 2006 : Column 81

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
30 Jan 2006 : Column 82

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