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Mr. Llwyd: The right hon. Gentleman says that it happens every week, but I was not aware that the Scottish National party had Members in the National Assembly.

8 pm

Mr. Salmond : We're coming.

Mr. Llwyd: They might be at some point.

Chris Bryant : This is risible.
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Mr. Llwyd: Risible arguments are precisely what we heard earlier. What nonsense has been put around. I have great regard for the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) but when he was pressed about the evidence, even he could only say that he had had the odd conversation here and there. Nobody has produced a shred of evidence to prove the case.

Let us look at the international situation. Dr. Wyn Jones and Dr. Scully said:

Their report goes on:

I would certainly say that that is true.

The Electoral Commission was cited earlier by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham and it has looked dispassionately and independently at the situation. What it had to say about international comparisons is interesting:

But no other country bans dual candidacy on the lines of the proposal in the White Paper. We feel that going down that road requires more compelling reasons without those other examples. If we are to operate outside international democratic norms, we have to have particular reasons for doing so.

The Secretary of State's response, of course, was to rubbish that and pretend that academics highly respected in Welsh and international politics had somehow got it wrong. If he says later that the matter has been considered in New Zealand and Canada, he will be right, but it has been turned down in both, which hardly helps his argument.

The Secretary of State also offered a gratuitous insult to the Electoral Commission in saying that it played a valuable role but could get things wrong and had got this wrong. If we are all, collectively, getting it wrong, why does not the Secretary of State give us some proof instead of conjecture and stories about thousands of people who are beside themselves all night because of the unfairness of the system?

Hywel Williams: Does my hon. Friend find it strange that the Secretary of State and the First Minister have rubbished the Electoral Commission but that the head of that commission has only just been reappointed for a further five years? If he gets things so wrong, why are they reappointing him?

Mr. Llwyd: Precisely so. That is a question that the Secretary of State may wish to address. We are told all the time that the Government like to consult: indeed, they do consult, but if they do not like it, they throw the consultation paper away because it is not what they wanted to hear. What is happening is obvious to anyone who can read. It is disgraceful.

The Bill has good things in it but also contains machinery for the worst possible kind of gerrymandering. That is absolutely obvious. The First Minister, Rhodri
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Morgan, said there was widespread support across non-political people in Wales for this proposition. Where is that widespread support? Dr. Jonathan Bradbury of the university of Wales, Swansea, and Dr. Meg Russell of the constitution unit at University College, London, said that when they were looking for evidence there was

but conceded:

They went on:

Glyn Mathias, an electoral commissioner, said:

In evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee, Dr. Scully and Dr. Richard Wyn Jones, from Aberystwyth, said:

In other words, it was absolute nonsense. In somewhat more colourful language, the two doctors tore into the White Paper:

Mr. Hain indicated dissent.

Mr. Llwyd: I am quoting this; I am not making it up:

Mr. David : Perhaps we could take a break from the hon. Gentleman's reading—

Mr. Llwyd: It is evidence I am giving you. Evidence.

Mr. David: If the hon. Gentleman considers the other evidence presented to the Welsh Affairs Committee, he
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will find other opinions expressed. Dr. Jonathan Bradbury, for example, and Dr. Meg Russell express other opinions. The idea that all the academic evidence is one-sided is totally false, and he knows it.

Mr. Llwyd: If the hon. Gentleman had been awake, he would have heard me refer to Meg Russell, who said that there was no evidence.

Chris Bryant: But she still supported the change.

Mr. Llwyd: She might have done, but she said there was no evidence.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sylvia Heal): Order. Would hon. Members please conduct debate in the proper manner?

Mr. Llwyd: From Meg Russell's constitutional unit, her colleague Professor Robert Hazell concluded that the proposals are

Barry Winestrobe, reader in law at Napier university, who has lobbied us on the matter, says:

Moreover, the New Zealand commission ruled out a ban on dual candidacy on the specific grounds that it would be unfair on smaller parties.

Let me attempt to sum up. We have heard nothing of substance from the Government to support the ban that they propose. The Electoral Commission has said that it would go outside international democratic norms.

The Government say that they have carried out extensive public research, but the issue was not even raised in the Clwyd, West constituency. The Electoral Commission cautioned against

The electoral commissioner also said that

The Welsh Affairs Committee found little support for the Government's proposed solution. Dr. Richard Wyn Jones and Dr. Roger Scully said that it had a "partisan motivation". The Electoral Reform Society has considerable concerns and does not think that the case has been made. It also advocates the single transferable vote.

It is interesting to note that there are no plans to make this change in Scotland, possibly because Peter Peacock is a Labour MSP from the Highlands and Islands and is also a Labour Minister. I know that other Members will wish to speak in this debate, but I have a copy of
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Sir   John Arbuthnott's report. I shall refer briefly to it, although others will wish to refer to it in greater detail. It states:

So far, we have heard little mention of the Human Rights Act 1998. I am no expert on it, although I do a little practice in the area, but I will take leading counsel's advice on the legality of that issue. If I have that advice before Report stage, I shall put it before the House.

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