|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
David T.C. Davies: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Opposition parties are being extraordinarily politically generous to the Labour party by suggesting that the system should not be changed, as if it is changed, it will be to the disbenefit of the Labour party? Does that not prove that we are acting from the highest possible motives?
Mark Tami: (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): To reinforce my hon. Friend's point, the Assembly Member, Carl Sargeant, who represents the same area as me, would, under our present system, be No. 1 on the list, as well as standing for the seat, which would obviously put him in a strong position to retain his presence in the Assembly, but he supports giving that up.
Ian Lucas: My hon. Friend is right. In north Wales, there are a number of individuals in Labour seatssome of whom are Ministerswho have very small majorities. Those are the individuals who are most at risk of losing their seats. They will not have the safety net that he described if the proposal goes through.
The Opposition, who seem to believe that the mere repetition of an argument somehow gives it logical weight, must concede that they have produced no evidence whatsoever at any stage in this extremely long and detailed debate that the proposals are to the party political advantage of the Labour party.
Mr. Llwyd: I have heard the Secretary of State make the same point that the hon. Gentleman is making: Labour constituency Members who might be in marginals will not have the luxury of being on the list. However, looking at the voting trends in 1997 and 2001, that is an irrelevance to Labour because it would not get any seats on the list.
My next point concerns the placement of constituency offices by list Members. With due respect to the Opposition parties, they are confused about the role of Assembly Members, which is to serve their constituents. That is the role that they should fulfil when they are elected. It is not the role of an Assembly Member, or a Member of Parliament, to campaign for an individual political party at public expense. Hon. Members know very well that there are strict regulations in the House about the spending that we incur and what it can be used for. I have been concerned by some pronouncements from Opposition Members that suggest that it is in order to use public money to campaign in individual constituencies for the benefit of political parties. That is at odds with the long-standing conventions and rules of this place and I have little doubt that it is also at odds with the conventions and rules that apply in the Assembly.
It is the role of Assembly Members to represent their constituents. For list Assembly Members, that means representing, to the best of their ability, all the people in the region. It is not appropriate for them cynically to place offices to their own political campaigning advantage in individual seats. I have seen that in my constituency, where Plaid Cymru, when I was first elected, had an office in my constituency. That Assembly Member moved the office to the Clwyd, West constituency shortly before the last Assembly elections. I believe that that was not unconnected with the fact that that individual was a candidate in that constituency.
Mrs. Gillan: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the answer is that regional Members should have an office in every constituency? The situation would then be even-handed. Regional Members would then be representing the regions that he says they should be representing. A Member of the European Union Parliament can open an office wherever he wants within his constituency. Since the Government entered office, that applies from Buckinghamshire down to Brighton and includes the whole of Wales. I think that the hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding the roles of our elected Members. Should he not be pleased that a regional Member can open an office in his constituency and give more representation to the people, instead of being such a dog in the manger? Or is he like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Sarwar), who says that he has 11 MSPs interfering in his constituency?
Ian Lucas: I am surprised that such an experienced Member should make such a protracted and ineffective intervention. I fully understand the role of Assembly Members. If the hon. Lady had been paying attention to what I said earlier, she would understand that my argument was that the role of Assembly Members was to represent individuals within a constituency. If it is Conservative party policy to suggest that every Assembly Member in a region should be entitled to have an office in each individual constituency, perhaps the general electorate should be told that. That may influence people in casting their vote in the next Assembly elections.
There are Assembly offices in north Wales. Does my hon. Friend think that it would be a
27 Feb 2006 : Column 47
good idea that Members should have an office there rather than wasting taxpayers' money having them where they obviously choose to target certain seats?
Ian Lucas: The essence of my point is that Assembly Members should represent the people in their constituency and not use public money for party campaigning and for political purposes. It is in this respect that the helpful memorandum from Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru was so informative. The memo makes it clear what such expenses have been used for in the past.
I am an old-fashioned type of Member. I believe that it is the role of public representatives to represent each individual constituent, regardless of party political affiliation, to the best of their ability. Accordingly, I believe that the proposal before us will help each individual Member to fulfil that role in a better way.
Mr. Llwyd: I shall comment on what the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) said about what Leanne Wood had or had not included in her letter. Let us remind ourselves that she was fully exonerated by the Assembly Committee. There is no point in the hon. Gentleman shaking his head, or perhaps there is, because that is the sort of bloke that he is. The point is that Leanne Wood was fully exonerated, and that should be placed on record. We have to dwell on this issue to fill a void, because there is no real reason for the change other than narrow party political gain. It is astonishing that he has to pray in aid a young woman who has been exonerated for what she said already. I give way to the sponsor of the Bevan Foundation report.
Mr. Llwyd: A certain gentleman from Wales was recently on "Question Time". He was asked about matters which he said were dealt with in this place, and he had no opinion on those matters. What we are discussing is a devolved matter. I have no opinion on it. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Opening the debate, the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) mentioned the Richard commission. It produced an excellent piece of work. Eighteen months of deliberation, evidence taking and examination of all aspects of the governance of Wales resulted in a very useful report. I shall not dwell on it. My party's view is obvious: its recommendations should have been implemented.
Despite examining all aspects of Welsh governance and taking hundreds of pages of evidence from dozens of witnesses, the report made no such recommendation as the proposal under discussion. The Richard commission considered how many Members there should be in the Assembly and favoured increasing the membership. As we know, the commission recommended primary powers at the next stage, but it made no recommendation along these lines.
27 Feb 2006 : Column 48
The commission was better placed at that time to look into everything. Everyone who wished to give evidence, from all political parties and none, was allowed to give evidence. That was a model way of dealing with the subject. Curiously, no one seems to have given evidence along the lines that hon. Gentlemen are arguing. Had that been the case, it would have been included in the report and the commission would have reached some conclusion about it. If there was the kind of concern that the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) encounters in the pubs that he obviously frequents, the commission would clearly have made some recommendation. We have heard nothing about the matter from the Richard commission, so that concern could not have been expressed.
I have a great regard for the right hon. Gentleman, who says that he has picked up on such concern when he visits his constituents. I can straightforwardly and honestly say that during my travels throughout Wales in the past seven or eight years, the matter has not been broached with me. I will admit that on occasion, one or two people have expressed some confusion about the new system, especially early on, but never from 1997 to the present day has anyone said to me, "This is unfair." I say that in all honesty. I have not heard it. Had I heard it, I would relay it to the House, as it would inform the debate. It has not happened, even during our debates over the past weeks.
Many people out there follow our debates, and they have not seen fit to raise the issue, even now. If there was such unfairness as is alleged, surely during the debate somebody would have expressed some opinion to that effect, perhaps in a letter column or in a local newspaper. Had such a complaint appeared in a local newspaper, I have no doubt that the Government would have used it in the debate today. The truth is that there is no evidence whatsoever, although I accept entirely what the right hon. Gentleman says. He is a truthful man and there may be some confusion on Torfaen. He would not mislead the House, of that I am sure, but I tell him, equally honestly, that I have never had the matter broached with me.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|