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Mr. Paul Murphy: The issue that I have addressed both today and some weeks ago is that the system with which we now elect our Assembly Members is confusing in terms of accountabilitywho represents what and how people can be elected for different places. Generally, the system is confusing for our electors. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the issues that we have been discussing for the past three or four weeks are not generally on everybody's lips in our constituencies. I am not saying for one second that they are, but people who are interested in such matters express dismay at what they see.
Mr. Llwyd: As I said, the right hon. Gentleman and myself are as one on the fact there has been some confusion about the system, especially early on. I admit that, but I also point out that, in the past few years, in the run-up to the previous election and since, I have heard nothing along those lines, although there was confusion to begin with.
On the so-called evidence that has been produced by the Bevan Foundation, we have been through all these matters before on 30 January. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham has given an excellent
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synopsis of the rather threadbare Bevan Foundation report. We are told that the report is thoroughly independent and that the Bevan Foundation is politically unaligned. If anybody can listen to that suggestion without laughing, there must be something wrong because it is clearly nothing short of a front for the Labour party.
Mr. Llwyd: Yes, and one member of Plaid Cymru asked for the annual accounts and was refused them. [Hon. Members: "Ah!"] The hon. Gentleman flew into that one. All I shall say is that a sample of 47 people is about as useful as a pair of paper socks, as it does not take us anywhere at all. The process is not scientific. I have heard programmes on which the hon. Gentleman has said about a political sample, "Oh, this is a sample of only 500; it is not indicative of anything." Well, 47 is not exactly persuasive. For all I know, some of the 47 had been in the pub that has been mentioned and were confused before they started. Who knows?
Mrs. Gillan: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that some of the narrative in the report is interesting? At one stage, it states that a substantial minority of respondents supported dual candidacy and commented that it was fair for people to have a second chance and that it gave voters a choice and spread power. The report says that it was regarded as part of the democratic system and essentially as not a problem. I hope that he will join me in the Lobby if we vote on the amendment.
Mr. Llwyd: Absolutely. We are fixed in our view that the premise is unfair and that the case has simply not been made. I recall comments made by the Secretary of State, who is not present, about Sir James Arbuthnott and what would have happened if he had been aware of the Welsh scene. The hon. Lady dealt with that point, so I shall not repeat it, but I think that it was appalling to make such assertions in respect of a highly regarded academic such as Sir James. It was not proper to pray in aid such sneering remarks to try to put together a cogent and believable casea case that has clearly not been made. The hon. Lady also referred to what was said in response to such assertions, which was definite and clear. We can forget about that strand of the argument in support of this specious and rather nasty change in electoral practice.
The Secretary of State has not been exactly forthcoming in giving good reasons to support the proposed change in the law and he was not very good on police amalgamations either. Both examples show an abject failure to advance a credible case. I have to ask this question: what is the point of the Electoral Commission? Why do we have one? What is the remit of the electoral commissioner and why was he recently reappointed to that remunerated office at public expense? I may be wrong, but I thought that the electoral commissioner was there to ensure safeguards and fair play for all involved in the political system, regardless of party allegiance.
We all know that the electoral commissioner is an even-handed and fair-minded man who dealt with all parties equally when he was involved in the
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broadcasting scene. His report is definite that there is no case for change, and it contains some strong remarks, including saying that that particular issue did not figure in the extensive research:
"what concerns us is that there is no evidence whatever in the White Paper to back up this proposal. There is no evidence at all to back up this proposal and therefore we came to the conclusion that we think that the case for change has not been made".
Mr. Llwyd: It is a question of research and evidence. Lord Richard expressed his personal opinion before the Welsh Affairs Committee, but his report does not refer to the subject. Returning to my opening point, I find it strange that nobody raised the question in the 18 months of consideration, but that is by the by.
I will not labour the point with further quotations: suffice to say that Dr. Scully and Dr. Richard Wyn Jones from Aberystwyth have used strident language in stating that the measure looks like a purely party political move by the Labour party, and the evidence from Barry Winestrobe, reader in law at Napier university, is very clear, too. We did not receive any evidence in Committee, apart from the fabled Bevan Foundation report, and frankly we have not received any evidence today. In Committee, I asked the right hon. Member for Torfaen to bring the paperwork showing his constituents' concerns. I would not and do not doubt his word, but it would interesting to see some extrinsic evidence supporting the point made by Labour Members.
The change has not been proven to be necessary. It will benefit the Labour party and it will disadvantage all other parties. Dual candidature is acceptable in other countriesin some countries, people are expected to stand both in a constituency and on a listbut it has suddenly become wrong in Wales. It has probably become wrong in Wales because Labour Members have done the sums and realised that they will not get anywhere in the National Assembly without cooking the books. However, I tell them that even after cooking the books, they will not get anywhere in 2007.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Nick Ainger): We have heard Opposition Members claim that this measure is partisan, gerrymandering, rigged, fixed and so on, yet not one has been able to provide any evidence whatsoever.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) asked why the ban on dual candidacy will apply in Wales whereas other countries with the additional member system do not ban it. He has not done his research. It applies in Ukraine, which people seem to laugh at[Laughter.] They laugh again. It also applies in Thailand and Mexico.
Very few countries have the additional member system, so there is not a great deal of evidence. Independent commissions in New Zealand and in Canada have raised substantial issues in relation to dual candidacy.
"The Commission heard that in some jurisdictions where candidates are able to run simultaneously on both ballots, voters are displeased with the case where a candidate is not successful in a single member constituency, but is elected anyway by virtue of being placed on the top of a party's list."
That is some of the evidence that is available, but there is more. My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) quoted Lord Richard on people not liking losers becoming winners. More than that, Lord Carlile, the predecessor of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), said:
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