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Lembit Öpik: I will not withdraw my amendment and I will tell you why, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Quite right.

Lembit Öpik: I thank my hon. Friend for his support. So enraged are the true experts on d'Hondt that they are flowing into the Chamber and on to the Liberal Democrat Benches. The Minister makes fun of me for speaking in such detail about d'Hondt, but I fear that, by contrast, he spoke with very little passion, but from a brief that suggested that he ought to speak up for a system that I suspect fails on the confusion criterion that the Government used only one hour ago to get rid of the split candidature, which they said that the public would not understand.

The Minister dug his own grave in his speech. He said that he wanted to allow the Assembly to come up with Committees as it sees fit and then that he would be extremely surprised if the Committees did not have cross-party representation. I assume from that that his expectation is that the Assembly will see the importance of fair cross-party representation. Further than that, I assume from the tone of his comments that he thinks that there is a moral obligation on the Assembly to ensure proper cross-party representation. Why, then, is he so afraid to enshrine that important moral expectation in the commission's structure in the Bill, rather than simply leaving the matter to fate and hoping that the Assembly decides to have the right format?

The Minister prayed in aid of his argument the fact that no similar provision existed in the Scotland Act 1998. However, in response to a question from, I believe, the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr.   Llwyd), who pointed out that Scotland had rejected d'Hondt, the Minister had nothing to say about
27 Feb 2006 : Column 76
the fact that he was forcing something different on Wales. In simple terms, the Minister cannot claim that something is right because it is done in one way in Scotland and then ignore the claim that something else is not right because it is done differently in Scotland from Wales. I am afraid that, on that basis, he was entirely implausible. Based on that argument, we have to press amendment No. 30 to a Division. If the Minister thinks about his own argument, far from opposing the amendment, he should show that he is consistent and vote for it, at which point he will have won the undying admiration of all true democrats in the Chamber.

On cross-party representation on the Committees as a whole, I spoke to amendment No. 31.

Amendment No. 3, introduced by the official Opposition, is supported by Plaid Cymru. The principal amendments, Nos. 31 and 33, are the same. However, they are very different from the d'Hondt system for the reasons that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) so eloquently outlined. It seems that we have the assurance that we do not need amendments Nos. 3 or 31. Rhodri Morgan has assured us that if there are six members of a Committee, he will ensure that the d'Hondt system is not applied.

That is a dramatic revelation on two bases. First of all, Rhodri Morgan has an opinion about something that Westminster is due to decide. Clearly this is much more important to him than the questions put to him about the Iraq war, but we shall pass over that. The second important discovery is that far from the reassurances that we have had that Rhodri Morgan intends one day to retire, it seems that he will go on for ever, simply to ensure that the promise that he has made as an individual—not ex officio—will be sustained in perpetuity. Rhodri Morgan has no jurisdiction to commit his successors to ensure that the d'Hondt system will not apply if there are six or fewer members on a Committee.

In effect, the Minister has given us a promise from his mate that as long as his mate is the First Minister, everything will be all right. That is no way to frame legislation. That cannot be done on the basis of who happens to be in a job at present. I am sure that the Minister knows from his slightly ashen appearance that he has committed a monumental gaffe in suggesting that Rhodri Morgan's word is sufficient to convince the Opposition to fall back from amendments Nos. 3 and 31. There are many holes—

Mr. Llwyd: Is it not the simple fact that, given that the Labour Administration in Cardiff, for their own reasons, want to engineer a deadlock on this issue, which they can, the d'Hondt system has to come in? The mere suggestion then that a two thirds majority—a supramajority—could suddenly overturn d'Hondt is fantasy and nonsense.

Lembit Öpik: It is almost as weak as being offered an assurance from someone who does not have the jurisdiction to make such commitments.

As the hon. Gentleman says, as I have suggested myself and as those on the Opposition Front Bench have pointed out, these arguments have not been advanced plausibly. The Minister falls back on hearsay assurances from individuals who are not qualified to give those
27 Feb 2006 : Column 77
assurances. The only hope that these debates would carry water or weight is the assumption that the verbiage of the debates would be the more powerful than the interpretation by any future Administration of the law itself. That is no way to frame legislation. That, by the Government's own admission, will have to carry us through well into the 21st century, when it comes to Welsh devolution.

For that reason, I feel that I have to put amendment No. 32 to the vote. It will be a matter of shame if the Government still feel obliged to oppose such a common-sense proposal. If the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) chooses to press amendment No. 3 to a separate vote, my colleagues and I will have no alternative but to support it.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 269.

Division No. 174
[7.13 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Mr. Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Forth, rh Mr. Eric
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Webb, Steve
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Williams, Hywel
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Angela Watkinson and
Mr. Roger Williams


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Mr. David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Walley, Joan
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Alan Campbell and
Mr. John Heppell

Question accordingly negatived.

27 Feb 2006 : Column 80

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