Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 25 OCTOBER 2005
Q100 Hywel Williams: I think I have
concerns about the understandability of it all for the public
in Wales and therefore the difficulty of recruiting them as supporters
eventually, from my stand point in particular.
Lord Richard: I think there is
something in that. One of the objects of our report was to try
to simplify matters, not to complicate them. That was why we were
very much in favour of severing the Assembly Government away from
the rest of it, in other words moving away from this concept of
the Assembly being a corporate body because people did not understand
what that meant. As you know, there was confusion as to whether
the Assembly was doing something or whether the Assembly Government
was doing it. I think to move into a situation in which, if it
is being done by Orders in Council, people will not be sure (i)
whether the Assembly have asked for power and (ii) whether the
refusal of power is because they have not got through to Westminster
or for some other reason, and (iii) whether what is being operated
is basically a Westminster power in Wales or a Welsh power in
Wales. I think that is going to be a source of some confusion.
I do not think it is insuperable but it is an additional hurdle.
Q101 Mark Williams: Can we turn to
the electoral system and STV. You have explained the logic which
led you to reach the conclusion of STV. Why would you have ruled
out an extension, if you like, of the additional Members system?
Lord Richard: It is very difficult
to do, 40 list and 40 constituencies. The existing strains that
there are with 40/20 we have heard about and to double the number
of list Members, which is what you would do, you increase those
Q102 Mark Williams: Did you look
in terms of the boundaries that would operate of the regions within
the STV? We heard from some of the academics last week that it
was time to update the boundaries under which the system is undertaken,
given that we are working on boundaries that were European election
boundaries some years ago?
Lord Richard: Yes, we looked at
Q103 Mark Williams: What did you
Lord Richard: Can I make the point
again that I have just been making because if you can run it on
60, you do not need to do anything with the electoral system;
if you cannot run it on 60 and it goes up to 80, you do need to
do something with the electoral system. You have then got to decide
what it is you want to do with it. You cannot have first past
the post clearly. You cannot have a list which is equal to the
number of the constituencies, so you have got to have another
one. We looked at the different types of electoral systems that
were on offer.
I have to tell you I am not an expert on the
details of proportional representation systems so you must forgive
me if you are. It did seem to us that the most logical one was
Q104 Mark Williams: What consideration
did you give to replacing the system with a single national list?
Lord Richard: We looked at that.
The problem with the single national list is that you do not have
any relationship then between the individual and a recognised
geographical entity. We did think that it was important to try
and preserve as much of a geographical link as you reasonably
could. So how do you do it? I suppose in theory you could double
up on everything but I do not think that is particularly fair
politically nor would it be particularly efficient. The other
thing you can do is that you can enlarge the number of constituencies
but have more Members per constituency. If you do that, what new
constituency boundaries do you have? You cannot just double up
on the parliamentary ones. On the other hand, if you take the
European ones, then you can probably have a sufficient number
in each of those constituencies to make STV reasonably workable,
because we did hear quite strong evidence that you have got to
have about four or five Members as a minimum for STV to work properly
and then is STV too complicated? There are certain parts of Western
Europe however where it has not proved too complicated. The Irish
seem to get along well with STV. It takes a bit longer to announce
the results of their elections but people seem to be able to grade
candidates in the order in which they wish them to be graded,
first, second, third and fourth, so we came to the conclusion
that although STV is a considerable mouthful to gulp down to start
off with (and I understand the politics of this) nevertheless,
once you have actually got the meal down, on the whole, it might
be fairly palatable. At least, it would not prove unpalatable,
let's put it that way.
Q105 Mr David Jones: Continuing with
this discussion, last week, as I said earlier, we had evidence
from a panel of academics who told us that the White Paper's proposals
for reform of the electoral system, particularly with regard to
list Members, look deeply partisan (whether or not that was the
intention behind it) and this may have a negative impact upon
public confidence in the system. In fact, one of the academics
said words to the effect ofand I paraphraseif there
is one thing that the public dislike almost as much as a bent
copper or a paedophile living down the street, it is a politician
who seems to be stitching up the electoral system to his own advantage.
What are your views on that?
Lord Richard: I certainly agree
with every syllable of that remark.
Q106 Mr David Jones: Is that the
way it looks to you?
Lord Richard: No, I do not think
it does. Do you mean the abolition of the right to stand on the
list and the right to stand in the constituency?
Q107 Mr David Jones: The motives
behind the proposals?
Lord Richard: I do not know what
the motives are because I am not in the government, but I think
there is a basic logic in asking people to choose where they want
to stand and how they want to stand. If you just let people double
up you get this absurd situation, as I said before, of people
being rejected by the electorate but nevertheless ending up sitting
in the Assembly. If at the beginning of the process they say,
"We are not going to stand for the constituency, we are going
to stand for the list," okay, I accept that.
Q108 Mr David Jones: You mentioned
earlier the Clwyd West result. Was not the Clwyd West result always
foreseeable having regard to the form of devolution settlement
that we had?
Lord Richard: The electoral system
as then present?
Q109 Mr David Jones: Yes?
Lord Richard: Yes, it probably
was. I do not know the details of Clwyd West but, yes, I think
it probably was.
Q110 Mrs Moon: Sorry to interrupt
you. An interesting comment about stitching up the electoral system.
I think part of the problem that we have at the moment is that
the regional AMs refer to themselvesand it is a linguistic
issueas the Member for a constituency rather than a Member
for a constituency. I do think that that is part of the problem
that we have and certainly one that the public finds difficult
when they have people representing themselves as the Member when
in fact they are a Member. I just wondered what your comments
on that would be?
Lord Richard: I can see that it
could be a problem. I have to tell you when we probed a bit talking
to AMs about this particular issue we did not find that the AMs
themselves were particularly worried by this. We found Members
of Parliament rather more worried than AMs seemed to be. Everybody
said if you are an AM you are an AM and therefore you should be
treated in exactly the same way, and the jurisdictional fights,
if I can put it that way, between the individuals did not seem
to be all that great. That was certainly my impression. I may
be wrong about that but, on the other hand, it is a relationshipthis
comes back to a point I was making earlier about the strainsit
is a relationship which has strains built into it and it does
require a certain amounta considerable amountof
tact, to put it politely, on both sides for the thing to work
properly. In most cases I think it probably has; in some cases
it has not.
Q111 Mrs Moon: Finally, you said
the Government's proposals are over-complicated. I think you have
said that several times today and we are quite clear that you
are not happy with that. You have outlined some of your preferences
but just as your final submission could you tell us what you feel
would be the simple and effective means, very briefly, for giving
Lord Richard: Along the lines
of something similar to the Scottish settlement, that everything
is devolved except that which is reserved, and where Cardiff would
have a power to pass legislation in the way the Scottish Parliament
does. For the life of me, doing the best I can with the arguments,
I do not see the argument against that. It seems to me basic,
quite honestly, that if you are going to have a devolved Assembly
then it ought to have powers. At the moment it does not have powers
to do what it wants to do and it ought to have the powers to do
what it wants to do, broadly speaking, within sensible limits
and all the rest of it. To leave it in semi limbo, in which it
is, dependent upon whether or not it can get time at Westminster
to get the bills in the legislative programme there is a good
example of what is wrong. When it comes to competition for parliamentary
time at the moment, what happens? Wales is treated in exactly
the same way as any other government department so it has got
to compete against the Home Office, the Department of Health,
the Department of Trade and Industry, and all the rest of it,
for legislative time to introduce a measure. First of all, it
should not be treated as if it were a government department because
it is rather more than a government department or a county council.
It is basically a nation, one of the nations of the United Kingdom,
so it deserves to be treated differently from that point of view.
Secondly, so long as legislation remains confined to Westminster,
you are bound to have these strains on parliamentary time. Having
sat on these committees at one stage to decide what bills go in
and what bills do not go in, the horse-trading is extraordinary.
It is inevitable, but I do think that Wales is a bit different
and deserves to be treated a bit differently than an ordinary
Chairman: Lord Richard, thank you very
much for your evidence.