Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hylton: I wish to support the amendment and to indicate my personal preference for a strong connection between voting and the names of individual candidates.

Baroness Seear: The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, said that he favoured the list system, but he gave as his reason for favouring it that it would apply to STV. If he meant the list system, would he care to correct it because it was so nice to have his support?

Viscount Brookeborough: If we were to be given the option, which we are not, I would perhaps have favoured a transferable vote.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Holme, on the eloquence with which he put his case. I would suggest that he has had many years of practice. Under more normal circumstances, Northern Ireland must be a joy to him and to his party.

I can assure the noble Lord that it is not the Government's intention to stick to their guns in any circumstances whatever. I can assure Members of the Committee that there was immense consideration of the options and that options such as the single transferable vote were not rejected lightly. That was taken very seriously as an option and the views of the parties were listened to. I hope that the noble Lord is not seriously looking for me to express the reasons for the SDLP's feelings in this area. After the comprehensive consultation process with parties, in which we were looking to build consensus, we had to establish an election process which we believed would allow matters to be move forward. There was no consensus. In the absence of that, Her Majesty's Government devised an electoral system that took into account the representations made by some parties for a new type of election based on party lists while retaining elements of constituency politics as requested by others whom we consulted.

25 Apr 1996 : Column 1318

I can assure the noble Lord that the method was chosen to try to ensure that the forum represents the views of a broad spectrum of the electorate. I understand his feelings. I appreciate the way it was put, but I wish to assure him that for the voter it is important that the election is simple.

I hope the noble Lord appreciates that in this instance the Government had a very difficult task. We hope we have a process which will at least allow things to move forward. I cannot invite the Committee to support the amendment.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I thank the noble Baroness for her warm sympathy, which I very much appreciate, and I thank those noble Lords--the noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Hylton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough--who supported the amendment. The noble Baroness will have found herself slightly lonely in the company of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, who seemed not to like the amendment on the rather curious grounds that it would give individuals all too much power and that they were rather unreliable. There we are; that's democracy, isn't it? I thank the Minister for her reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

Lord Monkswell moved Amendment No. 10:

10Page 6, line 15, leave out ("(however formulated)")

The noble Lord said: Rested from the fray, I come back. Paragraph 17(b) of the schedule refers to disqualifications. The Bill suggests that a person may be disqualified if,

    "he is authorised to be detained on the ground (however formulated) that he is suffering from mental illness".

My amendment seeks to delete the words "however formulated". It struck me that it is a very wide definition. I am fairly confident that the Minister will be able to reassure me that that is a mechanism for enabling disqualification for mental illness to be derived from a number of different health Acts or representation of the people Acts which may have different definitions and different criteria. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: I have nothing to say on this amendment except that it seems to be quite a reasonable one. I rise because my Amendment No. 11 has been grouped with Amendment No. 10. I am not happy about that and I wish to indicate that I want to decouple my amendment from Amendment No. 10.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for clarifying that point, but I had assumed that that would be the case.

I wish to assure the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that he has the answer to his amendment. It is a drafting point. We intend the disqualification to catch all those who may in various ways possibly be detained on grounds of mental illness. It covers a whole range because the question can cover many legislative processes. We think that the alternative formulation may lead to uncertainties which we so very much wish to

25 Apr 1996 : Column 1319

avoid. The provision is drafted in this way because of the range of legislation which the schedule needs to cover. I hope that clarifies that the noble Lord was right in the first place.

Lord Monkswell: I thank the Minister for that very reassuring answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8 p.m.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 11:

11Page 6, line 22, leave out from ("person") to end of line 23

The noble Lord said: A few moments ago I opposed Amendment No. 9 moved from the Liberal Democrat Benches because I had interpreted it as giving too much power to party bosses at the expense of the individual voter. It seems that I misinterpreted the purposes of the amendment and for that I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Holme. However, the words that this amendment seeks to delete decidedly give too much power to party bosses at the expense not of individual voters but this time at the expense of individual delegates. Apart from anything else, it may well have undemocratic consequences.

Perhaps I may explain. I must tread carefully, particularly as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has re-entered the Chamber, and I am very glad that he has done so. I am not in full possession of the facts, but I was told only yesterday--I have not had a chance to go into the matter in great depth--that at the time of the Hume-Adams negotiations rather more than three years ago, the--how shall I put it?--less green members of the SDLP, Dr. Joe Hendron and Mr. Seamus Mallon, had reached a surprising degree of agreement with the moderate unionists. But that agreement was vetoed by the SDLP leader, Mr. John Hume, even though it is possible--and one cannot be certain--that the views of Mr. Mallon and Dr. Hendron at that time represented the views of the majority of the SDLP members.

Another way of looking at it is this: if elections to the Westminster Parliament were governed by the same rules as this Bill provides, neither the honourable Member for Stratford-Upon-Avon, Mr. Alan Howarth nor the honourable Member for West Devon, Emma Nicholson, would still be in the House of Commons. There could be no by-elections to fill their places and both would have had to resign. That shows up the rather extreme nature of the way in which this part of the Bill is drafted. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for explaining the purpose of his amendment and for the example he gave to prove, in his view, that this is not the right way to proceed. I remind the noble Lord that this is an election of parties and not of individuals. The rules that he associates with individuals do not necessarily apply in this instance. It does not seem unreasonable that someone who has sought to be elected under a party banner should be aware of the consequences of acting in a manner which is perceived to threaten party discipline. When electing

25 Apr 1996 : Column 1320

a party voters should have the right to expect the views for which they voted to be represented on their behalf. If a candidate from a party list decided unilaterally that he or she would not, after all, follow the views of the people who elected him or her, it seems only right and proper that the nominating representative should retain the ability to remove that individual from the party's list of delegates.

I am sure that your Lordships would have some sympathy for the party leaders who found, to their dismay, that the candidates they chose decided unilaterally to adopt a point of view at odds with the rest of the party. It is not a view that can be unknown in many places. We do not envisage that there will ever be a need for nominating representatives to exercise this right, but we believe it is right that it should be there in the Bill. I hope that, with that explanation the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the reasoning behind the rather unique formula contained in the Bill. I am partly convinced, but not wholly so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monkswell moved Amendment No. 12:

12Page 6, leave out lines 37 and 38

The noble Lord said: This is my final probing amendment. It is to remove paragraph 20 from Schedule 1. That states,

    "Where a party ceases to exist, any persons on its lists who are delegates or members of a team nominated under section 2(2) or (4) shall cease to be so".

That sounds fairly logical except when one asks how to define, "party ceases to exist". One of the difficulties of this sort of ad hoc legislative situation is that we are basing a whole edifice on parties, elections to parties, taking negotiating teams from parties and all the rest of it. But we have no basis of definitions or structures nor the legal framework as to how a party starts or what its entity is during its lifetime. We do not know how its members are related to each other. How does one define when a party dies? It is one of those curious anomalies. I do not know whether the Minister has an answer or whether the parliamentary draftsman threw this in as a sort of longstop in case it was needed. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page