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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this brief debate, in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for her kind personal remarks. In the interests of time--I know the pressures on the timetable of your Lordships' House today--and following the successful comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, about simplicity, which we have all taken so much to heart, perhaps I may make two brief points in response.

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The first relates to clinical services. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, will be reassured that I am aware of the difference between intellectual discussion and legislation when I say that I am sure she will remember that on Report we accepted that there were particular issues about specific clinical support services which should be specifically excluded from the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Robson, mentioned them in her contribution. They were pathology and radiology. The rest will be identified in a clear and specific list before the new PFI agreements are undertaken.

As has been mentioned several times, this is a simple Bill with a simple objective. It has been demonstrated today that it has done what it is intended to do. Two new hospital agreements to build have already been signed and the others are in the process of reaching financial conclusion. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill

4.12 p.m.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Sewel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Serota) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Referendum in Scotland]:

[Amendment No. 8A not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 8B:

Page 1, line 9, leave out ("papers") and insert ("paper").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 8B is a paving amendment to the more important Amendment No. 74BA, in which the new schedule to replace the current schedule puts the same questions but on one ballot paper. There would therefore be no reason for two ballot papers.

I propose the amendment for a number of reasons. First, we are not used to two ballot papers in the British electoral system. One ballot paper would make life a great deal more simple for those who run the ballot and for the electorate. Secondly, there is a legitimate interest in knowing how the variations in possible answers play out. At the beginning of Committee stage on Tuesday, I pointed out that there were four potential combinations of answers: "Yes, yes"; "Yes, no"; "No, yes"; and "No, no". As a result of the way in which the Government intend to conduct the count and issue the ballot paper, there would be no way of knowing about the relationship between the first and second votes.

However, by placing all the questions on one ballot paper the count can be done so as to show the number of people who agree that there should be a Scottish

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parliament and that it should have tax-raising powers. It will also show those who agree with the Scottish parliament but, like the noble Earl, Lord Perth, believe that it should not have tax-raising powers. Similarly, those who do not agree that there should be a Scottish parliament will be asked whether, if there were to be one, they want it to be tax-raising or not tax-raising. Therefore, we will have a better idea of the variations and Parliament will be better able to judge the outcome of this complex referendum--we were told last Tuesday that that was the intention--when deciding on the nature of the Scottish parliament if the first question receives a "Yes".

The difficulty is that someone such as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who told us on Tuesday that he wants a Scottish parliament but does not want it to have tax-raising powers, may easily decide that if it is to have tax-raising powers he would prefer not to have it. There may be some people who want a Scottish parliament only if it has tax-raising powers. The Government have brought the problem upon themselves by having two questions in the referendum. If they had accepted, for example, the proposition put by Mr. Jim Wallace in another place to combine the questions and to have only one, my amendment would be unnecessary.

I believe that the Minister should consider the proposition of placing the questions on the same ballot paper so that in the count we will be able to subdivide the "Yes" and the "No" vote according to those who want or do not want tax-varying powers. I look forward with some interest to hearing what the Minister has to say. I am not alone in hoping that today we shall have Ministers addressing the amendments in more detail and giving more satisfactory answers than they gave on Tuesday.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I support the amendment because people may well get two ballot papers in a muddle.

Lord Desai: I am surprised because at the recent general election some constituencies also had a local election and people handled two ballot papers. To believe that the electorate cannot handle two ballot papers and put two crosses on them is to think very low of them. We must have better reasons for the amendment.

Lord Sewel: I had thought for a moment that in tabling the amendment the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, was seeking to display his concern for the environment and wished to reduce the number of trees to be felled. As I have responsibility for the environment in Scotland, I was somewhat sympathetic to that view. However, as I also have responsibility for forestry, I can see that there is great merit in the alternative argument, too.

There are good practical reasons for using two separate ballot papers, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland made clear at the launch of the Bill. The main reason is one of simplicity. Each ballot paper will ask only one

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question. The more that is written on them the greater the risk of confusion. That is the view not only of the Government. We have taken advice from the very people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, referred. We have sought the views of those running elections; we have gone to the returning officers and have sought the views of the Association of Electoral Administrators, the body representing them. They are clear in their advice that it would be better to go for two questions on two pieces of paper, avoiding the risk of confusion and spoilt papers. We also wish to make it absolutely clear to the electorate that they have a completely free choice in casting their votes. Voters may wish to cast a vote on only one of the questions and that is their right. If both questions appeared on the same ballot paper, voters might feel obliged to answer both questions. If there are two separate papers, they can decline to answer a question if they wish.

This is an issue of practicality that has been determined solely on the basis of the professional advice we received from those experienced in running elections.

I recognise that that method will not enable us to identify the precise number of "Yes" votes and "No" votes in their various combinations. As a former academic who has written articles on electoral behaviour, I can see an attraction in that argument. It opens up vast possibilities for writing learned articles, but we cannot arrange electoral procedures on the basis of what might suit academics in years to come in order to fill academic journals which will remain largely unread.

The essential point is that this decision has been taken by the Government on the basis of the advice of people who have had the responsibility of running elections. It is their advice that this is the simplest and clearest way forward and that the electorate will understand this way much better than having a ballot paper with a number of questions when they may not be clear which question to answer or whether they have to answer both. In this way there will be one sheet of paper for one question and one sheet for the other question.

This matter has been decided purely on the basis of practical advice from those experienced in these matters, and therefore I hope the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I have listened carefully to the answers and I appreciate the point of simplicity. It would be much simpler if the Government only asked one question, that posed by Mr. Jim Wallace in another place, but the Government declined to do so. That would be the simplest question. The Government state in their manifesto that they want a tax-raising assembly. Why did they not put that question to the Scottish people? The simplicity argument can easily be resolved by asking the one question, which I am sure is the proper way to proceed.

I think that the reason for rejecting the amendment and for asking two questions is that the Government do not want us to know how many people agree that there

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should be a Scottish parliament and do not want tax-raising powers and how many do want it to have such powers. The Government want to confuse the issue if possible, and this is the way they have set about confusing it.

Some people who do not want an assembly may decide that, if there is one, it ought to have tax-raising powers, or they may not. Their votes will not be known. The numbers will not be known to your Lordships or to the other place. As we were told on Tuesday, this is an advisory referendum. In that case I should like as much information as possible from the referendum. The right way to achieve that is to ask the questions in the way I have indicated. I am not satisfied with this answer and I would like to test the opinion of the Committee.

4.23 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 91; Not-Contents, 131.

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