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Lord Henley: Before the Minister sits down and my noble friend decides what to do with his amendment, perhaps the noble Lord with his government-issue calculator and the authority of the Government can tell the Committee about the variations between all of the English regions. Can he say how many electors there are per MEP in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Obviously, there must be a degree of variation between all of the English regions and the other parts of the United Kingdom. I should be interested to know how large is that variation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I do not have to hand a list of every variation in every constituency. Should the noble Lord wish it, a list can be provided without any great difficulty. I am aware that in the nature of things there are divergencies, although they are not large. As I see a number of noble Lords nodding it may assist if I send a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and place copies in the Library.

The Earl of Dartmouth: I was present for the earlier part of these gripping proceedings. I am well aware that the 87 Members of the European Parliament have been allocated by the European Union and that that figure is not readily susceptible to change. As a chartered accountant I have some familiarity with the figures. I have to hand the very list to which the Minister referred. However, the Committee will be glad to hear that I have no intention of going through it now.

The Minister referred earlier to this matter being a straightforward arithmetical calculation made by a computer without any particular judgment being made

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upon it. I believe that, as in the drafting of the Bill, the calculation has been made in a totally direct and objective manner, just as Ernie picks out premium bond winners, or so one is told. It follows that there are certain anomalies thrown up, not least the disadvantaged area of Yorkshire and Humberside. Perhaps one should look at London where I was born. No one should accuse me of being anti-London. On the contrary, I regard London as being both a locomotive of the British economy and a jewel to the western world. London currently has an allocation of 10 MEPs, each representing 494,000 electors. If that number was reduced to nine the number of electors per Member would be 548,000. That is only 5,000 electors more than the current electorate of each MEP in Yorkshire and Humberside. I am not a Government Minister and it is not for me to make decisions. However, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to this anomaly despite the objectivity of the computer.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: Perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to intervene. I am a little surprised to hear the noble Earl suggest that one MEP should be taken away from London. As someone who hopes to become a representative of the Yorkshire region, surely the region from which he suggests there should be a deduction is the region that includes Lancashire.

The Earl of Dartmouth: I am not sure that I entirely follow the noble Lord's point. I do not suggest that an MEP should be removed from London. I simply draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that despite the objectivity of the computer these anomalies arise.

Lord Henley: Perhaps I may assist my noble friend and possibly the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I have now found the answer to the question that I put to the Minister. That answer appears in a research paper prepared by the Library of another place. Page 36 makes clear that my noble friend has a point. The average electorate per MEP in Yorkshire and Humberside is 543,000. As my noble friend suggests, it would be unfair to take one away from the North West because that region has an electorate per MEP of 520,000. The United Kingdom average is approximately 508,000, whereas London is a mere 494,000. I understand that there must be some variation between the regions and that mathematically it is impossible to do it any other way, but there is a degree of disparity between Yorkshire and Humberside and, for example, London and others in terms of numbers.

The Earl of Dartmouth: I thank my noble friend for his telling and most helpful intervention. The boundaries under this system inevitably give rise to anomalies and unfairness, of which this is merely one example. I commend it to the Minister for consideration at his leisure. In view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments of Schedule 1 to the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 8, leave out lines 22 to 26.

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 46 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 47. In one way Amendment No. 46 is a broad brush probing amendment; in other words, it seeks to leave out a sub-paragraph and asks the Minister, "Please, what does your sub-paragraph mean?" However, the second amendment goes a little further. I believe that I may be able to help the Minister.

The Committee may be assisted if I explain my difficulty in regard to the sub-paragraph. It reads:

    "Regulations under this paragraph shall, in relation to an election in an electoral region in Great Britain, make provision for the nomination of registered parties, including provision requiring a nomination to be accompanied by a list of candidates numbering no more than the MEPs to be elected for that region".
What strikes me as odd is the wording "make provision for the nomination of registered parties". One wonders what that means. It is followed by the word "including". Does it mean "including the list"? If so, what else is included? Is this some kind of failsafe provision in case something happens to the Registration of Political Parties Bill? Can the Government in some way bring in a provision by this route?

I believe that my second amendment makes the point clear. However, I suspect that it contains a drafting problem which no doubt the Minister will point out in due course. The amendment is consistent with the previous amendment and deletes the word "registered".

My second amendment, Amendment No. 47, would make the sub-paragraph read:

    "Regulations under this paragraph shall, in relation to an election in an electoral region in Great Britain, make provision for the nomination from each party of a list of candidates".
I accept that that should probably be "from each registered party of a list of candidates", but that seems clearly what is going to happen. The party managers in an area or the candidates--currently, it is supposed to be the candidate and his agent, so I am not sure whether it is to be all the candidates in the list and their agents or their agent--will go along and launch their nomination papers. There is no provision currently for the nomination of a party; it is the nomination of a person with a party label.

I understand that even the changes proposed to be made to what goes on the ballot paper, such as symbols and so on, do not take away from that. It is the nomination of an individual who will stand for the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrat Party, or whatever. It is quite clear. I would have expected the wording to be, "for the nomination from each registered party of a list of candidates". In other words, one goes along and nominates a list of candidates. I wonder about the words, "nomination of registered parties". Is there some significance? That is what I am trying to glean from the Minister.

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I hope I have explained the position adequately. It is quite complicated, as I found when trying to work out what to say. I hope I have made myself clear because I am puzzled as to why there are these additional words about the registered parties, including provision requiring a nomination. I am interested to know why these words appear. They seem unnecessary. The Bill would not be any the poorer--in fact it might be clearer--if they were not there. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful for the way the noble Lord developed his questions. It partly relates to the question the noble Lord put to me yesterday, as did the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, as to whether or not it was anticipated that on the ballot there would be a list of names as well as the party name. This contemplates that situation. That is to say, paragraph (3B) of Schedule 2, on page 8 of the Bill, requires that a party be nominated. Also, hand in hand with the nomination of the registered party, there would have to be a list of candidates, the list being limited numerically to not more than the number of MEPs it is possible to elect. This deals with the point the noble Lord raised yesterday.

I deviate slightly. The reason we wish the phrase "registered parties" to appear is that it is dependent on the Registration of Political Parties Bill, which is making good progress in another place. Committee stage has already been completed, so there is no doubt that the Bill will receive Royal Assent. So this is in no way a fallback in case the Registration of Political Parties Bill does not get through. An extremely helpful consequence of the Registration of Political Parties Bill is that we shall then be able to avoid the mischief about which the party of the noble Lord has rightly complained in the past and about which the Liberal Democrats have rightly complained because, if we have registered political parties, we will not be able to have "Literal Democrats" or "Conversatives", which are intended to mislead and sometimes do produce some feeling of "We was robbed" among various parties. I hope that that explanation is clear and that it satisfies the noble Lord's complaints or questions.

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