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Lord Sewel: That assumes something that I should not be prepared to assume under any circumstances.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: Before the noble Lord answers that point, perhaps he will answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. Is it the intention that not just the first-past-the-post constituencies should be reduced but also the additional members?

Lord Sewel: It is important to maintain the ratio. The ratio will be maintained between first-past-the-post constituency representatives and regional list representatives. So yes, there is a proportional reduction in the number of list members as well.

The reason for not having 108 members, which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, anticipates at this stage, is because we do not know that 108 will be the number that the Boundary Commission for Scotland will recommend when it carries out its next review. In any event, it would shatter the thing that we are building upon; namely, the identity of boundaries and the coincidence of constituencies for both the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: Will the Minister confirm that it is a point of principle that the number of directly elected members is greater than the number of members from the regions?

Lord Sewel: Yes, it is a point of principle for us that the main building block is the directly elected constituency MP.

I turn briefly to the detail of the various amendments. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, would fix, for all time, the current constituencies and not allow any future changes to be made. Amendment No. 12 also seeks to fix the number of Scottish parliamentary constituencies from the outset. However, I must point out to the noble Lord that it would actually have the effect of increasing the

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constituencies to 75 when one takes account of the provision for Orkney and Shetland. I assume that was unintentional.

The other Liberal Democrat amendments put an additional burden on the Boundary Commission for Scotland to carry out two reviews. That would greatly add to the burden on the commission and make it very difficult for it to administer its already complex process of constituency reviews with potential for delay.

The amendments also try to provide a role for the Scottish parliament in deciding its own electoral boundaries. That is not appropriate and is totally at odds with what was proposed in the White Paper. As Members of the Committee know, electoral arrangements for the parliament are reserved to Westminster, reflecting their importance as part of the overall devolution settlement. This includes the decisions on the parliament's constituencies.

Amendment No. 22 approaches fixing the size of the parliament from a slightly different angle. It maintains the Scottish parliamentary constituencies the same as the Westminster parliamentary constituencies. But it provides for the size of the parliament to be fixed at 129 by increasing the number of regional members to make up for any decrease in constituency members.

I recognise that that is an interesting approach, but, I am afraid, not one that the Government could support. If we made this amendment, then after the first review by the Boundary Commission, the number of regional members would exceed the number of constituency members. That is not what we intend. That is a major point of policy for us.

Chapter 8 of the White Paper made it clear that a constituency link will be the essential foundation of the new Scottish parliament. However, the White Paper also recognised that it was important to provide for greater proportionality to build stability into the system. The additional member scheme was devised to correct the imbalance between a party's share of a vote and the constituency seats won, to ensure a closer relationship between votes cast and seats won. While I understand why noble Lords may support the increased role this amendment would give to the regional members, I do not think it is appropriate that they should outnumber the constituency MSPs.

What we propose is that a reduction in directly elected members should be matched by a reduction in those elected from regional lists. This is a sensible way to preserve the overall shape of the proportional system that we have put forward. That system is the area in which our package is perhaps at its most radical and reforming. It seems odd that the Liberal Democrats, of all people, should be complaining about it.

The Government's view is that Scotland's interests will be best served by a parliament which is more effective and efficient. There is no case for having more MSPs than is necessary for the effective functioning of the parliament and the proper representation of the people. I believe that, even when the parliament does

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reduce in size, it will still be able to function effectively and efficiently. In view of my response, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I am acutely disappointed by the Minister's reply. Perhaps I may concentrate for a few moments on Amendment No. 22, which the noble Lord said was an interesting proposal. Indeed, it was designed to ensure that, if we are going to use the new reduced number of Westminster seats as the building block for the first-past-the-post system, there should be some compensation in the additional member lists.

If it is the entrenched position of the Government that the additional members should not exceed the first-past-the-post members, I accept that that is a perfectly legitimate point of view. In that case, we could come forward with a revised version of Amendment No. 22 at a later stage of the Bill to ensure that that objection is met.

However, the debate raises a whole new issue. Is it really sensible to embark upon the election of a parliament of 129 members with a view to reducing that number to 108 at the time of the next election? I do not mean that purely in electoral terms; we should perhaps think in hard terms of pounds, shillings and pence. We will be designing a new parliamentary building. Are we designing it for 129 or 108 members? It seems to me that the taxpayer has an interest here in getting the issue right at the beginning of the process. Although I shall not be pressing the amendments tonight, we shall certainly want to re-visit the matter at a later stage. I appeal to the Government to reconsider the matter seriously before we reach the later stages of the Bill.

Lord Desai: Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, perhaps I may suggest to him the following alternative. The 21 extra members whose throats will, as it were, be cut could be replaced with 21 appointed members. That way, one would preserve the majority of first-past-the-post members and have 21 people appointed by way of a contribution to art and the culture of Scotland.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I thought that the noble Lord was going to suggest that they could form a second chamber. Indeed, that would take us back to an earlier debate. In all seriousness, the most constructive course I can take is not to press the amendments and to suggest, in a genuine and constructive spirit, that we should perhaps give further thought to the whole question of numbers before we reach the later stages of the Bill. I do not believe any of us in the Committee regards the present disposition as at all satisfactory.

Lord Rowallan: I, too, am very disappointed with the Minister's reply. I thought that we might have some movement. I am most concerned that this Government seem very intransigent in their views. They seem to be playing more and more into the hands of the more nationalistic of the Scottish people with every move they make. I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Mackay, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and other Members

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of the Committee have said in this most interesting debate. This is a fundamental and terribly important point.

I was very tempted initially to divide the Committee on the issue because I consider it to be most serious. However, having listened to the debate, I think that I would prefer to discuss the matter with my noble friend Lord Mackay and the noble Lord, Lord Steel, to see whether we can come forward with sensible ideas and table them jointly on Report. Nevertheless, I must still record my great concern. As I said, this is a most important issue and I believe that we could be making a great mistake.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 11 to 17 not moved.]

10 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 57, line 37, after ("before") insert ("both the United Kingdom Parliament and").

The noble Earl said: The Boundary Commission is an ongoing body. It revises the areas, constituencies and numbers for elections to the European Parliament and the Parliament at Westminster. From time to time it will revise the electoral areas of members of the Scottish parliament and may even revise those of candidates for county council elections in Scotland. It is with that in mind that I felt it should not just report to the Scottish parliament. Paragraph 3 to Schedule 1 states,

    "This paragraph applies where the Boundary Commission for Scotland... submit a report to the Secretary of State... recommending any alteration in any parliamentary constituencies ... The Commission shall lay any report recommending any alteration in parliamentary constituencies before the Parliament".
I suggest to the Committee that the report should be laid before the Parliament at Westminster and the Scottish parliament, particularly as the schedule refers to the Secretary of State whose future, once the Scottish parliament is set up, seems to be a little doubtful. I beg to move.

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