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Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, as the labelling of organic

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milk in the way that it is carried out at present is labelling the minority product, to try to label the majority product of agricultural produce treated with pesticide spray would be lunatic? It is the minority product which must have the special labelling, and surely that is the organic product which is not so treated. Perhaps the Minister may care to heed my views because I was the person who, in the beginning, successfully proposed that raw milk should be labelled in this way.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on that. I agree with what she said about the labelling of minority products. I believe that this is an occasion when I should stress again that the great advantage of organic products is that they are free from most of the threats which we are discussing today.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have no intention of being a scaremongerer? Indeed, it is only through very hard experience that I have learned what organophosphates can do. In view of the fact that the Department of Health is asking people to eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables every day and there is no limit to the quantity that it is suggested they eat, will the Minister accept that I am particularly concerned for children whose immune and central nervous systems are not fully developed? Indeed, small doses of such residues apparently affect them very much more than is the case with adults on whom such things are tested.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I wholly agree with the noble Countess. I would never use the word "scaremongering" in relation to the noble Countess. If I may say so, I welcome every effort that she makes to put pressure on people in this area, because that actually assists Ministers in applying pressure elsewhere to secure some action. I believe that we welcome exactly what the noble Countess said. Moreover, what she has said about children is clearly true; we are aware of that fact. At present, the regulations in relation to children are being reviewed.

Firearms Consultative Committee: Members

2.59 p.m.

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to ensure that the persons to be nominated to the Firearms Consultative Committee in August are properly qualified.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, under Section 22(1) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, members of the Firearms Consultative Committee must appear to the Secretary of State to have knowledge and experience of one or more of the following matters: the possession, use or keeping of, or transactions in, firearms; weapons technology; and the administration or

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enforcement of the provisions of the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997. Subsection (2) provides that the use of firearms includes their use for sport or competition.

The current appointments are to expire at the end of August 1998. The Secretary of State is considering the composition of the committee and of course will give full attention to the statutory requirements.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for that helpful reply because it has been suggested that members of other bodies with no knowledge of firearms may be invited to serve on this committee. Will the Minister confirm that the Government intend to keep the committee intact in its present form?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the present life of the committee is due to continue until the year 2000. Obviously, one keeps these matters under review. The Secretary of State is considering what should happen when the present appointments reach their expiry date in August of this year.


Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Blackstone will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on education expenditure.

Government of Wales Bill

3.1 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Government of Wales Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Read a third time.

Clause 4 [Voting at ordinary elections]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 44, leave out from ("have") to end of line 9 on page 3 and insert ("one vote (referred to in this Act as a constituency vote).
(2) The constituency vote is to be given for a candidate to be the Assembly member for the Assembly constituency.
(3) There shall also be calculated the number of additional member votes for each registered political party which has submitted a list of candidates to be Assembly members for the Assembly electoral region in which the Assembly constituency is included.
(3A) The number of additional member votes for each party shall be the same as the number of constituency votes for the candidate of the party in that constituency.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, I wish to speak also to the other amendments grouped with it. Some of your Lordships have heard me speak on this subject before.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am glad that some of your Lordships at least recognise that.

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I am happy to say that I return to this subject for the last time--I was going to say in Welsh--on the Welsh Bill. This series of amendments tries to offer the Government two possible solutions to what I believe is a real problem which could occur with the additional member system which the Government have chosen for the electoral system for the Welsh assembly.

I shall recap the position briefly in case some of your Lordships are approaching this subject for the first time. The position is that 40 members of the Welsh assembly will be elected for the current parliamentary constituencies by the traditional British first-past-the-post method. I think the majority of your Lordships will recognise that that is the sensible method on which to base electoral systems for a parliament. However, the gremlins have got at the system, so to speak, and a measure of proportionality is to be introduced by what is called the additional member system. In the additional member system, each parliamentary constituency is assigned to a regional seat. Those regional seats happen to be the regions making up the Euro parliamentary seats at present. In each Euro seat, there will be four additional seats.

The electorate will have two votes. The first vote will be in the traditional first-past-the-post ballot, but the second vote will be only for a party or for an independent. I shall come back to that in a moment. At the end of polling, the first votes will be counted in the normal way and members will be elected by the normal first-past-the-post system. The second votes for the parties and the independent or independents will be totalled and a mathematical formula called the d'Hondt system--I shall not bore your Lordships with it--will be applied in order to achieve proportionality. Parties will then gain one, two, three, four or even none of the additional seats in such a way that the proportionality of the total vote will be achieved. A party may have three or four first-past-the-post seats, but when the d'Hondt system is brought into play it may be discovered that it deserves one other seat in order to achieve greater proportionality in the total. It will therefore get one of the additional member seats.

There are a number of problems with this which we have discussed at length in Committee and on Report. One of the problems is rather a philosophical one; namely, that proportionality ought to be based on the first vote; in other words, the constituency vote. I shall return to that matter shortly. The second problem is that as the second vote is designed to ensure party balance, it seems a little odd that independents can stand and gain votes that have nothing to do with the need for party balance as a result of the first-past-the-post seats.

However, in my view, the most serious problem is that political parties could play games with the electoral system in order to gain advantage. If a party wins many seats in the first-past-the-post system, it is unlikely to gain much, if anything, from the second vote and the additional member seats. Therefore, a temptation is being put in the way of the parties.

I shall illustrate that by using the example--I have used this before--of the North Wales Euro constituency and the 1992 general election and assume (as one has

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to) that the first votes and the second votes are the same. That is not an assumption that one can properly make, but in the absence of any other evidence it is the best anyone can do. In the 1992 North Wales Euro constituency, the Labour Party won four seats; the Conservative Party won two; the Liberal Democrats did not win any; and Plaid Cymru won two. However, if all the parties' votes are added up and the d'Hondt formula is used, out of the four additional seats the Labour Party gained one, to take it to a total of five seats; the Conservative Party gained two, to take it to a total of four seats; the Liberal Democrats gained one, which gave them one seat; and Plaid Cymru did not gain any and therefore remained with two seats. That was closer to the proportionality of the total votes cast in that constituency than was the case under the first-past-the-post system.

Let us assume for a moment that the Conservative Party decided to play this little trick. It is not a trick on the electorate; it is a trick which the electorate would fully understand, especially those members of the party playing the trick. They would see the advantage of it and, in my view, they would be prepared to go along with it quite happily. Instead of the Conservative Party standing in both ballots, it would suggest that a few of its members registered a "Unionist Party" with the registrar of political parties. That is a Bill which is yet to come to your Lordships' House, but it is key to the whole additional member system.

Let us assume that the Conservative Party stands in the first past-the-post ballot and achieves its two seats, but it does not stand in the second ballot; it allows the "Unionist Party" to stand in that ballot. As the "Unionist Party" has no seats, it is in quite an advantageous position. When the d'Hondt calculations are done, the Conservative Party, instead of getting two additional seats--as it did previously--gets three additional seats. Therefore, three out of the four seats go to the "Unionist Party", none goes to the Labour Party; one goes to the Liberal Democrats and none goes to Plaid Cymru. The end result is four seats for Labour, instead of five; the Conservatives gain five instead of four; and the other two parties gain one and two seats respectively. The Conservatives come out with more seats than any other party despite the fact that the Labour Party had more votes.

In the same Euro seat in 1997, the game could have been played much more dramatically by the Labour Party. The Labour Party did rather well in Wales in the previous election, as some of your Lordships may recall. It won six seats in the Euro North constituency. The Conservatives won none; the Liberal Democrats still won none; and Plaid Cymru won two, so the number of seats for Plaid Cymru stayed the same. When the d'Hondt calculator is applied to the last election, the Labour Party does not receive any additional seats; the Conservatives receive three additional seats--simply because, although the Conservatives did not win any seats, they had substantial votes in all the seats they failed to win; the Liberal Democrats gain one; and Plaid Cymru is still left with no gains, because it did not win a large vote over the whole area but did well in two

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constituencies. So Labour gains would be none, and Labour seats would remain at six; the Conservatives would have three; the Liberal Democrats, one; and Plaid Cymru, two.

If the Labour Party split itself into two, registered the Co-operative Party as a separate party and stood in a first-past-the-post election, gaining six seats, but did not stand on the second vote if the Co-operative Party stood on the second vote--because the Co-operative Party had no seats in the first round--it would gain three of the four additional seats. The Conservatives would gain only one seat; the Liberal Democrats would not gain any seats; nor would Plaid Cymru. The net result would be: nine seats for Labour, one for the Conservatives, none for the Liberal Democrats and two for Plaid Cymru. The House will see that that trick changes considerably the outcome of an additional member system election.

In case some noble Lords think that I have rehearsed that argument again to show that I have cleverly thought up the whole problem, I assure them that I have not; I am not so original. It was thought up initially in a paper by Dr. Michael Dyer, of the department of politics and international relations at Aberdeen University. He presented the ideas in a paper in Scottish terms to show the Labour Party that it could gain considerable advantage if it used that particular trick in Scotland.

On the results of the last election, the Labour Party could gain considerable advantage in Wales if it used that trick. A Labour MP--albeit a Scottish Member, but still a member of the British Labour Party--Mr. Ian Davidson, thinks that it is a very good idea. He thinks that it is not necessarily a manipulation of the system but that it would be an excellent idea if the Co-operative Party ran separate candidates. On 28th January in the other place he said:

    "I would thank it for reflecting my idea".--[Official Report, 28/1/98; col. 448.]

So he clearly thrills to the idea. A Minister at the Scottish Office--I apologise, my Lords, at the Welsh Office; I have managed both Bills to date without previously confusing them. I am sure noble Lords will forgive me. Mr. Win Griffiths of the Welsh Office acknowledged this on 2nd March this year. He said:

    "I concede that there may be scope for collusion between and within parties to exploit the two-ballot structure of the additional member system in the manner that he [the right honourable Michael Ancram] described".

He went on to say:

    "Such cynical manipulation of the system would be an affront to the electorate and would undermine the democratic credibility of the elected body".--[Official Report, Commons, 2/3/98; col. 804.]

I am not exactly sure about that. Contrary to what Ministers opposite may have said about this matter, I believe that the electorate will play this game and will see it to their party's advantage. People do not go into the polling booth to vote for the Labour Party saying that they will help the Labour Party a little but not too much. They go into the polling booth saying that they want to help the Labour Party as much as they can. Or they do the same in relation to the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats or Plaid Cymru. We are wide open to the problem of what is sometimes termed the split ticket, or alter ego party. That is the problem.

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The Government have so far offered no solution. They have not denied that that could happen; they have merely said that it will not. But the duty of Parliament is to make sure that things cannot happen--not that they perhaps will not happen, but that they cannot happen. Sometimes we do not see problems; we miss them. They come up at some point down the track and we have to do something to repair the situation. Here is a problem that we all see; nobody denies that it is possible for it to happen. We should do something about it now.

I have looked at a number of solutions, as have outside bodies. Essentially, I have arrived at two that are possible. I offer both in this amendment. The first possibility figures around Amendment No. 1, and the subsequent amendments, Amendments Nos. 3 to 14, 17, 18 and 19. The second is simpler in terms of legislation. It is proposed in Amendment No. 2.

Amendment No. 1 simply states that there will be only one vote. People will not vote twice, but only once. A total party vote will be obtained by adding all the votes cast for the first-past-the-post candidates of the parties. The total Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru votes will be arrived at by adding up, as we do already for general statistical information, all the votes of the first-past-the-post candidates. We shall then apply the d'Hondt calculation and the additional members seats will be added to the party according to how the calculation comes out. That means that the correction for proportionality would be based entirely on the first-past-the-post seats, and not on any second vote. It would therefore be a calculation to correct any imbalance brought about by first past the post without the complexities of second votes and people moving the second vote around in order to prevent that proportionality happening. So one vote is a potential solution.

I fully accept that there are some problems with that approach. One is that a small party such as the Green Party would find it expensive to field a candidate in every constituency. There is an easy solution to that. The cost of the deposit could be reduced, or something of that nature. It is not an insoluble problem.

Another point that is made is that independents would not be able to stand in the regional list. But if the regional list is designed in order to ensure proportionality between the parties, I find it quite difficult intellectually to understand why independents should figure in the second ballot at all. If the object of the exercise is to achieve proportionality between the parties in relation to the first-past-the-post seats, the concept of an independent standing is rather odd. An independent candidate might not win, but might receive quite a few votes. He or she might be the only named person on the second ballot, because the Government appear to have set their minds against the names of people from the parties being on the second ballot. So the only names are likely to be those of independents. That might give them a slight edge. They might receive slightly more votes--not enough to win, because a large number is needed, but enough to take votes away from parties and perhaps upset the proportionality. Calculations have been done to show that that is perfectly possible.

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It therefore makes sense to have the system dependent on the first ballot. The objections of small parties such as the Green Party can be dealt with by reducing the cost of the deposit or changing it from a deposit to a number of names, the number of assentors being increased. That would be easy to do. First, I do not believe that any independents will be elected; and secondly, allowing independents to stand on the second vote would appear to contradict the whole objective of the second vote.

One vote would clearly prevent the alter ego or split list party problem from happening. It would be straightforward and simple. It would mean that constituency votes would be used to calculate the party share. There would be no dispute afterwards as to which party had come out on top. There will be disputes if the party share changes between the first vote and the second vote. There will be disputes about which vote is the true one, the first or the second.

One vote has been used in the past. In West Germany, one vote was used between 1949 and 1953. It was then stopped. But although the West Germans use AMS, it is operated over very large areas, much larger than the whole of Wales. It is also operated on a 50:50 basis, half the members being elected by first past the post and half by the additional members system. So West Germany offers an example.

Another example is Italy where, in the chamber of deputies, a two-vote system is used such as is proposed here, but not quite. I shall not go into the complexities. Two votes are used there, but in the senate only one vote is used as I propose today.

The third point I wish to make is that the 1976 report of the Hansard Society, which has been reprinted, given the interest in all the issues which now arise, recommended the additional member system, but with one vote. So I believe that the one vote system has plenty of precedents around the world. It has a good advocate in the Hansard Society. That is my first solution.

My second solution is Amendment No. 2 which relates those standing in the first ballot to those standing in the second. If a party stands in more than half the constituency seats, then it must put up a list of candidates for the second ballot. If a party stands in the list, then it must put up candidates for more than half the seats. I have made the system work both ways. My problem could be addressed if it only worked one way. If any party which put up more than half the seats were forced to stand on a regional list, it might well be the solution the Government would find preferable. We shall see. It would mean that the Greens and independents could still stand on the second ballot. That is not what I have suggested; I have done an each-way proposal because it is more elegant and appears to be the better of the two ways.

I have offered the Government two possible solutions to the problem. No one has denied that it is a scenario that could come about. All that has happened is that the four parties in Wales, or the individuals representing them, have committed themselves not to do it. That is fine so far as it goes for this election and perhaps even

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the next election. But time passes and the people who gave the commitment pass. New people come along and here in the midst of the Act there will be a nice way for political parties to gain serious advantage. It is our duty to say to the Government this afternoon "You must do better than just give assurances that the Labour Party would never do it and have assurances from the other three. You must take steps to find a way to resolve it". I offer the Government two methods this afternoon, at the very last stage of the Bill, of resolving the dilemma and preventing the problem arising. I beg to move.

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