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Lord Hardie: My Lords, we do not consider that this amendment is necessary. Perhaps I may explain why. The wording in Clause 4(9) is already wide enough to cover the Registration of Political Parties Bill which, as the noble Lord reminded us, has still to receive Royal Assent. It is not necessary to refer to it expressly on the face of the Bill.

Moreover, at paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 to that Bill there is an amendment to what is now Clause 4(9) of this Bill and so will refer to parties registered under the Registration of Political Parties Act.

Nevertheless, we shall consider whether it might be more appropriate to proceed along the lines suggested by the noble Lord and may return with amendments to deal with this minor drafting matter on Report. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I should give up now while I am ahead. That is two successes on the trot! I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his response. He started negatively and I was thinking that it was a good job that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, was not in his seat because the Minister would have had another lecture on meaningless words in Bills when a simpler form is available.

The amendment arose because I noticed the reference in the Registration of Political Parties Bill, but I am glad to hear that the noble and learned Lord will consider making the amendment at a later stage. I am not entirely sure which of the two Bills will reach the statute book

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first, but it does not matter much. We know what we mean and I am grateful for the positive assurance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Poll for regional members]:

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 4, line 2, after first ("a") insert ("candidate of a").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think that I will make much progress with this amendment and I am merely making my point. The amendment raises the question of open lists. Earlier this week during debates on the European Parliamentary Elections Bill your Lordships disagreed with the Government and decided that a list ought to be open and not closed; in other words, that the electorate ought to be able to decide not only which party should send Members to the European Parliament but also which Members on a party's list ought to go.

The same argument applies here, which is why I shall not rehearse it at any great length. As currently drafted, the political parties, by whichever means, will submit a list and an order. When a Labour voter votes Labour he will be voting only for the Labour Party. He will see the names but he will not be able to say which he prefers. The same applies to those voting for the other parties. If I were to seek election and were placed third on the list because the party apparatchiks did not like some of my victories over the Government, or whatever, but the wider Conservative electorate thought that I should be first they should be able to do it. However, as the Bill currently stands, they would not be able to do so. I want the electorate to have the choice. And before anyone rushes off to the newspapers, I should say that I have no intention of standing for the Scottish parliament. I intend to stay here and keep the Government on their toes so far as I can.

The point about the open lists is important and I should like to hear what the Scottish Office thinks about it. The amendment would improve the way in which the public perceived the top-up members. There is a huge danger that the public will see them merely as the product of the party apparatchiks. That is not good for democracy. It is a fairly simple business for the electorate to be given the choice not only as regards the party but also the party list.

I am allowing the party to put names in the order of preference. All the research tells us that in those circumstances people merely vote for the person at the top of the list. Therefore, the party will inevitably gain an advantage. But if there is someone the public really want, particularly the third or fourth member--it will not influence the first so much--it is right that the public should decide. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, this must be about the fourth debate in which we have all joined on

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open lists versus closed lists. I welcome the opportunity to restate the position of my party; namely, that we are in favour of open lists, where they can be obtained. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, had great fun at our expense the other night because we voted against open lists in the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. But that was for a very simple reason. That Bill was brought forward by the Government not as part of a manifesto commitment but at the request and persuasive insistence of our party. Having done that and introduced the proportional election system for the European Parliament, it would have been ludicrous for us to endanger that by voting against a part of the Bill which would have resulted in it going back to the other place. Had we done that the Government would have been perfectly entitled to say, "You ungrateful so-and-so's, we shall not bother to proceed with the Bill. We shall let it drop and we shall carry out the elections as we have always done". That would have greatly delighted the Conservative Party. We were not going to fall for that; we did not, and voted accordingly.

But as regards this Bill there is no agreement among the parties on this issue. This amount of detail was not discussed in the constitutional convention. The principle of an additional list system was agreed. There simply remains a difference of opinion between us on the issue as to whether the electorate should or should not choose the candidates. We believe that they should.

I am sorry that some Members on the Labour Benches who spoke previously are not with us tonight. They are under a misapprehension that somehow open lists can cure the problems inside the Labour Party where certain people have been unable to get on to lists. It would not do anything of the kind. The Dennis Canavan problem, if I may so refer to it, will not be cured by whether we have open or closed lists. It is an internal matter for the Labour Party and nothing to do with the argument at all. The question of whether people get on to lists or not is much more important in a way than whether such lists are open or closed.

We are unashamed in saying repeatedly in our party that we have operated the system as it should be operated, with an open vote among all its members to determine the order on the lists. So in that sense we have had open lists within our own party and I think that is the right way. The fact that the Conservative Party, the Scottish National Party and the Labour Party have not done it is their funeral. It is for their members to object. I know that they have done so. We are sympathetic to the idea. We do not believe for one minute that the Government are going to show last-minute repentance on this matter as they did about names on ballot papers. We know that we cannot win everything in one night. It would be very nice if we could.

I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, who has now made his fourth speech on this subject in this place at least, that I find it difficult to take lectures from him on the details of proportional representation. It is like taking lectures from a vegetarian on how my steak should be cooked, or from

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a teetotaller on which claret I should drink, or lectures from a virgin on how--perhaps that's enough analogy. I rest my case.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, the noble Lords, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lord Steel of Aikwood, are both right in that we have not been persuaded. We are maintaining our position. I do not see what is the opposition to closed lists. When one considers the roles of parties it is clear under the present system of first-past-the-post that the parties bring their choice to the electorate and invite it to support a particular candidate. The electorate has no choice or influence in deciding who the candidate will be. But that is not absolutely necessary under the first-past-the-post systems. Indeed, in the United States there is the well-known phenomenon of the primary election, where the supporters of a particular party participate in a primary election in selecting the candidate to carry that party's nomination into the election itself.

If there is to be consistency here, noble Lords opposite should be arguing for the introduction of primary elections into the first-past-the-post system. I have heard no argument along those lines on the number of occasions that we have debated this issue.

If we accept that it is perfectly right and proper for parties to bring candidates to the electorate and offer it no choice under the first-past-the-post system, there is no great case to be made against parties doing the same when we come to a list system. It is perfectly reasonable for the party to make its choice in whichever way it wishes--through the polling of all its individual members, as is the case with the Liberal Democrat party, or through some other means. That is, quite rightly, a matter for the parties.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that in the first-past-the-post system the candidate has no effect? I can assure him that in the Liberal Democrat Party that is not true; the candidate has a tremendous effect.

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