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Lord Tope: I bow to the Minister's much greater experience than mine as an old apparatchik. I recognise the difficulties about which he is talking. However, there is an important difference here. The noble Lord made a reference to the fact that someone is elected. The people under discussion are not elected in a personal sense; they are there from a party list to give proportionality between the parties. When they transfer to another party, they automatically upset the proportionality, which has been determined by the number of votes that the party, not the individual, has received. In other words, the Government's intention in this Bill, which we certainly support, of creating proportionality on the assembly would be immediately upset. Because we are talking about such a small number--only 11--it would be upset to a relatively great extent. That is the point we are trying to make. It is not the same as the issue of a Member crossing the Floor in, say, the House of Commons or in a council chamber. Is it not actually altering the intention the Act, as it will be, as regards the election?

I understand only too well that there are practical difficulties and, old or apparatchik or not, we can recognise that fact. However, I ask the Minister to recognise that there is a real issue here and to think about how it can be addressed. Some of us do understand issues of party discipline. I shall be very happy to have discussions on the matter. It is not for me to speak for the other Front Bench, but I suspect that that will also be case for them. In that way we will be able to see how we can address the situation which, I say again, will arise sooner or later. It is a very serious situation, particularly in a small assembly.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I could not agree more with what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has just said; indeed, there is a great difference between the example given by the Minister and the position that we are discussing whereby people cross the Floor of the House. I should have thought that the Government would be delighted to accept this amendment. I can only speak for my own party, but our list is made up of one member, one vote in London, voting for the list and the order of the list. That is one point. I believe that it was somewhat different in the Minister's party. The list was somehow designated but not by one member, one vote. I am not quite sure how they came to it, but I do not think there was the same democratic choice of the list. Therefore, given that fact, they would be even more upset if one of their list actually moved across the Floor to either the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives.

The Minister made much of a point that he really did not understand why the Conservatives went to the Liberal Democrats or vice versa. He made the point that sometimes parties change out of all recognition. It may well be that his party is one which has really done so.

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Indeed, it might have offended some of the voters because they ended up all of a sudden with something completely different from what they believed the party to be.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, suggested that we would be happy to sit round a table and discuss the matter. We would most certainly be happy to do so. I shall withdraw my amendment at this stage, but I think that the Minister should take note of the fact that we consider this to be a very important matter. If people are elected on a list and then decide to cross the Floor, we believe that the voters should have an opportunity to say something about it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Election of member as Mayor]:

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Date of casual vacancies]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 6, line 11, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert ("give public notice of any casual vacancy among the Assembly members, and shall also convey such notice in writing to the Greater London returning officer")

The noble Baroness said: Clause 10(2) provides for only the Greater London returning officer to receive official notice of a casual vacancy among the London members. It is true that the succession to an assemblyman will be the next person on the party list, so the notification is a formality. However, I venture to suggest that very few electors will actually scour the obituaries if that should be the unfortunate cause of the vacancy. It is also a regrettable fact that with no constituency element among the London assemblymen, very few of the electors will know who has been replaced or why.

In my long experience as a canvasser in innumerable elections, I can tell the Committee that an amazingly high proportion of electors cannot tell you the name of their MP, let alone the councillor for their own ward. Of course, the public has to be given notice of a vacancy among the constituency members because there is likely to be a by-election. But why is it that when a vacancy occurs among the London members, the Government say that as the replacement is already in place, it is none of anyone's business? Is this not the opposite of open government?

It is not as if we are suggesting that the proper officer of the authority is being told to visit each voter personally and impart the news. All that he needs to do is to place an advertisement in the local press and put up a few posters. Is that not exactly what happens every day already when public notice is to be given on any subject? I do not understand why the Government, have produced such a convoluted dual process in the two paragraphs of this subsection. In just four words less

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than the Government our amendment makes a simplified all purpose procedure which I recommend to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As the noble Baroness said, her Amendment No. 46 would extend the provisions in Clause 9 of the Bill to include a requirement to give public notice of the occurrence of London member vacancies in addition to constituency member vacancies. Of course it is right that if a vacancy arises in a constituency seat, the proper officer of the authority must give public notice of that vacancy, as required by Clause 9(2)(b). This is because a by-election will fill that vacancy and the public therefore need to be told.

But vacancies in London member seats will not be filled by an election. Where the vacancy is in the seat of a member elected from a party list, the returning officer will be told that a vacancy has occurred and will fill it from the list submitted by the party at the previous ordinary election. No election will be held and therefore public notice is not necessary. However, I accept that it will be important that the public are made aware of who has filled an assembly list vacancy. Given the size of the assembly, this should be achieved simply by virtue of their taking their seat. But formal public notice of those individuals who might fill a future vacancy will in effect have been given at the preceding ordinary election when parties submitted their lists of candidates to the electorate. I hope that in the light of this reassurance the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I listened with interest when the Minister said that she did not feel the amendment was necessary. On the other hand, I can see no reason why it should be unnecessary. It seems extraordinary that no matter how small or how large our amendments may be, or what Bill they seek to amend, or what we are talking about, the answer from the Government is always no. In all my time at this Dispatch Box on the one occasion that I achieved success it was overturned in the other place. One would think that at some stage the Government would want to encourage us and would give just a little in the hope that we might not divide on a measure that they would consider far more substantive.

Baroness Hamwee: I did not want to interrupt the noble Baroness in full flow. I merely wished to ask the Minister a question before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, if that is what she intends to do.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I shall certainly not withdraw it until the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has had an opportunity to ask her question. We may wish to return to this matter. If the notice comprises a public notice and not an advertisement, we may wish to suggest that it is put on the Internet, for example. However, at this stage I shall sit down and listen quietly to what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has to say.

Baroness Hamwee: I do not think my comments merit that introduction! I am afraid that I cannot

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immediately recall what notice is to be given after elections. I hope that the Minister can remind us of that. The noble Baroness proposes that the public should be made aware of who are the London members and who is a new London member. If there is any inconsistency as regards notifying the public in the event of the next person on the list filling a casual vacancy, and with regard to what happens after the ordinary elections, one should be able to consider that matter without it being regarded as any great drama or loss of face on the part of the Government.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am unable to recollect that point. In the light of my previous error with the noble Lord, Lord Tope, I prefer to write to the noble Baroness.

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