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Lord Crickhowell: It is not the only case. Does he agree that exactly the same situation exists in
 
19 Apr 2006 : Column 1104
 
Scotland? Indeed, it has been well pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, and the Arbuthnott committee. Some 83 per cent of those elected in Scotland were elected on the basis that he described. Is that why he is replying to the debate and not the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, who has had to deal with the Scottish issue on previous occasions?

Lord Davies of Oldham: The reason why I am replying to the debate is that it is a high privilege to be asked to do so. I am coming to the Scottish position, because my noble friend Lord Foulkes is scarcely going to allow me to escape it. The Government are considering the Arbuthnott report. We do not think that the issue is cut and dried in quite the way that it has been presented by noble Lords on that side of the Committee this afternoon. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Foulkes, who introduced some balance into the argument on Arbuthnott. That is why we are considering the issue in great detail at present. Before Arbuthnott, we had identified the issue in Wales, and we had indicated to the people of Wales how we intended to tackle it. We are fulfilling that commitment.

I make it absolutely clear that the abuse concerns more than three candidates in one area. The problem with regard to list candidates being successful after they had failed in the consistencies is a much wider issue than just those three candidates. It extends to 18 candidates in all, who were constituency candidates in the same election. For the electorate—the Clwyd case exemplified it in a dramatic and obvious way—it brings the electoral system into some disrepute.

6.45 pm

Lord Norton of Louth: If it is a blot on the electoral arrangements in this country, why it is not a blot on the electoral arrangements in many other countries?

Lord Davies of Oldham: As the noble Lord will know, in one or two counties the issue is being addressed. I have already heard this afternoon that the reference to New Brunswick is not regarded as being absolutely convincing, but it is one illustration of democrats who think similarly to this Government on this problem. The noble Lord will recognise that there is no such thing as a pristine electoral system that solves all anomalies and all difficulties. It is right that where a particular problem occurs that gives considerable offence to an electorate and an abuse appears to have occurred, a government should seek to set that right. We could not have gone about that in a more exemplary fashion. The proposed ban on dual candidacy will correct those anomalies in the electoral system in Wales. It will remove the safety net of dual candidacy, which will make it harder for regional Members to use their position to target particular constituencies, and it will restore the right of voters to reject a particular constituency candidate.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: Does that mean that the Government will also be introducing similar
 
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prohibitions against London Assembly Members and against Scottish Members? Or is the position different in London and Scotland?

Lord Davies of Oldham: We will address those issues in good time. I have already indicated to the noble Lord that we have not replied to the Arbuthnott report, which is a serious document that deserves serious consideration. We have not responded to that as yet, but in this Bill we are legislating with regard to Wales, because that is where a clear issue arose.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said that the Government were bent on partisan activity and that all others were ranged against the Government. I do not think that we are being partisan; the reform will affect all parties equally. No party will gain or lose a single vote or seat in the Assembly as a result of this change. Three Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government are currently in marginal seats. They will also lose the safety net that the list system would otherwise have provided. It will not do for noble Lords to suggest that the Government are taking through a narrow, partisan matter to look after their own in Wales. Some of the crucial people who serve the Labour Party in Wales will make the inevitable sacrifice and there will be no safety net for them.

It will remove unfairness in the current system. In doing so, it will improve the electoral system. We maintain that the proposals in Clause 7 to prevent candidates standing both in a constituency and on a regional list will strengthen the integrity of the system. It puts the voters in charge by enabling them to choose successful candidates and reject unsuccessful candidates who cannot then arrive in the Assembly through the back door.

On the basis of those arguments, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment. I recognise the genuineness of the views of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, and the strength with which he has presented them. However, I ask him to recognise that we are not putting forward a casual clause in a Bill. We are fulfilling a clear, specific promise to the people of Wales on how we would deal with a problem identified in the elections for the Welsh Assembly in 2003. We are fulfilling that commitment through this legislation. We have the right and the obligation to do so. This House should tread carefully when such explicit commitments are being made by a properly elected Government.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to all who have participated in the debate. It is clear that there is a range of feelings in the Committee.

I was particularly touched by the quotation given by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell from a very independent academic, Professor Robert Hazell, of the Constitution Unit of the London School of Economics. He referred to these proposals as, "nasty, spiteful and seemingly driven by partisan motives".

When such a statement is made one looks to see what lies behind it. Jonathan Bradbury and Meg Russell gave evidence. They said:
 
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That is the crux of the issue. The system was set up by the Labour Government in the 1998 Act. They now have to change it in order to protect their own constituency members because they have no regional list members.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: If the aim had been to ensure the greatest Labour representation, that would have been done by having a total first-past-the-post system.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I think that even the Labour Party would have been ashamed of creating such a system; and that is why it never did. It insisted upon a degree of proportionality but, of course, it may be regretting that now.

We have heard a fair analysis of the arguments. We know what lies behind the Government's change in the Bill from the 1998 Act. It is their wish to protect their own sitting Members from attack, not only from regional list members and candidates but from anyone else, because they are in something of a fix and their long predominance in Wales is severely under threat. I shall test the opinion of the Committee.

6.55 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 17) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 133; Not-Contents, 114.


Division No. 1


CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Barker, B.
Biffen, L.
Blaker, L.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridges, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chidgey, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Courtown, E.
Craigavon, V.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
De Mauley, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Dykes, L.
Eccles, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Elles, B.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Falkland, V.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fowler, L.
Garden, L.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goodlad, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howard of Rising, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Inglewood, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Liverpool, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Manchester, Bp.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noakes, B.
Northover, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Patten, L.
Peel, E.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Sandwich, E.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shephard of Northwold, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stewartby, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thatcher, B.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tonge, B.
Tordoff, L.
Trumpington, B.
Tugendhat, L.
Ullswater, V.
Vallance of Tummel, L.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Waldegrave of North Hill, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Adams of Craigielea, B.
Adonis, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President.]
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bilston, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blood, B.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Corston, B.
Crawley, B.
Cunningham of Felling, L.
David, B.
Davidson of Glen Clova, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Drayson, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dubs, L.
Elystan-Morgan, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. [Teller]
Falconer of Thoroton, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.
Foulkes of Cumnock, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Giddens, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Brookwood, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hayman, B.
Henig, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Hoyle, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Leitch, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macaulay of Bragar, L.
McDonagh, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Moonie, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Richard, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Snape, L.
Soley, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Taylor of Bolton, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Young of Norwood Green, L.


Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.


 
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7.04 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo): As the Committee has already been advised, due to pre-emption, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 17A to 19.

[Amendments Nos. 17A to 20 not moved.]

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 [Calculation of electoral region figures]:

[Amendments Nos. 20A to 20R not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Allocation of seats to electoral region members]:

[Amendments Nos. 20S to 21 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Electoral region vacancies]:

[Amendments Nos. 21A to 22A not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Entitlement to vote]:


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