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The noble Baroness asked what we are doing to implement the Rose review. We are providing a great deal of high-quality resource to schools on the teaching practices in respect of reading which come out of the Rose report. We have just issued to schools new teaching materials, handbooks and CD-ROMs, which give good supporting guidance to them on how to implement Rose. The materials have been extremely well received by schools and, although we do not formally direct them, virtually all of them will implement Rose. The materials that we have put out have had a very positive response from teachers.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, exactly what will the Council for Educational Excellence do and exactly what will it cost? In addition, why are the Government still so much against streaming? I think that it was my noble friend Lord Blackwell who said that they accept that setting is a way of getting away from mixed-ability teaching—people are taught among their peers. However, people of secondary school age value their friendships greatly and develop through them. Where setting takes place in a big school, and you are with one group of people in one subject and another group for another, you keep losing your friends, whereas with streaming you are with the same group and you benefit from being with friends throughout your time at school, except that you have the flexibility of moving between streams if you develop in such a way that you can. Why are the Government still so against streaming?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I accept that streaming can keep friendship groups more together, as the noble Baroness said, but the advantage of setting is that it enables judgments to be made on the aptitude of students in individual subjects. Student aptitude varies between subjects. We favour setting over streaming because it enables the aptitudes of students to be much better reflected in the quality of teaching that they receive than is possible if one were simply to put them in a standard group across all subjects.

In respect of the national council, the Statement said that our aim is,

That is why we are so keen to engage business and university leaders in the council. We will set out a more precise work plan in due course. Although I do

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not imagine that we will set out the precise cost, I hope that I will be able to provide more ballpark figures once the council’s work is under way.

Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill

5.44 pm

House again in Committee.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 112:

“SCHEDULE 2Election of elected mayorApplicationMethod of votingProcedure for counting

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The noble Lord said: This small group of amendments deals with some important matters. Amendments Nos. 112, 171, 172 and 255, tabled in my name, would replace the supplementary vote with the alternative vote. The other amendment in the group, in the name of my noble friend, is rather more ambitious. She will speak to it in due course.

Amendment No. 112 would replace the existing system of the supplementary vote for mayoral elections with the alternative vote. My other three amendments would use the alternative vote, rather than the supplementary vote, for elections which the Government proposed for any elected executives. We have not discussed elected executives yet, so the amendments pre-empt the question whether we will have them, but it seems sensible to discuss the two voting systems together. The third area in which the supplementary vote is used is London mayoral elections. My amendments do not cover them, because they are subject to different legislation, but I would in spirit make the same change in their case, too.

The supplementary vote is a rather cack-handed voting system, which the Government cobbled together when they set up elections for mayors and the Mayor of London. It is election by a traditional “X”-voting system. After the first vote, people are given the opportunity of marking their second preference with an “X” in a different column. The two candidates with the most first-preference votes progress to the second round. Any second-preference votes for those two remaining candidates are then transferred to them and added to their total, giving the result of the election.

In moving the amendment, I should perhaps have welcomed the Minister to what I think is her first discussion in Committee on electoral systems. There will no doubt be many more to come. They are all great fun.

The supplementary vote differs from the alternative vote in that candidates are numbered one to five by voters and votes are simply transferred until somebody has gained over half of the votes cast. That system is used for the election of the leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party, so it has achieved a certain amount of fame recently. It is used also in elections in this House, so it is not without some background. If it is good enough for the Labour Party, it should be good enough for mayors and elected executives; and if it is good enough for the House of Lords, it should certainly be good enough for mayors and elected executives.

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What are the problems with the supplementary vote, and why did I say it was cack-handed and cobbled together? First, it seems to cause unnecessary confusion. The number of spoilt ballot papers is significantly higher than usual, certainly higher than in normal elections: around 3 per cent in the first-preference count and around 8 to 10 per cent on the second count, not including those that cannot transfer because they would go to the wrong candidate. I had difficulty researching previous elections by the supplementary vote. I asked the Government what the situation was, but they said that they did not collect data. It is time that somebody started.

Secondly, the supplementary vote is not efficient, and there is a very high drop-out rate on the transfer to the second round; it can be as high as 80 per cent and is typically 60 or 70 per cent. Although people are offered a second vote, in general most of those votes do not count. They are not used because people use their second preference for somebody who has already dropped out, and the vote is then lost. Your second vote only counts if it goes to one of the candidates in the top two; therefore whether your second vote counts is accidental, which is not an efficient voting system.

Thirdly, the supplementary vote distorts choice. As I have said, whether your vote is counted on the second ballot is accidental; therefore, that must distort the result. I have been doing a bit of research and have just two or three examples.

The 2005 Torbay mayoral election was unusual because there were 14 candidates, despite which the turnout was only 24 per cent. However, 15,000—62 per cent—of the votes were for candidates not in the top two. Of those, nearly 12,000—almost 49 per cent—were not transferred. As a transferable voting system, it was a flop.

In the election for the mayor of Hackney in 2002, 76 per cent of votes did not transfer to the second round; the rate was almost as high in the next election, four years later. There were a huge number of rejected ballot papers in Hackney: 619 were rejected because of voting for more than one candidate as the first preference; 209 were unmarked or wholly void for uncertainty; and 4,400 were rejected in part. The system was not working properly. As I have said, up to 10 per cent of papers tend to be rejected as void or spoilt at either stage.

In the Mansfield mayoral election earlier this year, nearly 8 per cent of ballot papers were spoilt. There was a great scandal at the level of spoilt ballot papers in the Scottish parliamentary election; however, the same level seems to apply in these mayoral elections. That cannot be a good thing.

Those are typical. I will not detain noble Lords with statistics on lots of other places. Typically a high proportion of votes are not transferred and quite a lot of people who want to vote spoil their papers inadvertently. About 10 per cent of ballot papers are spoilt. Around two-thirds of second-preference votes are not transferred. Therefore, the system is not efficient.

The alternative vote is easier to use; it gives maximum choice and is easy to understand because anybody can number. It is an efficient system in that a high proportion of the votes are transferred until somebody is either elected or is named the runner-up.

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I do not know why the supplementary vote was invented. Most electoral systems are a matter of principle—what they are based on—the purpose that they exist for and the outcomes. We can argue about first past the post, the alternative vote and various kinds of proportional representation but those arguments are about principles, purpose and outcomes. The supplementary vote is a defective system and is not fit for purpose. It does not work, and that is the main argument against it.

I beg to move Amendment No. 112, which would introduce the alternative vote instead of the supplementary vote for elected mayors.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My noble friend’s amendment referred to the use of the supplementary vote for electing mayors. My modest amendment—I do not see it as ambitious contrary to what my noble friend said—seeks to introduce the single transferable vote to local council elections.

On these Benches, we are dedicated advocates for the single transferable vote and like to bring it up at every opportunity. We have always made the case that in a well functioning democracy every vote should have equal weight. In first past the post elections, this evidently is not the case. Lest I be charged with naked self-interest, there are parts of England, south-west London, for example, where first past the post works very much in favour of the Liberal Democrats, but that still does not make it right.

The single transferable vote provides an opportunity for political parties to get more people elected from underrepresented groups, such as women and the black and minority ethnic population. It has never been more important to improve that representation.

The Government have the example of Scotland to see how the single transferable vote has worked and will be able to assess the difference it makes to how Scottish councils are governed. We also have proportional voting systems in operation for the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the European Parliament and the London Assembly; therefore, it is not new. I would like the Government to consider the single transferable vote as an option for English local government elections as they have done in Scotland.

Baroness Hanham: I am always lost in admiration for how the Liberal Democrats manage to produce a proposal for proportional representation at every opportunity—not just one version, but at least two, and I am sure there will be a third. We are not in favour of proportional representation. We are in favour of the simple majority. Therefore, I will not be supporting these amendments but could not resist saying how much I would want to oppose proportional representation.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: The Liberal Democrats should feel pleased at the progress made over the years in considering change. I go back long enough to believe that the changes proposed, even by the Government and certainly by the Liberal Democrats, in the past few years have been outlandish and far-fetched.

However, we are in a period where experiments have taken place, experience has been learned from and, as I understand it, the various systems are being reviewed, which is likely to provide some guidance. It

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is so patent to see a political advantage in a system. Probably the reason that the Labour Party resisted major change is that the existing system favoured it. Before anyone talks about chicanery or corruption or anything like that, one has to understand that the method and manner whereby an electoral system can bring party-political advantage have been there from time immemorial. You win some, you lose some.

To give my own illustration, in 1964 we won Enfield council by 31 to 29; four years later, we lost by 51 to nine. That reflected substantially the change in the mood of the people of Enfield. Over the past 40 or 50 years, we have been not only recognising the illogicality of the existing systems but genuinely seeking to engage the electorate much more than in the recent past.

As always, I listen to the experience and point of view of colleagues who have worked in local government. I confess that I was always a first past the post man in anything. However, I am beginning to change. Like most people of my age, I think that too much change and too quickly is not good for my system, so I would like to hear what the Minister has to say.

6 pm

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I thank my noble friend very much for his comments and for giving me the opportunity to offer a few words from the Government—I do not know if clarity is the word—on this very interesting subject. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for welcoming me to my first House of Lords debate on electoral systems. I have what may be a guilty secret to share: I have been rather enjoying the debate. It could be a mistake to admit that.

As I am sure the Committee would expect me to say, every voting system has advantages and disadvantages. The Government acknowledge that there are arguments both for and against the various proportional voting systems, and we have introduced new voting systems for the devolved Administrations as well as for the mayoral elections in local authorities. As we know, mayors in local authorities are elected by the supplementary vote system. We have also proposed in Part 3 of the Bill that the supplementary vote system be used for electing an elected executive. More widely, the elections conducted in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Greater London Assembly use the additional member system, and for the European Parliament the list system is used. In each of those cases there was a good reason to adopt the voting system that is now in place.

Noble Lords seek today to change the system for electing mayors across England from the supplementary vote system to the single transferable vote system. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also wishes the directly elected executive to be returned via the additional member system. He has set out why he considers those systems are advantageous. However, the Government do not believe that now is the time to make changes to any of the electoral systems in England.

The noble Baronesses’ amendments were described as both ambitious and modest. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, set out why they wish to see the single transferable vote used for elections to principal and

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parish councils. However, that would mean that the first past the post system would no longer be used. One of the advantages of the first past the post system is that it ensures a direct relationship between those who are elected and the electorate within a specific geographical area. This system has historically been used to elect councillors to all local authorities. By tying members to a geographical area, a ward or a division which is constructed to reflect the identities and interests of communities, first past the post ensures that citizens know who represents them and, very importantly, representatives know whom they are representing. We believe that that is a significant advantage of the current system.

The Government are, however, carrying out a review of the new voting systems used in the UK for the devolved Administrations, the European Parliament and the London mayoral and Assembly elections. I hope and believe that this review will pick up the issues of confusion, transfers and spoilt papers to which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, pointed. We are of the view that it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of this review by encouraging the introduction of changes to the voting systems in the Bill.

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister stated in another place:

The review should be completed and published by the end of the year. Given my remarks, I hope that noble Lords will consider not pressing their amendments.

Lord Greaves: I hesitate to turn this into a seminar on voting systems but I think that it is necessary to point out one or two of the Minister's comments which I do not think are quite accurate. First, on behalf of my noble friend who is proposing STV in local elections, it is rather odd that the Government are not going to allow some councils that might want to move to STV as a pilot scheme to do so, particularly as most of those councils are currently controlled by a majority of Liberal Democrats and would almost certainly go without overall control under STV. In terms of political advantage, I would have thought that the Minister would be grabbing our hands off, but never mind.

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