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What is left on the list for your Lordships' House is either the list system or STV, both of which would be acceptable. We have experience of both systems in the United Kingdom. The list system has been used for European elections since 1999. STV has been used in Northern Ireland since 1921 and was recently extended to local government elections in Scotland. STV has many advantages: it gives voters a chance to vote for

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individuals rather than parties if they wish to do so and to give successive preferences to people from different parties. Of course, it has drawbacks. Garret FitzGerald, the former Taoiseach of Ireland, once said in an article I read with interest that Members of the Dail tended to spend too little time in the Dail and too much in local pubs chatting up potential voters. With STV, to some extent, the real opponents of the candidates are not the other parties but the other candidates in their own party.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, if I am following the noble Lord’s argument and that of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, we would finish up with a House of Lords elected by STV, which is, in their terms, more representative than the House of Commons. Will the noble Lord address two subsequent points? What would that do in terms of the relative democratic legitimacy of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and what would be the implications for the supremacy of the House of Commons, which I understand the noble Lord supports?

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, of course I support the democratic legitimacy of the House of Commons. That is why I would welcome the House of Commons moving either to STV or to the Scottish and Welsh system of first past the post plus top-ups or alternative vote plus top-ups. That would wholly preserve or indeed improve the democratic legitimacy of the House of Commons.

STV is ultimately a good system. It is likely to produce a membership of your Lordships' House that is proportional to the votes cast. The alternative to STV for your Lordships' House, although not for the House of Commons, would be the list system. One change to that, which is accepted by everyone as being needed, would be to change from a closed list to an open one, so that people could vote for the individual if they chose to do so, rather than voting simply for the party list in the order in which it appears on the ballot paper. That was the position taken by my party when the system was introduced, and that change would not be difficult to make.

It is also true that an STV system would give greater diversity to the membership of your Lordships' House as shown by the fact that UKIP and the Greens have MEPs but no Members of either House of Parliament—apart from two Members of UKIP and one of the Green Party in your Lordships' House, all of whom arrived here originally as members of other parties.

To sum up, I am convinced that for an elected House of Lords to carry out its duties, in particular its scrutiny of the work of the Government, first, no one party should have a majority of the elected Members of your Lordships’ House; secondly, to minimise the risk of that occurring, the system of elections to this House must be different to that for elections to the House of Commons, unless that is STV; and, thirdly, on the assumption that elections to the House of Commons will continue to be by first past the post or broadly similar systems, elections to your Lordships’ House should be by either STV or an open list system.

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12.30 pm

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, not only for introducing this debate on electoral systems but for making mention of the Power commission’s work. As many of your Lordships know, I chaired the Power commission for the Rowntree trusts in 2006. We undertook an extensive research programme in order to understand why people were feeling increasingly alienated and detached from formal politics—not all politics, but formal politics. Crucially, we also undertook to arrive at a series of recommendations to help renew British democracy.

I regret to say that few aspects of the political system we investigated received more hostile comment than the main political parties. The expert and practitioner evidence, the public submissions and all the research projects we undertook revealed a widespread sense that the main parties were at best failing in the basic function of connecting governed and governors, and were at worst a serious obstacle to democratic engagement. Such hostility towards the parties inevitably feeds into alienation from the election processes. It was shocking to find such strength of feeling on the subject among the general public.

The attraction of voting is bound to be severely reduced if the main parties vying for the vote are widely regarded as not offering much choice generally in terms of what they stand for, or if they are regarded as unappealing. But that is how the situation was described to us. The noble Lord, Lord Norton, referred to Popper saying that voting day is judgment day, but in the last general election more people abstained than voted for my party, the party that won. We should be alarmed about that, and concerned about what it means.

Immediately after the 2005 general election we conducted a survey among those who had not voted. We found that approximately 45 per cent of them had not voted because they did not like what the main parties had to offer. I listen with great care to someone with the experience of my noble friend Lord Maxton; I respect that experience. However, we have to be careful not to sound arrogant by saying that the first past the post system has served us well, therefore we should not change it. Perhaps it did serve us well in the past, but I think that we have to listen well to the public and their concerns. I know that my noble friend Lord Maxton would be anxious to hear what the public feel about this. Of course it is absolutely right that opposition or small parties are always the ones that ask for an examination of the voting system; our party, the Labour Party, did so back in the days when it still was a small party. However, the fact that the issue is raised by small parties does not invalidate the argument about the need to create spaces where voices can be heard. It is important that we do that.

This alienation is compounded by the electoral system. In submissions we received from the public, the most common reason cited for their low turn-out was a belief that they had no chance of having an impact on the final outcome. They felt their votes did not count. They described the situation as follows: “I live in a constituency where the Conservatives always win, so what’s the point in my voting when I’m not

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going to vote for them?”; or “Why should I vote if the Liberals always win in my constituency?”; or “Labour always wins”.

People who vote for a party that has no chance of winning feel there is no point in going to the polls. Our survey of non-voters in the 2005 general election upheld that view. Nearly half of those not voting said they would be more likely to vote if they felt that their candidate had at least a chance of winning power or finding a place in governance. So not only are the main parties unappealing to many voters; the electoral system itself ensures that casting a vote for a preferred alternative is widely seen as a waste of energy. That should matter to us. The simple calculation made by millions of citizens is that the choice at election time is to vote either for a party that one dislikes or for one that stands no chance of parliamentary representation let alone a place in government.

We as a nation have changed. The public have changed. The old allegiances and bonds are changing, and have been for many years. We are a citizenry in transition. The old political allegiances are changing; they are less tribal. The public’s aspirations are changing, too. As active Labour Party members in the 1950s, my parents’ hope was that they would have decent housing, with bathrooms and hot water, a good education system for their children, and security in work. My parents had been through the depression and knew what it was like to be workless. In many ways, some of that has been secured. But the aspirations of our varied population are changing and shifting.

We have also seen a real decline in the old social and economic conditions, but a new political formulation has yet to be developed to effectively represent and shape the new interests and values emerging in our post-industrial society. Our political parties are of course seeking to reform, but they tend to do so by huddling round a central ground, seeking votes only in the marginal constituencies that we hear so much about. As a result, many people—even in the parties, and even in the Labour Party—feel very disillusioned about the party which they thought was theirs. The same is happening now in the Conservative Party, and I am sure it will happen also in the Liberal Democrat Party. Once people huddle round the same set of issues, they start feeling that the things that they have cared about are no longer of importance to their leadership.

It is very important that spaces are made for people’s voices to be heard, not only within parties but within the system. We have to deal with this disengagement, and the electoral system is one of the things that we have to look at. That is why I welcome this debate. The main parties are still the only serious contenders for power on offer to the electorate. However, we also have to give space for other possibilities to emerge. That is how we can draw the young back into our formal politics. That is how we can create new passions about how our world and society can be changed.

Let us consider this House, which, I regret to say, is increasingly more respected than the other place. One of the reasons is that, although it is unelected, none of the parties here has a majority; we have to struggle to

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assemble one. That is healthy for democracy. We should recognise the things that are necessary to re-energise our democratic system.

The electorate occasionally attempt to break the monopoly, when the rare opportunity presents itself. We have seen that in the sudden and often unexpected burst of support for an independent candidate, or for small parties that effectively engage sections of the public. It can be seen also in the rise of tactical voting, as sections of the electorate realise that, in some constituencies, they can at least vote meaningfully against something they do not like even if they cannot vote meaningfully for something they do like. But those are exceptional moments and they do little to bolster the health of electoral democracy. People will feel, “I’m voting tactically but I’d like to be voting for something and someone I believe in”. That is where the health of democracy lies.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, the noble Baroness is developing an interesting argument, but can she explain what in the review before us bears out her claims? Is there any evidence that citizens would be revitalised, or that the alternative electoral systems would deliver what she is detailing?

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I know that the noble Lord is familiar with the work of other academics. Many academics across the board, including Professor Patrick Dunleavy at the LSE and Professor Pippa Norris at Harvard, have found that fewer votes are wasted and turnout has declined less in countries that have proportional systems with a wider array of parties. This is not an answer to a maiden’s prayer, let me assure you. The Power inquiry did not recommend a particular system. Like others, I have deep reservations about any kind of list system because of power being vested too much in political parties rather than in people. The single transferable vote may be the one to look at. The decision on what should be done was left open for this sort of debate. Fairer voting and making votes count is but one way of re-energising people so that they feel that if they vote for someone, their at vote will count in some way within the whole system.

The Power commission concluded that one way of reconnecting people with their political parties and hence with elections is to introduce greater flexibility into the monopoly of the present party system. An electoral arrangement is needed that is sufficiently responsive to the much more fluid and diverse identities and values of our contemporary electorate. Such a change is necessary to ensure that large numbers of citizens feel that there is something on offer to them at election time. It is time that we offered voters the same choice in politics that the main parties constantly tell those same voters they desire in public service provision. If choice is the mantra of the day, then choice should be more available in this area, too. The need to change our electoral system is critical and should be regarded as urgent. We have now reached a point in our political history where democracy is at risk because people are voting less and less. The argument for change is now as much about what is expedient for the future of democracy in Britain as it is a matter of principle.

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12.42 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness in that thoughtful and constructive speech. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Tyler on introducing this debate. I hope it does not become too obvious in the next few minutes that I have been dragooned into speaking very much at the last minute, unlike other noble Lords with their carefully researched speeches. But I am the only one on these Benches who has had the actual experience of voting in all four of the different systems and who has been elected on two of them. That is my claim for participating in this event.

Many colleagues are constitutional and electoral system anoraks, which I have never claimed to be. During the 12 years that I was leader of the Liberal Party I was regularly chastised, with considerable justification, by the late Enid Lakeman for never making a speech on electoral reform and only making glancing references to it. I have to admit that that is true. I have only once in my life made a speech on electoral reform and that was in the safety of British Columbia during the referendum campaign, which was narrowly lost. It did not reach the 60 per cent threshold. One reason for hesitating was that when I was elected to the other place, I was the only Member in the House of Commons to represent three counties. I had a very large constituency and I always had doubts about the effect of multi-Member seats in creating even larger areas to be represented by the electorate.

The other reason for my hesitation was that during the by-election which I won in 1965, we had 53 public meetings, three a night, again because of the very large area. That meant finding other people to hold the first two meetings while the candidate was getting to the third one. I distinctly remember that out of all the meetings that I held, most of which were extremely successful, the one disaster was in Melrose. Two of my local stalwarts were holding the meeting and I was detained by the enthusiasm of the two previous meetings so I was an hour late. When I got there I could tell there was something quite wrong in the atmosphere. The two stalwarts had each delivered a half-hour lecture on the virtues of the single transferable vote. They were assisted in this by one of these roller blackboards in the schoolroom covered with hieroglyphics of the d’Hondt formula. The audience were stupefied by the time I arrived and I was never quite able to recover them. I was reminded of that when I read this quite mind-numbing document. I cannot honestly see the great British public rushing to the bookshops to spend £33.45 to read the review of electoral systems, but I admire the enthusiasm of everybody else for this subject.

I should like to pick up something the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, said when he talked about the constitutional convention in Scotland. It is quite true that the additional member system which we arrived at was a compromise between the two parties. But, with respect, I do not agree that the motivation for the compromise on the Labour side was out of deference to, or fear of, the Liberal Democrats. It was quite simply that we looked back to the failure of the referendum in the 1970s. This is an illustration of the fact that electoral systems

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can matter to the public. In 1970, one of the great fears that the electorate in Scotland had, which meant that the referendum did not carry, was that we were adding another tier of government. We had two tiers of local government at that point but by the 1990s it was reduced to one. Secondly, there was the anxiety that the first past the post system proposed in the 1970s would result in virtually permanent Labour majority rule in Scotland. That was a major factor, and when it was changed to offer the people of Scotland a proportional election system, there is no doubt in my mind that that was a significant factor in the enthusiasm with which the whole package was greeted in the referendum in 1997. It demonstrates that political systems can have an impact. Even if the public are not interested in the details which we are arguing here today, the principle of proportionality was, in my view, a major factor in the enthusiasm for the Scottish settlement.

The system that was agreed as a compromise between the two parties was the additional member system. I know that confession is good for the soul but I must admit that I very much welcomed that, for the reasons I have explained. I had doubts about the single transferable vote. Whereas most of my party regarded this as a slightly unhappy compromise, I was delighted. I have now to admit that I think I was wrong. I do not believe that the additional member system has proved a success in Scotland. Both this report and the Arbuthnott commission referred to the tensions between list members and constituency members. As Presiding Officer in the Parliament, I became very aware of the fact that we had two classes of Member. That is why I say to my noble friend Lord Goodhart that if the day ever comes that we have a vote on an elected system for the House of Lords—which I doubt—I will be in the Lobby voting for a wholly elected system and not one which has two classes of Members.

It is more than just the atmosphere within the Chamber I am talking about. At a constituency level, the present system is extremely destructive. Let me give the example of the constituency where I live. The Member elected to the Scottish Parliament is a former assistant of mine—as one would expect, a very talented, young man, well trained—and he is elected as a Liberal Democrat Member. At the previous election, two of his opponents—the Scottish Nationalist and the Conservative—failed to get elected, of course, but were elected on the list system. So they sit in the same Chamber and take great delight in criticising the Member who has been duly elected and interfere in his constituency. Why? Because they intend to stand again at the next election. Indeed, the Scottish Nationalist, has stood four or five times, with a distinct lack of success. Although she is written off by journalists in Scotland as being part of the batty tendency of the SNP, batty or not, she can be a real nuisance in the democratic system where there is an elected Member in the constituency and a regional list member meddling in constituency affairs with a view to increasing their vote at the next election. So it is not a happy system and I believe that the single transferable vote would have been a better choice for the Scottish Parliament.

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Indeed, although my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno will tell us that the Welsh Assembly has to some extent overcome this problem by stopping people standing for both the list and in the constituency, that is a temporary compromise. The system itself is defective. I am more and more convinced of that by the experience of the introduction of the single transferable vote for local elections. Again, I am now represented in my area by several councillors of different political persuasions. The system has worked well and has been well received, and the atmosphere and co-operation between the councillors are good. There is a strong contrast on the ground between that and the additional member system as practised in Scotland. This will astonish my colleagues, but my support has come around to the single transferable vote. Even if—God rest Enid Lakeman’s soul—I never again speak on the subject, I am in favour of it.

12.50 pm

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, for initiating the debate. I should say at the outset that my remarks are likely to be minority remarks on these Benches, with the noble and notable exception of my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. I was slightly disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said that he felt that the first past the post system may have been appropriate in what he called the bipolar political atmosphere of the 1950s but that it is no longer appropriate. I agree with his conclusion but not with the means by which he gets there, because his argument seems to a great extent to pander to the accusations that the Liberal Democrats have self-interest at the heart of their arguments and that the fact that they are doing rather better than the Liberal Party in the mid-1950s is the reason for changing the electoral system. That in no way advances the noble Lord’s case.

None the less, I, like the noble Lord, Lord Steel, have had experience of two elected Parliaments as well as your Lordships’ House, and I have come around to the view, particularly after experiencing the Scottish Parliament, that a proportional system—or, rather, a more proportional system; there is no ideally proportional system, although the STV is probably the most proportional—has, despite the Government of Scotland at the moment, served the people of Scotland well. I say that without any question of party advantage in mind. The Government of Scotland have served the people of Scotland well because they have enabled them to say, “We want a change”. This is what happened in May 2007.

Other noble Lords have argued that first past the post is the only means of calling a government to account on election day, and if people do not like them collectively, they can force them out and bring in a government of another hue. The question is whether it should be a government of just one hue or two, or perhaps even a rainbow coalition of parties, but that is the will of the people and if the people say, “You’re all minorities. We are not willing to give power to any one of you. You get together in any way that you see fit and come to a majority position where you can find a means of running the country”, that is

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in the interests of the people and will not necessarily be, or be perceived to be, in the interests of one particular party.

Proportionality is not a new idea. The Jenkins commission in 1998 recommended changing from first past the post, although disappointingly only to AV+, which is a little like the French system, which is not proportional. The Power commission of my noble friend Lady Kennedy in 2004 said simply that we needed a more responsive electoral system. That was difficult, because it was not within the commission’s remit to go further than that, but the message was fairly clear.

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