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Are there any criteria that he or she must use in making that judgment? If they so decide, can the decision-making powers be challenged or questioned and can the polling agents for all political parties ask for an explanation? Does the counting officer have to explain why the circumstances are such that that decision has been taken? Who does he or she account to at the time? Is there any recourse after any election where that decision was taken to pursue the reasons why it was taken?
These questions have been bounced off the Minister. The definition of "area" was mentioned last night, so presumably it was heard somewhere and there should be some sort of response to it, but I would be grateful for some clarification on the ballot boxes.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, when my noble friend responds on this debate, can he reassure us that past experience of the combination of referendums-or referenda, depending on your Latin-and local or other elections has been fully taken into account? As has already been mentioned this afternoon in Committee, there was experience in London in 1998 when a very extensive change to the governance of London was set out in a proposal put to a referendum which was combined with the local elections taking place at the same time. Therefore, when looking at Schedule 5, it is extremely important that we do not try to reinvent the wheel but take full experience of what has gone before.
My noble and learned friend has much more direct experience of what happened in Scotland, but I ask him not to be diverted by the red herring of what happened in the Scottish parliamentary elections when, as we all know, the confusion was caused by misleading instructions on the ballot paper for one particular election, not by a combination of elections. Indeed, remarkably few ballot papers for the local government elections were disallowed because, even though it was a new system, it was remarkably well described on the ballot paper. I hope we can be given reassurance that we are not going to start reinventing more wheels this afternoon. The important thing to do is to make sure that Schedule 5 has fully taken into account past experience and, if I may say so, the sort of practical experience of my noble friend Lord Rennard rather than that of those of us who have simply stood.
Baroness Golding: On ballot boxes, in my area, there will be a full parish council election, a local government election and this referendum. In previous elections, some areas have not had elections, and we have borrowed ballot boxes from those not involved. There could be a shortage of ballot boxes of whatever kind. Has this been looked at because everywhere will have a ballot?
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I come back to a point that I raised on a previous amendment in relation to the fact that there are two different franchises in the election and the referendum. The Scottish parliamentary election is on the local government franchise and the referendum is on the UK parliamentary franchise, plus Peers. The Minister is right that we are the only ones having that special treatment. The schedule makes provision for either a combined register or two separate registers. Can the Minister explain how that will work, how the registers will be combined, and what the procedure will be?
As I understand it, if there are two separate registers, one for the Scottish parliamentary election, which includes European nationals, and one for the referendum, which does not include European nationals, it will be quite a cumbersome operation. When people come in, there will be three categories: people entitled to vote in the referendum and the Scottish parliamentary election; people entitled to vote in the referendum only; and people entitled to vote in the Scottish parliamentary election only. It will be much more confusing. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, raised the confusion in the Scottish local elections in 2007. I think it will be even more confusing than that because of the two franchises.
There is also the question of overseas voters. They will be entitled to a vote in the referendum, and it would be useful to know what arrangements are going to be made for them to be given the votes that they are entitled to, to be made aware of their entitlement and to get postal votes. Even in relation to postal votes, there will be three categories to be dealt with: those entitled to both, those entitled to the referendum and those entitled to the Scottish parliamentary election.
Keeping the registers, marking them, marking ballot papers and handing them out will be a very complicated exercise. With respect, I think the Government have underestimated some of the difficulties that they are creating for counting officers and returning officers by having the referendum on the same day. Since I raised this matter some weeks ago-I think the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was dealing with it on that occasion-I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, will now be able to explain how these processes are going to be carried out, particularly the ones at the polling station.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, it often happens that you can see something in a schedule that raises quite an important more general point. I am referring to the cost of the combined polls, which is on page 137 in Schedule 5. It says quite simply, and I am sure that voters would regard this as common sense, that when two or three elections are taking place in the same area at the same time you divvy up the cost of delivering that election between them. I ask myself whether that
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Unfortunately, I have not brought my precise note, but I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, has these details engraved on his mind. The Government and the Deputy Prime Minister have repeatedly told us a precise figure-from memory I think that it is £35 million but I stand to be corrected-which will be saved by holding the referendum on the same day as a number of local elections. I have always thought that using the word "saved" there makes about as much sense as saying that you buy a fridge for £150 in a sale, as opposed to paying £200, and that therefore you have saved money. You would save a lot more if you did not buy the fridge and we would certainly save a lot more if we did not hold a referendum. Sadly, that argument has now passed.
et cetera. I want to ask a straight, factual question. How have the Government calculated what the saving will be to the Exchequer from holding the referendum on the same day as these other elections? As to the "cost of combined polls" under Schedule 5, page 137, the Government have obviously attributed to the referendum the whole cost of those areas where there are no local elections, which I suppose is intelligible enough, and I assume that they have divvied up-I may be making huge assumptions here-the proportionate cost of the referendum in those districts where other elections are taking place.
Most of all, I have always been wary about the glib statistic of how much is being saved by holding the referendum on the same day. If that is the building block of this calculation, which presumably somewhere along the line it must be-that is, the cost of combined polls-I would ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, to give us a note on whether the calculation is built on these individual bricks. I rather fear that it might be a construction built on sand. But at least I should like to know the calculations that have led to this alleged saving.
Lord McAvoy: My Lords, once again, interventions made by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, seek only to extend the time being spent on this Bill. Time after time, the noble Lord questions the integrity of the scrutiny that we are having here. In the brief time in which I have been in the Chamber, this scrutiny is well within the spirit of the understanding that I believe we have. The questioning of integrity does not help matters. I would ask the noble and learned Lord to bear in mind that, as far as I am aware, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, does not have a clue because he was not present during the Scottish elections of 2007. Any comments he has about that should be discounted.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I wondered when it was going to stop. In dealing with these schedules, it is important that these questions are asked. Perhaps I may start with the question raised about the schedule by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, which was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, with regard to the combination of the polls. As was articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, rule 5 provides for the cost of the combined polls to be equally apportioned between them. For example, in the case of a combined referendum on the voting system and the local government elections in England, the costs would be split 50:50 between the Consolidated Fund and the local authority concerned, except for those items that can be expressly and readily identified as being attributable to either one or the other.
As regards the costs that we are comparing, if you took the local elections-for the sake of argument, the Scottish Parliament election or the Welsh National Assembly election-on their own and added all the costs of a separate election with regard to the referendum, it is that compared with what the cost would be of combining the polls. I am advised that in calculating the cost, the assumptions take into account all the additional costs arising from the combination of polls. Overall, it would lead to a saving because, obviously, if the costs are split between the Consolidated Fund and the local authority concerned, there will some saving too for the local authority. I am advised that there is information in the Library of the House which sets out further detail on the costs.
The issue of ballot boxes was raised. Under paragraph 18 of Schedule 5, it is clear that the counting officer has discretion with regard to whether it should be the same ballot box for the combined polls or whether there should be separate ballot boxes. It is important that this matter is left to the discretion of the counting officer. The chief counting officer will be able to provide directions to the counting officers on whether one or more ballot boxes will be used. The final decision is likely to take into account local circumstances, including the number of combined polls. The noble Baroness, Lady Golding, indicated that there will be three polls in her area, which obviously is different from a place where there are only two. It may also be relevant as to whether a polling station is for a village with a relatively small population as opposed to one that covers a much larger number of voters. These matters are best left to the judgment of the counting officers. As I have indicated, directions and guidance will be given by the chief counting officer.
Lord Maxton: Given the assurance that the Minister gave last night that in the Scottish situation the parliamentary vote would come first, can he therefore say that in terms of ballot boxes there will always be two in Scotland-one for the Scottish Parliament elections and one for the referendum? If there is not, there are some areas-particularly, oddly enough, in some of the more remote areas which the noble and learned Lord will know-where the transportation of boxes to the count is done by boat. This could cause problems
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Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I do not quite follow that because if there is a delay because of weather or transport, it will affect both elections. I can recall times past when local elections in Scotland and Scottish parliamentary elections were on the same day. Even when there were separate ballot boxes, it was still necessary to check them both to ensure that a ballot paper had not inadvertently been put in the wrong box. I think that different colours of ballot papers are used so that they are readily identifiable. I would imagine-it would seem to be common sense-that, even where two ballot boxes are used, it would still be important to make sure that ballot papers had not been put in the wrong box. It is important that every vote is counted.
Lord Campbell-Savours: Does the Minister accept that it is bound to cost more money if there is one box which has to be separated in the counting station? Is there not a responsibility on the Government to try to save money?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I do not necessarily think that it is bound to cost more money. But overall it is clear that there are savings to be made. As I have indicated, a note has been provided on this. If there is a relatively small electorate at a polling station, it does not necessarily make sense to have two ballot boxes. With regard to the question about whether there would be enough ballot boxes, the Electoral Commission is asking all counting officers to ensure that they have sufficient equipment to run the poll effectively, which obviously includes ensuring that a sufficient number of ballot boxes are provided to all polling stations in the United Kingdom.
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke: I have a question for the noble and learned Lord which I was going to ask in relation to Schedule 7, but in the interests of trying to keep things moving along rapidly, I shall do so now. Will he address the issue raised by the Electoral Commission about the difficulty of a declaration in relation to the results of the Scottish parliamentary election? The Bill states quite clearly that there may be no declaration in the parliamentary count or any count until the verified ballot papers have been notified. If the count for the parliamentary election is done before the count for the referendum, will we not end up with a fairly enormous muddle where it will take some hours before there is any declaration on the parliamentary count? Will the noble and learned Lord undertake to take a look at this and perhaps respond on Report? Unnecessary complexity seems to have been built in.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I certainly undertake to come back and give some clarification to the noble Baroness and many others who are interested in this matter. I confirm what I said yesterday to the noble Lord, Lord Maxton-that it is intended that the result of the Scottish election should be declared ahead of that of the referendum. As I also indicated, it took
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The combined rules in the Bill require all ballot papers to be separated for each of the three polls before the verification process can commence. Even if there are two polls, it still has to be verified that ballot papers have not been put in the wrong box. There are also provisions which require all ballot papers for each of the three polls to be verified before any of the counts can conclude. This ensures that all ballot papers will be accounted for and included in the appropriate count. If people cast their vote, it is important that it is then counted.
Lord Howarth of Newport: In that connection, I would be most grateful if the noble and learned Lord would deal with one other point: the position of the Government-on which we disagree with them-that the results of the referendum should not be declared constituency by constituency. What aspects of the arrangements for the count set out in the schedule are designed to ensure that it will not be possible for party agents and others who are present at the count, for very valid reasons, to make a pretty shrewd assessment of the sizes of the piles of ballot papers and to estimate the result constituency by constituency? What safeguards are built in to prevent that?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I never cease to be amazed at the ingenuity of observers at counts in trying to work out what is going on. Even in European elections in the past where ballot papers have been verified on the Thursday night with the count deferred until the Sunday-and, in the case of the Highlands and Islands, the Monday-some people have still managed to have a pretty shrewd idea of the results. It might be asking the impossible, no matter what was put into statute.
A number of important questions have been asked. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about the separate registers. There will be two registers, but an accounting officer, who has most experience of local circumstances, can decide to merge them. If, for example, he or she is aware that in a particular area some voters would be on one register but not on the other, they may choose to have one register. Each elector is marked to show which election he or she can vote in.
The noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, asked about the definition of the area of control of a presiding officer. The area of control is not covered by the Bill. The Electoral Commission feels that that would be better dealt with in guidance, as with all previous elections. That goes also for mobile hoardings. I am sure that those of us who have fought elections or been agents in them will recall that opposing parties or campaigns are not usually slow to object or make representations if they feel that some trickery is up whereby messages are being obscured by the other side. The Bill says "inside and outside" polling stations. I do not think that a 40-tonne truck will be able necessarily to obscure a notice inside a polling station.
Lord Maxton: As someone who, like the noble and learned Lord, has been involved in elections, I know that there is sometimes great variety even within the same constituency and even from one school to another. If I am a candidate and walk in with my rosette on my lapel, I am told to take it off in one school but not in the next. Are there any guidelines to be given on that?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, it is a matter of local discretion. Elections have worked well in these respects. When I fought the European election in 1979 in the south of Scotland, I was forbidden to wear my rosette in the Galloway part of the constituency but reprimanded for not having one when I went without it into the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles parts-they thought that it had been a pretty colourless election up until then and wanted to see a bit of colour.
(a) as if, in the definition of "relevant Assembly election documents", the reference to rule 69(1) of Schedule 5 to the 2007 Order included a reference to rule 52 of the referendum rules as applied by this paragraph;
(b) as if, in paragraph (2), the reference to documents forwarded under rule 67(1)(h) of Schedule 5 to the 2007 Order were to documents forwarded under rule 50(1)(a) of the referendum rules as so applied."
As soon as practicable after 5 pm on the 6th day before the date of the poll, the registration officer must provide the counting officer with the following lists, and any subsequent revised lists or revisions to the lists-
(a) the list of proxies for the Assembly elections;
(b) the postal voters list for the Assembly elections;
(c) the proxy postal voters list for the Assembly elections.Personal identifier information
Where proceedings on the issue and receipt of postal ballot papers are taken together by virtue of paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 to the Welsh Assembly Order, Article 13(5) of that Order has effect as if a reference to a constituency returning officer were a reference to the counting officer."
(a) as if the reference in paragraph 1 to documents retained under rule 71 of the Scottish Parliamentary Election Rules were to documents retained under rule 50(1)(b) of the referendum rules as applied by paragraph 52 above;
(b) as if the reference to that Schedule in paragraph 4(2) were to any enactment;
(c) as if references to the CRO included references to the counting officer."
As soon as practicable after 5 pm on the 6th day before the date of the poll, the registration officer must provide the counting officer with the following lists, and any subsequent revised lists or revisions to the lists-
(a) the list of proxies for the Scottish parliamentary election;
(b) the postal voters list for the Scottish parliamentary election;
(c) the proxy postal voters list for the Scottish parliamentary election.Personal identifier information
Where proceedings on the issue and receipt of postal ballot papers are taken together by virtue of paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 to the 2010 Order, paragraph 23(1) of Schedule 3 to the 2010 Order has effect as if a reference to a CRO were a reference to the counting officer."
(a) a reference in any enactment to a list mentioned in sub-paragraphs (i) to (iii) of sub-paragraph (2)(a) is to be read as a reference to the combined postal voters list;
(b) a reference in any enactment to a list mentioned in sub-paragraphs (i) to (iii) of sub-paragraph (2)(b) is to be read as a reference to the combined proxy postal voters list."
(a) a combined list is prepared as mentioned in paragraph 7(2), 8(2), 16(1) or 22(1),
(b) the same copy of the register of electors is used as mentioned in paragraph 21(1),
(c) a single list is used as mentioned in paragraph 24(1), 26(1), 27(1) or 28(1), or
(d) a declaration made by the companion of a voter with disabilities (within the meaning of paragraph 25) relates to the referendum or Assembly election as well as a local election,
rules 50(1)(b) and 52 of the referendum rules apply to those documents (and rule 58(1) of the Local Elections Rules has effect as if any reference to those documents were omitted).
(2) Where a combined list is prepared as mentioned in paragraph 7(2), 8(2) or 16(1), rule 59 of the Local Elections Rules, so far as it relates to corresponding number lists, has effect as if references to the proper officer of the council were to the Chief Electoral Officer."
(a) as if, in the definition of "the marked register or lists" in paragraph 1(1), the reference to documents retained under rule 60 of the Local Elections Rules included a reference to documents retained under rule 50(1)(b) of the referendum rules as applied by paragraph 38 above;
(b) as if references to the proper officer included references to the Chief Electoral Officer."
"(i) the packets, made up under paragraph 11 of Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the Local Elections Order, of any combined lists produced by virtue of paragraph 7 or 23 above;
(ii) the packets made up under paragraphs 12 and 17C of that Part."
"( ) Regulation 115(1) of the 2008 Regulations has effect in relation to an Assembly election as if the reference to documents retained under rule 57(1A) of the elections rules included a reference to documents retained under this paragraph that relate to the Assembly election.
(a) as if, in the definition of "the marked register or lists" in paragraph 1(1), the reference to documents retained under rule 60 of the Local Elections Rules included a reference to documents retained under this paragraph that relate to the local election;
(b) as if references to the proper officer included references to the Chief Electoral Officer."
in Part 3 of Schedule 8 requires voters to return all the postal ballot papers in their pack in the event that any ballot paper is spoilt and a replacement is required. The voter will then be issued with a complete new set provided that the originals are returned by 5 pm on the day before the day of the poll. I beg to move.
Lord Bach: I congratulate the noble Lord or his official on having spotted that the word "spoilt" should not be included. It is not used in reference to England, Scotland and Wales; it crept in for Northern Ireland but it has been taken out again. We do not oppose the amendment.
Those of us who have been lucky enough to attend local government election results nights will know that there is nothing as exciting as a tied vote. They will remember for the rest of their lives the thrill of someone winning by random as opposed to the will of the electorate-particularly the winner; the loser perhaps not so much. The question my noble friend poses in the amendment is whether that thrill is justified-in other words, whether it is justifiable and inevitable for such decisions to be made by lot or by the toss of a coin-or whether there is a better way of doing it. That is what the amendment is about.
My noble friend's view-it may be the view of other noble Lords-is that we should not decide elections by lot in any circumstances; that the voters should decide. Under the alternative vote system-if, as I say, it comes into force-the possibilities of a tied vote are extensive at each round of counting in a highly marginal seat. Even in a safe seat it is possible-although not as likely-for, say, candidates five and six to tie. My noble friend is against tossing a coin and he offers a simple solution, as his amendment makes clear. His solution is that if there is a tie at any stage in the proceedings under the alternative vote system, there should be a run-off between the two top candidates within a period of one month.
Lord Rennard: Why does the noble Lord think that this should apply at any point in the counting process? I have demanded recounts and seen how results have gone one way and then the other; as an election agent, in the past I have settled for a result when exactly the same result has been produced twice. Those with experience of recounts may wonder why it would be logical to abandon the count and have a re-run if the count at one point produces a dead heat but then, when you have checked more carefully and have found a few more ballot papers for one candidate, the result has gone another way. There may later be another count and again a clear result with a majority for one candidate. Surely it does not make sense to say that you should have a rerun at any stage if there is an equality of votes. There may be a case for a re-run if there is a dead heat after several recounts, but surely not at any stage in the counting process. That is simply not logical.
Lord Bach: I take on board what the noble Lord has said. He is right-there should be recounts for those who finish equal sixth, for example, to ascertain who finished sixth and who finished seventh. Of course that should take place. However, if at the end of it there is an equality of votes between the top two candidates, the amendment suggests that there should be a run off within a month. If there is a tie at any stage between the top two candidates-not the fifth and the sixth but those with the most votes-there should then be a run off.
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I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Bach, is saying. On one occasion I stood for the county council and, after all the recounts, there was a dead heat and we tossed a coin. I luckily lost and did not have to serve on the county council-I ended up in the other place instead.
Lord Bach: My Lords, that is very doubtful indeed. The expression "at any stage" could well apply to the position after there had been recounts. When you reach that stage the count should be abandoned, to use my noble friend's words in the amendment.
I would never accuse the two noble Lords but there is a kind of nitpicking in relation to this amendment. It is certainly not my intention-unless they persuade me otherwise-eventually to ask for the opinion of the House on the amendment; I want to know what the Government feel about this issue. My noble friend is making a serious proposal. He does not like lots being used at any stage in a democratic election and many may feel that he has a point. He says let the voters decide, not the toss of a coin or the drawing of short and long sticks. It cannot be right for administrative convenience to take over from elections.
In other words, under an alternative vote election, because it will be open to a voter to put "1", "2", "3" and so on on the right-hand side of the ballot paper, the number by each candidate that we are used to seeing on the left-hand side will go in alternative vote elections.
My noble friend is concerned about that, although he sees the sense of why that should be, because there may well be confusion if the numbers on the left-hand side link "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6" and the job of the poor voter is to put in "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6" on the right-hand side. There is a serious point here that we should not run away from. This is an issue because in a number of constituencies-maybe many around the country, not just inner-city ones but also ones in other areas-English is the second language for many people, and they currently vote by numbers. Supporters of all parties have been known-and there is nothing wrong with it at all-to stand outside the polling station, asking for support for a particular number on the ballot paper.
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Supporters of a particular candidate can no longer use numbers because they will not be on the ballot paper under the alternative vote system. This amendment is strictly to probe the issue of names and numbers on ballot papers, were we to have an alternative vote system. My noble friend-I do so on his behalf-asks whether the Government have thought about this issue and whether this will make people a bit more reluctant to go to the polls or to vote if they realise that this change will be made and they will not be able to vote by numbers. I beg to move.
Lord Strathclyde: The noble Lord was kind to speak to these amendments on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who meant no discourtesy by not being here-he could not have possibly imagined that we would still be in Committee this week when he planned the rest of his diary. I agree with the noble Lord that this is a skilful and interesting amendment. It is also an imaginative amendment, but it raises points that need to be answered, which I shall try to do.
The purpose of the amendment is to insert new provisions into Schedule 10 to make provision where there is equality of votes at any stage in the counting process. The proposed approach differs significantly from that provided for in the Bill, which essentially proposes that a tie between candidates will be settled by reference to the number of votes secured by the relevant candidates in previous counting rounds, starting with the number of first preference votes obtained in the first counting round. If at that stage there is a tie, the next stage will be looked at and so on. If that process fails to decide the tie-that is, there is an equality of votes for the respective candidates at all previous counting stages-the tie will be decided by the drawing of lots. Under the Bill, there is no provision for the poll to be abandoned and a fresh election held in the event of a tie between candidates. The Government recognise that it is possible to take different approaches on this issue. However, in developing the AV provisions in the Bill, we have taken into account the legislation and practice in elections to bodies across the UK and in other countries where preferences are used.
There is a strong case for referring back to the first preference votes received by candidates and taking those into account in the first instance when deciding a tie, as the first preference votes represent voters' first choice as to which candidate should be elected. The noble Lord wishes to avoid an election being decided by lot. Under the current rules for UK parliamentary elections-under the first-past-the-post system-in the event of a tie, the returning officer decides the winner by lot. In the AV provisions, we are continuing with that principle that a tied vote can be decided by lot.
As my noble friend ably pointed out, the amendment as drafted would result in a fresh election being held in the event of a tie between candidates at any stage of the counting process, regardless of which candidates were involved. We think it would be hard to justify abandoning a poll where, for example, 10 candidates
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Moreover, the amendment as drafted would seem to require the poll to be abandoned even though a candidate had secured more than 50 per cent of the vote-and would therefore expect to be declared the winner-if two lower-placed candidates had the same number of votes as each other. I do not think that can be right either. More fundamentally, we have some concerns, which we are justified in raising at this time, about the additional public expense that would be incurred in administering a fresh election under the noble Lord's amendment and the extra time that it would take in returning a representative to the constituency concerned.
The second issue was about the names listed in reverse alphabetical order. Under existing parliamentary election rules, the names of the persons standing are arranged on the ballot paper alphabetically in the order of their surnames, not in reverse alphabetical order as provided for under the amendment. The Committee might find some previous research into the impact of alphabetical listing of candidates and parties on ballot papers interesting. For example, the 2003 Electoral Commission report Ballot paper design considered whether candidates higher up the ballot paper could be at an advantage in a multiseat election, but it acknowledged that the information was inconclusive.
More recently, the same issue arose in the context of the report by Ron Gould on the 2007 Scottish parliamentary and local elections. Gould made a number of recommendations in respect of ballot paper design, including that the order of parties and candidates on the ballot papers might be determined by lottery. This was intended to allow equal opportunity for all parties and candidates to access the top of the ballot paper rather than always have the order assigned by alphabetical position. However, the then Government indicated that they did not support the proposal. I understand that the consultation carried out by the Scotland Office found strong support among focus groups and others for retaining alphabetical order, on the grounds that electors are used to that and it is easier to find the candidate or party of the voter's choice. Randomising the ballot paper would also throw up particular problems for those with visual difficulties and may cause problems for voters with poor reading ability. The consultation showed that there was little support for randomising the order of names on the ballot paper and significantly more research would be required.
The Electoral Commission's 2009 document, Making your mark, sets out guidance for government policy-makers on improving the usability and accessibility of voting materials by considering voters' needs. However, the commission's report does not recommend the
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I apologise for taking up the Committee's time in giving what I hope is a full reply, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will be satisfied when he reads it and I hope that, on his behalf, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, will not press his amendments.
Lord Bach: To a large extent the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will be satisfied. The Committee will be grateful to the Leader of the House for his full reply to what I hope the Committee found interesting points about the running of elections.
On the second, more serious issue, the real point behind my noble friend's amendment-I think he was not allowed to express it in these terms-was about the abolition of numbers on the left-hand side of the ballot paper. That must follow once there is an alternative vote system because, otherwise, there will be confusion as to what the voter has to do with those numbers. I do not think that the Leader of the House answered that fully. The issue will have to be considered by the Electoral Commission and other interested parties if alternative voting comes in.
Lord Campbell-Savours: In the spirit of constructive co-operation which we on this side have been practising and advocating over the 17 days in Committee, for the benefit of the Committee I shall not speak further on this matter.
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