HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc2-3
2. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what he expects the cost of the elections to the Welsh Assembly will be.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

The cost of the initial Assembly elections was estimated for the purposes of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Wales Bill as broadly £0.7 million.

Mr. Knox

Would the cost of the elections be any different if they were conducted under proportional representation? Will the hon. Gentleman recommend to his colleagues that the amendment made in another place on that issue should be retained, because proportional representation is clearly a much fairer system of election than the first-past-the-post system?

Mr. Alec Jones

As for the principle of proportional representation, an amendment has been passed in another place; but the Government and this House will be making their decision on all the amendments from another place very shortly. I have no figures for the relative costs of both systems. The hon. Gentleman must try to persuade the House in far stronger terms than those with which he tried on the last occasion.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

In view of the comments made by some of his hon. Friends about the cost of the Assembly, will the Under-Secretary agree that £0.7 million is a very small price to pay for democratising government in Wales?

Mr. Alec Jones

I certainly agree that £0.7 million is a small price to pay for the increase in democratic accountability, which is one of the main functions and purposes of the devolution Bill.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my hon. Friend ensure that the Goverment reject the proportional representation amendment, because we should not try in such a Bill to change our electoral system? On the question of cost, have the Government any view on whether aid should be given to the two organisations that may well be set up to campaign for or against the Assembly?

Mr. Alec Jones

If aid were to be given to various organisations, legislation would be needed. There is no provision for it in the Bill. I take my hon. Friend's point, that the House has already expressed its view on proportional representation. We now have merely to consider our attitude to the amendment carried in another place.

Sir A. Meyer

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree, none the less, that proportional representation would ensure that there was a much fairer representation in the Assembly?

Mr. Alec Jones

No, Sir.