HC Deb 19 January 1999 vol 323 cc785-815 1. This Part of this Schedule applies where there are three or more candidates in an Assembly constituency. Candidate with overall majority of first preference votes 2. If one of the candidates to be a constituency member receives more than half of all the first preference votes given in the Assembly constituency that candidate shall be returned as the constituency member for that Assembly constituency. No candidate with overall majority of first preference votes 3.—(1) If none of the candidates to be the constituency member receives more than half of all the first preference votes given in the Assembly constituency, the following provisions of this paragraph shall have effect. (2) The candidate with the fewest number of first preference votes is eliminated, and the second preference votes given for that candidate shall be ascertained. (3) The second preference votes under subsection (2) above shall be transferred to the other candidates, being added to the first preference votes cast for the other candidates. (4) If, following the recalculation under subsection (3) above, none of the candidates receives more than half of the votes, the remaining candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and the proceed in subsections (2) and (3) above is carried out. (5) The process continues until one candidate has received more than half of all the votes, and that person shall be returned as the constancy member for that Assembly constituency. (6) If, by reason of an equality of total number of preference votes, two or more candidates remaining in the contest each have the greatest total number of preference votes, the constituency returning officer shall decide by lots which of them is to be returned as the constituency member for that Assembly constituency.'.

No. 49, in page 143, leave out from beginning of line 22 to end of line 25 on page 145.

No. 53, in page 144, line 5, after 'constituencies', insert 'with votes for candidates listed as members of a registered party counting towards the total vote of that party'.

No. 54, in page 145, line 3, leave out from 'filled' to end of line 4 and insert— 'as follows:

  1. (a) A quota shall be determined which is equal to the total number of votes polled for all the parties divided by the number of seats to be allocated plus one.
  2. (b) Votes cast for the candidate at the top of the party list shall be compared with the number of votes cast for the registered party to which that candidate belongs.
  3. (c) Where the candidate has fewer votes than the quota, the votes for that candidate will then be topped up to reach the quota using votes from the party vote, reducing the number of votes won by the party accordingly.
  4. (d) This process continues for each candidate on the list until the party votes have been exhausted, except where there are insufficient votes in the party vote to top up a candidate, in which case those votes are allocated to the next person on the list with sufficient votes, who moves one place up the list.'.

No. 55, in page 145, line 3, leave out from 'filled' to end of line 4 and insert 'in the order of votes cast for the candidates of that party, with the candidate receiving the highest number of votes being elected first.'.

Mr. Hughes

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) said that the list of amendments sounds like the London bus timetable and the Minister for London and Construction—if I interpreted his lip movements correctly—said that he hoped that I knew all the amendments by heart.

This collection of amendments—which are taken together for the convenience of the Committee and are, apart from the occasional insertion from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrat amendments—refers to the electoral system. There would not be a debate about structures of government in this country without debates about electoral systems.

Mr. Forth

There would be if the hon. Gentleman was not here.

Mr. Hughes

I do not think that that is true, although the right hon. Gentleman might like it to be true. I do not know what his view is, because he is always a maverick, but even his party wants to change the electoral system.

I shall first issue a disclaimer to the Committee. As I have said before, I am not obsessive about electoral systems or electoral reform. I do not hold the view that there is a perfect electoral system in the world, nor do I think that there is an absolutely imperfect electoral system. All electoral systems are better or worse than one another. We have to select one according to a combination of the wisdom of experience and the objectives for which we set up elected bodies in this country.

I shall describe the amendments—I need not do so at length, but different amendments have been grouped together. I shall then argue that there is a strong case, even at this stage in the proceedings, for reconsidering the electoral system that the Government have chosen to put before the Committee.

After about 18 months of this Administration, we come to this debate with interesting recent experience which is relevant to the issue. Liberal Democrat Members welcome the new Government's willingness to be much more open-minded than their predecessors about constitutional matters. It is interesting that now that the Conservative party is in opposition and has no Members of Parliament in Scotland or Wales, a gradual conversion is taking place among Conservative Members.

I did not leave the Committee during the previous debate to listen to a lecture, apparently entitled, "The British Way", which may have been given elsewhere in the City of Westminster. However, I understand that even the person who may have given that lecture now accepts that the most recent election was a watershed, and that the Conservatives have to move on and realise that the old order is changing and giving way to a new order.

We welcome the Government's clear commitment—which we helped them to make when they were in opposition—to reconsider electoral systems. We are looking forward to changes in those systems in Scotland to govern the first elections to the Scottish Parliament and, in Wales, for elections to the Assembly. We welcome both of those innovations. Last year, a new electoral system was used for elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which we also welcomed.

There are interesting differences between all those systems and organisations. The Scottish Parliament system was the result of a consultative process. There were meetings between the Labour party, the Scottish National party, my party and, at the beginning, the Conservative party. Not all the parties stayed the course; some withdrew. The trade unions and Churches were also involved. There was an attempt to come to an agreement in the Scottish convention. The electoral system in Scotland is the product of that. When we debated the Scotland Bill in the House and in Committee, we supported the proposals that we had agreed to in the convention.

The difference between Scotland, which has a proportional system, and London is that we have not had such a convention in London. I slightly regret the fact that the Government did not see fit to hold a pre-legislative convention to find out what agreement there was. We must all take partial responsibility for that failure. I recognise that there was a Green Paper containing proposals that marked a change in the Government's position.

The Welsh Assembly will also be elected using a proportional system. That proposal did not arise from a convention—the Government were persuaded of the merit of the case. The system chosen was not the one that we would have devised, but it is certainly better than the system that the Government inherited in Great Britain generally.

No one disputes the fact that the proportional representation system that was adopted and implemented for the Northern Ireland Assembly was the only way to secure people's participation in the electoral process. One hopes that has been a contributory factor in paving the way towards the resolution of Northern Ireland's conflicts, which have gone on for a long time. The postscript to that point is that Northern Ireland has for some time had a system based on electoral reform and one other than first past the post. Like the Irish republic, Northern Ireland has found that reform convenient and helpful.

That is the recent history of legislation for domestic representative bodies. Just before Christmas, we debated the final chapter of that legislation—the electoral system for the European Parliament. Again, to their credit, the Government changed their position and accepted that a proportional system should be used. After much huffing and puffing and an attempt at the other end of the corridor to blow the House down, it was accepted that the democratically elected, representative House should prevail, and there will now be a proportional system of election for the European Parliament.

That debate has a subplot, which will be raised in reference to the amendments. If a proportional system incorporates a list system, should one have the famous open list or the closed list? The experts will say that there are many subplots. Belgium has produced a version of the list system. Chocolates, chips and electoral systems are clearly the products of that fine kingdom. There are d'Hondt versions and many others.

The basic question for a simple person like me is whether to have an open list, which means that people can choose the position of candidates on the list, or a closed list, in which people can take or leave those positions. Liberal Democrat Members have always argued that, in a list system, it is always better to give people freedom of choice so that the party does not impose its choice.

We have made progress. In all the electoral legislation discussed in this Parliament, the Government have introduced a proportional system. We welcome that. The respective systems are not the same, but that is not inappropriate for two obvious reasons. First, self-evidently, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are different, and elections for a European Parliament are for a different kind of body.

Secondly, the argument that the system in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales must be used in London does not apply because unless electors in London very cleverly arrange their affairs, they do not have a vote in elections in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. The existence of another system in one of the other three countries in the United Kingdom is not an argument for having a similar system in London.

As for London, I pay tribute to the Government, the Secretary of State, who is absent but who is responsible for the Bill, and his Ministers. When we started the debate on London, there was no commitment to proportional representation. It was an open question and the Government consulted on it. They then listened to the overwhelming response of the respondents—many were not political parties or members of political parties, but included lay organisations as well as those concerned with elections—which was that London needed a proportional system.

It is a good thing that the Greater London assembly, whatever its size—a subject that we have just debated—will have a political proportionality. That is welcome for one overriding reason, namely that London is a very large electoral village as well as being the capital city. It contains communities that are very different, geographically and in terms of background. In order to have a spread of representation, we have to make sure that two things happen.

First, as was said earlier today, we must ensure that the voice of the Kent part of London, the Surrey part of London, the Hertfordshire part of London, the Essex part of London as well as that of the old Middlesex part of London—the largest component—is heard and is heard in different ways. The Minister and I both live south of the river but where he lives, people's county cricket team is Kent whereas mine is Surrey, and across the river people's county cricket team is Middlesex. All these people who are part of Greater London must have their important history reflected.

8.30 pm

Secondly, a proportional system—the better the proportionality, the better the system—will allow the creation of an assembly that is balanced in terms of gender and background. For example, the large black community should be able to have black representatives, and the many Asian people in London, some of whom have been citizens here for two, three or four generations, should be able to identify with representatives from the same cultural background. None of us would deny that the objective of the system must be to ensure that the cosmopolitan basis of London is represented.

Ideally, we want a system that allows people to choose not only between parties but within parties, and to choose individuals who are not members of any party. I hope that one of the results of this exercise will be the election of some independents. The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) has shown what a great contribution an Independent can make to a legislative and deliberative assembly. Others have done the same—A. P. Herbert is one who springs to mind from my reading of contributions over the years.

Voters should be able to choose between people in the parties. I hope that we maximise the opportunity for that. For example, a Conservative voter in an outer-London borough, or in my borough, might want to make sure that there are more women in politics. It might be something about which that voter feels strongly, and he should be allowed to say that he would rather have a woman represent him than a man. A young voter might think that there should be more young people in politics. He might not have made up his mind what party he supports, but if he finds a young candidate who seems to be on the ball, he might vote accordingly.

People might also vote for a candidate according to experience and profession. A trade unionist might think it important to elect someone who got his hands dirty doing real work rather than someone who has been only a manager or an administrator. I met people from the pensioners lobby today—I am sure that they will say it is important to include some pensioners in the assembly. Those are our objectives. Before dealing directly with the amendment, I wanted to outline the common ground that exists between us and our common desire to make sure that, whatever disagreements we may have about how we get there, we end up with a body that commands the confidence of people from Bromley to Barnet and the confidence of people of all ages, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

Mr. Forth

In the context of the desirability of independent members, on which the hon. Gentleman lays great stress, has he considered the implications of clause 11(2)? With reference to the filling of vacancies, it states: If the London member was returned as an individual candidate…the vacancy shall remain unfilled until the next ordinary election. That means that if in the London party elections the hon. Gentleman and I elect a sturdily independent candidate who is not on a party list, and if that candidate then resigns or—heaven forbid—dies in office, we risk that vacancy remaining unfilled and our being left unrepresented. If my reading of the subsection is correct, is not it a disincentive to vote for a sturdily independent candidate?

Mr. Hughes

Although I do not want to be tempted too far down the road that leads to a subsequent debate, I shall deal with that point.

I understand why the clause is drafted as it is. The Government have distinguished, as they must, between a person who stands on a party ticket, on a list, and a person who is elected as a cross-London member, as an individual, who, by definition, has no one in the same party as him or her. If an elected party member dies or resigns, the list system not only in this country but worldwide provides that the next person named on the list gets in. People understand that in advance; they know that, if a party gains five seats, they get the first five people on the list, and that, if a vacancy arises, they get the sixth. However, a practical difficulty arises when an independent member is lost.

I share the view of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) that the right answer is not to leave a vacancy. I hope that, when we come to the wider debate, we shall find ways of holding an election to fill the vacancy because I agree that it is unfair that, if we end up with a London assembly of 25 members with one or two independents and one of the latter dies or resigns—perhaps for unavoidable family reasons—we shall lose that independent voice for the rest of that assembly's life. That assembly may sit, however, for four or five years. If we lose an independent member, we should have the chance to elect another independent candidate, as a result of a proper election.

Mr. Forth

It is worse than that. If several members elected from a list resigned and there were not sufficient names on the list to fill the vacancies, would not another electoral embarrassment be in store for those who support such an electoral arrangement?

Mr. Hughes

That is true, and we shall return to that subject, but, unless something very funny happens, I do not anticipate that we shall have a situation such as the one that we had in this place some years ago, when most of the Northern Ireland Members resigned and by-elections were held. Considering the crude politics of it, I believe that there would be pressure from the parties to ensure that large-scale resignations should not take place. Let us consider those perfectly proper issues.

In the full submission that Liberal Democrat Members and representatives in London made to the Green Paper, we argued that the electoral system should follow three principles: fairness to all voters; real natural constituencies; and genuine voter choice. I would argue that the best way of achieving that—not the only way, not something that makes all the other options impossible—is to have the famous single transferable vote. I say that not because we, as a party, have become wedded to that system, picked off the shelf, irrespective of anything else—I believe that we have shown ourselves to be as pragmatic as others—but because all the evidence is that it produces the best choice for the voter, and the most accurate reflection of differences of view.

If an election were held today, according to a proportional system, and if voters followed the voting patterns reflected in the results of the most recent general election, the Labour party would return 12 of the 25 members of the assembly and the other parties would return the remaining 13. Labour would not have a majority in the assembly: no one party would have a majority. When the GLC existed, there was always a three-way split in London politics. Happily, our party has grown; others—naming no names—have diminished more recently, but London has very rarely had a majority of the voters turning out for one party, so there has always been a balance. We therefore seek an electoral system that gives the most accurate balance—because then the system does not distort the conclusion—and voter choice.

As was said in the previous debate, we strongly argue that an advantage of the single transferable vote system is that it allows the reflection of natural geographic communities, especially in outer boroughs. My hon. Friends the Members for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) and for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), who represent the borough of Sutton, and my hon. Friends who represent the boroughs of Richmond and Kingston feel very strongly that their communities need to be represented. I strongly share that view. It would have been better, and it would have locked in more strongly people's commitment to the electoral process, if, for example, those parts of London that are Kent had seen themselves as one community, electing four, five or six members, who would then speak collectively, across the party divide, for the Kent part of London.

As I have said, we support the proposition that it should be possible to choose between candidates in the same party. I pray in aid the support of the Institute for Public Policy and Research, which is more closely affiliated with the Labour party than others, for our argument that the best option is the single transferable vote. At the end of December 1997, it said in response to the paper on the Greater London authority: We therefore recommend that the single transferable vote system be implemented in five 5-member constituencies. The advantages are that this would signal a commitment to a more inclusive style of politics, and should contribute to the emergence of an assembly which reflects the diversity of London's population. STV is used in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and we believe that it would be the best system for London.

Because we are pragmatists, realists and do not always get what we want—some would argue that a pedigree in the Liberal party means getting used occasionally to not getting what one wants—we have, however, produced alternatives for the Committee to consider. If the Government are not willing to accept our first choice, we offer them a second one, in amendments Nos. 38 and 52, which we hope they will accept.

In amendments Nos. 38 and 52, we suggest that those whom the Government call constituency members—people from the proposed 14 geographical areas, the boundaries for which the Minister has confirmed today—should be elected not by first past the post but by the alternative vote. We then suggest that that should be topped up, becoming a system that has recently become known as the alternative vote plus.

The alternative vote plus has gained credibility since this Parliament began. As a result of its deliberations, the commission that the Government set up on electoral systems for this place has put on the table for public debate and consideration in the House—it must therefore be a valid proposition—a similar system for London, too. The alternative vote plus was recommended by the Jenkins commission in the autumn.

I understand—it is obvious—that the Jenkins commission was set up too late to influence the Green Paper and the White Paper on London. It is therefore no criticism of the Government that they have not picked up its idea. However, I would be grateful if the Minister at least indicated that the Government do not rule out the idea that such a system has merit for London, too. I hope that that will find appeal, and that the Government will say that it is as good a system as any other. As one of the five people who represented the views of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats Members to the Jenkins commission, and having been sceptical about whether it would come up with an appealing system, I think that it has very cleverly and reasonably met hon. Members' objectives of constituency links and proportionality.

It is important—I want the Minister specifically to reply to this—to grasp the nettle of the open list rather than the closed list. The Government propose 11 members elected by lists. All our parties are beginning to ratchet up the process of choosing their representatives for such lists. I think that all our electors resent a little the fact that, in order to influence that process, one must be a member of a political party. Most people in London are not members of any political party. Indeed, with respect to us all, most people have no desire to be so. I do not blame them for that in the slightest.

Members feel very strongly about individuals. One of the banes of our life in debating London government over recent months is that the press, because they think that it is what the public want, speculate far more about who will be in power in London than what they will do. The press spend far more time on who will be the candidates than on what their policies are, but the level of road charges and parking charges will be much more important to Londoners than who is running the city. The policies matter much more than the personalities, although obviously the two go together.

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People like to make a choice. If we present to Londoners a list chosen by our parties, however clever we think we may be, and if we do not give Londoners the chance to say, "I like your team, but I think that person is rubbish and should be at the bottom of the list", we will curtail the debate, the influence and the participation.

Many people might vote because one of the people on the list is their mate, or their former local councillor or the person who led their borough council, or their former Member of Parliament, or someone whom they respect as running a big local business or charity, or someone to whom they can relate, such as a sports personality. However, if they cannot influence whether that person is at the top of the list or at the bottom, they might simply stay at home. I am at one with the Government in wanting to increase participation in elections, so that the result reflects the views and interests of as many people as possible.

We have a preferred choice, which is an alternative to the Government's proposal and allows proportionality by the best system—the single transferable vote. If that is not acceptable, we have a fallback, but we have a keen desire to get the Government to agree to an open-list system, not a closed-list system.

This is an important debate, not because it provides excitement for people who analyse electoral systems every time we debate representative government, but because if we want to allow independents to be elected, and members of parties such as the Green party to be committed to the election and to propose policies, and if we want to maximise the political and democratic input into London, we shall do that best by choosing the electoral process that maximises participation and voter choice. I hope that, by the end of the debate, we shall have moved further along that road, and that the Government, who have already moved a long way, will have moved a little further towards the best electoral system available.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk)

I shall speak to amendments Nos. 10 and 11, the force of which is to propose that all members of the Greater London assembly should be elected on the first-past-the-post system. Because of the way in which the amendments have been grouped, we shall seek to divide the Committee on amendments Nos. 10 and 11 at another time that is acceptable to the Committee.

On Second Reading on 14 December last year, I pointed out, and it was not denied by the Government, that the Bill introduces what is essentially an experimental form of new government for our capital city. Because of London's national and international significance, it is crucial that the experiment should be made to work. On Second Reading, the Secretary of State was at pains to emphasise that he would take careful notice of the issues of concern raised then and subsequently, during the Bill's passage through Parliament.

Notwithstanding our views about the composition of the assembly, which the Government do not accept, amendments Nos. 10 and 11 would insert into that massive experiment at least a method of electing the members of the new assembly that is tried and tested, and which can deliver accountable and transparent government.

I listened with great care and even greater interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). He explained his party's interest in electoral systems, which he proved this evening by proposing no fewer than four different systems for Londoners to experience. Because of the complexity that he and his party seek to introduce into the matter, we shall vote against the group of amendments that the hon. Gentleman moved. We believe strongly that Londoners need an electoral system for the assembly and also for the mayor—we shall discuss that tomorrow—that can deliver decisive and effective government for the capital.

We are increasingly concerned by the steady step-by-step move away from the constituency basis of our democracy. We are concerned about the unrealistically large constituencies proposed by the Government for the constituency assembly members. Did we hear a change of heart from the Liberal Democrats on the question of open and closed lists? I rather think we did—well, perhaps not a change of heart, but a change in voting intention. However, the combination of large constituencies, proportional representation and the closed-list system represents a move away from the simple accountability and transparency of the first-past-the-post system, which has given the country strong, accountable and decisive administrations at local and national government level for so long.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The right hon. Lady was not being unfair or unreasonable, but just so that there is no misunderstanding among those who read our debates, I should say that there is no change in the Liberal Democrats' position on the list system. During the famous debates before Christmas, our preference was always for open lists. In the end, we compromised and agreed that it was better to have closed lists than no proportional system for Europe. Therefore, our preferred system was then and is now one of open lists. We would have liked it for Europe and we hope that we will get it now.

Mrs. Shephard

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courteous explanation, but it will not sway me to support his amendments, which will not surprise him, because no matter what he claims, they would move the government of London yet further from clear accountability and, as a result of their complexity, into incomprehensible confusion.

However, it is unlikely that the Committee will accept the Liberal Democrats' amendments because there is much support on both sides for the first-past-the-post electoral system, and that is not surprising. For centuries, it has provided accountable government which has enabled the electorate not only to hire Governments but also, on occasion, as they did 20 months ago, most decisively to fire them. The first-past-the-post system ensures that the electorate know who should be held accountable for policy, and those elected are more responsive as a result—certainly afterwards.

The first-past-the-post system also provides a direct line between the citizen and his or her elected member, whether of a council or Parliament. Of course it is the case that the Bill proposes the direct election, by the first-past-the-post system, of 14 assembly members, but they will be asked to represent enormous constituencies which bear no relation to existing constituency boundaries. To have to represent a constituency of between 300,000 and 400,000 people makes the job difficult and will certainly cause the 14 members to feel remote from their electors.

The system provides transparent government because it delivers a clearly understood procedure whereby the elector casts a vote directly for the candidate of his or her choice. It provides straightforward government and, above all, it puts people, not parties, in charge of those elected to power.

As I said, 14 members will be directly elected by the first-past-the-post system, but the remaining 11 of the so-called London members will be elected by a system of proportional representation from a closed party list.

I hope that, when the Minister replies, he will explain whether he is concerned about the fact that that will create two classes of assembly members—the 14 members directly elected but rather remote, and the 11 selected by parties, not people.

The Opposition's antipathy to closed lists is well known, as is that of many Labour Members. On 18 November, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) spoke for many of us on the issue of closed lists when he said: If I get the sack from the people, so be it, but I would rather be sacked by the people than through the fiddling of a party list controlled by people who are almost unknown."—[Official Report, 18 November 1998; Vol. 319, c. 973–74.] The Government proposal for Londoners of two classes of assembly members by the combination of first past the post for 14 members and a form of proportional representation for the remaining 11 makes no contribution to accountability, transparency or, in particular, democratic principles.

With regard to London members, the public will not be able to vote for named party candidates, although they will be able to do so for a named independent candidate, causing the anomaly which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) raised with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, which will have to be thrashed out in Committee and some sort of solution found. People will have to vote for a party when electing London members; the party will choose the order and the people will have no say in the matter.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Given that the two amendments tabled by Conservative Members do not address the issue, and even though I accept that the right hon. Lady will not support us on the single transferable vote, does she share our view that we should pass amendments on open rather than closed lists, if we are to have a list system for parties? Will she and her colleagues at least join forces with us—in Committee and on Report—to vote for amendments providing open rather than closed lists?

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman asks me to commit to a process that will take some time. I am setting out our position on what form the election for the Greater London assembly should take. We are firmly for first past the post and we do not have much truck with the alternatives, at this stage anyway. Given that he has proposed so many alternatives, we shall have a rich opportunity to consider them all.

Mr. Hughes

A last intervention?

Mrs. Shephard

Yes, certainly.

Mr. Hughes

I am always happy to offer a menu that might enlighten the right hon. Lady.

There is one other matter. Has the right hon. Lady considered the fact that, if we keep the first-past-the-post system, her colleagues and her party are likely, in the present political climate, to suffer badly? If she has not considered that, will she add it to the list of alternatives? The first-past-the-post system was not a wow and a success for the Conservative party in Scotland or in Wales at the general election, and it did not appear to deliver huge electoral success in England either. I say this in all seriousness: has she reflected on the fact that it might be wise—if she wants her party and the 25 per cent. of voters who vote Tory to be represented fairly in London—to change her views now rather than be forced to change them after another electoral defeat?

Mr. Forth

What a disgraceful suggestion.

Mrs. Shephard

It is indeed an extraordinary suggestion. It reveals more about the hon. Gentleman and the way that he and his party operate—and, indeed, think—than he perhaps would have wished. I repeat that our principle is that electors should be able to vote for people, not parties, to influence the outcome of elections.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the system that he has proposed as his choice for the Government to consider this evening was condemned by the Jenkins commission on electoral reform. We believe that its findings have been kicked into touch by the Prime Minister—the Minister may tell us more about that—although it was set up by his Government. The commission said: The Commission recommends that the second vote determining the allocation of Top Up members should allow the voter the choice of either a vote for the party or for an individual candidate from the lists put forward by parties. They should therefore be what are commonly called open rather than closed lists. That charming hyperbole comes fittingly from its author.

The plethora of voting systems and arrangements to be put in place will not help the clarity of the electoral system in London. We should reflect on the fact that Londoners will be asked to vote for their borough councillors—using the first-past-the-post system—every four years, and for the mayor and assembly every four years, but with a supplementary vote and additional-member systems of which the assembly system is a part. A variety of systems may be used if the Government accept the Liberal Democrat amendment.

Mrs. Lait

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the proposal that we should vote every year in London for our local authorities?

Mrs. Shephard

I am coming to that. In the other three years, Londoners may be asked to vote for a third of their councillors annually, possibly under the first-past-the-post system or perhaps under an alternative system yet to be announced and subject to the result of a referendum—which may or may not take place before the next election—on the system proposed by the Jenkins commission. At the very least, the Government should pause before they compound the confusion that they are creating.

The election proposals in the Bill diminish the accountability and transparency of the important new form of local government that is being set up in London. The diminution of accountability and transparency is more grave because it stems from a fresh start or experiment. Powers will be removed from the boroughs and a body will be created, the members of which will perforce be remote from the public whom they are elected to serve.

In the name of good accountable government for London, I commend the amendments to the Committee and hope that it agrees to divide on them at the appropriate time.

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Mr. Martin Linton (Battersea)

I shall not detain the Committee for long, but I wish to speak against the amendments, which I hope will be resisted.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is used to being a voice crying in the wilderness. For many years, he was the sole Liberal Democrat in London. He has now been joined by a few on the outer periphery, but he is still the only Liberal Democrat in inner London. Thus he will be used to the position in which he finds himself on the single transferable vote—the protagonist for a system in which nobody in this country has ever shown much interest. It is a British invention that has been exported, but has never been appreciated or adopted in its home country. Unlike many of our other inventions, that has happened for good reasons. It has been exported to Ireland and Malta, and the Australian Senate conducts its elections using that system, but it has found no firm foothold in any other country because it has enormous faults. Those become apparent when one looks at the experience of other countries.

The first main fault of the single transferable vote system is that it sets candidates of the same party at each other's throats. That becomes obvious when one studies Irish elections. It is in the interests of a Fianna Fail candidate not only to oppose Fine Gael candidates in the same constituency, but to poach votes from other Fianna Fail candidates—allegedly on the same ticket. Party colleagues will thus take a position on local issues designed to persuade Fianna Fail supporters to put them rather than party colleagues at the top of their list. It may be a form of democracy, but it promotes internecine warfare within political parties. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats wish that on the rest of us, but we can see the system's failings.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey says that the system gives choice within parties, and quotes the example of voters who might want to choose more women candidates or trade unionists, or perhaps a friend of theirs. If that were the only effect of STV it might have something to recommend it, but we know what happens in practice. The effect of the choice given to voters through STV, whereby essentially one can vote for only one candidate at a time in a multi-member constituency, is that people choose the candidate whose view is closest to theirs. The result is that candidates on the left or right wing of a party do better than those in the centre because they attract votes from supporters of other political parties. The effect of that can be seen all too clearly in Ireland.

Thus the second main failing of the STV system is that it blurs the distinction between political parties. What is the ideological distinction between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael? In the United States, the primary system blurs the distinction between political parties because it has the effect of turning a first-past-the-post system into another form of STV. People appear to be given a choice between parties and, within parties, between candidates. The inevitable result is that, within parties, there is competition between candidates of the same party and opposition parties attempt to steal votes from the other parties.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I know that the hon. Gentleman has had a long interest in this subject, and he makes some good points. May I put the counter argument? There is sometimes a benefit to the elector in candidates of the same party identifying themselves with local issues. It roots candidates within the local community, and prevents them from becoming too abstract.

The hon. Gentleman must be wary of taking Ireland as a example of where the differences are small. Unlike in most other European Union member countries, the party divide in Ireland has traditionally not been a left-right divide: it is based on nationalism and republicanism. The differences often have more to do with personality than with political philosophy. The other European countries that have proportional systems have not had that same confusion of party caused by a proportional electoral system.

Mr. Linton

It is true that the experience of Malta, which is the only other European country with that system, is very different. It has a much higher turnout. However, Maltese politics are a completely different kettle of fish, and family loyalties play an enormous part—even more so than in Ireland. Unfortunately, there are not enough exemplars of STV in Europe to show what would happen in this country, but they can warn us of the consequences.

The hon. Gentleman's comments about the experience in Ireland bring me to the third main failing of STV. The failing of many proportional systems is that they take Members of Parliament away from direct reliance on their voters and make them less involved with their constituency. Under some systems, there are no recognisable constituencies. The fault of STV lies in the other direction. It is difficult to believe that one could go too far in that direction, but one has only to look at Irish politics to see that many TDs are in their constituencies for a majority of the time and pay only occasional visits to the Dail in Dublin.

It is ridiculous that a TD for Sligo spent his whole time campaigning for an international airport in his constituency. As a monument to STV, there is now an international airport in County Sligo. STV encourages an enormously parochial approach to politics, so its failing is the reverse of most other PR systems. Nevertheless, it is a failing. One of the most important aspects of an electoral system should be that it establishes representatives who have solid roots in the constituency, and enables those representatives to devote time to what they are elected to do, which is to represent their constituencies in Parliament and to take part in decisions about the running of the country. STV has failed to do that, at least in Ireland.

We should resist the siren voices of the Liberal Democrats, who alone have held the STV flag aloft. The STV system has always been rejected in this country for good reasons. The Scottish convention considered it, but rejected it and adopted an additional member system. The Welsh also adopted an additional member system. I am sure that, if we had had a convention in London, we would have gone through the same arguments and come to the same conclusion. Indeed, the Green Paper tried to reproduce that process, and the same arguments were deployed by the Liberal Democrats and others. The result was the same as it was in Scotland and Wales, and it was decided that London should elect a mayor by a majoritarian system, but that the representatives should be elected by AMS.

I hear what the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey says about leaving the door open to alternative vote plus. Powerful arguments will be made about that when the time comes, because it is a more recent development than the Green Paper or the White Paper. The Minister should examine that system, because it would have a great advantage. For example, London voters who vote Labour for their constituency representative in the assembly would not have to think about voting in another way in the second election. There would be no need for the tactical voting that bedevils our present system.

The most important thing is that we adopt the basic system proposed in the Bill. I have no problem with the closed list, and we must remember that every London voter will have a choice of candidates in his or her local constituency from whom to elect a local representative. The purpose of the 11 top-up members is to correct the anomalies created, inevitably, by any kind of majoritarian system, so that the representation across the whole of London more accurately reflects the parties' strength. It would be confusing one with the other if we tried to transport the choice of candidate into the other system; it would simply detract from what is essentially a correcting mechanism that requires a choice of party. Independents, of course, will still be able to stand.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) holds on fast to the first-past-the-post system. She overlooks the fact that the mayor will be elected by a majoritarian system; not by first past the post, but a better majoritarian system—the supplementary vote, which will remove the need for tactical voting and will ensure that the mayor has the support of a majority of the voters, or very close to a majority. We will not run the risk of elections where three candidates split the vote and one wins by gaining 36 per cent. I do not understand why the Conservatives should hang on to such a system when a far-superior majoritarian system is on offer.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk said that the constituency members should also be elected by first past the post, but she fails to understand that an assembly elected in the same way as the mayor would provide no checks whatever on the mayor. The mayor is elected by a majoritarian system. It would be pointless to reproduce such a system for the assembly. We would end up with a mayor of one party and an assembly almost entirely composed of members of the same party, which would serve little purpose. The whole idea of having an assembly is that the mayor has executive power, but that scrutiny and checks are exercised by an assembly intended to more closely reflect the political make-up of the voters.

The voters will still have complete power to hire or fire the executive through the mayoral elections, by a majoritarian system. What we do not need is to reproduce all the failings of our present voting system twice over by having the constituencies elected entirely by first past the post.

Mr. Forth

What we have here, I fear, is a muddle produced by the Government's need to rush into these matters without having thought them through properly. Given all the Green Papers and the other documents that we have had—to give the Government some credit—one might have thought that we would have had a better result. Regrettably, that is not so.

I hope that we will have a chance in Committee to debate the subject of the directly elected mayor, because I am still waiting to hear, not only from the Government, but from my own colleagues, what that is all about and how it will work—more of which, perhaps, later. The difficulty arises from the combination of the election of the mayor and the assembly with the completely experimental electoral approach, which fails on almost every count of desirability.

The first failure is that of the list, which will be new and relatively incomprehensible to most of the voters in London. It has all the other disadvantages of the closed list, which we need not rehearse yet again. However, we have just heard from the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton)—almost for the first time in the Chamber—a Labour Member of Parliament who is prepared to endorse and support the closed list. That has perhaps made this evening worth while, if nothing else has. It will go down as a little moment of history in our Committee.

9.15 pm

The difficulty is that the experimental new system that produces the constituency members will fail another of the basic tests of electoral desirability, because the constituencies will be so big and so removed from the voters that there will be very little connection between the electors and the elected. Voters will have little connection with the London members on the list and I would argue that they can hardly be expected to have much connection with the constituency members.

The constituencies will be rather akin to European constituencies, and how many of us would claim that voters have any connection—intimate, knowledgeable or otherwise—with their Members of the European Parliament? That, however, is the system that is proposed for the representation of London voters in vital strategic decisions. Before we even get off first base, there are real problems in the Government's approach, because the system in no way measures up to what one would expect of a proper electoral system.

It gets worse, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) said, when the members elected by this rather bizarre scheme arrive in the assembly chamber, they will inevitably fall into two classes: those who will claim an association with their constituencies, however large and amorphous, and those on the list, who will have some claim to represent the whole of London, but only through the prism or viewfinder of their party. We will have a peculiar assembly consisting of members elected in different ways and, inevitably, with different perspectives and a different status.

Worse even than that, as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, there will be no majority in the assembly. Some may argue—the hon. Gentleman implied this—that it will be a virtue if the assembly is not dominated by any one political party. I have some experience of a democratic institution without a stable majority. I make a confession to this secret and private meeting that for five years, I was an elected Member of the European Parliament. I do not want that to be held unduly against me, and I have been trying to live it down ever since.

That experience taught me several lessons. The one that is relevant to this debate is that the institution suffers from not having an in-built party majority. We have seen an example of that very recently, I submit. The problem is that majorities vary, not only from issue to issue, but from time to time; there is no continuity of purpose or thrust in the institution so it loses its way on almost every issue.

The great danger is that the assembly will suffer the same fate. In my view, it is likely to be ineffective because of the proposed system of election and the fact that it will almost certainly not have a party majority, especially when it is placed in an adversarial position with the mayor, as the hon. Member for Battersea said, and has to provide a check and balance.

I fear that the assembly will be politically less effective as a result of not having a party majority and that a skilful mayor will be able to pick off issues and play members off against one another, thus, at worst, rendering the assembly completely ineffective as a check or balance on the mayor's activities. Surely, on any analysis, that would be a denial of the Government's intentions—as I understand them from all their arguments—for the authority as a whole and for the relationship between the mayor and the assembly. We seem to be getting the worst of all possible worlds in terms of transparency, comprehensibility to the people of London, accountability or predictability of the outcome of elections. On none of the normal tests that one would wish to apply to an electoral system or a political decision-making body does the system measure up. That is a powerful indictment of the Bill.

I do not believe that the multiplicity of solutions offered by the Liberal Democrats would repair any of the Bill's grievous shortcomings, and that is why I support my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk. Whatever the shortcomings of first past the post—and it has some—it is at least understandable to the people of the UK and London. It provides predictability, stability and continuity that will be extremely desirable, especially during the early experimental phase of the new form of government for London.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Does the right hon. Gentleman hold the view that the good old first-past-the-post system is a better way to select someone to represent a constituency than the alternative vote system? No one can argue that AV is complicated, and it provides a member for the constituency who commands the support of a majority of the voters. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that some Members have been elected to the House with a share of the vote as low as 25 or 26 per cent. in recent years.

Mr. Forth

I understand that argument, but I have never entirely gone along with it. The idea that someone has the support of the majority once votes have been moved around, shuffled and prioritised does not hold good. The strength of the first-past-the-post system is that everyone understands it clearly, and they accept good times and bad.

The hon. Gentleman—uncharacteristically—suggested to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk that the Conservatives should favour whatever electoral system we imagine might benefit us most in some future political environment. That is a shoddy argument, and it was unworthy of the hon. Gentleman. It appears that the hon. Member for Battersea wishes to come to his rescue.

Mr. Linton

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the Conservative party does not use the first-past-the-post system to elect its leader?

Mr. Forth

That is a very good question, and I should like to hear the answer to it myself. I certainly favour a first-past-the-post system for that election, but I lost the argument on that. It may be that my party will live rather to regret the way in which it decided to go. We shall unfortunately learn that only at some time in the very distant future, so we need not concern ourselves with it for some considerable time; the hon. Member for Battersea should not hold his breath.

Mr. Hughes

I sensed something of a recovery operation in the last few words from the right hon. Gentleman.

When I intervened on the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), I was not arguing that the Conservative party should adopt the system that most benefits it. My argument was that we should have a system under which if 25 per cent. of Londoners vote Conservative, a fair representation results. I am not bothered about what the Tory party thinks, but I am bothered about what the electors think.

Mr. Forth

That is a familiar argument, and it is, in its way, perfectly fair. My difficulty with that analysis is that it is always dangerous to try to make judgments about electoral systems on the basis of what one imagines people will do when the election takes place. We all know that political opinion is often extremely volatile, and that much can change in a short time. To advocate a system that may reflect what we would like—or, even, what we would fear—is a dangerous approach.

From my experience in the political business, I do not detect that the electors necessarily feel particularly cheated, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. I do not think that he has heard any great complaints yet from the Conservative party, or even from voters in Scotland and Wales that they feel cheated because they do not have any Conservative Members of Parliament. Even if that were the case, it is one of the prices that one pays for the many other benefits of a first-past-the-post electoral system. On balance, these things are judgments and our judgment—that of the majority of Conservative Members—is that first past the post has many more virtues than vices and shortcomings.

Mr. Hughes

This is an important argument, but I shall be brief as I do not want to delay other hon. Members. There are two remaining snags in the right hon. Gentleman's analysis. First, he is wrong to say that people do not resent the fact that they are carved out of representation, although a large number of them voted for a certain party. For example, in Liverpool and other big cities where there has been no Conservative representation for years, people resent the fact that their voice is not being heard. It is strange to argue that there is not a large voice and that people are therefore content not to have representation. For example, if Tory voters in Scotland where there are no Tory Members are content, it says little for the representation that they had before.

Mr. Forth

That is a matter for them.

I must reinforce an argument that emerged during an earlier brief exchange with the hon. Gentleman and I hope that we will not forget or lose sight of this rather worrisome aspect. I hope that the Minister will take up this point and tell us if we have it wrong or if there is something that we should know that is not obvious from reading the Bill.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey advocates individual candidates and I am sure that most hon. Members want some to come through the process and take their place in the assembly, as I do. Clause 11 concerns the filling of vacancies and states that if the office of a London member becomes vacant, If the London member was returned as an individual candidate…the vacancy, shall remain unfilled", which seems totally unsatisfactory from almost every point of view. I hope that I can be reassured that I am wrong and that the Minister will tell me that vacancies will not remain unfilled. If they do, people will be unrepresented and the assembly will miss the opportunity to reflect possible changes in political opinion.

The Bill then goes on to state that, where there is a list, if someone resigns or dies the next person on the list will move up. I suppose that we must accept that as an almost inevitable result of the list approach. However, it gives rise to an interesting question, which has always fascinated me and to which even the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey did not seem to have an answer.

This possibility should not be dismissed as totally unlikely. If we have a party list, the top five candidates are elected and a series of mishaps or resignations—even a mass resignation—follows, there may well come a time when no one is left on the list to fill successive vacancies during the term of the assembly. We would then be in the peculiar and anomalous position of having a series of unfilled vacancies.

To reduce the argument to absurdity, and its logical conclusion, one might find that there were an increasing number of unfilled vacancies in the assembly. To the extent to which that is at least a possibility, I hope that the Minister will find some way to reassure us that he has some magical solution. Reading clause 11 of the Bill, one is driven to the conclusion that it is a possibility and it is not reassuring for the people of London, who are being dragged into this experiment by the Government when only 70 per cent. of one third of them turned out to support it—underwhelming support indeed.

There is still a lot of work to be done. I hope that it goes without saying that I support the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk. We need much more explanation from the Government before Conservatives will be even half convinced that this is any sort of way to go ahead with this new approach to the governance of Greater London.

9.30 pm
Mr. McNulty

I hope that the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) will forgive me if I do not dwell on her amendments, not least because, as she said, they are fairly meaningless because of the way in which they have been bunched. They would leave us with 14 directly elected members in an assembly of 14; it may be more than that. I am sure that the way that they are bunched does not reflect what was intended.

I shall not ask to be forgiven for saying that I shall ignore the sad ramblings of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). They were irrelevant, so there is nothing to respond to.

I shall concentrate on what I would call, without reservation and without intending to offend, the dogmatic self-interest wrapped in treacle of the Liberal Democrats. They did not say what the assembly is for, what it is trying to do, what its strategic functions are, and then ask what would be the most appropriate electoral system. Instead, we heard the usual rant about how single transferable vote is as pure as the driven snow and how we must try to fit everything else around it. That is a woeful disservice to London.

If STV does not work, we are offered a menu which says, "If you don't like that, what about AV plus? If you don't like that, how about this?" Everything on this stinky little menu is unpalatable and unworthy. We are talking about something as fundamental and important in London's development as the establishment of the Greater London assembly while the Liberal Democrats hold another seminar on their buddhist mantra of electoral reform. Given what London needs, there is no justification for that.

The Liberal Democrats are not alone. The Electoral Reform Society's little ditty runs in similar vain. It says that STV is wonderful because it will extend voter choice". It has not anywhere where it has been implemented. The pure STV system does not work anywhere.

Mr. Simon Hughes

What about Ireland?

Mr. McNulty

I shall come back to Ireland in a moment.

The ERS states that STV would ensure the accountability of all Assembly Members as all would be elected on the basis of their personal votes". That is facile and says nothing. I got 32,000 personal votes; I dare anyone to say that I got less. I know that they were not; others do not. That means nothing. The ERS says: STV would produce a broadly proportional Assembly without the need for two categories of Assembly Member. That is not proven, not least because of the Irish context.

This may sound daft but I fully support STV in the Irish Republic because it is appropriate to its body politic. Outside Dublin, Ireland is a disparate, rural land. The quota for seats is no more than 7,500. Within the multi-member seats, there is county bias at each end of a constituency. That is appropriate because it means that a sparse rural community will be served well in the Dail by its Teachta Dala.

It is the same in Dublin because despite its spread, it is a morass of little villages and communities that is served by STV in a way that, in an Irish context, first past the post would not. However, STV is not, in an Irish context, proportional. As the Irish electorate becomes more and more volatile, they get TDs who do not have the quota and get in because they just managed to survive in last place. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) told the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst—I suppose that I have to say that—that 25 or 26 per cent. can be sufficient to get a candidate elected in a diverse first-past-the-post constituency. That happens but it happens with increasing regularity in the pure STV system that he is so fond of in the Irish Republic. More and more often, in every constituency johnny-last-in gets elected, with no quota at all, but—this might sound familiar—as the repository of every protest vote scraped up so that he can stay in. That brings us back to Liberal self-interest, which is what the amendment is all about.

During the previous debate, the point was well made that it is incumbent on us to ensure that the Greater London assembly reflects the inclusivity of London's rich and varied society. That will not, as if by magic, happen if we use STV, AV-plus or any other proportional system; nor will it happen if we utilise the system set out in the Bill. It happens—here comes the standard Liberal cop-out—where political parties have the will to make sure that it happens. It is incumbent on all the parties in London to ensure that their candidates for both the 14 directly elected seats and the 11 list seats reflect the gender balance and the rich cultural diversity of London.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey suggested that using STV will ensure that a trade unionist will be elected here, a woman there and a black or Asian candidate somewhere else. That is facile and abject nonsense that simply hides the self-interest that is always nakedly present beneath the Liberal Democrats piety, as they deliver the latest sermon on STV from the pulpit. It is complete nonsense.

Electoral systems have to be horses for courses. If the additional member system or the hybrid version is appropriate for the London assembly, the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly, that is fine by us, because we start by asking, "What are those bodies for?" and then ask, "What electoral system will best reflect those functions and serve the community?" We do not aim for the purity of the Liberal Democrats' approach.

I am polite, so I tried not to snigger when the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey suggested that AV-plus has new legitimacy because of the Jenkins commission report. I have to say, with the best will in the world, that AV-plus, to paraphrase one of the hon. Gentleman's ex-colleagues, will probably be strangled at birth, because of Jenkins; it will die before it ever rears its ugly head because of Jenkins. Despite the report's sweet, literary style, probably resulting from its having been written in a haze of claret, the Jenkins commission got it wrong.

I am not a first-past-the-post Luddite, either in a London context or more broadly; nor am I an STV or PR evangelist. Show me what the architecture of government is about and what it is supposed to represent, then tell me how the electoral system best enables the community to get what it needs from that architecture. You have not done that—sorry, Mr. Martin: the Liberal Democrats have not done that. The Conservatives certainly have not done it either, but we shall put that down to the selection of amendments. We could probably have had a more interesting debate on their amendments—they would still have been wrong, but we could have gone into greater detail had the Conservatives managed to table their amendments in proper order.

The Liberal Democrats have not started with the 14-11 split of the constituencies as they stand in the Bill, nor by telling us how that is wrong within the context of what is sought from the assembly, but that is the question they have to answer. We do not want boy scout stuff about PR from the Liberal Democrats, nor Luddite stuff about first past the post from the Conservatives. They have not told us how the two aspects—the architecture and the electoral system—marry together.

This is not a little debating chamber where someone can get good marks and go to the top of the class—that is the Liberal conference, which is held only once a year. The issues at stake are real: after the elections, the Greater London authority will have a real impact on the people of London, whom we all purport to represent, so mess with it at your peril. We do not want the GLA to suffer because the high priests of PR or the Luddites want to play games.

What is in the Bill is right and we must stick with it. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) to close the door completely and not to entertain any alternative electoral system. This is London's reality and we should get on with it.

Mrs. Lait

The last time I followed the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) in this place we were discussing commerce. On this occasion, I suggest that the Government Whips might like to take the hon. Gentleman aside to explain that, although we shall vote on the Conservative amendments later, he is perfectly free to discuss them now. However, I would hate to give the hon. Gentleman a lesson on procedure.

Before I speak in support of the Conservative amendments, I have a few words for the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who was rather hopeful that the Leader of the Opposition might be coming around to the hon. Gentleman's point of view regarding electoral reform. However, I have a copy of a speech that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition gave tonight and the hon. Gentleman might appreciate hearing a quote from it. It states: Another threat from Labour's programme of constitutional change is that the link between the governed and the government, which has been an historic strength of our institutions, could be severed. Our first-past-the-post voting system provides that link because the British people know who is responsible for new laws and taxes, and they do something about it if they do not like them—they can kick the government out. I am sorry, but I must point out that the hon. Gentleman's hopes have been dashed. I left the House at the last election as a result of the will of the people and was rapidly returned as a result of our first-past-the-post system. That would not have happened if we had operated any form of proportional representation system. Therefore, I have a definite personal interest in maintaining first past the post. I have long envisaged many problems with proportional representation, one of which was mentioned earlier this evening.

I would like the Minister to respond to some specific points. We oppose the idea of the additional member—or London member in the context of the Bill. Given that European Union citizens who are resident in London will be eligible to vote, could one of them stand for election to the London assembly? The Minister is nodding assent, so we can add that to the list of potential representative groups suggested by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. We look forward to seeing European citizens representing Londoners in the assembly.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) spoke about his experiences in the European Parliament. One result of the list system in the European Parliament is that someone very prominent heads the list in order to give some identity to the other faceless characters on the list who have been chosen by the party. When the elections are over, the prominent person disappears and everyone else moves up one place. In that way the real leader of the group in Parliament emerges and Members from the bottom of the list enter Parliament. Unless the Bill is amended, I assume that that could happen in this case.

I do not plan to serve on the Committee that will consider the Bill—that is a source of great sadness to me, but I am not volunteering my services. However, some technical questions must be answered before anyone—particularly the people of London who will have to work with it—can make a sensible judgment about the value of the system. Anyone in Bromley who talks to me about this subject—I must admit that it is not a topic of conversation on an hourly or daily basis—cannot comprehend other than voting for the first-past-the-post system. The people of Bromley do not like any form of proportional representation, and I agree with them.

9.45 pm
Mr. Raynsford

This has been an interesting debate, which concluded with a rather sad insight into the point of view of the electors of Bromley, who, according to their representative, are incapable of considering any possible change in the electoral system. I think more highly of the Bromley electorate, which I am sure is interested in possible alternatives to systems that have been tried for years.

I reassure the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) that under this country's local government electoral law it is possible for a European citizen resident in London—residence in London is essential—to vote in local elections and to stand for election to local government. That provision will not change for elections to the Greater London authority.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) opened the debate by expressing a reasonable concern that the new system of government should work. We accept that it is innovative. We are committed to ensuring that it works. She talked about the need for decisive and effective government, and we are determined to achieve that. The mayor will be elected by a system that my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) described as a superior majoritarian system that will guarantee a clear majority and a decisive mandate.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk expressed concern about the departure from constituency representation. However, we are ensuring a strong, but not exclusive, constituency element in the new framework. As she knows, there will be 14 members representing constituencies. There will be other members, but a strong constituency element will remain, which we think is right.

The right hon. Lady argued for first past the post, essentially on two grounds: the ability of the electorate to hire and fire the authority or government and the need for a clear constituency link. I have already established that we shall have a clear constituency link. On hiring and firing, the mayor will be the executive. The supplementary vote system will enable the electorate decisively to reject a mayor whom they do not want to keep in place and, conversely, to elect with a good majority a mayor in whom they have confidence. That will in no way interrupt the process of hiring and firing; it will ensure accountability, which is the right hon. Lady's objective.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) seemed semi-detached on this issue. I fear that during the proceedings we shall discover a suspicion on his part even about having a mayor, which the rest of his party now believes is a good idea. I look forward to hearing his views on that. He expressed concern about having two classes of member: a constituency member and a London-wide member. He obviously is not familiar with the electoral systems in many American cities where some members are elected at large, to use the American term, and others are elected to represent constituencies.

That is done for good reasons similar to those that we have established here—we want to ensure that there are people who can take a wide view and not simply focus on parochial issues.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman, as I did the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk, that the fact that there is not a majority on the assembly will not in any way hinder its effectiveness because the assembly is not the executive. The mayor is the executive and, by definition, the mayor will always have a majority because he or she will be elected under a majoritarian system.

The amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk would remove the proportional element of the voting system that we have devised for the assembly. The GLA's purpose is to represent and promote the views and interests of all Londoners. It can best do that if the assembly is composed of members whose interests and concerns reflect those of the electorate as a whole. The additional member system that we have adopted will encourage that and allow it to happen.

The first-past-the-post system favoured by Conservative Members could easily leave whole communities or viewpoints unrepresented because they are scattered through London and not concentrated in any one of the new electoral areas that will return directly elected assembly members. The list system will give those people a hope of having a say in London's government, which we believe is right. We cannot accept the Conservative amendments and I invite the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk to withdraw them.

I turn now to the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I fear that he is beginning to take what might be described as an anorak approach to politics. The hon. Gentleman has tabled amendments suggesting different voting systems. It is difficult to be altogether sure what he really wants. Is it AV or AV-plus? Is it STV? Is it open or semi-open lists? Is it the Belgian or the d'Hondt formula? Is it single or multi-member constituencies? By way of contrast to this plethora of interesting and obscure formulas, the Government's position on how to elect the assembly is consistent and clear.

We set out clear proposals in our White Paper for assembly elections to be held under the additional member system, using first past the post for the constituency elections. This is the system adopted for elections in the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. It is the system set out in the White Paper, which was well known to Londoners when they voted in the referendum; and it is the system that we intend to deliver.

Mr. Forth

Before the Minister concludes his remarks, is he going to give me even a minuscule answer to the questions that I asked about unfilled vacancies? Like the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I think that there is a problem in this regard, and the Committee would be grateful for an explanation from the Minister.

Mr. Raynsford

Those matters are dealt with in clause 11, which we are not considering tonight. I shall come to them when we debate clause 11 in Committee, and will thus avoid being out of order this evening. I shall certainly ensure that the right hon. Gentleman gets a full answer.

Mr. Forth

But not now.

Mr. Raynsford

No; I would give a full answer now were it not out of order to do so.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey welcomed the Government's openness to reform. He regretted the lack of a consultative group to consider the electoral system in London, but acknowledged that there had been consultation on the Green Paper. Indeed, I well recall speaking to him during the consultation period when we listened carefully to his views and those of his colleagues. I appreciate his recognition of our decision, following the consultation, to operate a proportional system which should allow proper representation of London's diverse areas and communities. I hope that he will not be too disappointed that we do not accept his amendment, which would take us to the wilder shores of anorakism.

The additional member system will allow a wide range of interests and points of view to be represented. It combines a Londonwide list element, to ensure that the assembly has a strategic citywide focus, with representation from all parts of London. It is likely to deliver broadly proportional outcomes. Of course there can be debates about the intricacies of any electoral system. If the Liberal Democrats had their way, those debates would be interminable. What we are proposing is a balanced system for electing the assembly, which will deliver a body that represents London's interests. I see no reason to change our proposals.

I am not convinced that the Liberal Democrats' plans to replace our proposals for a blend of constituency and Londonwide representation with multi-member constituencies would be in London's best interest. Under our proposals, all parts of London will be represented in the assembly, working to ensure that a wide range of viewpoints from across London has a chance to be expressed. In addition, we are proposing a Londonwide component for the assembly elections, which is essential if the assembly is to have a strategic, Londonwide perspective.

If we were to adopt multi-member constituencies, the balance would be lost. There would be members for north London and some members from the south-west, but no overall Londonwide dimension. It would be necessary for the Local Government Commission to conduct a review of the constituencies and make further recommendations to the Secretary of State. That would entirely nullify all its work, which has led to the announcement that I made earlier this afternoon about the constituencies that will apply. It would also risk delaying the first GLA elections. We therefore believe that there is no case for reopening the issue.

On the specific proposals for STV and AV, I am unconvinced by the case made out by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. The main argument advanced in favour of these systems is that they enhance voter choice because voters are able to rank candidates from different parties in order of preference. The AV-plus system was recommended by the Jenkins committee, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned. However, as he recognised, different systems can be adopted for different bodies. There is no reason why we should adopt the same system for different tiers of government. What Jenkins may believe is right for Westminster, he would not necessarily believe was right for other tiers of government in Scotland, Wales or London. The additional member system will give voters wide choice. A London voter will be able to vote for both a constituency candidate and a party or independent on a Londonwide basis. He or she need not choose the same party in the constituency and on the list; in my view, that represents a real choice.

Moreover, the single transferable vote would inevitably require very large constituencies—with, possibly, a million electors in each one, on the basis of the five constituencies that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey mentioned, which will not necessarily provide a good and natural area and will not necessarily make it easy for electors to identify with their candidates. If we want to have representatives who are familiar with the area and accessible to the electorate, I am not sure that a constituency with an electorate of a million voters is necessarily the right way to do it.

As my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea and for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) emphasised, STV may sound nice in the snow-white Liberal presentation, but the reality of STV as practised in certain parts of the world is very different. It may be a recipe for skulduggery and all sorts of malpractice that we do not want introduced into the political system. My hon. Friends the Members for Battersea and for Harrow, East made a forceful case for avoiding anything to do with the STV system.

On the issue of closed lists, I do not accept the argument that parties, rather than voters, will choose the 11 additional members. The order in which candidates appear on the list may well influence the voter's choice of party. Those lists will be accessible to voters in every polling station, and voters will pay attention to the identity of the leading personalities on the list.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey has tabled a series of amendments that would alter the method by which list members are elected. If those amendments were passed, voters would vote, not for a party or individual candidate, but for individual candidates on the party list—or, in the case of amendment No. 41, either an individual on the list or the party as a whole. That matter has recently been the subject of a protracted debate in another place, and I do not propose to re-open those arguments in detail today.

I shall conclude by making four key points. First, our proposals for electing the assembly were set out in the White Paper and were well publicised before Londoners went to the polls in the referendum of May 1998. I do not believe that those who argue that the Government's position on this issue is undemocratic are on secure ground.

Secondly, the system that we propose is entirely consistent with legislation recently approved by Parliament for elections to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. It would be odd if, having so recently agreed a system for those two organisations, we were to announce that we had to change the system because it was unsatisfactory for London.

Thirdly, the charge is often made that closed lists mean that voters can no longer vote for an individual, but, as I have stressed, the list is only one element, and voters in every part of London will have an individual constituency in which they can vote on a first-past-the-post basis for their representative in that constituency. It is a balanced system, which provides the voter with a high degree of choice, enabling them to vote for both the constituency candidate and the party.

Finally, with the open-list system, which the Liberal Democrats are proposing, there is a real risk that elections would become phenomenally complex and confusing, and we do not intend to have that.

The proposals that the Government have brought before the House are clear and consistent. They will deliver a proportional assembly, which combines a Londonwide perspective with geographical representation from all parts of London. They give voters genuine choice. They are relatively simple for electors and administrators to operate—a significant advantage over some of the alternatives proposed today. With that in mind, I ask the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey to withdraw their amendments.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I have quite a few seconds left in which to speak. The Minister is obviously not yet persuaded. We propose a system that produces one type of assembly member; he wants two. We propose a system that has a more representative assembly member; his system has a less representative one. We want open lists; he wants closed lists. We believe that the case is made, and we should like to press amendment No. 19 to the vote. We believe that we are right.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 44, Noes 461.

Division No. 39] [9.59 pm
Allan, Richard Livsey, Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Llwyd, Elfyn
Beith, Rt Hon A J Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Brake, Tom Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Brand, Dr Peter Moore, Michael
Breed, Colin Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Oaten, Mark
Burnett, John Öpik, Lembit
Burstow, Paul Rendel, David
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Chidgey, David Sanders, Adrian
Cotter, Brian Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Swinney, John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Tyler, Paul
Gorrie, Donald Wallace, James
Hancock, Mike Webb, Andrew
Harris, Dr Evan Welsh, Andrew
Harvey, Nick Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Willis, Phil
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Keetch, Paul Tellers for the Ayes:
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye) Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Kirkwood, Archy Mr. Don Foster
Abbott, Ms Diane Allen, Graham
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Amess, David
Ainger, Nick Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Alexander, Douglas Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Coleman, Iain
Ashton, Joe Collins, Tim
Atherton, Ms Candy Colman, Tony
Atkins, Charlotte Colvin, Michael
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Connarty, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Austin, John Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Banks, Tony Cooper, Yvette
Barnes, Harry Corbett, Robin
Barron, Kevin Corbyn, Jeremy
Battle, John Cormack, Sir Patrick
Bayley, Hugh Corston, Ms Jean
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Cousins, Jim
Begg, Miss Anne Cran, James
Beggs, Roy Cranston, Ross
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bennett, Andrew F Cummings, John
Benton, Joe Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bercow, John Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Beresford, Sir Paul Dalyell, Tam
Berry, Roger Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Betts, Clive Darvill, Keith
Blackman, Liz Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Blears, Ms Hazel Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Blizzard, Bob Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Boateng, Paul Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Borrow, David Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Boswell, Tim Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Day, Stephen
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Dean, Mrs Janet
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Denham, John
Brazier, Julian Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Brinton, Mrs Helen Dismore, Andrew
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Dobbin, Jim
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Donohoe, Brian H
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Doran, Frank
Browne, Desmond Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Browning, Mrs Angela Dowd, Jim
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Drew, David
Buck, Ms Karen Drown, Ms Julia
Burden, Richard Duncan, Alan
Burgon, Colin Duncan Smith, Iain
Burns, Simon Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Butler, Mrs Christine Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Caborn, Richard Edwards, Huw
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Efford, Clive
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Campbell-Savours, Dale Etherington, Bill
Canavan, Dennis Evans, Nigel
Caplin, Ivor Faber, David
Casale, Roger Fallon, Michael
Cash, William Field, Rt Hon Frank
Caton, Martin Fisher, Mark
Cawsey, Ian Fitzsimons, Lorna
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Flight, Howard
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Flint, Caroline
Chisholm, Malcolm Flynn, Paul
Chope, Christopher Follett, Barbara
Clapham, Michael Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Clappison, James Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Foulkes, George
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Fyfe, Maria
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Galbraith, Sam
Clelland, David Gale, Roger
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Galloway, George
Clwyd, Ann Gapes, Mike
Coaker, Vernon Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Edward
Gerrard, Neil
Gibb, Nick
Coffey, Ms Ann Gill, Christopher
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Kelly, Ms Ruth
Godman, Dr Norman A Kemp, Fraser
Godsiff, Roger Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Goggins, Paul Key, Robert
Gordon, Mrs Eileen Khabra, Piara S
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Kidney, David
Gray, James Kilfoyle, Peter
Green, Damian King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Greenway, John King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Grieve, Dominic Kingham, Ms Tess
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Grocott, Bruce Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Grogan, John Lansley, Andrew
Gummer, Rt Hon John Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Gunnell, John Laxton, Bob
Hain, Peter Leigh, Edward
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Lepper, David
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Leslie, Christopher
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Levitt, Tom
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Hammond, Philip Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Hawkins, Nick Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Hayes, John Lidington, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Linton, Martin
Heald, Oliver Livingstone, Ken
Healey, John Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Lock, David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Luff, Peter
Hepburn, Stephen Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Heppell, John McAllion, John
Hesford, Stephen McAvoy, Thomas
Hewitt, Ms Patricia McCabe, Steve
Hill, Keith McCafferty, Ms Chris
Hinchliffe, David McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Hodge, Ms Margaret McDonagh, Siobhain
Hoey, Kate Macdonald, Calum
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas McDonnell, John
Home Robertson, John McGuire, Mrs Anne
Hope, Phil McIsaac, Shona
Hopkins, Kelvin McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Horam, John Mackinlay, Andrew
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Maclean, Rt Hon David
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) McLoughlin, Patrick
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) McNulty, Tony
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Mactaggart, Fiona
Howells, Dr Kim McWalter, Tony
Hoyle, Lindsay McWilliam, John
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Madel, Sir David
Humble, Mrs Joan Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hunter, Andrew Malins, Humfrey
Hurst, Alan Mallaber. Judy
Iddon, Dr Brian Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Illsley, Eric Marek, Dr John
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Jamieson, David Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Jenkin, Bernard Martlew, Eric
Jenkins, Brian Mates, Michael
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Meale, Alan
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Merron, Gillian
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Michael, Alun
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Miller, Andrew
Jowell, Ms Tessa Mitchell, Austin
Keeble, Ms Sally Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Morley, Elliot
Moss, Malcolm Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mountford, Kali Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mudie, George Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Mullin, Chris Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Snape, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Soames, Nicholas
Norman, Archie Soley, Clive
Norris, Dan Southworth, Ms Helen
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Spellar, John
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Olner, Bill Spicer, Sir Michael
O'Neill, Martin Spring, Richard
Osborne, Ms Sandra Squire, Ms Rachel
Ottaway, Richard Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Page, Richard Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Paice, James Steen, Anthony
Paterson, Owen Steinberg, Gerry
Pendry, Tom Stevenson, George
Perham, Ms Linda Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Pickles, Eric Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Pickthall, Colin Stinchcombe, Paul
Pike, Peter L Stoate, Dr Howard
Plaskitt, James Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Pollard, Kerry Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Pond, Chris Streeter, Gary
Pound, Stephen Stringer, Graham
Powell, Sir Raymond Stuart, Ms Gisela
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Swayne, Desmond
Prescott, Rt Hon John Syms, Robert
Primarolo, Dawn Tapsell, Sir Peter
Prior, David Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Prosser, Gwyn Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Purchase, Ken Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Quinn, Lawrie Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Radice, Giles Taylor, Sir Teddy
Randall, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Rapson, Syd Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Raynsford, Nick Timms, Stephen
Redwood, Rt Hon John Tipping, Paddy
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Todd, Mark
Robathan, Andrew Touhig, Don
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Townend, John
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Trend, Michael
Roche, Mrs Barbara Trickett, Jon
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Rooker, Jeff Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rooney, Terry Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Tyrie, Andrew
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham) Vaz, Keith
Rowlands, Ted Viggers, Peter
Roy, Frank Vis, Dr Rudi
Ruane, Chris Walley, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Walter, Robert
Ryan, Ms Joan Wardle, Charles
Salter, Martin Wareing, Robert N
Savidge, Malcolm Watts, David
Sawford, Phil White, Brian
Sayeed, Jonathan Whitehead, Dr Alan
Sedgemore, Brian Whitney, Sir Raymond
Shaw, Jonathan Whittingdale, John
Sheerman, Barry Wicks, Malcolm
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Willetts, David
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Shipley, Ms Debra Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Short, Rt Hon Clare Wilshire, David
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Wilson, Brian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Winnick, David
Singh, Marsha Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Skinner, Dennis Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Tellers for the Noes:
Wray, James
Mr. David Hanson and
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Yeo, Tim Mr. Kevin Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

To report progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Dowd.]

Committee report progress: to sit again tomorrow.

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