HL Deb 20 July 1978 vol 395 cc461-3

21 Clause 1, page 2, line 12, at end insert— ("(6) Notwithstanding any provision of this Act the Assembly may at any time after the first ordinary election of members of the Assembly review the system of voting prescribed by this Act and may by Bill amend that system. (7) Notwithstanding section 17(3) below a Bill under subsection (6) above shall not be submitted to Her Majesty in Council until it has been laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State and has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.")

The Commons disagreed to the above Amendment for the following Reason:

22 Because elections to the Assembly should remain entirely a matter for Parliament.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that somebody is familiar with these procedures, because I am slightly confused. However, I think that the position now is that we come to Amendment No. 21, and the Motion that I make is this: I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 21, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 22.

In an earlier debate, I argued that this Amendment cuts across the important principle which, as I pointed out, was endorsed by the Kilbrandon Commission, that responsibility for maintaining and, if necessary, considering changes to the representational framework of the United Kingdom's constitutional arrangements is entirely a matter for Parliament, which should remain the sole custodian of such constitutional matters. I also suggested in that debate that the "take it or leave it" basis of the Amendment could not make for a satisfactory relationship between the Assembly and Parliament. By using that shorthand, I am referring to the fact that Parliament would not be able to alter the scheme but would simply have to say, Yes or No, and I know that Parliament does not like to be faced with that kind of choice.

In the light of what happened in the other place, I do not believe that your Lordships wish me again to set out all the arguments. What happened in the other place was this. The Amendment was not discussed, but it was put to the vote and it was defeated in a Division by 467 votes to 39. In the circumstances, I trust that the House will not insist upon the Amendment, and I so move.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on the said Amendment, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 22.—(Lord McCluskey.)

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, I believe that I was the mover of this Amendment on a previous occasion. I did so because it seemed to me that if the proportional representation Amendment was not accepted, this might represent an acceptable fall-back position for the Assembly. It would have the chance to decide for itself what form of election it would like; namely, whether it wished to have proportional representation. We have debated proportional representation, and I do not wish to go over the ground again. We have also heard what is the opinion of the Commons about it. They do not want proportional representation, and we have their Reason. In the circumstances—I am sorry about this—but even the fall-back position which your Lordships backed is one which I do not wish to press.


My Lords, I do not want to delay the House again. However, it is a pity that the Commons did not amend the Amendment instead of rejecting it. It is entirely consistent with the Government's attitude throughout the Bill that the Assembly, as a responsible body, should be able to put propositions to Parliament for a change in the electoral system if Scottish conditions, with which it is more familiar, warrant it.

It is a great pity that the Government did not look at this point more closely in order to satisfy the requirement that Parliament could alter and negotiate instead of having to reject, which I agree is an unfortunate circumstance with which to be faced. I am certain that the Assembly, when it has gained experience, will want to express its experience with regard to the electoral system. However, taking into account the progress being made regarding the desire for a fair and proper form of representation, it may well be that matters in Parliament will overtake matters in the Assembly before that time.

On Question, Motion agreed to.