HL Deb 20 July 1978 vol 395 cc431-49

1 Clause 1, page 1, line 8, at end insert ("the members of which shall be elected by that system of proportional voting specified under this Act.")

2 Clause 1, page 1, line 9, after ("initial") insert ("constituency")

3 Clause 1, page 1,line 13, after ("initial") insert ("constituency")

4 Clause 1, page 1, page 2, line 3, after first ("The") insert ("constituency")

5 Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert ("constituency")

6 Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert— ("(4A) Fifty initial additional members of the Assembly shall be elected by the system of proportional voting set out in Part V of Schedule 1 to this Act based upon the entitlement which each elector shall have at such election and all subsequent elections to cast a second vote, such votes being referred to in this Act as 'party votes'. (4B) The number of additional members of the Assembly other than at the first ordinary election of members of the Assembly shall be half the number of constituency members at the election concerned (rounded up to the nearest whole number).")

7 Clause 1, page 1, line 9, after ("initial") insert ("constituency")

8 Clause 5, page 3, line 43, after ("a") insert ("constituency")

9 Clause 5, page 4, line 10, after ("this") insert ("and the next following")

10 After Clause 5, insert the following new clause—

Filling of vacancies among additional members

(".—(1) Where the seat of an additional member of an Assembly is vacated the vacancy shall be filled by the first willing candidate of the party of the vacating member on the relevant party priority list as prepared at the preceding ordinary election under the provisions of Part V of Schedule 1 to this Act, such candidate not already being a member and having indicated his willingness to fill the vacancy in such manner as may be required by the standing orders of the Assembly.

(2) A vacancy occurring under this section shall be deemed to have been filled on the day on which the presiding officer certifies that the standing order relating to the filling of such vacancies has been complied with and the member shall be deemed to have been elected on that day.")

11 Clause 77, page 35, line 42, at end insert ("'election' includes any election other than a by-election and "ordinary election" means any election held in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of this Act;")

12 Schedule 1, page 41, line 25, at end insert—



15.—(1) No person shall be eligible to be elected as an additional member unless his name was listed as an adopted list candidate at the election concerned.

(2) No party shall be an eligible party so as to be eligible for allocation of additional member seats to its adopted list candidates under this Schedule unless it secured 5 per cent. or more of the total of all party votes validly cast at the election concerned.

16. The process of election of additional members shall be as follows:

  1. (1) The number of additional members to be returned at the election concerned shall be ascertained in accordance with section 1 of this Act.
  2. (2) The constituencies at the first ordinary election shall be grouped into eight Electoral Regions in accordance with Part VI of this Schedule and the initial additional members prescribed by section 1(5) of this Act shall be allocated between the Electoral Regions as shown in Part VI of this Schedule.
  3. (3) The number, group and allocation of additional members at elections other than at the first ordinary election shall be those prescribed by this Schedule subject to amendments under section 1(6) of this Act.
  4. (4) In the event of any alteration in constituency boundaries being made whether in consequence of an increase or a reduction in the number of electors or for any other reasons any automatic increase or decrease in the number of additional members provided for by section 1(6) of this Act shall be allocated between the Electoral Regions so that as a result the aggregate of the additional members and the constituency members for each Electoral Region shall as between the Electoral Regions be proportional to the respective electorates of each Electoral Region at the election concerned.
  5. (5) Priority lists showing the priority as between adopted list candidates shall be democratically drawn up by each party for each Electoral Region and shall not contain more names than there are additional member seats to be allocated at the election concerned to the Electoral Region concerned. A person standing for election as a constituency member may be eligible for inclusion on one or more of his party's priority lists.
  6. (6) The valid party votes cast at the election concerned for each eligible party in each Electoral Region shall be added and the total in each case divided by the sum (called the denominator sum) of the number of candidates of each eligible party returned as constituency member at that election for each Electoral Region plus one.
  7. (7) The results of the calculations made in sub-paragraph (6) of this paragraph shall be compared and the first person to be elected an additional member in each Electoral Region shall be the first candidate on the relevant priority list of the eligible party obtaining the highest 433 number as a result of those calculations who is not already a member.
  8. (8) The calculations made in sub-paragraph (6) of this paragraph shall be repeated after adding the additional member elected in each Electoral Region in accordance with sub-paragraph (7) of this paragraph to the relevant denominator sum of the eligible party of which he was an adopted candidate.
  9. (9) The results of the calculations made in sub-paragraph (8) of this paragraph shall be compared and the next persons respectively to be elected additional members for each Electoral Region shall be the first candidates on the respective priority lists of the respective eligible parties obtaining the highest numbers respectively as a result of those calculations who are not already members.
  10. (10) The remaining additional member shall be elected one by one by application of the same system of calculation and election to each Electoral Region as is prescribed in the preceding sub-paragraphs of this paragraph.
  11. (11) In this paragraph 'party' means a political party whose principal objects include the adoption of candidates for election to the Scottish Assembly.
  12. (12) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make regulations for the drawing up and publication of priority lists by parties and the form of the ballot paper to be used for elections to the Assembly under this part of this Act but no recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make such an Order until a draft of the Order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.



17.—(1) The constituencies at the first ordinary elections shall be grouped into Electoral Regions as follows:

Central Scotland—Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire; Central Fife; Dunfermline; East Fife; Kirkcaldy; Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth; West Stirlingshire; West Lothian.

Clydeside North—Glasgow Central, Garscadden; Hillhead; Kelvingrove; Maryhill; Provan; Queens Park; Shettleston; Springburn; East Dunbartonshire.

Clydeside South—Glasgow Cathcart; Craigton; Govan; Pollok; Rutherglen; East Kilbride; Hamilton; Renfrewshire East; Renfrewshire West.

Highlands and Inlands—Argyll; Banffshire; Caithness and Sutherland; Inverness; Kinross and West Perthshire; Moray and Nairn; Perth and East Perthshire; Orkney and Shetland; Ross and Cromarty; Western Isles.

North East Scotland—Aberdeen North; Aberdeen South; Aberdeenshire East; Aberdeenshire West; Dundee East; Dundee West; North Angus and Mearns; South Angus.

South East Scotland—Edinburgh Central; East, North, South, West; Leith; Midlothian; Pentlands; Berwick and East Lothian.

South West Scotland and Borders—Ayr; North Ayrshire and Bute; Central Ayrshire; South Ayrshire; Dumfries; Galloway; Kilmarnock; Lanark; Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles.

Clyde—Bothwell; Coatbridge and Airdrie; Dunbartonshire Central; Dunbartonshire West; Greenock and Port Glasgow; Motherwell; North Lanarkshire; Paisley.

(2) The additional members allocated to the respective Electoral Regions shall be as follows—

Electoral Region Constituency Seats Additional Seats Total
Central Scotland 14 + 7 21
Clyde 12 + 6 18
Clydeside North 11 + 6 17
Clydeslde South 13 + 7 20
Highlands and Islands 13 + 4 17
North East Scotland 13 + 6 19
South East Scotland 12 + 8 20
South West Scotland and Borders 13 + 6 19
101 + 50 151")

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

13 Because the method of voting applying to Parliamentary and local elections is appropriate also for elections to the Assembly.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendments Nos. 1 to 12 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 13. These Amendments concern the additional member system of proportional representation, for which your Lordships voted with differing degrees of enthusiasm at the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill, there being 155 Contents and 64 Not-Contents, a majority of 91. As noble Lords are well aware, the other place debated this issue once more on consideration of your Lordships' Amendments and came down against the proposal and in favour of the first-past-the-post system for Assembly elections, and that by an overwhelming majority. The voting—I should emphasise that it was a free vote in the other place, certainly free on the Government and Conservative sides—was 363 votes to 155, a majority in the elected House of 208.

As noble Lords will certainly know, it was not the first time the other place debated and voted on this issue in this context. They did so in relation to the Scotland and Wales Bill in the last Session of Parliament, at the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill and at the Committee stage of the Wales Bill in this Session. On each occasion, after full debate, the additional Member system of proportional representation was decisively rejected. Again, I think it right that I should remind the House of the voting in the other place. On the Scotland and Wales Bill in January 1977, there being a free vote on the official Opposition, the Conservative, side, the majority against was 182. In the debate on the Scotland Bill in this Session, on 23rd November 1977, when there were free votes on both the Government and the Conservative sides, the majority against was 183. On the Wales Bill in March 1978 in Committee, the proposition was defeated by 377 to 114, there being a free vote again on both sides on that occasion, so the majority was 263. And your Lordships will know from what happened yesterday that on consideration of the same issue in the context of the Wales Bill, the other place again rejected the additional Member system, this time by a vote of 389 to 162, a majority of 227, after a substantial debate.

There have been considerable debates on this issue and I feel that there is nothing much more for me to say, certainly not on the merits of the matter. The issues involved have been fully ventilated and explored in debate, both here and in the other place, and I do not believe there are any new factors to be brought into the argument. The views of the other place, taken after a succession of free votes, are quite clear, and in those circumstances I suggest that this House has taken the matter as far as it properly and reasonably can in the context of this Bill and should now desist with good grace. There may be some who would wish to argue that this is a question of such a character that your Lordships should ask the other place to think again, despite their clear expression of view. I suggest that that would be an untenable position for this House, having regard to its character, to take in the face of the clear, unambiguous and oft-repeated votes of the other place after lengthy and full debate.

The number of debates in the context of the two devolution Bills has been six before today; this is the seventh debate in the context of these two Bills. The matter has been given all the publicity that it properly deserves, one might feel, in the context of one Session of Parliament, and I ask your Lordships to consider the problems that would arise if, in relation to these Amendments, it were not proposed that they he varied in any way or that some other Amendment be put to take their place. The proposal, if my submission is not accepted, is that the Commons should be asked to consider exactly these same Amendments once again, and that could indeed have serious consequences for devolution. I think I need say no more, but I invite your Lordships not to insist on these Amendments.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on the said Amendments to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 13.—(Lord McCluskey.)

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, this is a subject on which this House has expressed its views very clearly, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, gave the figures for the Division which produced on overwhelming majority in favour of proportional representation as appropriate to a brand new Scottish Assembly which did not have a previous system of elections. However, the Commons have twice considered proportional representation on a free vote in the context of the Scotland Bill and have rejected it by massive majorities. Only yesterday a similar proposal on the Wales Bill was also rejected by another place with a similar, very large, majority, and I therefore do not think there can be any serious question of a Division succeeding in the other place on this matter.

For that reason I do not believe anything useful could be gained from our returning these Amendments in the same form to the other place. I very much regret this, because, as your Lordships know, I was one of those who supported the proposal for proportional representation. But if this is pressed to a Division now, I and my colleagues on this Bench intend to abstain, and I would not advise noble Lords to support any move that may be made yet again to send these Amendments to the other place and thereby to force yet another debate and get another Division. That would not only be wasting time but would do this cause no good.

It would be appropriate, nevertheless, for the proposed Assembly, being elected for the first time, to have proportional representation; I made that clear at the earlier stages. It would not prejudice the position at Westminster, and I must remind your Lordships that there were two particular reasons why we supported it at the earlier stage. First, we thought it would be wrong to produce a situation in which a Party pledged to secession might gain a majority in the Assembly though having obtained only a minority of the votes cast. That has happened in Quebec.

Secondly, in an Assembly which is not forming a Government but a Scottish Executive, indeed including people not necessarily in the Assembly but outside it, we believed that it would operate more effectively by consensus. Those were the reasons why we supported. While I have not changed my views on this I do consider, for the reasons I have given, that it would be a mistake to send this to the Commons to consider yet again. They did have time for discussion of this subject. There are going to be other matters which we shall come to later today in which the Commons had either no time or very little time because of the guillotine to discuss subjects, but this matter cannot be described as one of those.

Moreover, we would be sending back to the other place precisely the same Amendments. We did, when we gave them the opportunity to have their second debate and discussion, provide them with a variant from the system which they had discussed on the first occasion. We provided—and my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in particular worked very hard to produce all the fitting Amendments, together with noble Lords in different parts of this House—the system of additional Members with a regional list. That was the variant which gave the other place a chance to consider another system. But if this were to go now it would be sending them back exactly the same system with nothing changed what ever. So I hope that noble Lords in all parts of the House will not support any move to return these Amendments to another place.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, unlike the two noble Lords who have just spoken, I want to urge the House to insist on these Amendments. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, that there is no need today to repeat the arguments for proportional representation for the Scottish Assembly, but I thoroughly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said about that. This matter has been very thoroughly debated in this House and the outcome, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, reminded us, was a vote of 155 in favour to 64 against on 4th April, when we considered the Amendments that are before us now. Again, on the Wales Bill the voting was 151 in favour to 66 against on similar Amendments. There was overwhelming support on both occasions for the additional Member system of proportional representation. Incidentally, I think it is worthy of note, particularly in view of something that the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, said, that support for proportional representation in the other place appears to increase every time they have a vote on the subject. Yesterday's vote was the highest so far recorded there.

Returning to the vote in this House, it was a vote composed of noble Lords from all parts of the House. It was made up of 27 Cross-Bench Peers, 82 Conservative Peers, 23 Labour Peers and 23 Liberal Peers. All parts of the House were represented in that vote and it is because of that overwhelming vote from all quarters that I ask noble Lords to insist on the Amendments today. Secondly, I ask that because it is not a question of an in-built majority for one Party deciding the issue. That is often the criticism made of decisions of this House. But if none of the Conservative Peers had voted on 4th April there would still have been a majority for proportional representation for Scotland, so it is not a question of an in-built majority for one Party determining the issue.

Again, it is not a question, as we are sometimes criticised, of the House of Lords blocking reform. On this particular issue it is this House which is in favour of reform and it is the other House which has been in favour of maintaining the status quo. Again, this is a constitutional issue and it can be argued that the House of Lords has special responsibilities where constitutional issues are concerned. For example, I understand that the Parliament Act does not apply to a Bill to prolong the life of a Parliament. The House of Commons would be seen to have a vested interest in such an attempt to prolong its life and to avoid meeting the electorate. I would submit that the House of Commons has a vested interest in this Amendment. We are all aware of the "thin end of the wedge" argument, the argument which says that we cannot have proportional representation for Scotland because if we did it would mean in time proportional representation for Westminster and that must be ruled out.

I imagine that the majority of those of your Lordships who voted for proportional representation for Scotland on 4th April would reject that view and would say that it by no means follows that if you have proportional representation for Scotland you must have it for Westminster. But others have seen it differently, particularly in another place, and the "thin end of the wedge" argument has been powerful. It is understandable that it should be powerful because it is true that if the House of Commons last time on the votes then cast had been elected on a strictly proportionate basis there are 119 Members at the present time who would not be there. Therefore, the House of Commons clearly has a vested interest in the question of maintaining the status quo so far as the electoral system is concerned. Finally, public opinion is in favour of reform. Public opinion, so far as we are able to judge it from all the opinion polls that have been held on the subject, has been in favour of the principle of proportional representation which is the principle behind these Amendments.

To sum up: if we were to insist on our Amendments we should be standing by the expressed view of the overwhelming majority of this House; we would be completely free of the charge that we were upholding the exclusive views of a Party with an in-built majority; we should be completely free of the charge that we were blocking reform; we should be playing an important and I believe legitimate role on a constitutional issue where the House of Commons can be said to have a vested interest in the maintenance of the status quo; and we would be upholding a view which all the opinion polls indicate has the backing of the public. In view of all these arguments which appear to my noble friend and myself to be compelling arguments, I urge your Lordships to insist on these Amendents by accompanying us into the "Not Content" lobby and opposing the Motion before the House.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, on the Second Reading of the Bill I expressed myself as strongly in favour of proportional representation for the election of the Scottish Assembly and I still hold to that point of view. The reasons for it have been given—I shall not repeat them—by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, has just repeated some of the reasons why a large majority in this House felt that this should be done. Bit that is not the question at this moment. The question is whether we should repeat the Divisions which we had before and whether we should send this matter back to the other place which has decisively rejected it several times, and on a free vote. When that happens I think we must consider the relationship between the two Houses, the procedural proprieties and the sensible procedures between the two Houses. We know exactly what the result would be if we sent this matter back again. It would simply be a repetition of what happened before and I see no point in that. Therefore I hope that we shall resist the temptation and accept the advice given by the Minister and my noble friend.


My Lords, may I say a word from the Back-Benches. I believe that there is a very strong desire in the country for electoral reform, and I am quite sure there is a very strong desire in this House for electoral reform. I am in favour of proportional representation. I have said so, and I have not changed my mind. I greatly regret that the two major Parties in another place are both against it. I hope that eventually they will change their minds, and that we shall get somewhere.

Having said that, it seems to me that, as the other place has considered our proposals this time and as it voted against them, the wishes of the elected House should go through, even though I disagree with them. That being the case, I would have hoped to abstain, but as has been said by previous speakers—with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Banks—it was a free vote in another place, and it was a free vote that decided the matter by a very large majority; and because of that, regretfully I do not feel able to abstain, and I shall certainly support the Government in the Lobby if there is a Division.


My Lords, in view of the fact that this is the first Amendment, is there any chance that the noble and learned Lord, who no doubt will be replying to the points that have been made, will let us know the general pattern regarding the Amendments with which we are to deal? The noble and learned Lord's argument was that on this particular point the other place had debated the question at length on several occasions and had come to a decision by an overwhelming majority after a free vote. That argument is that because the other place has shown its position so clearly after proper debate, this House should not set itself up in conflict with it, and the matter should be accepted in order to save time and to face up to the sense of the situation.

My noble friend on the Front Bench has accepted that argument. He has said that the decision of another place, reached by an overwhelming majority and after detailed argument, should be accepted by your Lordships. Are we to have consistency here? Will the noble and learned Lord advise his noble friends as to the position when we reach those Amendments in respect of which there was not lengthy debate, nor an overwhelming majority, and where the voting was equal—which showed that the other place came to a very tentative decision? Are we to have the consistency that we ought to have, based on the strength of the noble and learned Lord's own argument? Where the noble and learned Lord cannot show that there were overwhelming majorities, or that the matters in question were debated in detail, will he advise his noble friends to abstain, as my noble friend has advised us, in order to give the other place a proper chance of arriving at a real decision on matters which will be of fundamental importance?


My Lords, I support the Government in the view that they have put forward, and I support. too, the view of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I believe that this House might do a useful service in this short debate in taking up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Banks. We should try to get across to many people in this country our view—which I believe may be shared by many Members of the House—that the other place really has a vested interest in this matter. It must be aware of the big swing of opinion which is taking place in the country and of the democratic unfairness of continuing with the present system of election of Members of the Legislature. If we could emphasise the fact that on this occasion the other place is failing to take cognisance of the views of the country on this very important matter, and if this message could go forth from this House to the public in this country, then it might be found that we had done something very useful. Having said that, I agree with others that it would be most unwise to return the Amendment to the other place.


My Lords, it is natural that the Members of the Liberal Party who are wedded to the proposal for proportional representation should express their views. No one has any right to object to that. However, do they realise that if they propose to press this matter to a Division they will be placing those of us who support proportional representation in some difficulty? I say that because if we are asked to vote—and here I support my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry—we are hound to vote with the Government, and it would be assumed that in doing so we were casting a vote against proportional representation. Is that what the Liberal Party wants? Will that help it to advance its claims that there should be electoral reform?

The Members of the Liberal Party have a right to express their views; I say that not in a condescending fashion. However, when it comes to the question of a Division, it seems to me that we are placed in some difficulty. I do not want it to be assumed that, having expressed my views about proportional representation for some time, and having supported the Liberal Party in its demand for change, I am now being forced either to abstain or to vote with the Liberal Party. I do not want to abstain, because abstention is wrong in a matter of this kind; we would not be facing up to the situation. I prefer to face up to the situation and to vote as another place has directed. The other place possesses the authority; I regret that we do not. In those circumstances I would beg of the Liberal Party that, having expressed its views—and probably other Members of the Liberal Party will continue to press their views—it should not take the matter as far as a Division.


My Lords, may a Cross-Bencher humbly express an opinion on this matter? I personally believe wholeheartedly in PR. I believe that it is applicable to this particular constitutional problem. But I also believe that if this House were to send the Amendment back unaltered to the other place, it would be doing damage to the cause of PR, and it would put further back the eventual arrival of that system. Therefore, if the matter is pressed to a Division I shall vote with the Government.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words to the Liberal Party with the very best of good humour. I have opted out of debates since the Committee stage of the Bill for reasons which may be obvious to noble Lords; I feel that I am quite unfitted for political controversy at the present time. But I voted for the Amendment on the first occasion at the Committee stage. I did so with, I hope, a good conscience. I have not altered my opinion on the merits.

I wonder whether the Liberal Party can think again about its desire to bring this question to a Division. I believe it to be unwise to do so. Of course I recognise the reasons which led a free vote in the other place to come to the conclusions which are different from a majority of our own. But in the end the options are either to have a constitutional deadlock, or to stop the Bill from going onto the Statute Book. In the end we have to give way. We would do so with a good grace if we cave way now. I believe it to be in complete conformity with the traditions of the Liberal Party that it should defer to the repeated view of an elected Chamber in matters of this kind. I should feel much happier if the Liberal Party did not vote on this.

Quite frankly, if I followed my inclinations and not the decision made by my Party, I should have voted with the Government had there been a Division. But on the whole the best course which can be adopted is that this House, having expressed its opinion absolutely unequivocally, and not having departed from it, should recognise that the only dignified option on this occasion is to allow the view which the Government spokesman has given to have its way, simply because on a free vote, twice expressed, the other place has decided the matter with absolutely unequivocal majorities. I hope that the Liberal Party will at least consider what I have said, which I trust is wholly without offence to anyone.

The Earl of DUNDEE

My Lords, I have always been very strongly in favour of proportional representation, and I am very disappointed, as most of your Lordships are, that another place has refused to agree with our proposal; but I wholly agree with those of your Lordships who think that it would be a complete waste of time if we were to continue to press the matter. The only other observation which ought to be made is that one of the strongest reasons why your Lordships accepted the Amendment was your desire to protect the people of Scotland from having a local government formed from a Party which had a substantial minority of the votes in the country, but which, without proportional representation, could very easily get a majority of the seats. I believe this danger is widely recognised in Scotland. The only other observation I am going to make on this subject is that I think the insistence of the other place on this matter will make it much more probable that this Bill will be rejected by the people of Sotland on the referendum when it comes.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, I appreciate the difficulties which supporters of proportional representation have in supporting the Liberal view in this discussion. Nevertheless, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Brown, and those who feel and think like him should ask themselves: How on earth are we really going to get the country to believe that we mind about proportional representation if we are not now to make this gesture of asking the other place to think again? If we are to draw this matter to the attention of the voters of this country in what is now widely canvassed as being an Election year, I think the only way in which your Lordships can do it, and can do it effectively, is to divide and for as many Members as possible who can satisfy their consciences that they believe in proportional representation to go through the Not-Content Lobby with the Liberal Party. I feel that this is an immensely important subject, and it is an immensely important Part of the Bill. The Bill is imperfect, and without this particular set of clauses would be even more imperfect in many respects. I urge those of your Lordships who really believe in proportional representation to join the Liberal Party today.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, before your Lordships decide on how to vote, if there is a vote, may I put a point to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso? If the Liberals press this point to a Division—and, as many of your Lordships know, I am a strong supporter of proportional representation—having heard many speakers, what will be found is that the vote goes against the Liberal Party, against proportional representation, by a very large majority. This will be misunderstood in the country, which today believes that we are for proportional representation. How will it be represented? There will be headlines saying, "The House of Lords throws out proportional representation" by, let us say, 50 to 150 or 200. That will not do the cause any good. People will not understand it. I think we are much better, given the circumstances, to stay as we have been, with a quite clear understanding in the country of what we want, and to do the dignified thing of not pressing it to a Division now, bearing in mind that there will be other opportunities and that if we do press it to a Division and it goes wrong then what a great number of us want—namely, for the Scotland Bill to go through—will not happen.


My Lords, I have listened with interest to this debate. I was one of your Lordships who supported proportional representation because I thought that this was perhaps the best opportunity to test it out, in the context of the Scottish Assembly. I do not regret in the least having so voted; but I would say this to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, without wanting to repeat what so many of my noble friends and noble Lords opposite have said. He referred to the imminence of a General Election. I think it is precisely for this reason that it is tactless in the extreme for your Lordships' House to send this matter back again to the other place. I believe they will move, but I am quite certain they will not move with the imminence of a General Election in front of them. If it does come to a Division, I shall vote with the Government on this matter.


My Lords, as one who took some part in the earlier debates on this Amendment, I feel I am bound to state my position here, and I think it is one which is shared by a great many of those who supported the Amendment at the earlier stages. It always comes hard not to continue to work side by side with those who have voted with one and supported one at earlier stages, and I perfectly understand the position of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, in wanting to push this further on this occasion. But, my Lords, I think they underestimate the intelligence of the public in this matter. After all, everybody knows that there are votes on principle and that there are tactical votes. We expressed the principles that we hold and what we wanted to see at the earlier stages. We are now faced with a situation in which, because of the consequences of our expressing our principles once again on this occasion, many of us, like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, feel placed in a difficult position. For my part, I feel bound to say that we have to have regard to the consequences of our actions in this situation.

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, that we are genuinely grateful to him for the help that he gave us at the earlier stages to make our Amendments viable, so that we were able to place before the Commons a set of Amendments which would, I believe, have worked, and worked well. I still feel that what we were offering to the Commons was a fairer system, in the sense that, in an Election, at the end of the day each Party would receive the number of seats proportionate to the total number of votes cast, provided only that each of those Parties obtained the minimum threshold of 5 per cent. This seems to me a fair system.

Equally, I do not agree with the proposition—and I do not think many in this House do—that when you set up an entirely new institution, such as the Scottish Assembly, with a limited range of matters to deal with and a limited range of powers, it should necessarily have the same system of voting for it as that which prevails in the sovereign Parliament here, for another place. I do not think this is necessary, because the system is so similar to one which has been fully tried out and has proved successful in West Germany that we can be quite certain that, while it can be improved later, no doubt, as the Germans have improved theirs, this is a system which will work.

So on these two grounds I should very much like to he in a position to vote with the noble Lords on the Liberal Benches; but I would join with all who have counselled them not to press this Motion to a Division. They do not feel any more strongly that they would not be carrying out their principles if they did not vote on this occasion to insist on our Amendments than many of the rest of us in this House. They must realise, if I may say so in all frankness, that they are putting many of the rest of us in a difficult position if they press this matter to a Division; and I do not see how they alone can feel that they are keeping the flag of the additional Member system flying by voting on this occasion.

I am quite certain that if we were again to go into the Lobby now, without the consequences which we know would flow from doing so, the voting would be very much the same as it was before. This is the position, and it should be made known to the country as a whole. We have an option: we could insist, either with a good grace or a bad grace—I do not think it matters very much which—or, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, has said, we can desist with a good grace. That, my Lords, is what I hope your Lordships, including those in the Liberal Party, will agree to do on this occasion.


My Lords, I should like to intervene, following the noble Lord who has just spoken. I, too, am in a very invidious position. As far as I am concerned, I am still Chairman of "Fair Voting for Scotland". There is no question in my mind that what we proposed was sound and sensible, and I reinforce what the noble Lord has said: that, in fact, this was an opportunity not for just a try-out of proportional representation but to give the Scottish Assembly an identity of its own, so that we should not be tempted to regard the representatives there as merely surrogates of Westminster. Having said that, I think that I agree with everybody who said that the Bill is more important in this case than the points we are making. We shall get less than gratitude in Scotland if we lose the devolution Bill, with all its faults and all its frailties, simply by forcing this issue. I would appeal to noble Lords not to press this matter to a Division, because some of us are in a pretty perplexed and difficult situation, with no slacking in our commitment to what we are talking about; but we feel that the issues are bigger than we are.


My Lords, it would be an impertinence for me, in reply, to echo the arguments that have been used. May I say one or two things? First, I will endeavour to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, when I come to issues of a different kind. Secondly, my noble friends Lady Burton of Coventry and Lord Brown spoke of supporting the Government. I speak for the Government; but the Government supporters have a free vote today, if there is a vote.

Thirdly, the country knows what the House of Lords thinks about proportional representation. If there is a vote today—and the mood of the House suggests that it will certainly go the other way—what will the country think? The logic of the situation is that if a vote is forced today it will have to be forced again next week in consideration of the Wales Bill; so that in two consecutive weeks the House of Lords will have apparently reversed its position on proportional representation expressed in two successive months just a little while ago. It seems a kind of nonsense. In the course of this debate, the unanimous advice of the House has been that this matter should not be pressed to a Division. I am certain that the country will understand that the course of dignity, not just for the House but for the Liberal Party,

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.