HL Deb 30 June 1981 vol 422 cc85-6

2.55 p.m.

Lord Ferrier

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the present electoral arrangements in the United Kingdom and, if not, whether they will consider the possibility of adopting the double ballot system of election for membership of the House of Commons.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the Government are fully satisfied with the present system of voting at elections to another place.

Lord Ferriers

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask him whether he agrees that there may well be a lesson to be learned from the fact that the Dutch and the Irish elections have ended up in a stalemate and all that that means, whereas the French, with their double ballot system, have a definite answer?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I take the point which my noble friend is making. It is fair to say in reply that the particular form of voting which my noble friend has chosen for the subject of his Question is one which has been tried in several countries and it now only exists, so far as I know, in France, because it has not been found to be a suitable system in the other countries which tried it.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, we do not even have to have one ballot to get into this House. Are we really the right people to tell the other House that they ought to have two ballots?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, this is a question on which perhaps a modest silence is desirable.

Lord Monson

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that under the double ballot system which prevails in France the centre and right wing parties, which have secured over 45 per cent. of the popular vote, were allocated only 30 per cent. of the seats in the National Assembly?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, what the noble Lord has just asked me strengthens my conviction that what we should do well to do in an uncertain matter—because there is no agreement on the general matter which is raised by my noble friend's Question—is to hang on to what we have, which is a well-understood system which leads to direct and close representation. If I may put it in more human terms, sometimes an old and valued friend is worth more than a new and fleeting acquaintance.

Lord Ferrier

My Lords, arising out of my noble friend's reply to that supplementary question, may I ask whether it is appreciated that the present clamour for the reform or abolition of the House of Lords might ring more true if people respected the franchise on which our Parliament is elected?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I do not think that that is a matter on which I ought to comment.