HL Deb 14 June 1999 vol 602 cc53-76

5.44 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 2.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2. line 2, leave out ("twenty five") and insert ("forty")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 8, 18, 20 and 22. To explain briefly, Amendment No. 5 seeks to increase the number of members of the assembly from 25 to 40; Amendment No. 8 seeks to provide that the constituencies will be determined by the Local Government Commission; Amendment No. 18 seeks to remove the requirement for 14 constituencies; Amendments No. 20 seeks to remove the requirement that each constituency will comprise of two or more entire boroughs; and Amendment No. 22 seeks to remove the requirement that no borough is included in more than one constituency.

Amendment No. 5 is related to the amendments in the next group dealing with the electoral system. It is not easy to see where the dividing line should be drawn between the different amendments. The thrust of these amendments is to increase the size of the assembly. We chose the figure of 40 in part because that number would be sufficient for an electoral system based on the single transferable vote to work. But that comes in a later group. The increase will also mean greater representation of Londoners but that is not the main point that I wish to make.

The main issue, quite simply, is that we believe that 25 assembly members is not enough to do the job that will he required of them. We understand that the Government designed a lean and mean assembly. That language may not appear in any governmental publication. I am simply not sure where it comes from now because it has become so accepted a description of the proposed assembly. But 40 is not a great number. In fact it is considerably less than the size of some London borough councils. If nothing else in the Bill were to be changed with regard to the assembly's functions and operations, we still believe that 25 is too few. I make this point because it relates to points that we will make on later Committee days with regard to what the assembly should do.

The assembly's job in the Bill as drafted is to scrutinise the exercise of the Minister's functions and to conduct investigations into London issues. It is also to consider the budget for the GLA and other functional bodies. It can also overrule the mayor's proposals by a two-thirds majority. I shall take first a point with regard to the majority, though not perhaps the main point. Two-thirds of 25 is 17 and one might ask whether 17 is adequate on the model proposed. Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, is eight, one-third, too few to support the mayor's proposals? The proposal for 40 would mean equivalent numbers of 27 and 13.

The job is not to make policy; it is to scrutinise. But each assembly member will have to cover a wide subject area. The members will have to acquire a detailed knowledge of each subject, both in breadth and depth. I anticipate that they are likely to specialise to some extent, both in the areas scrutinised and in the functions; and of course they will provide membership of certain bodies. The Metropolitan Police Authority is to include 12 assembly members and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Body is to include nine. Out of the 25 there will be the deputy mayor and the chair and deputy chair of the assembly. Those members will have less time—perhaps in the case of the deputy mayor, no time—for the scrutiny of functions. I am, in short, suggesting that London may not be served by having quite so lean a body.

It is not just a question of becoming familiar with the subject; there is also the issue of group dynamics, interplay with other members within the assembly as a whole and perhaps within each political group. However, as I said, we hope that the assembly will work in a constructive and co-operative manner. There will be political groups, and, even if no group has an overall majority, there will be dynamics within each group which will feed into the way the assembly operates.

It is important that when the assembly meets in plenary session or when groups of assembly members meet there are enough members to enable ideas to be bounced off one another. In that way the contribution will be more effective than on an individual basis.

It is envisaged that there will be constituency members as well as London members. Although we support a constituency comprising more than one borough, it is still likely that there will be a local interest and that the member will spend some time on local issues, because that is in the nature of both politics and human behaviour. That may also reduce the time available for the scrutiny function.

We are not suggesting that the time of assembly members will be best spent sitting in committees. The organisation of the authority will mean a move away from behaviour that tends to give politics a bad name. as if the ivory tower—in this case the headland—is complete in itself and does not need to relate to the world outside. I do not believe that that will happen for one moment because London is big in terms of area and population and members will have to become familiar with London and the surrounding areas. They will therefore be able to properly consider whether London is appropriately relating to those surrounding areas. Therefore, to cover the ground in every sense, we believe that there should be a number greater than 25. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

As I indicated during discussion on the previous group of amendments, some of the issues relate to this group of amendments and some to the following group. There are only three issues relating to this group; the function of the authority, the size of the authority and matters of election. It is a little difficult to disentangle them before having a discussion on the other matters. Nevertheless, I shall try.

Our view is set out very clearly in the White Paper and, indeed, was clear when the Government initially set out their views on the future of London government. This authority should be small, streamlined and strategic in focus. We do not want there to be a detailed policy-making function in the assembly. Its function is one of scrutiny. We are not creating committees in the normal sense of a local authority or in the manner of the former GLC. We therefore consider that a small authority of 25 members will be sufficient to enable it to perform effectively its scrutiny and investigative role without becoming unwieldy and excessively bureaucratic. Were the assembly to take on the type of executive powers found in other authorities, different arguments would arise.

The question then arises of whether 25 can be sufficiently representative of the population of London. It is clear from all the analyses of voting systems that the smaller number of direct first-past-the-post seats, the less representative is the result. We therefore suggested that, as in Scotland and Wales, whatever the total—and we are proposing 25—there should be a mixture of directly elected seats and a corrective mechanism to ensure that the views across London were represented in the assembly. We therefore suggest 14 and 11 to make up the full 25.

Were we to make the number 33, as suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, it would not be possible to have a representative body if it was all done on a first-past-the-post basis.

Having taken the decision to create a small, streamlined authority and an authority sufficiently representative of the whole population, we then had to decide where the boundaries would be in the directly elected assembly. That was a matter for the Local Government Commission and not primarily for ministerial decision. The boundaries of the directly elected proportion of the 25-member assembly were therefore chosen on as subjective a basis as possible. That means that they cannot represent every London borough, nor is there a direct relationship between a grouping of London boroughs.

The academic work that has been done indicates that it is possible to achieve a representative reflection in a 25-member assembly. Professor Patrick Dunleavy and Dr Helen Margetts have carried out extensive research on the most appropriate voting system for London's assembly. That research is in the Library here. It shows that with 25 members it is possible to have a broadly proportional outcome.

The argument for having a larger figure is one which states that there should be a larger assembly because it would be undertaking functions more akin to a normal local government structure, which we wish to get away from, or an argument that areas of London that are self-identified in terms of boroughs or existing identities should be directly represented. That would mean there would have to be well above 40 before getting a first-past-the-post system which, at the same time, reflected the balance of opinion across London with some accuracy.

The combination of a streamlined assembly and an assembly that represents the balance of opinion across London gives a split of approximately that which we are proposing. A body of 40 would not significantly improve that position, certainly if it was all first past the post. If it was a similar split, it would not give a better representation than the split at 25 and it would be a more unwieldy body performing the central function we have set out which has been endorsed by the people of London.

We therefore resist the proposition that it should be extended to 40 and also the suggestion by the noble Baroness, Lade Carnegy of Lour, that there should be 33 members who would directly represent the boroughs. That has the potential additional disadvantage that a direct representative of the borough would have some of the disadvantages of an indirect representative in that the carve-up would not be strategic but would be on the balance of interest between the boroughs. We want an authority that looks at London as a whole and not primarily through the eyes of representatives of the boroughs. We therefore hope that the amendment will not be pursued.

6 p.m.

Lord Tope

I listened with care to what the Minister said. Perhaps I may start by dealing with the points with which I agree. He said that the Government want an authority which is small, streamlined, strategic and focused. I believe that those were his exact words and I agree with that entirely. However, "small" is a relative term—25 is small; 40 may be slightly larger but in my view, it is still small. Therefore, I cannot accept the argument that 40 is too large and 25 is fine. For an assembly representing the whole of Greater London—7 million members—40 is small, and rightly so.

My noble friends and I do not pretend that there is any special magic about 40. If the Minister were to say that he cannot accept 40 but he will accept 38 or 42, then I expect that we should graciously accept. I do not want to argue strongly about 40 and no more and no less, but it is indicative of the size which we feel will still be streamlined, will certainly be strategic and, it is hoped, will be focused.

It also needs to be representative, as far as anything can be, of a large diverse population such as that of London. It is extremely important that, as far as possible, all Londoners feel that the assembly fairly represents the mix in London of gender, ethnicity, geographical location and so on.

The Minister said that he did not believe that 40 members elected by a first-past-the-post system could possibly achieve that. I agree entirely. It will come as no surprise to him that we do not propose that they should all be elected by first-past-the-post. As he will know, we shall be proposing that none of them should be elected by first-past-the-post. He is quite right that the next group of amendments are connected with this group because we are talking about the size of the authority and the way in which it is to be elected. The two go together.

Our objection to the previous set of amendments was not in relation to the magic number of 33 but that they should be tied to and come from the boroughs, which happen to number 33. That is the objection with which we have dealt. We believe it should be the larger number if it is to be properly representative and also, if the members are able to carry out the range of duties expected of them. I understand as well as anyone what the assembly is proposed to be. I note that it is not to be a local authority with executive powers and so on. I understand that it is to be a scrutinising body. But I hope that it will be the focus of a lot of interest and attention from a wide range of interest groups in London. Of course they will focus primarily on the mayor, and rightly so. But they will also wish to talk to, lobby, relate to and engage the interest of assembly members.

At this stage, we have no idea at all what administrative support assembly members are to receive. But even with a reasonable level of administrative support, it will be extremely difficult for assembly members to carry out their range of duties conscientiously, across the whole of London, with the wide range of interests involved.

There is no magic number but a greater number, such as 40, would necessarily make the sharing of that burden a little easier. Perhaps the Minister will tell us about the responses to the Government's White Paper which asked specific questions about the proposed size of the assembly, while making it clear that it should be small, strategic and so on. Sadly, I forgot to look up the figures before I came, but I believe I am right to say—and perhaps the Minister will confirm it—that the greater number of responses which referred to the size of the assembly all suggested that it should be larger than 25. I accept that some suggested it should be very much larger, and we do not share that view. However, I suspect that 40 was nearer the number suggested in those responses that referred to size than is 25. I suspect that the Minister will tell us week after week that we are responding to the wishes of Londoners. Therefore, I play that back to him and ask him whether that is the case when dealing with the size of the assembly.

However, as I said earlier, the most important reason is to enable there to be enough assembly members, although not too many, to carry out their duties while remaining strategic and focused and, above all, in order for them to be representative of London's very diverse community.

Lord Renton

This group of amendments contains several quite separate issues which perhaps should have been dealt with separately. However, the matter to which I wish to refer briefly is that covered by Amendment No. 8. That amendment refers to Clause 2(4) which states: The Assembly constituencies shall be the areas, and shall be known by the names, specified in an order made by the Secretary of State". As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, knows well, some of us feel that it is wrong to have subordinate legislation governing important matters rather than having primary legislation. I should have thought that the constituencies in the future Greater London should be in primary legislation which is brought before Parliament for Parliament to consider in detail and to amend if necessary. But if we have an order made by the Secretary of State, we must either accept or reject it. We have no detailed say in the matter.

A good compromise is covered by Amendment No. 8 which refers to, following a review carried out by the Local Government Commission under the terms of Schedule 1 to this Act'. I should prefer to see it spelt out on the face of the Bill. As we are at an early stage of the Bill. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to replace the prospect of an order by the Secretary of State by some detailed provisions in the Bill.

Lord Whitty

A number of points were raised after my first intervention. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that, as I pointed out on an earlier group of amendments, the boundaries have been drawn up on the recommendation of the Local Government Commission. Therefore, they are not a political fix, so to speak, by the Secretary of State. The Government have accepted the Local Government Commission's recommendations in relation to the boundaries as they stand. Putting that into effect by order is the normal procedure in relation to local government boundaries, as the noble Lord will know.

Lord Renton

Will the Minister explain to us why, therefore, that is to be finalised by an order by the Secretary of State over which Parliament has no control except to say yes or no?

Lord Whitty

If I am incorrect, I shall write to the noble Lord but as I understand it, all changes in local government boundaries are implemented by order of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State must accept or query the boundaries as suggested by the Local Government Commission. In this case, we accepted its proposals and we shall carry them through by order. I shall ensure that the noble Lord receives any further clarification which may be required.

I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that I do not have the numbers off the top of my head or instantly recoverable. There were a number of responses which suggested that there should be more than 25. But there was also a significant number, not least from the business community, whose views were that we must ensure that the assembly is small and streamlined. Our view is that 25 is the appropriate number. It is certainly true that in the responses others took a different view. Some took the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and others took a different view. In order to achieve the object of establishing a new, unique structure of government for London, we have always taken the view that the assembly should be small and that 25 is the appropriate number. I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue this matter, at least at this point.

Baroness Hamwee

Perhaps not at this point. I read into the Minister's comment on the Green Paper that some respondents wanted more members and some fewer, so the Government have come up with a figure in the middle. It would be interesting to know for a future stage whether the figure of 25 received support.

I took also from the Minister's argument that the electoral system was dictating the figure of 25 members. The Minister did not directly answer the points made by my noble friend and myself about the functioning of the assembly—other than to say that 40 members would be unwieldy. I am sure that 40 members could be controlled by any half-way competent chair. Forty is not all that different from 25.

My noble friend forcefully made the point that we are concerned that all Londoners and all London interests are properly represented. We are concerned also that assembly members have a job that is practicable. I am not sure whether the muttering—I do not mean that unkindly—of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was on my point about numbers. I am absolutely sure that in dealing with his members in Haringey, which is more of the order of 60 than 40, the noble Lord is totally competent and has them all exactly where he wants them.

Lord Harris of Haringey

Perhaps I could clarify the mumbling. I was trying to understand why, although 40 was not thought a very different number from 25, it was nonetheless preferable because it was larger. I suspect that the figure of 40 was advanced because it fits much more neatly with the principles and requirements of the single transferable vote—which is, I gather, the hors-d'oeuvre up to which we are building. In which case, can the noble Baroness explain why it is appropriate to structure the assembly to fit the convenience of an electoral system, rather than meet the needs of the functions of the assembly that is being created?

Baroness Hamwee

We would be happy to accept 42, 39 or even 35. We would not accept 33 members, for the reasons given in the previous debate. We do not want members tied directly to London boroughs. We believe that would work against the strategic nature of the authority. I apologise if I gave the wrong impression, in suggesting that there is not much difference between 40 and 25 members. I was speaking in the context of whether or not the assembly would be unwieldy. I do not regard 40 members as unwieldy or 25 as particularly more "wieldy"—if there is such a word.

This is a serious point and not an hors-d'oeuvre to the main course of a different electoral system. All my noble friends on these Benches tonight and many of your Lordships have said that they are not theologians with regard to electoral systems. They are not a subject that attracts us as a technical matter. What is of importance is good representation and good government. As I made clear to the Minister privately at a meeting last week at which a number of your Lordships and many officials were present, we are concerned about this matter entirely separately from how assembly members are elected. It is not that we feel compelled to argue points so that we may argue the next group of amendments. I dare say that we will reflect on the issue and may return to it. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 2, leave out from ("members") to end of line 6 and insert ("representing the multi-member constituencies determined by the Local Government Commission under subsection (4) below")

With this amendment I will speak also to Amendments Nos. 7, 11, 12, 13, 16, 23, 27, 27A, 28, 29, 30, 34, 35, 36, 41, 45, 47 and 49.

Amendment No. 6 removes the distinction between constituency and London members and provides for the Local Government Commission to determine constituencies. Amendment No. 7 says that there shall be more than one member per constituency—in other words, that there shall be multi-member constituencies. Amendments Nos. 11, 12, 13, 16, 23, 27A, 29, 30 and 45 all remove mention of London members. Amendment No. 34 adds a section explaining the filling of vacancies by alternative votes, because the single transferable vote cannot be used to elect one person. Amendment No. 35 explains the STV system. Amendment No. 36 removes the detail of London members' elections. Amendment No. 41 explains that seats are allocated to candidates with the most votes. Amendment No. 47 makes provision for by-elections. Amendment No. 49 removes the reference to the highest-placed candidates being elected. After that, I feel confident that the whole Committee will wish to support that group of amendments.

The art of good leadership is delegation. My noble friend and leader for this purpose, Baroness Hamwee, has kindly delegated this task to me. In more than 30 years' membership of the Liberal Party and latterly the Liberal Democrats, I have managed never to make a speech explaining the intricacies of the single transferable vote—for which there is a good reason. I have, however, made many speeches on my genuinely held belief in the beneficial effects of such a system.

We touched in an earlier debate on the Conservative amendments relating to borough representation and their views, which I think we share, about the inadequacies of the proposals for 14 fairly large constituencies and a top-up list of 11 London members. Whatever system is used, the one we have is by no means the best. The 14 constituencies will be too large to be in any sense local and too small to be in any sense strategic to two or, in some cases, three boroughs. There will still be a degree of local interest, with the focus still very much on borough interests—although a little less than single-borough interests. But the constituencies will not be large enough to be strategic.

The Electoral Reform Society states that based on the 1998 borough election results—I know as well as anyone that things can change but those are the most recent and reliable indicators—only one of the proposed 14 constituencies can genuinely be held to be marginal. All but four would be regarded as safe. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is looking at me with interest. That is not a claim on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. Nevertheless, four seats could be and are considered as safe for one party or the other.

Even more important to Liberal Democrats is that, based on the 1998 borough elections, only three of the 14 constituencies would have elected a winner having more than half the votes. That is a fundamental democratic flaw. As to the 11 top-up seats for so-called London members, two different categories of assembly members are introduced. I hope that will not show too much in practice, but it is an undesirable division. There is no need or real justification for two different sorts of assembly member. I hope that they will not come to be seen within the assembly or, more likely, outside it as being in some way different—one more legitimate than the other.

Putting the list system together with the constituency system as I described it means, according to the Electoral Reform Society, that something like 20 of the 25 assembly members will be able to count themselves virtually sure of election once they have secured their party nomination; in other words, we are adopting a system in which, even more than present systems, the assembly membership will be determined not by the London electorate but by the London political party members. That is inherently undemocratic.

The proposal that we are putting forward is for election by the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. We would envisage four or five large constituencies, which could perhaps be based on the old county boundaries, but that would be a matter for the Local Government Commission to determine. It would give a degree of local representation—I use that word loosely; perhaps geographical representation is a better expression—shared with others but with a large enough interest to be able to be genuinely strategic.

That is the argument for the multi-member constituencies. The argument for STV within those constituencies is based on three principles, which I believe any election system ought a have. First, and most important, there is fairness to all voters. Secondly, there should be real natural constituencies; and, thirdly, there should be genuine voter choice. All of those will be met by STV in multi-member constituencies. We would stand to gain the best opportunity that we are going to get of actually electing an assembly—be it 25 or, as we would prefer, 40 members or thereabouts—which would be more likely to be at least reasonably representative of the many communities of London, as opposed to 25 members who would, in effect, be almost entirely chosen by the political parties. That is another advantage of what we propose.

STV would also allow voters to express preferences for individual candidates both within a party and between parties. Again, it would allow much wider voter choice. It would also help to create an assembly which would be more representative. It is interesting to note that STV is the system used in Ireland, and the noble Lord, Lord Archer, was kind enough to express his enthusiasm for it earlier. It has worked well in Ireland and, interestingly, it is the system which was introduced by the previous government; indeed, it is still used in Northern Ireland, as witnessed in last week's European elections. There is a very good reason for that: again, as far as possible, to enable the communities in Northern Ireland to be more fairly represented.

We propose STV for multi-member constituencies, not because any of us is an election anorak or, indeed, because I wish to be known, as my noble friend said to me privately earlier on, as "Lord Nerd"—because I do not—but because we genuinely believe that it is more democratic and that it will produce a much more representative assembly elected with the best possible voter choice and the least possible political party choice. I beg to move.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I thought that STV would be debated under Amendment No. 14. However, as it has been mentioned now in such detail, perhaps I may say a few words at this stage. I was born and brought up in a country where the single transferable vote was the system. When I first came to the United Kingdom, I thought that it was better than the existing system in this country. But, as time has gone by, I have decided that it is very definitely not comparable. I strongly support the first-past-the-post system.

The single transferable vote does not produce the candidate that most people like; it merely gives the result. The elected party is the one which is least generally disliked. It is a totally negative form of election whereby, even if you do not get your choice, you can, out of pique, use the system to go against whoever you want to avoid being elected. I really do not support STV. I lived in Australia long enough to vote under that system. Indeed, the complexity of it whereby you will have many candidates produces a further Problem. I feel that this is yet another push. I do not go along with those in this House and in that party generally who support proportional representation, STV or any old system at all except first-past-the-post. I do not know whether my remarks are suitable at this point or whether they would be more suitable under the debate on Amendment No. 14, but I shall not repeat them. I wanted to make the point very strongly that I oppose the single transferable vote.

Lord Whitty

There is a large number of amendments in this group, some of which raise certain issues which have not yet been mentioned. Nevertheless, it is clear that those on the Liberal Democrat Benches wish to ensure that the system of voting for the assembly is STV. Despite the fact that he claimed that he had never made such a speech before in his life, the noble Lord, Lord Tope, did not make a bad fist of advocating the STV system. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, gave it fairly short shrift and pointed out the main objection to it; namely, that at best you get everyone's second choice and in some cases everyone's third choice, depending on the size of constituency and the way that the votes fall.

I am slightly concerned. We on these Benches often get accused of not having a coherent approach to the devolution agenda in general. However, being a bit of an anorak myself—or, nerd, which I believe was the term used by the noble Lord, Lord Tope—I was still awake late last night and watched the broadcast on the European elections. I must be totally objective because I think he is the only member of the parliamentary Liberal Party who is not actually running for election at this point, but I am pretty confident that I heard Menzies Campbell making it absolutely clear that they favoured the additional member system, in which the Liberals joined with us in Scotland on the convention. He said that the system in Scotland and Wales had been entirely successful in that it allowed people to maintain the link with the constituency but that, on the top-up list, it made sure that the number of members eventually returned reflected the total proportion of votes. If the additional membership system is good enough for the Liberals in Scotland and in Wales, I fail to understand why the Liberals in London would wish to revert to an atavistic attachment to STV. I applaud their consistency in this matter in some respects, but they appear to have abandoned it in relation to other aspects of constitutional change in this House.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I, too, heard the words of the Liberal Member. But did the Minister then hear Mrs. Margaret Beckett say immediately afterwards that she had never been in favour of proportional representation? I wonder where the Minister stands on that.

Lord Whitty

I believe that my right honourable friend was responding to the question as to whether the results of the European elections had set back the campaign for first-past-the-post in relation to Westminster. She made her own particular view known on that issue. Indeed, those of us who know her will have heard her rather forthrightly express that view many times. She did not express a view in relation to London or, indeed, to Scotland and Wales on that occasion. As noble Lords will know, the Government as a whole have thought it appropriate that, in relation to the new parliament and the new assembly—and, of course, in relation to the GLA—an additional member system which maintains, on the one hand, the constituency link while, on the other, ensures that the total balance is more proportionate, is an appropriate innovation in our constitution at that level. That is an entirely different argument as to whether that should be the system which defines the Government of the United Kingdom. That is no doubt one to which the Liberal Democrats would wish us to return very rapidly; and we have to watch that space.

However, I had better return to London rapidly. The additional member system proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tope—

Lord Tope

It was probably a slip of the tongue, but I would not wish it to go on the record. It is the Minister who is proposing the additional member system, although he is now suggesting that I proposed it. That is not the case.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I apologise to the noble Lord. I was so persuaded by my own argument I assumed that he had been persuaded too. The noble Lord advocates an STV system. I thought I heard him mention four or five constituencies, presumably in the context of a 25-member assembly. That would probably enable an STV system to work adequately. The London constituencies are pretty huge. Even with a system of 40 members—as advocated just now—the constituencies would have to be pretty huge to enable STV to work. The degree of identity that could be achieved with those constituencies would be extremely limited. Therefore the constituency geographic identity—which we seek in our suggestions for representation—would not be met by creating four or five STV-based constituencies across London. That is much better met by the 14 directly elected posts under the first-past-the-post representation which we propose. However, we recognise—as we would with any size of assembly so far suggested—that that could lead to a serious distortion. We need to correct that distortion—in the same way as we have in Wales and Scotland—by introducing the top-up system.

The noble Lord suggested that this was a way of ensuring that the party would control the choice. With the system at present in place the party controls the choice. In Scotland and Wales the party controls the choice of candidates put before the electorate. The electorate then have the ability to decide whether or not to support the candidates put before them. That is the case with any of the systems that we propose. It allows for a potential independent element.

The issue of open lists as opposed to closed lists has detained the Chamber in a different context for a considerable amount of time. However, in an additional member system as distinct from a pure list system—as we operated during the European elections—the strength of any argument which the Committee may have against an open system is much weaker because there is still a constituency base determining the majority of candidates, as in Scotland and Wales. Therefore I do not think that the historic arguments used by this Chamber in relation to open lists apply to the same degree in this case.

I believe that the burden of the feeling in this Chamber is not to pursue the STV option—although I have no doubt that the Liberal Democrats will continue to do so—but to pursue a system of representation envisaged when we put forward the previous legislation for the referendum and now made manifest in this Bill. As this process was carried out in Scotland and Wales, I do not think it will be a problem for Londoners to be faced with two votes in relation to the assembly elections. That did not confuse the electors of Scotland and Wales and it is hardly likely to confuse the electors of London. Nor is it likely to create two tiers of member, as the noble Lord implied—I think he then rapidly retreated from that view—as I believe it is clear in Scotland and Wales that there is no distinction between the functions and the legitimacy of the two different methods of election to the Parliament and the Assembly. There is no reason why there should be that distinction in London.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before the noble Lord leaves that point I hope I may suggest to him that the Government would be wise before they proceed any further with this system—which I gather is identical to the one used for the Scottish Parliament—to find out what effect it has had on the political parties and whether they are completely happy with it. The Government should also find out from the Scots Parliament whether the two sets of members will in fact be equal because there has already been a big argument about that in the Scots Parliament. It has been decided that the two sets will have different levels of expenses—I think I am right in saying that—and there has been trouble. The Government would be wise not to gloss over this matter and think that because nothing has been said in the newspapers about the whole matter going wrong everything is all right. I can give them one instance of where within a political party the system has worked extremely unfairly. The Minister may find that that is the case in his own party and in other parties. It may be wise to take that into account for the future of the system. It is best to arrange it so that it works out as fairly as possible.

Lord Whitty

In response to the first point of the noble Baroness, the system is effectively the same—although the proportions are somewhat different—as in Scotland and Wales. I have no doubt that there are a number of teething problems in both those countries and there will be a number of teething problems in London. We are talking about creating new institutions with a new range of powers and a new basis of legitimacy. However, I do not believe that any fundamental problem experienced by the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly—despite the problems they have—relates to the fact that they allegedly have a two-tier level of membership. I do not believe that that is a huge problem although there may be some difficulties at the margin.

As to whether political parties are satisfied with the respective results, given that in neither case was an overall majority won by any party, none of the political parties will be entirely happy. They will find other reasons to explain why they feel that the system does not entirely reflect their interests. The idea that we have created assemblies and parliaments with two tiers of members is erroneous and will be erroneous as far as London is concerned.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I did not mean that the political parties did not think the system was fair on them. I refer to the fact that the people who get elected to the assembly may not relate to the votes that are cast. I could give the noble Lord an example which may be helpful although I shall not do so now. It would be wise for the Government to talk to the political parties about how the system has worked. I refer to the mechanics of the system. Various details could be stipulated which would make the system clearer.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before my noble friend responds to the amendment, I should like to make two points. First, I do not believe that the Minister has responded to the point of representation of different interests as an advantage of a proportional system like STV which was put forward by my noble friend. The great advantage of STV is that you can vote for any candidate from any party in any order you wish. I take an extreme example of a woman who has never had the chance to vote for a woman representative. There are women in England who have never had the chance to vote for a woman to represent them. That woman can, if she wishes, vote only for women representatives, taking those from her own party first and then perhaps those from another party. Someone from an ethnic minority can do the same with regard to his choice of candidate. The evidence from countries where STV is used shows that any proportional system tends to assist the election of women but STV is particularly effective in assisting with the election of women and those from ethnic minorities. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, did not respond to that point when my noble friend mentioned it.

Further, I disagree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. I am rather a "nerd" on this subject and I shall not bore the Committee by describing the whole system. We elect all our committee members at a national level on STV. The votes are counted from those who have the most votes downwards. Anyone who has more votes than he or she needs to get elected—that is, more than their quota—finds that the excess votes trickle down. Therefore the most popular people are elected first. It is not a case of the least popular people being elected first. The people who are elected are those who have accumulated the most votes. People do not necessarily understand how the voting system works. It favours those who have the most support, not those with less support.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I cannot let that pass. When I was in Australia at Easter I was shown the size of the single transferable vote list for the Senate. It was as big as an enormous tablecloth. That is the kind of thing one gets when matters reach a ridiculous level.

I was elected to the General Dental Council on the basis described by the noble Baroness. That still does not alter my view. I do not think that I was necessarily the most popular person but I was fortunate enough to be elected on a single transferable vote when, at a certain time, there was a need to elect one dentist to represent general practitioners. I am not convinced and my arguments still stand.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I am sure that when the noble Baroness was elected to that committee she was one of its most respected members.

Lord Whitty

With due respect to both august bodies, I am not sure that the internal committee of the Liberal Democrat Party or the General Dental Council are good models for how we should run London in the future.

As to the noble Baroness's first point, I strongly recognise the need to ensure that minorities are represented.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I really must stop talking about women as a minority. I am talking about getting elected to elected bodies people who are not normally elected. That is the point I was making. STV gives people the chance to do that.

Lord Whitty

I accept that. I thought we were talking about the under-represented part of the community, whether they are women, ethnic minorities or other minorities. It depends on the size of the STV constituency whether or not an STV system makes that easier. If political parties are committed to greater representation of women or ethnic minorities, a topping-up list system is a very effective way of increasing their representation. That is an opportunity the political parties in London will have through the London-wide election lists.

Lord Tope

The Minister began by suggesting that there was some possible difference of view between myself and Menzies Campbell about the benefits of PR systems. That is a conceptual impossibility. There is no difference between us at all. We believe that any genuine proportional system is better than the first-past-the-post system but that some proportional systems are better than others. That is a perfectly clear and consistent view. It has always been and remains our preferred option to use the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. Where that is not achievable—either because of an intransigent government or for other reasons—then an alternative proportional system is certainly still preferable to first-past-the-post. If we fail to get into the Bill the best electoral system, we will undoubtedly end up supporting the second or third best, or whatever grade one gives to the system proposed. At least that will produce a proportional result in spite of the defects that I and my noble friend have spoken to. Although my noble friend tells me rather late in the day that she is a "nerd" on these subjects—I wonder if "nerd" is a parliamentary term—I am sure she could have moved the amendment far better than I.

The Minister made a number of points. He referred to larger constituencies. That is certainly true. "Constituency" is an electoral term. I accept that we are talking more accurately about sub-regional areas in the London context. I accept that they are much larger areas. We spent some time earlier arguing very strongly that this is a strategic authority whose members must take a strategic view. The word "parochial" was used. It is not a word I would wish to use, particularly in relation to boroughs, but too local, too parochial a view would at best inhibit a truly strategic view. That is the argument for having larger constituencies—sub-regional areas, if you like—represented by a number of members who will work together for the interest, where appropriate, of that larger area, but still large enough to have a strategic impact on the future of London. As one would expect, there are fierce debates, even rivalries, quite properly, between east London, west London, north London and south London. That will continue. We do not want to make it into too small an area.

The Minister said that I referred to the possibility—I certainly meant to say it—of the danger of two types of members of the assembly emerging and that I then retreated from it. I do not think I retreated from it. It is a fear I have. I expressed the hope that it will not happen; that is not the same as retreating. I hope that it will not happen; I fear that it might. We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour. She indicated that if the Scottish experience is borne out and continues, that may well happen. I can envisage arguments about expenses at an early stage. Constituency members will argue that they need higher expenses because they have constituents to deal with; London members will argue that their constituents are the whole population of London. They both will be right.

I hope very much that such arguments will not happen. I do not want to see that emerge—I do not want to be a part of that in any way—but it is a fear I have. It is a situation we could avoid by adopting the eminently sensible and particularly democratic system—which will apply very well in the small strategic authority for London we are debating—of the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies.

I am not sure whether the Minister expressed a hope or an expectation when he said that we will return to this subject again. I do not wish to disappoint him but, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 13 not moved.]

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 2, line 20, after ("election") insert ("under the alternative vote system")

The noble Baroness said: We are now moving to the amendments on which the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, felt we would have our discussion on the different systems of voting. The amendments are not concerned with voting for members under the STV system but propose that the election of the mayor shall be by alternative voting and not by the supplementary vote system proposed in the Bill.

Amendment No. 14 inserts the first mention of the new system in Clause 2 at page 2, line 20, of the Bill; Amendment Nos. 24 and 25 change references from "supplementary" to "alternative" votes as a consequence of Amendment No. 14. Amendment No. 26 removes the reference to a vote being transferred to only first and second candidates. Here we come to the crux of the amendment—to which I shall return later—namely, that under an alternative vote system the voter has more than two choices. Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 substitute the counting system for alternative votes for the explanation of supplementary votes in Schedule 2 to the Bill.

Supplementary votes and alternative votes are both systems for electing one person from a field of many or several candidates. Even the supplementary vote has only a marginally more proportional effect than the first-past-the-post system. Under the supplementary vote, voters can mark their ballot papers with a cross for their first choice and another for their second choice. Even so, the person elected may not have received 50 per cent of the vote. Under the alternative vote, voters rank the candidates in order of preference and, because of the system of counting, the winning candidate will have the support of more than half of the voters.

We believe that the mayor should be elected using the alternative vote because it would give the mayor a better grounding, a better foundation, in terms of the support of a large percentage of the population of London. In addition, election by supplementary vote involves a form of guesswork, because the voter must guess which of the other candidates will be knocked out and which will remain after the first round of counting. If he or she does not vote for one of those who still remain, their second vote is lost. So it will not increase their chance of having voted for the mayor. As a consequence, the supplementary vote does not eliminate tactical voting.

Interestingly enough, the Government's Green Paper, New Leadership for London, did not mention the supplementary vote for the election of the mayor, but suggested three options: first-past-the-post; second ballot and alternative vote. The second ballot is like the supplementary vote, but it does not require the voter to guess. The voter who votes in the second ballot knows the candidates who still remain in the field and he or she can pick the one of his or her choice.

The alternative vote was proposed as an option in the Green Paper and yet, without there being any mention of the supplementary vote in the Green Paper, it was introduced in the White Paper as a simplified version of the alternative vote. Why does the Minister think that Londoners need a simplified version? I suppose that we might reliably anticipate there being candidates from the three major political parties represented in this House. Presumably there would be a green candidate, and possibly a BNP candidate. There might be one or two others, but the number of candidates can be restricted in any voting system by the conditions which are imposed for the nomination process. So it would probably be possible to limit the candidates to a sensible number.

If the Government are telling us that Londoners are not clever enough to rank five or six people in the order of their preference, all I can say is that that gives a rather poor impression of the respect with which the residents and voters of London are treated. I believe that the supplementary vote may have been introduced into the Bill because it is a cheaper version of the second ballot. It does not require a person to go and vote again, as is done in France on the second ballot procedure. We feel that it is very important to have a system for election for the mayor which guarantees that the maximum number of people have supported the candidacy of the particular person who wins that election. That is why we support the alternative vote system for electing the mayor, rather than the system suggested by the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

It is on occasions like this that I miss my noble friend Lord Plant of Highfield, who would take us through the intricacies of the various systems of voting, as he did some years ago when he convinced me of the importance of the supplementary vote system. I am sure that the same arguments still apply. The reason that we have proposed the supplementary vote system here is not that it is cheaper, or that it is simpler for Londoners to understand, or even that it would give a better result for the Labour Party, as some have alleged. The reason is that the supplementary vote system, as distinct from the alternative vote system, could in certain circumstances, if candidates are ranked one to five, lead to a situation where the third or fourth most popular candidate would in fact win. In the STV system this applies for the second, third and fourth elected candidates rather than the first. But here we are discussing the alternative vote system.

The supplementary vote system, where you vote for your first and second choice, is a two-ballot decision all in one. Whereas under the French system you do not know who the candidates will be in the second ballot, you will know who all the candidates will be in the election for the mayor. If the second votes are transferred, the system would give a majority to the successful candidate. In this the first election of a mayor of London, with a directly elected executive role, it is important that the method of election attunes itself as clearly as possible to the expressed views of the electorate. We want a strong mayor with whom people can identify, and whom they feel they have chosen. If we were to go on to the alternative vote system, under which in certain circumstances it would be possible for a third or fourth preference to be elected, that could seriously undermine the credibility and the mandate of the mayor. We do not believe that that is the best way forward.

I accept that the noble Baroness considers, as do various political parties in Australia, that the alternative vote system, with all its slight perversities, gives everyone a say, but it does not necessarily result in the election of the candidate who is the most popular and has the strongest mandate. The absolute objective of any system for introducing a mayor of London is that the population who voted in London can believe that whatever the system, the most popular candidate was elected. That could be jeopardised by a full alternative vote system. I ask the noble Baroness to consider that point and not to press the amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

The Minister wished for the attendance of the noble Lord, Lord Plant. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Plant, might be on our side of the argument and not on the Minister's side. Furthermore, the noble Lord should not tempt me to argue about the effects of STV by making inaccurate statements about it. However, I shall ignore that challenge. I certainly would never allege that the Government had chosen a system of election because they thought it might benefit them.

The perversity of the supplementary voting system arises when, for example, four candidates have fought an election and have come very close together in that election. The votes of the candidate with the fewest votes would be redistributed, but the people who had voted for that candidate might have no sensation that their second choice had been considered because they might have given their second vote to the person who is ultimately elected. The person who is ultimately elected can be elected with less than 50 per cent of the poll. That is the disadvantage of the system.

I do not think it is worth going into a long argument about this issue. I would simply point out that in the 1930s a Bill was introduced into this Parliament to provide the supplementary vote system for elections in this country. During the passage of the Bill the method was changed from SV to AV and the Bill was abandoned after a disagreement with the House of Lords. Indeed, AV is also used for the election of the Irish President, a person who almost inevitably commands the support and respect of the majority of his or her countrymen. However, perhaps this is not the time to go into all the intricacies of the system. I suspect that we may well come back to this amendment. Therefore, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 15 to 17 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

7 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi)

I have to inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 18 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 19.

Schedule 1 [Assembly constituencies and orders under section 2(4)]:

[Amendments Nos. 18 to 22 not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Voting at ordinary elections]:

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 30 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 4, line 13, leave out subsection (10) and insert— ("(10) At an ordinary election a person may not be both a candidate to be an Assembly member and a candidate for Mayor or Deputy Mayor.")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 31, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 39. Both cover an identical point in different parts of the Bill. There is a clear objection to a system which can almost automatically create a by-election. A candidate for mayor or as an assembly member should not in effect have two bites at the cherry. He should make up his mind which he wants to be and if he fails in his first choice, well, that is politics and he should finish up with nothing, at least for that election.

If we draw an analogy with the United States of America, if a senator wishes to stand for president he has to resign his seat. These amendments are entirely consistent with the provisions that the Government have included in the Bill in connection with the filling of a casual vacancy in the office of a constituency assemblyman. Clause 10(10) says: (10) A person may not be a candidate at an election to fill a vacancy if he is

  1. (a) the Mayor;
  2. (b) an Assembly member; or
  3. (c) a candidate in another such election".

Similarly, in the case of a vacancy in the office of mayor, Clause 16(10), which has been included in the Bill by the Government, says: (10) A person may not be a candidate in an election to fill a vacancy in the office of Mayor if he is a candidate in an election to fill a vacancy in an Assembly constituency".

In other words, the Government have already legislated against candidates trying to ride two horses at once in the case of by-elections. We agree with that, but the same principle has to apply for the sake of consistency to the original elections as well. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

These amendments would prohibit a person from standing simultaneously as a candidate for both mayor and the assembly. I agree with the noble Baroness that it would be unacceptable for someone actually to serve simultaneously both as mayor and as an assembly member. The Bill makes provision to prevent such circumstances arising. Clause 4(7) specifies that: The persons who are to be returned as—

  1. (a) the Mayor, and
  2. (b) the constituency members,
must be determined before it is determined who are to be returned as the London members". This means that in those circumstances where someone has stood for mayor and is also on the party list and has gained enough votes to win both elections, that person would be returned as mayor and discounted from the allocation of London member seats. If someone was returned for an assembly constituency he or she would also drop out from the London member seat election.

In addition, if someone was elected as mayor and as an assembly constituency member, the Bill makes provision for action should a vacancy occur in the constituency seats. However, it would be heavy-handed and serve no practical purpose to prevent people standing as a candidate in both elections. I can well imagine a situation in which the party's leading lights would wish to contest both the mayoral and assembly elections. If those candidates lost the mayoral election it would be perverse to have them already rendered ineligible for consideration as assembly members. I would therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I thank the noble Baroness for her explanation. I believe I understand what she is saying—that if standing for mayor and as one of the London members, a person would automatically come off the list after being elected as mayor. I understand that, but I think the situation is different if the person is standing as a constituency member. If that person were to be elected mayor, then as I understand it there would automatically have to be a by-election, and that is what we are trying to suggest should not happen. I may perhaps have misunderstood and would be grateful if the noble Baroness could comment on the point.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My understanding is that the Bill prohibits anyone from standing in more than one assembly constituency, but no prohibition has been placed on standing both for the mayor and the assembly. There seems to be little reason to constrain individuals from doing that.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I have to confess that I do not agree with that, because one would be causing a by-election just as we are starting at the very beginning of it all. As I said, in America if a senator wants to stand as president, he has first to withdraw from being a senator. I would have thought that perhaps it would be more sensible for us to consider that as a pattern. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I may wish to pursue the matter at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Voting at elections]:

[Amendments Nos. 32 to 36 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 182, line 27, at end insert ("no later than 55 days prior to the date set for the ordinary election")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 37 I should like to speak to Amendment No. 40. The latter amendment is a technical one, largely dependent on the passing of Amendment No. 37. Its object is to make the necessary amendments to the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 consequential on the passing of Amendment No. 37. The 1998 Act, as your Lordships may recall, was expressly passed to make way for proportional representation by party list: that is, the system which has just been used for the European elections.

Even though Amendment No. 40 is largely related to Amendment No. 37, it also serves to tidy up the 1998 Act by setting a time limit for the registration of a political party for a particular election, which will always be on a fixed date. I need not say more about that amendment because, as I say, it is mainly to provide the machinery connected with Amendment No. 37. I suggest the amendment to your Lordships for separate consideration. Amendment No. 37 adds 14 words to paragraph 5(2). It requires the names of persons that a party wishes to have on its list of London candidates to be submitted to the returning officer no later than 55 days before the date of that election.

The first matter to be borne in mind is that the date of that election is fixed, unlike the date of a general election, and the date is certainly known for years ahead. The parties therefore have a long period in which to select their list of candidates and to place them in their order of preference. However, I would suggest that it is important for the voters and the media to have the opportunity to become aware of who the candidates are and to check their antecedents, if that is what they wish.

In the ordinary local and parliamentary elections it is common—indeed the normal practice—for voters to know or to be able to find out, if they are interested, who their candidates are. More often than not it is the incumbent who is standing again. However, under this new alien system which has just been introduced, we no longer vote for a candidate but for a party. Which candidates are likely to be elected for that party depends on how high they are placed on the list. So while the names of the candidates are not of interest on a personal basis, it is important for a voter to know the order of the candidates. In this kind of election it is vital for the public to know that as soon as possible. This amendment would make the parties commit themselves to the running order as soon as it is possible to do so. Since a member of the public cannot in the polling booth exercise a personal choice among the candidates of the party, then he ought at least to know the kind of package for which he is voting. Even a lifelong supporter member of, let us say, the Moon is Made of Green Cheese Party might decide not to vote fix that party on discovering that his vote will help to put someone whom he absolutely detests into the assembly.

This amendment does nothing except further the democratic process if we are to have PR by the party list system foisted upon us. I did not intercede on any of the groups of amendments on the voting systems, but the Government will know the view of this side of the Committee in favour of first-past-the-post.

The amendment sets a viable time limit on the selection of the lists and of their running order 10 reduce the time for internal party machinations and wrangling. Above all, my intention is to concentrate the minds of the parties on who their candidates shall be, so that they can get on as soon as possible with the issues of the campaign. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I was slightly taken aback by the apparent reference of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, to people who were failing to get publicity in advance of the closing date for nominations and people not knowing who was interested in standing. I should have thought that in some cases people are only too aware of who is interested in standing.

I have listened with great interest to the noble Baroness's explanation of the reason for these amendments, but I cannot feel that they would add value to the Bill. The amendments propose to place a requirement on the Registrar of Political Parties to register a political party which intends to contest the GLA election and which has applied to him for registration before 31st January, no later than 70 days before the date of an ordinary election. Ten weeks before the first Thursday in May would give a date in late February, giving the registrar effectively three weeks in which to register a late-arriving application.

While I am sure that that would not present problems for the registrar, given that his own aim is to decide straightforward applications within five days, I can see no need for such a requirement. It is certainly not justified by the registrar's performance so far. Even where the registrar has referred difficult or sensitive cases to the Advisory Committee on the Registration of Political Parties, there has been no significant delay in the registration process. Why, therefore, impose on the registrar a requirement so far in excess of his actual practice and which does not exist in respect of any other election? Admittedly the amendment does not include the proviso that failure would lay the registrar or the returning officer open to action; even so, I am bound to say that I doubt the value of the proposal.

The requirement is not therefore needed in practice. Nor has it been imposed in relation to any other election. It seems an odd proposal to modify the Registration of Political Parties Act to impose a time requirement on the registrar which exists in respect of no other election. For that reason alone I would oppose it.

I was similarly in some difficulty trying to understand why it was thought a good idea to have the party lists with the returning officer between eight and 12 weeks before the poll, when the normal time-scale for local elections would only call for their delivery four or five weeks before the poll. The time-scale for these matters is normally set out in election rules, rather than enshrined in primary legislation; and it is our intention, once Royal Assent to the Bill has been received, to lay before the House election rules based on the local government principal area rules.

No special time-scale was imposed on the submission of lists for the AMS elections conducted recently in Scotland and Wales for their national assemblies and I have not so far heard any compelling argument in favour of doing so for the GLA election.

Having heard the noble Baroness's explanation, I am still far from convinced either that this is a matter which needs to be dealt with by primary legislation or that it is a good idea. I therefore invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I shall read what the Minister has said. My concern is with London. It is not what happened in Scotland and Wales, or in the European elections. I am concerned that we get it absolutely right for London. I should like to think that the noble Baroness agrees that that is the matter of most concern.

This new system is not unique—it has now been used three times—but the fact remains that it is completely different and new to London. Another point mentioned today by journalists in regard to the European elections is that it is believed that one of the reasons the Government did not do particularly well in Scotland, for example, is that some voters did not like the deals that resulted from the election of the Scottish Parliament. I merely mention that en passant. It is important for people to know in good time which candidates will be on the list. That might obviate the cause for such comment. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Amos

I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.15 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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