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The Earl of Balfour: I am very happy with the explanation that the Minister has given. Will he look at the bottom of page 13 of the Bill? In Clause 23(3) there is reference to Section 3(4). Does that still apply? I am perhaps straying a little far ahead. In the last two lines there appears this paragraph,

That covers several sections. I simply do not understand the words at all. It is a technical point, but will the Minister look at it now before we reach Clause 23?

Lord Crickhowell: I wish to probe a little. The Minister gave a very reasonable explanation. One can see perfectly well that there may be very good reasons for altering the dates of elections on practical grounds. However the more I listened to what he had to say the more worried I became, but not because I expect that anything the Minister intends to do will be in the least improper. He provided a series of combinations at which one might arrive. When I went to cast my vote in the London elections last week, I was struck by how significant it was that they coincided with the election as to whether we should have a London mayor.

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If one has an election for one body in combination with another, that may have very considerable political significance. The point I am seeking to make is a very simple one. One can envisage a circumstance in which a Secretary of State, advised by the political party of which he is a member, might suggest that it would be helpful if an election for a particular body was held at exactly the same time as an election for another body.

I am not greatly comforted by the knowledge that he will have to consult with the assembly because it is quite possible that the Secretary of State might be of the same political party as those who presided over or dominated the affairs of the assembly. What worries me about what has been said is that there is at least some scope provided by this amendment for political manipulation.

I have no doubt that nothing was further from the mind of the Minister who introduced the amendment. I can quite see that there are practical considerations. I want to know how we can avoid the possibility that at some future date someone might decide that his or her party were more likely to win the election if it were held in combination with, say, a European election which would not actually fiddle the books.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: The Committee will be very grateful to the Minister for explaining the purpose of this amendment because we are always somewhat suspicious of orders, however well intentioned, that affect the workings of the Representation of the People Act and elections, albeit at the lowest level of local government. Community councils are very important. I am president of my local council's association in the Conwy Valley and I am well aware of the pride they take in their work and their role in local government.

I hope that the Solicitor-General can follow the detail of the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Balfour. As regards the point raised by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, there is tremendous scope here for political manipulation. Even as the Minister spoke about the combination of the assembly election with the unitary authority election on 6th May, which was part of his example, he raised the issue in one's mind of why that particular combination and why that of the community councils and Euro-elections on, possibly, 10th June.

We have a plethora of elections, but the combination gives scope for some political manipulation. One can well ask, for example, whether the assembly election is not more in tune with the European election, bearing in mind that although the Welsh European constituency is changing, nevertheless, we are making use of the old Euro constituencies for the assembly election. Therefore, I believe, that some further explanation is required.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Perhaps I may first deal with the perfectly legitimate point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour. Clause 23(3), to which he drew our attention, allows a power to make orders under Clause 3(4), which is the power to postpone community council elections. It allows them to be transferred to the assembly. If it is not transferred under the power in Clause 3(4), then the power remains to be exercised by the Secretary of State and

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only after consultation with the assembly. That is how the two interact. I hope that that explains the noble Earl's point.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, raised the point of political manipulation. That came into his head as he heard the explanation that was being given. Perhaps I may explain how the system works. Clause 3(4) gives the Secretary of State the power to postpone community council elections, and only that power. The amendment I have just moved gives the power that, if one postpones, the Secretary of State has the power to make sensible administrative arrangements.

The fear that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has raised must relate not to the amendment that I have moved, but to the power in Clause 3(4). It must be beyond argument that if one is going to be allowed to postpone, one must have the power to make sensible administrative arrangements that go along with it, such as the example that I gave of having a sensible timetable for nominations with which the administration running the elections can cope.

The example given exemplifies the need for Clause 3(4) which provides quite a limited power and relates only to community councils. If one does not have that kind of power one can end up with a large number of elections taking place at about the same time without the manpower to deal with them. It is as simple as that. The power that has been given to deal with that situation is about as limited a power as one could possibly give. It is sensible. There is not that much scope for manipulation. I believe that the matter has been thought through and it is the right conclusion.

Lord Crickhowell: I would like to consider very carefully what the Minister has said. The point only came to mind as I listened to his explanation of the clause. It is a risk that we need to avoid. I would like to consider what the Minister said and whether anything further needs to be done.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [Voting at ordinary elections]:

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

6.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, line 42, leave out from ("have") to end of line 9 on page 3 and insert ("one vote (referred to in this Act as a constituency vote).
(2) The constituency vote is to be given for a candidate to be the Assembly member for the Assembly constituency.
(3) Each registered political party which has submitted a list of candidates to be Assembly members for the Assembly electoral region in which the Assembly constituency is included shall also be assigned a number of votes to be known as "additional member votes".
(3A) The number of additional member votes assigned to each party shall be the same as the number of constituency votes cast for the candidate of the party in that constituency.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 11 and the amendments with which it is grouped relate to the two-vote system which the Government introduce in this

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Bill and the Scottish Bill. I believe that the amendments from Amendment No. 17 onwards should be grouped with Amendment No. 11 because the former deal with an individual candidate in the second ballot. Clearly, if my proposition in Amendment No. 11 succeeds, one would not have individual candidates in the second ballot. Therefore, unless something comes to my notice during the Minister's reply, I shall continue to believe that Amendment No. 17 and those grouped with it should be grouped with Amendment No. 11 also.

We are to have a two-vote system. In the first instance, one will enter the polling station and vote in the normal way for party candidates, perhaps even for an independent candidate, and the result will be decided by means of the traditional first-past-the-post method. There will be a second ballot paper on which one will be asked to vote for a party. I believe that that will also contain a box for independent candidates, but I am a little unclear about that because this system has so many variations. Once the party votes on the second ballot are added up, the proportionality system, which the Committee will consider later, will be used to check the total proportionality, including the first-past-the-post members. Up to four top-ups will be allowed to try to bring the totality within the European constituency up to proportionality.

Your Lordships may regard that as fairly straightforward and believe that there is no way that it can be fiddled. I am sorry to use the word "fiddled" again in case it brings the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, to his feet. If he waits a little while, he may agree that I have some justification in this instance for suggesting that the system is very much open to considerable fiddling and fixing. In my view, it is open to huge abuse.

I believe that the easiest way to illustrate that is to take the Euro-constituency of Wales North as at 1992, for the very straightforward reason that my party managed to win two seats then. For the purposes of the argument, my party needs to have won a seat or two under the first-past-the-post system. In that Euro-constituency in 1992, the Labour Party would have gained four seats, the Conservatives two, the Liberal Democrats none--I assure the noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches that I did not pick this example deliberately--and Plaid Cymru two. Clearly, I wish to influence the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in the example that I have taken.

One must assume that the votes in the first and second ballots are the same. That may not be a justifiable assumption, but the matter must be approached in that way because that is all the information that is available. If one then calculates the four additional members, the Labour Party would get one additional member, the Conservatives two, the Liberal Democrats one and Plaid Cymru none. That seat would have a total of five Labour, four Conservative, one Liberal Democrat and two Plaid Cymru members.

Because I believe that this system is open to fiddling I have decided to play a tune. My tune is that in Wales the Conservative Party decides to divide itself. Some of my friends set up the Welsh conservative party; others

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set up the Welsh unionist party. We succeed in being registered as separate political parties. That is an assumption; we have not yet seen the Bill about the registering of political parties and it may not be possible. However, I ask the Committee to assume for the moment that that is possible. The Conservative Party will not appear on the second ballot paper and the unionist party will not put up any candidates on the first ballot paper. When the AMS system is calculated, the Labour Party will achieve no additional members, while the unionists will achieve three and the Liberal Democrats will still manage one. The total will be: four Labour (as opposed to five), five Conservatives and unionists (as opposed to four), one Liberal Democrat and two Plaid Cymru members.

Perish the thought that the Labour Party decides to register two separate parties, one the Welsh labour party and the other the Welsh co-operative party, to take a name from history. When that calculation is made, three co-operative members, no conservatives, one Liberal Democrat and no Plaid Cymru members would be on the AMS list. The result of that particular piece of fiddling would be the election of seven Labour and co-operative members, with two Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat and two Plaid Cymru members. Noble Lords will see what I meant when I said in a previous debate that the proportional representational systems were open to endless fiddling.

In 1997 the position from a democratic point of view--dare I say it--would be even more dramatic. The Conservatives could not play this game because we did not win any first-past-the-post seats but, by jove, the Labour Party could play it on the assumption that it registered separate parties. The Labour Party would stand in the first-past-the-post ballot and the co-operative party would not. In the second vote, the Labour Party would not stand but the co-operative party would. In 1997 the position was that the Labour Party gained six seats, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats none and Plaid Cymru two. On the basis that the fiddle to which I referred did not occur and the Labour Party stood in both ballots, the Labour Party would have gained no additional members, the Conservatives three, the Liberal Democrats one and Plaid Cymru none. The end result would be six Labour, three Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat and two Plaid Cymru members. But if the Labour Party played the tune that I mentioned and set up a separate co-operative party, the additional member system would deliver three additional members to the co-operative party, one to the Conservative Party and--this is where the Liberal Democrats should be worried--none to the Liberal Democrats or to Plaid Cymru. Labour would gain nine seats, the Conservatives one, the Liberal Democrats none and Plaid Cymru two.

I believe that my arithmetic is pretty good. The premise on which I base it is: first, that the first and second votes fall the way that I have suggested; and, secondly, that the Conservative Party manages to split itself and register as the Conservative Party and as the unionist party and that the Labour Party registers as the Labour Party and as the co-operative party. I believe

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that in that event even the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, would agree with me that fiddling could occur in a very big way.

I would not like the Committee to believe that my devious mind had thought this up on its own. It has not, although it may have done eventually. My attention was drawn to some remarks made by Mr. Ian Davidson, the Labour Member for Glasgow Pollok, in which he said that it would be an excellent idea if a separate co-operative party registered and stood in a separate ballot and the Labour Party did not stand in the second ballot but only in the first. That idea has been floated. It may be that perhaps it is just my fellow countrymen who are particularly devious, but I suspect that the contagion may spread to Wales when people see that they can take advantage of the system.

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