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Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 3, line 25, at end insert ("who shall publish the list at the earliest available opportunity and ensure that it is clearly displayed at each polling station in the Assembly electoral region.").

The noble Lord said: This is a fairly simple amendment to ensure that the returning officer publishes the list. Along with my noble friend Lady Young, I believe that the entire PR system as drafted by the Government will come as a considerable surprise, if not a shock, to the Welsh electorate. They are not accustomed to voting simply for a political party. They like to have the ability to choose between candidates. They like to know their representative personally. They are now to be confronted with a closed list system in the five electoral regions for the election of 20 assembly members. They will have to vote for a party and a list of candidates standing in its name. They will not know the party's order of preference for its candidate unless the party chooses to reveal it. Personally, I should have preferred an open list where the votes are cast for individual party representatives rather than the parties themselves. However, that is not the Government's proposal. As I understand it, they have decided against what I call the Belgian system or, indeed, any adaptation of it.

It seems to me that the least we can do on the face of the Bill is to insist that the regional returning officer "shall publish" the lists of party candidates when they are submitted to him. It is possible that the parties will

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do so in any case, but they are under no statutory obligation. We certainly believe that Welsh electors are entitled to know, when they vote for a particular party, who may be elected to the assembly as a result of their vote.

There is, of course, a further reason for publication of the lists; namely, their continuing importance in the period between elections in the event of a vacancy occurring among the additional members in a particular region. The successor will be the next on the list from which the vacating member has withdrawn. Obviously, it is important that he should know just where he stands on the list in between elections. I commend the amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In my response, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16. I believe that the noble Lord's remarks have a good deal of validity. We are indeed considering a number of options, including the suggestions which are described and encompassed in Amendment No. 15. In the London referendum, the ballot paper question was shown on a notice in every polling station and on every polling station compartment. We are looking at the possibility of doing something similar as regards displaying party lists.

However, we have to be careful that we do not prejudice the chances of independent candidates who may also want to stand for the electoral regions. The answer to the question posed earlier by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, which I was not in a position to deal with at the time, is yes. There will be the opportunity for independents to stand for election. We must ensure that we look after the independent candidates rather than just flooding them with information about the party lists.

Some polling stations are very small; indeed, they are only caravans. So we shall also need to consider that. Our officials are discussing the practicalities of the suggestions made by the noble Lord with representatives of the elections administrators in Wales. I hope that the noble Lord will find that a helpful response. My only lasting and continuing regret is the fact that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale is, yet again, not present in the Chamber when I am being accommodating to suggested amendments.

As regards publishing the lists as soon as possible after their having been submitted, I am bound to say that, in principle, that seems a thoroughly sensible idea. After all, at parliamentary elections, the acting returning officer is required to publish a statement of the persons nominated once the period of making objections to nominations has expired. We shall need to make similar provision for the assembly elections, and we are considering the practicalities of putting into effect the general approach which has been indicated most helpfully by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts.

There are details involved, but not unimportant ones. We are in the process of drawing up an assembly elections procedure order which will lay down the rules and regulations for the conduct of the assembly elections. That is the appropriate vehicle, but it can only approach putting principle into effect if we consider

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with care the ideas which have been put forward. I assure Members of Committee and the noble Lord that we shall do so. The elections order is intended to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in this Chamber and in the other place. We anticipate it being presented to Parliament before the end of this year. Therefore, I give my undertaking--I hope, co-operatively--that we shall look at the suggestions made, which I certainly regard as constructive. That being so, I shall ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment in due course.

Amendment No. 16 is essentially technical. It specifies that the list submitted to a regional returning officer by a political party has legal force for the purposes of the coming election to which it relates and remains in force for the term of the assembly elected at that election. So the lists submitted to the regional returning officer will be used for allocating any additional member seats to which the parties may be entitled. The appropriate party list will be used to determine the filling of vacancies in electoral region seats between ordinary elections. I hope that my amendment is regarded as a helpful one. I believe that it is entirely consistent with the observations put forward by the noble Lord when he proposed Amendment No. 15. Therefore, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. We look forward to the further development of the idea of publishing the lists. I shall be only too happy to withdraw my amendment.

However, with regard to the Government's amendment, to which the noble Lord has just spoken and the validity of the list in between elections, my impression is that the party has to be notified in the first instance, rather than the returning officer, if the candidate chooses to withdraw. It seems to me that all the emphasis is on the party in that context and that not enough regard is being paid to the interests of the individuals on the list. Indeed, a great deal can happen to individuals on the list in the course of the best part of four years between elections. It seems to me that there should be some provision whereby a candidate can withdraw without necessarily going through the party. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 3, line 25, at end insert--
("( ) The list has effect in relation to--
(a) the ordinary election, and
(b) any vacancies in seats of Assembly members returned for Assembly electoral regions which occur after that election and before the next ordinary election.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 3, leave out lines 32 and 33.

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The noble Lord said: I indicated earlier that the principal reason for this group of amendments was that they teamed up with the previous group, in respect of which I discussed the problem of manipulation of the double-ballot system. I said then that I probably would not move these amendments unless something occurred to me. I have to say that something has indeed occurred to me, which I should like to share with Members of the Committee. I ask the Minister not merely to comment upon it but, even more importantly, to think upon it.

Towards the tail end of my observations on the last amendment, I said that I doubted whether an independent candidate would ever be able to achieve enough votes on the four-member additional system by the d'Hondt method to succeed in being elected. I do indeed think so in the case of a genuine independent. However, having got myself into a devious frame of mind as a result of the last amendment, it occurs to me that a person posing as an independent candidate, who in fact is a member of a considerable party worthy of high repute, could decide to stand as an independent in the additional member system.

The advantage would occur only in seats like the one that I instanced for north-west Wales when the Labour Party--indeed, it could be any of our parties--won such a significant share of the first-past-the-post seats that it really was not achieving any additional member seats. For example, Mr. Ron Davies, who has achieved devolution for Wales, might decide that he could easily stand in north-west Wales as an independent candidate. In that second vote, the Labour votes would no longer be wasted; they could all vote for Ron of the assembly. I presume that is how these things happen in Wales, or at least it does in the films about Wales that I have watched. As I said, they could all vote for Ron of the assembly and he would get all those votes and would take one of the additional member seats. For the life of me I cannot see any way that could be avoided.

I accept that that example is slightly flippant, but it is not completely flippant. Someone could be elected because of his or her well-known prominence as a member of a political party and through taking the independent route on the additional member system, safe in the knowledge that he was so well known by the supporters of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, or Plaid Cymru, that he would achieve more than enough votes in the second ballot from his own party members to enable him to gain a seat via the d'Hondt system.

I accept that the fertile minds in the Welsh Office have probably not come up with this particular wrinkle. The Minister may perhaps wish to reflect on it. I would be grateful to hear his thoughts on what I think is a less likely way round the system than the one I mentioned a few minutes ago, but nevertheless I believe that it exists. I beg to move.

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