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Scotland Bill

8.38 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 4.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 40):

Page 3, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) The list shall appear on each ballot paper.
( ) The order of names on the list shall be determined by the party, except that the regional returning officer shall rotate the list such that the name of each candidate of the party appears at the top of the list on approximately the same number of ballot papers issued at the election as every other candidate of the party.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 40 I shall speak also to grouped amendments. This debate is about the names on the ballot paper. I shall be praying in aid the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale. I have notes of her comments in a recent debate.

Let me take the Committee back a stage to the additional member system. The voter will be voting on a second ballot paper which will be entirely on a party basis--except for those lucky independents who will be able to put their names on the ballot paper--the Government having resisted my amendment that we should have names on the ballot paper for the additional member system. This amendment takes us to a position where we will have to have names on the ballot paper, thereby giving the electors the opportunity to choose the candidate they wish to represent them. On an open list system, instead of voting for a party on the second ballot paper, one will be confronted with the names of the 12 candidates of the party. In order to vote for the party one will place the "X" before the name most approved of. For example, at the risk of further embarrassment to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, if it is the list he is on, no doubt your Lordships, if you live in his area, will flock to vote for the Labour Party. But, more than that, you will not be voting for the Labour Party; you will be voting for the noble Lord, Lord Sewel. The great strength of this is that it allows people to vote outside their party allegiance for someone they consider to be of merit and who they think ought to be in the Scottish parliament even if that person is not in their party.

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Under the normal first-past-the-post system, I suspect that most people will do as they always do and vote for the party of their choice regardless of who the candidate is, even if they do so with closed eyes in some cases. But in the second vote they will have the ability to move their vote around. That does not mean simply moving it around between parties. It means deciding, "I would prefer to give my second vote to the Liberal Democrat Party because the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is top of the list for that party" or "Perhaps I will not give my vote to the Liberal Democrat Party because I do not wish to give it to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso." I think that people should be entitled to decide who in their party's list they wish to vote for. That is proper democracy. It is giving the people choice.

Earlier today, when I wanted to reduce the number of votes from two to one, the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, told me that I was absolutely wrong because the Government wanted to give people choice. She is still in favour of that. The choice people will have in the second ballot is Labour Party, Liberal Democrat Party, Scottish National Party, Conservative Party or, if there is an independent, the independent. That is the choice they will have. If they vote for the Labour Party they will get whoever is number one on the Labour Party's list. If they vote for the Tory party they will get whoever is number one. The same is true for the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. They will have no choice at all. It will be Hobson's choice.

So the noble Baroness's words, which she used so eloquently against me in the first debate, come back to haunt her. I see now that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, has been put up to defend this one. Well, that shows a certain amount of cunning on behalf of the Government because the noble Baroness would have had to eat her own words. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, does not have to bother about digesting the noble Baroness's words. However, the noble Baroness said on behalf of the Government that they were interested in choice. Yet the closed list system gives the electorate no choice at all. If they vote for the Labour Party, they get the list determined in Walworth Road by Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. That is the blunt fact of the matter. That is the list they get. They do not get any choice at all.

I do not think that is right. If we are to go down the road of the additional member system I think the electorate should have some say about who their additional member is going to be. Your Lordships know that I do not want to go down this road. I am a first-past-the-post man. Even when it produces results that my party does not like in one election, I still think that it is the simplest and best system. It is not the most difficult thing in the world. All that happens is that after the ballot papers are collected the returning officer counts up the votes for each candidate. All the Labour candidates are added together and that is the total Labour vote. The same is true for the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and the Scottish Nationalists. The d'Hondt principle is then applied. Let us assume, for a moment, that the Labour Party gets three members in the additional member system. The returning officer then goes to the list and looks at the three the electorate have chosen--not the party but

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the electorate. He says, "Who is the first choice of the people who voted Labour? It is so-and-so." That is the first elected. He then says who is the second choice and the third choice.

That is called the open list and I believe it is well called. It is the most open system. It does not allow the decisions about the list to be left to the party and the patronage of the party. We have all seen the patronage of the governing party and how it has operated. Members of Parliament down the corridor who have represented Labour constituencies successfully for years have been put off the list because they are not considered to be sound people, new Labour or whatever it may be. I have to say that those who heard Mr. Dennis Canavan's speech last night will be very puzzled as to why he is not a fit person to represent the Labour Party in the Scottish parliament.

It is important that the electorate has some choice. The noble Baroness made much of that. It is now up to the Government to honour her words and explain why they are so determined to give the electorate absolutely no choice at all. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: I am glad to hear once more the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. It might have been more logical had he not forced a vote on the list whereby we are now talking rather illogically. In this Committee we have hitherto been talking in a reasonable manner and exploring a number of possibilities. Now we have closed the door on one possibility. The noble Lord called a Division and was defeated. He referred to the order of the names on the list. If you really want confusion you should tell the returning officer that he must rotate all the names of all the parties in proportion. That appears to be as illogical as the noble Lord's calling of a Division on the previous point.

Perhaps I may speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 50, 62 and 68. They are designed to do the very thing the noble Lord was talking about--to give choice. Amendment No. 50 refers to a candidate who is a member of a registered political party which has submitted a regional list. Clause 7(4) states:

    "Seats for the region which are allocated to a registered political party shall be filled by the persons in the party's regional list".

We say that it should be done in the order as voted by the electors on the paper.

Printing a list is different from printing a ballot paper. We are asking for a ballot paper and not a simple list. If the noble Lord will back me on that, at least we will have something logical to proceed on. Amendment No. 62 introduces a real element of democracy. I do not accept the argument that it is too complicated. It certainly means printing lists from all four parties. It certainly means electors have to understand that when they vote for a name they have only one vote and they vote for that party. But that should be simple. If the Irish have worked for years with STV, surely the Scots can manage? I do not suggest for a moment that we are superior in intellect to the Irish. Or do I mean that? I do

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not really know. The system has worked well in Ireland. There should be no question of the voters of Scotland not working the system.

The question of a list of candidates in their order of merit being produced by party headquarters is one that worries people enormously. The point was eloquently put by my noble friend Lady Linklater. It is a great worry in people's minds. The events in the governing party have exacerbated that feeling. We must take account of it in Scotland. It is not enough to say that you have one vote in your constituency and one vote for a party. People have got to come into it. These amendments try to bring people into it. They mean printing, they mean explaining, and they mean producing a decent ballot paper and putting it over. It is worth it if it satisfies the voters that they are voting not only for a party but also for the people within that party and that they are not at the mercy of party headquarters.

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