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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble and learned Lord sits down, is he saying that the Government are not going to think any more about this matter because they do not accept that there is a great flaw in their arrangements, even though they do not like my noble friend's suggestions? I accept that there are disadvantages in what my noble friend has said, but are the Government not going to give any more thought to this problem? Are they totally satisfied?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Government have thought carefully about this. They are aware of the problem. All the proposals that have been put forward to deal with it, including those put forward by the noble Lord this afternoon--and all the others--in the Government's view are much worse than the alleged problem in their effect. Plainly, if someone provides a solution that deals with all the problems the Government will certainly think about it. They have given considerable thought to it. We do not have a closed mind, but we do not believe that any of the proposed solutions could possibly be better than the alleged problem.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I believe that we have made some progress. The noble and learned Lord has gone a good deal further than anyone on the Government Benches has gone before in both accepting the theoretical problem and admitting that the Government have looked at it with a view to finding a way to tackle it. I imagine that the search has been long and detailed; I cannot believe that it has not come up with some solution. Perhaps it lies in the Registration of Political Parties Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said. After today I shall perhaps have to turn my attention to that Bill and how I might amend it. I look forward to his support if some clever person arrives at a solution which might allow us to use the Registration of Political Parties Bill as a way of dealing with this issue.
Perhaps with the exception of the noble Lords, Lord Elis-Thomas and Lord Davies of Coity, no one has rejected my proposition that tactical voting could happen. Both noble Lords whom I have mentioned seem to believe that the electorate would not fall for it, but the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said that people would see through it and punish it. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour has reminded your Lordships, tactical voting is something which people are perfectly prepared to do. They are perfectly prepared to vote for a candidate of a party which they do not support in order to defeat somebody else of another party. I can assure your Lordships that it is a painful experience to be voted against tactically. There is not a great deal that one can do about it. It is a potent weapon in the hands of an intelligent electorate, which is what we have. Frankly, an electorate which uses its vote in a tactical way will not have a problem with using it in the way I suggest because that is all it is: it is tactical voting on a grand scale. I do not take comfort from the assurances that the electorate would see through it. Indeed, the fact that they would reinforces my fear that they will be happy to use it.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I believe that we all understand the problems that can arise and the difficulties with tactical voting. The question is how one finds a solution and at the same time retains the democratic process?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, people will still have the option of tactical voting in the first-past-the-post seats. The two-parties yet one-party problem that I am addressing is a product of the two-vote system. It does not exist in the one-vote system.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that I do not believe that Ian Davidson has been barred from the Scottish parliament because of this particular idea but because he does not actually accord with a new Labour clone. That is his problem and nothing to do with his views.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, that I am not dismantling the additional-member system. I attempted to do that by advocating that we retained the first-past-the-post system. We retain the additional member system. The additional members will be the "top up" members, so to speak, to restore any disproportionality that the first-past-the-post system has created.
Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Is he not denying the electorate the choice that the additional member system might be from a different party than was voted for in the first-past-the-post system?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, yes, I agree that I am doing that. After all, in our first-past-the-post system people are able to get around the problem by tactical voting, as they have done. I do not believe that that is an overwhelming answer. I am
I understand the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made about discouraging independence. But if an independent has enough pull it is likely to be on quite a localised basis. Therefore, he must have a far better chance of winning under the first-past-the-post system than he does if his pull has to be spread over a pretty wide region. I understand from the people who run these issues through computers that not one of the systems has so far produced a single independent victory anywhere. If one considers people as independent as Mr. Tommy Sheridan of the Socialist Workers' Party in Glasgow, who commands a pretty substantial vote, even calling him an independent does not succeed in getting him a seat. I believe that the advantage given to independence is more imagined than real.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, was kind enough to address the issue seriously and I am grateful for that. I look forward to some thought being given to the registration of political parties. As regards my two amendments with two different solutions, I do not accept his criticism of the 50-50 provision. There may be a slight error in drafting which a noble and learned Lord like himself can spot at 100 yards. I am sure that that can be easily sorted out. It would resolve the problem.
The better solution--because it resolves other problems as well and has some kind of parentage in reports such as that from the Hansard Society--is the single vote. I feel strongly about this. At this stage I would like to take the opinion of the House on the single vote. I assure the Government that I have no intention of asking for an opinion on the second amendment about the 50-50 provision.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.