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Lord Shepherd: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I hope I may ask him one question. The noble Lord will know that I put my name to the amendment in Committee and my heart is still very much with the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and the people of Gibraltar in this respect. I accept reluctantly the advice that the Minister has given in regard to the legal position. However, is it not a fact that when we reach the stage of the enlargement of the Community many wider aspects than merely the entry of countries into the Community will be discussed? If there is an opportunity then--as I believe there will be--will the Government pursue this matter with the greatest determination to see whether at that stage we can make lawful what the Government now believe to be unlawful?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I very much sympathise with what the noble Lord has said. I do not put this in a partisan way, but as regards the previous enlargement relevant to Spain there was an opportunity for these matters to be considered but the previous government did not take up that opportunity. I note what other noble Lords have said. It remains the position that to have a change one needs a proposal from the European Parliament, a unanimous decision in Council and then ratification by all member states. If we see an opportunity whereby we may persuade our European colleagues to take a different view then, of course, the Government will seriously consider and pursue that option. However, I stress that the mere fact of enlargement does not disturb the constitutional fragment of what is an instrument of treaty status binding in international law. I cannot say too often that we sympathise with the point of view put forward but simply to act unlawfully is not a proper response.

Lord Bethell: My Lords, I am afraid I find what the Minister has just said rather disappointing. I appreciate that he has received advice in a certain sense. I have read the United Kingdom's case as put before the Strasbourg court in Matthews v. UK. I must say that I found the UK's case unconvincing. I do not believe that what is proposed in this amendment is unlawful. There has not been a verdict by any court--as opposed to a commission--on this matter. It is not possible to say that what is proposed is unlawful. I agree with my noble friends Lord Henley and Lord Chesham that we as a House of Parliament are perfectly entitled to act in the interests of the people of Gibraltar, to whom we are duty bound to preserve their interests. I therefore hope that your Lordships will carry out that duty in the way that seems most appropriate to your consciences.

12 Oct 1998 : Column 711

3.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 114; Not-Contents, 125.

Division No. 1


Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Beloff, L.
Bethell, L. [Teller.]
Biddulph, L.
Biffen, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blatch, B.
Blyth, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carnock, L.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Cowdrey of Tonbridge, L.
Cranborne, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Dartmouth, E.
Davidson, V.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Exmouth, V.
Fookes, B.
Gage, V.
Gainford, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glenarthur, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Halsbury, E.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harlech, L.
Harrowby, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller.]
Hooper, B.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kitchener, E.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Leigh, L.
Long, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newall, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pender, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rawlings, B.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Romney, E.
Rotherwick, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Savile, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Sharples, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tenby, V.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Weatherill, L.
Whitelaw, V.
Wilcox, B.
Wise, L.


Addington, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Burlison, L.
Calverley, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dholakia, L.
Diamond, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grey, E.
Hacking, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardie, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Lovell-Davis, L.
Ludford, B.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Ogmore, L.
Orme, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Razzall, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sandberg, L.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stallard, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12 Oct 1998 : Column 712

4.6 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 2, I point out to your Lordships that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 3 to 10 inclusive.

Lord Alton of Liverpool moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 24, leave out from beginning to end of line 28 on page 2.

12 Oct 1998 : Column 713

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment stands in my name and it is supported today from different parts of the House by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Parkside, and the noble Earls, Lord Kitchener and Lord Russell. I am grateful to them for their support for this amendment. Its purpose is to delete those sections from the Bill which refer to the introduction of a closed party list system to Great Britain. That would then leave standing in the Bill the references to the single transferable voting system, which already operates in Northern Ireland and which would thereby be extended to the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Government's proposals before your Lordships' House, and which we examined at Committee stage, introduced the closed party regional list system. That has the unique claim of combining all the worst aspects of proportional representation without retaining any of the strengths of the first-past-the-post system.

The closed party list has three characteristics. First, it consolidates power in the hands of political parties. Secondly, it is inherently centralist in nature. Thirdly, there is no linkage with constituents. If your Lordships wanted to discredit proportional representation then this is exactly the sort of system that one would set out to introduce. For the first time ever in the history of our country the voter will not be able to vote for an individual candidate. It breaches the long-established constitutional principle which entrenches the link between an individual representative and the represented. Having for 18 years represented people in another place and for eight years before that as a city councillor, I treasured the link with the people who sent me as their representative. It also enabled me to be free of the overweening power that parties sometimes try to exert, especially if one puts forward a dissenting view or if one is not compliant to whatever the political faddishness of the moment might be.

So there are three characteristics: consolidating power in the hands of political parties, inherently centralising our system of politics, and breaking the linkage between the representative and the represented. Those are matters that we should carefully ponder and consider before we allow such a system to apply in these European elections. The consolidation of power in the hands of political parties, where parties themselves will choose lists of candidates, will mean that those who form the central committees of parties, either nationally or within their regions, will have enormous political power. It will mean that, if your face does not fit, there will be little chance of being selected in order to represent people within that region.

In addition, this system is disliked by voters. Research for the Home Office, undertaken by NOP and published in February, resulted in two findings about the closed list system: first, that it appeared to be,

    "depriving voters of their right to select individuals";
and, secondly, that it raised the question for some voters,

    "as to whether party loyalty will precede constituency loyalty".
Research on focus groups--recently referred to mischievously as "focus fascism"--carried out by NOP for the McDougall Trust found that voters' reactions

12 Oct 1998 : Column 714

were immediately negative to closed party lists as they believed they were being deprived of their right to vote for individual candidates. It also found that, although voters tend to vote on the basis of party, they react strongly to the removal of the right to select a candidate for themselves. All of us who have contested elections know that that research reflects our personal experience. I am surprised that, having taken the trouble to undertake research and publish the findings, the Home Office then chose to ignore the findings by proceeding with the system in the Bill before the House today.

Last week in Bournemouth Mr. William Hague pledged himself and his party to fight against proportional representation. That has echoes of earlier declarations to resist any form of devolution. As many would agree, that has been disastrous for the Conservative Party.

There is no point in saying that all proportional representation is the same, and conjuring up images of the Italian system and constantly falling governments. Proportional representation comes in many forms. Indeed, we are already introducing PR in different forms in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and possibly in the London mayoralty elections; and who knows what will happen with reforms to this House and, following the publication of the commission of inquiry by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, what proposals may be put forward for the House of Commons?

It strikes me as bizarre that we should introduce these many different kinds of proportionality, which will add to voter confusion, without thinking through a logical, coherent system which could be used everywhere throughout these islands. As we have such a system already operating successfully in Northern Ireland, one cannot understand why, on the basis of that experience, it cannot be extended elsewhere in the United Kingdom. A more intelligent and discerning approach is needed than simply saying no. Proportionality is coming. Changes are being made in our voting system. An intelligent, discerning approach is needed in this debate if we are not to make some of the mistakes which many of us fear may have been made in the devolution argument.

The Front Bench of the Official Opposition seem to recognise the need for a more intelligent approach. In later amendments they offer a modified form of the list system. But how much better it would be if they were to support a system that already operates successfully. This alternative, the single transferable vote, maximises the voters' choice. It forces parties to reflect diversity instead of the "take it or leave it" form of politics which the closed party list system embodies. They have then to draw up lists that are genuinely representative. They cannot simply put forward the favoured few who come from one faction or one wing of the party. They have to put forward a list which properly balances questions of gender and racial diversity and mirrors the diversity of the community generally.

That is why the system was introduced in Northern Ireland--because of the sectarian differences there. That is why it has been such a strength. If there are such failures in the system of the single transferable vote,

12 Oct 1998 : Column 715

then presumably your Lordships would be lining up today to delete from the Bill the continuation of the single transferable vote in Northern Ireland. STV is exceedingly fair; it is equitable. That, more than any other reason, is why it should be supported.

Changes to our voting system need to be seen against a backdrop of other significant changes being made to our constitution: the backdrop of devolution; the creation of the London mayoralty, which may lead to mayoralties elsewhere in the UK; possibly the move towards regionalism in England; and the reform of this House. But it also needs to be seen against widespread civic disillusionment and disaffection.

I said in Committee, and I apologise if my remarks are in any way repetitive, that it struck me that in a local government election in the city of Liverpool within the past 12 months the turnout was just 6 per cent. of voters; and in the last European by-election to be held there, just 11 per cent. of voters turned out. There is widespread disaffection and disillusionment in regard to our voting system and our system of politics and democracy. It is an issue that we have to address. It could well be that if you are a Conservative living in a city like Liverpool and know that, however often you cast your vote and even though your party may receive 20 per cent., 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. of the vote, in 20 years you have never seen anyone elected to the House of Commons, you may feel that there is little point in voting. Having seen the destruction of every Conservative councillor in that city, it is no wonder that local members of the Conservative Party now advocate a form of proportionality in order to ensure that at least a fifth of voters living there receive some local government representation. That is why some system of change is necessary.

However, I fear that in running pell-mell into closed party lists we are trading one bad system for one that is probably even worse and will add to the general sense of disillusionment and disaffection. I believe it was Thoreau who warned that if you cut down the trees there will be nowhere left for the birds to sing. We are in danger of cutting down all the trees and leaving nowhere for the birds to sing. We are in danger of unpicking our democratic and civic institutions without sufficient forethought as to the consequences. Reform and renewal are not to be feared. But they must be based on fairness and justice and a widespread consensus. If changes are made which create the suspicion of backstairs deals, of people being whipped into lobbies against their consciences when there have been long-standing commitments to a system such as the single transferable vote, or the pursuit of narrow party interest, it will merely discredit our institutions and those reforms will not stick. I therefore beg to move the amendment standing in my name.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, it would be apposite at this stage to refer your Lordships to the Bill's curious history. It was not included in the list of measures announced in the Queen's Speech following

12 Oct 1998 : Column 716

the election of the Labour Government. Therefore, we are entitled to assume that no one proposed altering the voting system for the European Parliament. Then, curiously, it was introduced almost without warning in October last year and had a very confused Second Reading in November. At one stage it appeared that the Home Secretary, who is not known as a zealot for proportional representation, almost indicated that he was prepared to re-examine the method of elections for the European Parliament. I do not know what subsequently happened, but unfortunately no further changes took place so far as concerns the proceedings in the House of Commons. The Bill had its Second Reading in this House in April this year in a very short debate on Maundy Thursday, just before the House rose for the Easter Recess. There was quite a long time before we came to the Committee stage on 24th and 25th June. The Bill passed without amendment through the two-day Committee stage. Here we are in October: a long period between the Committee stage and Report stage. I appreciate, of course, that the Recess took place in between, but nevertheless five months for a short Bill which had not been amended in Committee seems strange. I tend to wonder whether the reason for the long delay was to ensure that no controversy was raised before the Labour Party Conference so that the Bill could pass through that conference.

I am completely opposed to the way the Bill has been slipped through and I am also opposed to the Government's proposals. As I speak from the point of view of someone who served for many years on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, that may sound strange. But what I am concerned about is that the Bill gives total control for the selection of Labour Party candidates to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. It does not involve the membership in any way as regards the selection of candidates. Of even greater concern is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, the Bill abolishes the link between the elected and the electors. That is something which I believe in the long run will prove to be detrimental to democracy itself.

While I am certainly opposed to the Government's closed lists, I am even more opposed to the methods that the Labour Party has adopted to select its candidates. I referred to this, together with my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington, saying that it was almost getting back to the days of communism. The Minister responded, at col. 275 of Hansard for 24th June, when he said:

    "My noble friends Lord Evans of Parkside and Lord Bruce of Donington made the point that we may be getting back to the days of communism--democratic centralism, if that is not an oxymoron. The answer there is to have appropriate internal party arrangements for choosing the candidates who go on the list".
On reflection, I realised that that was a strange reply. The words used were "appropriate internal ... arrangements", not "democratic internal arrangements", not even "traditional internal arrangements". Indeed, it is well worth asking, to whom or for whom were the arrangements appropriate? They were certainly not appropriate to the individual members of the Labour Party. If the selection and placement on the list of the candidates of the Labour Party had been by the

12 Oct 1998 : Column 717

individual party members using a one member, one vote ballot both in the selection of the candidates and placing them on the list, I would have found the proceedings to be a little more acceptable. But in truth the selection process is ruthlessly controlled by the NEC, acting in what can only be described as a central committee fashion.

As I pointed out on the last occasion in Committee and confirm now, the selectors consisted of 11 members appointed by the National Executive Committee. Those 11 members interviewed 160 people who were on the panels of candidates who had been selected by the nine regions in Scotland and Wales. They were all interviewed over one weekend, just before the party conference. There were quite a few complaints from some of the candidates about the relevance of some of the questions they were asked. There was even some suggestion that there had been a complete stitch-up and that the lists had been agreed before the candidates were interviewed. I have not the faintest idea whether there is any truth in relation to those comments.

However, there was pointed out in the reports to which I referred the dangers of some people being put on a regional list when they were not residents or members of that region. On 24th June I said:

    "I wish to address a point directly to my noble friend the Minister. I am concerned about the danger of disillusionment among party members in relation to having candidates imposed on their regions".--[Official Report, 24/6/98; col. 314.]
There are a number of strange anomalies in those lists and I shall refer to only three. But it is an indication of the concern which has been expressed by many members of the Labour Party. A Manchester MEP has been selected as the number one candidate for the south-west region. A Merseyside MEP has been selected as the number three candidate for Yorkshire. A Cheshire MEP has been selected as the number three candidate in Wales. That will mean that all those candidates will be elected to the European Parliament.

I know that all those men are excellent. The chances are that others who may find themselves in similar positions may also be excellent men and women. But they were not selected by the members of that region. They would be in a much stronger position if they had been selected by the members of that region.

What I also find of great concern is that acceptance of the one member, one vote rule within the party was dropped by New Labour at the first series of elections after the general election. I remind your Lordships that the struggle to introduce one member, one vote in the Labour Party took almost 10 years before it came to fruition. On behalf of the National Executive Committee, I moved the first resolution to introduce selection of parliamentary candidates by one member, one vote at the 1984 conference in Blackpool. It was not until 1993 that the party finally accepted that all parliamentary candidates would be selected on the basis of one member, one vote.

Of course, the great raison d'etre for the introduction of one member, one vote was that it would introduce widespread democracy within the party, it would give the party members a voice and a vote in the selection of their candidates and it would be a wonderful message to

12 Oct 1998 : Column 718

give to people who were party supporters to join the party. It was used for the 1994 European elections and for the last general election. This is the first election since then, and it has now apparently been dropped. Perhaps that is because the OMOV method selects too many horny-handed sons of toil and not enough of the meritocrats who seem to find favour in certain sections of the party.

One argument which was used to defend the closed lists is that it was said that more women and black candidates would be elected. What are the facts? Currently there are 13 women MEPs and one black Labour MEP. The party now boasts, with the new lists, that there will be 34 women and six black candidates. That sounds like a huge increase. However, on examining the lists we find that the realistic chances of election mean that there will be 13 women and one black candidate who will almost certainly be elected. It does not sound much of an advance on the current situation.

The other point that should be made is that when the Bill receives its Third Reading some time later this month, if it is not amended, it will have taken almost 12 months to pass through the parliamentary process. When the Government were first challenged about the reasons for introducing the closed lists and dropping the OMOV method of selecting Labour Party candidates, it was claimed that there was insufficient time to use the party's traditional methods to select the candidates. The party has selected all its candidates; it has placed them on the list. The Bill has not reached the statute book yet and the elections will not take place for another eight months. It seems to me that there was all the time in the world to use the party's method of one member, one vote to select the candidates.

The real reason for the selection method is, frankly, that those who now manage New Labour are determined to exercise control over those who are selected as candidates and, more important, those who will not be candidates. What can best be said about it is that the party members apparently cannot now be trusted to select the candidates who are required and the electors will not be trusted to select the Members of Parliament from the candidates. The list is now fixed. The electorate will have one vote in those elections if the Government's methods are adopted.

I pointed out in Committee, and repeat now, that that is bad enough in relation to those on official party lists. But there are Independents standing--and in all the elections we have ever had there have always been people standing as Independents--it becomes an outrage. If, say there are 10 Independents for the 10 seats available in the north west region all the elector will be able to do is cast one vote for one Independent. That vote will only carry the value of one candidate whereas if the elector votes for 10 Conservative candidates, 10 Liberal Democrat candidates or 10 Labour candidates, he then gets 10 for his vote. That is a gross unfairness in regard to how the election is conducted.

The amendment throws challenges to the Conservatives and to the Liberal Democrats, because the Conservatives have made it absolutely clear that they

12 Oct 1998 : Column 719

are opposed to any form of proportional representation. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, to whom I listened with great interest, referred to the Leader of the Conservative Party having made clear at Bournemouth that he was opposed to any form of proportional representation. However, all we have on offer in the Bill is this strange form of election which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as proportional representation.

At their conference the Liberal Democrats made it clear that when Lord Jenkins's committee reports they do not want to see any watered down version. They want full and proper proportional representation, and so I suggest that today they support the amendment; otherwise we might find that a lot of people who were in support of proportional representation will not be too interested in how they perform after Lord Jenkins's report. I say to the House that my great concern is that there has been a long struggle for proportional representation in this country. I believe that if this method is adopted for these elections, then the chances are that no one in future will offer much support for PR in any other elections. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton.

4.30 p.m.

The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords, when I stood in the north west in September 1974 I never thought I would find myself speaking in support of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Parkside. I thank him very much for his eloquent words.

I should declare an interest now because I shall be standing for the European Parliament for my party under this frankly rotten system. For that reason, if for no other, I have had occasion to address it and to seek to understand it. There are of course many different versions and varieties of proportional representation--maybe as many as 57 varieties. It does not say very much for the Government that they have chosen what is easily the worst; that is to say, the closed list.

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said with his customary eloquence--and elegance for that matter--the closed list goes wholly against the grain and indeed the entire history of British political tradition. Those noble Lords who have been Members of the House of Commons--I stood twice as a candidate, unsuccessfully--will also confirm that it goes against the political tradition of the House of Commons, to which Members have always been elected as individuals.

When there is a closed list the respective nomination and selection procedure of the respective parties, which is otherwise a private affair of limited interest, becomes a matter of general concern for all electors. I therefore intend to say something about the nomination and selection procedures for the European Parliament for the respective parties. Both the Liberal Party and ourselves have, I believe, made the best of a very bad job. Specifically, the Liberal Party had a postal vote of all the members. That would have been worthy of some praise, but of course it could not resist sticking in a

12 Oct 1998 : Column 720

gender quota, which is very unsatisfactory and very undemocratic and goes against the grain of everything else it sought to do by holding an open postal ballot.

We in the Conservative Party have had hustings open to all members. Indeed, we achieved a turnout of 1,700 at an all-day-long meeting to select MEP candidates for the south east, which is really not too bad for a party of dead parrots. On the other hand, the Labour Party, as the noble Lord, Lord Evans, ably and eloquently pointed out, has landed itself with a system which is orchestrated, dominated and manipulated by Labour's national executive in a system almost entirely designed to suppress diversity.

The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is, I understand, a lawyer by background. I draw his attention to the very interesting case of Liz Davies. She was elected to Labour's NEC at the last Labour Party conference. As a member of the NEC, she will in future help to determine those Labour Party members who are selected as European Members next time. However, she herself was ruled ineligible to stand for the parliamentary constituency of Leeds North East by the very same NEC of which she is now a member. I am told that lawyers enjoy anomalies--both my brothers are barristers--and so I look forward very much to the comments of the Minister on what I consider a very interesting anomaly.

The British electors will dislike very strongly what they are presented with at election time unless some or all of my noble friends' amendments are accepted later. I urge the Minister to think again on behalf of the Government. The closed list and its manipulation by Labour's NEC, together with the bias against Independents--again so eloquently laid out by the noble Lord, Lord Evans--have entirely negative implications not just for the way in which people regard the European Parliament but also for the way in which they regard political parties and--though I do not want to be thought guilty of hyperbole-- even perhaps for people's regard for British democracy itself.

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