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Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I should like to indicate the support of these Benches for the spirit of the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said, we have debated this subject before on other pieces of legislation.

There is a case for a standard procedure when introducing new election systems for different purposes. As my noble friend Lord McNally said in the earlier debate, we at least take the view that the lists drawn up by the registered parties, whether for the European elections, the Welsh elections or the Scottish elections, have the advantage of being determined by the party membership by democratic procedure. The counter argument of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, is that if the procedure is carried out properly, in the way in which we

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carry it out, you can argue that it is an extension of political democracy in the country because it gives every member of the political party something positive to do other than to sign a membership card and send a donation. I certainly believe that that has proved to be the case as regards the way in which the drawn up lists have operated within the Liberal Democrats. We are very proud of the fact that we have achieved that in Wales and Scotland and in these European elections.

Secondly, unless the names on the lists determined by the registered parties appear on the ballot paper then an unwitting advantage is given to any independent candidate who may appear, whether in the European elections or in the others. In my view, it would be intolerable that an independent could appear as an,

    "individual candidate, named on the ballot paper"
as set out in the Bill while the names of those on the lists would not appear on the ballot paper. That would be an indefensible position.

I also find that the wording of new Section 3(2) of the 1978 Act, as set out in Clause 1, to be slightly ambiguous. The subsection says

    "A vote may be cast for a registered party, or an individual candidate, named on the ballot paper".
However, if we are successful in persuading the Government that the list should be on the ballot paper, that wording almost invites a transition to the open-list system. I personally would welcome that very much, but I do not believe that that is the Government's intention. I believe that the subsection is intended to say that the vote may be cast for a registered party or for an independent candidate. Otherwise, the wording is rather confusing.

Finally, I should point out that I am not at all impressed by the argument that I have often heard advanced in bureaucratic circles that the reason we cannot have the list published on the ballot papers is that the ballot paper would then be too large. I have with me a German piece of paper, which is a ballot paper from the recent elections. Noble Lords can clearly see that it is very much larger than the British ballot paper. There are in fact 22 registered parties on it. However, even with 22 registered parties--which I doubt we will have--the Germans have managed to put the five top names of every party on the ballot paper. If it can be done there, it can be done here. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give us that assurance. I should like to tempt the noble Lord to give us a global assurance as he is responsible for matters in Wales, though not yet for Scotland. Now is the time for him to intervene in Scottish matters and assure us that this new principle will extend to elections across the Border.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, vis-a-vis Wales and Scotland, I should point out that this is my day off. Today I am just dealing with the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, is quite right. I did make it clear earlier--and I repeat it now--that it is our intention that all candidates' names should appear on the ballot paper for European parliamentary elections. The Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office gave an assurance to that effect in his Written Parliamentary Answer on 23rd June and I gave the same assurance two days later when we considered the matter in Committee.

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A prototype ballot paper has been placed in the Library of both Houses. It contains the names of candidates and we are commissioning research on the most appropriate design which is to be carried out by the Constitution Unit in conjunction with social and community planning research. I can assure noble Lords that the brief that the latter have been given to work with includes the requirement that all candidates' names should appear on the ballot paper. I am happy to repeat that firm commitment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I did not actually expect anything less than that assurance. I thought this would be a useful exercise because we are dealing with an important issue. I cannot for the life of me think why we cannot have this on the face of the Bill; but, nevertheless, I am prepared to accept the Minister's categoric assurances. However, I should just warn the Minister that he had better brief his colleagues who are dealing with the Scotland Bill that the words he has just used will be prayed in aid against them when we come to those deliberations. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo): My Lords, before I call Amendment No. 4 I have to inform the House that if this amendment is agreed to I shall be unable to call Amendment No. 5.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 1, leave out ("a registered party, or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6, 9 and 10. These amendments would deliver the open-list system, which was mentioned during the first debate on the single transferable vote. The position at present is that the Government propose that the political parties--and we shall only deal with them--will send to the returning officer a list which they will have determined with the order--the all-important thing--having been decided by the political parties. I shall not enter into a discussion about whether the Labour Party do it better or more openly or whether the Liberal Democrats do it more openly than we do, I shall leave that to the Liberal Democrats who seem to pride themselves in that direction.

The fact is that it will be a decision either for a limited number of a political party or for the membership of the party either at a public sort of hustings or by a postal ballot of the members. What will certainly be true is that a vast number of all our party supporters who are not members of the party will not have any say in the order. The order will be decided by the political parties. It will appear on the ballot paper, as we now know, but when I vote for the Conservative Party I shall be voting for the list in the order determined by the Conservative Party centrally. I may not agree with the order on the list but there is nothing I can do about it. As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said earlier, the person at the top of the list could be the person I most heartily dislike in the Conservative Party, but I shall have no option other than to vote for the party because that is the only way that I will

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perhaps get candidate number two or number three. Of course, the number of votes I have will depend upon which part of the UK I live in.

Therefore, no one should be in any doubt that the party list system is driven entirely by the party and that it gives the voter absolutely no choice. It has caused all the problems that the noble Lord, Lord Evans, mentioned in his speech earlier; for example, the kind of purity tests that we understand have happened inside the Labour Party. I must admit that I am one of the three people in Scotland who decide whether someone should be approved of as a possible candidate for Parliament, for the Scottish parliament and for the European Parliament.

I can share a confidence in that I have passed one or two people whose political views I do not entirely agree with. I did so because I did not believe that I was there just to run a purity test on each issue. I certainly did not ask any of them whether they thought that the last government had made any mistakes. I gather that that is one of the questions that has been asked. Neither did I ask them: "Are there any mistakes that the Government have made since the election?" That is a really awkward question. You either show yourself up as a total flunkey of the party or, if you just say, "Well, they might just have got some little thing wrong", that will get you 10 black marks and ensure that you are not on the list.

I have already invited noble Lords to enjoy the question to Dennis Canavan--namely, "Have you ever put an awkward question to a Government Minister?". As the noble Lord, Lord Evans, said, the Labour Party has ruthlessly controlled the list, the NEC has ruthlessly controlled the list. However, that is the Labour Party's problem. The fact is that whichever party it is, and however the list is made up, the one group of people who will have no choice in deciding the order of the list are those who decide to vote for the parties. If all our parties were just reliant on the votes of our members, none of us would have very many votes. Indeed, we all rely on the votes of an awful lot of people who do not join our parties, for whatever reason, but who do vote for us and sometimes do so election after election. They will have absolutely no say in the order of the list. The real problem with the list is that if I do not like the number one candidate on the list I may actually take my vote away from candidates two and three if I decide to vote for another party or to abstain.

I firmly believe that we ought to move away from the closed list. I hope that my amendments will achieve that aim. However, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will advise me of the views of the draftsman as regards my friend's ability in that respect. Indeed, I shall not go as far as to pretend that it is my drafting. What we have at present is the proposition that the ballot paper will actually have on it the names of the people put forward by the parties with the order of the names on the list being decided by the party. I have no complaint about that, although I did suggest, rather tongue-in-cheek, that a kind of arbitrary little raffle should be conducted to decide the order. Nevertheless, I am prepared to give the party this much influence so that it will actually determine the order on the list. But when the electorate vote they will place their vote not for the Conservative Party, in my case, but for one of the candidates. If I am quite happy with the top person and I think he or she is the right person to be the top person, I shall vote for that person. If, however, I am perverse and I think that the seventh or eighth person

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is the right person, I shall vote for that person. The same is true with the Liberal Democrats and with the Labour Party. In other words, we are not invited to vote for a party but for an individual.

At the end of the polling, all the votes of the Labour candidates, for example, are added up, as are all the votes for the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Independent, if there is an Independent. The votes are all added up and they then become the party vote. The d'Hondt divisor is brought into play and it is decided how many seats each party receives. Let us say that the Labour Party is to receive three seats. The returning officer then looks at the votes for each individual candidate and he selects the leading three candidates. Those three are elected. The same happens as regards the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party. Therefore the d'Hondt divisor does not affect the total votes for the party. However, as regards who should be returned for the Conservative Party, the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrat Party, that decision is made by the electors themselves. Your Lordships who have been following this discussion will realise that I have given the party a bit of an advantage because if I have no particular views about the merits or demerits of each individual candidate the chances are I shall vote for number one. Therefore the party gains a slight advantage. However, that advantage can be gainsaid if the party has put someone further down the list who is much more popular with the electorate and whom the electorate wish to see elected.

The Home Secretary stated in the Guardian on 24th October 1997,

    "the order of candidates on a party's list and the order in which they are elected should be determined by parties rather than the electorate".
I half agree with him. The order of candidates on a party's list should be determined by parties rather than the electorate; that is what I am suggesting. However, I do not agree with the second part of the argument. The order in which they are elected should be determined not by the parties themselves but by the electorate. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I would be more impressed at hearing that speech--I believe I have now heard it for the third time--from the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, if the Conservative Party instead of having three wise men, or however many committees it has, had an internal election for the candidates on the list. That is the real answer. If there is an argument about policy or the personality of the people going forward--the Dennis Canavan case is a good example--in my view that is settled if the party members have a vote themselves. They have such a vote in our party, but not in the party of the noble Lord. While I am wholly sympathetic to the general argument for open lists, the argument would be a little stronger on the part of the Conservative Party if it had open elections itself.

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