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Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, I am in a similar situation to that of my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney. It is the first time in almost 25 years in both Houses that I find myself in agreement with most of the remarks of the Tory spokesman on any measure. The noble Lord said that under the present closed list system the elector has no options whatsoever. That comes close to the kernel of the problem. While I have criticised the Labour Party in its method of selecting candidates, I have also made it clear that I have always thought that, in the final analysis, it was for the elector to decide who the successful candidates would be. The noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, used the "I voted for Thatcher" story. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times in relation to various parts of the country, not specifically Scotland. It is a story that can be trotted out whenever the argument requires.
I have asked my noble friend the Minister to respond to another point. To whom are the elected MEPs under the closed list system to be responsible? There is little doubt that so far as the Labour Party is concerned Labour candidates who are successfully elected to the European Parliament under this system will regard their responsibilities, so far as
Perhaps I may take this opportunity to make one matter clear. The Deputy Speaker indicated that if this amendment is carried, Amendment No. 5 will not be put. I believe that this amendment is superior to Amendment No. 5 standing in my name and it is not my intention to press it, irrespective of what happens to this amendment.
I, too, regard the response from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench as less than satisfactory. It would appear that the deal that was stitched up between Mr. Maclennan and Mr. Cook has tied their hands completely. The idea of achieving a few more seats has put out of their heads the once-treasured principle of STV. I remind them that the argument about STV will come to the fore again in relation to another place. They may find some difficulty in persuading people to support them on that occasion unless they go for a similar system to that presently proposed by the Government.
Another point in relation to any system that is adopted is the turnout of the electorate in European Parliament elections. Frankly, it is abysmal. In the previous Euro-elections it ranged from about 38 per cent. in some constituencies to about 16 per cent. in others. I must confess that I do not believe that any of the methods proposed will greatly increase the turnout. But under the Government's proposals how on earth we can persuade party activists, the party members, to go out and vote for a list of candidates in which they have had no participation is absolutely beyond me. I hope that my noble friend will, even at this eleventh hour, consider accepting, if not the exact proposal of the Conservative Front Bench, at least some variation of it which will improve the present government proposals.
It is with a heavy heart after all these years that I am so critical of my party. Nevertheless, in the interests of what I believe is the best future for my party, I have put my fears and views on the record.
Lord McNally: My Lords, one can sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Evans. However, his complaints seem to relate to matters internal to the Labour Party rather than matters central to the Bill. Knowing how the Liberal Democrats have gone about the matter, I can see that much of the discussion is rather confusing. People talk about the anonymity of this system. But I know that Liberal Democrat voters in the south-west will return Robin Teverson or Graham Watson; that in the eastern region they will return Andrew Duff; in the West Midlands, Liz Lynne; in the south-east, Emma Nicholson and Chris Huhne; in the north-west, Chris Davies and Flo Clucas; in London, Sarah Ludford and Hugh Dykes. The idea that somehow candidates are to be anonymous in these elections is palpably absurd. There is an idea that they will be dependent on some party gauleiters. I can only say as a Liberal Democrat that, if
Where so many of the speakers are behind the game in the debate is in thinking only in terms of old Westminster parliamentary constituencies. We shall see a whole new generation of Euro MPs who will see themselves as regional representatives, regional spokesmen. That will be wholly good and effective both in terms of giving a personality to the European Parliament and in giving effectiveness to the electorates.
I understand some of the points made on the Opposition Benches, but I say to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, on this point and others that have been made about the position of this Bench that this is no squalid deal as far as we are concerned. We participated in an effective study before the election. Both sides then took the result of the study to our parties and the commitments were incorporated in our respective general election manifestos. There is nothing in the Bill that was not put by our party candidates at the last election. We have no problems at all in standing four square behind it. The Government have delivered what they promised and we are delivering what we promised.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I had not intended to speak until I heard the noble Lord, Lord McNally. I must confess that I listened to him with amazement. He said that the Maclennan-Cook deal or Cook-Maclennan deal, whichever way it is, was not a squalid hole-in-the-corner deal. I have to say it sounds very much like it to me. It was apparently a deal which did not involve any other political party, not in England anyway. It was a deal which was not put to the electorate. I confess I cannot remember seeing it, although I did not vote in the general election. Nevertheless I did not see it in the Labour Party manifesto, nor can I recall it having been discussed widely within the Labour Party. So it seems to me that this form of proportional representation has been reached by a squalid deal before an election rather than a squalid deal after an election. That is even worse.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is having a difficult afternoon. It was difficult on Amendment No. 2, when he had to say to his party that they were at this stage abrogating, ignoring the long-term commitment to STV. I do not know how that will go down in the Liberal Party. When they understand that in the House of Lords there will be the opportunity for the Liberal Party to vote for STV--which they have been prating on about for decades--and they fail to support it, I do not know what they will do. Poor Paddy! He has got something coming to him, in my view.
The fact is that what is proposed cannot, under any circumstances, be described as proper representative democracy. It reminds me of the Soviet system of elections. That is where they have a party list and a non-party list. That was all one was able to choose. Democracy is about representation. Representation in this country is understood to be for the person who is being taxed and the person who has laws made for him has the right to representation where those laws are being made. Having elected someone, the elector has to know who that someone is to have proper access to him in order that people can put pressure upon that person.
It is no good the electorate going to someone under this system, because it will not depend on the electorate as to whether the person is re-elected. It will depend on a party coterie. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, shakes his head, but if there is a big issue within the region and, for example, two people out of the 11--as it would be in my own region, the south-east--decide that they will go against the party line, it will be the party that will decide whether they shall stand at the next election and not the electorate. So it takes away from the electorate the right to have an influence on and, in the last analysis, to discipline the person who is supposed to represent them. In that respect and in every other respect, my noble friends Lord Evans and Lord Shore are absolutely correct. The Liberal Democrats--I hesitated about saying that--have this afternoon got themselves tied into a corner, which I think they will regret and which I too regret. They have had some good ideas in the past. I thought that they believed in democracy, but I am beginning even to doubt that.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, one of the pleasures of listening to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is to find out which aspect of Labour Party policy he proposes to denounce on that day. I cannot recall any occasion in recent weeks or months on which the noble Lord and the Labour Party leadership have been in agreement. No doubt at some stage in the future we will have such a happy occasion, which on these Benches we shall want to celebrate.
On a future occasion when the noble Lord speaks, perhaps he might apply himself to working more carefully on his speech before he delivers it. What he said about the Cook-Maclennan talks was absolute nonsense. After the discussions which took place between the representatives of the Labour Party and the representatives of the Liberal Democrats substantial publicity was given to what had been decided in those talks. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, did not apparently bother to examine what had been said on that occasion is a matter for him and not for others.
It was also made absolutely clear in the election manifestos of both political parties where they stood on the issue. There is no mystery about it, no smoke-filled room negotiation. It was all done openly and in front of the British people. As we can all recall, at the general election more than 60 per cent. of the people of this country voted for either the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, will reflect upon those statistics.
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