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Lord Sewel: My Lords, I am not saying that at all. I am saying that the electorate has no way of choosing the party's candidates under the first-past-the-post system as it is operated by political parties in this country. I then indicated that that is not absolutely the only way of arranging matters. In the United States, where a first-past-the-post system exists, primary elections also exist which enable individuals, a wider group, to select the party nominee. That is the point that I am making. I then made the further point that I have heard no argument in favour of primaries being introduced into our political arrangements in this country.

If it is proper for parties to bring to the judgment of the electorate individual candidates under the first-past-the-post system, I see no argument in principle why parties should not be able to do exactly the same under a list system and make their own selections and their own ordering however they wish. Quite properly it is a matter for the parties. The parties can choose different ways, but that is what they do. They are

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satisfied with their ordering, they take it to the electorate and say, "This is our judgment, do you support us or do you not?" On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, that response was interesting for two reasons. First, we can see that the Government line is consistent between the European Parliamentary Elections Bill and this Bill. Secondly, we received an explanation--which I was delighted to give the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, the opportunity of making--of why the Liberal Democrats on Tuesday voted one way and this evening, if there was a vote, they would vote the other way. I suppose one cannot expect much more than that: one attitude on Tuesday and two days later going the opposite way.

As to complaining about me setting myself up to give lectures on PR, I take the view that if I have to be deaved by arguments about PR, then at least I must try to look after the intellectual purity and logic of those who advocate PR--usually at length, as I know to my cost. It seems to be the one thing that goes along with PR. You can really bore for Britain on it. I try not to bore for Britain against it, but it is a great danger.

If people are to move to a new system of voting, there should be an internal logic inside that new system. That is what I am trying to ensure that the Government and their friends in the Liberal Democrat party achieve. If that shows up their new system to be illogical and less than sensible, that might just persuade them that they should stay with first-past-the-post.

The noble Lord the Minister, like his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, chooses those parts of first-past-the-post he likes in order to defend his new system. In first-past-the-post the electorate are not allowed to choose who the Conservative candidate should be or who the Labour Party candidate should be, so why should they be allowed to do so under a PR system? The difference is this. It is actually quite easy to give them the choice under a PR system whereas, short of primaries, it is not so easy under first-past-the-post.

I am almost tempted to promise to bring forward an amendment to introduce primary elections into this country to see exactly what kind of argument the Minister will then put up in order to knock me down, as I am pretty certain he would. Everyone in the body politic in this country knows that the reason why the governing party does not want open lists is simply that it wants to keep control of who goes on that list and who gets to these two parliaments--in our case, on the top-up. That is what it wants. It does not even want to give its party members any say.

I said on the other Bill that the Liberal Democrats have gone to the most open system, although it does not actually involve all those people who will vote Liberal Democrat. It involves those who have paid their membership. As far as concerns the Scottish parliament, all the candidates for our list will have had to be adopted by a constituency for first-past-the-post and they will

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therefore have had to be chosen in individual constituencies by the membership in that constituency. So I believe there is perhaps a larger element of party democracy in that system than the noble Lord, Lord Steel, was implying.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that the party members do not have a vote? It is only those who attend the meetings who have a vote. If that were to happen at elections, we would have a very low turn-out indeed.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure that it is only the people who come to the polling station who have a vote. There are some postal votes. I shall be quite open about it. I would have preferred to see us carrying out a postal vote of the membership. My arguments did not prevail for a variety of reasons, but I suspect that the next time round my arguments will prevail because databases will be in existence and my party will be able to do that. I certainly hope that it will. I think it is right and proper and totally consistent with my argument.

I shall not put the matter to a vote tonight because we have already defeated the Government on it. It is now up to the Government to decide in the other place what they are going to do in terms of the European elections. But if--which I suspect is fairly unlikely--they decide to accept the proposition of open lists which your Lordships sent down to them, I shall certainly be returning to this Bill at Third Reading to ask for the same. The Welsh people, I am afraid, will have to live with what they have. However, if the Government decide not to accept the proposition, I shall have to take that into account and consider whether to come back at Third Reading to see if we should do it on the Scottish scene, where I now understand I would have the support of the Liberal Democrats.

I might quite enjoy doing that in order to get it on the voting record that they can vote one way on the same proposition in one Act of Parliament and a different way on another. But perhaps the success the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and I are having this evening in persuading the Government to accept our amendments will persuade me to be more friendly. We had better wait and see. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Calculation of regional figures]:

10 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 4, leave out lines 11 to 16 and insert ("a regional figure shall be calculated for the purposes of section 7 as follows.
(2A) Where no candidates of the party have been returned as constituency members in a region, the figure shall be the total number of regional votes given for the party in that region.
(2B) Where at least one candidate of the party has been returned as a constituency member in a region, the figure shall be the total number of regional votes given for the party in that region, divided by one more than twice the number of candidates of the party returned as constituency members in that region.").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 46, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 47. These two amendments change the divisor. The d'Hondt system is the divisor system which the Government have chosen. I make no great complaint about that. The divisor is used in deciding how many seats a party receives in the top-up. That means that the total is one more than the number of seats it has won--that includes won in the top-up because the calculation changes with each successive seat moving to whichever party wins it. That means that the divisor is literally two, three, four, five. There are two variations here and I make no apology for my pronunciation. There is no value in trying to put on a false French accent. Other noble Lords who wish to show off are free to do so. I am probably safe because the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who chastised me on the last occasion is not here.

Amendment No. 46 is straightforward St. Lague and it means that the divisors go up by one, three, seven, as we proceed. The modified St. Lague is rather more complex and goes up by fractions. It starts at 1.4 and then goes up by the multiples that are in the amendment. I do not wish to go into the arithmetic. The point is that St. Lague and modified St. Lague give advantages to the minority parties. They give advantages to the parties which have not been very successful in first-past-the-post but which have a substantial vote. The d'Hondt system is harsher on minority parties. It favours the big battalions.

The fact is that that will mean in relation to this Bill, at least in next May's election, that it favours the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party. I do not know which one it will favour more. That rather depends on what happens. But undoubtedly, the d'Hondt system will favour the two big battalions.

The point about St. Lague and modified St. Lague is that they will favour the Liberal Democrats and ourselves and, perhaps more important, they will favour the Greens. Frankly, the idea of the Greens winning a seat in this situation is about as unlikely as an independent winning a seat. It may even favour the independents and, given the love affair which the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, has with the concept of independents, she at least should be hugely attracted by the idea of selecting either St. Lague or modified St. Lague.

That is the proposition I am putting to the Government. I am asking them why they have chosen d'Hondt. Have they chosen it because they are a big battalion and d'Hondt favours them? If the Government are really serious about a proper balance in the parliament, about helping independents and helping small parties, they should choose St. Lague or modified St. Lague. Why will they not do so? That is a simple question. I hope I receive a simple answer and that that answer is not that they have not chosen it because it does not favour the Labour Party. I beg to move.

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