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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, it has been useful to touch on this matter again and I am grateful for the points which the noble Lord made. I particularly take the point that the Conservative Party has not used the torch as its symbol in Scotland and Wales. There are two possible interpretations: first, it has already been put to the torch in Scotland and Wales; and, secondly, that in Scotland and Wales it is in a state of total darkness.

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But that is a matter for the Registration of Political Parties Bill. I am sure that the noble Lord will be able to raise it in that respect. I shall make a note of his comment.

We have taken no final view on the format of the ballot paper. It is helpful to have noble Lords' observations, which we shall consider. We expect to lay the order around Christmas and that it will be debated in both Houses during January. Therefore, there will be an opportunity to examine the issue again. I understand that a parallel order for Wales has been issued for consultation which contains exactly the same provision we shall be including to ensure that names on the list of candidates appear on the ballot paper. I believe that there is a fair measure of agreement and I trust that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as I indicated, I tabled the amendment in order to allow a brief discussion on the way the lists might be ordered on the second ballot. As we reached agreement late in the Bill's progress, I am sure that your Lordships do not mind a short Third Reading debate on this important issue. Some of my noble friends from Wales who were present when we first debated the subject will not recognise the position in which we now find ourselves. At the beginning, no names were to appear on the ballot paper, bar the independents. Now we have a much more satisfactory position. I am sure that that has occurred as a result of the argument put forward in your Lordships' House and because the Government listened and accepted them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 6 not moved.]

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 3, line 41, leave out from ("a") to end of line 43 and insert ("party registered under the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the first day on Report, noble Lords opposite tabled an amendment to provide that the definition of "registered political party" in the Scotland Bill would be a party registered under the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998. My noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate agreed to consider whether we should make such a provision. We have concluded that it would be appropriate and Amendment No. 7 achieves that purpose.

Amendment No. 56 is a purely drafting amendment. It inserts the word "political" into paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 3. That provision ensures that standing orders shall include provision for ensuring that in appointing members to committees and sub-committees regard is had to the balance of parties in the parliament. The amendment simply reflects the fact that the kind of parties we are talking about are political parties and not, possibly for the avoidance of confusion and doubt, wild or fancy dress. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, Amendment No. 56 does not need much discussion

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although it would be interesting to speculate on what other parties there might have been or might have defined themselves. I accept the argument put forward by the noble Lord. As regards Amendment No. 7, I am delighted that the Government have listened and taken on board the points I made at the previous stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Regional Vacancies]:

3.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 5, line 20, leave out from ("candidate,") to second ("the") in line 21.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we had a number of discussions about this matter on other amendments that offered different solutions. Having thought about what the Minister said, this is yet another solution. Basically, the problem is this. The second ballot decides on the number of members to be returned by each political party in order to achieve better proportionality in the parliament. If one of those elected to the top-up seats, as they are called, retires or dies, then the next available and still eligible person on the list is returned to the parliament. So there are no by-elections as we know them. There will be by-elections for the first-past-the-post seats, but not for any of the top-up seats.

One of the problems we discussed earlier is what would happen if the list ran out. It may not do so, but in order to prevent it the parties will probably need to put down a full raft of 12 candidates. In the course of four years people may be elected in an intervening election to this Parliament; they may be elected to the European Parliament or they may decide that they no longer wish to be elected to the Scottish parliament. It may be that someone has been elevated to your Lordships' House and did not want to attend the Scottish parliament any more. In those circumstances we might run out of candidates. That would be particularly true if a party did not nominate the full 12 candidates.

I put forward a number of suggestions and I argued against almost all of them myself when I started to think about it. But having listened to the Minister and re-read the debate, I decided that because it was the top-up and the people in the list are nominated by the parties in the first place, there did not seem to me to be any reason why we could not say that if the list runs out and another person is needed because a vacancy has to be filled, then why should not the party nominate someone? After all, that is what the party did initially at election time. It nominated a raft of people in order, so if the list runs out for whatever reason, why should not someone just be nominated? The important thing is that that retains the principal objective, which is to use the top-up seats to bring about greater proportionality than has been delivered by the first-past-the-post system.

Therefore, it seems to me to be wrong in principle not to fill any vacancy on the top-up list of the party. One would not be trying to achieve proportionality. As my amendment suggests, the only way around the problem is to allow the political party to nominate. I do not know

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whether the Minister will be sympathetic. I hope that the amendment is drafted well enough so that if the Government see the point, even at this late stage, they will accept it. This amendment covers a very unlikely event, but I believe that one of the points about writing legislation is that one should attempt to cover for all eventualities. It would be quite wrong if a party were not to have its full top-up list for the duration of a parliamentary session just because its list of candidates had run out and it had lost a member through death or resignation. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I have a certain sympathy for this amendment, but I believe that it is stretching a point to suggest that the whole list of candidates will run out. I believe that most people will insist on a full list so it is unlikely that death, disease or resignation, and all the other kinds of things that happen to political people, will mean that the whole list is wiped out.

The other objection I have to the suggestion is that the Liberal Democrat Party will be electing by postal ballot in the order of the list. For the party to nominate someone outside that list would be to do exactly the kind of thing that we have been objecting to; namely, that the public would be electing someone as an MP of whom they have no knowledge except that he had been nominated by the party. It is unlikely that this provision will be needed and there are also the snags to which I have spoken.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I recognise the real anxiety that the noble Lord feels about the possibility of a seat in the parliament remaining vacant if a party's list were to be exhausted. I believe that the noble Lord worries too much on that score. I do not believe that the concern is sufficient to introduce a rather important new principle into the electoral process, as envisaged in Amendments Nos. 8 and 9.

To a large degree I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. What we have tried to do and what the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has strongly urged us to do, is to make sure that all the names of all the members of the Scottish parliament are placed before the electorate. We have accepted that proposition. By these amendments we are departing significantly from that. In the event of the existing list being exhausted, an individual would be placed in the parliament, but whose name had never have been before the electorate previously with any form of endorsement. That is a dangerous path to follow. On reflection, I hope the noble Lord will have confidence in the fact that, by enabling 12 members on a party list, we are dealing with the problem of replacement and that there is no need to introduce the new principle that someone could become a member of the parliament whose name had never been placed before the electorate. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment.

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