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Page 2, line 20, after ("election") insert ("under the alternative vote system")

The noble Baroness said: We are now moving to the amendments on which the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, felt we would have our discussion on the different systems of voting. The amendments are not concerned with voting for members under the STV system but propose that the election of the mayor shall be by alternative voting and not by the supplementary vote system proposed in the Bill.

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Amendment No. 14 inserts the first mention of the new system in Clause 2 at page 2, line 20, of the Bill; Amendment Nos. 24 and 25 change references from "supplementary" to "alternative" votes as a consequence of Amendment No. 14. Amendment No. 26 removes the reference to a vote being transferred to only first and second candidates. Here we come to the crux of the amendment--to which I shall return later--namely, that under an alternative vote system the voter has more than two choices. Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 substitute the counting system for alternative votes for the explanation of supplementary votes in Schedule 2 to the Bill.

Supplementary votes and alternative votes are both systems for electing one person from a field of many or several candidates. Even the supplementary vote has only a marginally more proportional effect than the first-past-the-post system. Under the supplementary vote, voters can mark their ballot papers with a cross for their first choice and another for their second choice. Even so, the person elected may not have received 50 per cent of the vote. Under the alternative vote, voters rank the candidates in order of preference and, because of the system of counting, the winning candidate will have the support of more than half of the voters.

We believe that the mayor should be elected using the alternative vote because it would give the mayor a better grounding, a better foundation, in terms of the support of a large percentage of the population of London. In addition, election by supplementary vote involves a form of guesswork, because the voter must guess which of the other candidates will be knocked out and which will remain after the first round of counting. If he or she does not vote for one of those who still remain, their second vote is lost. So it will not increase their chance of having voted for the mayor. As a consequence, the supplementary vote does not eliminate tactical voting.

Interestingly enough, the Government's Green Paper, New Leadership for London, did not mention the supplementary vote for the election of the mayor, but suggested three options: first-past-the-post; second ballot and alternative vote. The second ballot is like the supplementary vote, but it does not require the voter to guess. The voter who votes in the second ballot knows the candidates who still remain in the field and he or she can pick the one of his or her choice.

The alternative vote was proposed as an option in the Green Paper and yet, without there being any mention of the supplementary vote in the Green Paper, it was introduced in the White Paper as a simplified version of the alternative vote. Why does the Minister think that Londoners need a simplified version? I suppose that we might reliably anticipate there being candidates from the three major political parties represented in this House. Presumably there would be a green candidate, and possibly a BNP candidate. There might be one or two others, but the number of candidates can be restricted in any voting system by the conditions which are imposed for the nomination process. So it would probably be possible to limit the candidates to a sensible number.

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If the Government are telling us that Londoners are not clever enough to rank five or six people in the order of their preference, all I can say is that that gives a rather poor impression of the respect with which the residents and voters of London are treated. I believe that the supplementary vote may have been introduced into the Bill because it is a cheaper version of the second ballot. It does not require a person to go and vote again, as is done in France on the second ballot procedure. We feel that it is very important to have a system for election for the mayor which guarantees that the maximum number of people have supported the candidacy of the particular person who wins that election. That is why we support the alternative vote system for electing the mayor, rather than the system suggested by the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: It is on occasions like this that I miss my noble friend Lord Plant of Highfield, who would take us through the intricacies of the various systems of voting, as he did some years ago when he convinced me of the importance of the supplementary vote system. I am sure that the same arguments still apply. The reason that we have proposed the supplementary vote system here is not that it is cheaper, or that it is simpler for Londoners to understand, or even that it would give a better result for the Labour Party, as some have alleged. The reason is that the supplementary vote system, as distinct from the alternative vote system, could in certain circumstances, if candidates are ranked one to five, lead to a situation where the third or fourth most popular candidate would in fact win. In the STV system this applies for the second, third and fourth elected candidates rather than the first. But here we are discussing the alternative vote system.

The supplementary vote system, where you vote for your first and second choice, is a two-ballot decision all in one. Whereas under the French system you do not know who the candidates will be in the second ballot, you will know who all the candidates will be in the election for the mayor. If the second votes are transferred, the system would give a majority to the successful candidate. In this the first election of a mayor of London, with a directly elected executive role, it is important that the method of election attunes itself as clearly as possible to the expressed views of the electorate. We want a strong mayor with whom people can identify, and whom they feel they have chosen. If we were to go on to the alternative vote system, under which in certain circumstances it would be possible for a third or fourth preference to be elected, that could seriously undermine the credibility and the mandate of the mayor. We do not believe that that is the best way forward.

I accept that the noble Baroness considers, as do various political parties in Australia, that the alternative vote system, with all its slight perversities, gives everyone a say, but it does not necessarily result in the election of the candidate who is the most popular and has the strongest mandate. The absolute objective of any system for introducing a mayor of London is that the population who voted in London can believe that whatever the system, the most popular candidate was

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elected. That could be jeopardised by a full alternative vote system. I ask the noble Baroness to consider that point and not to press the amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: The Minister wished for the attendance of the noble Lord, Lord Plant. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Plant, might be on our side of the argument and not on the Minister's side. Furthermore, the noble Lord should not tempt me to argue about the effects of STV by making inaccurate statements about it. However, I shall ignore that challenge. I certainly would never allege that the Government had chosen a system of election because they thought it might benefit them.

The perversity of the supplementary voting system arises when, for example, four candidates have fought an election and have come very close together in that election. The votes of the candidate with the fewest votes would be redistributed, but the people who had voted for that candidate might have no sensation that their second choice had been considered because they might have given their second vote to the person who is ultimately elected. The person who is ultimately elected can be elected with less than 50 per cent of the poll. That is the disadvantage of the system.

I do not think it is worth going into a long argument about this issue. I would simply point out that in the 1930s a Bill was introduced into this Parliament to provide the supplementary vote system for elections in this country. During the passage of the Bill the method was changed from SV to AV and the Bill was abandoned after a disagreement with the House of Lords. Indeed, AV is also used for the election of the Irish President, a person who almost inevitably commands the support and respect of the majority of his or her countrymen. However, perhaps this is not the time to go into all the intricacies of the system. I suspect that we may well come back to this amendment. Therefore, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 15 to 17 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

7 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi): I have to inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 18 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 19.

Schedule 1 [Assembly constituencies and orders under section 2(4)]:

[Amendments Nos. 18 to 22 not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Voting at ordinary elections]:

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 30 not moved.]

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Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 4, line 13, leave out subsection (10) and insert--
("(10) At an ordinary election a person may not be both a candidate to be an Assembly member and a candidate for Mayor or Deputy Mayor.")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 31, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 39. Both cover an identical point in different parts of the Bill. There is a clear objection to a system which can almost automatically create a by-election. A candidate for mayor or as an assembly member should not in effect have two bites at the cherry. He should make up his mind which he wants to be and if he fails in his first choice, well, that is politics and he should finish up with nothing, at least for that election.

If we draw an analogy with the United States of America, if a senator wishes to stand for president he has to resign his seat. These amendments are entirely consistent with the provisions that the Government have included in the Bill in connection with the filling of a casual vacancy in the office of a constituency assemblyman. Clause 10(10) says:

    "(10) A person may not be a candidate at an election to fill a vacancy if he is--

    (a) the Mayor;

    (b) an Assembly member; or

    (c) a candidate in another such election". Similarly, in the case of a vacancy in the office of mayor, Clause 16(10), which has been included in the Bill by the Government, says:

    "(10) A person may not be a candidate in an election to fill a vacancy in the office of Mayor if he is a candidate in an election to fill a vacancy in an Assembly constituency".

In other words, the Government have already legislated against candidates trying to ride two horses at once in the case of by-elections. We agree with that, but the same principle has to apply for the sake of consistency to the original elections as well. I beg to move.

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