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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, tempting though it is to embrace the principle of the open list, as my party has done in the past, there would be practical difficulties in the Assembly context. We have set up an elaborate system in the electoral regions for choosing candidates and their ranking on the list, which subsequent experience has proved to be right. I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, realises that in the 2003 Assembly election the longest regional ballot paper was in South Wales Central, with 12 parties standing and 62 candidates' names on the ballot paper. It is not surprising that some people found that very confusing.
The second vote is acknowledged to be a party vote, and it makes sense that parties should choose who is to represent them and present their choice to the electorate. There is no significant demand, as far as we can see, for a less ordered and more extensive choice of candidates, which, as I say, the electorate have in the past, and may in future, find confusing.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the surprising thing about this amendment is that it would amend a Bill, when such provisions are usually dealt with in secondary legislation. The existing secondary legislation that governs the National Assembly makes provision for exactly what this amendment would achieve in the Bill. In fact, the secondary legislation goes further; it imposes an equivalent duty in respect of constituency candidates, which the noble Lord has not mentioned.
In Scottish and European elections, lists are published in subordinate legislation, so why should primary legislation be burdened by this degree of detail when we have never found it necessary with regard to any other assembly or voting system that the Britishin fact, the Welshpeople are involved in? We have subordinate legislation that makes provision for lists of candidates and regions. The amendment is not necessary; it is not in the appropriate place. The noble Lord has taken this opportunity to extol the virtues of lists, but what he suggests is already provided for elsewhere. If he wants to effect any change, it should be effected through secondary legislation.
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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I note what the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, and the Minister said. However, we are very familiar with the fact that the Assembly's system of election was decided by primary legislation; indeed, we are going to alter it by primary legislation here in both Houses of Parliament. So I cannot accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, that the second vote is a party vote and therefore it is satisfactory for the party hierarchy to decide who will be elected. I can see no reason at all why an open list is not much preferable as far as political parties are concerned. Perhaps the political parties are worried that people within their own parties might rock the boat or they might be more focused and get down to some rather hard decisions when they are elected. Lo and behold, perhaps the electorate might rather like that.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, said that secondary legislation could achieve what the amendment sought. That may be the case. He asks why we should be burdened. Well, we have done it before. We did it in the original Wales Bill and we are going to do it in this Bill by suggesting another system. Therefore, I have no compunction whatever about dividing the House on this issue.
"(8) In the event of a candidate's death, the returning officer shall make arrangements for the election in that constituency or Assembly electoral region to be held not more than 28 days after the death of that candidate.
(9) Subsection (8) does not apply if the original date of the election is more than 28 days after the date of the death of the candidate."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the event of the death of a candidate at constituency level the whole regional list is suspended because you cannot total up the votes until you know which candidates have succeeded in each of the constituencies in that region. If the list is not complete in a region, the composition of the Assembly itself will not be known. We have to decide how we are going to fill that constituency vacancy. A candidate has died, therefore the election is postponed.
This happened in England during the previous election, when there was a delay of some weeks before the vacancy, which I believe was in Staffordshire, was filled. We consulted electoral officers to determine how quickly such a vacancy could be filled. It was suggested that you really needed 35 days to nominate a new candidate, print the ballot papers and distribute them, especially to postal voters, before polling day. It was suggested that 35 days would be the ideal. Of course, 35 days is 35 days in limbo for the region and possibly for the Assembly, so we are trying to take one week off those 35 days and make it 28 days. I think possibly it would work, and from the death of a candidate to the election all the procedures could be filled in 28 days. That is the reason for the amendment and for the period that we have specified in the amendment. I beg to move.
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