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I have drawn in the amendments that I moved in Committee, so that these amendments now apply only to the executive. I want to add two points to what I said in Committee. I do not want to repeat what I said; it is all there in Hansard, as evidence. First, I asked the Minister whether the Governments famous review of electoral systems, whose results we are all agog to see, would include the supplementary vote. The information that we had from the Minister, who kindly wrote to us about this, is that the review would cover it only to the extent that it covers the Greater London Mayor. That is my understanding of it. It is a pity if that is the case, because it is the supplementary vote systems for the elected mayors that are really relevant in the context of this Bill. The extension of the supplementary vote is at a local level around the countryif the provision ever gets back in the Bill and if anywhere gets to have an elected executiveand for any more mayors who might be elected under the new provisions in the Bill.
I think that the Government and other people really ought to have a look at how the supplementary vote works in practice. It is not an efficient voting system; it is a very confusing voting system. All the evidence is that it results in a lot of votes being wasted at an early stage of the countthe first and second preference. There is a very efficient, well known voting system available that does exactly what the supplementary vote is meant to do but much better. That is the alternative vote, which is the vote that we use for elections in this Houseit is the vote that is used for Peers by-elections. Whether that is a recommendation I am not sure, but it is the voting system that this House thought was sensible to use for elections to itself, and it is the electoral system that is used in many organisations, including the Labour Party.
There is a small but growing amount of evidence on whether the alternative vote is an efficient system for public elections. That is in council by-elections in Scotland because, since Scotland adopted the single transferable vote as its local election system, which was used for the first time in May, subsequent by-electionswhich are obviously for single seatshave been held under the alternative vote. There have been two so far and the evidence is that it is efficient and that a large proportion of the electorate number their ballot papers to such a stage that their vote is counted between the final two candidates, which simply does not happen under the supplementary vote, on the evidence that we have.
The most recent of those by-elections, in Argyll and Bute a couple of weeks ago, resulted in a Liberal Democrat victory, but that is not the basis for my arguing that it is a good system. The Liberal Democrat
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Baroness Andrews: My Lords, it has been one of my lifetimes ambitions to debate voting systems with the noble Lord, and now I have the opportunity. I am afraid that it will be rather short, because we had quite a long debate in Committee and my noble friend Lady Morgan then explained that every voting system has advantages and disadvantages. The noble Lord has explored some of those advantages and disadvantages this evening. I agree with him about the need for appropriate systems. I was surprised that he is still having to do research on the supplementary vote system. I thought that he gave an absolute masterclass on the supplementary vote system in Committee, but I listened with interest to what he said.
We acknowledge that there are arguments both for and against the various voting systems. I do not need to go on a great deal, because the noble Lord will know that the reason why we have proposed using the supplementary vote system for the elected executives is that mayors are elected by the supplementary vote system. It was as simple and consistent as that; we believed that it was appropriate to use the same voting system. I have no argument in my text about the alternative vote system because, as I said, we made the decision.
All that I want to put on record is that we commissioned the review. The result will be announced before the end of the year. It will consider the experience of new voting systems used in the UK since 1997, which is why it includes the London Mayor and the supplementary vote system. The noble Lord would be extremely surprisedprobably bewilderedif I attempted to pre-empt the findings of the review by encouraging the introduction of further changes to the electoral system. He spoke very seriously about those different ways of voting. It is an important part of the democratic process that we get the right system for the job in hand and I appreciate that his remarks are on the record. I am sure that he looks forward to receiving a copy of the review. We will no doubt pore over it together but, in the mean time, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, that is an offer that I cannot refuse. I will withdraw the amendment. I must tell the Minister that I had not really discovered the supplementary voting system or looked at it in any detail until it appeared in the Bill. That is what launched me on this path and I promise her and the Government that I shall return to it vigorously, but not under the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we had a useful debate in Committee on the community governance review processes. Members opposite tabled a number of amendments, to which we have given careful consideration over the summer. The amendments in this group are brought before the House as a result of those considerations and we believe that they will strengthen the Bill, as well as making some of the provisions clearer. As noble Lords are aware, my noble friend wrote on 1 October 2007 setting out why the amendments are required.
First, we are proposing amendments to Clause 81 to ensure that existing groups of parishes are able to adopt alternative styles. As the Bill was drafted, only non-grouped parishes and new groups of parishesthose that were grouped for the first timecould have an alternative style. All parishes should be able to have an alternative style if that is what the parish
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During Committee, it was highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that the wording of Clause 90(1)(a) and Clause 90(1)(c) was contradictory. Clause 90 should set out that, where the council receives a petition for an area that is wholly outside the area of an ongoing community governance review, the principal council must undertake a community governance review of the petition area. We have taken the opportunity to redraft Clauses 89, 90 and 91 so that it is clear in what circumstances a council is under a duty toor when it has a power toconduct a review. We emphasise that, where local people petition for a review and a review is not under way for that area or has not been completed for the area in the previous two years, the principal council is under a duty to conduct a review for the petition area.
During the debate on Clause 93 in Committee, we were asked to replace the word available with the word unparished. We agree that this would be a sensible amendment, as unparished is the term that is used by practitioners and is well understood. We are therefore proposing an amendment to give effect to that in relation to paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 93(2) and Clause 93(3). For clarity, we are moving the requirement to publicise the recommendations emerging from a review into Clause 99 rather than Clause 102. That is because the publication of the recommendations is actually part of the review and should therefore be under Clause 99, which is entitled, Duties when undertaking a review.
General concerns were raised in Committee that a principal council could choose to ignore the recommendation of a community governance review and simply decide not to give effect to the recommendation. It is of course only right that, as we are devolving power to local authorities to take decisions, they must equally be able to decide not to adopt the reviews recommendations, if appropriate, in the same way that the Secretary of State can now decide not to adopt a reviews recommendation.
However, we have noted the concerns raised and we are bringing forward amendments to Clause 102 so that a local authority is under a duty to give reasons to explain its decisions. Therefore, following a review, the principal council will consider whether to implement the recommendations resulting from a community governance review. Whatever decision it takes will need to be justified and local people will be able to see clearly on what basis the decision was taken. We believe that the amendment strengthens the Bill and ensures that the entire process of deciding whether or not parishes should be created is conducted openly and transparently, which is what the Committee requested.
We are making an amendment to Schedule 6. This will amend Section 16(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 to ensure that where parishes are grouped they do not end up with an excessive number of councillors. Currently, that provision reads that each parish should have five councillors. We are amending
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Finally, we are making amendments to Clauses 86, 92, 94, 106 and 108. These amendments are all minor drafting improvements to ensure clarity and consistency between clauses. I hope that noble Lords will agree that this group of amendments responds to concerns raised by Members of this House. They also make some additional technical changes to the provisions. I commend them to the House and I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I ought to thank the Minister for the titbits that I have been thrown. Sometimes, when noble Lords go home to their own communities, especially if they are far away, people come up and ask, When you go down to that London, what do you do in that Lords place? Is it any use? Do you ever achieve anything?. In future, I will always be able to reply, Yes. I am responsible for the word unparished being incorporated into the law of England. There we are. At least it shows that the Minister and her team considered the amendments that we moved, even if they rejected 99 per cent of them.
I was flabbergasted when I discovered that there were another two full pages of stuff about alternative styles in the Bill. I return to what I said in Committee. This approach is a good example of how lawmaking nowadays is far too detailed and takes up far too many pages in the Acts. I blame computers, because they make it all possible. I do not understand the differenceI do not think that there is anybetween the ability of parish councillors in future to call themselves neighbourhood councillors, community councillors or village councillors and the ability that they have now to call themselves town councillors if they wish. That seems to be an identical provision with identical effect, yet in 10 lines Section 245(6) of the Local Government Act 1972 gives parish councillors the right to call themselves town councillorsI think that that was introduced as an amendment as the Bill went through. There are two or three more subsections to allow them to change back if they want to, but the basic provision takes up 10 lines. We have a whole chunk of the Bill for that.
The way things are done nowadays is ridiculous. It means that poor old parish clerks will have to spend hours reading the Bill, trying to understand it to tell their councillors what it means, when it is really dead simple. If they want to call themselves a neighbourhood, a village or a community, they will be able to do so, just as they can now call themselves a town. That could all have been done in 10 lines.
(5) If the common parish council passes a resolution under this section for each of the grouped parishes to have an alternative style, the group of parishes shall have the appropriate one of the following styles
(14) If parishes which have an alternative style are grouped under a common parish council, subsection (11), (12) or (13) (as appropriate) applies to the chairman and vice-chairman of that council as the subsection would apply in the case of the council of an individual parish.
(9) If parishes which have an alternative style are grouped under a common parish council, subsection (6), (7) or (8) (as appropriate) applies to the councillors of that council as the subsection would apply in the case of the council of an individual parish.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment pursues slightly further the question of appointed members of parish councils. Noble Lords will remember
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Some noble Lords expressed grave doubts about appointed councillors and whether appointing members to any elected body in a democracy was the way we should go. A further amendment from my noble friend Lady Scott would do away with the whole thing, which I will support because the provision is wrong in principle. However, if we are going to have appointed members, it is important that they are closely constrained.
We learnt in Committee that only one, two or at the most three members could be appointed. You could not appoint half the council, change the political composition of the council or build up an unassailable majority on larger councils which have political representation. The Minister wrote to us to explain that the appointment of an appointed councillor probably would be for one year under the regulations.
The period of four years is deliberate. A parish council is elected for four years, at the end of which anyone who has been appointed can stand for election. While there might be value in having expertise on a parish council, at the end of that period they should stand for election like everyone else and not just expect to be appointed again without further ado or having to ask the people for their support.
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