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Lord Hughes of Woodside: Surely the noble Lord has not really examined the Bill. Those from the regional lists will be responsible to the people in the regions. Their duty will be to look after the regions. A false dichotomy is being thrown up.
Lord Waddington: That depends on the size of the region and the part of the region from which the individual comes. Someone who is plucked off the party list, for whom nobody will have voted as an individual, will then be expected to have a relationship with a particular person who comes along and asks him or her for assistance. I cannot believe that that will result in members of the parliament plucked off the regional lists feeling that they have a relationship with the electorate remotely like the relationship between a Member of Parliament and the constituency that he represents on a first-past-the-post basis.
Lord Waddington: I know that very well. But at present we are confronted with a scheme put forward by the Government which does not connect the member of parliament plucked off the party list with any particular voters.
I know that the noble Earl did not raise the argument today but very often one hears Members from the Liberal Benches talking as if the only object of an electoral system is to produce members of parliament
I agree with my noble friend's opening remarks. Our traditional system has served us well. We are not in the business of supporting one particular system because we believe it may give us an advantage at this point in time. Shifting coalitions have not produced good government in other countries. I strongly believe that our system of first-past-the-post has created in this country governments which, broadly speaking, have represented the wishes of the public, and when they have ceased to do so at the ensuing general election, the public, have let them know quite forcefully, as they did a short time ago, that they have lost the confidence of the electorate.
It may well be that normally the Free Democrats in Germany manage in some mysterious way to sense the general views of the electorate and throw their weight on the side of this or that larger party. But it seems a very unsatisfactory way of doing things. It seems much more important that there should be absolute clarity in these matters and that when the electorate says clearly, "You, the Government, have lost our confidence", that government disappear simply because they do not have enough seats. I wholeheartedly support the scheme which is proposed by the series of amendments moved from these Benches.
Lord Gray of Contin: I rise to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I listened carefully to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, whose speeches in this House I frequently find fascinating, but I have to admit that I found him less than impressive tonight.
I also listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. He and I got into another place at the same election, in 1970. I was elected for a highly marginal seat which I had to nurse for 13 years and to which I hung on by the skin of my teeth at most elections. He was fortunate enough to be elected for a very safe seat and, like all Members for safe seats, had very little worry when an election was announced. The difference between us is reflected in the views which we have put forward this evening. For example, the noble Lord indicated that he did not consider that the constituency link was vitally important. As one who sat for 13 years for a highly marginal seat, I found it extremely important. Indeed, when I lost it, I was out.
However well intentioned the Bill may be in proposing two different types of MP, that situation will have consequences with regard to the constituency link. I believe that that link is of vital importance. You cannot hope to know the down-to-earth problems of your constituency unless you hold regular surgeries and meet
The Bill tries in various ways to do things differently from the way they are done at Westminster. The great idea seems to be, "Let's do it differently from Westminster". The noble Lord, Lord Steel, referred to leaving it to the Scottish parliament to decide various things. That is all very well, but good guidelines must be given in the first instance. The Scottish parliament will have a great many members who have never been members of a parliament before and have no experience of government or parliament. It is up to us in this Parliament to set out as clearly as possible what might be for the best.
I do not want to continue for too long. This has been a fairly lengthy debate for a small amendment, and most of what I had intended to say has already been said. However, I wish to put one point to the Government. If this system is so wonderful and so ideal, why is it not to be introduced for Westminster at the next election? I would have thought that, if it represented the best way forward, the sooner it were introduced, the better. There must be a reason. I have my own theory, but I will not deploy it at the moment.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: Before the noble Lord sits down, I am sorry if I gave the impression that I discounted entirely the constituency connection. I find it extremely valuable. But I am not sure that the best way of learning how a constituency operates is through the Saturday morning surgery. I believe that the value of the constituency link is in the meetings with interests of business, trade and education and the whole panoply of issues which come up in constituency party work. That link will be maintained by the constituency-elected members. I do not think that those who do not have a constituency are any less worthy because they do not have that link.
Lord Gray of Contin: I accept what the noble Lord said, and I know the point he is making. I do not believe that experience in other countries where the constituency link has been dispensed with necessarily indicates that that is a good system. I disagree with those who say that better government has been provided by that system than by first-past-the-post.
Like the noble Lord, the former Member for Aberdeen North, I was brought up on the first-past-the-post system, and I suppose that I have a bias towards it because of that. Where anything in which one believes strongly is concerned, I think that the argument for change must always be made by those who want the change. The argument for change in this case has not convinced me.
As far as I understand the question--I hope I have got it right--the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked how a Bill could be launched when there was not an automatic majority for it in the Scottish parliament because the electoral system would not produce a straight majority. We see as one of the great merits of what we are proposing the fact that it will be necessary for the executive, in putting forward a Bill, not simply to introduce it and rely on simple majoritarianism to get it through, but to build support and argue its case through the process of scrutiny and deliberation, to which we referred on the earlier amendment. One hopes that the electoral system itself will generate the working together and consensus and support building that is necessary.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I do not wish to hold matters up, but I believe that this is a quite different point from any others that have been made. I gave an example of a Bill about schools. I have great difficulty in imagining how one will achieve this lovely consensus for a Bill that will make the radical changes that are perhaps necessary in Scottish schools. I personally think that something has to happen; I am prepared to go in for a lot of give and take. Does the noble Lord really believe that such a Bill would get off the ground? Given the disagreement that will exist, I wonder how many Bills will get started in this parliament.
Lord Sewel: No one is trying to pretend that consensus building is easy; it is not. It involves a lot of hard work and difficulty in persuading people of the nature of the argument and the case that is being made. It is not a case of all being jolly good chaps or "chapesses" together.
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