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Lord Whitty: In response to the first point of the noble Baroness, the system is effectively the same--although the proportions are somewhat different--as in Scotland and Wales. I have no doubt that there are a number of teething problems in both those countries and there will be a number of teething problems in London. We are talking about creating new institutions with a new range of powers and a new basis of legitimacy. However, I do not believe that any fundamental problem experienced by the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly--despite the problems they have--relates to the fact that they allegedly have a two-tier level of membership. I do not believe that that is a huge problem although there may be some difficulties at the margin.
As to whether political parties are satisfied with the respective results, given that in neither case was an overall majority won by any party, none of the political parties will be entirely happy. They will find other reasons to explain why they feel that the system does not entirely reflect their interests. The idea that we have created assemblies and parliaments with two tiers of members is erroneous and will be erroneous as far as London is concerned.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Before my noble friend responds to the amendment, I should like to make two points. First, I do not believe that the Minister has responded to the point of representation of different interests as an advantage of a proportional system like STV which was put forward by my noble friend. The great advantage of STV is that you can vote for any candidate from any party in any order you wish. I take an extreme example of a woman who has never had the chance to vote for a woman representative. There are women in England who have never had the chance to vote for a woman to represent them. That woman can, if she wishes, vote only for women representatives, taking those from her own party first and then perhaps those from another party. Someone from an ethnic minority can do the same with regard to his choice of candidate. The evidence from countries where STV is used shows that any proportional system tends to assist the election of women but STV is particularly effective in assisting with the election of women and those from ethnic minorities. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, did not respond to that point when my noble friend mentioned it.
Further, I disagree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. I am rather a "nerd" on this subject and I shall not bore the Committee by describing the whole system. We elect all our committee members at a national level on STV. The votes are counted from those who have the most votes downwards. Anyone who has more votes than he or she needs to get elected--that is, more than their quota--finds that the excess votes trickle down. Therefore the most popular people are elected first. It is not a case of the least popular people being elected first. The people who are elected are those who have accumulated the most votes. People do not necessarily understand how the voting system works. It favours those who have the most support, not those with less support.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I cannot let that pass. When I was in Australia at Easter I was shown the size of the single transferable vote list for the Senate. It was as big as an enormous tablecloth. That is the kind of thing one gets when matters reach a ridiculous level.
I was elected to the General Dental Council on the basis described by the noble Baroness. That still does not alter my view. I do not think that I was necessarily the most popular person but I was fortunate enough to be elected on a single transferable vote when, at a
Lord Whitty: With due respect to both august bodies, I am not sure that the internal committee of the Liberal Democrat Party or the General Dental Council are good models for how we should run London in the future.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I really must stop talking about women as a minority. I am talking about getting elected to elected bodies people who are not normally elected. That is the point I was making. STV gives people the chance to do that.
Lord Whitty: I accept that. I thought we were talking about the under-represented part of the community, whether they are women, ethnic minorities or other minorities. It depends on the size of the STV constituency whether or not an STV system makes that easier. If political parties are committed to greater representation of women or ethnic minorities, a topping-up list system is a very effective way of increasing their representation. That is an opportunity the political parties in London will have through the London-wide election lists.
Lord Tope: The Minister began by suggesting that there was some possible difference of view between myself and Menzies Campbell about the benefits of PR systems. That is a conceptual impossibility. There is no difference between us at all. We believe that any genuine proportional system is better than the first-past-the-post system but that some proportional systems are better than others. That is a perfectly clear and consistent view. It has always been and remains our preferred option to use the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. Where that is not achievable--either because of an intransigent government or for other reasons--then an alternative proportional system is certainly still preferable to first-past-the-post. If we fail to get into the Bill the best electoral system, we will undoubtedly end up supporting the second or third best, or whatever grade one gives to the system proposed. At least that will produce a proportional result in spite of the defects that I and my noble friend have spoken to. Although my noble friend tells me rather late in the day that she is a "nerd" on these subjects--I wonder if "nerd" is a parliamentary term--I am sure she could have moved the amendment far better than I.
The Minister said that I referred to the possibility-- I certainly meant to say it--of the danger of two types of members of the assembly emerging and that I then retreated from it. I do not think I retreated from it. It is a fear I have. I expressed the hope that it will not happen; that is not the same as retreating. I hope that it will not happen; I fear that it might. We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour. She indicated that if the Scottish experience is borne out and continues, that may well happen. I can envisage arguments about expenses at an early stage. Constituency members will argue that they need higher expenses because they have constituents to deal with; London members will argue that their constituents are the whole population of London. They both will be right.
I hope very much that such arguments will not happen. I do not want to see that emerge--I do not want to be a part of that in any way--but it is a fear I have. It is a situation we could avoid by adopting the eminently sensible and particularly democratic system--which will apply very well in the small strategic authority for London we are debating--of the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies.
I am not sure whether the Minister expressed a hope or an expectation when he said that we will return to this subject again. I do not wish to disappoint him but, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.