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Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, with regard to the argument that has been advanced, the emphasis has been on the party. If they had been elected by way of proportional representation, then their loyalty is to the party. The amendment, as I understand it, is that if someone leaves the party and crosses the floor then of course they are no longer entitled to retain their seat. What would happen if the party machine does not like an individual and takes away that individual's membership, or indeed takes away that individual's Whip? Then that person is persona non grata. That is a power for the
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, on that last point, the possibility of party discipline being, shall we say, over-strengthened would arise if the words if a member were thrown out of his party shall be deemed to have created a vacancy" were in the amendment, but that is not there. This particular amendment is very specifically drawn so that it applies only to an individual who, of his own volition, decides that he wishes to leave his party. There is nothing in this specific amendment which would give the party machine any greater authority over its members than it already has.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, that should teach my noble friend not to make jokes on the basis of his experience as an old apparatchik. He ceased to be one some time ago. As the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Coity--who I think must have been as surprised as the noble Earl to find himself on the same side--said it gives enormous power.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is indeed. The noble Lord referred rightly to the fact that those who wished for the democratic centralism to which the noble Earl referred would very much like this power.
As noble Lords have said, the amendment returns to an issue debated at earlier stages. The Government continue to believe that it would be impractical to implement the proposals set out in the amendment. A dissident member of a registered party who stood to lose his or her assembly seat by resigning the Whip would surely simply not resign. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, referred to the question of ethics. But that would not arise because the person who was prepared voluntarily to face the electorate would not be in this position. Therefore, we are dealing with those who do not want to resign their seat.
From the debate, it is clear that, in the view of those who support the amendment, the provision should never be used for those who have been sacked. A case has not been made to justify those who take the specific action of resigning the Whip--for whatever reason and however honourably--to be forced to do so; while those who refuse to do so--however dishonourably it may appear in individual cases--are not affected.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, on the basis of that argument, the Government should be moving to delete subsection (5). Exactly those rules will apply to the next highest loser if a vacancy occurs. The party will be asked whether that person is still a member of the party. If it is good enough to be a test for whether the next highest loser can come into the Parliament, it is good enough for someone who is already there.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we are not talking about local government, but about additional members. I may be wrong, but I do think that any local government body in England has been elected by the additional member system of proportionality. The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are so elected. The London body will be quite different.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, if the noble Lord reads Hansard, he will find that I said that it is regardless of which type of election and to which body the person is elected. It is a process that allows that person to accept office. I repeat the point. It is the Government's view that regardless of what happens during that process, at the point that that person accepts office, his position changes. What would happen is that a dissident member would refuse to toe the party line, or resign the Whip, and yet maintain his position.
I have been asked what the Government would put in place. The Government take the view that the issue that is being dealt with in these amendments is a dangerously centralising one, giving far too much power to political parties. It is a quite clear convention that a sitting representative, whether a Member of Parliament or a councillor, has an identity and role regardless of the process used in terms of party affiliation.
London members, through whichever electoral procedures they are elected, will be elected to represent the strategic interests of all Londoners. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, is right in regard to the responsibilities people have.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, asked about the remuneration of Members serving in the Scottish Parliament. Knowing his support for the principle of devolution to Scotland, I am sure he would be appalled were I to rise to that bait and deal with the internal affairs of the Scottish Parliament and its decisions. I think that it would be wrong for us to interfere in the way suggested in the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.
Lord Tope: My Lords, the amendment has provoked a most interesting debate. I am sorry that it has divided the Conservative Party. I have spent most of my adult life trying to divide the Conservative Party, usually unsuccessfully. On this occasion, I seem to have provoked it without intending to do so.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, for his eloquent support, and his experience in Scotland and Wales. I apologise if I gave another impression when I referred to Britain. As I said it, especially looking at the noble Lord, I realised that I meant England. I think that I corrected what I said. If I gave offence to Scotland or Wales, it was unintentional and I apologise.
Perhaps I may disagree with the noble Lord on one point. He said that what we have now is an inevitable consequence of proportional representation. That is not true. It is rubbish. It is an inevitable consequence of this system of proportional representation. If he would like me to give your Lordships a lecture on the differences of proportional representation, I shall do so; but I can see that he does not. The system for this election, as for Scotland and Wales, is not one favoured by the Liberal Democrats. We favoured a system of proportional representation which would not have led to these consequences. So from that point of view, I find myself in exactly the same position as the Conservative Members who are supporting this amendment. It is not a system we would have chosen, or wished for; but we have it and we have to make it work. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, made the point well.
A number of speakers, including, surprisingly, the Minister replying, referred to giving too much power to the party and the party machine. We have had talk about democratic centralism. Talking about democratic centralism at the same time as referring to apparatchiks must cause a few twinges! It is to misunderstand the amendment. That was exactly the reason why we disagreed with the earlier amendment from Members on the Conservative Front Bench, as they have readily acknowledged and recognised. Their amendment provided that if someone were expelled from the party, he or she should have to resign. We disagreed with that for exactly the reasons others have given: that that would provide too much power to a party machine to deal with difficult and troublesome people.
This amendment does not refer to party power, but to the individual choice of the assembly member. It is nothing to do with the party. If the assembly member chooses to leave one party and join another party, or no party, that is that individual's choice. It is nothing to do with the party. If an assembly member knew that if he changed party or left the party from whose list he had been elected he would have to leave his seat on the assembly, that may well be a disincentive to change party. I acknowledge that and it is true. It will be troublesome for the party concerned, which I also acknowledge. Others have said that it is a problem which the party managers will have to deal with. That is also true. That situation may well occur. It is something we shall have to deal with. However, this amendment deals solely with a situation where an individual assembly member, elected for no other reason--
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