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Clause 2 — Removal of restriction on standing for election for both constituency — and electoral region

Part of Wales Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 24th June 2014.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales) 4:15 pm, 24th June 2014

I am not casting aspersions on any individual list candidates. We have two excellent Labour list Assembly Members in west Wales—Rebecca Evans, who champions disability issues, and Joyce Watson, who champions human trafficking issues. They are doing an excellent job, because they are focusing on topics, not sitting like some great cuckoo on one constituency out of eight and making that their sole focus of attention, ignoring what is happening in important aspects of the other seven constituencies that they represent.

We have seen such abuse in Wales before. I am sure my right hon. Friend Mr Hain will remind us again, as he has done many times, of the blatant abuse of the list system. He has quoted frequently from the leaked memorandum from Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, in which she gives explicit instructions to her party’s list Assembly Members to direct their time and resources, paid for by the taxpayer, to Plaid Cymru’s target seats.

Some people say that putting into the 2006 Act the clause that prevents an individual from standing for both the constituency and the list was a partisan move by the Labour Government, but we knew full well that it would also prevent our candidates from standing for both. We had at least four sitting constituency AMs who we knew were likely to be vulnerable to electoral change in the 2007 Assembly election and who could have hedged their bets by standing for both. That might have been very cosy for them, but as a matter of principle we knew how much the electorate hated it. On the doorsteps we heard people ask, “What difference will it make if we go out and vote?” It was extremely difficult to convince people after the Clwyd West scenario, because whoever the constituents voted for, all four parties were elected.

It was extremely important to us to stand by our principle, rather than making some sort of cosy situation for our AMs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in some circumstances, depending on the specific arithmetic for the region, a candidate who could stand for both the constituency and the list could be pretty much guaranteed to be elected on one or other of them. That could breed a certain complacency, which would not serve the electorate well at all. We take issue with the accusation that this is a partisan point, because it is a point of principle. We strongly oppose clause 2, which seeks to turn the clocks back and allow dual candidacy. Our amendment therefore seeks to remove that clause from the Bill.

Our view is that the Assembly’s electoral arrangements should be decided in Wales, so we have also tabled an amendment proposing that an order should be laid in the Assembly by the Welsh Government before any change on dual candidacy can be implemented. I hope that Members will vote for our amendments.