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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 4:45 pm on 24th June 2014.

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Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath 4:45 pm, 24th June 2014

I am grateful for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, which directly answers the hon. Gentleman’s point. I am speaking about Wales. I am not aware of serial abuses of the kind practised in Wales prior to the 2006 ban occurring in Scotland. Indeed, I think that the codes that apply in Scotland may be different. I note that the then Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Lord Steel, attacked dual candidature in terms very similar to mine.

Leanne Wood’s bible for dual candidature went on:

“We need to be thinking much more creatively as to how we better use staff budgets for furthering the aims of the party.”

She finished with a refreshing burst of honesty that, in an era of political spin, can only be commended:

“Regional AMs are in a unique position. They are paid to work full-time in politics and have considerable budgets at their disposal. They need not be constrained by constituency casework and events, and can be more choosy about their engagements, only attending events which further the party’s cause. This can be achieved by following one simple golden rule: On receipt of every invitation, ask ‘How can my attendance at this event further the aims of Plaid Cymru?’ If the answer is ‘very little’ or ‘not at all’, then a pro forma letter of decline should be in order.”

All the arguments and evidence I have cited, in the past few minutes, in Committee and on Second Reading, demonstrate that the 2006 ban was not partisan but instead enhanced the democratic standards of all Welsh Assembly Members.

Indeed, I reminded the House at the time of the ban that six Labour Assembly Members, including three Ministers, would be defeated in the 2007 Assembly elections by a very small swing of 3% against them. They would not have the lifebelt of dual candidature, which I had removed; they would no longer enjoy the safety net of the regional list. Two of them subsequently did lose, as I said could happen. The reform affected Labour candidates and candidates of other parties alike, a point that my hon. Friend Nia Griffith made so eloquently.

In conclusion, the Government have now officially blessed this practice—presumably, they will marshal the votes shortly to try to defeat our amendment—and it appears that they are, sadly, doing so with the blessing of the Electoral Commission. I therefore look forward to Labour being welcomed into the fold of running dual candidates again. After all, why should we lose out while everybody else takes advantage? Never mind the voters, let us put our own self-interest as political parties first. I trust that the Government will be proud of bringing politicians in Wales into even greater disrepute than the political class right across the United Kingdom. Tellingly, the Electoral Commission is endorsing that disrepute and the Secretary of State is now smiling in anticipation of that happening. That is the consequence of his reversal of this ban; he is opening the door again to the serial abuses which have been documented and proved beyond doubt. He is going to invite that very abuse of democracy in Wales by removing the ban and installing clause 2, which is the reason for moving and supporting amendment 13.