My Lords, in speaking in the gap I would like to express the hope that Ministers and civil servants will very closely read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, today in this Chamber. He set out a powerful argument which is supported universally-certainly within the Liberal party and the Labour Party-as to what the problem is with the proposed system. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments that I have used over many hours in Committee and on the Floor over two Bills, in which I expressed my total and unalterable opposition to this whole exercise, which I believe is going to be a disaster for the British electoral system.
Many of the arguments that have been deployed in the debate today were predicted-in fact, not just many of them but all of them. They were all predicted during the course of those previous Bills. Everything that has been said in terms of alerting the House to the dangers inherent in the proposed system were all commented upon in great detail over the course of a number of amendments. However, that is the past, and while I remain totally hostile, we have to move forward and find a way to try to make what I believe to be a stupid system work.
I want to make a proposal which the Government might wish to consider. Over the coming few years, as more and more evidence surfaces as to the inability of this system to secure what was its original intention, why do the Government not introduce a grant to local authorities-and we will come to the funding of that grant in a moment-whereby local authorities are paid per elector who is registered? In other words, for every elector who is registered, they will receive a sum of money-it might be £10 per elector; I do not know, but that is the figure that comes to mind. I have discussed this with some people in offices of local authorities, and they are concerned about how it would be funded-because it would probably be funded in part by a reduction in revenue support grant elsewhere. However, it is the only way I can see whereby we can build into the system an incentive to encourage local authorities to carry out this requirement.
Furthermore, local authorities could then advertise in local newspapers explaining that individual registration meant more money for local authorities, and that it was the duty of each citizen to register so as to enable that authority to secure that sum of money. It would help the elector identify more directly with local authority expenditure. I hope Ministers will consider that proposal.