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Hansard 10 Nov: Column 206 ...
Hansard 10 Nov: Column 206

The commons last night overwhelmingly rejected lords amendments which would remove closed party lists in next May European parliament elections and, instead, allow electors vote for named candidates.

The 307 to 125 vote majority came in spoite of the fact that not one Labour backbencher spoke in support of the government and several were highly critical of the closed list system.

Home secretary Jack Straw won support for an amendment pledging a review of the European elections electoral system after next May's contests.

The lords will cause constitutional problems and electoral mayhem if they refuse to change their view when the European Parliamentary Elections Bill returns to the upper house.

Mr Straw insisted that on the two occasions the lords had voted to change the closed list system, the government would have won comfortably had it not been for the hereditary Conservative peers. The issue was now beyond the issue of list systems; there was now a challenge to the authority of the democratically-elected commons hereditary Conservative peers.

Llew Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, was one of several Labour backbenchers critical of the closed list system, saying: 'Under the closed system we will centralise power and a few party hacks will determine who becomes a member of the European parliament. For us in the Labour party, that makes a bad situation worse, as we all know that the people at the top of the list for the European elections have been decided not by one person, one vote, but once again by a panel of about a dozen people.

Mr Straw disagreed. If parliament were to reject the Bill, the consequences for the electoral system would be very severe.

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