All our yesterdays: peers discuss assembly elections
- 19 June 2012
- From the section Wales politics
It used to be said that old MPs never die, they just go to the House of Lords.
In 2012, the same could be said of former members of the National Assembly for Wales.
Yesterday, their lordships devoted three hours to a discussion of how AMs are elected.
Three former AMs began their speeches by declaring they were in receipt of assembly pensions. Lords German and Wigley, and Lady Randerson, were joined by one serving AM, Lord Elis-Thomas.
They were discussing UK government plans to change the balance between AMs elected by first-past-the-post and those chosen through a more proportional system of party lists.
The government also wants to restore the right of would-be AMs to stand in both types of election simultaneously, and to outlaw "double-jobbing" - politicians sitting in both the Commons and the assembly.
Lord Wigley (one of two former Plaid leaders to speak during the debate) blamed his own attempt at double-jobbing for severe health problems some years ago. Lord Wigley was both an AM and an MP between 1999 and 2001.
"Frankly, it was a total nonsense to try to do so, and it was impossible to do both jobs effectively. In the early months, I found myself bouncing back and forth like a yo-yo between Cardiff, Westminster and my Caernarfon constituency - a formidable triangle.
"That undoubtedly contributed, along with other factors, to the emergency heart operation that I underwent at that time."
He suggested the assembly seat should be made vacant at the point an AM takes the oath as an MP.
Labour's Lord Touhig chose one word to describe the current voting system - "barmy".
He added: "I know it was introduced by my party; then again, madness and being a member of the Labour Party are not necessarily mutually disqualifying. It is a barmy system."
Lord Elystan-Morgan, a crossbench peer and former Labour MP, suggested the number of AMs be increased from 60 to 90.
A cross-bench peer has called for the number of AMs to be increased from 60 to 90.
He said 60 was a "ludicrously small number" which had "made it impossible for the Assembly to have any real future or viability and promise
"If that assembly is to be shackled and emasculated to the degree of having only 60 members, we will deny it the real prospect of life and growth".
Lord Elystan-Morgan said 60 of the 90 AMs should be elected by first past the post, with 30 chosen by proportional representation.
Labour's Lord Anderson was sceptical: "The assembly meets for two days a week, plus committees, and I do not have the feeling that it is overwhelmed."
There may be a certain irony in unelected peers dwelling on elections, but that seldom curtails debate. Lord German managed to restrain himself: "I was going to spend some time talking about the benefits of the Sainte-Lague formula over the d'Hondt system but I will resist the opportunity to indulge myself."
Don't let any disappointment at the omission of the Sainte-Lague formula stop you reading the debate for yourself here.