I spoke briefly in the House last night on an amendment to the Wales Bill. Lord Hain sought to prohibit people who lived outside Wales from being elected to sit in the National Assembly for Wales. My objection was one of principle. Parliament should seek to ensure that electors can select who they want to represent them. It is not our job to tell them who they can or, in this case, cannot choose to speak for them. If electors in Wales want to elect someone who lives outside Wales, then that is a matter for them.
It was the same principle that led me to object to banning the dual mandate in respect of members of the European Parliament. If one is elected as an MEP, one cannot sit in a national legislature. The Government accepted the conceit of the EP that members were so busy that they could not do another job sitting in another legislature. (We had to pass legislation to bar peers who were elected as MEPs from sitting in the House until they ceased to be MEPs.) It may be that one cannot do two jobs at the same time (though this did not seem to stop Iain Paisley, who at one point had a triple mandate), but, as far as I am concerned, that should be a matter for electors. If they wish to select someone who already sits in a legislature, that is their choice. The person may or may not be up to the job, but that is a matter between them and their electors.
The point was raised last night that the use of a the top-list meant that electors had no real choice over candidates. They vote for a party. That, as I pointed out in response, was a case for changing the method of election, not for restricting further voter choice.
In intervening during Lord Hain’s closing comments, I pointed out that many years ago a Labour MP listed an address in Greece. Lord Hain said he would not embarrass me by mentioning where some Conservative MPs lived. It would not embarrass me, since I don’t regard it as a problem. If electors know where their elected representative lives, and are content with that, it is a matter for them. If they don’t like it, they can throw the Member out at the next election.
I am for eroding, not extending, restrictions on who can stand as candidates. Let electors choose who they want.