HL Deb 05 November 1998 vol 594 cc387-99

4.26 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Serota) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [The register]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 10, at end insert—

("(3) The Secretary of State may by order transfer the functions of the registrar under this Act to such body established by statute or the holder of such office so established as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 1 of the Bill requires the register of political parties to be maintained by the registrar of companies. The registrar of companies is not in fact a particularly appropriate person to handle the responsibility of maintaining the register under this Bill. The existing duties of the registrar are largely administrative and record-keeping and the registrar has no functions comparable with those to be exercised by him under this Bill.

Control over the names of companies is the responsibility not of the registrar but of the Secretary of State under Chapter II of the Companies Act 1985. It is not obvious that any other existing office holder would be more appropriate for the maintenance of the register of political parties. The use of the registrar for the purposes of the Bill may therefore be acceptable in the short-term but not acceptable in the long term. Therefore, sooner or later, a new office or body will need to be created for that purpose.

Since Second Reading, the report of the Neill Committee on standards in public life on the funding of political parties has been published. Of course, I am a member of that committee. The committee recommended the setting up of an election commission for various purposes, including the monitoring of donations to political parties and spending limits. The Jenkins Commission has also recommended that certain functions should be exercised by an election commission.

The election commission seems to be the obviously appropriate body to carry out the functions of the registration of parties. This amendment has been included in order to raise for discussion the question of the transfer of the registrar's functions in due course to the election commission.

I recognise that the appropriate course for doing so is not by way of this amendment but to transfer that jurisdiction by an amendment to Clause 1 which establishes the election commission. I should make it clear that for that reason, I do not intend to press the amendment. However, I seek an assurance from the Government that they will give favourable consideration to the transfer of those functions from the inappropriate hands of the registrar of companies to the appropriate hands of the election commission or a similar body which may be set up—and I trust will be set up—to carry out the functions proposed in the Neill Committee's report.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are purely consequential but Amendment No. 43, which is also grouped with Amendment No. 1, is a variation on the theme of the election commission. The returning officer is clearly the right person to take the initial decision on whether a description selected by a candidate is one which is likely to cause confusion with a registered political party. At present, under this Bill, that decision would be subject to judicial review. But judicial review inevitably involves some delay and certainly involves considerable expense. It would be better to provide, as a first step, a right of appeal to an independent body which can hear the appeal quickly and informally and will impose rules consistently throughout the country. Here again the election commission is the appropriate body for that purpose. It can, for example, have members standing by during the nomination period to hear appeals arising from the decision of returning officers more or less instantly.

Here again, I recognise that the proper procedure will be to include such a right of appeal in a Bill establishing an election commission, but Amendment No. 43, like Amendment No. 1, is put down as a marker and in order to seek the Government's reaction.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Henley

I rise very briefly to say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that I have considerable sympathy with Amendment No. 1 and its consequential amendments. I should like to comment on Amendment No. 43; in fact I might even have put my name to that amendment, but it seems that my Liberal Democrat colleagues were not at all keen on dirtying their hands by allowing me to be associated with their amendments. Indeed, all their subsequent amendments were put down in blocks of four names to prevent my attaching my name to them, as I did to a later amendment, Amendment No. 21. However, I do say to the noble Lord that if he wants my support I am always prepared to offer it on certain occasions.

I have only one point that I want to make in relation to this amendment to Clause 1 of the Bill. Clause 1(2) suggests that, The register shall he maintained by the registrar or other officer who performs the duty of registration of companies in England and Wales under the Companies Act 1985". It seems somewhat odd to me, in these days of devolution, that we should be using an officer who registers companies in England and Wales, when we are registering parties throughout the United Kingdom. Although I imagine this will not affect parties which are based in or have their headquarters in London, parties such as the SNP might have considerable misgivings about having to register with a body which operates principally in England and Wales. The same might be true, for example, of federal parties and the Liberal Democrat Party, as with separate organisations in different parts of the United Kingdom.

I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that it would be more appropriate that some other body should be given the task of establishing the register and that the body which registers companies in England and Wales is not necessarily the appropriate body to do this.

Lord Borrie

We discussed this to some extent at Second Reading, but of course we did not then have the benefit of the Neill Report. Now we do have that benefit, it is natural that one should think of an electoral commission, which may well be set up to deal with the funding of political parties and other matters, as being suitable for this purpose. In so far as the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, wants to put a provision in the Bill making that a possibility it seems to me to make quite a lot of sense.

I have, from the beginning, been somewhat concerned that it may not be suitable to appoint the Registrar of Companies to deal with what over the years to come may well be a very major job. It seems as though the Government, quite properly, were casting around for some appropriate existing body rather than setting up a new one. That is quite understandable, but if in due course, when they have considered the Neill Report and find they have to set up a new body—the electoral commission would seem to be suitable—this amendment would make it possible for the Government to do that.

When I looked at the Neill Report—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, will not mind my saying this although he was a member of the committee—there seemed to me to be a lot of loose ends left in relation to its appointment. I feel some uncertainty as to whether it is appropriate that all members of the electoral commission will be part time and so forth. However, leaving that aside, in my view there is quite a lot in what the noble Lord has said.

In relation to Amendment No. 43, I believe that there are quite different considerations and concerns that any sort of appeal from the returning officer during the very brief period of an election may not be suitable. In so far as I am speaking favourably of the main amendment, Amendment No. 1, that does not mean that I am very keen, and it is slightly odd that Amendment No. 43 should be linked with it.

Lord Goodhart

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, would accept that at present the decision of the returning officer can be subject to judicial review. Indeed, there have been a number of cases. What is proposed here is actually a quicker procedure than would be involved in a judicial review.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I shall speak very briefly, and as one who is far from being an enthusiast for the Bill and therefore for the appointment of a registrar. My other reluctance is to confer upon Secretaries of State—any of them—powers which they do not presently need. I see little point in establishing, as this Bill does, a registrar and then tipping him upside down and emptying out all his functions. I think it would be much better to wait until it is clear what the Government want to do. I am very much in favour of rejecting the amendment, as I hope the noble Lord, the Minister, will.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am very grateful for the contributions of Members of the Committee. It is a fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, indicated, that following our earlier discussions the Neill Committee reported. It is useful to bear its view in mind. It set out the question of registration being handled by Companies House in paragraph 11.25. In next paragraph 11.26, it said: This is clearly a pragmatic interim measure, but we believe that registration should be brought together with other aspects of regulation under the aegis of the Election Commission. Since this is a regime which is to be valid across the whole of the United Kingdom we thought it was sensible to have the registrar dealing with it on a UK-wide basis. It is true, of course, that recommendation 82 of the Neill Report was that the election commission should assume the role of registrar of political parties. We are giving careful consideration, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to all the recommendations of the Neill Committee. If an election commission or a similar body is established, it may well make sense for it to take over the role of registrar.

At the moment, as your Lordships know, we need registration urgently for the elections to be held next year. They will be in May for the Scottish parliament and the Welsh national assembly and in June for the European Parliament, so time is quite tight.

To repeat what the Neill Committee said, this Bill takes a pragmatic approach and places the task on the registrar. I say again that we may well want to change this in the future. Your Lordships may think that the appropriate vehicle for such a step is not this Bill—and here I respectfully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil,—but a Bill dealing with party funding. We have already committed ourselves to that, and I repeat that we are committed to publishing in draft form the Bill on party funding before next year's summer Recess.

I do not deal with the consequential matters, which, as the noble Lord said, are matters of detail. Similarly, as regards Amendment No. 43, at the moment the returning officers make a decision and there is no appeal against that decision, in the sense that an appeal is normally understood. There are only 11 working days between the last day for delivery of nomination papers and polling day. I do not dismiss the observations made by the noble Lords, Lord Goodhart and Lord Borrie, about appeals. We will look very carefully at what the Neill Committee has had to say. I hope that the indications I have given, although not promises or commitments, give a pretty clear indication of what we have in mind and that they will satisfy the noble Lords who raised these questions.

Lord Goodhart

I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply. I accept that what he has said is not a commitment in any formal sense, but it is an answer that I find of considerable assistance. For that reason, as well as for the one I gave earlier, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Applications for registration]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 17, at end insert—

("( ) Where the constitution of a party establishes a devolved or federal structure, the party may apply for several entries in the register to reflect these arrangements.

( ) Any such entry may specify a different name for each branch of the organisation.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 2 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8 in my name and Amendment No. 3 in the names of the Liberal Democrat Peers. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will not be surprised to hear me say that I am fundamentally opposed and suspicious of a proposition for the state to register political parties. It suggests that the state may not register those political parties it does not like. As I have said before, if I were setting up as a dictator in the United Kingdom, one of the first steps I should take would be to register political parties.

I understand that we need some measure like the Bill to deal with the various forms of proportional representation foisted upon us by the Government. But the reason I tabled these amendments goes back to a report in the Independent on Sunday of 27th September which said that the Government were bringing forward, under a later part of Clause 3 of the Bill, an order whereby certain words would be banned. Among those words to be banned is, for example, the word "independent". In the words of the report the Government believe that it gives the impression of "partisan politicians". I am not sure what that means.

Under the regulations, which will not apply to existing names, titles such as the Scottish National Party, the National Front and the British National Party would be illegal. The report lists some of the words that would be banned—Ireland, Irish, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish, Scotland, Scottish and, nearer to home for the noble Lord, Lord Williams, Wales and the Welsh. The Scottish press are slow to pick up on these matters but by 11th October Joanne Robertson in the Scottish edition of the Sunday Times was writing an article headed, Only one party can call itself Scottish at polls". To explain my amendment it is worth reading out what she had to say: Only one party in Scotland will be allowed to call itself Scottish for the Holyrood elections next May—the Scottish National party. A new law going through the House of Lords will force all parties to register only one name and logo throughout Britain. This means Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will be barred from using 'Scottish' … north of the border". The same article could have been written for Wales. She went on to say, The SNP was delighted last night. Mike Russell, the party's chief executive, said: 'Next May the truth about the British parties will be revealed for all to see on the ballot paper"'.

There is perhaps on this occasion a community of interest between the Liberal Democrats and myself and, indeed, between us and the Labour Party. The last thing we wish in Scotland or Wales is to see the national parties in both those countries being able to take unto themselves and themselves alone the words "Scottish" and "Welsh".

Therefore I tabled these amendments. Amendment No. 8 was a clumsy and early version. Amendment No. 2 is a better way of dealing with it. My noble friend Lord Henley has just handed me a draft statutory instrument which is the one spoken about by Rachel Sylvester. It has taken since 27th September until now to appear. She obviously had a quick insight into it. When I asked the Library on 13th October, it could not find it but perhaps I have not been keeping my eye on this ball because there have been other balls in place.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

To be helpful, I was going to say later in my remarks that I was arranging to have a copy placed in the Library tomorrow. In fact, in order to assist my colleagues on the other side, I asked for it to be brought here this afternoon and as soon as I received it I handed it to the noble Lords, Lord Henley and Lord Goodhart, so that people who wanted to read it this afternoon did not have to linger in London until tomorrow. It was purely an act of Scottish philanthropy.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am grateful to the noble Lord for showing any act of philanthropy towards me. I hope I said in my remarks that the document was handed to my noble friend and I am grateful for that.

As always, the document is in good, solid, "legalese". If I read it aright, it will mean that the parties in Scotland and Wales will be able to call themselves the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party and the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party; and in Wales the same will happen with the Welsh parties. But will those parties have to register separately or will the registration of the Labour party nationally encompass the Scottish and Welsh variations? My amendment was to enable the Labour Party, when it registered, to be able to say that in Scotland it is called the Scottish Labour Party and in Wales the Welsh Labour Party.

But I go one step further. Parties in Scotland and Wales may have different emblems to the party in the UK—that is certainly true of the Conservative Party. It would help if the noble Lord, Lord Williams, could indicate whether the Bill covers emblems as well.

I note that the Irish problem—if I can call it that—is not mentioned in the draft statutory instrument; Ireland, Irish, Northern Ireland and Northern Irish are not mentioned. So if politics in Ireland were to move in a different direction, political parties on the mainland could fight in Northern Ireland with the prefix "Northern Irish" or "Ulster". In fact, the Conservative Party has fought in Northern Ireland as the Conservative Party, but if that were to happen in the future, would those names be allowed? I can understand that they are not in the list because it is not strictly relevant. There is an Ulster Democrat Party; and I believe that the word "Ulster" comes into the title of some Northern Ireland parties although I have not had an opportunity to check.

I should be grateful if, now or later, the Minister could indicate why none of the Northern Irish names has been included in the draft when Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom appear to have been properly included. I hope the noble Lord can confirm that I read the draft instrument aright and that in relation to Scotland and Wales there is no problem. However, perhaps he can answer my point in regard to the logo and Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart

This is an important group of amendments. My party tabled Amendments Nos. 3 and 10 to which I shall speak. I shall speak also to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.

My party is known as the Liberal Democrats. It is a federal party—a federation of three separate entities whose official titles are the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Welsh Liberal Democrats (also known as Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru, if that is the correct pronunciation and no doubt the noble Lord will correct me if it is not) and the Liberal Democrats in England. Each of those entities, in legal terms, is a separate unincorporated association. The federal party will register as the Liberal Democrats and it is likely that the Liberal Democrats in England will simply use the same title. But the Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats will almost certainly wish to register under those names and perhaps to use an emblem not identical to that of the federal party.

The question is: can the Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats do that? In the debate in Standing Committee A, in the other place on 18th June, the Minister, Mr. Howarth, said, The Bill will allow parties to use a description that denotes a constituent part of the United Kingdom—for example, Scottish Conservative or Welsh Liberal Democrat—but requires the emblem to he the same throughout the country".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee A, 18/6/98; col. 42.] I have found considerable difficulty in extracting that particular conclusion from the terms of the Bill. It seems clear that the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Liberal Democrats are separate organisations, as is the federal party, and each of them is, therefore, a party as defined in Clause 22. If so, each party can register its name under Clause 2, and, if it wishes to do so, can register a separate emblem under Clause 5. The Scottish and Welsh parties do not use separate emblems at present but they might wish to do so in the future.

Can the Minister clarify the position? In particular, can the Welsh and Scottish Liberal Democrats register as separate parties and register separate emblems? Our amendments are, to a large extent, the same as those of the Conservatives, and to that extent we support them. The practical difference is, as I see it, that our amendments allow registration of distinct emblems as well as distinct names.

As with names, an emblem is likely to be a variant on the principal emblem rather than a completely different one. There seems no reason why variations of an emblem should not be allowed. The Scottish Labour Party may wish to have an emblem which is a hybrid of the rose and the thistle to demonstrate how prickly they are likely to be.

I have just seen the draft order. I find it a little difficult to follow. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten me. Article 2(1) says: Subject to paragraph (2), the registered name of a party shall not include any word or expression which is listed in any Part of the Schedule to this Order". Paragraph (2) of that article says: Paragraph (1) shall not apply to a word or expression listed in Part II of the Schedule where it is qualified by another word or expression other than the registered name of a registered party". Part II of the schedule includes the words "Scotland", "Scots" and "Scottish". My reading of that, which may be incorrect, is that the use of the words "Scotland", "Scots" and "Scottish" is legitimate only when used with a name which is not a registered name of a registered party. Therefore, for the Conservative Party, which has a registered name also, to register as the "Scottish Conservative Party" would be specifically forbidden. I may be wrong. I have not had time to examine the document in detail but it concerns me. Perhaps the Minister can explain what is intended.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I do not want to delay your Lordships for any length of time. First, on the amendment proposed by my noble friend, is there anything in the Bill at the moment which stops a political party doing what the amendment proposes that it should be able to do?

My second point is an old-fashioned prejudice but I favour the idea of legislation being kept as short and as simple as possible. I have noted, with increasing anxiety and discontent, that a Bill being launched is rather like a ship putting to sea. With the help of noble Lords of all parties, it gathers to itself any number of unwanted barnacles in its progress. For those reasons, I hope that noble Lords will reject both the amendments.

I have come to regard political parties with restricted enthusiasm. I know of nobody who behaves better, or more intelligently, or who does wiser things when they are wearing a party hat than when they are not. For that simple reason, I regret any measure of this kind which gives political parties more power or any sort of privileged position, and I greatly abhor any notion of having party lists. That is a most offensive idea and I hope that your Lordships will not hear too much about it in the future. I realise that is probably the height of optimism.

Finally, perhaps I may advise the Minister that I greatly admire his skills, so much so that when he speaks it seems to be almost impossible to believe that he could be wrong. However, there are times when my mind drifts towards suspecting that that could be possible. Although I congratulate the Government on the skill they have shown in selecting him as their pilot, I look with some suspicion upon the way in which he uses his talents.

Viscount Bledisloe

I seek some enlightenment from the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. On the Welsh and Scottish Bills he made the point, with great clarity and enthusiasm, and indeed frequency, that there was scope in those Bills for diddling the system. A candidate could stand under one name at stage 1 and under another name at stage 2, and thereby a party would have more candidates than it should. He gave the example that a Conservative could call himself a "Conservative" and then call himself a "Unionist" and do a lot better. It was suggested to him that the right way of dealing with that was in the course of this Bill. So perhaps I may ask him two questions.

First, has be abandoned any hope of achieving that result? Secondly, if he has, do not these amendments, and in particular the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, make that even more likely, because a candidate could stand at stage 1 as a Conservative and at stage 2 as a Welsh Conservative and so benefit from the trick which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, so lucidly explained? However, he then assured us that nobody in his party would ever dream of doing that. I would like some enlightenment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

As this is the Committee stage, I think I can answer immediately. If the noble Lord looks at Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 he will find that I am tackling that problem by the use of those amendments. The amendments try to clarify the position I explained about the use of the word "Scottish". I believe that Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 will deal with the other problem.

Viscount Bledisloe

The noble Lord's amendment allows—if it did not, the speech that he made would be impractical—a party to have the name "Conservative Party" and to have the name "Welsh Conservative Party". Would his amendment prevent a candidate switching the labels and thereby achieving the trick he was talking about?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Perhaps I may come back again on that point. Depending on what the Minister says, of course, if the position came about that a candidate for the Conservative Party tried to stand in the first ballot for the "Conservative Party" and in the second ballot for the "Scottish Conservative Party", under my Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 the registrar would probably rightly refuse to register him and the returning officer would probably refuse to accept that he should stand.

5 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, for being such a lodestar to me. I do not propose to accept those amendments, so I am following his advice. He spoke of subtlety of language being irresistible. Between 1992 and 1997 I had the great pleasure of sitting where he is now and watching a master of subtlety of language demolish his own Government Front Bench. So I think I have learned whatever modest skill I have from the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil.

I handed over the draft order as soon as it was in my hand. I believe that it should allay a number of the concerns that have been raised.

This group contains Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 8, 10 and 28. If it is convenient to the Committee, I shall deal with them together. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 would allow individual branches or component parts of a registered political party to have separate register entries. This would, in effect, allow a party to have a number of register entries; the Bill at present allows each party only one name and register entry.

I understand the desire that one might wish to continue to prefix the name of a party with words such as "Scottish" or "Welsh" in a description on the ballot paper. However, I can reassure the Committee that that is possible without the amendments, as I think is explained by the draft order.

There is no requirement that candidates of a political party must use that party's name in exactly the form in which it is registered as their description on the ballot paper; for example, if a candidate of the Liberal Democrat Party, assuming the party registers under that name—a fair assumption—wishes to describe himself as a "Scottish Liberal Democrat" on the ballot paper, that party's nominating officer would probably give his consent. If, however, the candidate was not a member of that party, no such consent would be forthcoming and the returning officer would be able to reject the description as it would be likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with a registered party, the Liberal Democrat Party. That is the effect of paragraph 2 of Schedule 2.

Amendment No. 8 would mean that the registrar could not refuse to grant an application to register a party name on the grounds that to do so would be likely to result in that party being confused by voters with a party which is already registered solely because both names included the same word from the list in the amendment. Hence, for example, if the "National Youth Party" were already registered, the registrar could not on this basis refuse to register the "National Middle-Aged Party" solely because "National" has been used.

The amendment is unnecessary. It implies that once a party has used a particular word in its name, the registrar might decide not to register another party simply because its name includes the same word. That is not the case. That is why we have given the registrar the power to decide whether the use of that word is likely to confuse the two parties in the minds of voters.

The words listed in the amendment are words which a number of parties are likely to use in their names. It is intended that this will be dealt with by the order to be made under Clause 3(1)(f). Perhaps I may give an example. We intend to use the order—I am sorry that not all noble Lords have been able to see a copy—to forbid, for instance, a false implication of a connection with the Royal Family.

The order will not allow a party to register a name which is the same as the name of a registered party, qualified by a word such as "Scottish" or "Welsh". Therefore, a party's nominating officer could authorise a candidate to put the word "Scottish" or "Welsh" before the party's name in his description on his nomination paper.

We also intend to ensure that certain generic words or phrases—I gave the Committee examples earlier—such as "residents association" are not registered by a single party to prevent their being used widely by individual candidates. We also intend in the order to provide that the word "independent" may not be registered on its own as, for instance, in the "Independent Party".

I accept that this issue is complicated and that it is not fair to expect everyone to have understood the drafting of the order. I was simply seeking to be as helpful as possible because, the drafting was not completed until today. Therefore, perhaps I may repeat that a copy of the current draft will be placed in the Library tomorrow morning.

Amendment No. 10 would allow the branches or component parts of a registered party to register their own emblems if different from the overall party emblem. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, raised this point and I sympathise with it. However, we must bear in mind the fact that the space for the emblem or logo will be only two centimetres square. There will be difficulties if, for instance, more than one Scottish party wishes to use the thistle as its national emblem. It would be extremely confusing to try to get a variant of a thistle emblem into a tiny box only two centimetres square. This is, therefore, an answer of practicality rather than of principle.

Amendment No. 28 would allow parties to register as many names as they choose, thus preventing other parties from using those descriptions. I have already explained that, if a candidate's description is likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with a registered party, the nominating officer of that party must certify that the candidate is entitled to use that description. If, however, no such authorisation is forthcoming, the returning officer will be able to reject the description as it would be likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with a registered party. Under the present scheme, the registrar will have to make a similar judgment under the provisions of Clauses 3(1)(a) and 18(1)(a). We consider that those provisions are sufficiently robust, particularly bearing in mind that experience in the Welsh, Scottish and European elections will indicate whether or not our scheme is workable.

Specific questions have been asked about devolved parties. They can register separately, but they will not be able to register by adding "Scottish" to the registered name of the main party.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, asked about the particular circumstances of the different Liberal Democrat parties. The provisions of Article 2(2)(b) and Part 2 of the schedule prevent registration of the "Scottish Liberal Democrats"—I stress the words "prevent registration"—but do not prevent the Liberal Democrat Party in Scotland or the Conservative Party in Scotland from putting the word "Scottish" on the ballot paper. Those questions relate to practice which should be allowed, subject to the discretion of the relevant officer.

I hope that those explanations are helpful. I recognise that the draft order is simply that and that it is not generally available, but I hope that I have been able to reassure the Committee.

Lord Goodhart

I think that I now understand the position and the effect of the order. However, I do not find it altogether satisfactory. The Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrat parties regard themselves as independent parties as well as being component parts of the Liberal Democrat Party in Great Britain as a whole. They will not find this position satisfactory, so we may have to return to it at a later date.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I was slightly relieved that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, who I understand is an eminent QC, said that he was having trouble understanding the order. That gives me every possible excuse because, as I have told noble Lords before, I am the only Mackay of the threesome who is not a lawyer.

Perhaps the Minister can help me with one or two points. I listened to what he said about a candidate in Scotland of, say, the Liberal Democrat Party being able to put "Scottish Liberal Democrat" on the ballot paper because he would have cover from the official body of the Liberal Democrat Party. I presume that that applies also to the party in Scotland with regard to the list. A party will have to put itself on the list as, I imagine, the "Scottish Liberal Democrat Party", or the "Scottish Labour Party", or the "Scottish Conservative Party".

I did not quite follow the Minister on his point about logos. However, in so far as I did follow him, I understand that a party will not be able to have a separate logo in Scotland and in Wales from its national logo. I am not sure about the position of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, but such a provision would certainly affect the Scottish Conservative Party. By some amazing sleight of hand, which I have never been quite able to understand, the Labour Party in Scotland has managed to get away with incorporating an English rose into Scotland as the emblem of the Scottish Labour Party. I do not think that the Conservatives would ever have got away with that! I am not sure where the Liberal Democrats stand in relation to emblems and whether they have a different Scottish emblem. The indications are that they do not, but the Conservatives do. Perhaps I may return to this point in correspondence with the Minister.

The Minister did not answer my points about the words "Northern Ireland", "Irish", or "Ulster". This is a draft order, so perhaps the draft will have to be revisited. However, it seems a little odd to leave out that part of the kingdom as parties may want to describe themselves using such a label in that part of the kingdom. If the noble Lord wants to reply on that point, I shall be delighted to give way—

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I thank the noble Lord for his customary courtesy. We want a practical system that will work and avoid confusion. It seems to me that the words "Scottish Conservative Party" are perfectly plain and indicate to the voter just what he or she is voting for. As regards the list, the noble Lord is quite right to say that reference to the Scottish Labour Party or the Scottish Conservative Party will be allowed. However, I should point out to the noble Lord that there is in fact a Northern Irish Labour Party and a Communist Party of Ireland, which is separate from the Communist Party of Great Britain. We need to frame the order so that such parties can register. I am happy to give the noble Lord that confirmation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I thank the Minister for that very clear response. Indeed, I am grateful to him for clearing up the matter. Perhaps we might even reach the columns of the Scottish edition of the Sunday Times to show that it is not only members the Scottish National Party who will be able to call themselves Scottish. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 4.

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—