HL Deb 06 March 2000 vol 610 cc801-40

3.7 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 9 [Restriction on supply of information contained in register]:

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 1: Leave out Clause 9.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 seeks to leave out Clause 9 as this Bill is not the occasion on which to seek to resolve questions relating to the commercial use of the register without the consent of the person registering and because there has been no reasoned, constructive discussion with the Government on Clause 9.

This is not a wrecking amendment. The Representation of the People Bill can receive Royal Assent and be wholly effective without this clause. On the elections to the Greater London Authority, they could be subject to Amendments Nos. 3, 20 and consequential amendments.

On Report the point was taken that Clause 9 should not stand part unless the Bill was amended to ensure that a single register could not be used for any commercial purpose without the consent of the person registering and that unless the Government were prepared to accept some such amendment Clause 9 should not stand part. The effect would be that the present situation would remain with a single register available for the public in public buildings. The Government have been advised that to make that register available to anyone who wanted to buy it would be a breach of the EU data protection directive and that there would be a risk of it being found to be in breach also of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The situation is that the Government wish to sell the register to commercial interests that wish to buy it. The annual income of such commercial interests is some £30 billion and so by Clause 9 the Government seek to introduce a device whereby they can sell the register and commercial interests can buy it. That device is the edited version which seeks to avoid an infringement of Article 8. In that regard, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, informed us that he believed that the clause was on the right side of the law and formed the right balance without falling into the Article 8 bear trap. We do not have the substance of the advice he was given, which would appear to conflict with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights to which reference was made in Committee.

Further questions raised in Committee, to which I shall turn briefly, remain unanswered. The Government intend to stand by Clause 9 because it suits their purpose. No means of reasoned argument or persuasion can induce them to accept any amendment to Clause 9 and there is therefore no point in retabling such an amendment.

In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, went some way in supporting the amendment. On Report he expressed a good deal of sympathy but was unable to support the amendment because, it simplifies what is a complex situation".—[Official Report, 29/2/00; col. 461.] I agree with that. At Second Reading, having referred to current trading practices which had reached the proportions of unacceptable abuse of individual privacy, I said that this order of abuse had been augmented by the advances in technology and will be so augmented in the future. We are now on the fringe of a further leap in development in this area by resort to a new type of use of the Internet. I also said that the workings of these processes were beyond my comprehension and I doubted my confidence to draft a truly effective amendment.

On Report, just before the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I said that to seek to resolve the question on this Representation of the People Bill, involving database protection, an EU directive on direct marketing, Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and other considerations, was not well advised; that the two registers under Clause 9, which I now seek to leave out were, a total misconception; they are unnecessary and unacceptable; they were devised only to serve those commercial interests [and the purposes of government]".—[col. 461.]; and that these matters should be dealt with in a separate Bill.

Because the Government will not entertain any acceptable amendment in this matter for the reasons given, the only reasonable resolution appears to be that this clause should not stand part. I say that there has been no constructive argument from the Government and wish briefly to make that comment good.

First, on Report it was pointed out that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, had plainly failed to deal with the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth—how the two-tier system would work; whether it would be enforceable; and that we should have to go a long way in considering the issues. None of those points was answered. Furthermore, the substance of the Government's assertion that they were on the right side of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights has never been made good in argument. They have never supplied me with either paper or verbal response to say why I was wrong in my suggestion that the provision would infringe Article 8 and why the Government are on the right side of the law.

Lastly, the Government do not seem to have given their mind to dealing with the questions put by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I shall not go through them in detail; we have been through them all too often. I refer to the ticking of the box, the options for selection and so forth. They are all crucial considerations, but even today we do not know where the Government stand on them. They remain examples of the disinclination of this Government to entertain constructive argument. It is idle to seek to amend this clause; I seek to have it removed altogether. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. As we come to the Third Reading of the Bill. this clause remains most unsatisfactory. We made a little progress on it when we agreed that each individual elector should tick his or her own box, or at least that an obligation should be placed on the head of a household in regard to whether each member of that household wanted the box ticked. That was progress from where we had started; namely, that the head of the household would tick the box for the whole household and was not under any obligation to ascertain the position of other members.

But I remain uncertain as to how the Government see this clause operating in practice. A full electoral register will be available to the registration officer, MPs, councillors, candidates and others; in other words, it will be used for electoral purposes. There will also be an edited version containing a list of those who decide not to opt out.

The reasons given for opting out were many. We started with what I shall refer to as the "battered wife" argument: a husband wishing to find out where his wife has fled from his brutality will simply be able to obtain access to the electoral register and find out where she has gone. But that husband will still be able to do that. He will be able to go to the library and inspect the register. So that argument has been blown out of the water before it has even started.

Another argument was that if people's names do not appear on the edited version available to companies involved in direct mailing, they will not receive any junk mail. Those who think that by excluding themselves from the register of electors they will no longer receive junk mail will be disillusioned; they will find that the junk mail still arrives, because those who send junk mail have other means of finding names and addresses. So there will be a degree of disappointment in that regard.

Despite that, the legitimate point was raised by my noble friend that, under the European Convention on Human Rights, one should not be forced to give one's name and address and have them appear in a list when they can then be used for purposes other than electoral purposes.

I regret that my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth is unable to be here today. Mondays are difficult for him because he gives lectures to his students. He would have confirmed what my noble friend has already said. An electoral register should be a register of electors, and that is all that it should be. There should be no edited version or commercial sale and no one else should be allowed to use it. I find that to be a simple, nice, black and white solution to the problem.

However, that is not the solution the Government have chosen. They have been persuaded that credit companies and so forth ought to be able to get at the list. Otherwise those seeking credit may well find themselves unable to secure it. The electoral register is used by companies to verify whether someone genuinely does live at the address given. I understand the point and I have some sympathy with it.

We have been through these arguments several times and I do not believe that we have moved any further forward. At all stages I have asked questions about companies that might be allowed access to the full list. I have not yet had a detailed reply. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway knows much more about the legal position but it seems to me that even the edited version may be seen as an infringement of the convention and that the full version will almost certainly represent an infringement if it is sold on to those companies the Government are to prescribe.

The European convention has resulted in some strange decisions. I acknowledge that the Minister has declared that the Bill's provisions obey the convention. I have to tell him that I am less confident and that I consider there is only a 50:50 chance of success. That has nothing to do with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton; it has everything to do with the experience we have had in Scotland. I have explained previously that a case was brought under the convention to stop temporary sheriffs, a system that had been used perfectly satisfactorily for years. A further case threatens the workings of the road traffic Acts as regards speed cameras. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, explained to the House that an appeal is being considered. It was also suggested recently that hearings in sheriffs' courts could fall foul of the convention if, for whatever reason, a case is heard by two sheriffs, one at the beginning and one at the end. There is concern that the much-admired system of children's panels may be under attack from the convention. No less a person than the retired professor of Scots law at Glasgow University, Professor Walker, has described the convention as a "charter for cranks and crooks" because it is beginning to run a coach and horses through certain aspects of our legal system. In my view, and that of Professor Walker, this is neither beneficial to law-abiding people nor does it protect their civil liberties.

On a number of occasions my noble friend has asked whether this clause will fall foul of the European convention. He has not yet received an answer. Today, at the final stage, we seek a little more than a statement to the effect that. "I have signed the Bill so it must be all right". We should like to hear the arguments that persuade the Government that the clause does not infringe the convention. As I read the clause, I do not believe that it is going to work. I believe that it will be a shambles. It will not do what the Government believe it is going to do. They will have trouble with it and that trouble may lead all the way to the courts. I do not see how it can effectively be amended. Although I understand the need to allow people to opt out and why the Government have made provision for that, I can also understand why the Government then backtracked and decided that certain companies should be allowed access to the full register.

The whole matter still seems untidy. I cannot support my noble friend all the way by saying that the clause should not stand part of the Bill, but I regret that, as we reach the last stage of the Bill, it is still largely unamended and several serious questions remain unanswered.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said, I confirm that through all the stages of the Bill I have expressed considerable support in principle for the views that lie behind his amendments. It seems important that information that is required by law to be given for particular purposes should not then be used for other purposes without the consent of those required to provide that information. In the circumstances, I can see that in Clause 9 the Government have gone some way towards solving the problem. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said, I recognise that there are still potential problems with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, I have to say that I regard that problem rather more sceptically than does the noble Lord and I do not feel that the risk is particularly serious.

As regards the text of the amendment proposed today by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway—namely, to leave out the entire clause—I feel that we shall run into serious problems. From my point of view, Clause 9 makes things better rather than worse. Without the clause there would be no way of amending the existing rules that allow publication and sale of the full register to anyone who wishes to buy it. In those circumstances, I regard Clause 9 as a move in the right direction, although perhaps not the ideal move and not the final stopping place. However, it is a great deal better than having no such provision at all.

I accept the spirit that lies behind the noble Lord's proposed amendment but I regret that I cannot agree with it.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has throughout our debates on the Bill ensured that we give very careful consideration to Clause 9, which places restrictions on the availability of the electoral register. He is quite right to do so. It is an important clause and we must make sure that we strike the right balance and take account of all our obligations, in particular under the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Data Protection Directive.

In our earlier debates the noble Lord moved amendments which would have had the effect of imposing more restrictions on the availability of the register than those for which Clause 9 provides. But, on this occasion—as he has made plain—he is proposing that we should stick with existing electoral law under which the register is freely available for commercial purposes.

As I explained in our earlier debates, I do not think that the status quo is an option. It is a statutory requirement to complete the electoral registration form and to appear on the electoral register. A person who does not provide the necessary details may, in theory, be prosecuted.

We do not consider that a situation in which one is obliged, on pain of prosecution, to submit personal information which can then be used for completely different purposes without one's consent is acceptable. More to the point, we do not believe that this state of affairs complies with the EU Data Protection Directive. We have taken advice from the Data Protection Registrar. The noble Lord has seen copies of my officials' correspondence with her office.

Since our last debate, we have again looked at the legal issues raised by the noble Lord. I can confirm that we remain convinced that what we are proposing in Clause 9 is not in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.

I believe that we need to strike a balance. On the one hand, there are the data protection and privacy concerns identified by the working party on electoral procedures. On the other hand, it is a fact that a large number of commercial concerns currently make use of the electoral register. If possible, we should avoid doing undue damage to their interests.

I do not intend to weary noble Lords this afternoon with a further full explanation of how the new arrangements will work. But, in brief, electors will be able to opt out of having their names included in the version of the register that will continue to be freely available for sale—the edited register. The full register will continue to be available for local inspection in town halls and libraries. It will also be available for electoral purposes to elected representatives, political parties and candidates; and to credit reference agencies for the purpose of confirming identity in connection with credit applications.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, made a interesting point about some husbands still being able to find the addresses of their battered wives. That point was also mentioned in our earlier discussions. However, I believe that the noble Lord has missed the point that the register will be in libraries in paper form and set out by ward and street. Therefore, people need to know where the person lives in order find him or her on the register. The problem with "battering spouses" arises with CD-ROMs, through which people are reachable by name. Giving people the option to be excluded from the edited register means that they will not be included on such CD-ROMs and the easier method of finding people by a name search will not be available. People must have some idea of where the person lives in order to access that information from a paper-form register.

We cannot provide absolute protection, but the system will provide a degree of protection. Indeed, that important point was made by some noble Lords during our earlier discussions. It is an important consideration. I realise that this is a difficult matter, but we have not reached this position easily. In all honesty, we have tried to strike a balance while protecting privacy. We do not want to stymie completely the commercial use of the register, but we also recognise that the register is primarily compiled for electoral purposes. That is what we have tried to achieve in Clause 9. No one is saying that it is a science of perfection. Time will ultimately tell us whether or not we have got it right.

For the time being, we must assume that we have got it right and work on that principle. I hope that noble Lords will support the clause on those terms. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, made some powerful and valuable arguments in his opening remarks, but, on the basis of my response, I invite him to withdraw his amendment.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I believe that the situation boils down to this. As appears in the Official Report, the noble Lord has received advice that if we just continue with a single public register and make it available to anyone who wants to buy it, we would be in breach of the EU Data Protection Directive. We would also be at risk of being found in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR. On that advice, the Minister has reiterated that the two-register proposal under Clause 9 will be on the right side of the law.

In a thin Chamber with—I believe I can say—relatively no overt support, it would be quite unusual and, indeed, improper to seek to take the opinion of the House. However, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for his contribution, even though I could not quite understand his reasoning. If the single register were to remain in accordance with my proposals, it could not be bought or used. Therefore, I do not understand the object of the noble Lord's objection. But, be that as it may, this is not the time to reason; indeed, it is the time to seek leave to withdraw my amendment and thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for his contribution to my argument, which he was unable to support.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 2: Before Clause 10, insert the following new clause—


(" .—(1) The 1983 Act shall be amended as follows.

(2) After section 36(2B) there shall be inserted—

"(2C) Section 91 shall apply to elections under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 with such modifications as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments tabled in my name. There are also amendments from the Government in this grouping. These amendments deal with the whole question of the free mailshot for the mayoral election. We have already dealt with this matter on a number of occasions and have discussed the issue with the Government. In the circumstances, the best thing that I can do is to introduce this as a debate about the London free mailshot and then sit down. That will allow the Minister to tell your Lordships what the Government have brought forward by way of an offer. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the noble Lord was commendably brief. All the amendments in the group deal with the vexed question of mailshots or freepost for elections to the Greater London Authority. As the noble Lord said, the issue has been debated on a number of occasions both here and in another place. I, for one, have learnt a great deal about the direct mailing industry as a consequence. It is a very fascinating business. We have all been grateful throughout these protracted discussions and debates to the representatives from that sector who have played a part in advising us.

When we last met to discuss the matter, noble Lords will recall that there were, so to speak, two rival propositions, as reflected in the amendments standing in both my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. The two propositions were, essentially, the Government's idea of a booklet containing inserts from every mayoral candidate and the Opposition's proposal for an envelope stuffed with material produced by every mayoral candidate.

As noble Lords will appreciate, the difference between these two methods of informing the electorate is very large indeed. The difference is a staple! The Government's proposal amalgamates candidates' material into a booklet which would be delivered in an envelope. The Opposition's proposal would have separate pieces of paper being placed in the same envelope—the envelope-stuffing option, one might say.

Some people may think that this staple was not worth spending much time over; others clearly did not hold that view. A great deal of time was spent on the matter by officials from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and from the Home Office. They have listened patiently and, I hope, politely to the arguments in favour of the staple-free method of delivery—the envelope-stuffing option. So eloquent were noble Lords and their representatives that hour upon hour of debate took place in the corridors of power on the matter of this staple. Indeed, we heard about the staple from a number of different angles, in so far as you can look at a staple from many different angles.

I do not wish to be unkind in this respect because we have had a discussion about serious issues. However, the matter could perhaps have been resolved more speedily. The solution that we reached—namely, the booklet—has required movement from all sides. We have accepted that there should be an election communication for this first election and a flexible power enabling permanent arrangements to be established for future elections. We hope that the Opposition will accept our concerns about cost and the need to guard against abuse.

I believe that we now have a very satisfactory outcome. I hope that it will be welcomed by smaller parties, poorer candidates and—dare I say it?— independents, as well the major parties. It will give everyone in this whole exercise a level playing field from which to start. It will also provide those concerned with the opportunity to express themselves in their own way. Indeed, we may even take a certain pride in our discussions, differences and debates on the matter. Perhaps the GLA will build on the proposals in the future when it comes to consider election communications in the run-up to the 2004 election. We can all contribute to that debate too; perhaps we shall have another opportunity to exercise our minds on the question of whether or not to staple, or whether or not to stuff the envelope.

Let me now turn to the detail of the amendment and try to deal with it as quickly as I can lest I fall into the trap that has bedevilled many who have tried to wrestle with this vexed issue. Each candidate, or their agent, will submit an election address to the Greater London Returning Officer (the GLRO) covering no more than two sides of A5. The GLRO may specify certain requirements in order to be able to compile the booklet, but beyond that the candidate is free to decide what to include in those two sides and indeed whether to include any material in the booklet at all! Therefore there is a clear choice there.

To make this exercise feasible—printing 5 million copies of the booklet, inserting each copy into a pre-addressed envelope, and delivering to each elector in London before the first day of polling—we have had to set out some clear rules. One is that the booklet will be no longer than 32 pages. This means that each candidate's election address will cover two sides of the A5 booklet if fewer than 16 of the candidates standing nominated have had election addresses accepted by the GLRO by noon on 3rd April, but only one side if 16 or more have had addresses accepted. To allow for this, candidates will need to submit a second version of their election address to the GLRO covering a single side of A5.

Each candidate will need to have their election addresses approved by the Post Office before submitting them in a format to be decided by the GLRO. The addresses would need to comply with Post Office regulations similar to those that apply at general elections, but strengthened to guard against the potential of abuse. As noble Lords know, we treat the potential for abuse very seriously and are determined that the booklet should not be waylaid by unscrupulous candidates. The amendment therefore makes clear that candidates' election addresses must not contain any advertising material (other than material promoting the candidate as a candidate at the election), or any other material with a view to commercial gain.

No address may refer to any candidate standing for election to the assembly. I know that some noble Lords wanted mayoral candidates to be able to refer to assembly candidates in their election addresses. We have thought about this long and hard, taken advice, and concluded that it would be manifestly unfair to give some assembly candidates (such as those from parties with a mayoral candidate) an advantage over others (such as independents) who would not be mentioned.

This issue is not clear-cut and I think that there may even be different views about it on the Opposition Benches. The simple fact is that allowing mayoral candidates to refer to assembly candidates would place some assembly candidates in a better position than their opponents. That does not seem right. As I said earlier, we are trying to create a level playing field. Time is short, and we believe that it is important not to bring this election into disrepute by legislating to create an unfair contest. That may be subject to some form of challenge and we do not want to run that risk.

The GLRO will determine the form of the booklet, and set out each address alphabetically, by candidate surname. He will also include a short section in the booklet to explain its purpose, and give some background to the election itself. I can assure the House that the GLRO will consult fully on this text, and on the design and layout of the booklet (although candidates may only have a very short time to respond). The GLRO will decide the date by which candidates must submit their election addresses to him, and the format in which they should be provided—we anticipate that it will be camera-ready copy.

Each candidate who wishes to include an address in the booklet will need to contribute £10,000 towards the cost of printing. I feel certain that your Lordships will consider this fair given that candidates themselves bear the cost of printing and mailing at a parliamentary election.

For future GLA elections, the amendment provides for the Secretary of State by order to make such provision for the free delivery of election communications as he thinks fit. Before making the order, he or she will consult the mayor, assembly, and any other body he considers appropriate, such as the electoral commission when that is established.

Amendment No. 20 provides for the only realistic process to deliver an election mailing to London electors in the time available before the first election. It meets the concerns of the Government and many of the concerns of noble Lords opposite. Let us not argue further over a staple and let us make progress in terms of seeking consent to the method that I have mentioned.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, the outcome of the battle that has distracted your Lordships' House for some weeks now certainly reflects considerable credit on your Lordships' House and, in the outcome, also reflects credit on the Government, although I believe that the Government could, and should, have taken steps to remedy the situation a great deal earlier than they did.

Two weeks ago your Lordships' House decisively rejected the so-called "constitutional convention" that your Lordships' House does not reject secondary legislation, and threw out two orders that had been made under the Greater London Authority Act. It did so in defence of democracy. The Government recognised that their position was indefensible and did not try to raise the "Peers against the people" issue.

We had fruitful and quite lengthy negotiations. Speaking for myself I wish to thank the noble Lords, Lord Carter, Lord Whitty and Lord Bassam of Brighton, for the courteous way in which they listened to the arguments and for their willingness to take them on board. They accepted the principle of a freepost and negotiated that seriously and in good faith. I pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Rennard, who unfortunately is otherwise engaged this afternoon, for his knowledge of what could and could not be done technically in the time available and his persuasiveness in explaining that.

The outcome is, of course, a compromise. We obtained a freepost for the mayoral election but not a separate freepost for assembly candidates. We obtained a freepost that will be delivered to all electors and not simply to households, which would have been unacceptable for reasons which I tried to explain at Report stage. Indeed, I believe that that was the main issue that was dealt with in the negotiations.

We obtained an agreement that the format and artwork should be a matter for each candidate to decide and that there should not be a rigid formula under which each candidate would be allowed simply a text of 200 words and a passport photograph, as the Government originally proposed. We accepted that addresses should go out as part of a booklet rather than as free-standing leaflets, collated into a single delivery.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, that mayoral candidates should not be allowed to refer to assembly candidates of the same party in their freepost because I fear that if that was allowed there could be a challenge to the fairness of the election process by independent assembly candidates, who, of course, would be unable to obtain a mention in any freepost leaflet.

Overall I believe that the opposition parties achieved most of what we wanted. We have made the elections for the mayoralty of London fairer, particularly for the smaller parties and the independents. I do not include among the independents for this purpose the honourable former friend of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, Mr Ken Livingstone, who is the last person to need a freepost as no doubt he will receive plenty of publicity without it!

Rightly, the amendment leaves the Greater London Authority itself to decide what should be done in subsequent elections. We shall in due course need to consider whether the freepost should be extended to direct elections for an executive mayor outside London. That is an issue of potential importance and certainly in major cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester or Newcastle it is hard to see how there can be a fair election without it. Speaking on behalf of my party, we welcome very much the steps which the Government have taken to meet our objections in the matter of the London free post.

Lord Beaumont of Whitely

My Lords, speaking on behalf of my party, I also welcome the solution arrived at. I have but one query.

I welcome the booklet scheme. It seems to me that it is a good solution and that the Government have come down on the right side of the debate which has taken place very warmly on the subject. It is tremendously important for the democratic process that the booklet should go to every elector and not to every household; I welcome that wholeheartedly.

The only question to which I do not entirely know the answer concerns the issue of mayoral candidates not being allowed to refer in their address to other candidates for the council. For the reasons that have been given, I think that that is absolutely right. But some mayoral candidates—possibly those who have less likelihood of being elected, although no one ever knows what the electorate will do—also want to be elected as members of the council if they should fail in the mayoral election. Are they allowed to refer to this possibility? It is not a bull point for voting for them for mayor but, nevertheless, is probably a useful thing. Are they allowed to refer to this matter in the course of their election address for mayor?

Lord Monson

My Lords, I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, who, at the previous stage, drew attention to the problems presented by blocks of flats where there might be only one large brass letterbox at street level serving, say, a dozen or 20 flats. If I understood the noble Lord correctly, it has been the practice of the Post Office up until now to push through the door only one electoral communication per block, so that only one of the flats' tenants would receive it. Have the Government thought of any way of overcoming that particular problem?

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, on the becomingly modest way in which he spoke to his amendments. I think that it is a device which justifies a high degree of modesty, and the noble Lord met the requirement admirably.

I am not revealing anything at all surprising when I say that I was not in any way consulted. For that I am deeply grateful. Nor did I have any part in the negotiations which have produced this, to my mind, extraordinary arrangement. The noble Lord said that a great deal of time had been spent on the issue. I can understand that. He then made the candid admission that the matter could have been handled more speedily. I am not sure that the noble Lord is right about that. The subject contains material that would allow for almost endless delay. On the whole, I am rather surprised that in the end weariness came to his rescue and he was able—I shall not say, "to cut it short"—to reduce the length of the proceedings which otherwise may have obtained.

When it comes to the "birth" of the election booklet—if that is the right phrase—or when it makes its appearance, it will be a fairly astonishing document. I can bear witness and testify to the fact that it will probably not be the most widely read publication there has ever been. I also think that it will be useful to many people who are not taking any part in the election. I am sure that comedians—who, in our time, do not lack altogether raw material—will find it a useful quarry for further reference. The Minister said that it is important not to bring the election into disrepute. I agree with him. I think he can safely leave that little task to other people who will be more immediately involved than even he is.

My view, which I have attempted to express in your Lordships' House on previous occasions, is that the idea of having a mayor of London is a thoroughly bad one. The matter was not thought out by the Government and they have found themselves horribly embarrassed, as has been the Tory Party to some degree, by some of the fruit—shall I say, "by some of the harvest"?—that has sprung from their idea.

I think the Government are justified in saying that at least they have paid some degree of homage to the idea that, if we are go to through this extraordinary process, the individual elector should receive some kind of communication with his name on it. From what the noble Lord said, I am not sure how confident he is that each and every elector will receive an accurately addressed package containing this booklet. It will be interesting to see what turns up. Judging only from the extraordinary results achieved by firms which go in for this kind of operation and from the versions of our names (even if we have quite simple ones) that they produce from time to time, one is lead to expect that in the course of this delivery some people will receive communications addressed to people they have never met but who are, roughly speaking, intended to be themselves.

It would be churlish to divide the House and to break up the happy harmony which has prevailed between the Front Benches. The Government of the day, the Liberal Democrats—with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, championing his cause, quite rightly up to a point—and my noble friend on the Front Bench have all gone into cahoots and produced this extraordinary creature. Naturally they wish to cheer it on its way. I cannot resist the temptation of saying that I do not fall over myself with enthusiasm for the creature they have produced. I recognise that they are entitled to a degree of self-congratulation, but they must not expect me to join in.

4 P.m.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, three questions arising from the debate so far. I share two points with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. First, like him, I was not consulted by anyone; and, secondly, I have rarely in my life voted with greater conviction than when I voted "no" to there being a mayor for London. It still to me seems a totally unnecessary post, which perhaps rather reflects on the individuals who have been seeking to run for it.

My three questions begin with the statement made by the Minister when he said that no material should refer to ally candidate standing for election to the assembly. I am not quite sure where we get to with that. It would mean, let us say, that a Labour candidate could not refer to Mr Norris but, presumably, a Labour candidate could refer to the policy of the Conservative Party. I understand that. One cannot refer to an individual but I should be very surprised if one could not refer to a party.

For example, what would happen if Mr Livingstone, having been thrown out of the Labour Party, founded something he called the "Livingstone Party" which, as an individual, he could well do? What would the position be if the name of his party happened to be his own name too? Would it then be illegal for any of his opponents to refer to the "Livingstone Party"? I think it is a rather important point that could inhibit criticism in his opponents' election addresses. We are entitled to know what the situation would be. It gives rise to a number of problems.

Secondly, I want to inquire about the position once the draft of an election address has been submitted. Presumably, all that would be necessary is for one copy in draft to be submitted to the returning officer for it subsequently to be printed. Of course, the draft would have had to be submitted to the Post Office first. It would be very unsatisfactory indeed if, once a submission had been put in to the returning officer, there was an opportunity for it subsequently to be withdrawn or amended, the particular candidate having seen what was in other candidates' election addresses and being able to alter his own to meet a particular point made. It really would be unreasonable if that were to happen.

I want to stress how important it is to maintain the confidentiality of an individual candidate's election address from the point of submission to the point when it goes finally to be printed. It would be very unfair indeed if one candidate or another were to know what was in his opponent's election address. I should like to know what would happen in that event. I cannot over-emphasise how important it is that returning officers and the Post Office treat these documents with the greatest confidentiality.

On that point, I notice a provision in the proposals before us. Paragraph 7(6)(a) of the new schedule states, make such typographical corrections to the proof as appear to him"— that is the returning officer— to be appropriate". I should have thought that it would have been wiser to have made those corrections after consultation with individual candidates. I can imagine nothing more infuriating than for a returning officer to change what is in the draft of an election address without consulting the candidate. All of us who have stood for elections of one kind or another can imagine how irritating it would be to find that one's election address had been altered without consultation. The paragraph goes on to say that the returning officer should, proceed with the printing and distribution of the election booklet without further reference to the candidate". I feel that there is a large hole there about which I would be quite unhappy.

My final point concerns the contribution of £10,000 towards the printing of the booklet. The Minister may recall that last week at Report stage I said that it would be totally unacceptable if a cash contribution were to be demanded towards the cost of postage. I hope I am right in assuming from what the Minister said and from what I read in the draft regulation that all that would have to be submitted are one or two pieces of paper constituting the draft of the address and that there would be no prior printing costs for the candidate before he put in his draft election address. I would be content with that situation. I am perfectly content with a £10,000 contribution towards the cost of printing because that could well be less than the cost to the individual candidate himself of printing all his own election addresses. I made that comment last week on the basis that the candidate had already paid for the printing of all his election addresses. I said that it would be totally wrong if a further contribution were demanded to cover part of the postage. I hope the Minister will tell me that I am correct in making that assumption.

I wish to make another point on the financial contribution. The Minister did not make clear the small print. If at the end of the day the cost of printing the booklet came to more than the £10,000 contribution covered, the candidates would be surcharged for the remainder. The Minister looks slightly befuddled by that, but I would refer him to paragraph 9(4)(a) and (b) on page 14 of the Marshalled List which specifically says that if there is to he any excess expenditure over the sum of all the £10,000 contributions, the candidates would be surcharged for the remainder. I find that slightly surprising as it seems to leave things wide open for a very extravagant printer.

Otherwise, I congratulate the Minister on listening to what your Lordships' House had to say. The Government have gone a very long way towards meeting our case.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, it seems to me that the principals who have taken part in these debates are very much to be congratulated on arriving at this compromise. Normally, I distrust very much the usual channels. I tend to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who once described them as a conspiracy against Back-Benchers and Cross-Benchers. I feel rather ungracious in saying that following the informative speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, so close to me on my left. Nevertheless, on this occasion it seems to me entirely satisfactory that each side has found it possible to concede marginally and we have an outcome which, to my mind, is entirely satisfactory.

The principal reason is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said, it vindicates democracy. Society, after all, is democratic in so far as the mass of its members can influence the decisions which affect them. That cannot be done unless they are informed as to the issues which will affect them. In this case, your Lordships have insisted that the information should be available to the electors who will be affected. That is the main lesson of these debates.

The second point, which relates to what we are to engage in tomorrow, is that this has been achieved in your Lordships' House. It was not even raised in the Chamber which originated this measure. It has been achieved in your Lordships' House and I cannot conceive that it would have been achieved in the other place. Perhaps I may add in relation to that point that the fact that a compromise has been achieved seems to owe something not only to the arguments on each side, though they have been cogent on the Opposition Benches, but also to the relaxed and genial attitude of Ministers in charge of the measure. To some extent that is adverted to by the Wakeham report. It is very important. It is not something which a constitutional academic will notice, but it is an important element in the way that the Wakeham report envisages your Lordships coming to acceptable decisions.

A third important point is that we have now vindicated without question the responsibility and right of your Lordships to challenge secondary legislation. That was a matter of expressed resolution of your Lordships' House in 1994. It was rather disturbing that in the debate on the matter just before Christmas the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, challenged that decision time and again, asserting that there was a convention that your Lordships would not vote against secondary legislation. We owe it very much to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill at an earlier stage when he expressly conceded that your Lordships have such a right. Indeed, your Lordships voted in vindication of such a right. Therefore, I trust that henceforth there will be no question but that your Lordships have power to examine, scrutinise and challenge secondary legislation.

That is not to say that every piece of secondary legislation will be challenged. On the contrary, at the time in the 1960s and 1970s when both parties voted against secondary legislation, it occurred only two or three times in each Session. I should think that, your Lordships' House having taken the attitude that it has in relation to this matter, it will be even less frequent in the future. I would surmise that government draftsmen and departments will be chary of misusing secondary legislation after your Lordships' House has vindicated its right to examine it critically. It is only likely to be exercised where the secondary legislation goes beyond the nuts and bolts of the primary legislation and goes beyond putting into practical effect what has clearly been "blue printed" in the primary legislation. This measure is a good example. It was a challenge, as we have now recognised, to democracy. That is very much a circumstance where your Lordships can say. "Secondary legislation is being misused".

The last matter I would advert to is the question of vires. When the Minister was in charge of the Bill earlier, he quite rightly pointed out that what was envisaged in your Lordships' vote was ultra vires the Bill as it then stood. But it was not ultra vires the Bill as it could be refashioned at Report, we being then in Committee. That is what has happened. It could be done only while the Bill was current before your Lordships' House. But it is a very good example of the flexibility of your Lordships' procedures.

I end by congratulating all those concerned on the result to which we have come. It has a lesson for tomorrow as an example of what your Lordships' House can do and what I think the other place is unlikely to do.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf

My Lords, like others who have spoken, I welcome the results of the formal and informal discussions about this issue and welcome them for the procedural and perhaps constitutional reasons which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has just spelt out so eloquently. I welcome the result also because, like the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, I look forward to receiving this amusing booklet. Thanks to our efforts, it will not be a best seller because it will be free, but it may well be read by more people than the noble Lord thinks.

I want to state clearly that, unlike the noble Lords, Lord Peyton and Lord Jopling, I am an unreconstructed supporter of a directly elected mayor for this great city. Nothing that has happened in public and media debates over the past few weeks and months has put me off. On the contrary, it has all proved that this is obviously a very exciting position in which parties and individuals take an unusually strong interest, as do some voters; certainly the one who is speaking now.

Without wishing to delay proceedings—I believe that there is widespread agreement on the proposals before us—I should like to raise one question. I see in the schedule a reference to, any material referring to any candidate standing for election to the Assembly". No one else has raised this particular question. A number of mayoral candidates have referred explicitly to persons whom they would choose as their deputies. Initially, the deputies are likely to be candidates for the assembly. As the proposal now stands, is it the intention to ban any reference to deputies as well as to any other candidates? Beyond that, naturally I strongly support the compromise which has been reached.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am delighted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has spoken in this debate. He is among those who deserve our warmest thanks for what has happened. I have been listening to him on the subject of regulations for 12 years and have learnt a vast amount. His contribution shows the great virtue of being prepared in this House to play it long.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, sometimes reminds me of Augustus in Ruthless Rhymes: Whatever people say about my son, He does enjoy his little hit of fun". Fortunately, he enjoys it in such a way that the rest of us can, too. I listened with great pleasure to his speech. Like the noble Lord, we on these Benches collectively never wanted a mayor for London, but now that we have an election we intend to do it properly. It is a paradox that the only party which never wanted a London mayor is the only one to have made an unalloyed success of the job of selecting a candidate. Perhaps lessons can be learnt from that.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, is quite right that there are imperfections in the amendment as we see it. The amendment is the result of a real negotiation. Nobody got exactly what he wanted, as one should have expected. On the other hand, when one looks at a horse designed by a committee one asks two questions: first, can it walk? Secondly, can it carry the load to be placed upon it? I am quite confident that in this case the answer to both questions is "yes". All I need do is to thank very warmly everyone from all parties who has taken part in these negotiations and to say that their activities reflect credit on the House and democracy.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will allow me to speak before the Minister so that I may comment on the amendment that he has tabled and the points that he made. In my defence I say to my noble friend Lord Peyton that I give this proposal one-and-a-half cheers, but not much more than that. My granny told me that I should be thankful for small mercies, and that is what I am doing. These small mercies have come about because your Lordships have decided to exercise powers, which this Chamber has always had, in the new House in a way that certainly we on these Benches refrained from doing in the old House. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, rightly reminded us that we have always had that power. I believe that he commended us to use it sparingly in the new House. I trust that we shall not be tempted to do more than that, but to an extent that depends on Her Majesty's Government listening to the signals which are sent to them.

In the discussions both the Government and the combined Liberal Democrat and Conservative sides started off a fair distance apart. The Government, in the person of the Chief Whip and the noble Lords, Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Whitty, listened to our concerns. They attempted to meet some of them and explained why in their view some of our demands could not be met. We are grateful to them and their officials for the part that they played. As usual, I am impressed by the fact that, when given a proper steer, in next to no time officials can produce pages and pages of amendments that can, I believe, work legally. I have some experience of the way that officials work.

In the interests of finding common ground in the discussions, we agreed early on to concentrate on the mayoral elections only. It was perfectly clear to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and me that we would not make any progress at all unless we did that. To begin with, there was a gulf between the Government who did not want any of this and ourselves who wanted a freepost for each candidate, in the same way as each candidate in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe and the other place has a freepost. While that remained my preferred solution, clearly it was not one to which the Government were prepared to listen.

However, the issue of the booklet arose. It started with a request to candidates to send in 200 words to be put into a collage, as it were. We have moved from that to an A5 booklet, which will be considerably more attractive, in which the candidates themselves, within the rules of the Post Office and the schedule, are able to produce what is called camera-ready copy. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in the discussions I learnt a good deal about direct mailing. In future I may not treat with such contempt the material that comes to me which I regard as junk mail and place in the wastepaper basket. I realise now that a good deal of effort goes into collating and producing it so that it can reach me. The booklet is important, and I am grateful for the concession by the Government that if there are fewer than 16 candidates it will have a front and back page. However, it will not be like that; it will have facing pages.

What cheered me most was that very early on we were able to move the Government towards the proposition that the freepost should be aimed at each elector rather than each household. It is probable that that move made us more willing to make progress on the other issues than we would otherwise have been. This afternoon your Lordships have again heard the arguments about the importance of each elector, especially in an urban area like London, receiving this material. Therefore, I am grateful to the Government for arriving at that decision.

Aside from the ever-present ghost of the Treasury, the Government seemed to be haunted by the thought that there would be lots of candidates, not just loose (or unloosed) cannons on the deck like Mr Ken Livingstone advertising their political wares, but also restaurateurs, services and others. On reflection, it occurred to me—to be fair, it was not mentioned—that perhaps the Government's real concern was that every "dot.com" business that wanted to establish itself might nominate itself for mayor and, therefore, have a freepost. I am not convinced that that is ever likely to happen.

If a considerable number of mayoral candidates come forward, even if they do not use the freepost, the Government should start all-party talks about how to prevent the serious business of an election degenerating into farce, with candidates from hither and yon having no real interest in the matter. Clearly, deposits, written support and the signatures of an increasing number of electors before a candidate is allowed to stand provide one way to deal with that. However, I suspect that, with the rise of single issue pressure groups and the candidates who support them, for perfectly democratic reasons there will be an increase in candidates in elections at all levels in future. I do not believe that we can do anything about that; nor should we try to do so, because that is a legitimate activity. I regret that in future the Government intend to opt out of this issue by passing responsibility to the new authority to decide what, if any, freepost facilities will be made available. I also regret that, as my noble friend Lord Jopling mentioned, the mayoral candidate will not be allowed to mention the first-past-the-post candidate standing for the assembly. I never believed that we needed to think about the top-up because, from my experience of the Scottish scene, it is very much based on the party, with the exception of Mr Dennis Canavan. I remind the governing party that sometimes maverick independents whose parties have rigged elections against them can comfortably win elections. I do not expect that to happen: I expect Mr Norris to win, of course—before anyone rises and tries to be smart! However, I think that I should put that little warning to the Government about our experience in Scotland.

I understand the legal reasons, and I do not wish to go over them. But I want to ask one question on this issue. In his leaflet can a mayoral candidate draw attention to the fact that there are two other votes on that day: one for the assembly, and one for the top-up? I was unable to check at the weekend in Scotland what happened last time. My recollection is that in the leaflets for the first-past-the post and the top-up the parties played on the two votes—give two Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat or SNP votes. The campaign was: do not separate your vote. Will that be legitimate? It may be technical but it is an important matter. The literature of the mayoral candidates is the only literature people will receive. For example, will Steve Norris and the assembly candidates be able to say, "Vote Conservative, and vote Conservative for the top-up", without naming the candidates? We should be grateful for advice on that point.

I welcome the delivery to every elector. I regret that it will not be an individual leaflet with every candidate responsible for his or her own. The Government have insisted on a joint publication, and on the production and timing. They will have to ensure that they do that. The Post Office will have to deliver the leaflets on time. I presume that it will be the responsibility of the official who delivers to the Post Office to ensure, perhaps better than political parties have managed, that all leaflets are delivered by the Post Office and that bundles are not discovered behind hedges some time after the election is over.

We have made progress. I think that noble Lords can be satisfied at the part your Lordships' House has played in bringing about some common sense on the issue. These elections are unique given the size of the electorate. I believe that we are correct to give the mayoral candidate the opportunity to have his or her case read by each elector. If the Government had listened at Committee stage, when we rattled their cage, so to speak, we may not have been forced to vote against the secondary legislation.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I listened with interest to the contributions to the debate. I think the feeling of the House is that the Government have done the right thing: I may be wrong. There seems a happy coincidence of views from most corners of the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said that he would give the measure one and a half cheers. Those are more cheers than he usually gives measures which originate from the Government. I guess that we may take that as a compliment.

I particularly enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. He indicates that I am a modest man. I apologise for that. I am very modest. I always have been. It is my nature.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I never said anything of the kind. All I said was that the noble Lord behaved modestly on this occasion.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, that is wonderfully put! However, I must take issue on one point. The noble Lord seemed to suggest that it was weariness on the Government's part which obliged us to make the concession. I have to contradict that and say that it is because we listened to all sides of the debate. We did not weary. From time to time we even found the debate exciting.

A number of points were raised in the discussion. I shall respond to them as best I can. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, asked whether mayoral candidates standing for assembly can refer to assembly candidates. The answer is no. The proposed new schedule rules out references to, any material referring to any candidate standing for election to the Assembly". In this instance, "any candidate" would include himself or herself in the capacity of assembly candidate.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said that he would raise three points; he raised four or five. I do not chide him for that. It was fair. Referring to parties, the prohibition is on any candidate standing for election to the assembly. Reference can be made to parties and to other mayoral candidates. So there will not be a prohibition on candidates referring to parties in the way they address their election material.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way. The regulations as drafted state that, an election address must not contain any material referring to any candidate standing for election to the Assembly". As I read that, it would preclude a candidate from referring in his election address to his or her own suitability for the job. I should have thought that most unreasonable. An election address should allow a candidate to refer to himself or herself. I understand the drafting, but surely it should preclude any material referring to any candidate other than himself or herself.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, mayoral candidates cannot address their suitability as assembly candidates. I hope that that clarifies the point. That is what we seek to achieve.

The noble Lord raised the issue of confidentiality. I hope that I can reassure him. There will not be an opportunity for candidates of one party, or independent candidates, to be able to see opponents' material submitted to the Greater London returning officer or to the Post Office. That would not be acceptable.

The noble Lord also asked what the £10,000 covered, and whether there would be a surcharge. The £10,000 is specifically a contribution towards the printing of the election booklet—the summary of election addresses. That is all it can be used for. Clearly any candidates will have to pay for the camera-ready artwork they provide, but that is their own cost. It is their own material. They are responsible for its origin. But at the point at which it is passed over to the GLRO, the cost of publication will come from that £10,000.

I hope that I can put the noble Lord's mind at rest on this point. There will not be a surcharge on top of the £10,000 if the sum of the costs is more than £10,000 collected together. However, there will be potential for a refund. The noble Lord may have misunderstood the wording under that part of the schedule. For instance, if, let us say, 30 candidates chipped in £10,000 each, it is possible that there might be a small surplus. That will be refunded pro rata. We consider that candidates are getting a pretty good deal from the arrangements that we propose.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, asked about typographical corrections to the proof. There will be corrections to the proof, as appear appropriate, only if the election agent of a candidate fails to check the proof of a candidate's address. They will be made at a time and place to be notified by the GLRO. There will have to be consultation between the GLRO and the candidate and/or his agent to ensure that typographical corrections are understood to be exactly that, and no more. If there is a problem, there will no doubt be careful consultation. We expect the provision to cover simple mis-spellings rather than changing the text fundamentally. I hope that that clarifies the point.

The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, raised a point about referring to deputies. Mayoral candidates will not be able to refer to assembly candidates, including those who may become deputy mayor. Therefore, that is a straight exclusion. No doubt in all the other material produced by candidates' parties and so forth there will be ample opportunity to mention running partners—but not in this leaflet. I hope that that is clear and tidies up the last point.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the discussion. I shall not go over the constitutional issues because they have been well rehearsed, but the contributions have been valuable.

I turn to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. There are difficulties, but probably any reference to the assembly elections will have to fall short of endorsing candidates. That will probably be the guiding rule. Clearly, it is not black and white. But, based on the drafting of the amendment, that is how it should work.

This has been a useful debate and we have focused on the issues. We have been reminded of the importance of the elections and the contribution which the booklet can make to democracy. It may well be that this is the most successful pilot run within the terms of the Representation of the People Bill. I have little doubt that the 5.1 million documents being circulated in the capital will help to excite the later stages of the election. I am also confident that they will improve the level of turn-out.

These are important elections and our concession or amendment to the legislation recognises their value. We believe that we have done the right thing, having given careful thought to all the issues. I am grateful to all those who have helped us along in that direction, including the experts; notably the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, whose contributions to the discussions were most helpful. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and I am content to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Pilot schemes]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 4: Page 13, line 27, at end insert ("either—

  1. (i) without modification, or
  2. (ii) with such modifications as, after consulting the authority, he considers appropriate,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 5 to 8:

Page 13, line 37, leave out second ("and").

Page 13, line 38, at end insert— ("(c) the sending by candidates of election communications free of charge for postage.").

Page 13, line 39, leave out ("and such a scheme may, in particular,") and insert ("() Without prejudice to the generality of the preceding provisions of this section, a scheme under this section may").

Page 13, line 41, at end insert— ("(b) for postal charges incurred in respect of the sending of candidates' election communications as mentioned in subsection (2)(c) to be paid by the authority concerned; and where a scheme makes such provision as is mentioned in paragraph (b), the Secretary of State's order under subsection (1) may make provision for disapplyine section 75(1) of the 1983 Act (restriction on third party election expenditure) in relation to the payment of such charges by the authority.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 5 to 8.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the fast progress, but I should have liked the Minister to comment on the amendments. I presume that they have been made in order to allow for the Watford experiment with the postal vote. The Minister mentioned that in a letter to me, but it would be advantageous to have it on the record. I believe that there is to be a freepost. The amendments allow for that experiment to take place and make it clear on the face of the Bill that Watford pays.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I should have picked that up and I apologise to the noble Lord. We have had careful deliberations on the freepost issue and it begs the question of whether the use of the freepost facility is a sensible use of public funds. All things considered, we believe that to be right in relation to the Greater London Authority mayoral election. We reached that view after careful consideration and debate.

The freepost facility has never been made available in local elections. That was part of the original argument over the mayoral freepost. However, it seems to us to be sensible to allow local authorities, if they wish to use their own funds for such a purpose, to run pilot schemes involving a freepost. If it works for the GLA and for Watford, and if it can be demonstrated to have made a marked impact on turn-out, no doubt other local authorities may want to apply to run pilot schemes involving freepost.

As your Lordships will be aware, Watford Council has already indicated that it wants to do that at this year's May elections and that it intends to use its own resources for the purpose. We hope that in future other authorities may well take up that refrain.

We shall have to have a full evaluation. We discussed the conduct of that at earlier stages. No doubt that evaluation will focus on how much impact the freepost facility has had in raising the profile of the election and drawing it to people's attention. It could make a valuable impact. We shall await the assessment. This will be the first time it has happened in local authorities outside London and we shall carefully watch and monitor it. I suspect that it will have some impact, but as regards how much only the future can tell.

I am happy to move our amendments which regularise the situation. We look forward to seeing and studying the fruits of the Watford initiative.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Fookes moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 13, line 41, at end insert— ("() A scheme under this section may include the provision for the Presiding Officer at his discretion to ask for documentary proof of identification by one of the following—

  1. (a) a polling card;
  2. (b) a valid United Kingdom driving licence;
  3. (c) a relevant social security benefit book;
  4. (d) a National Health Service medical card;
  5. (e) a certificate of verification as issued by the electoral registration officer,
or other such documentary evidence as may in the reasonable opinion of the Presiding Officer concerned constitute such evidence of the matters provided for within this subsection.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move the amendment standing in my name. With it is linked the new clause which also stands in my name. I do not want to detain your Lordships for long as the subject matter of the amendments was thoroughly aired on a previous occasion. However, I return to the matter in the hope of persuading the Government of the wisdom of allowing for the identification of voters, at least in any pilot schemes of which they approve.

It is a weakness in the present set-up that a presiding officer has to take the word of the person coming in to vote that he or she is entitled so to do. Therefore, I have set down the fact that the presiding officer should be able to ask for proof of identity: a polling card, driving licence or any of the other documents listed. On this occasion, instead of making the measure wholly obligatory, I have suggested that it should be at the discretion of the presiding officer. That is the purpose of the amendment in relation to pilot schemes.

The new clause is intended to be a wider application and to allow the presiding officer, if he thinks fit, to ask for proof of identification in all cases. I do not know whether I shall fare better on this occasion, but I believe that the measure is important. Indeed, it will be even more important if new schemes provide for early voting, perhaps spread over several days or at a polling station other than the normal one.

I offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. I raised the issue of the Plymouth pilot scheme which sought to include a requirement for the presiding officer to request identification by means of a polling card. He said that he would write to me and let me know the Government's views. He kept entirely to his word in very good time and I am delighted that the requirement will be permitted at least in that scheme. I hope that we shall have better success today. I beg to move.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, I shall be brief because my noble friend has made the point most clearly. When in future elections the new provision for homeless people will be effective, it is important that the general public do not feel that there is a new opening for impersonation. That is all that my noble friend is trying to achieve in her amendments. I strongly support them.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, perhaps I may also speak briefly to this amendment. Undoubtedly, impersonation does take place. The problem is that we do not have much idea of the extent to which it occurs. We know that action has been taken in Northern Ireland to stop it happening, but I believe that perhaps it occurs more in Great Britain than we would like to believe. Certainly, in the constituency in which I live, there are frequent rumours that impersonation takes place on a scale which would be significant if it were a marginal constituency. However, as it is not, it probably does not affect the election outcome; but if it were a marginal constituency, it might.

Of course, the position will be made more serious if we move from the current way to new ways of voting; for example, early voting, where polling stations may be open for one, two or three days, or where a central polling station will be open for two or three days prior to the election and the usual local polling stations will be open thereafter. It will then become very important indeed to keep a record of who has voted.

If I may say so, it will be increasingly important to require identification, especially in urban areas. In many country areas, the polling clerks know jolly well who has come to vote. They may not know the voters personally but they know them by sight. I believe that impersonation would be extremely difficult throughout much of rural Scotland, England or Wales, but not too difficult in an urban area. If we move to a system which provides alternative polling stations—that is, where it is very much up to the individual on the day of the poll which station he attends—frankly, I believe that identification, as well as electronic communication between the stations, will be required.

Therefore, I believe that my noble friend has a point. Even if the Government do not accept my noble friend's amendment today, I believe that in the not too distant future we shall have to return to this issue and give the polling clerks or agents the right to ask for identification. As I explained, I do not believe that everyone will need to produce identification. In many cases, the polling clerks will know the person who has come to vote. However, when there is doubt, I do not believe that it will be sufficient to say simply, "Are you who you say you are?" The person will reply "Yes". He will not say "No" if he has come deliberately to impersonate. I believe that that question is no longer adequate.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, I rise to say briefly that on these Benches we cannot possibly support these amendments. The problem is that the presiding officer must exercise his discretion and one does not know on what basis that discretion is to be exercised. In practice, one can see only that the presiding officer is likely to require proof of eligibility to vote from those who look scruffy or shiftless or who in some other way attract the attention of the presiding officer as being doubtful. That is no possible basis for exercising a discretion and I can see no other possible basis for exercising a discretion of this kind.

Logically, it could be done fairly only by requiring everyone to produce evidence of identification. The consequences of that would be absolutely horrendous: the queues would last all day if evidence had to be produced. Of course, the people who were asked to produce evidence on the basis of a discretion might well be those who were unable to do so, simply because they had not realised that it would be required of them. They may be sent away. Unless they were voting very late, in theory they would have time to come back again with the necessary evidence. However, frankly, the chances are that they will not. In those circumstances, it seems to us that the amendment is unworkable and, if and in so far as it were applicable, likely to be unfair.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I shall try to be brief in dealing with the amendments. I said in Committee that I did not believe that there was a need to impose a general requirement for producing identification at polling stations; nor we do believe that we need to give the presiding officers discretionary powers to demand identification above and beyond the prescribed questions which, as things currently stand, they are allowed to ask a voter, and to insist on the production of a polling card. The Working Party on Electoral Procedures did not see a need to make a change of that kind. As was pointed out in Committee, the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place, which considered this issue at quite some length, made a positive recommendation against such a move. Accordingly, I do not believe that I can invite your Lordships to support Amendment No. 18.

As the noble Baroness is aware, the council of the City of Plymouth, which she represented with considerable distinction for many years in another place, has applied to run an early voting pilot scheme. As part of its application, it intends to require those who want to take advantage of the early voting facility to provide proof of identification. That is precisely because they may vote at a polling station other than the one in their neighbourhood. The other pilot schemes with early voting procedures established will be expected to run in a similar manner. I believe that that will provide us with an idea of the potential scope for abuse within the current system.

I believe that on this matter we have agreed across the Benches that we do not consider our system to be overly abused. Clearly, there are occasions when abuse is a problem and those come to light from time to time. However, I believe that the pilot schemes will enable us to test exactly how great the problem may or may not be. In its evaluation of the scheme, Plymouth City Council has been asked to look particularly at this aspect of the pilot and at the way it works. No doubt in the outcome of that evaluation we shall all be very interested to see whether there is any potential for abuse and whether voters have been turned away, to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart.

Assuming that the Bill receives Royal Assent in time—I do not now see any great barriers to that—the pilot schemes will be able to go ahead in May on the basis of the Bill as it is currently drafted. Therefore, I am not able to accept the noble Baroness's first amendment. I would argue that it is not necessary. I believe that if we let the pilots take their course, it will be proven that there is not the manifest abuse which some people suspect. In the light of that and of the fact that this issue will be examined under the pilot schemes, I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Fookes

My Lords, although I feel somewhat disappointed, I am not at all surprised. Having been taught that half a loaf is better than none, I suppose that I should take the quarter-loaf provided by the Minister. In those circumstances, although with some reluctance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 14, line 19, at end insert— ("or in encouraging voting at the elections in question or enabling voters to make informed decisions at those elections.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11 [Revision of procedures in the light of pilot schemes]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 11: Page 15, line 7, leave out ("relevant elections of any description") and insert ("local government elections in England and Wales (or any particular description of such elections)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the same time as moving Amendment No. 11, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 12 to 17, and 26. I believe that I can be brief in dealing with these amendments as we had lengthy discussions of the underlying policy issue both in Committee and on Report.

At the Report stage last week, I said that the Government had listened to the strong views expressed in your Lordships' House about the power to roll out pilot schemes and that we had paid particular attention to the views of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I said that, as a consequence, we would bring forward amendments to limit the extent of the roll-out power in Clause 11 to local elections only. These amendments give precise effect to that commitment.

As your Lordships are aware, another Bill (currently being considered in another place) will establish a role for the Electoral Commission in the instigation and roll-out of pilot schemes. Therefore, we feel that that, coupled with our amendment, should provide all the necessary safeguards in rolling out new initiatives. With those few words, I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, these amendments result from the Government's decision to accept the recommendations in the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. I expressed the gratitude of these Benches for the Government's decision to do that because it seemed to us a matter of considerable constitutional importance. We had that debate on the last occasion and I merely repeat my gratitude to the Government for accepting the point.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I too welcome the amendments. As your Lordships made clear in Committee, it was felt that the Government should take on board the powerful recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. At that stage, the Government were rather reluctant to move but I suspect that the events in relation to the London mayoral election showed the Government that we were serious. I also like to think that those of their Members who were in the other place realised that your Lordships took the view that the Government should listen to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. The Government have done that and I warmly welcome it. I only hope that that is a precedent for the future and that we shall no longer have to rattle the cage in Committee if the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee suggests that the Government have gone beyond what is reasonable.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their warm congratulations. I was grateful also on Report for assurances, with caveats of course, that because flexibility has been lost by putting Clause 11 on one side, they may feel minded to assist us if and when we bring forward legislation to have national roll-outs of some of the pilots which we have seen through successfully in local government and which have worked well. I am grateful to noble Lords for their support in these matters.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 12 to 17:

Page 15, line 10, leave out ("enactment)") and insert ("provision of an Act, including this Act)").

Page 15, line 11, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert— ("(2) An order under subsection (1)—

  1. (a) may except from the operation of any of its provisions any local government area specified in the order; but
  2. (b) subject to that, must make the same provision—
    1. (i) in relation to local government elections, or
    2. (ii) if it applies only to a particular description of such elections, in relation to elections of that description,
throughout England and Wales.").

Page 15, line 31, leave out (", or district electoral.").

Page 15, line 32, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2)").

Page 15, line 35, at end insert— ("() Rules made under section 36 of the 1983 Act (local elections in England and Wales) may make such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in connection with any provision made by an order under subsection (1). () Nothing in this section shall be taken as prejudicing the generality of any power contained in any other Act to make subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978) with respect to elections of any description.").

Page 15, line 36, leave out subsection (7).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Assistance with voting for persons with disabilities]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 19: Page 17, line 4, after ("orally") insert ("or in writing").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is almost identical to that moved on Report by my noble friend Lord Ashley. I pay tribute to him. He has fought many battles on behalf of the disabled and I am sure that he will chalk this up as another victory on what is already an extremely impressive roll of honour.

As your Lordships will be aware, the Bill extends the right to be assisted in voting by a companion from the blind to others with a physical disability which prevents them from voting unaided and those who are unable to read. People who wish to be assisted with voting by a companion are required to make an oral declaration to the presiding officer that they need or want such assistance.

On Report, my noble friend drew our attention to the problems that that may pose for the profoundly deaf who are able to communicate only by means of sign language. This amendment overcomes that by allowing declarations to be made in writing. So I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Ashley for focusing our attention on this problem. I am sure that as a consequence, many people will feel indebted to him.

This is an important amendment, small as it is, and we believe that it should make a significant contribution to providing a more inclusive voting system so that all feel that they can happily participate in elections, whether they be local, national or European. I beg to move.

Lord Ashley of Stoke

My Lords, I express warm appreciation to my noble friend. This amendment will help a number of profoundly deaf people who use sign language and who otherwise, without this amendment, may well have been disenfranchised.

I emphasise that the Minister's rejection of this amendment at the earlier stages was not due to an error of judgment. It was due entirely to a misunderstanding between us which has now been resolved. I am extremely grateful to him for his speedy response and for acting as quickly as he did. I thank him very much indeed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 20: Before Clause 14, insert the following new clause—



.—(1) The Greater London Authority Act 1999 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After section 17 there shall he inserted—

"Free delivery of election addresses.

17A.—(1) Each candidate at the first election of the Mayor shall be entitled (subject to and in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 3A to this Act) to have an election address prepared on behalf of the candidate included in a booklet of election addresses—

  1. (a) prepared by the Greater London returning officer; and
  2. (b) sent by that officer, by post, to each elector in Greater London.

(2) In subsection (1) above "elector", in relation to the election mentioned in that subsection—

  1. (a) means a person who is registered in the register of local government electors for an electoral area in Greater London on the last day for publication of notice of the election; and
  2. (b) includes a person then shown in any such register as below voting age if (but only if) it appears from the register that he will be of voting age on the day fixed for the poll.

(3) The Secretary of State may by order make such provision as he considers appropriate for and in connection with enabling candidates—

  1. (a) at ordinary elections other than the first such election, or
  2. (b) at elections to fill vacancies in the office of Mayor or Assembly member,
to have their election addresses (within the meaning of the order) delivered, at the Authority's expense, by the Post Office or by any other means specified in the order.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3) above, an order under that subsection may make provision—

  1. (a) for free delivery of election addresses to be available under the order only in the case of any specified description of election falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of that subsection or within section 2(7) above;
  2. (b) for enabling the Authority to determine the descriptions of elections (if any) in the case of which free delivery of election addresses is to be so available;
  3. (c) for regulating in any respect the form and manner in which free delivery of election addresses is to be so available;
  4. (d) for restricting the number of separate mailings in respect of the free delivery of election addresses, whether—
    1. (i) by limiting the number of separate election addresses by reference to any specified circumstances, or
    2. (ii) by requiring the preparation of a single document incorporating all the election addresses to be delivered on behalf of candidates at a particular election, or otherwise;
  5. (e) for imposing conditions which must be satisfied by any candidate or candidates seeking to avail themselves of free delivery of election addresses under the order;
  6. (f) for authorising election addresses falling to be delivered under the order to be disseminated by such means (other than those by which they are to be so delivered) as may be specified;
  7. (g) for securing that civil or criminal liability in respect of material contained in any election address falling to be delivered under the order (including any such liability arising in connection with any dissemination of the material in pursuance of paragraph (f) above) is incurred only by the candidate on behalf of whom it falls to be so delivered or his election agent.

(5) In subsection (4) above— free delivery of election addresses" means the delivery of election addresses, in accordance with an order under subsection (3) above, at the Authority's expense; specified" means specified in an order under subsection (3) above.

(6) Before making an order under subsection (3) above the Secretary of State shall consult—

  1. (a) the Mayor and the London Assembly; and
  2. (b) such other persons and bodies as he may determine to be appropriate.

(7) Schedule 3A (which makes provision supplementing subsection (1) above) shall have effect."

(3) In section 420(3) (orders under specified provisions to be subject to affirmative parliamentary procedure), before paragraph (a) there shall be inserted— (za) section 17A(3) above,".

(4) The provisions set out in Schedule (Free delivery of election addresses at first GLA mayoral election: New Schedule 3A to the Greater London Authority Act 1999) shall be inserted as Schedule 3A to the Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I want to raise a drafting point on this amendment. I did not do it when the earlier group of amendments was dealt with because I did not wish to derogate from the warmth of welcome that was shown for the Government's compromise.

I ask your Lordships to look at the bottom of page 7 of the Marshalled List. Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause states: The Secretary of State may by order make such provision as he considers appropriate for and in connection with enabling candidates … to have their election addresses … delivered, at the Authority's expense, by the Post Office or by any other means specified in the order". I should have thought that nothing could be more general than that.

However, subsection (4) emphasises it by saying: Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3) above, an order under that subsection may make provision", and it then goes on with paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g). It goes on for practically the whole page.

I used to complain about that style of drafting during the last Parliament. My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern used to say that it was not strictly necessary. That is a Lord Chancellor's way of saying it is not necessary. He would say that nevertheless, it may be useful in letting Parliament know the kind of circumstances in which the general order may be used. No doubt that is true but it is not the only way and it is the most expensive way.

The reasonable way would be for the Minister to explain to Parliament where he thinks the provision might be used. That is eminently the case here.

I ask your Lordships to look at paragraph (c) which states that it is, for regulating in any respect the form and manner in which free delivery of election addresses is to be so available". Obviously, that gives a free discretion and in paragraph (d) it refers to "or otherwise".

When I used to complain during the previous Parliament, such particulars at their worst ran to paragraph (h). I suppose that as this is confined to (g), that is some improvement. But I should have thought that they were all unnecessary and, indeed, the very opening words of the subsection shows that to be so.

I do not expect the Minister to withdraw the words at this stage, but the Bill is going to another place with this amendment. I ask two things. First, why does he think that this page of particularity within a perfectly satisfactory generality, which is emphasised by the words, without prejudice to the generality", is necessary? Secondly, will the matter be considered? I should like to know, as he is the Minister in charge of the Bill, why he believes that this enormous series of particularities, admittedly within the generality, is expensively to be put in the statute, printed and reprinted which is conducive to the continual expansion of the statute book.

I am glad that I have been speaking long enough to see the arrival of a brief, but I should be grateful for the Minister's immediate reaction. I should be even more grateful if he would say that the matter will be considered.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, before the Minister answers, I must say that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has prompted a question, not so much about new subsection (4) but about subsection (1). I accept that this is a rather naughty question, but I cannot resist asking it. Each candidate is to have an election address prepared and included in a booklet of election addresses. Will they be restricted to 75 words?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, if the noble Lord had been here earlier on, he probably would have followed that rather more than 75 words will be allowed; words and images together and no doubt logos too.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has given us a valuable lecture on how we might better construct the wording of our legislation. I am not a constitutional expert, but I rather fancy that the way in which legislative drafting is carried out means that rather than having to return to Hansard for the source of an explanation, there is a reliance in part on having something on the face of the legislation. Although the subsections involve a degree of repetition—and perhaps, in the noble and learned Lord's terms, some drafting sloppiness has crept in—that is their value; one does not have to refer constantly to Hansard, but if an explanation is to be found it is there on the face of the Bill.

The matter raised by the noble and learned Lord is obviously important. It is one which we shall continue to keep carefully under review, and the noble and learned Lord will no doubt continue to remind us to do so. It has prompted me to think that I probably need to consult some of the speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, to find out what his explanations were at the time when he enjoyed the challenges raised by the noble and learned Lord himself in earlier debates. I trust that that explanation begins to pick up some of the points raised by the noble and learned Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Citation, construction, commencement and extent]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 18, line 38, at end insert— (""modifications" includes additions, omissions and amendments (and "modify" has a corresponding meaning).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 23 and 24:

Page 18, line 39, after ("11") insert (", (Free delivery of election addresses at Greater London Authority elections)").

Page 18, line 39, after ("section") insert ("and Schedule (Free delivery of election addresses at first GLA mayoral election: New Schedule 3A to the Greater London Authority Act 1999)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 25: Page 18, line 39, after ("section") insert ("and paragraph 6 of Schedule 5,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a simple amendment. Your Lordships will recall that an amendment was passed in Committee to insert a provision—which can be found at page 44 line 8—to prohibit the publication of the results of exit polls until the final close of the poll. The fear which prompted the amendment was that, in an election taking place over more than one day, an exit poll published after the first day of voting might in some way influence how people voted in the subsequent day or days, or perhaps even put them off voting at all.

The amendment that was passed deals with such problems, I hope that the number of pilot schemes involving early voting will be run in this year's local elections. That amendment should clarify the issues with regard to the local elections and protect them. We therefore want the new exit poll provisions to come into effect as soon as possible and as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent. This amendment provides for precisely that. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 26 and 27:

Page 19, line 10, leave out ("Section 10") and insert ("Sections 10 and 11").

Page 19, line 11, at end insert— ("() The amendments made by section (Free delivery of election addresses at Greater London Authority elections) have the same extent as the Greater London Authority Act 1999.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Schedule 1 [Registration: amendments of 1983 Act]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 28: Page 28, line 43, leave out ("local government") and insert ("electoral")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 28 is a drafting amendment. Section 76(2) concerns the register to be used for the purposes of calculating election expenses. A local authority by-election by definition does not cover the whole of a local authority, so we are changing a reference to "local government area" to "electoral area". That is all that is involved or implied in any way by the amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 29: After Schedule 4, insert the following new schedule—






1. In this Schedule—

Election addresses

2. For the purposes of the relevant provisions an election address, in relation to a candidate, is a statement prepared by the candidate's election agent which complies with the provisions of paragraphs 3 and 4.

Contents of election addresses

3.—(1) An election address must contain matter relating to the election only.

(2) In particular, an election address must not contain—

  1. (a) any advertising material (other than material promoting the candidate as a candidate at the election);
  2. (b) any other material appearing to be included with a view to commercial gain; or
  3. (c) any material referring to any candidate standing for election to the Assembly.

(3) An election address may include a representation of the registered emblem, or (as the case may be) one of the registered emblems, of a registered political party if the address is prepared on behalf of an authorised party candidate.

(4) In sub-paragraph (3) above "authorised party candidate", in relation to a registered political party, means a candidate who has been authorised to use the emblem in question by a certificate—

  1. (a) issued by or on behalf of the registered nominating officer of the party, and
  2. (b) received by the GLRO before the last time for the delivery of nomination papers for the election.

(5) An election address must—

  1. (a) contain a statement to the effect that it has been prepared by the candidate's election agent; and
  2. (b) give the name and address of the election agent.

Form of election addresses

4.—(1) Subject to any requirements imposed by or under this paragraph. the format of a candidate's election address may be determined by the candidate (and. in particular. may consist of a combination of words, pictures and artwork).

(2) An election address must be printed on not more than two sides of A5 paper; but if such an address is printed on two sides of such paper—

  1. (a) it must, when submitted to the GLRO for inclusion in the election booklet, be accompanied by a second version printed on a single side of such paper; and
  2. (b) if the total number of candidates from whom election addresses have been accepted by the GLRO by the last time for the delivery of nomination papers for the election exceeds 15. the version to be included in the election booklet shall be the second version.

(3) An election address must—

  1. (a) comply with such requirements as to typographical layout, margins and the use of colour as the GLRO may determine; and
  2. (b) comply with such other requirements as he may determine with a view to facilitating its reproduction as a page or pages of the election booklet.

(4) An election address must. when submitted to the GLRO for inclusion in the election booklet, be accompanied—

  1. (a) where the address is to contain a photograph of the candidate, by two identical copies of the photograph, of which one is signed on the back by the candidate; and
  2. (b) in any case, by such copies of anything contained in the address as the GLRO may reasonably require in connection with the reproduction of the address.

Approval of election addresses by Post Office

5.—(1) Before an election address is submitted to the GLRO for inclusion in the election booklet a draft of the address must have been—

  1. (a) submitted by the candidate to the Post Office, and
  2. (b) approved by the Post Office as complying with the relevant Post Office regulations.

(2) In sub-paragraph (1)(b) above "the relevant Post Office regulations" means the provisions of the Post Office regulations under section 91 of the 1983 Act as to the contents of election communications, other than the provisions of those regulations—

  1. (a) authorising the sending of different material to different groups, or
  2. (b) requiring the name of the printer and publisher to appear on election literature.

(3) Without prejudice to the operation of sub-paragraph (1)(b) above, the Post Office shall not approve an election address if. in their opinion, the address does not comply with the provisions of paragraph 3(1) and (2) above.

The election booklet

6.—(1) For the purposes of this Schedule the election booklet is a document prepared by the GLRO which contains the election addresses of all candidates who—

  1. (a) desire their election addresses to be included in the booklet, and
  2. (b) have submitted—
    1. (i) those addresses, and
    2. (ii) any additional material required under paragraph 4(4) above,
to the GLRO by such date as he may determine.

(2) If—

  1. (a) it appears to the GLRO that any of the requirements of paragraphs 3(3) to (5), 4 and 5(1) above has not been complied with in relation to an election address, or
  2. (b) a candidate fails to make the payment required by paragraph 9 below in respect of an election address,
the GLRO shall decline to include the address in the election booklet.

Form of election booklet

7.—(1) The order in which candidates' election addresses appear in the election booklet shall be determined alphabetically by reference to the candidates' surnames.

(2) The election booklet may include. in addition to candidates' election addresses. a statement by the GLRO—

  1. (a) explaining the nature and purpose of the election booklet;
  2. (b) listing. in alphabetical order, the names of all the candidates at the election (whether or not their election addresses are included in the booklet); and
  3. (c) giving the date of the election and such other information about it as the GLRO may determine.

(3) The election booklet must—

  1. (a) contain a statement that it has been published by the GLRO; and
  2. (b) give the name and address of the GLRO and those of the printer of the booklet.

(4) Subject to sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) above. the form of the election booklet shall be determined by the GLRO.

(5) The election agent of each candidate whose election address has been accepted by the GLRO for inclusion in the booklet shall be given an opportunity to attend at a time and place notified to him by the GLRO in order to check, and submit to the GLRO typographical corrections to, the proof of the candidate's address.

(6) If the election agent of any such candidate fails to avail himself of that opportunity, the GLRO may—

  1. (a) make such typographical corrections to the proof as appear to him to he appropriate; and
  2. (b) proceed with the printing and distribution of the election booklet without further reference to the candidate or his election agent (and without incurring any liability for any errors in the candidate's address).

(7) No person other than—

  1. (a) the candidate by or on whose behalf an election address included in the election booklet was prepared, or
  2. (b) the candidate's election agent,
shall incur any civil or criminal liability in respect of the publication of that address in the election booklet or its dissemination in accordance with paragraph 8 below.

Distribution of election booklet

8.—(1) Copies of the election booklet shall be delivered by the GLRO to the Post Office, in envelopes addressed to individual electors falling within section 17A(1)(b) of this Act, at such time as the GLRO may determine.

(2) The GLRO may disseminate the contents of the election booklet by such other means as he may determine.

Contributions by candidates towards costs of printing

9.—(1) Each candidate by whom an election address is submitted to the GLRO for inclusion in the election booklet shall pay the sum of £10,000 to the GLRO as a contribution towards the expenses incurred by him in respect of the printing of the election booklet.

(2) The payment required by sub-paragraph (1) above shall he made at such time, and in such manner, as the GLRO may determine.

(3) A candidate shall be entitled to a full refund of any such payment if, but only if, the candidate has given notice of withdrawal of his candidature before the last time for the withdrawal of candidates.

(4) If the total amount of the payments made by candidates under this paragraph exceeds the total amount of the expenses incurred by the GLRO in respect of the printing of the election booklet, the GLRO shall—

  1. (a) divide the amount of the excess between the candidates in equal shares, and
  2. (b) send to each candidate a payment in respect of his share.

Payments by Secretary of State

10. Except so far as they are met by payments under paragraph 9 above, the expenses incurred by the GLRO in consequence of the relevant provisions shall be met by the Secretary of State.

Candidates' election expenses

11.—(1) The amount of any payment made by a candidate under paragraph 9 above (or, if sub-paragraph (4) of that paragraph applies, the net amount of any such payment after deducting the payment under that sub-paragraph) shall be taken, for the purposes of Part II of the 1983 Act (the election campaign), to be an amount of election expenses incurred by the candidate in relation to the election.

(2) Nothing in section 75(1) of the 1983 Act (restriction on third party election expenditure) shall be taken to apply, in relation to any candidate, to any expenses incurred by the GLRO in consequence of the relevant provisions."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I am sorry again to trouble the Minister with a drafting point, but it is somewhat the same. At the bottom of page 10 of the Marshalled List it is stated, An election address must contain matter relating to the election only". That is reasonable enough. Why then do we need the phrase, "in particular", in subparagraph (2)? I refer especially to, (a) any advertising material (other than material promoting the candidate as a candidate at the election)". Is that not clearly covered by subparagraph (1)? It is the same with the phrase "commercial gain" referred to in paragraph (b). Paragraph (c) is more questionable. It was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, I believe. It refers to, any material referring to any candidate standing for election to the Assembly". I presume that that means any other candidate, but it does not say so. Will the Minister consider that point at any rate?

In the three general elections in which I stood, I never found it necessary to refer at all to my opponent. It is entirely laudable that this part of the Bill precludes the election addresses from being used in a slanging match. But a slanging match can be verbal. Why, then, should it be excluded from the election address? It is true that there is a Latin phrase which says that the written word remains and perhaps it is rather more dangerous, but I should have thought that we could well have got rid of those seven lines as a beginning to pruning the statute book.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the purpose of these lines in the schedule is to be more precise about the nature of abuse that we attempt to circumscribe and rule out. This follows logically from paragraph 3(1) and adds further explanation that an election address should not be used to advertise or for material gain relating to commercial activity. Subparagraph (2)(c) refers to an earlier discussion and precludes the mayoral candidate from referring to himself or herself if he or she is standing also as an assembly candidate or to other assembly candidates. This links to an issue that we discussed at some length earlier. I hope that explanation clarifies the issues raised by the noble Lord. I thank him for raising the matter.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, the noble Lord was courteous enough to say that he would consider the point I raised on an earlier amendment. Will he do so also on this amendment, and will he be kind enough to write to me with the result of his consideration?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I want to be more helpful to the noble and learned Lord because he raises important drafting issues. However, it needs to be understood that those relate to ruling out the abuse about which we were so concerned in our earlier discussions, not just this afternoon but in relation to the orders and during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill.

We believe that we have tightened up the provisions so that we can reasonably expect abuse not to take place through the freepost facility. That is exactly what the schedules are all about. Of course, we keep drafting under careful consideration at all stages of the legislation and it would be wrong to say that we shall not check the drafting carefully. However, this provision is directed at the issue of abuse: it is an attempt to tie it down precisely.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.