§ (" .—(1) There shall be a panel (to be known as "the Parliamentary Parties Panel") which consists of representatives of qualifying parties appointed in accordance with this section.
§ (2) The function of the panel shall be to submit representations or information to the Commission about such matters affecting political parties as the panel think fit.
§ (3) Where the panel submit any such representations or information to the Commission, the Commission shall—
- (a) consider the representations or information, and
- (b) decide whether, and (if so) to what extent, they should act on the representations or information.
§ (4) Each qualifying party shall be entitled to be represented on the panel by a person appointed to the panel by the treasurer of the party.
§ (5) Subject to subsection (6), a person so appointed shall be a member of the panel for such period as the treasurer of the party may determine when making the appointment.
§ (6) A person so appointed shall cease to be a member of the panel if at any time—
- (a) his appointment is terminated for any reason by the treasurer of the party, or
- (b) the party ceases to be a qualifying party.
§ (7) The panel may determine their own procedure.
§ (8) The validity of any proceedings of the panel shall not be affected by any failure by the treasurer of a qualifying party to make any appointment in accordance with this section.
§ (9) In this section "qualifying party" means a registered party—
- (a) to which two or more Members of the House of Commons for the time being belong; or
- (b) to which two or more such Members belonged immediately after the most recent parliamentary general election.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 14 is an important amendment, but one which I am confident will be supported across the House.
§ I start with why the new clause is being brought forward. On Second Reading, I signalled the Government's intention to bring forward amendments to ensure that the membership of the electoral commission would consist of people who were not associated with political parties. Those amendments, which were very similar to ones moved by the Official Opposition in another place, were duly brought forward in Committee and were passed into the Bill. Essentially, they constitute what is now subsection (4) of Clause 3.
§ I might add that, with the passage of time, our conviction that it ought not to be possible to associate members of the electoral commission with any political party has grown stronger rather than weaker. Events on the other side of the Atlantic have reinforced our conviction. At every twist and turn we have seen someone with a party tag to their name and it has not done a great honour to the electoral process as a consequence. We should not go any further in jumping on the grave of an electoral system; nevertheless the point is worth making.574
§ Having said that, it was clear both at Second Reading and in Committee that noble Lords were not without some qualms. The concern expressed was that the more impeccable the credentials of the electoral commissioners from the point of view of political impartiality, the less likely they were to have hands-on experience of the political process from the point of view of the parties. That point was echoed on all sides of the House.
§ The proposed new clause is designed to meet this point, and to meet it head on. It provides a forum and a legitimate opportunity for the political parties collectively to put their points to the electoral commission and to have them considered. The panel will not, of course, be in the nature of a supervisory body; nor is it considered wise to have it as a formal advisory body in the sense that the commission cannot proceed without consulting the panel and, by implication, clearing its proposals through it. The commission will, of course, wish to consult on general matters, but it will obviously cast its net a good deal wider than the handful of political parties represented on the panel. If we were setting up a formal advisory panel, its membership would have to be expanded rather more widely.
§ There would also be a risk of appearing to set up almost an alternative electoral commission. It is for this reason that I cannot accept Amendment No. 14A, which has been brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, as an amendment to the government amendment. The panel is designed simply to allow the parties to discuss matters collectively and to engage with the commission if they wish to do so. No doubt it will take notice of the commission's work programme and decide what input it wishes to make. We have not sought to circumscribe in any way the matters on which the panel can engage with the commission. The commission will have to give due consideration to any points put to it but will not, of course, be bound by them.
§ We have not thought it necessary to provide more than a minimal structure for the commission. It will be open to any party with two Members in the House of Commons to nominate a member of the panel. To extend that opportunity to every registered party would make the panel unmanageable. Procedure is to be entirely in the panel's own hands. In the first instance, it would no doubt be helpful if one of the major parties were to get the ball rolling.
§ Nor do we think it necessary to provide any logistical or financial support. This is not a new quango. Representatives of the parties get together at present on matters of common concern. The new clause simply provides a new forum for them to do so, and gives a legitimacy to any interaction which they have with the electoral commission.
§ I believe that the new clause responds appropriately to concerns expressed at earlier stages of the Bill and I commend it to the House.
§ I must also deal with the amendment to the amendment, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. Its effect would 575 be to exclude from the club, if I may put it that way, parties whose members have not taken the Oath. We have done that in other contexts in other parts of the Bill but we have not included it here. In case anyone should think otherwise, that is not a mere oversight on the Government's part but a deliberate decision. The panel is not primarily a parliamentary body. The requirement to have two Members in the House is primarily a means of limiting the membership of the panel to manageable proportions compared with opening it up to every registered party. So there is no inherent reason why any party which has had Members elected to another place should be excluded. I beg to move.
Lord Norton of Louth moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 14, Amendment No. 14A:
Line 12, at end of subsection (3) insert—
("() The Commission may seek the advice of the panel on matters affecting political parties as the Commission thinks fit.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Government have tabled Amendment No. 14. As the Minister said, it has been brought forward to meet the point made in Committee on 11th May that members of the commission will have no grounding—certainly no recent grounding—in party political activity. I and several other noble Lords made that point and I welcome the amendment brought forward by the Government.
§ My amendment to the Minister's amendment is, I think, self-explanatory. Under the Minister's amendment, the parliamentary parties panel will be empowered to submit representations or information to the commission about matters affecting political parties as the panel thinks fit. My amendment confers upon the commission the power to seek the advice of the panel on matters affecting political parties.
§ One can see the case for members of the panel wishing to make representations to the commission, but the commission itself may wish to consult on proposals that it is considering. Although the commission is empowered to make reports and to provide advice to different bodies, it is not—at least, not explicitly—empowered to consult other bodies. Contrary to what the Minister said, I believe that it is appropriate to confer such a power, certainly in this case. There may be occasions when members of the commission are considering a proposal on which they would welcome some input from those with knowledge of parties and of fighting elections. The important point is that it may be best for that input to come at the formative stage.
§ As I say, my amendment is self-explanatory. The case for it is fairly obvious. I do not recognise the Minister's objection as a compelling one. I do not believe that the commission should be constrained in this way or that it would be in any way tainted by being given the power that I suggest. Such a power is necessary to allow the commission, should it so choose, to consult the panel that is being set up. This is a fairly straightforward and sensible amendment. I beg to move.576
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I concur completely with my noble friend. I found the Minister's explanation of why the Government do not like the amendment distinctly unconvincing. Subsection (2) of the Government's new clause states:The function of the panel shall be to submit representations or information to the Commission about such matters affecting political parties as the panel think fit".There is nothing wrong with the commission saying to itself, "I wonder what the political parties think". The panel would be the right body to ask the political parties what they think. Frankly, I cannot see why the panel should be able to discuss a matter possibly raised by one of the parties and make a view known to the commission, and yet, amazingly, be unable to ask the panel what it thinks.
I welcome the fact that the panel is to be set up. As the Minister said, the government amendment reflects the concern expressed in Committee over the fact that the commission would not have anyone who was actively involved in politics. It was felt by many noble Lords that there was a vacancy in the information gathering and advice. That has largely been filled by the Government's new clause, and I welcome it. But I do not see why we should stop short of allowing the commission to ask the panel its view. I am convinced by my noble friend's argument.
§ Baroness Gould of Potternewton
My Lords, I, too, am slightly puzzled. It would be perfectly sensible for the commission to be able to seek advice. Surely that is its role. It will not have all the answers. Therefore, I do not understand the objection to Amendment No. 14A. I am sure that the commission will seek advice from all kinds of directions, but this is a particular one in respect of political parties. It answers all the points that were made at Second Reading about the fact that the commission might not be sufficiently experienced in the ways of political parties. I hope that the Minister will give a little more thought to the amendment and perhaps return to the matter at Third Reading.
§ Lord Rennard
My Lords, Amendment No. 14A seems at worst harmless and at best extremely useful. The whole purpose of the debate that we had at an early stage of the Bill was that there was a need to involve the parties more in guiding the commission. It was suggested that there was a danger that the commission, working in isolation from the parties, would not know how they worked. I fail to see how the Government can have any real objection to the amendment. As the Minister said, from time to time the Government find it necessary to consult the political parties on matters of election law. Indeed, after every general election the Home Office conducts a consultation among the political parties in relation to lessons that might be learnt from the recent election campaign. I see no reason why the Government should not support the amendment.
§ Viscount Cranborne
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Norton in his amendment. There is a 577 curious assumption through whole rafts of this Government's legislation that there are some sort of Platonic guardians up there who are repositories of all wisdom and who, by definition, are not only experts but whose views are infinitely preferable and more respectable than the views of the elected representatives in Parliament. It is not difficult to move from that assumption to another curious assumption; namely, that such people are wise almost by birth—dare I say it, in this half-reformed Chamber?—and that they somehow distil their wisdom from cerebration and from air.
I suspect that the accumulated wisdom of this House, while it is of course the result of your Lordships' intellect, is substantially the result of your Lordships' accumulated experience. If the logic of the Government's new clause is that party representatives should volunteer their views based on their own political experience to a body which, by definition, has been accepted to be one of little political experience, the reverse must also logically be the case; namely, that when the commission is deliberating, it may wish to take an initiative and find out what people at the political coal-face feel and what is their experience. As my noble friend said, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, also pointed out, the good sense in my noble friend's amendment is self-evident. The Government's logic has escaped me, as it seems to have escaped other noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, when the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, speaks of distilled wisdom, 1 worry. Distilled wisdom usually comes in a bottle late at night and judgments made thereafter do not necessarily improve.
Turning to the points made during the debate, I do not think that there is a great deal between us. The Government's view is that the panel will be a consultative body. It is not necessary to give the commission a general power to consult it. Consultation will, of course, take place. It will take place not just with the panel but outside the confines of the panel.
However, I have heard the words of wisdom—distilled or otherwise—from various quarters of the House. While I am not prepared at this point to give way, as I am urged from the Benches opposite, I am more than happy at least to give some further consideration to the point that is made in the amendment. It may well be that it needs to be further thought through and broadened slightly. As I read the amendment, it is a bit "top down" and too instructive. What we are attempting to do in the clause is not to confine the process of consultation but to broaden it and to provide for the panel to have a role in that.
I am grateful to those noble Lords who have offered support and comfort in regard to Amendment No. 14. I hope that, particularly in view of what I have just said, the noble Lord, Lord Norton, will feel able to withdraw his Amendment No. 14A.
§ Lord Norton of Louth
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response and for having gone 578 somewhat further than he did in his earlier remarks. I am gratified by the comments of other noble Lords. As they made clear, there is no reason why the amendment should not be on the face of the Bill. In the context of the new clause, it is logical and sensible.
However, the Minister has indicated that he will reflect on this matter and perhaps return to it at Third Reading. On that specific understanding, I shall not pursue it at the moment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 14, Amendment No. 15:
Line 29, after ("belong") insert (", who have made and subscribed to the oath required by the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 (or the corresponding affirmation) and are not disqualified from sitting or voting in the House").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a further amendment to Amendment No. 14. Before speaking to the amendment, it may be for the convenience of the House and the Minister if I ask one question about Amendment No. 14.
§ I note that in every case the person who is to be appointed is to be decided by the treasurer of the party. When we consider what this panel will do, I wonder whether the treasurer is the best person. I should have thought that the leader of the party would be the best person to make the appointment, not the treasurer. Perhaps the Minister could explain in his response why the Government have decided to make the treasurer the person who nominates an individual to sit on the parliamentary parties panel.
Amendment No. 15 relates to the parties that will qualify to appoint members to the panel. The Minister drew attention to the contradictions in the Bill that form the very centre of my amendment. Looking at Amendment No. 14, it would appear that the panel could have a nomination from Sinn Fein, as there is no disqualification for members who have not subscribed to the House of Commons Oath. However, in other parts of the Bill Sinn Fein would not be considered because they have not taken the Oath and they would, therefore, be disqualified. As the noble Lord pointed out, there is a disqualification in Clause 3(6) which refers back to subsection (2)(b)—
the registered leader of each registered party to which two or more Members of the House of Commons then belong",
and deals with the question of the appointment of the electoral commissioners. Subsection (6) says that,
reference to Members of the House of Commons does not include any Member of that House who at the time in question … has not made and subscribed the oath required by the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866".
Similarly, we find exactly the same provision in Clause 11(1)(b) with regard to policy development grants; namely,
a registered party is 'represented' if there are at least two Members of the House of Commons belonging to the party who … have made and subscribed the oath required by the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866".
The Minister drew our attention to those two parts in the Bill, but he did not seem to give any justification as to why such a provision should be swept aside when considering the parliamentary parties panel. Indeed, parties that would be considered unsuitable to be consulted under other parts of the Bill would be consulted and allowed to have members on this panel. That seems to me to be both inconsistent and strange.
§ There can be no party that this provision is aimed at other than Sinn Fein. I do not believe that anyone else has declined to take the oath for membership of the other place. My question is a simple one, and one which I shall no doubt repeat tomorrow: why is an exception being made for Sinn Fein? If its members wish to take part in the parliamentary parties panel, they should subscribe to the House of Commons oath like everyone else. If Clauses 3 and 11 both contain that debar, why should not this new clause have such a provision? I beg to move.
§ Viscount Cranborne
My Lords, I rise to express my support for my noble friend's amendment. As was the case with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, it seems to me that the logic behind this amendment is self-evident in terms of what the Bill contains, as outlined in Clauses 3 and 11. Equally, there is quite an important principle at stake here that the Government seem to have acknowledged in both those clauses. After all, we are told that the whole basis of the Good Friday agreement has been to recognise a government assumption—a heroic one perhaps but, nevertheless, one which the Government have made—that terrorist parties that have been allowed to participate in the new arrangements as a result of the agreement have given up the Armalite in favour of the ballot box. As the noble Lord knows, I am highly sceptical about whether that assumption is justified. However, let us assume that it is; indeed, we all hope that it is.
It seems logical, therefore, that we should not give comfort in this clause, any more than we do in other clauses, to parties that have not agreed to the rules to which the rest of us in parliamentary government have subscribed. Indeed, unless everyone plays by those rules, those who resort to violence, bombs and the Armalite tend to have an advantage which is denied to the rest of us and which destroys the body politic in the polity in which we live.
A commission whose accumulated political wisdom is the reason for its existence should be a body that represents parties that subscribe wholly to the rules to which the rest of us are subject. If the Government do not subscribe to the sentiments expressed in my noble friend's amendment, the logic of that will be even less easy to follow than the logic originally put forward by the noble Lord in his justification—initially at least—for rejecting Amendment No. 14A.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, asked me a question at the 580 beginning of his remarks. I always try to provide him with a straight answer. If I do not always do so on the first occasion, I sometimes do so on the second; but I certainly do so on the third occasion. The noble Lord asked why the treasurer should be the person to make the nomination. If one considers the scheme of things in the Bill, it will be seen that the treasurer is the central player. I have no doubt—indeed, I believe that it is beyond question—that the treasurer of the party would want to consult the "registered leader". That is how I believe the process will work. Indeed, that is how most people expect it to work, and I have no doubt that that is how it will work.
I turn to the matter of substance before us, as outlined in Amendment No. 15. I indicated earlier what had led us not to include the restriction contained in this amendment. I believe that our line was and is valid. As it stands, the government amendment is what we intended to commend to the House. The reason behind that is the fact that the panel is not a government body but one belonging, quite properly, to the parties. They will have to work together to make the panel work.
However, I have listened to what noble Lords opposite have said. I believe that the panel has a very important task to complete and that it must work. Noble Lords have made the point that the Government's amendment would add a degree of inconsistency to the Bill. For those reasons, and bearing in mind the fact that this matter needs to be approached both sensitively and practically, I am prepared to accept the noble Lord's amendment as drafted. It is certainly correct as drafted. I am happy to acknowledge that point this evening and to concede on this issue. That is the position of the Government.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I was a little concerned earlier that my noble friend Lord Astor would be the only person this evening to receive a concession from the Government—that is to say, to be fair, other than the many concessions contained in the Government's amendments to the Bill, which are concessions or re-thinks arising from the Committee stage. However, I am delighted to see that I, too, have actually scored a concession. Indeed, as the noble Lord pointed out, if consistency is what we are about, if he is prepared to be consistent with me on the Parliamentary Oaths Act, I must be prepared to be consistent with him on the treasurer point. Therefore, I accept the noble Lord's point in that respect. I am delighted to accept his acceptance of my amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 15, as an amendment to Amendment No. 14, agreed to.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 14, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause [5 Reviews of electoral and political matters]:
Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 4, line 8, after ("17(1)") insert (", 18(1)").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.581
Lord Norton of Louth moved Amendment No. 16A:
Page 4, line 20, leave out ("whether or not").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to limit the powers of the Secretary of State. As drafted, Clause 5 lists the matters that the commission,
shall keep under review, and from time to time submit reports to the Secretary of State on".
Subsection (2) stipulates that the commission shall review and submit a report on,
such matter or matters (whether or not falling within subsection (1)) as the Secretary of State may specify".
I have no problem with the Secretary of State being empowered to require a report on any matter listed in subsection (1). The matters listed there are all within the competence of the commission. Indeed, as far as I can see, the list is comprehensive in encompassing those matters within the competence of the commission. Paragraphs (a) to (g) within subsection (1) are couched in broad terms. Why, therefore, should the Secretary of State be empowered to require the commission to review and report on matters not falling within subsection (1)?
§ Apart from the matters specified in subsection (3), the Secretary of State may require a report on any matter that he chooses, regardless of whether or not it is strictly within the competence of the commission. Indeed, he could require a report on any topic that does not fall within the competence of the commission at all. That would be clearly perverse but, as the clause is presently drawn, the Secretary of State would be perfectly entitled to do so.
§ I am wary of conferring broad powers on Ministers, especially where there is no clear, and certainly no compelling, case to do so. I cannot see a compelling case for the broad power conferred by subsection (2). Under my amendment the Secretary of State would be empowered to require the commission to review and report on any matter or matters listed in subsection (1). That in itself is a considerable power but I think a perfectly acceptable one. I cannot see a case for going beyond that; hence my amendment. I beg to move.
§ Viscount Astor
My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. The commission appears to have an extremely broad power under Clause 5(1)(a)—which I think is right—to report on,such flatters relating to elections to which this section applies as the Commission may determine from time to time".As I say, the commission has an incredibly broad remit in this regard; it is not fettered in any way. Therefore the concept of giving the Secretary of State power to go beyond that seems to be perverse because one cannot imagine in what circumstances the Secretary of State would need that power, unless he were in dispute with the commission over its powers and role. If that were the case, should he have the power we are discussing? That is the matter that the Minister needs to address.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I suspect that too much is being read into the wording here. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Norton, for the 582 explanation of his amendment. I reassure the noble Lord that there is nothing sinister in the words "whether or not" in subsection (2) of Clause 5. The Home Secretary will not ask the commission to review a matter that is wholly outside its sphere of operations. However, there may be matters which we have riot thought of to list in subsection (1) which, in time, might perfectly properly be matters that could be put to the commission to examine. It would be a loss to the Bill to take out these words and thereby prevent Ministers tapping into the knowledge and experience that the electoral commission could bring to bear on a particular issue. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
§ Viscount Cranborne
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I hope that he will explain something to the House, or rather to me as I have not understood it. This is perhaps a relatively minor matter, but is he not advocating something of a Henry VIII power here if a power is added, perhaps by ministerial order, and therefore amends something which is embodied in primary legislation?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords. I do not think that we are advocating a Henry VIII power here. We are providing no more and no less than some necessary flexibility. It is certainly not my intention to introduce a Henry VIII power here; that would be wrong and improper. However, we may not have listed fully all the kinds of matters that might properly fall to the commission to consider. The wording in the Bill provides some small measure of flexibility which should enable that position to be covered. It is no more and no less than that.
§ Lord Norton of Louth
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's response, but I am not altogether persuaded of the argument that he advanced. We had similar discussions in respect of the Freedom of Information Bill when the Minister advanced exactly the same argument with regard to flexibility. He argued that circumstances might arise which we cannot envisage. That is a dangerous argument. I accept what my noble friend Lord Cranborne said. The measure gives Ministers a broad power in whatever circumstances they think may justify the use of that power. However, the Minister is unable to say what those circumstances may be. Therefore, the broad power is conferred to cover the position. As I say, we heard exactly the same argument with regard to the Freedom of Information Bill. I was not persuaded of the validity of the argument on that Bill. I am not persuaded—
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that the amendment assumes a burden of proof; namely, of proving that there could not possibly be anything which did not fall within the list in the clause, and that that burden of proof has not been discharged?
§ Lord Norton of Louth
My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's point, but the clause is so broadly drawn that it is comprehensive in terms of what the commission is expected to do and I can see no reason for going beyond that. It is in many respects, as the Minister argued, a small point in the context of the Bill, but I do not necessarily think that it is a small point in terms of the principle that is involved. It is that principle on which we ought to take a stance. I therefore wish to seek the opinion of the House.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 16A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 84; Not-Contents, 147.584
|Division No. 3|
|Anelay of St Johns, B.||Jopling, L.|
|Ashcroft, L.||Knight of Collingtree, B.|
|Astor, V.||Lamont of Lerwick, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Attlee, E.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Blackwell, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Marsh, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Monro of Langholm, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Monson, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Montrose, D.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Moynihan, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Northbrook, L.|
|Chadlington, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Colwyn, L.||Norton of Louth, L. [Teller]|
|Cope of Berkeley, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Cranborne, V.||Onslow, E.|
|Crickhowell, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Prentice, L.|
|Deedes, L.||Rawlings, B.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Rees-Mogg, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Renton, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Roberts of Conwy, L.|
|Elton, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Fookes, B.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Freeman, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Sharples, B.|
|Geddes, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Glentoran, L.||Taylor of Warwick, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Tebbit, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hanson, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Henley, L. [Teller]||Vivian, L.|
|Higgins, L.||Wakeham, L.|
|Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Howe, E.||Weatherill, L.|
|Howell of Guildford, L.||Willough by de Broke, L.|
|Hurd of Westwell, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Young, B.|
|Acton, L.||Archer of Sandwell, L.|
|Addington, L.||Ashley of Stoke, L.|
|Amos, B.||Ashton of Upholland, B.|
|Andrews, B.||Bach, L.|
|Barnett, L.||King of West Bromwich, L.|
|Bassam of Brighton, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Layard, L.|
|Bernstein of Craigweil, L.||Lea of Crondall, L.|
|Billingham, B.||Lipsey, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Lockwood, B.|
|Blease, L.||Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Longford, E.|
|Bradshaw, L.||Macdonald of Tradeston, L.|
|Bragg, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]|
|Brett, L.||McIntosh of Hudnall, B.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||MacKenzie of Culkein, L.|
|Brookman, L.||Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Maddock, B.|
|Burlison, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Carter, L. [Teller]||Massey of Darwen, B.|
|Chandos, V.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Mitchell, L.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Morris of Manchester, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Newby, L.|
|Cohen of Pimlico, B.||Perry of Walton, L.|
|Crawley, B.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|David, B.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Davies of Coity, L.||Puttnam, L.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Desai, L.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Dholakia, L.||Razzall, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Rea, L.|
|Dubs, L.||Rennard, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Renwick of Clifton, L.|
|Elder, L.||Richard, L.|
|Evans of Temple Guiting, L.||Richardson of Calow, B.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Roper, L.|
|Faulkner of Worcester, L.||Russell, E.|
|Filkin, L.||Sainsbury of Turville, L.|
|Gale, B.||Sawyer, L.|
|Gibson of Market Rasen, B.||Scotland of Asthal, B.|
|Gilbert, L.||Scott of Needham Market, B.|
|Goodhart, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Goudie, B.||Shutt of Greetland, L.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Simon, V.|
|Grabiner, L.||Smith of Gilmorehill, B.|
|Grenfell, L.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Hamwee, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hardy of Wath, L.||Stone of Blackheath, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Harris of Haringey, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Harris of Richmond, B.||Taverne, L.|
|Harrison, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Haskel, L.||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Hayman, B.||Tomlinson, L.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.||Turnberg, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Howells of St. Davids, B.||Varley, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Hoyle, L.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Hughes of Woodside, L.||Walmsley, B.|
|Hunt of Kings Heath, L.||Warner, L.|
|Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)||Warwick of Undercliffe, B.|
|Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Islwyn, L.||Whitaker, B.|
|Jacobs, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Janner of Braunstone, L.||Wilkins, B.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Judd, L.||Woolmer of Leeds, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.585
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Clause 6 [Commission to be consulted on changes to electoral law]:
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 5, line 28, leave out paragraph (i).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment arises out of our discussions a year ago about the free delivery of election addresses at elections to the Greater London Authority. Some of your Lordships may think that I am simply trying to revisit the scene of my past victories, but that is not the point of the amendment. We were immediately suspicious when we saw that the provision was included in Clause 6 and tabled amendments to move it to Clause 7. That may not seem a staggering change, but it is significant.
§ Before I continue, I should congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bach, on his translation from the Whips Office to be the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to the Lord Chancellor, no less. I did not know about the change initially. The Government clearly do not believe in the Freedom of Information Bill and were trying to keep the fact a secret. However, it has slipped out and I am sure that the whole House offers the noble Lord our congratulations and best wishes.
§ I am sorry that I have to argue with the Minister on this first occasion, but he will remember that your Lordships' House forced the Government to climb down on a free post for the London mayoral elections. The other place had decided that there should be no free post. I suspect that the Government had realised that any free post would only do even more damage to their preferred candidate, Mr Dobson. In the event, poor Mr Dobson was resoundingly beaten and Mr Livingstone was declared the mayor. As far as I can see, the sky has not yet fallen in, although I suspect that it could happen any day.
§ The eventual compromise was that there would be a free post in the first London mayoral elections. The noble Lord, Lord Rennard, and I negotiated with the Government on the issue. We heard a lot of arguments about the idea being unaffordable and impossible to organise in time and many other excuses, but in the end the Government gave in and we came to a compromise. It may not have been what the noble Lord, Lord Rennard and I preferred, but it was at least an option. It gave the London electorate a piece of paper which explained what the election was about and who the candidates were. I shudder to think what the turnout might have been if there had been no free post delivery. Many electors in London would not have been acquainted with what was going on.
§ As an aside, it seems very unfair that poor Mr Livingstone is still outside the Labour Party, considering that Mr Dennis Canavan, who left about the same time and for largely the same reason, now appears to have been readmitted to the party. If Mr Livingstone reads the proceedings of the House of Lords, which I am sure he does—at least, those parts which refer to Mr Livingstone—I can advise him that the clear course of action is to follow Mr Canavan and threaten to cause a by-election. The moment that one 586 threatens to do that, as Mr Canavan found out, suddenly one becomes acceptable again and the by-election threat is withdrawn. Perhaps London is different, as there is no Scottish National Party here, but it certainly might be worth Mr Livingstone having a try.
§ The Bill, as drafted, states that the question of the delivery of a free election address at elections to the Greater London Authority would be one of the matters where the authority would consult the commission. That implies that it could consult the commission and, if it said that it thought that there should be a free post, the authority could still decide otherwise. By moving the paragraph from Clause 6 to Clause 7 I have put it into one of the places where the powers would only be exercisable on the commission's recommendation. So, if it recommended a free post, that would take place, but, if it said no and that there was no need for it, the Government could achieve its original purpose. That would be quite sensible here.
§ I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord has to say about it because he will remember the difficulties that the Government had. I am not sure whether I should tempt the Liberal Democrats. I shall be interested to see what support I may get from them for this amendment, which is very small and consistent with previous outings today. I am quite sure that the Government could quite easily accept it, I beg to move.
§ Lord Bach
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, for his very kind words. His arguments were not quite so kind. I am sorry that he felt bad about arguing with me today. I would not know him if he were not arguing with me. I am very grateful for the very kind remarks that he made. Indeed, if I shut my eyes and listen to the noble Lord—I never do that when the noble Lord is speaking—I could have been taken back 12 months or nine months, which seems like an age ago. We were discussing similar points about forthcoming elections that saw the triumphant return to the Greater London Authority of my noble friend Lord Harris and some noble Lords from the Liberal Democrat benches as well.
The effect of Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 would be, as the noble Lord said, to make the order-making power under Section 17A(3) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which relates to the free delivery of election addresses at elections to the Greater London Authority, exercisable only on the recommendation of the Electoral Commission. As the Bill stands, that could only be made after consultation with the commission. The question of a free post provoked a good deal of debate and excitement in your Lordships' House. We are not entirely surprised that the noble Lord sees some minor attraction in taking the matter wholly out of the hands of the Secretary of State.
We do not entirely agree. The provision of free post facilities may involve considerable sums of public money. The commission should be consulted and its view taken extremely seriously as regards the proposed arrangements for a free postal delivery of an election address. However, it must be right that the 587 government of the day, of whatever political persuasion, is able to take account of the cost implications, which may be very large for such arrangements, before making such an order. Therefore, we believe that the government of the day must be able to modify any recommendation made by the commission if they see fit.
Having been consulted, if the commission were to come to a certain view and the government did not, I do not believe that it would be very long before your Lordships' House had something to say about it which might be fairly unpleasant for whichever government was in power at the time. As regards the noble Lord's amendment, that may be a real safeguard against what he fears is in the Bill at present. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I am sorry to dispute with the noble Lord after congratulating him. I was not greatly convinced by that argument. It may be that the Government will get their will on there being no free post without having to come before the House. Therefore, the opportunities which arose earlier in the year which allowed your Lordships to deal with the issue in the way we did, will not arise again. Not only was there some secondary legislation, which, very unusually, we voted against, but there was the Representation of the People Bill in which the Government included the clause which resolved the dispute between your Lordships' House and the Government. Two things happened in a fortuitous way; one a statutory instrument and the other the fact that the Representation of the People Bill was before your Lordships at the same time. I do not see such things happening so fortuitously the next time, if we come to such a position. I do not believe that your Lordships would be in the same position as we were earlier this year.
I noticed that the noble Lord congratulated his noble friend Lord Harris on his election and other noble Lords, looking towards the Liberal Democrat Benches. It may be I am becoming hard of hearing, but I did not hear the noble Lord congratulate Ken. However, as the noble Lord has just been made a Government Minister, no doubt he wants to hang on to that position and knows what is good for him.
§ Lord Bach
I was talking about the Greater London Authority elections. I do not know whether the noble Lord was listening to me. I was not talking about the mayoral election. Indeed, I am not sure whether this particular amendment is about the mayoral election at all, although the noble Lord spoke about it at length.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I believe that this matter is about election to the Greater London Authority and I suspect that the Mayor had something to do with that. If my amendment was technically flawed, I am sure the Minister would have told me. I have learnt that from Ministers. All the answers appear to be the same as the earlier ones; 588 namely, the involvement of considerable sums of public money and so on. It would be better if we moved this particular paragraph from Clause 6 to Clause 7. As the Liberal Democrats have been silent on the matter, I cannot resist the temptation to see which Lobby they will enter on this issue. I seek the opinion of the House.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 17) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 92; Not-Contents, 109.589
|Division No. 4|
|Addington, L.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Anelay of St Johns, B.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Ashcroft, L.||Maddock, B.|
|Astor, V.||Marlesford, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Marsh, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Montrose, D.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Newby, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Northbrook, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Burnham, L. [Teller]||Norton of Louth, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L|
|Chadlington, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Colwyn, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Cope of Berkeley, L.||Rawlings, B.|
|Cranborne, V.||Razzall, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Reay, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Rennard, L.|
|Deedes, L.||Renton, L.|
|Dholakia, L.||Roberts of Conwy, L.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Roper, L.|
|Elles, B.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Elton, L.||Scott of Needham Market, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Seccombe, B.|
|Fookes, B.||Selborne, E.|
|Freeman, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Shutt of Greetland, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Strange, B.|
|Glentoran, L.||Taylor of Warwick, L.|
|Goodhart, L.||Tebbit, L.|
|Harris of Richmond, B.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Henley, L. [Teller]||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Higgins, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Howe, E.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Hunt of Wirral, L.||Walmsley, B.|
|Hurd of Westwell, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Jacobs, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Knight of Collingtree, B.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Laird, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Lamont of Lerwick, L.||Young, B.|
|Acton, L.||Barnett, L.|
|Amos, B.||Bassam of Brighton, L.|
|Andrews, B.||Bernstein of Craigweil, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Billingham, B.|
|Bach, L.||Blackstone, B.|
|Borrie, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Bragg, L.||Judd, L.|
|Brennan, L.||King of West Bromwich, L.|
|Brett, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||Layard, L.|
|Brookman, L.||Lea of Crondall, L.|
|Burlison, L.||Lipsey, L.|
|Carter, L. [Teller]||Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.|
|Chandos, V.||Macdonald of Tradeston, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.|
|Cohen of Pimlico, B.||McIntosh of Hudnall, B.|
|Crawley, B.||MacKenzie of Culkein, L.|
|David, B.||Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L|
|Davies of Coity, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||Massey of Darwen, B.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Mitchell, L.|
|Desai, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Morris of Manchester, L.|
|Dubs, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Elder, L.||Puttnam, L.|
|Evans of Temple Guiting, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Rea, L.|
|Faulkner of Worcester, L.||Renwick of Clifton, L.|
|Filkin, L.||Richardson of Calow, B.|
|Gale, B.||Sawyer, L.|
|Gibson of Market Rasen, B.||Scotland of Asthal, B.|
|Gilbert, L||Shepherd, L.|
|Goudie, B.||Simon, V.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Grabiner, L.||Stone of Blackheath, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hardy of Wath, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Harris of Haringey, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Harrison, L.||Tomlinson, L.|
|Haskel, L.||Turnberg, L.|
|Hayman, B.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Varley, L.|
|Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Warner, L.|
|Warwick of Undercliffe, B.|
|Howells of St. Davids, B.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Whitaker, B.|
|Hoyle, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Hughes of Woodside, L.||Wilkins, B.|
|Hunt of Kings Heath, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Islwyn, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Janner of Braunstone, L.||Williamson of Horton, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)||Woolner of Leeds, L.|
|Young of Old Scone, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Clause 7 [Powers with respect to elections exercisable only on Commission recommendation]:
§ [Amendment No. 18 not moved.]
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 19:
After Clause 8, insert the following new clause—