HL Deb 18 October 2000 vol 617 cc1172-86

(" . Any referendum to which section 97(1) applies shall be considered valid only if more than 60 per cent. of eligible voters cast a valid ballot.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 230, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 244 which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. I am delighted that I have arrived back in time to discuss this amendment. It is partly a probing amendment. It introduces the question of thresholds and referendums. We went over that in some detail during the passage of the referendums measure in the summer of 1997 on the Scotland and Wales legislation. We probably touched on it when setting up the referendum about the government of London.

While I do not particularly approve of referendums, I accept that we are beginning to see more use made of them. The problem then is this. At what stage would a turnout in a referendum be considered inadequate to allow us to come to any conclusion about the will of the electorate? I am pleased to see at least one member of the Nairne Commission present in the Chamber today. That commission discussed the issue. To be fair, it did not come to a hard and fast conclusion, but it posed the question which we, now dealing with a general Bill on referendums, should address. Whether this is the right time to address the various options that could he considered for thresholds in referendums I am not entirely sure.

What is true, as the Nairne Commission points out in paragraph 96, is that in other countries which hold referendums there are some threshold qualifications. Australia requires a majority of voters nationally —that is what we would require in this country—but more particularly it requires a majority of voters in at least four out of the six states. The position in New Zealand has changed, but for a while it required a 60 per cent "yes" vote. Italy—Members of the Committee will not be surprised that I know a little about it—requires a 50 per cent turnout. Unless there is a 50 per cent turnout the results of the referendum do not count. I may return to that in a moment. I do not think that the other countries are relevant to our argument.

After paragraph 100 of the Nairne report, guideline 8 states: The use of thresholds is a political decision".

That is a good piece of pass-the-parcel. It continues: If a threshold is used, it should be a set percentage of the votes cast and not a percentage of the eligible electorate".

The Committee will see that my amendment infringes that; I hope that that is neither here nor there when we discuss the principle. The guideline states: If thresholds are set, a clear explanation of the meaning of the threshold for the electorate should be included in the public information provided".

One of the most controversial aspects of the 1979 referendum on devolution was that a threshold was set of 40 per cent of the electorate voting in favour. That 40 per cent was not reached. The "yes" vote won a very narrow majority. I do not want to go into too many of the arguments, but I could argue, and have argued, that if there had not been a threshold of 40 per cent it is possible that the "no" votes might have won. In addition to the "yes" campaign trying to get "yes" voters out—which it did—it indicated that one did not have to go out to vote "no". Mathematically that was strictly accurate. If the "yes" vote could not pull out more than 40 per cent of the electorate it could not win, so the "no" votes could stay at home. I submit that there is a possibility that if that had not been the case, some "no" votes would have voted who did not do so and the "no" vote would have won and, dare I say,—the course of history would have been markedly changed.

I do not go over the issue as spilt milk but put it forward as an example of a referendum where the threshold looked arguable at the time but had a reverse consequence for the people who proposed it; they wanted the "no" vote to win. It may have been better for them if the referendum had been carried out in a straightforward manner. The "no" vote might have won, instead of which the "yes" vote failed to win but the "no" vote did not win either. Therefore, it was a little like the Battle of Killiecrankie, about which the poem says: Some say that we won And some say that they won And some say that nane won at all".

I cannot remember the rest, but one thing is sure: there was a battle there. Perhaps it is just as well for Hansard that I cannot remember the rest.

That is the danger of thresholds. However, on the other side lies the question: if the threshold is very low, is that good for democracy? After all, all Members of this Committee and, indeed, politicians outside the Chamber worry about low turnouts in local elections. Equally, we should worry—in fact, I submit that we should worry more—about low turnouts in referendums. While a very low turnout in a local election can perhaps put one party in power for three or four years, a referendum can change the whole nature of the constitution of a country, as did referendums in Scotland and Wales and, in a lesser way, in London. Therefore, I believe that referendums are quite different. We may be concerned about low turnouts at local elections, but we should be much more concerned about low turnouts in referendums.

The Scottish referendum in 1997 had, in my view as one of the losers, a perfectly satisfactory turnout and, more importantly, the result was overwhelmingly "yes". Therefore, it almost passed two tests. There was a good turnout—not terrific, if my memory serves me correctly, but good—and there was a substantial majority. It was not simply a balanced majority; it was substantial. Therefore, no one in Scotland now questions the settlement. Those who, like me, opposed it, accept it absolutely. My party sits in the Scottish Parliament and does its bit to try to make it work. Therefore, that was a clear-cut referendum.

I believe that the Welsh referendum was different. Indeed, if it had been held on the same day as the Scottish one, I do not believe that we would have a Welsh Assembly. However, the Government were aware of that and, despite my best endeavours to persuade your Lordships to the contrary, we did not succeed in holding the referendums on the same day. Be that as it may, the real problem in relation to the Welsh referendum was that the turnout was fairly dreadful. Today I am very reliant on my notes about statistics. I always like to check my own statistics, but I believe that the turnout was approximately 25 per cent. Perhaps it was not quite as low as that but it was very low. However, certainly only 50.5 per cent voted "yes" and, by my arithmetic, 49.5 per cent voted "no". It was a fairly unsatisfactory position.

As it happens, the Welsh Assembly is staggering on and, perhaps fortunately, the Conservative Party in Wales has accepted the outcome. Like the Conservative Party in Scotland, it is working inside it. However, if that had not been the case and if the people who were defeated on a very low turnout took the same view as those who were defeated in 1979 in Scotland and kept revisiting the issue, can Members of the Committee imagine the constitutional instability that that would cause in Wales?

We then moved on to London, where the turnout was under 25 per cent—if I may submit, a very unsatisfactory turnout for such a change.

In this amendment I ask whether we should have a threshold. I mentioned Italy, which has a threshold of a 50 per cent turnout. Interestingly, twice in recent times—probably within the past year or so—referendums have been held to change from proportional representation, which is such a disaster for Italian politics, to the first-past-the-post system, which we in this country should treasure and not give up. Unfortunately, in both those referendums, the turnout has not reached 50 per cent. Despite the fact that in the last referendum, if my memory serves me correctly, something like 90 per cent of the people who voted voted to change the system to first past the post, the referendum was declared invalid.

I believe that that outcome is a pity for Italian politics. It is a great pity that 51 per cent did not vote. Mr Berlusconi very foolishly told his supporters to boycott the referendum in the hope that it would bring down the government. If ever there was a short-sighted policy when there was a long-term, sensible objective to be gained, that was it. But I shall not indulge too much in Italian politics. The important point is that the turnout did not reach 50 per cent. I believe that there should be some form of threshold.

My amendment provides a figure of 60 per cent of eligible voters. My noble friend Lord Norton of Louth has a different formula. When we were dealing with the Scotland Bill I tried to devise a rather more complicated formula which was a mixture of the turnout against the majority, so that in a very large turnout a narrow majority was more than sufficient. In a very small turnout the "yes" vote had to achieve a much larger majority but it could still win so long as a sufficiently large majority of a small turnout voted "yes". I shall not go into the complications, although I may do so at Report stage when we can discuss it if that is one of the problems raised by the question of thresholds.

The real point is that this is a general referendums Bill. We consider some form of threshold. I have chosen the figure of 60 per cent. I shall not embark on any form of horse-trading with the Minister or anybody else but I should accept a slightly lower figure than that.

I want some sort of threshold that a 25 per cent turnout just will not do. As I said, in the future we may be deciding very important constitutional issues for the future of our country, just as we did with Scotland and Wales. Very low turnouts are not a sufficient reason for us then to change the constitutional arrangements of our country. This is a serious issue. I am sorry that it is being discussed at this late hour. I am sure that the Minister will address it seriously. I look forward to both his reply and the contribution of my noble friend, from his status as a professor of politics. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 230ZA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 230, not moved.]

Lord Goodhart

I am afraid that I am unable to agree with either of these amendments. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is subject to a very serious flaw; namely, that it is dependent on a proporiton of the eligible voters turning out to vote. That could produce an entirely absurd result. Somebody may go to the polls in order to vote "no" but because he has cast his vote that may result in the "yes" campaign winning the election because his is the vote which is necessary to bring the total number of voters up to 60 per cent. Something very much along those lines seems to have happened in Italy, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, pointed out, because Mr Berlusconi persuaded his supporters not to vote and as a result the necessary 50 per cent turnout was not achieved. Anything which can produce a result as absurd as that seems to be wrong.

The system proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, is somewhat technically better in that it requires not the total vote to be a certain proportion of the electorate but the number voting in favour to be a certain proportion of the electorate.

But that too suffers from defects. In particular, 40 per cent is an absurdly high figure. It would result in a relatively close vote in having to produce a turnout that would be extremely high; for example, if there is a referendum in which 39 per cent of the people vote "yes" and 32 per cent vote "no", one would say that that is a fairly clear majority. Seventy-one per cent of the electorate voted, which is roughly equivalent to the turnout in a general election and certainly far higher than is usual in referendums, but the vote would not have counted.

If there is to be a minimum figure, it would have to be something much lower and certainly no higher than 25 per cent of the electorate. However, it seems to me that there are strong arguments for saying that there ought to be no minimum figure at all. Clearly, that is undesirable because one may end up in the Italian situation where it is clear that the overwhelming majority who are interested in the subject will vote one way, but their views will not take effect because, although there are hardly any votes against, a large number of people have not bothered to vote.

The answer to that goes back to the debate on the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that referendums should be used only in circumstances where there is a serious issue that attracts a high level of public interest. That certainly has been the case with referendums held in Northern Ireland and it was the case in relation to the last one held in Scotland. I believe that the answer is not to set a minimum figure, but simply to ensure that in practice the Government do not hold a referendum unless there is a subject of sufficient interest to attract a large turnout. We do not want another result like the London referendum, where the turnout was frankly derisory.

Baroness Blatch

Can the noble Lord comment on the Welsh referendum, in which 75 per cent of the Welsh people either did not vote for the Assembly or voted against it?

Lord Goodhart

Undoubtedly the Welsh referendum was a difficult matter, as the Neill committee concluded. Aspects of it, particularly regarding the funding of the "no" vote, were matters for serious concern. Having said that, it would be consistent with the views that I expressed that the Welsh vote had to stand, because I do not believe that it was appropriate to impose a minimum requirement. As it happened, there was a narrow victory, but, more than a year after the Assembly was set up, it is fairly clear that there is no prospect, or no wish, to return to the previous situation.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Norton of Louth

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 244 standing in my name. I appreciate the point that has been made already by my noble friend Lord Mackay. It is fairly late and I am conscious that I am addressing an audience of about the same size as would attend one of my seminars on this subject. I do not propose to detain the Committee for as long as I would normally detain a seminar.

Earlier I made clear my stance on referendums. In principle, I am opposed to them. If they are to be held, some degree of regulation must be imposed. As has been mentioned, my amendment would impose a threshold requirement of 40 per cent of those eligible to vote. At Second Reading I indicated my view on the desirability of a threshold. The Minister, in replying to the debate, did not have time to touch upon it, but with his usual courtesy he wrote to me on the subject. As in an earlier debate, I intend to respond to the argument that he kindly indicated in his letter. His basic and straightforward proposition—essentially the one advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart—is that a simple majority should be sufficient. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, was that that was the normal practice.

As an academic, I shall answer "yes and no". I accept that it is an entirely appropriate and normal practice from which we have not deviated for elections to public office. However, there is an important qualitative distinction between elections to public office and referendums. In elections, we elect people to hold office for a set period. If we do not like what they do, they can be turned out. My noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish has pointed out that the decision made in a referendum may last for a considerable period—it may even be permanent. That is not always the case. Referendums do not settle issues to the extent that many people believe. None the less, they may put in place a ratchet effect that is very difficult to reverse. That is the essential argument in principle for having a threshold in a referendum and not in a normal election of candidates.

There is also a distinction to be drawn on tarn-out, which tends to be lower for referendums than for elections of candidates. However, that is not an argument of principle.

Following the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, the qualitative distinction requires a relatively high threshold. I have chosen 40 per cent for two reasons. The first is that there is a precedent, which I shall come back to. The other is that it is not an absurdly high limit. My proposal seems quite modest compared with that put forward by my noble friend Lord Mackay.

I understand the objection to the proposal of 60 per cent. If 59 per cent of those who were eligible turned out and voted in favour, that would be a remarkably high majority. One can anticipate the argument that would be advanced by those on the winning side, because they would feel that they had been robbed. My proposal is for less than an absolute majority of those eligible to vote.

Bearing in mind the time, I shall not go into great detail on the arguments, but there is a powerful case for setting a threshold at a level that would require a substantial turn-out. An issue that is put to a referendum would normally be of some significance and a significant turn-out would be required to justify passing it.

The other aspect of my "no" answer to the Minister's argument is that it is not a consistent practice in the holding of referendums. The referendums in Scotland and Wales in 1979 had 40 per cent thresholds. Excluding early plebiscites on the border in Northern Ireland, there have been just five referendums in this country in which a simple majority has sufficed. Five against two does not establish sufficient precedent to justify arguing that it is normal practice.

There is a powerful case for considering a threshold, and 40 per cent is an appropriate figure. There is a precedent for it and we have used it before. It is even more appropriate now, because if we are moving towards a rolling register, it will be easier to ensure that 40 per cent of eligible electors relates to roughly 40 per cent of those capable of voting. There will not be a hidden additional threshold built in by a dated electoral register.

That practical point facilitates my argument, but my main point is one of principle. We have had thresholds before and my proposal would counter the problem of an extraordinarily low turn-out, which would undermine the legitimacy of significant change. For those reasons, I believe that Amendment No. 244 is eminently desirable.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I always feel in these debates that I am completing an important part of my education, particularly when the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, speaks. It also reminds me of my youth. One of the things that famously brought me into an interest in politics was falling out with my mother over the fate of our village green, which was then subjected to a referendum. I won and she lost. I became involved in politics and she held it against me for many years afterwards because the village did not get its village hall for another 15 years.

However, Amendments Nos. 230 and 244 offer two alternative proposals for thresholds in relation to referendums. Amendment No. 230 would provide for a turnout threshold requiring that at least 60 per cent of the electorate voters cast a valid ballot in order for the result of the referendum to be valid. Amendment No. 244 would require that, for the result of a referendum to be valid, a proposition must have the support of a qualified majority; that is, one consisting of at least 40 per cent of the electorate. In effect that amendment would provide for both a voting and a turnout threshold.

I should perhaps point out that that would run against the guidance given in the Nairne report which suggested that the use of a threshold was a political decision but that if thresholds were used it should be a set percentage of the votes cast, not a percentage of the eligible electorate. If thresholds are set, a clear explanation of the meaning of the threshold should be included in the public information provided. That is eminently sensible and seems reasonable to me if that is the course one wishes to travel.

It is one of the curiosities of this debate that those who are pre-eminently concerned to defend our existing arrangements—even those who do not like referendums—for choosing who governs the country suddenly find the principle of simple majority wanting when it comes to a referendum. Indeed, in that context, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, pointed to the irony of the situation, as always with great wit, in Italy when in a recent referendum there 82 per cent voted in support of abolishing PR and the development of a first-past-the-post system but that was negatived by the threshold set.

Our parliamentary democracy operates on the principle that a simple majority of those voting is enough. The Nairne Commission in its 1996 report on the conduct of referendums observed that, A simple majority of those who cast their votes carries a natural authority". That is our view. The commission went on to note that the justification for the use of thresholds in those countries where referendums are used to approve constitutional changes is that they, provide a safeguard against basic laws being changed too easily". However, it might be argued that under our system of government it is the supremacy of Parliament, which could not be bound by the result of a referendum, that offers precisely such a safeguard. Parliament is at liberty to decide whether the result of a referendum is sufficiently conclusive. Nevertheless, it may be that in the case of a particular referendum, as happened in relation to the 1979 referendums on devolution, Parliament may decide that the use of a threshold is appropriate. That is a matter which should be addressed, if at all, in the specific legislation providing for the referendum in question. But it is not a principle to be conceded in the context of these generic provisions.

The Government fully agree that high turnouts are desirable. It is important for the health of a democracy that people have sufficient interest in how they are governed to exercise their right to vote. That is why we too were disappointed at the level of turnout for the Welsh referendum in particular, a turnout, as I recall, of 50 per cent. The Government are firmly committed to increasing voter turnout and the electoral commission will have an important role to play in that respect. But it is a very different sort of proposition to argue that the validity of the outcome of a poll is fatally undermined simply because an insufficient number of voters voted for the proposition or bothered to vote at all. I suspect that few local councils are elected on the kind of turn-out that Amendment No. 230 would require, but does that invalidate the outcome of those local elections? I suggest that it does not, even though it is a matter of considerable regret.

I know that Members opposite will argue that it is the fundamental nature of the decision being made in a referendum that requires that a conclusive mandate be maintained. But that argument could be used in the context of elections. The imposition of a threshold based on a proportion of the electorate may not be the best means of addressing the point. Indeed, the logic of the argument might point to compulsory voting rather than a turn-out threshold. With a turn-out threshold in place it is not merely the way you vote which may determine the outcome of the referendum but, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, graciously conceded, whether you bother to vote at all. It may turn out to be expedient for those campaigning for a particular outcome to persuade their supporters to stay at home, as Berlusconi apparently did, in order to ensure that the referendum is inconclusive and, in that case, to attempt to bring down the Government. Should those who do not vote be able to exercise a veto over the will of those who do?

The kind of thresholds which these amendments provide would also place a premium on the accuracy of the electoral register. It has been calculated in the case of the 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution, where such a threshold was employed, that around 14 per cent of those included on the register were either unable or not entitled to vote. The Government have introduced measures which will ensure that the electoral register is more up to date with registration. Nevertheless, if a threshold were to be used in a referendum, one based on a proportion of those voting may be more reliable than one based on the electorate.

As I have said, these are issues to which Parliament will undoubtedly return when it comes to legislate for a particular referendum. In the context of this Bill, however, the general assumption that a referendum should be decided on the basis of a simple majority of those voting should, and in our view does, prevail. I hope that having heard that explanation Members opposite will feel inclined to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am grateful to the Minister for that detailed reply and to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for intervening in the debate. It came about as a result of my amendment and that tabled by my noble friend Lord Norton. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, told us that arguing with his mother brought him into politics. Perhaps I may say that his mother has a lot to answer for!

Lord Bassam of Brighton

That is exactly what I told her.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I accept that there are defects in the figure of 60 per cent of the eligible vote—even 50 per cent—because the electoral register is never entirely up to date. However, as the Minister fairly said, that will change and improve with the rolling register. There is no doubt that in 1979 in Scotland it was not up to date. I believe that the referendum took place in the autumn but I had better not pursue that point because I honestly cannot remember.

I accept that the register was not entirely up to date, whereas rolling registers will be much better but not perfect. Honours are even between the Minister and myself as regards the accuracy of the register. They will certainly be more accurate in the future.

The Minister said that we on these Benches cannot have it both ways. He said that we like the first-past-the-post system and a simple majority for elections but that we do not like it for referendums. I suggest that when one moves from the football field to the rugby field the rules change because they are two different games. I believe that a general election, or a local government election, and a referendum are two different ball games. A referendum is a single-issue decision, although it might be divided into two parts. There is no election of individuals; there is one issue and everybody in the country decides the matter one way or the other.

When one comes to parliamentary or council elections, people elect candidates on the basis of a range of issues, not just one. I do not believe that any election has ever been fought on one issue. Occasionally, parties have attempted to do so, but all the evidence suggests that they have failed. Elections also elect Members of Parliament or councillors who then go on to make decisions on a range of issues. Therefore, one is not looking at like for like.

I do not believe that we are being inconsistent in saying that referendums are different and we should look very carefully at what we do. Referendums also tend to have irreversible outcomes, unlike elections to either local authorities or Parliament. The outcome of one election can be reversed at the next, which is the nature of politics. It is hard to believe that any of the referendums in the past few years could be easily reversed. A great head of steam would be required before one was in a position to hold such a referendum. Therefore, I believe that there is a very significant difference.

Both the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, quite rightly pointed out some of the defects in my amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, simply by failing to vote people can keep the turnout down and in that way prevent the other side winning. I accept that that is one of the defects. Ironically, in Italy some of the people who wanted change did not vote. I could never understand the logic of it, despite efforts by my daughter to explain it to me. I find Italian politics even more difficult to understand than British politics. I still believe—dare I say it?—that a threshold has great relevance. Even though I totally favour the outcome that the Italians sought, it is right that less than half of them wanted to make a major constitutional change such as to alter drastically the system of voting. One questions whether one should make such a major constitutional change.

At times I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was moving towards the amendments that I tabled eventually to the Scotland Bill which tied majority to turnout. I apologise to the noble Lord if I do not give the exact figures. I believe he suggested that if 38 per cent of the electorate voted "yes" and 32 per cent "no"—a 70 per cent turnout—it should be more than enough. I wholly agree with the noble Lord. My point is that, if there is only a 25 per cent turnout—at this time of night I am not sufficiently quick on my feet—and it is a 38:32 split, do we really regard that as sufficient? For the Minister to say that that matter can be left until there is an individual issue before us is not satisfactory. When that individual issue is before us the battle lines are drawn, just as potentially we have the battle lines on the euro referendum hanging over the whole of this debate on the Bill, as we shall probably see shortly. I want to look at referendums in the round, regardless of the subject and whether I am for or against it. What kind of ground rules and thresholds should be laid down?

I accept the problem with my amendment. I am much more attracted by the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Norton. To try to tempt the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to come into my camp, I may even try on him thresholds which balance turnout as against majority. Therefore, the larger the turnout the nearer one comes to an overall simple majority. The smaller the turnout the greater the need for some form of qualified majority. If the Minister wants a little preview, he will know exactly what I mean if he looks at the proceedings on the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill in the summer of 1997. I shall not go any further at this time of night. I thank Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 230ZA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 230, not moved.]

Clause 100 [Permitted participants]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 230A: Page 63, line 43, at end insert ("resident in the United Kingdom or registered in an electoral register (as defined by section 49(8))").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 231, which no doubt will be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, and Amendments Nos. 232E, 232H and 233A in this group. The purpose of Amendment No. 231 is to narrow the definition of a permitted participant so as to provide that only an individual included on an electoral register, or entitled to be included on such a register, may qualify as a permitted participant.

I should point out that the Government, in response to concerns raised at Committee stage in another place, brought forward amendments at Report stage to narrow the definition of recognised third parties and permitted participants so as to exclude foreign companies and unincorporated associations. We did not, however, consider it appropriate to narrow the definition in respect of individuals. The Government are, as the noble Lord has pointed out, committed to banning the foreign funding of political parties in the United Kingdom. It is right that the ban should extend to the foreign funding of participants in a referendum campaign here. The justification for that policy is that those who participate in our political processes should not be dependent upon funding from those who do not live, work or carry on business here.

How parties are funded is one matter. The freedom of individuals to express their own opinions is quite another. The Government believe that to restrict the ability of individuals, whether or not they are entitled to vote, to express and promote their own opinions would be an undue restriction and fettering on their freedom of expression. Such considerations do not, however, apply to foreign nationals who are not resident in this country. The Government's Amendment No. 230A therefore makes it clear that only those individuals either resident in the United Kingdom or resident abroad but registered to vote here are eligible to be a permitted participant. That feeds through to Amendment No. 232E, which recognises that an overseas voter would not have a home address in this country and must therefore supply the electoral commission with an address elsewhere.

Government Amendments Nos. 232H and 233A simply ensure that the definition of the term "outcome" in Clause 101 applies both to that clause and to Clauses 103 and 104. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Perhaps I may respond to what the Minister has said and refer also to my Amendment No. 231. The Minister is right to see what I am about. We are really looking at the definition of those people who are permitted participants in a referendum. In my amendment I have taken from the Neill report—although not from the Bill because the Bill did not actually do what the Neill report suggested—the definition of who is a permitted donor for general elections; namely, someone who is registered or is eligible to be registered. So far as concerns donations, that is what the Neill report recommended. We have already had an argument over that, because the Government decided that they did not want the "eligible to be registered". Therefore, it is only someone who is registered on an electoral register who can donate. My amendment proposes that the same narrowing of the rules should take place with regard to who is a permitted participant in referendums. That includes a donor.

Amendment No. 230A goes some way towards meeting me in that it defines people who can take part as, resident in the United Kingdom or registered in an electoral register". That is fine. But I am puzzled about "resident in the United Kingdom". The noble Lord will recall that I have occasionally talked about the American who is over here and lives next door to a Canadian. The Canadian can register on our electoral register. He can therefore donate to a British party. The United States man, who may work in the same bank in the City and have the same interest in British politics, cannot register. Therefore, he cannot donate. Am I correct in thinking that the words "resident in the United Kingdom" would actually allow the American to be a permitted participant in referendums? I am interested to know the answer to that question. Otherwise, I do not understand why we have to have the words, resident in the United Kingdom". However, in every other way the Government have gone a little way towards me. We will study what the Minister has said and the way the amendments hang together when we see the whole Bill. I am sure that noble Lords appreciate the complexity of looking at all these amendments and trying to fit them into the Bill. Perhaps that will satisfy us; perhaps I shall want to return to the matter. If the Minister could help me about the American—

Lord Bassam of Brighton

The answer to the noble Lord's question is yes.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I shall have to consider whether that is entirely right and proper, given the limitations we put on the said American when it comes to British general elections. However, with that clarification raising another little problem for me to try to resolve between now and Report stage, I shall sit down.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 231 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes)

Before calling Amendment No. 231A, I must advise the Committee that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 231B.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 231A: Page 64, leave out lines 1 to 3 and insert ("or ("(ii) any body falling within any of paragraphs (b) and (d) to (f) of section 49(2).").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 231B not moved.]

[Amendment No. 232 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 232A and 2328: Page 64, line 6, at end insert (", or (ii) in the case of a minor party, the person for the time being notified to the Commission by the party in accordance with section 101(2)(b)"). Page 64, leave out lines 8 to 10 and insert— ("(c) otherwise, the person or officer for the time being notified to the Commission by the permitted participant in accordance with section 101(4)(b)(ii).").

The noble Lord said: These amendments have already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 100, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 101 [Declarations and notifications for purposes of section 100]:

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 232C to 232H: Page 64, line 17, at end insert ("; and (b) if made by a minor party, must be accompanied by a notification which states the name of the person who will be responsible for compliance on the part of the party with the provisions of Chapter II"). Page 64, line 18, leave out (", company or unincorporated association") and insert ("or body"). Page 64, line 27, at end insert ("or (if he has no such address in the United Kingdom) his home address elsewhere"). Page 64, leave out lines 29 to 45 and insert— ("(b) if given by a body falling within any of paragraphs (b) and (d) to.(f) of section 49(2), state—

  1. (i) all such details in respect of the body as are required by virtue of any of sub-paragraphs (4) and (6) to (8) of paragraph 2 of Schedule 5 to be given in respect of such a body as the donor of a recordable donation, and
  2. (ii) the name of the person or officer who will be responsible for compliance on the part of the body with the provisions of Chapter II,
and be signed by the body's secretary or a person who acts in a similar capacity in relation to the body."). Page 65, line 12, at end insert ("; and (b) any reference to subsection (4) shall be read, in relation to a notification under subsection (2), as a reference to subsection (2)."). Page 65, line 13, leave out subsection (7) and insert— ("( ) In this section and sections 103 and 104 "outcome", in the case of a referendum, means a particular outcome in relation to any question asked in the referendum.").

The noble Lord said: These amendments have already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 101, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 102 agreed to.

Lord Bach

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at two minutes before midnight.