§ 118A.—(1) References to a candidate in this Part of this Act shall be construed in accordance with this section (except where the context otherwise requires).
§ (2) A person becomes a candidate at a parliamentary election—
- (a) on the date of—
- (i) the dissolution of Parliament, or
- (ii) in the case of a by-election, the occurrence of the vacancy,
228 in consequence of which the writ for the election is issued if on or before that date he is declared by himself or by others to be a candidate at the election, and
- (b) otherwise, on the day on which he is so declared by himself or others or on which he is nominated as a candidate at the election (whichever is the earlier).
§ (3) A person becomes a candidate at an election under the local government Act—
- (a) on the last day for publication of notice of the election if on or before that day he is declared by himself or by others to be a candidate at the election, and
- (b) otherwise, on the day on which he is so declared by himself or by others or on which he is nominated as a candidate at the election (whichever is the earlier),
§ The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I speak to Amendment No. 256A and opposition Amendments Nos. 254 and 255.
§ Clause 128 amends the definition of a "candidate" in Section 118 of the 1983 Act. The definition of a candidate is relevant to determining, among other things, the date from which the restrictions on incurring election expenses apply.
§ The new definition as set out in the Bill makes two substantive changes. First, in relation to the definition of both a parliamentary and local government candidate, the reference to a candidate who is elected is omitted. This will ensure that sitting MPs and councillors are treated on an equal footing with other candidates. The second change is that the definition of a local government candidate now includes a starting time for a person's candidature; namely, the last day for the publication of the notice of election—that is, 25 working days before the date of the election.
§ However, we believe that a further refinement to the definition of a candidate is needed. The definition as set out both in the existing Section 118 of the 1983 Act and in that section as amended by Clause 128 provides that a person becomes a parliamentary candidate either when he is nominated as a candidate or when he is declared by himself or by others to be a candidate following the issue of the writ or following dissolution, whichever is the earlier. But what about a person who declares himself to be a candidate before the date of the dissolution? As the definition stands, such a person would be deemed to be a candidate only from the date of his formal nomination whereas he ought to be treated as a candidate with effect from the date of the dissolution. Amendment No. 253G makes this adjustment to the definition.
§ The new Section 118A of the 1983 Act also incorporates a modification to the definition of a local government candidate to fit the circumstances of the election of the London members of the GLA. Amendment No. 256A makes a consequential drafting change.229
§ Opposition Amendments Nos. 254 and 255 would restrict the definition of a candidate to a person nominated as a candidate. This has the advantage of simplicity but at the price, we think, of weakening the controls on candidates' election expenses. The amendments could have the effect of reducing the period during which the limits on a candidate's expenses would apply. Clearly the more a person can spend on his election campaign before he formally becomes a candidate the less he will be constrained by the expenditure limits. In the case of a by-election, a declared candidate could spend freely on his campaign for some three months following the occurrence of the vacancy and be bound by the expenditure controls on nominated candidates only in the final two weeks before the date of the poll. We do not think that that is the right approach. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
I have tabled two amendments in this group. As the Minister rightly said, they delete the new words which have appeared. I understood what the noble Lord said and why these words appear. I understand the argument if someone who has been declared by his party as the candidate starts to spend money.
My other worry is the use of the words,is declared by others to be a candidateand what we mean by "others". Perhaps I may give an example although it may be slightly flippant. Let us say that in an election people know that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, is likely to be the Labour candidate. He cannot be now but let us allow a little fiction. Let us say that the party believes in some underhand methods of electioneering—I shall not name them; it could say, "We are the others and we declare Lord Bassam will be the Labour Party candidate", and his expenses clock then starts ticking. That is a possibility as the Bill stands and perhaps we should look at it to prevent unfair tactics being used by opponents—or by the candidate whom the noble Lord has beaten in the selection process.
§ [Amendments Nos. 254 to 256 not moved.]
Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 256A:
Page 82, line 1, leave out ("amendment made by this section does") and insert ("amendments made by this section do").
§ Clause 128, as amended, agreed to.230
§ Clause 129 [Corrupt and illegal practices: consequences for persons convicted of such practices]:
Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 256B:
Page 83, line 42, at end insert—