§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 17 December (WA 32), whether they consider that a qualifying registered party, within the meaning of Part II of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, is a body certain of whose functions are of a public nature, within the meaning of Section 6(3) of the Human Rights Act 1998, in selecting and nominating persons to stand for election in the name of that party in that the function is "quasi-governmental in nature" and "seeks to achieve some collective benefit for the public"; and, if not, why not. [HL2215]
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn)
The Government have previously expressed their view that the selection of candidates for election by political parties is not a public function within the meaning of Section 6(3) of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The requirement for political parties to register in order to take part in certain elections by virtue of Part II of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 does not make the function of selecting candidates by those parties a public one.
The Government do not consider the selection of candidates to be a function that is quasi-governmental in nature. A political party no doubt regards itself as 179WA acting in the public interest by selecting a candidate for election. Activities which are motivated by the public interest, however, are not necessarily public functions seeking to achieve some collective benefit for the public. As the Court of Appeal has recently made clear, the fact that an organisation is motivated in performing its activities by what it perceives to be the public interest does not point to the body being a public authority.
The Government's view is that the selection of a candidate to stand for election is internal to the party. Even if the party is motivated by the public interest in undertaking this function, this does not alter its character from a function that is political in nature into one that is public in nature.
There is, however, no binding authority from the court on the point. Until there is, the Government must take a view on the matter based on their interpretation of the law, but this does not mean that there is no room for differing views.