Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) (Amendment) Order 2001

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Dr. Clark: I shall deal first with the submissions of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve). I am glad that he welcomes the draft orders, though his comments on my political abilities unfortunately lacked his usual charm and grace as well as lacking a factual foundation. However, I shall be more than happy to respond if he wishes to raise any political matter in respect of the orders.

Mr. Grieve: Perhaps I expressed myself badly. The hon. and learned Lady took umbrage at a comment of mine, but that was not what I intended. I spent some time reading the order to see whether I might engage in political discourse with her, and, having done so, concluded that there was little opportunity for that. That is what I intended by my remarks; I expressed myself badly.

Dr. Clark: I am more than happy to accept the hon. Gentleman's charming apology.

I shall deal with the matters that he raised. First, on publicity for postal votes, there will be a publicity campaign similar to that proposed by the Home Office, which will be implemented and paid for by the Scotland Office. Funding will be resolved in due course.

In common with all such decisions, the votes to be disallowed are a matter of which the returning officer must take heed in respect of the rules that apply. It falls within his discretion.

The price is set out in the 2000 regulations, and I shall be happy to provide the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) with a copy of those.

Mr. Wilshire: I did not so much want the hon. and learned Lady to provide me with details of the price, as to say whether, if the details are the same as those in England, she could make a second copy much less expensive to someone who has a genuine electoral need for it.

Dr. Clark: The change in practice was based on a change in procedures and the way in which technology has moved on. Most of the information is now provided on disc and as most hon. Members have computers, it is relatively simple to make a copy.

Mr. Wilshire: Some of us old codgers like a written copy.

The Chairman: Order.

Dr. Clark: With respect to the hon. Member for Spelthorne, the pricing structure, the ways in which previous practices have been changed, and the underlying reason for the changes, have been debated at length.

I am pleased that the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan) found the notes helpful. I have already dealt with his substantive point.

I am sure that hon. Members would welcome devices that will help disabled people. Allowing them to cast their votes by providing suitable technology represents a clear step forward. We are not talking about an American-type situation; there will be a relatively small number of cases. The devices will be tested, and, if any difficulty arises, arrangements can be made to resolve it.

The arrangements for postal balloting are another step forward. The order deals with ballot papers sent out but lost in the post. What happens then is a question of balance, and it is up to voters to meet the published requirements for returning ballot papers. It is possible to return them by hand to a polling station, and constituents will know that they can do so.

With those remarks, I commend the regulations to the Committee and ask hon. Members to approve them.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Scottish Parliament (Elections Etc.) (Amendment) Order 2001.

        Committee rose at eight minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Wells, Mr. Bowen (Chairman)
Alexander, Mr.
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Clark, Dr. Lynda
Donohoe, Mr.
Galloway, Mr.
Grieve, Mr.
Joyce, Mr.
Morgan, Mr Alasdair
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Osborne, Ms
Roy, Mr.
Touhig, Mr.
Wilshire, Mr.

 
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Prepared 2 April 2001