MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
NOTES FOR THE JOINT COMMITTEE
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS BILL
This Bill consolidates the European Parliamentary
Elections Acts of 1978, 1993 and 1999.
The European Parliamentary Elections Bill, which
was considered by the Joint Committee in the 1999/2000 Parliamentary
session did not complete its passage by the end of that session.
Subject to what follows, this new Bill is the same as that earlier
Bill as introduced, and the notes circulated with that Bill are
DIFFERENCES FROM THE PREVIOUS CONSOLIDATION
1. The new Bill incorporates the effect
of the amendment that the Joint Committee made to the earlier
Bill (see clause 10(5)).
2. Given the delay in the consolidation,
the new Bill can dispense with some of the transitional provisions
in the earlier Bill (what were paragraphs 6 to 8 of Schedule 2).
3. The new Bill takes account of the following
(1) The Political Parties, Elections and
Referendums Act 2000 (c.41).
Section 142 of that Act made pre-consolidation
amendments which are incorporated in clauses 10(6) and 11(1)(b)
of the Bill.
Paragraph 8 of Schedule 3 to the Bill makes
consequential amendments of cross-references in that Act.
(2) The House of Commons (Removal of Clergy
Disqualification) Act 2001 (c.13).
Schedule 1 to that Act made an amendment to
the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 (formerly known
as the European Assembly Elections Act 1978) which is incorporated
in clause 10(2)(b) of the Bill.
(3) The European Parliamentary Elections
(Franchise of Relevant Citizens of the Union) Regulations 2001
(S.I. 2001/1184), which in part replaced the European Parliamentary
Elections (Changes to the Franchise and Qualification of Representatives)
Regulations 1994 (S.I. 1994/342).
Clause 8(5) of the Bill incorporates a consequential
amendment to the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 made
by regulation 11(a) of the 2001 regulations.
Paragraph 4(6)(d) of Schedule 1 to the Bill
reflects the fact that the register referred to is now maintained
under the 2001 regulations rather than the 1994 regulations.
The amendments of the 1994 regulations made
by paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 to the previous Bill are no longer
TUESDAY 30 APRIL 2002
Colville of Culross, L.
Hobhouse of Woodborough, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Mr Russell Brown
Mr John Burnett
Mr Martin Caton
Sir Patrick Cormack
Mr John MacDougall
ELECTIONS BILL [HL]
Examination of Witnesses
(Questions 1 - 17)
TUESDAY 30 APRIL 2002
1. Mr Sprackling, you were the draftsman of
this Bill we understand.
(Mr Sprackling) Yes.
2. We were anticipating two of your colleagues
from the Department of Transport would be attending this afternoon,
do you know whether they are coming or not?
(Mr Sprackling) I thought they were coming but they
are not here so I am afraid I do not have information on that.
3. Are you happy to start without them?
(Mr Sprackling) Fine.
4. Mr Sprackling, if you would kindly introduce
yourself to the Committee.
(Mr Sprackling) I am David Sprackling and I am a Senior
Assistant Parliamentary Counsel at the Parliamentary Counsel Office.
I began to prepare this Bill while I was seconded to the Law Commission
and have continued to work on it at 36 Whitehall.
5. Would you kindly shortly explain how this
Consolidation Bill comes before us and how it was preceded by
a previous draft Consolidation Bill?
(Mr Sprackling) The Bill consolidates the European
Parliamentary Elections Act of 1978 and two subsequent European
Parliamentary Elections Acts and various regulations. It was introduced
for the first time in Parliamentary session 1999-2000 but fell
at the end of the session for lack of time. It was re-introduced
in substantially the same form in July last year. That is the
Bill that we see before us now.
6. Your notes for the Joint Committee are really
drafted by reference to the changes since the last time the Bill
was before the Joint Committee. Would you kindly take the Committee
through those notes and I would invite any Members of the Committee
to ask any questions that they have as we get to the appropriate
stage. Mr Rawlings and Ms Passman, we were just starting the explanation
with Mr Sprackling taking us through the notes for the Joint Committee.
Before he does that if you would kindly introduce yourselves to
(Mr Rawlings) I am Malcolm Rawlings, Head of the Electoral
Administration and Legislation of DTLR.
(Ms Passman) Naomi Passman from the Legal Group at
7. As we go through the notes, feel free to
interject any comments that you have, Ms Passman and Mr Rawlings,
in supplement to what Mr Sprackling may say. Right, Mr Sprackling?
(Mr Sprackling) As I say, this Bill is substantially
the same as the Bill which was introduced in the 1999-2000 session.
There are a few changes to bring the Bill up-to-date. Firstly,
when the Joint Committee considered the previous Bill they made
a small amendment and this Bill incorporates the effect of that
amendment. Secondly, given the delay in the passage of the Bill
there is no need for some of the transitional provisions which
appeared in the earlier Bill so those have gone. Thirdly, this
new Bill takes account of those changes to the legislation which
have occurred in the intervening period and those are set out
in paragraph three of my notes. They are changes arising from
the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act; the House
of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act and the European
Parliamentary Elections Regulations 2001.
8. Now, paragraph two of your note says how
you have been able to shorten what was in Schedule 2 and then
paragraph three deals with the Political Parties, Elections and
Referendums Act 2000.
(Mr Sprackling) Yes, and the other enactments
9. Thank you very much. Paragraph 3(2) the Removal
of Clergy Disqualification Act, a minor amendment there. Then
the further points relate to various regulations which have since
come into force.
(Mr Sprackling) Yes, that is right.
Chairman: Lord Colville, I believe you want
to raise a question on Clause 8 of the Bill?
Lord Colville of Culross
10. Thank you, Lord Chairman, yes. It is not
really a question so much as a comment. This Bill does appear
to reproduce apart from those amendments that we have just heard
about, what we had before but of course other parts of the law
to which it refers have changed since we saw it before. If one
looks at Clause 8 you would think you would be able to find out
who was entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections and you would
think, for instance, that in Clause 8(4), which obviously is of
some interest to persons from my part of the building, you would
have the same arrangements as you had in 1985 but you have not
because since this Bill was last before the Joint Committee we
have had the Representation of People Act 2000 and we have had
another Statutory Instrument in 2001 which picks up points which
arise from the House of Lords Reform Legislation. Now if we are
going to deal with this on the basis simply of Parliamentary elections,
it is not actually a very complete job, if I may say so. I wondered
whether I could ask whether there was any information about when
the underlying provisions for Clause 8 are going to be attended
to because certainly you will not find out readily whether you
are entitled to vote or not by simply looking at this Bill. I
do not know whether any of our witnesses can help us on that?
(Mr Sprackling) The question is where do you find
out where you are entitled to vote in a Parliamentary election?
Lord Colville of Culross: My question was on
the face of it, Lord Chairman, that Clause 8 purports to say who
is entitled to vote. It is not the same as it was last time. It
is not the same as it was last time we had this Bill.
Chairman: The law is not the same although the
clause remains save for paragraph five in the same form as it
Lord Colville of Culross: Yes, my Lord Chairman,
but actually there are other things which underlie, for instance,
clause 4 which have changed since we last saw the Bill.
11. Can you help us on that, Mr Sprackling?
(Mr Sprackling) The law relating to Parliamentary
elections, there is a consolidation exercise on that at the moment
so hopefully in due course this Committee will have another Bill
relating to Parliamentary and local government elections, so it
may be clearer then who is entitled to vote at Parliamentary elections.
Lord Colville of Culross: I welcome that very
much because I think that is perhaps even more important than
getting this Bill right. It is the underlying material which is
in a very confused state indeed.
12. It may be that the consolidation of these
Acts is a more limited exercise than perhaps we are visualising
because you are solely consolidating the 1978, 1993 and 1999 European
Parliamentary Election Acts.
(Mr Sprackling) That is right.
13. You see your task as consolidating them
together with any amendments which have been made to them in the
(Mr Sprackling) Yes, indeed.
14. Are you aware of any other provision
which we ought to have regard to in order to ensure this is a
clear consolidating Bill of those three Acts as currently amended?
(Mr Sprackling) No, I am not.
Chairman: Now are there any further questions
anybody else would like to ask or Lord Colville would like to
ask on this particular aspect?
Lord Colville of Culross: No.
15. I apologise if this was discussed in detail
prior to my membership of the Committee, and this may be slightly
outside the remit here. Is it the case that disqualifications
for membership of the European Parliament applies to disqualifications
for membership of Parliament? Is that why the House of Commons
Clergy Disqualification thing is relevant here because that has
(Mr Sprackling) Yes, if you are disqualified to be
a Member of the House of Commons you are disqualified also to
be a MEP. This is parasitic on disqualification from the House
of Commons to some extent and obviously if disqualification from
the House of Commons changes, disqualification for the European
Parliament will also change.
David Cairns: I need to declare an interest
at this point, my Lord Chairman. I am actually a beneficiary of
the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act.
If that had not been passed I would not be here. I had not realised
at that time. As part of my great campaign I did not realise I
could not be an MEP either. If I had known that it might have
added even more weight to my campaign.
16. Does it work the other way round, in other
words disqualification as MEP, does that disqualify you as a Member
of the House of Commons? Again I apologise. This is my first session
on this Committee.
(Mr Sprackling) I do not think it does directly. The
two categories of people disqualified for membership of the European
Parliament are set out in clause 10(1): that is, people who are
disqualified from membership of the House of Commons and Lords
of Appeal in Ordinary who I understand are not eligible for membership
of the House of Commons anyway.
17. And the other disqualifications which are
adumbrated later on in the Bill.
(Mr Sprackling) Yes.
Chairman: Right, well now are there any other
Clauses of this Bill that anybody else would like to ask about
or any of the Schedules? In that case, would it be the will of
the Committee that I should put the questions to the Committee
which have to be answered and we will proceed in that way? Is
it the will of the Committee if we take the Clauses and Schedules
en bloc? (Agreed) The first question then is that
the title be postponed? As many as are of that opinion will say
"content", the contrary, "not content", the
contents have it.
ON CLAUSES 1 TO 18
Chairman: On the Clauses, the question is that
Clauses 1 to 18 stand part of the Bill? As many as are of that
opinion will say "content", the contrary, "not
content", the contents have it.
ON SCHEDULES 1 TO 4
Chairman: On the Schedules, the question is
that Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4, be the first, second, third and
fourth schedules to the Bill. As many as are of that opinion will
say "content", the contrary, "not content",
the contents have it.
ON THE TITLE
Chairman: On the title, the question is that
this be the title of the Bill. As many as are of that opinion
will say "content", the contrary, "not content",
the contents have it.
Chairman: Finally I have to propose a draft
report. I would propose a report in these terms: "The Committee
has considered the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. The
Committee has heard evidence on the changes made to the Bill since
it considered an earlier version in session 1999-2000. The Committee
is of the opinion that the Bill is pure consolidation and represents
the existing law. There are no points to which the special attention
of Parliament should be drawn." As many as are of that opinion
will say "content", the contrary "not content",
the contents have it. (Agreed) I think, finally, apart
from thanking our witnesses for attending today, I have to ask
Sir Patrick to present the Report to the House of Commons and
to report also the minutes of proceedings. (Agreed) Unless
there is any other business to conduct, I declare the meeting