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Lord Monson: I once again find myself in some sympathy with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. He may be interested to know that this amendment is identical to one tabled in another place by the honourable Member for North Down, Robert McCartney. I am sure he will agree that he finds himself in good company. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness has to say.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: This is a unique system. There were many amendments in another place and there are quite a few here. I doubt whether the noble Lord's amendment is compatible with the concept of the party list system of election. That is what we have brought forward and what the Bill is about. The voters will have made a choice for a party. If it ceases to exist

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I believe it is wholly appropriate that those elected as its delegates cease to play a part in the negotiations and the forum. With that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monkswell: I find that response not entirely satisfactory. My own understanding and the explanations given during the Second Reading debate by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, and my noble friend Lord Fitt about how the previous assemblies worked, give me some confidence that perhaps the Government have got it right, but I am not sure. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, can contribute?

Lord Fitt: I feel compelled to support the noble Lord on this matter. It goes back again to my questioning of the list system. I am only taking what I say from Hansard and what the Secretary of State said and what the noble Baroness has said here. The Secretary of State called for parties to fight the election for the forum. He received letters and representations were made by certain parties saying "We are a political party". Many of them no one had ever heard of. I am certain that the noble Baroness did not refer to it in her Second Reading speech, but I have serious doubts about the Women's Co-Operation Party, or something like that. That would certainly cause problems in Northern Ireland.

On what basis did the Secretary of State and his officials in the Northern Ireland Office accept the bona fides that these were actually parties? If we knew that then we would know what criteria were used to accept them and what criteria were going to be used to reject them.

There was the case in Northern Ireland of the now deceased Jim Kilfedder who was the MP for North Down for many years. He had his disagreements with the Official Unionist Party. He then left that party and for about three or four weeks he called himself the Progressive Unionist Party in North Down, which he represented. Then someone said, "There is already a Progressive Unionist Party on the Shankill Road". So there was a quick turnabout and he then called himself the Popular Unionist Party in North Down. So it became known as the Popular Unionist Party in North Down. Subsequently, local elections took place and two of Jim Kilfedder's friends fought the election on a Popular Unionist Party ticket. They were elected. When Jim Kilfedder died he took his party with him. However, there are still two Popular Unionist Party members sitting on Bangor or Newtonards Borough Council. How can the Secretary of State say that that party no longer exists when there are two members of the Popular Unionist Party nominated by Jim Kilfedder? I believe that some kind of understandable criterion should be used.

I know that the noble Baroness cannot answer all the questions that are posed here today. However, how did the Secretary of State accept all those parties in the first place? If somebody can say how he accepted them, we may know how to reject them.

Lord Monkswell: The contribution of my noble friend Lord Fitt is revealing. It raises some of the difficulties that the Secretary of State will no doubt face,

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on the basis that some people may be elected against one of the parties listed in the Bill, turn up, but make virtually no contribution to any discussion or negotiations. They will simply take advantage of the allowances, the free telephones that have been mentioned and various other matters. It is quite reasonable that the Secretary of State should have power to say to such a person that he believes that the party has ceased to exist and therefore he will not receive his allowances, and so forth. On the basis of that understanding as to the way it may work, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.15 p.m.

Lord McConnell moved Amendment No. 13:


13Page 6, leave out line 42

The noble Lord said: I can best illustrate the purpose of the amendment by referring to an experience suffered by the Liberal Democratic Party. In an election a candidate called himself a literal democrat and succeeded in splitting the vote. In the list of parties a new creature called the British Ulster Unionist Party has sprung up. That is second on the list. The normal Ulster Unionist Party is near the bottom of the list. The purpose of the amendment is to omit reference to "British Ulster Unionist Party". I submit that it is just put in as a method of splitting the proper Unionist vote. It copies Mr. Literal Democrat, who did the same thing to our friends in the other place. I beg to move.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: As a member of the Front Bench of a party that has one less MEP than it should have, I feel bound to support the spirit of the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Monson: I believe that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, has made out a powerful case for some alteration. The trouble is that if his amendment is accepted as it stands it would mean that the individuals who wish to stand as British Ulster Unionists would be disfranchised. As I understand the rather peculiar rules that govern all the stages of a Bill being taken on the same day, theoretically the noble Lord is entitled to table a manuscript amendment at Report stage. If that is so, I suggest that a possible remedy for the almost certain deception which he fears is that the word "Independent" should be inserted either before or after the word "British". That would get round all of the problems, while not disfranchising individuals who wished to stand under this party banner.

Lord Fitt: It is quite possible that on nomination day all of the names that I have read out this afternoon will disappear. They will probably have sobered up in the meantime and will not be putting in nomination papers. Referring to the case put by the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, if nobody turns up to put in a nomination paper under the heading British Ulster Unionist party it will perhaps avoid that particular difficulty. It would then become the Ulster Unionist Party. One would simply be doing away with the British

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Ulster Unionist Party, which does not exist now and will hardly exist on nomination day. It is almost certain that on nomination day half or perhaps three-quarters of those parties mentioned today will no longer exist.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for explaining the reason for moving this amendment. It seeks to remove from the schedule of participating parties one of those parties which seeks inclusion in the elective process.

There may be a perception among noble Lords that people who wish to join the political process and who have not participated in the political process before, or who have participated in earlier days and have been away from it for some time, may now wish to return. I believe it is wrong to assume that some of those people do not have a serious wish to take part in shaping the future of Northern Ireland. We have always sought an inclusive process in this election. The party concerned responded to the consultation paper sent out by my right honourable friend on 1st April within the timescale set out in that paper. Therefore, there are no grounds to seek the removal of that party's name from the schedule. I believe that it would be contrary to our desire for an inclusive process to do so. Should no one materialise on the day, obviously it would be impossible--even in Northern Ireland--to vote for no one. But I believe that, if new people wish to participate in the political process of shaping the future, that is something the Government wish to see. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment having heard the reason why it is not possible for the Government to accept it.

Lord Monson: I have no idea what the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, wishes to do. I ask the noble Baroness whether it is theoretically possible to table a manuscript amendment at the next stage, should the noble Lord wish to do so. If so, is it possible to insert the word "Independent" without the consent of the leaders, such as they are, of the party concerned? That may not be possible, in which case there is no point in trying to table such an amendment.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: It is possible to table a manuscript amendment at Report stage. The party is nominated with its title, and that is the title of the party. I should have to consult on whether or not that was possible. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, would receive advice as to that.

Lord McConnell: If I were to do that, would the Minister accept an amendment to the effect that the word "Independent" should be included?


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