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Viscount St. Davids: I believe this amendment to be unnecessary. The Government's stated objective is to bring about devolution in Wales. They have proved that by their pre-election rhetoric, by their election manifesto and by the high priority they have given the matter in their first year of Parliament.

The Government know full well that at the moment it is touch and go in Wales if they wish to achieve a "yes" vote in the referendum. They know that if they do not give sufficient time for the matter to be debated they will not carry the day. We do not need to put time limits on them; they have done that themselves.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale and the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. More time is needed. This

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referendum concerns something infinitely more important than a general election. A general election is merely about what the Government will be for the next five years. The referendum is about what is proposed will be the form of government--a constitutional change--which it is hoped will endure for a great deal longer than five years. To cut short the time--in a holiday period at that--that people will have to consider how they will vote is simply not good enough.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden: I had not intended to intervene, but listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said--I agree with him on many matters--I felt that he was a little bit at sea on this matter. Of course the subject of devolution in Scotland has been debated ad nauseam over the years. But we are dealing with a new form of referendum--a referendum that is coming before the Bill which is going to implement whatever the government of the day wish to take place.

It is only right, if we are to have a pre-Bill referendum, that time should be given so that people understand exactly what is happening. I am sure that, if we have a "yes" vote, the debate will go on during the whole of next year and at the end of that time people's minds may well have changed--I hope for the better.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: The noble Lord referred to me, so perhaps I may respond. I enjoyed the debate; it was not ad nauseam to me.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The preamble to the propositions, as is seen in the schedule to be printed at the top of the ballot papers, makes clear reference to the Government's proposals. The proposals that the Government rely upon and offer will be set out in the White Papers. To that extent the amendment is not required.

I come to something which may be more at the heart of the noble Lord's amendment. The purpose, as he indicated and as was underlined by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is to provide sufficient time for the people in Wales adequately to examine the proposals contained. I do not believe that the Government are being unduly hasty; they are delivering on an election promise.

There is nothing between us that it is appropriate that there should be sufficient time for consultation, for argument, for public discussion. We have said several times that we intend to ensure that there is ample time for informed reflection on the part of those who will vote on the proposals. The Lord Privy Seal told your Lordships a long time ago that there would be a debate on the White Papers in this Chamber before the Recess. I repeat that.

I tried to make clear at Second Reading that there would be sufficient time for debate and for reflection. I am not in a position to give an absolute guarantee on the exact period that there will be between publication of the White Papers and the referendums. I do not intend to promise what I cannot deliver. However, I wish to go as far as I can tonight and, in the hope that the Committee will find it acceptable, I do it in this way.

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I very much hope that there will be a period of about six weeks between publication of the White Papers and the referendums. It may be a little more than that; it may be a little less. I hope the Committee will accept my assurance that our intentions are clear--to ensure adequate time for debate. There is a range of views, as we heard on an earlier occasion, on what length of time would be adequate. My own view, which I repeat-- I hope in a spirit of attempting to be helpful; after all, it is getting late--is that about six weeks would be adequate. That is what we are looking at.

My noble friend Lord Sewel has given an undertaking several times--on different occasions, on different amendments--that we will come back at Report stage with specific dates for the publication of the White Papers and the referendums. The period between those dates at that time--the subject of the undertaking my noble friend gave--will be absolutely clear. If at that time noble Lords are still unhappy about the period, they can of course revert to this point. I hope your Lordships would think that a proper way--perhaps the better way--to proceed in our present circumstances.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Before the noble Lord sits down and my noble friend answers, I rather assume that his welcome statement and assurance covers Scotland as well. I have made that assumption. The amendment refers only to Wales. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could clarify that.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is so. I am obliged to the noble Lord for his question. I have tried to respond, I hope in a spirit which meets his earlier observation and indeed the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Gray. I hope I have been helpful.

Lord Tebbit: The noble Lord said that in his view a period of six weeks would be adequate. Can I tempt him to say whether a period of less than six weeks would be inadequate?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In the next two or three years, possibly, fox hunting will be outlawed. This fox is not going to get into that hound's jaws.

Lord Crickhowell: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for giving what I think was a helpful reply. Clearly, we shall have to wait to see what happens later when the White Papers appear and we hear what is said on Report. At that stage we shall need to consider again rather carefully the important point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

My noble friend who intervened so enthusiastically for this legislation should know better than most, because he lives in Pembrokeshire, that a campaign fought in that constituency in August almost entirely addresses the people of England and not the local people. I used to find the greatest possible difficulty with summer elections because everyone I enthusiastically approached and solicited a vote from turned out to be a visitor from England. All my constituents were much too busy running the B&Bs and the other entertainments for the visitors to think about

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the campaign. I shall certainly withdraw the amendment but we shall need to ensure that we are not landed with the whole of the campaign in August. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 30 to 40 not moved.]

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell moved Amendment No. 42A:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Undue influence

(" .--(1) A person shall be guilty of a corrupt practice if he is guilty of undue influence.
(2) A person shall be guilty of undue influence--
(a) if he directly or indirectly, by himself or by other persons on his behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm or loss upon or against any person in order to compel any person to vote or refrain from voting, or to campaign or refrain from campaigning in the referendums;
(b) if by any duress or contrivance or threat of loss or rights or privileges, or by any attempt by duress, contrivance or threat he prevents the carrying on of the normal and legitimate activities of any person in order to induce or prevail upon an elector to vote or refrain from voting, or any person to campaign or refrain from campaigning in the referendums.").

The noble Lord said: Those who are familiar with the Representation of the People Act 1983 will instantly recognise that I have borrowed a good deal of this amendment from that legislation. I am prompted to do so by the extraordinary things which have been happening in another place and the vigorous argument that has been going on both in another place and outside, between the right honourable Ron Davies, the Secretary of State, and Mr. Llew Smith and his special adviser.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, I rely of course on the Western Mail for a great deal of the information that I have on such matters. I am sure that when that newspaper puts words in quotation marks it does so with due care and attention. On 24th June it reported that Mr. Smith had told the Western Mail, speaking about the Welsh Secretary,

    "He said to me if you campaign against a Welsh Assembly you will be kicked out of the Parliamentary Labour Party and if any other party member should follow your lead, they will be expelled from the party too".
He also said that after the Labour victory on 1st May Mr. Davies's special adviser, Huw Roberts, had phoned him with the same story. He said that if he behaved in that way he would be disciplined.

Later, after the parliamentary Whitsun Recess, Mr. Smith said that his constituency's local council, Blaenau Gwent, had been told on the phone by Mr. Roberts that if Mr. Smith campaigned against an assembly and was the subject of disciplinary action, it would be difficult for Ministers to meet the council with him in attendance.

These assertions were immediately denied by the Secretary of State. Both these people are Members of another House and therefore by definition are

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honourable Members. I do not wish to get involved in any examination of their probity and honesty except to say that clearly there was a pretty profound disagreement between them, which has been reported day after day in the press and has been referred to both in Parliament and in the Welsh Grand Committee.

On 25th June we were informed that Mr. Smith, described by the Western Mail as,

    "Labour's arch anti-devolutionist in Wales",
said that Mr. Roberts, who is the special adviser, had contacted his local council saying that the Welsh Office's relationship with the authority might be adversely affected if Mr. Smith actively campaigned against a Welsh assembly. That is a claim vehemently denied by Mr. Davies.

The Secretary of State said that there is no question of threats. He said that if people hold strongly individual views then they had to be free to express them. He then went on to say,

    "It is one thing to be tolerant of strongly held personal views, it is quite another matter if individuals wish to flout the election manifesto on which they were elected, to show disloyalty to the Government which they were elected to support, and to campaign publicly against the Labour Party, allying themselves with the Conservative Party in a public referendum. He said that if Labour members failed to toe the party line, then the PLP would have to look at what action was available to it".
I suppose that that is not a threat or, if it is, it is the kind of threat that the Mafia is inclined to deliver to people as they gently sidle up alongside them and say, "We are not going to do anything to you--well, not unless...". Clearly, Mr. Smith continued to think that it was a threat because the argument went on. We were then told by Mr. Roberts, who was the individual who had telephoned the local authority,

    "I simply said to Mr. Assinder"--
who is the representative of the local authority--

    "that if Llew insisted on making himself effectively the Opposition it would be best for the council to meet Ron (Davies) without him".
I suppose that that is not a threat either, but it is a pretty disreputable tactic.

The saga carries on. The matter was reported on 27th June and subsequently. Then we were suddenly told that the Prime Minister had said that there would be no question of expulsion and that people would be allowed to campaign. We also had a very welcome Statement from the Speaker of the House of Commons who in the great tradition of Speakers of the House of Commons had something very important to say about the principle that freedom of speech was one of the most cherished parliamentary privileges of a democracy and she was determined to defend it.

One of the difficulties is that, while the Speaker is in a position to control what happens in another place it is uncertain whether she can control the growing army of special advisers who appear to act as Ministers' messengers in a most remarkable way. During my time at the Welsh Office I had one special adviser. He did a certain amount of valuable research for me. It never occurred to me to send him out to local authorities to

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convey messages about what the Secretary of State might do or think or what he might inflict upon them if they did not toe the line.

This is a very important matter. In the past year or so there has been a great deal of debate, as my noble friend Lord Tebbit has reminded the Committee, about sleaze. I am the first to condemn in the strongest possible terms any form of financial corruption or sleaze in parliamentary life. However, I believe that if there is a worse offence than financial corruption and sleaze it is political corruption and sleaze. It is quite clear that here pressure has been applied in the past. We are running into a referendum campaign at a time when threats have been uttered, and there is still a possibility that similar threats will inhibit public debate.

I believe that there is now agreement on all sides of the House that open and free debate on these issues is absolutely vital if there is to be a proper referendum and decision by the electorate. It means that we must have an assurance about the way in which that election is conducted. The Representation of the People Act was not passed essentially to deal with referendums. It deals in very precise detail with the situation of parliamentary candidates but does not cover in anything like the same detail the holding and proper conduct of referendums. I do not believe that that situation can be allowed to continue.

I repeat that we are dealing with two individuals who are honourable Members of an honourable House. However, we are entering a campaign in which many others will be involved--some will be special advisers, but there will be others who will be campaigning--who will not be subject to the constraints imposed in a parliamentary election by the Representation of the People Act. I put it to noble Lords that a measure of protection needs to be introduced. I am not a lawyer. It may well be that my attempt to amend a particular provision in the Representation of the People Act, which was drafted for another purpose, has imperfections.

I hope that the noble Lord opposite, who is a distinguished lawyer, will not say in reply that this is simply imperfect drafting, because I can think of no one better qualified to redraft it so that it does what I want it to do. Therefore, if the noble Lord has any doubts about the drafting, I hope that he will redraft it to provide the simple protection that I seek for an uninhibited debate in which no one on either side of the argument feels that they are under threat from any quarter. I beg to move.

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