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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 48:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

No public money to be used for referendum campaigns

(" . No public money shall be paid to any organisation established to campaign for either side on any of the questions in these referendums; nor shall any civil servant engage in political or public debate.").

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment to put the Government's intention on record. It relates to the question of whether public money should be paid to any organisation established to campaign on either side or on any of the questions in the referendums. Furthermore, it puts on the face of the Bill the fact that no civil servant shall engage in political or public debate.

I shall address the two parts of the amendment briefly. It is clear that the Government will not stop their activity for the duration of the referendum. It is fair to say that the Government will be campaigning hard in order to obtain a "Yes, yes", vote. Therefore, one can put no constraints on the Government in expressing those views. However, they must be careful, first, about taxpayers' money going into, in this case, the "Yes, yes" side. I understand that there may be a position in which the Government will wish to fund both sides. However, that may be a good deal easier in Wales where there is a "both sides" argument. In Scotland there appears to be a quadrilateral argument--

Lord Elis-Thomas: I am grateful to the former Minister for allowing us to discuss the referendum. Will he tell us which are the two sides in Wales that are so transparently obvious to him?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The two sides are those for and those against. I understand that they are even represented within the governing party in Wales where, if they are allowed to have their say, there are some for and some against. I understand that the suggestion that they will not be allowed to have their say is totally unjustified. They will be allowed to campaign against the "Yes" vote. Therefore, there are two sides in Wales.

Theoretically, there are four sides in Scotland. It is a quadrilateral argument because of the two questions. Therefore, if the Government were funding one campaign

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they might have to fund all four, which shows how ridiculous it is to ask two questions in the form in which they are to be asked in the referendum in Scotland.

I wish to establish whether the Government intend to give public funding to any of the groups campaigning in the referendum. If they do not intend to do so will they give the Committee an assurance that no public money will be used to fund the campaign supported by the Government. It is always difficult to create a Chinese wall between what Government Ministers do and do not do, but in Whitehall there is a well exercised way of dealing with that. All of us who have been Ministers know the distinction between operating as a Minister and when wearing one's party political hat. Putting it at its simplest, the government car disappears in the latter. That is the outward manifestation. I trust that people from the press office, who mind the words of every Minister as they drop from their lips, usually recording them in case they are misconstrued or have made a mistake and must be corrected, will not be present. They are never present when a Minister undertakes party political activities.

We must be clear about the funding, the government machine and the position of civil servants. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, will give us an assurance about them, but it is right that we should ask for that. If money is to be disbursed to any organisation's established campaign will it be disbursed to all organisations? I beg to move.

Lord Sewel: The effect of the proposed new clause is to prohibit the public funding of campaigning organisations and civil servants engaging in related political or public debate. I accept it as a probing amendment and on this occasion it is right and proper that the Opposition should seek to probe the Government in order to ensure the proprieties of the whole referendum process. I have no quibble with the Opposition probing on this matter and can say unequivocally that we are sympathetic, understanding and positive in our response.

However, we cannot accept the amendment because the new clause is unnecessary. During the Second Reading in another place, the Secretary of State made it clear that it would be for the political parties to decide how to campaign and that the Government did not propose to provide any state aid to any party to campaign either for or against our proposal. In our view, public funds should not be used to fund campaigning organisations in these referendums. It was not done in 1979 and we have no intention of changing the practice. The campaigning bodies will be independent of government and it would not be appropriate to use public funds to fund their activities. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, as regards the first point.

As regards civil servants, the noble Lord referred to the well-known practices which exist in Whitehall and the relationship between civil servants and Ministers when acting both as Ministers and party politicians. We expect that practice to continue. I am sure that the noble Lord was not implying that the Civil Service is less than impartial in any of these matters. He is fully aware of the detailed rules governing political activities by civil servants. It is not the Government's intention to change those rules or

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in any way to seek to persuade civil servants to behave improperly in any context. We believe in a politically neutral, impartial Civil Service. We have no intention of asking civil servants to behave in anything other than a proper manner and I reject entirely any suggestions that we are doing anything other than that.

Therefore, I confirm that we have no intention of funding campaigning organisations. I hope that the Committee will accept my assurance that civil servants will, as in all campaigns, act with due propriety during the referendum campaign in accordance with their traditional role. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to reflect on the fact that there is no need for the new clause and to withdraw it.

4 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: Perhaps the Minister will help me with one matter. It appears that the Government's policy is that there should be a "Yes, yes" answer to the referendum. That is perfectly reasonable. I do not agree with that but that is what they want. Does that mean that if a Minister campaigns in favour of the referendum, which is government policy, he then receives help from civil servants in that campaign? I cannot see anything wrong with that even though I disagree with it because that is government policy and civil servants are there to carry out government policy. I hope the noble Lord understands my dilemma.

Lord Sewel: In that situation, the Minister would be in the role of the party politician. The shorthand phrase is the one that I take from the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: the Ministerial car disappears.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: And that is the greatest punishment of all, I must say. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for his assurances. They were no less than I would expect. I often wonder how civil servants manage to divine the differences but the Civil Service has a keen awareness of the need to keep apart the political and governmental roles of Ministers. I had no doubt that that would continue but I am pleased to have the Minister's assurance.

On the first proposition about funding, it would have been possible for the Government to have funded the campaigns. I gather that that happened to some extent in 1975, although I may be wrong about that. It did not happen in 1979. However, there was therefore a precedent for that question and raising the issue as to whether public funding would be available. The noble Lord has made it perfectly clear that it will not be available and I am satisfied with his assurances. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 49:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

Broadcasting: impartiality

(" .--(1) Every broadcasting authority and all persons employed by or through any such authority shall take all necessary steps up to and during the referendum campaign to ensure that full impartiality and relevance is observed in the conduct of all interviews, current affairs programmes, editing and reporting as between those arguing for and against the questions required to be answered under sections 1 and 2.
(2) No party political broadcast referring to the referendums or to the affairs of Scotland or Wales shall be transmitted between the enactment of this legislation and the date of the referendums.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with broadcasting and party political broadcasts during the time of the campaign. I referred earlier to the duration of the campaign. I suspect that because this campaign will take place in August, its nature will be considerably different from the campaign fought on the last occasion in late January and February.

I believe also that, 20 years on, the way we fight elections has changed quite dramatically. In 1979 parliamentary elections were still being fought in constituencies with two or three meetings per night. The political meeting was still going strong. The referendum campaign was fought in exactly the same way. I am sure that was true also in Wales. There were meetings up and down the country in village halls and schools which were both for and against the propositions being put to the Scottish and Welsh people.

Nowadays, the number of public meetings at election time has reduced considerably. Sometimes I wonder what parliamentary candidates do these days in the evenings if they do not address public meetings. But there it is.

Therefore, I cannot see the referendum campaign being fought in the same manner as it was the last time, with meetings up and down the country. Therefore, I shall be deprived of the pleasure of sharing platforms with some very interesting people. However, I should be deprived of that pleasure in any event because one or two of them have changed their minds. I certainly remember sharing a platform with Mr. Brian Wilson, who is now a Minister of State. I mean that we shared a platform in the sense that we were not on opposing sides of it. We were both advocating the same "No" result in the campaign. Mr. Wilson has changed.

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