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Lord Thomas of Gresford: We on these Benches also welcome the amendment that is proposed by the Government. Perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, on the subsidiary point about the person who crosses the Floor. We, in our party, have certainly not suffered in that respect over these last many years. Numerous people have joined us from other parties, both at council level, in another place and, indeed, in this Chamber. Nevertheless, it could give rise to problems if it should so happen that in the course of a session of the Welsh assembly a member elected on a regional list changes party. All I would ask the Government to do is to consider whether they require an amendment to the Bill to make it absolutely clear what the position is in those circumstances.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I think two points remain. First, does "and" mean "and" or "or"; and, secondly, what is the position in relation to somebody who, after election on a regional list, crosses the Floor and joins another party.

First, I assure the noble Lord and the Committee that "and" does, indeed, mean "and". That means that where a casual vacancy arises, if somebody remains a member of the political party on the list which he appeared and if he is next in line, he cannot be passed over by the fiat of his party because two conditions have to be satisfied; namely, non-membership of the party and his name not being put forward. It is a matter for the party which is seeking to rely on it to establish that he is no longer a member. That was the critical difference between our amendments.

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The second point is the question of the crossing of the Floor after election. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, rightly identified, the Bill, as presently drafted, including the amendment, does not seek to act in any way against elected members of the assembly who change their allegiances during the term of assembly--that is, after election. We have taken the view that there is a long tradition in British politics of tolerating Members who cross the Floor. I do not think it would be in the interests of anyone if we sought to expel an elected member simply for moving from one allegiance to another. The British political tradition is one which extols the virtues and advantages of the representative rather than the delegate and we would be loath to depart from that principle in respect of the assembly elections. So we have thought about it and taken the view that we should not deal with it in any way. Even if you cross the Floor, you retain the right to remain in the assembly until the next time there is an election. I hope that answers all the outstanding points in relation to this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment Nos. 37 to 39 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Entitlement to vote]:

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 40:


Page 6, line 29, at end insert (", on the day of the poll").

The noble Earl said: The amendment deals with the election of members. It is grouped with Amendment No. 41. I shall leave my noble friends, either the noble Lord, Lord Roberts or the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, to speak to it.

A person's position can change quite dramatically over a short period of time. The words I have put down,


    "on the day of the poll",

are taken straight from the equivalent clause, Clause 10, in the Scottish Bill. With the usual canny cautiousness of Scottish parliamentary draftsmen, they have pinned it down to a specific date. It is in that respect that I hope my amendment finds some favour. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: The Government have spared no effort in enhancing the status of the national assembly of Wales. Its status is clearly superior to any form of local government. We agree with that, and that the assembly should have some of the trappings of Parliament, as some of our later amendments suggest.

It comes as some surprise therefore to find that the register to be used to determine entitlement to vote is the local authority rather than the parliamentary register of electors. I cannot believe that the sole reason is to allow noble Lords to vote in assembly elections. In any case noble Lords are cared for in our amendment which seeks to substitute the parliamentary for the local government register.

Our main reason for seeking the change is that we do not believe that the assembly is a local government body. Nor should it be treated as such. We think that that is an important point. There are differences between the two registers. The local government franchise would

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allow any EU citizen living in Wales to vote but would exclude Welsh people living abroad. The parliamentary franchise would exclude EU citizens but would include Irish and Commonwealth citizens. British subjects living overseas would also be allowed to vote. These are important matters. We are anxious to hear the Government's reply.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I speak to Amendments Nos. 40 and 41, if I may. I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, for his helpful suggestion. There will be examples of persons who would be eligible on one day but not on another, as the noble Earl said, because circumstances change.

I have had the opportunity to look at Clause 10(1) again. I think that the existing wording is a little vague and could be improved by making it more time specific. Accordingly, I welcome and support Amendment No. 40 put forward by the noble Earl. Alas, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, again is not here.

On Amendment No. 41, we think that we should hold the assembly elections on the basis of the local government elections. The referendum was held on that basis and we had many lengthy debates about that in this Chamber. The assembly is not downgraded by using the local government register. It is concerned with the governance of Wales. It is to affect all those resident in Wales. If we use the local government register, as we propose, that allows citizens of the European Union who are resident in Wales and registered in Wales to participate in a democratic process because it affects their lives as much as anyone else who lives in Wales. It has the benefit that Peers who are resident in Wales, and registered in Wales, would be entitled to vote. I am told that there are a little fewer than 40 such creatures still in captivity.

As regards the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, I understand his sub-theme. However, I believe that the conclusion at which one arrives is wrong. The register on the parliamentary basis would exclude Peers--I have dealt with their position--and resident EU citizens but would grant the vote to overseas voters who by definition are neither registered nor resident in Wales. We think that that would be wrong.

Citizens of other EU countries who are resident in Wales and wish to be registered in Wales, if they so choose, contribute to diversity of life and prosperity in Wales. They have a stake in the future of our country, and I believe that it would be invidious to exclude them.

The assembly will have no responsibility for United Kingdom citizens from Wales (Welsh born or otherwise) who are resident overseas. We do not believe that there is any reason for an overseas voter to vote in an election for the assembly. The decisions of the assembly would be unlikely to have any impact on them.

One of the effects of the amendment would be to require a third register to be drawn up--solely for the purpose of allowing Peers to vote in assembly elections. Peers are well regarded, cherished, loved and revered in Wales. However, there are fewer than 40 of them, and I wonder whether the trouble of having a separate register

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would be worthwhile. Therefore I take the point made by the noble Lord. We are not, of course, diminishing the status of the assembly; we are using the most practical form of register appropriate to the condition of the Welsh assembly. I therefore hope that with that explanation the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Balfour: I am grateful to the Minister. I commend Amendment No. 40.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Roberts of Conwy had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 41:


Page 6, line 30, leave out from ("a") to end of line 34 and insert ("parliamentary election or who would be so entitled if they were not peers.").

The noble Lord said: I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. I am content not to move Amendment No. 41.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 [Power to make provision about elections etc]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 42:


Page 7, line 8, leave out ("and registered political parties").

The noble Lord said: I congratulate my noble friend Lord Balfour on securing a small but significant victory against the Government. We shall report these matters, in order to show fairness to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, in the morning. Perhaps I may even have the same luck with Amendment No. 42.

This amendment turns to the portion of the Bill which discusses the limitation on election expenses of candidates for election. We are all used to the limit of election expenses on each candidate for election to Westminster. It is quite straightforward. There is a limit, returns have to be made and everybody accepts and understands that--sometimes more so than at other times. Basically, it is an accepted part of the system that there is a limit to the amount of money that the individual candidate in a constituency can spend in order to get himself or herself elected. That does not bother me at all. However, I noted that in subsection (2)(c) the words, "and registered political parties", were added. This would be the first time that there was a limit of election expenses on registered political parties. I shall resist the temptation to ask how one defines "registered political parties" since I am imminently to find out. I shall therefore resist that temptation for the moment.

What puzzles me is that, at present, in elections to the other place, and indeed to local government, political parties are allowed to spend nationally--not in the pursuit of an individual candidate's return, but nationally--as much money as they can persuade their supporters to raise or give to them. That has been a traditional part of the way we run matters in this country.

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Two matters are changing. First, the suggestion has been made in some quarters that we ought to change that system. As I understand it, the Neill Committee is looking into these matters, but has not yet reported. The fact that it has not yet reported is important.

Secondly, because we are moving to the additional member system here, the registered political parties could spend money in the pursuit of the election of the list in one of the European seats. Therefore it is perhaps not as simple as it is in the other place where the billboards and other paraphernalia of election campaigning are placed throughout the country. Sometimes, posters appear in the most unlikely places. I find it hard to understand why my party thought that billboards in the constituency in which I live, Glasgow Govan, would have much influence on that seat. I imagine that the same could be true for some Labour posters put up in safe Tory areas. The point is the availability of poster sites and that people commute past them. Those are arguments people would use to defend the good sense of putting up posters in constituencies where they do not seem to have much chance of bringing about the desired result.

Those and all the other paraphernalia and modern techniques that go on throughout the country cost money and are uncapped, to use a local government financial expression. They are not capped in any way, whereas the campaigns run for me when I was a candidate were tightly controlled by the limits.

In the Bill there is the suggestion that the total amount of money being spent by a political party--not a specific amount spent in the pursuit of individual candidatures--should be limited. I suggest that that is premature because the Neill Committee is to report on the issue and we ought to await its report.

Secondly, if we decide to go down that road, we ought to do so by primary legislation not secondary legislation. After all, it is secondary legislation that is involved here. While I understand the temptation to the Government to try to make things neat in the Welsh Bill, the phrase is, jumping the gun on Neill and also jumping the gun on legislation. Even if Neill recommends that such limits ought to be imposed on the other place, naturally I accept that if that happened, then those limits should quite legitimately be imposed on the Welsh assembly and the Scottish parliament. In those circumstances, that ought to be subject to primary legislation because it would be making a significant change to the way we have carried out our electioneering in this country. I hope that the Minister understands that I am not trying to be difficult, I am just questioning why the words are in the Bill long before we have come to any conclusion on the issue of general expenses of political parties in electioneering. I beg to move.


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