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Lord Thomas of Gresford: I recall that in the Wynstay Arms in Ruabon many years ago there used to be on the wall a printed list of expenses incurred by Sir Watkyn Williams-Wynn to obtain the seat for one of the Denbigh boroughs. He had spent in that campaign in the early 19th century some £22,000, much of which went in direct payments to the voters to vote for him.
It is right that the Neill Committee has yet to report, but the grain of British politics is surely running against the untrammelled spending by political parties on elections. The amounts involved are so huge that they have led to overseas funding and not very successful attempts by millionaires to purchase political power. The time has surely come, whether or not the Neill Report has appeared, when limits should be set on the amount of money that can be spent without any check or hindrance by a political party on election campaigning.
The point being made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, reinforces the case made by my noble friend, and it is a matter that should await Neill. If this is the trend, it should be done on a proper basis across politics as a whole and not slipped in on the back of a Welsh Bill. I felt that perhaps this was a probing amendment and we would hear the Government's answer--I hope to hear a convincing Government answer--but in fact this is a subject to which we shall probably have to return.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, seems to spend all his time on licensed premises! However, the true point here is that the introduction of the additional member system will bring in a new form of political campaigning. We will have the usual well-known constituency contests focusing on individual candidates in specific constituencies. Added to that will be the campaigning for the party lists.
We impose expense limits on individual constituency candidates and believe it is intellectually consistent and proper that we impose expense limits on the party list candidates in exactly the same way. That is not pre-judging the noble Lord, Lord Neill, whose remit is much wider and is cast in quite a different form. We are simply saying that if one has a coincident election with a voter having one vote for the individual constituency candidate and at the same time, at the same ballot, the same voter casts his or her second vote for the party list, it is only sensible and consistent to have some sort of limit available to be designated for the party list contest. There is nothing sinister about that; there is nothing revolutionary about it; it does not pre-judge Neill; it simply deals with the circumstances that we can envisage in a rather simple way.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not entirely sure that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, properly answered the questions put, but perhaps I did not put them correctly. I shall therefore try to clarify what I believe I heard and we can see whether or not I am right. As my noble friend Lord Crickhowell said, we shall perhaps have to look at this in some detail between now and Report stage.
I cannot begin without saying to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that I do not believe he could have been listening or understanding. I should have thought that the traditional form is the one we have right now, to which I link myself--I did not stand in the early 19th century--and it is one where the limit on the candidates is rigorously enforced. It is not a high limit, though it may recently have increased to a more realistic rate. For some time it was a low limit, given the way expenses were rising and campaigning was changing.
I was not defending the situation in the last century and it does not do debate any good to so misunderstand the motives of the person arguing the case that I have to stand here and make it perfectly clear that in no way was I defending a situation where votes were bought. I have no doubt that the noble Lord's own party, in its day, played a not insignificant part in that enterprise.
I was talking about current-day politics, and the tradition as long as I have been around politics--that is now quite a long time--is that there is a limit on each individual candidate. I was not asking for that to be changed in any way. It is a limit which is looked at carefully. Two or three Members in the other place are currently having their electoral expenses looked into, which underlines the fact that it is a limit observed by political parties and they all look at each other's election expenses in some detail.
I understand the Minister saying to me that in the party list contest for four additional members there is surely a perfectly good case for arguing that there ought to be election expenses of some kind so that in whatever European seat it may be there is some limit on the amount of money the party can use to compete for the election of those four additional members. I understand that. However, over and above that, the party in the whole of Wales could be undertaking simple campaigning on behalf of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrat Party or Plaid Cymru--they could be using the usual poster sites and so on--which was not specific to either individual candidates or to the additional member systems. So far as I read this, the words that I have asked to be removed would include that all-Wales campaigning as well as campaigning in the individual additional member seats. I can see that it might be a quite difficult issue to tease the two lots apart but I think it is important to know exactly what the words here mean so that people know what issues secondary legislation might address.
I wonder whether the Minister can help me so that when we consider these matters later we will be in a better position to know whether we have any cause for concern. Is my distinction an accurate one, or is the Minister saying that all expenditure by the party, whether it is specifically directed at additional member seats or over the whole of Wales, will be caught up under subsection (2)(c)?
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I fully understand the noble Lord's argument and I follow the points he was seeking to make. My point is that it is a mistake to rely too much on tradition. Just as the situation in Victorian England in relation to individual candidates moved on so that limits on expenses were introduced in respect of individual candidates, so today we are moving to a position--the grain is moving in this direction--whereby there should be limits on political parties and on their overall expenditure on elections. It is not right that votes should be bought by the largest purse. That leads to the kind of matters to which I referred earlier.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. The difficulty there-- I did not intend to introduce this--is how one defines money spent in pursuit of a political party. Is it just what that party itself spends, or is it what some of its friends may spend in order to bolster its election? One can think of various ways in which that could be done. Frankly, I think this is a difficult area to deal with and it will be extraordinarily difficult to police.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I took and understood the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, in the way that he indicated. In fact, in the same election it was better in Carmarthen because all the voters took the £22,000 bribe and then did not vote for the person who had bribed them. So not only did he spend the money but he did not have the seat either.
Of course, there are difficulties here, but they are no different in kind, quality and difficulty from the question one has at the moment between party expenditure, properly so-called, and individual candidate expenditure, properly so described. What we are saying is perfectly straightforward and I do not believe that I have heard an intellectually sustainable argument to the contrary. We are going to have coincident elections. There will be two votes for each voter. He or she will be voting for a candidate who will be expense-limited,
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