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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: As this is the Committee stage, I think I can answer immediately. If the noble Lord looks at Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 he will find that I am tackling that problem by the use of those amendments. The amendments try to clarify the position I explained about the use of the word "Scottish". I believe that Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 will deal with the other problem.
Viscount Bledisloe: The noble Lord's amendment allows--if it did not, the speech that he made would be impractical--a party to have the name "Conservative Party" and to have the name "Welsh Conservative Party". Would his amendment prevent a candidate switching the labels and thereby achieving the trick he was talking about?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps I may come back again on that point. Depending on what the Minister says, of course, if the position came about that a candidate for the Conservative Party tried to stand in the first ballot for the "Conservative Party" and in the second ballot for the "Scottish Conservative Party", under my Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 the registrar would probably rightly refuse to register him and the returning officer would probably refuse to accept that he should stand.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, for being such a lodestar to me. I do not propose to accept those amendments, so I am following his advice. He spoke of subtlety of language being irresistible. Between 1992 and 1997 I had the great pleasure of sitting where he is now and watching a master of subtlety of language demolish his own Government Front Bench. So I think I have learned whatever modest skill I have from the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil.
This group contains Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 8, 10 and 28. If it is convenient to the Committee, I shall deal with them together. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 would allow individual branches or component parts of a registered political party to have separate register entries. This would, in effect, allow a party to have a number of register entries; the Bill at present allows each party only one name and register entry.
I understand the desire that one might wish to continue to prefix the name of a party with words such as "Scottish" or "Welsh" in a description on the ballot paper. However, I can reassure the Committee that that is possible without the amendments, as I think is explained by the draft order.
There is no requirement that candidates of a political party must use that party's name in exactly the form in which it is registered as their description on the ballot paper; for example, if a candidate of the Liberal Democrat Party, assuming the party registers under that name--a fair assumption--wishes to describe himself as a "Scottish Liberal Democrat" on the ballot paper, that party's nominating officer would probably give his consent. If, however, the candidate was not a member of that party, no such consent would be forthcoming and the returning officer would be able to reject the description as it would be likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with a registered party, the Liberal Democrat Party. That is the effect of paragraph 2 of Schedule 2.
Amendment No. 8 would mean that the registrar could not refuse to grant an application to register a party name on the grounds that to do so would be likely to result in that party being confused by voters with a party which is already registered solely because both names included the same word from the list in the amendment. Hence, for example, if the "National Youth Party" were already registered, the registrar could not on this basis refuse to register the "National Middle-Aged Party" solely because "National" has been used.
The amendment is unnecessary. It implies that once a party has used a particular word in its name, the registrar might decide not to register another party simply because its name includes the same word. That is not the case. That is why we have given the registrar the power to decide whether the use of that word is likely to confuse the two parties in the minds of voters.
The words listed in the amendment are words which a number of parties are likely to use in their names. It is intended that this will be dealt with by the order to be made under Clause 3(1)(f). Perhaps I may give an example. We intend to use the order--I am sorry that not all noble Lords have been able to see a copy--to forbid, for instance, a false implication of a connection with the Royal Family.
The order will not allow a party to register a name which is the same as the name of a registered party, qualified by a word such as "Scottish" or "Welsh". Therefore, a party's nominating officer could authorise
We also intend to ensure that certain generic words or phrases--I gave the Committee examples earlier--such as "residents association" are not registered by a single party to prevent their being used widely by individual candidates. We also intend in the order to provide that the word "independent" may not be registered on its own as, for instance, in the "Independent Party".
I accept that this issue is complicated and that it is not fair to expect everyone to have understood the drafting of the order. I was simply seeking to be as helpful as possible because the drafting was not completed until today. Therefore, perhaps I may repeat that a copy of the current draft will be placed in the Library tomorrow morning.
Amendment No. 10 would allow the branches or component parts of a registered party to register their own emblems if different from the overall party emblem. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, raised this point and I sympathise with it. However, we must bear in mind the fact that the space for the emblem or logo will be only two centimetres square. There will be difficulties if, for instance, more than one Scottish party wishes to use the thistle as its national emblem. It would be extremely confusing to try to get a variant of a thistle emblem into a tiny box only two centimetres square. This is, therefore, an answer of practicality rather than of principle.
Amendment No. 28 would allow parties to register as many names as they choose, thus preventing other parties from using those descriptions. I have already explained that, if a candidate's description is likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with a registered party, the nominating officer of that party must certify that the candidate is entitled to use that description. If, however, no such authorisation is forthcoming, the returning officer will be able to reject the description as it would be likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with a registered party. Under the present scheme, the registrar will have to make a similar judgment under the provisions of Clauses 3(1)(a) and 18(1)(a). We consider that those provisions are sufficiently robust, particularly bearing in mind that experience in the Welsh, Scottish and European elections will indicate whether or not our scheme is workable.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, asked about the particular circumstances of the different Liberal Democrat parties. The provisions of Article 2(2)(b) and Part 2 of the schedule prevent registration of the "Scottish Liberal Democrats"--I stress the words "prevent registration"--but do not prevent the Liberal Democrat Party in Scotland or the Conservative Party in Scotland from putting the word "Scottish" on the ballot
Lord Goodhart: I think that I now understand the position and the effect of the order. However, I do not find it altogether satisfactory. The Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrat parties regard themselves as independent parties as well as being component parts of the Liberal Democrat Party in Great Britain as a whole. They will not find this position satisfactory, so we may have to return to it at a later date.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I was slightly relieved that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, who I understand is an eminent QC, said that he was having trouble understanding the order. That gives me every possible excuse because, as I have told noble Lords before, I am the only Mackay of the threesome who is not a lawyer.
Perhaps the Minister can help me with one or two points. I listened to what he said about a candidate in Scotland of, say, the Liberal Democrat Party being able to put "Scottish Liberal Democrat" on the ballot paper because he would have cover from the official body of the Liberal Democrat Party. I presume that that applies also to the party in Scotland with regard to the list. A party will have to put itself on the list as, I imagine, the "Scottish Liberal Democrat Party", or the "Scottish Labour Party", or the "Scottish Conservative Party".
I did not quite follow the Minister on his point about logos. However, in so far as I did follow him, I understand that a party will not be able to have a separate logo in Scotland and in Wales from its national logo. I am not sure about the position of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, but such a provision would certainly affect the Scottish Conservative Party. By some amazing sleight of hand, which I have never been quite able to understand, the Labour Party in Scotland has managed to get away with incorporating an English rose into Scotland as the emblem of the Scottish Labour Party. I do not think that the Conservatives would ever have got away with that! I am not sure where the Liberal Democrats stand in relation to emblems and whether they have a different Scottish emblem. The indications are that they do not, but the Conservatives do. Perhaps I may return to this point in correspondence with the Minister.
The Minister did not answer my points about the words "Northern Ireland", "Irish", or "Ulster". This is a draft order, so perhaps the draft will have to be revisited. However, it seems a little odd to leave out that part of the kingdom as parties may want to describe themselves using such a label in that part of the kingdom. If the noble Lord wants to reply on that point, I shall be delighted to give way--
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