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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I thank the noble Lord for his customary courtesy. We want a practical system

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that will work and avoid confusion. It seems to me that the words "Scottish Conservative Party" are perfectly plain and indicate to the voter just what he or she is voting for. As regards the list, the noble Lord is quite right to say that reference to the Scottish Labour Party or the Scottish Conservative Party will be allowed. However, I should point out to the noble Lord that there is in fact a Northern Irish Labour Party and a Communist Party of Ireland, which is separate from the Communist Party of Great Britain. We need to frame the order so that such parties can register. I am happy to give the noble Lord that confirmation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I thank the Minister for that very clear response. Indeed, I am grateful to him for clearing up the matter. Perhaps we might even reach the columns of the Scottish edition of the Sunday Times to show that it is not only members the Scottish National Party who will be able to call themselves Scottish. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 4.

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Notice of application for registration, and objections

(" . The Secretary of State shall by regulations--
(a) provide for notice to be given to all registered parties of any application under section 2; and
(b) authorise a party which is already registered to make objections to an application under section 2 on the ground that the name or emblem proposed in that application would be likely to result in the party making the application being confused by voters with the party objecting to the application.").

The noble Lord said: This is one of a number of amendments tabled by these Benches which reflect the widespread concern about the transparency of the registration process. Indeed, there are further subsequent amendments regarding appeal which reflect that concern. I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, had to say. As a renegade company lawyer, although I have admiration for provisions of the Companies Act, I certainly do not believe that we should be slavishly following them in this registration process, although it is convenient to use the Registrar of Companies for this purpose.

Under the Bill as drafted there is no provision for advertisement of the application for registration and there is no provision for representations or objections to be made. That may be perfectly acceptable in terms of registering a company's name, but I would suggest that the consequences of a political party failing to register a particular name are much more far-reaching than those applying to a company, which is perfectly able to change its name to something similar. Indeed, that is not ultimately damaging if the company is unable to get the precise form of words that it wants, but that may well be the case in terms of a political party in the political market-place.

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Therefore, as I said, we do not need slavishly to follow the provisions of the Companies Act; indeed, we can use a different model if we wish to do so. I have in mind, for example, legislation on trade marks. I notice that the amendment drafted by the Opposition follows that perhaps rather more closely. Provision is certainly made in trade marks law for advertisement and for objections to be given. After all, if it is good enough for the trade marks law, why is it not good enough for our law on the registration of political parties?

I am sure that Members of the Committee will agree that, in the early years of the exercise of the powers of the registrar under the Bill, it is particularly important that there should be the ability to make representations so that argument before the registrar can take place before those precedents are set in concrete. At present, there is neither the right of representation nor of appeal. That gives the registrar enormous discretion.

Finally, I turn now to the amendment tabled by the Opposition. Clearly the sentiment is the same, or very similar; and, of course, we would agree with such sentiments. However, Members of the Committee will see that the actual drafting of our amendment is designed to create rather more flexibility so that the actual mechanics of giving notice can be decided by regulation. It would allow rather more mature consideration to be given to the exact way in which that would operate. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Henley: Like the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, I believe that we are now dealing with an important group of amendments, although our amendment attacks the problems from a slightly different angle from that put forward by the Liberal Democrat Party. As I understand it, Amendment No. 4 would only allow a right of objection to those parties which are already registered and the latter could only object on certain particular grounds. It seemed to us that it would be better if the right of objection was widened considerably. That is why we have tabled Amendment No. 6 and why it is worded in the way set out on the Marshalled List. Under this amendment any party would be able to object to a registration, whether or not it is registered. That would mean that a party which had not yet registered would have a right to object to a registration if it thought that that registration might affect its future registration.

Similarly, a party which was already registered would have a right of objection. The amendment would also allow a right of objection to other people where, for one reason or another, they considered that they had some interest in objecting. We have also drafted our amendment in such a manner that it would be possible to object on any grounds that may be thought appropriate, rather than being limited as suggested by Amendment No. 4.

There is a possibility that the Minister will tell us that it will be possible for parties, whether registered or not, to make objections as they wish. In that case, we shall obviously not take these amendments any further. However, I am sure that the Minister will agree that it

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is only right for parties to have some channel through which they can make their views known. I should be most grateful for an assurance from the noble Lord to that effect.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I believe I am getting into deeper and deeper waters here because every time an amendment has been debated today I have felt obliged--although I think that I must somehow be wrong--to oppose it and support the Government. In his wisdom, to which I have already paid tribute, I hope the noble Lord will see fit to reject both amendments, even though one of them, sadly, comes from my noble friend who sits on the Front Bench in front of me.

I have three points to make. First, I do not like giving the Secretary of State power to make regulations. I have great reservations as to the wisdom of Secretaries of State wherever they come from, however old they may be and whatever their sex. I just doubt the wisdom of Secretaries of State and I do not wish to lavish further powers upon them. Secondly, it seems to me that both amendments seek to protect the members of the club; in other words, to give them every opportunity to keep intruders out. As I have already said, I am not so much in favour of established political parties that I want to see this kind of thing done.

Thirdly, presumably the registrar will have his wits about him and will be someone with reasonable competence, not an idiot. Indeed, he has powers and duties under Clause 3 under which he is obliged to refuse registration if it,

    "would be likely to result in the party's being confused by voters with a party which is already registered".
What more protection could an established party want? It makes me very suspicious and upset if people want further to extend the Bill--in other words, to swell it out with words--when nothing will be achieved by it; or, alternatively, when something rather sinister will be achieved. I know not which is true.

Lord Borrie: Before my noble friend the Minister responds, perhaps I may pursue a disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. In particular, I believe that the amendment from the Opposition is intended, among other things, to enable parties which are neither established nor registered to have some say in whether a name should be registered.

I draw attention to the point made on Second Reading by a number of speakers; namely, there is the first stage application for registration and there is the second stage. There is what might be called the first mover advantage. That is, if a party is entitled to register at the first stage--this applies only to parties which have at least one Member of Parliament--it gets in at the first stage and it obtains a certain advantage. If, however, a party does not have a single Member of Parliament, it has to wait a certain period. When someone wants to be registered as a party under the first stage--this applies only to a limited number of existing parties--that application should be notified to, and objected to, by others, for example, others who have an intention of registering under the second stage and who may have a similar name. That would give the proposition of the

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Opposition Front Bench some merit. If I may be so bold as to arbitrate between the two Front Benches, I prefer the Conservative proposal to that of the Liberal Democrats.

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