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Viscount Bledisloe: Whenever the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has explained this problem, he has convinced me that it is a real problem and not merely theoretical. It is unacceptable to wave it away on the basis that the parties have said that they will not behave in that way. First, that has only been said by the three principal parties represented in this House. Secondly, undertakings of that kind tend to be forgotten over the years, especially when the prize to be gained is substantial. Thirdly, it is surely fundamentally unacceptable to enact legislation on the basis that it contains a defect but that we can trust people not to cheat. That is not what legislation is for.

On the other hand, in the case of the other Bills I considered the solutions propounded by the noble Lord to be worse than the ills he was seeking to cure. I believe that the amendments he is now proposing, in particular Amendment No. 15, are very apt to cure the ill he is worried about and will have no side effects. It may be that the drafting is not perfect, but I hope that the

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Minister will accept the principle behind the amendments and that he will discuss the matter with noble Lords on the other Front Benches and agree, by the next stage of the Bill, an amendment to achieve this end.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I believe that the problem is largely theoretical. To take the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, the Bill is not intended to prevent two distinct parties with similar aims and objectives from registering. If two distinct registered parties with similar aims wish to enter into an electoral pact to try to maximise their support, as they may well do, we think they should be entitled to do so.

It is the abusive manipulation of the additional member system which has troubled Members of the Committee. One must remember that to obtain such an unfair advantage a party must first win a significant number of constituency seats within a region and its alter ego party must receive a significant proportion of the regional vote for the additional member seats. I reaffirmed the undertaking given by the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party and Plaid Cymru gave the same undertaking, and it is my understanding that the Scottish Nationalist Party has said that it will not seek to deceive the voters in this way.

Voters are not simple-minded. They are perfectly able to know when deceit is being practised on them. In the elections we are speaking of, the media would be alert to any mendacity or deception. I believe that the Bill and the powers given to the registrar are sufficient. One could not obtain an unfair advantage by manipulation outside the context of those parties which have already promised never to do that.

There are difficulties with the amendments in any event. It is difficult to understand how a registrar will have access to the objectives, membership, officers and geographical bases before he comes to his conclusion. It would be a very difficult duty for the registrar to discharge. But that is not my fundamental objection. My objection is, to use the words of the noble Viscount, that this is a theoretical mischief, which is not a real one.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, for their support. While I accept that it is theoretical, as I explained it was being seriously discussed inside some parts of the Labour Party in Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has said, it would be very beneficial in those parts of the country where a political party gained all the first-past-the-post seats in a region and yet did not gain well over 50 per cent. of the vote. Even if they did gain over 50 per cent., it would still be beneficial. Regrettably, there are many regions in Scotland where the Labour Party did win all the first-past-the-post seats, and the same is true in Wales. The noble Lord heard me give examples of how it could be done in Wales.

I accept that, apart from the discussions I mentioned earlier, nobody has suggested that they would do it. The political parties have said that they would not do it. But, just to raise the concerns of the Liberal Democrat Party,

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there would be a temptation above all temptations for it to do it in the Highland region. It received a lot of the first-past-the-post seats in the Highland region on a minority of the vote. On the basis of the last election results, it would have no chance of getting any of the top-up seats in the Scottish parliament. It is very decent of the Liberal Democrat Party to assure us that it would never be tempted into this.

Clearly, I am not making any progress with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. The assurances I have received are certainly welcome but, as these are not matters which would be resolved in a court, I do not believe that the usual Government or other party assurances would be a protection against a party in the future using this method of abusing the additional member system. I will read the objections which have been made to the drafting and see if we can improve it. I will come back at the next stage and perhaps at that time I shall persuade the noble Lord, Lord Williams, with a tightly drafted amendment that meets with no objection, that it would be worth putting a few more words into this Bill. That would ensure for all time in the future that the additional member system is made foolproof against any political party deciding to abuse it by the type of operation that I have described. For the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 8 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Entries in the register]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 2, line 15, leave out ("home").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 9 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 13, 30, 32 and 36. This is a very simple probing amendment which can be dealt with very quickly in the form of a question. As the noble Lord has seen, we seek to remove the word "home" from "home addresses". We appreciate that the Bill has been drafted in such a manner so that people's personal security can be protected. Their home addresses are not made public and they are not put at risk, should there be a risk. We welcome that.

But there might be cases--and I am thinking particularly of Northern Ireland--where the party headquarters might be seen to be a target of terrorists. It might be that on some occasions a party will have a legitimate desire to keep its headquarters' address secret--odd though that might sound for a party engaged in the business of trying to attract publicity and support. Can the noble Lord assure us that, where there were legitimate concerns of that sort, it would be possible to have such details left off the public register? I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a legitimate concern. I am happy to reaffirm that the privacy of the leader, the nominating officer and the families is preserved by Clause 4. Clause 4 prohibits the inclusion of home addresses on the register, which will be a document in the public domain. It is a perfectly legitimate concern to have raised.

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There is nothing sinister about this. We simply need home addresses, for instance, if there is a circumstance where a party splits or divides. Then it may be necessary for the registrar to be able to contact a person at his or her home address to make sure of the true factual position. Clause 4 gives the protection which may be needed in the circumstances referred to by the noble Lord.

Lord Henley: I obviously did not make my question clear. There might be occasions where the party might want to keep its address out of the public domain. Obviously, once it is in the register it would be in the public domain. Would the address of the party have to be part of the register and therefore in the public domain?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I cannot think of any circumstances in which a party could possibly stand for election without having its address known. One has the usual details to be included on election material, for example, which is disseminated. I cannot think of any party that could possibly exist without its registered office being known. In Northern Ireland--which, after all, in some ways is a limited community in terms of the electorate--everybody knows where Sinn Fein's office is. I know perfectly well where the SDLP office is. Even the Flat Earth Society has an office. One has to be sensible. One has to have proper protection of privacy. That is why we have put it in Clause 4. Other than that, I think the noble Lord's concerns are overdone.

Lord Henley: I accept that it would be fairly difficult to imagine circumstances where a party did wish to keep such matters confidential. All I sought was an assurance that such matters could be kept secret should it be necessary. Obviously the noble Lord thinks that that is not the case. I will ponder over his words very carefully and for the moment withdraw my amendments. I suspect I shall not come back to them. I shall give the noble Lord that assurance at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Emblems]:

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Henley: My noble friend and I gave notice that we would oppose the Question that Clause 5 stand part of the Bill. Grouped with the debate on Clause 5 stand part are Amendments Nos. 11, 12, 24, 34 and 42. My noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil is no longer in his place but I know that he likes brevity in a Bill. Should I press these amendments, and should they be agreed to, it would mean the deletion of some 46 lines in total from the Bill, which would reduce it by at least one page. I suspect that that would have some support from my noble friend.

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I brought forward these amendments only because there were one or two concerns about the use of logos and a regret that they should be used on ballot papers. I am thinking particularly of the speech made by my noble friend Lord Freeman at Second Reading. As we all know, it is only relatively recently in electoral terms that we even included the names of political parties on ballot papers. Before that, one of the duties of those canvassing was to make sure that people would recognise the name of their party candidate. Changes were then made and the names of parties were included. That is one of the points which the Bill addresses. I rather regret that we have to extend this to include logos on the ballot paper and therefore have to have some system of registering logos.

We heard in response to Amendment No. 10 that it will not be possible to register separate logos for different parts of the same party. I am thinking of the separate logos that the Scottish Liberal Democrats and their English counterpart might have. Similarly, as I understand it, it will not be possible for my colleagues in Scotland to register their distinctive logo--my noble friend Lord Mackay assures me that they have a distinctive logo--rather than the logo of the English party. It seems to me that if we are to have the registration of logos, it would be preferable for them to be registered in separate manners, as was suggested originally in Amendment No. 10.

Those are the only points I want to make on the Question whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Peyton would or would not have supported a move to remove 46 lines from the Bill. However, I live in hope that on some later occasion he might come back and offer support.

6 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My reaction is: why not have logos? I do not know whether the Conservatives are perhaps upset by the rather smoky looking torch that appears in the appendix to the Bill, but there are plainly two advantages to logos. The first is that they reinforce the protection for party names given by the Bill by making it doubly obvious which party people are voting for. The second advantage relates to the fact that not everyone is capable of reading English. In countries such as India, where there are large numbers of illiterate people, the existence of a logo is essential to voters. In this country those who are functionally illiterate may be dissuaded from voting because they might find considerable difficulty identifying on a written ballot paper the candidate they wished to support. There are also people who are literate but not literate in the English language. They may be literate in one of the Indian scripts but not in an English script. In that case, once again, the existence of a logo would very much help them to vote. While we have had a good deal of sympathy for the other amendments put forward by the Conservative Party, we have to take an entirely different line on this occasion.


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