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Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 48, line 7, after ("decisions)") insert--
("(a) in subsection (1), for "subsections (3) and (4)" there is substituted "subsection (3)", and

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 41 I wish to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 44. These are both technical amendments to remove references to provisions of the Social Security Act 1998 repealed by the Bill. Schedule 9 to the Bill repeals subsection (4) in Section 10 of the Social Security Act 1998 in consequence of the removal to the jurisdiction of Inland

25 Jan 1999 : Column 838

Revenue officers of decisions about the personal liability of company directors for contributions owed by their companies. Amendment No. 44 removes a reference to Section 14(3) of the Social Security Act 1998 which is being repealed on the transfer of responsibility for decisions about SSP and SMP. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 42.

Page 50, leave out lines 11 to 20.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Further consequential amendments]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 52, line 1, at end insert--
("2A. In section 12 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (late paid Class 2 contributions), in subsection (7), after "commences" there is inserted--
"(aa) civil proceedings in a magistrates' court commence when a complaint is made;".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Repeals and revocations]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 54, line 39, column 3, at end insert ("and in subsection (6) the word "(2),".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 45:

Line 6, after ("benefits;") insert ("to enable functions relating to any of those matters in respect of Northern Ireland to be transferred to the Secretary of State, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or the Treasury;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) Order 1998

4.49 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the order, laid before the House on 23rd November, be annulled (S.I. 1998/2873).

The noble Earl said: My Lords, when I see "prohibited words and expressions" on an Order Paper, I blanch with horror. I hope that when we have stage 1 of the Lords' reform, your Lordships will feel emboldened enough to sling out this little piece of legislation. The present arrangements are that we do not vote against statutory instruments. I was tempted to break that arrangement. Then the noble Lord, Lord Carter, met me in the corridor and I succumbed effortlessly to his charm. I shall not vote against this order or ask your Lordships to do so.

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The matter is simple: it is whether people should call themselves Independent Labour, Independent Conservative or Literal Liberal. Ever since the brothers Gracchi in Ancient Rome, there have been arguments about factions in politics. I have been reading a book on George III. He always hoped that factions could come out of politics. Unfortunately, factions have now become entrenched in state, started, as almost all bad things started, by the Conservative Party in the form of Disraeli who invented the modern political party. Others have not been slow to follow that example.

The Independent Labour Party has a long, well-established and historical founding. There was Jimmy Maxton; and a great friend of my father, Andrew Maclaren, who represented the Clydeside constituency in the 1920s, hated private property but managed to make sure that the club of which I am a member bought its own freehold against the advice of the Duke of Devonshire. So one can see how the marvellous, some would say corrupting--others would call it English social mobility--manages to work in this country.

My objection to the order is simple. Should we stop parties being registered as Independent Labour, Independent Conservative, and so on? People should be able to register a party in whatever name they choose. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will say that it will cause confusion; that it will be unfair. It will be the most wonderful apparatchik's answer because he will have been briefed by the department. I promise the noble Lord that I should say exactly the same to my own Front Bench which would have given exactly the same answer had it been in power. So there is an element of plague upon both your houses.

Individuals can stand at national elections as Independent Labour or Independent Conservative. Why should we stop them from standing in this new form of proportional representation for the various new assemblies which have been conjured up for our benefit? The British people are grown up, intelligent and mature enough to understand the difference between the official and unofficial--some would say between the real and unreal.

As one edge of the social spectrum which is not liked by the new First Lord of the Treasury, as an hereditary Peer I pray in aid the old independent Labour working class member. Therefore I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Order, laid before the House on 23rd November, be annulled (S.I. 1998/2873).-- (The Earl of Onslow.)

4.53 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, I support the noble Earl. The order epitomises the fact that it is not good legislation. At Second Reading I said that we have to be very careful when the major parties together produce conditions under which people can stand for Parliament. There is great danger of a carve up.

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At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, drew attention to the fact that between 1948 and 1969 party affiliation was not on the ballot paper. I canvassed in 1955, and during local elections collected 2,000 marks on the register in the Cabot Ward of Bristol, West. It was hard work. It was a bind that one had to din in the candidate's name because there was no indication on the ballot paper. However, this order has been brought in to help the parties and to reduce the work to which they are subjected. It has nothing to do with greater democracy. It is to help the parties.

When there was no party affiliation indicated on the ballot party, there was no diminution in turn out at elections. In 1951 Labour polled the highest political vote of any party until that time. I know that that is seized on now by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, as a reason why PR should be brought in. However, I am sure most Members will appreciate that it was the Conservative organisation of the postal vote which brought it to power in 1951.

I do not think that the order is proper. At Second Reading, my noble friend Lady Gould expressed concern that there was no appeal structure; that no proper appeals were possible. The Speaker's Committee is appointed to deal with points raised. However, by definition the Speaker's Committee consists of Members of Parliament who are members of the major parties. Therefore they are interested parties, and there is no clean, independent, procedure.

The legislation is rather rough. In Committee, at col. 409 of the Official Report on 5th November 1998, the Minister, for whom I have the greatest admiration, said that undertakings had been given by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party and Plaid Cymru and it was his understanding that the Scottish National Party had also said that it will not seek to deceive the voters in that way. Why bother to legislate if we rely on goodwill and people saying, "I'll behave myself". It is farcical. The Minister continued:

    "Voters are not simple-minded. They are perfectly able to know when deceit is being practised on them".
In that case one wonders why we have the legislation brought in. Such is my regard for the Minister and his control of language that I shall not point out that on the following page he was guilty of repetition when he used the phrase "true factual". However, we shall leave that matter aside. It is not right to draw attention to it now.

I hope that my fears are misguided. I should very much like to be proved wrong. We often think that we are tidying up matters but end up in a worse position. An individual with many resources and an unscrupulous aim could almost bring the system to a standstill by abusing the legislation.

4.57 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I, too, support the noble Earl. It is perfectly true that people will still be able to stand as Independent Labour, Independent Conservative, Independent Liberal candidates, and so on. But they will not be allowed the party political broadcasts, should their numbers be large enough, which would otherwise

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be justified in the absence of this legislation. To that extent the dice are loaded against the smaller parties which I think is wrong.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, raises an interesting point of discussion which is worth consideration. I am interested to note that among the words and expressions which may not be included, except where Article 2(2)(a) applies, are "Duke" but not "Earl". While the "Duke of Omnium's party" would be a forbidden name, the "Earl of Onslow party" would be allowed. I look forward to an election in which the "Earl of Onslow party" is a registered party.

I have some sympathy with the Motion. At one time the Independent Labour Party was a well known political party which was represented in another place. As I recall history, when the Independent Labour Party was formed no body was known as the Labour Party; the Labour Representational Committee was a different animal. Therefore, there was no possibility of the ILP being confused at that stage with the Labour Party. The ILP was a constituent part of what later became the Labour Party.

Today, the question is whether a party can be registered with the word of "independent" coupled with the name of another party. That does not directly affect the right of somebody to stand in an election under the description of, say, Independent Conservative, Independent Liberal Democrat or Independent Labour. The rule is that someone can stand as a candidate under whatever label he likes unless the returning officer believes that the name is likely to lead voters to associate the candidate with an already registered political party. On the other hand, it is also true that if someone were able to register a party--and, rightly, registration is an extremely simple business--as, say, Independent Conservative, it would be extremely difficult for the returning officer to refuse registration.

In those circumstances, reluctantly one must conclude that in this case the order is correct. As a representative of a party which has suffered more than any other from confusing labels--it is well known that we lost a seat in the European elections because of a confusing name-- I must support the order. I do so with regret because there is a good deal in what the noble Earl has said. I wish that I felt able to support him, but it is important to ensure that the voters are not fooled, as experience has shown possible, by accepting candidates standing under misleading names. If one were free to stand as a member of an Independent Conservative Party there would be no necessity for having any connection with the Conservative Party or agreeing with any of its policies. The name could be adopted simply as a spoiling name. Therefore, I am afraid that if the noble Earl had been willing to put the matter to a vote I would not have been able to support him.

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