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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful again for the noble Lord's general welcome for the

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Statement. The requirement is that one should be registered to vote for a relevant election. The entitlement for registration--I speak from memory--is extensive and lasts for 20 years. An expatriate who is entitled to vote--who is registered on the appropriate register--is still entitled to contribute.

On election expenses for Westminster general elections, the limit on expenses will apply in the 365 days before the poll and, in terms of control of campaign expenditure, the noble Lord will find some definitions in Clause 64 of the draft Bill.

The point that I was seeking to make about the Government's annual report was that it is the Government's proper duty to hold themselves accountable to those whom they serve; namely, the public. I think that all governments have put out various documents at government--in other words, state--expense. I do not see any qualitative difference in what has been done under this Government from what was done under previous governments. I take the noble Lord's point that an Opposition, in trying to make their case, do not have state funding. I think that has been the case for the past 18 years. Occasionally perhaps one should bear such discrepancies with such fortitude as one can presently muster.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, will the noble Lord enlighten me on two points? First, did I understand him to say that the last question in a referendum would be with the Government? If so, that would be bad. I understand that in some of the Quebecois referendums, the question actually put was, "Do you want to be rich and famous and independent in Canada?", which is not a good basis.

My second question concerns American money coming into Northern Ireland. What is the situation when large gifts come in? Are they disclosed, forbidden or welcome?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I did not say that the wording of the referendum question would be a matter for the Government. I said, I believe carefully, that every referendum would still need to be authorised by an Act of Parliament. Therefore the question to be asked in the referendum is a matter for Parliament to decide and not the Government.

I agree that the question put to me by the noble Lord on the lines of, "Do you want to be rich and famous and possibly marry Marilyn Monroe?", is likely to secure a majority rather larger than that in favour of a Welsh Assembly. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord about the question of Northern Ireland. I do not have the answer immediately to hand. As always, I shall put a copy of my response in the Library. I shall do that tomorrow.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am a member of the committee. It gives me great pleasure to welcome my noble friend's Statement. I have not always been able to agree with everything he has said in the past, but I welcome the Government's response to the report.

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The referendum procedure, in spite of some of the criticisms that have been made, certainly deserves very close study. However, I am sure my noble friend will agree that a much fairer procedure is now being recommended than that which we had to endure more than 20 years ago in the 1975 referendum. The government then took an active part, right down to polling day, but pretended that they were an independent factor in the voting procedure. There was a "Yes" campaign, a "No" campaign and a "Government Yes" campaign. That is now being eliminated, I believe to the benefit of and much greater fairness in future referendums.

I have one minor question. Some of the recommendations will discourage large donations. They will not be as forthcoming because people do not always wish to declare them. Therefore, it is important to encourage small contributors to political parties. Have the Government accepted the recommendation that the first £500 of a donation should be tax free?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No, my Lords, we did not accept that recommendation because we thought that that would be state funding under another guise. I believe I repeat the phrase accurately when I say that we have other priorities in that context. I do of course appreciate the argument. However, I believe that sometimes it can be taken too far, as in the context of the United States, where the availability of tax relief can quite significantly distort the political process. I say that as a personal observation and not as a governmental criticism of what is done in the United States.

The fact that we have accepted virtually everything in the report is a tribute to the quality of the work done on it. The arguments and the marshalling of them were so compelling that it was only reasonable to accept them. It is also fair to take a modest degree of criticism--not the halo effect. I think that the noble Baroness has left the Chamber. She thought that my halo had diminished. It is still there. It is a tribute to the Government that we said we wanted to improve the quality of political life in this country and that we were not looking at the matter on the basis of party political advantage. That is the theme of the Statement. The referendum procedure needed to be looked at. Recently we have had more referendums of great constitutional importance, and we were extremely grateful for the recommendations which were brought forward and which we have accepted.

Lord Monson: My Lords, further to the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, which was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, will the Minister assure the House that no individual or group in the Republic of Ireland will be allowed to fund political parties in the north of Ireland if the Republic's territorial claim on the north has not been formally renounced by the time that the proposed Bill becomes law?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is significantly outside the ambit of the White Paper and draft Bill. However, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, who has a keen interest in these matters, knows what has

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happened so far in the Republic of Ireland. I do not believe that he and I could have had this discussion 10 years ago about the surrender of the constitutional claim of the Republic. We should all be extremely supportive of those in the Republic who are modernising their constitution and, much more important, modernising their ways of political thought in an extremely flexible way. They deserve every credit and I believe that those in other parts of the United Kingdom might learn the lesson of flexibility and open-mindedness which our colleagues in the Republic sometimes offer us.

Lord Boardman: My Lords, what will be position of large donations coming from within continental Europe where organisations will be keen to support both referendums and elections with regard to one party or another in the European Union?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I appreciate that there was a good deal of detail in the Statement. The position is that if a company is incorporated in the European Union and trading within this jurisdiction, it will be able to make donations. Those are the dual limits. If the noble Viscount or anyone else feels that an earlier sight of the White Paper would be helpful on similar occasions in the future--sometimes it happens and sometimes it does not--they have only to get in touch with my office and I will do my best to meet their requests.

Greater London Authority Bill

6.27 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Turner of Camden) in the Chair.]

Clause 264 [The spatial development strategy]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 369A:

Page 141, line 27, leave out ("must") and insert ("may")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 369A I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 396B and 420A standing in my name and that of my noble friends. Grouped with the amendments is Amendment No. 424, to which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will no doubt speak.

Clause 264(7) provides that the spatial development strategy must contain diagrams and so on,

    "as may be prescribed by regulations under section 274".

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Our amendments aim to give the mayor some discretion or, one might say, flexibility, with regard to the presentation of the spatial development strategy. The amendments do not at this point seek to deal with the content but seek to allow him or her to present the strategy as he or she wishes, rather than having to comply with regulations as regards the detail of presentation. I have to say that it is very likely that a spatial development strategy would contain diagrams or some other form of illustration, in the narrow sense of illustrating a policy or a strategy, and clearly would have to include some descriptive or explanatory matter. However, I believe that it is for the mayor--and that is the point of the "may" rather than the "must"--to determine how the strategy is presented.

Clause 274 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations about the form and the content of the spatial development strategy. Amendment No. 420A is designed to delete the reference to "content" in those regulations. Having read the debate in another place, I am not entirely sure what "content" means in this context. Clause 274(1) is expressly without prejudice to any other provisions of this part. That seems to be very sweeping and appears to allow the Secretary of State to override primary legislation as to content, which I hope is not the intention. Even if that is not so, it seems to me that it must be a matter for the mayor to determine, within the provisions of the Act, what the content of the spatial development strategy should be.

In another place the Minister in the debate on Clause 274 said that this was in line with the procedures and publicity for structure plans and argued in support of the provision as drafted on that basis. I believe that a reference to "content" takes the matter much further than that. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendment No. 424 is grouped with these amendments. It raises a somewhat separate point. Clause 274 deals with regulations that may be made by the Secretary of State regulating the form and content of and the background to the spatial development strategy. Apart from the principle of the matter, which follows from what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has said, I have no difficulty at all about the Secretary of State regulating to determine what form the spatial development strategy should take. That seems to me to be perfectly straightforward, even if I do not like it.

Clause 274(2) states:

    "Regulations under this Part may make different provision for different parts of Greater London".

I have some difficulty in understanding what different provision for different parts of London has to do with the form and content of the strategy, which is to cover the whole of London. That is why I have put down this amendment, which is in essence a probing amendment, suggesting that the Bill could perfectly well do without Clause 274(2). I look forward to what the Minister has to say in response.

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