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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I believe that the period is considerably longer. However, I hope to be more specific than that and I shall write to the noble Baroness with a detailed response.

It is difficult to make a judgment. We take the matter seriously in terms of a desire to operate to the highest standards. Seventy days is a reasonable period, and it is right that disqualification would follow. This will be a different kind of election from that for a constituency in terms of the complexity of ensuring that election expenses are accurate. The area is larger and there is a need for parties to be accurate within that. For that reason, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will overcome any hesitation he may have, and agree that to reduce the period below 70 days could lead to a degree of hastiness.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, does she agree that, in the days of properly programmed computers, it should not be difficult to keep the period to the original figure of 35 days?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. However, I remind the House that the situation is unique in the sense that, under the Government's policy, candidates will be able to stand for election both to the assembly and as mayor. For that reason, it is extremely important that adequate time--not

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too great a period, but adequate time--is given to ensure that election expense returns are accurate to the highest possible standard.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I think I should have intervened before the Minister sat down. If the Minister considers it important that a period of 35 days does not appear to be enough, how is it possible that the provision has only just now appeared before us in this amendment? The Bill has gone through the House of Commons--through its Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading. It has been through Committee here. Why have the Government decided, with very little notice, that they want to change the provision to 70 days? This is a matter that could have come forward much earlier.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, we have ensured, in great depth, that comments received from a wide variety of sources--not only during the passage of the Bill in Parliament but also from sources outside--have been taken into account. I would say particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, that this Government seek to be a listening government. In that context, I hope that she will agree that it has been wise for us to have listened carefully and to have taken particularly into account representations that have been made concerning the complexities involved for those who may stand as candidates in two simultaneous elections.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, would she be kind enough to write to tell me what those representations have been?

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 31:


Page 216, line 35, at end insert--
(“( ) In subsection (1) (declaration by agent) for “the form in Schedule 3 to this Act" there shall be substituted “the appropriate form".
( ) In subsection (2) (declaration by candidate) for “the form in that Schedule" there shall be substituted “the appropriate form".
( ) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted--
“(2A) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) above, “the appropriate form"--
(a) in the case of the election agent for the candidates on a list submitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1999 Act (election of London members) by a registered political party, is the form set out for the purpose in rules under section 36(2A) above;
(b) in the case of any of the candidates included in such a list, is the form set out for the purpose in those rules; and
(c) in any other case, is the form in Schedule 3 to this Act.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

12 Oct 1999 : Column 268

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 32:


Page 216, line 38, at end insert--
(“( ) After subsection (5) there shall be inserted--
“(5A) Where one of the candidates included in a list submitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1999 Act (election of London members) by a registered political party is the election agent for those candidates, the declarations required by subsections (1) and (2) above shall instead be modified as specified in the form set out in the rules under section 36(2A) above.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 33:


Page 216, line 38, at end insert--
(“Penalty for sitting or voting where no return and declarations transmitted
.--(1) Section 85 shall be amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted--
“(2A) As respects Authority elections--
(a) subsections (1) and (2) above shall not apply in relation to a candidate in an election of the Mayor of London (for which separate provision is made by section 85A below);
(b) in the case of any other Authority election, the reference in subsection (2)(a) above to the council for the local government area for which the election was held shall be taken as a reference to the London Assembly; and
(c) in the case of a candidate included in a list submitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1999 Act (election of London members) by a registered political party, the references in subsection (1) above to the returns and declarations in respect of election expenses shall be taken as references to the declaration as to election expenses by the candidate.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 34:


Page 216, line 38, at end insert--
(“Disqualification where no return and declarations transmitted after Mayoral election
. After section 85 there shall be inserted--
“Disqualification where no return and declarations transmitted after election of Mayor of London.
85A.--(1) If, in the case of any candidate at an election of the Mayor of London, the return and declarations as to election expenses are not delivered before the expiry of the time limited for the purpose, the candidate shall be disqualified from being elected or being the Mayor of London or a member of the London Assembly.
(2) Any application under section 86 below by such a candidate for relief in respect of a failure to deliver the return and declarations as to election expenses must be made within the period of 6 weeks following the day on which the time limited for their delivery expires.
(3) A disqualification under subsection (1) above shall not take effect unless or until--
(a) the period specified in subsection (2) above for making an application for relief under section 86 below expires without such an application having been made; or

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(b) if such an application is made, the application--
(i) is finally disposed of without relief being granted; or
(ii) is abandoned or fails by reason of non-prosecution.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, here again we have come to an interesting part of this group. This amendment proposes that if the mayor, unlike the assembly members, is found not to have handed in his election expenses within the requisite time, he shall be disqualified; he will not merely be suspended. As I understand it from the noble Baroness, further amendments in this area are to be tabled.

At this stage I would appreciate receiving from the Government an exposition of exactly what they believe will happen should this matter come to pass, and indeed, how they believe it might come to pass. What will constitute an undelivered set of election expenses? One could dream up any set of election expenses and submit it, but presumably that would not count. I assume that the election expenses would have to be accurate. If one reached the position where the election expenses of the mayor were in some way called into question, presumably it would be extremely difficult for any government of London to carry on until the matter was resolved. It may be that at that point the mayor has been disqualified and that actions by or on behalf of him would become--questionably--void.

The situation is odd and it is not one that occurs in parliamentary elections in which the Government and Parliament take the decisions. However, the mayor in this town will have a very particular position. If his or her election expenses are queried in this way, and he or she is therefore seen to be likely to be disqualified, until that rather lengthy and tortuous procedure is settled (we have seen that in parliamentary election cases), the whole government of London will be called into question. I should like to understand exactly how this provision might be triggered, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to take me through the sequence of what would happen. I hope to understand the consequences for the government of London of a mayor who is first suspected of having produced incorrect expenses and is then eventually found to have done so. How would that be handled? It may be that this will need to be set out in a letter. However, I should appreciate a little essay on the subject from the noble Baroness this evening, if that is possible.


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