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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I rise in support of the question. The House should realise that, with the time-limits that we have accepted, if the eventuality arose, the mayor would have already been sworn in. I believe that the mayor will be sworn in within 48 hours of the election. In this scenario, he will then, therefore, have been functioning as mayor for nearly two-and-a-half months. Then, on a technicality, the office would come to an end and we would need to have another election. That may very well be, but it seems to me that we should recognise that the mayor should not be eligible to be recognised as the mayor until his return of election expenses has been submitted. Then there would not be the dilemma of somebody having served in the job for a long time and then suddenly losing it. The essay that the noble Baroness is going to write is expanding!

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7 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I shall seek to answer the points raised by some noble Lords, but I crave the indulgence of other noble Lords in allowing me to give a written reply. It is extremely important that, for example, we take up the very valid point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and specify in detail for how long such a period of disqualification would apply. I hope that he will understand that I cannot, off the top of my head, refer to Section 85 of the 1983 Act and slot in the information. It would give me pleasure, and I hope give the noble Lord satisfaction, to write to him in detail on that point.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, there is a question about the period involved. I shall write to the noble Lord if my memory is in error, as it was on a previous occasion in relation to an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but my recollection is that when someone is elected, he or she will take office and assume the responsibilities, and that the disqualification occurs only when there is a challenge to the completed returns. It is my understanding that that situation would apply in this case in exactly the same way. To prevent people taking office until that process has been gone through could lead to an enormous hiatus.

I hope that I have answered some of the points raised. If other noble Lords want to ask detailed technical questions, I shall be only too happy to arrange detailed replies as soon as possible and before we reach the next stage.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, is the noble Baroness going to move the amendments? If she is going to move them before noble Lords have received written replies on the matters that she is going to look into, what will happen if the answers do not satisfy noble Lords, because the amendments will then have been passed?

The amendments have been put down quite late and the Opposition need answers to many of the points. However, the Government themselves need to know a little more about them.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I think the noble Lady misunderstands me. I have now moved Amendment No. 34. I have answered the factual questions raised about the period of disqualification and have stated that somebody takes office immediately upon acceptance of office. I have assured the noble Lords that I shall look into the period of disqualification.

There was a query as to whether 70 days was an accurate period of time. I have undertaken to write to noble Lords, but that is the kind of issue in respect of which we have considered representations from those who act as returning officers and have detailed, professional knowledge. I hope that noble Lords will accept the amendments as moved.

Lord Avebury : My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to deal with a further question when she replies to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas? If, after 70 days, the mayor has failed to submit the election return, does the disqualification come into operation immediately or is it suspended for a further six weeks pending his request for relief under Section 86? I do not have a copy of the Act with me and I do not know

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whether Section 86 already deals with that point, but if it does not, there would be a further period of uncertainty during which the mayor would be carrying out all the functions of office but be under threat of disqualification.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, this is in addition to Section 86, so the answer is that that provision does apply.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, is there a time-limit within which a challenge can be issued after the end of the 70 days, because it is eating well into the mayor's period of office? If it is a matter of weeks or months, it could cause absolute chaos.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, there is a period during which there may be an appeal by the person concerned. My understanding is that that is quite a lengthy period of two years. However, I am being very careful not to state that something is accurate without checking that that is so. I should be much happier if I could write to the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 35 to 41:


Page 216, line 38, at end insert--
(“Publication of time and place for inspection of returns and declarations
.--(1) Section 88 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In the words preceding paragraph (a), after “At a parliamentary election" there shall be inserted “or an Authority election".
(3) In paragraph (a) (which requires publication of notices in at least two newspapers circulating in the constituency for which the election was held) after “the constituency" there shall be inserted “or electoral area".")
Page 216, line 42, at end insert--
(“Schools and rooms for election meetings
.--(1) Section 96 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) (which entitles a candidate to the use of certain premises for holding public meetings in furtherance of his candidature) for “in furtherance of his candidature" there shall be substituted “to promote or procure the giving of votes at that election--
(i) for himself, or
(ii) if he is a candidate included in a list of candidates submitted by a registered political party at an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, towards the return of candidates on that list,".").
Page 216, line 42, at end insert--
(“Bribery
.--(1) Section 113 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (2) (conduct which constitutes bribery) at the end of paragraph (ii) there shall be added “; and
(iii) references to procuring the return of any person at an election include, in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, references to procuring the return of candidates on a list of candidates submitted by a registered political party for the purposes of that election".").
Page 216, line 42, at end insert--

12 Oct 1999 : Column 272


(“Election court for local election and place of trial
.--(1) Section 130 shall be amended as follows.
(2) At the beginning of subsection (2)(b)(ii) (which provides that a person is not qualified to constitute an election court for the trial of a petition relating to a local government area in which he practises) there shall be inserted “except in the case of an Authority election,".")
Page 216, line 42, at end insert--
(“Consequences of election etc of London members being declared void.
.--(1) In section 135 (consequences of local election declared void) after subsection (1) (which provides for a new election in certain cases) there shall be inserted--
“(1A) Subsection (1) above shall not apply in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election (for which separate provision is made by section 135A below)."
(2) After section 135 there shall be inserted--
“Consequences of election or return of London members being declared void.
135A.--(1) This section applies where the election court has made a determination under section 145 below at the conclusion of the trial of a petition questioning the election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election.
(2) Where, pursuant to section 145(6) below, the proper officer of the Greater London Authority receives the copy of the certificate of the election court's determination in relation to the election which was questioned, he shall send notice of the determination to the Greater London returning officer.
(3) If the election is not declared void but--
(a) the return of a candidate at the election is declared void, and
(b) no other person has been declared returned in his place, the vacancy shall be filled (or, as the case may be, remain unfilled) as if it were a casual vacancy (see section 11 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999).
(4) If the election is declared void, a new election shall be held in the same manner as at an ordinary election.
(5) The date of the poll at the new election shall be fixed by the Greater London returning officer.
(6) The date fixed shall be no later than three months after the receipt by the Greater London returning officer of the notice under subsection (2) above.
(7) A new election shall not be held if the latest date which may be fixed for the poll falls within the period of three months preceding an ordinary election.
(8) If the determination of the election court is that the election is void, the Greater London returning officer shall inform the returning officer for each Assembly constituency of--
(a) the contents of the notice under subsection (2) above; and
(b) the date fixed for the poll at the new election.
(9) The results of the elections of the constituency members of the London Assembly at the last ordinary election shall have effect for the purposes of ascertaining the results of the new election.".").
Page 216, line 42, at end insert--
(“Conclusion of trial of local election petition
.--(1) Section 145 shall be amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (1) (which specifies the questions to be determined by the election court) there shall be inserted--
“(1A) In the application of subsection (1) above in relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, for the words from “shall determine" to “void," there shall be substituted “shall determine whether--
(a) the person or persons whose return is complained of were duly returned,
(b) some other person or persons should have been declared to be returned, or
(c) the election was void,".").

12 Oct 1999 : Column 273


Page 216, line 42, at end insert--
(“ Election court determination in respect of election of Mayor or constituency member
. After section 145 there shall be inserted--
“Determination in respect of election of Mayor of London or constituency member of London Assembly.
145A.--(1) This section applies where the election court makes a determination under section 145 above in respect of--
(a) the election of the Mayor of London, or
(b) the election of a constituency member of the London Assembly, and the conditions in subsections (2) and (3) below are satisfied.
(2) The first condition is that the determination of the election court is--
(a) that the person whose election is complained of was not duly elected; or
(b) that the election was void.
(3) The second condition is that the return of that person at that election was taken into account for the purpose of deciding which persons were to be returned as London members of the London Assembly.
(4) Where this section applies, the validity of the return of the London members of the London Assembly shall not be affected by--
(a) the determination of the election court; or
(b) in a case falling within subsection (1)(b) above, the subsequent return of a person as the constituency member for the Assembly constituency concerned.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.


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