Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Tenth Report



ANNEX

HOUSE OF LORDS BILL

Memorandum by the Cabinet Office

1.  This memorandum explains the proposed use of the delegated powers provision in the House of Lords Bill.

OUTLINE AND SCOPE OF THE BILL

2.  The Bill ends membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage. It also removes the existing disqualification of a hereditary peer to vote in elections to the House of Commons and to stand as a candidate for, or be a member of, the House of Commons.

CLAUSE RELEVANT TO DELEGATED POWERS

3.  Clause 4(3) and (4) permits the Secretary of State to make transitional provision about the entitlement of holders of hereditary peerages to vote at elections to the House of Commons or the European Parliament. The order may modify the effect of any enactment or any provision made under an enactment. The order is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

4.  Clause 2 of the Bill removes the disqualification on holders of a hereditary peerage from voting in Parliamentary elections. The disqualification will be removed at the end of the Session in which the Bill is passed. However, the qualifying date for entitlement to vote in parliamentary elections (10 October in Great Britain and 15 September in Northern Ireland) might have been passed before that time, depending on when the Session ends. Those entitled to vote on the qualifying date are included in the electoral register which operates from the following February. If the Session ends after 10 October 1999, existing hereditary peers would not be entitled to vote on that date and would not be included in the electoral register operating from February 2000. They would therefore not be able to vote in elections until February 2001. If necessary, it is intended to make an order to enable hereditary peers to vote in elections from February 2000.

5.  How this will be achieved will in part be affected by the date of the coming into force of the Bill. At this stage it is perhaps not possible to predict precisely the circumstances or the date of the coming into force of the Bill. It is possible that no provision will be required because the Session may end before 10 October. Or, it may be that what is required is a provision deeming hereditary peers to be on the electoral register provided their names were included in the register of local government electors (and disapplying the requirement in section 1(1)(b)(i) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 that a person should not be subject to a legal incapacity on the qualifying date). Alternatively, the order might disapply section 1(1)(b)(i) and allow peers to rely either on the existing procedures to seek rectification of the draft register or if, the date for rectification has passed (16 December) to rely on section 11(2) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and make a claim to a registration officer for a correction in the register. Depending on the route taken, there may be a need to disapply certain provisions of the Representation of the People Acts, for example, if the deeming route was chosen, it may be necessary to provide that deemed entries in the register do not count for the purposes of section 76(2) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 which provides for the calculation of the limit on election expenses based on the number of entries in the register.

6.  It is also intended to exercise the power to ensure that hereditary peers resident overseas can qualify during the transitional period for Parliamentary elections when they would otherwise be unable to satisfy the conditions in section 1 of the Representation of the People Act 1985 because they were disqualified at the relevant time for being peers. For example, because they were not included in an electoral register as is required by section 1(3) of that Act.

7.  The power in clause 4(3) of the Bill allows the Secretary of State to make transitional provision in respect of the entitlement of holders of hereditary peerages and European Parliamentary elections. Peers are currently able to vote in European Parliamentary elections and neither the Bill nor any order made under it will alter this position. It is intended to use the power so as to allow a holder of a hereditary peerage who is resident overseas and who benefits from the transitional provision to be made in relation to Parliamentary elections, to be able to vote in European Parliamentary elections on the basis of his or her entitlement to vote in Parliamentary elections without the need to show entitlement under section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1985 (which makes provision in relation to peers resident overseas and European Parliamentary elections). The power has been taken merely to relieve hereditary peers of the burden of going through two administrative processes.

8.  Clause 4(4) provides for the order to be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. This is intended to reflect the transitional and limited nature of the power. It allows for maximum flexibility to give effect to the rights of hereditary peers to vote in Parliamentary elections from an early date. Not being able to make an order during the period between the end of the Session and the beginning of the following Session may prevent the most appropriate provision from being made. In particular, it may be necessary to act quickly so that the hereditary peers can be included in the register as it is being prepared in November rather than having to have a system of formal claims or registration officers making alterations to the register or publishing claims notices.

9.  In conclusion, the power is a transitional power. It is a tightly defined power and there are only a limited number of ways in which the power can be exercised. It is also a power that affects only a small number of people. However, the main reason for including a power rather than making provision in the Bill is to ensure that the most appropriate arrangements can be made both from the point of view of efficient administration and from the point of view of the convenience of hereditary peers themselves.

Cabinet Office
23 March 1999


 
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