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Lord Dholakia: I thank the Minister for that response. However, that explanation still does not explain the kinds of discrepancies found in the survey. Perhaps it is possible for the Minister to consult mental health bodies in order to relay the concern and see whether something can be done. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 40:


On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 42 and 43:


    Page 19, line 41, leave out from ("shall") to second ("as") in line 43 and insert ("make such alterations in his registers as fall to be made in accordance with section 10A below").


    Page 19, line 44, at end insert--


("( ) In this section "residence" means residence for the purposes of section 4 above.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 44:


    Page 19, leave out lines 45 to 50.

The noble Lord said: Although the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, intends to substitute other words for this amendment, it is probably for the convenience of both myself and the Government if I formally move Amendment No. 44. I beg to move.

14 Feb 2000 : Column 977

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We dealt with the issue in an earlier debate. I believe that we were the odd couple on this, and I hope that we continue to be so. The words are much the same.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 45 and 46:


    Page 20, line 14, at end insert ("in respect of that address").


    Page 20, leave out lines 28 to 35 and insert--


("(5) Where the name of a person ("the elector") is duly entered in a register in respect of any address, the elector is entitled to remain registered in the register in respect of that address until such time as the registration officer concerned--
(a) determines, on the conclusion of a canvass under section 10 above, that the elector was not resident at that address on the 15th October in question, or that because--
(i) the form mentioned in section 10(4) above was not returned in respect of that address, or
(ii) for any other reason, insufficient information was obtained as to whether the elector was resident at that address on that date,
the registration officer is unable to satisfy himself that the elector was then so resident at that address, or
(b) determines, in any prescribed circumstances, that the elector has ceased to be resident at that address or has otherwise ceased to satisfy the conditions for registration set out in section 4 above.
(6) Where the entitlement of a person to remain registered in a register in respect of any address terminates by virtue of subsection (5) above, the registration officer concerned shall remove that person's entry from the register once the officer has satisfied any prescribed requirements applying in relation to the removal of that entry.
(7) Subsection (6) above does not apply if, or to the extent that, regulations so provide in relation to any prescribed circumstances; and regulations may, in particular, authorise a registration officer to retain entries in his registers for the prescribed period if he thinks fit in cases where the form mentioned in section 10(4) above has not been returned in respect of any address.
(8) Nothing in subsection (5) or (6) applies in relation to the registration of persons in pursuance of--
(a) applications for registration made by virtue of section 7(2) or 7A(2) above; or
(b) declarations falling within section 10(3)(b) above.
(9) In this section--
"determines" means determines in accordance with regulations;
"resident" means resident for the purposes of section 4 above.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 48:


    Page 20, line 47, leave out ("(subject to any regulations under section 10(7) above)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 49:


    Page 21, line 20, after ("13A") insert ("or 13B").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton, in moving the amendment I speak also to the other amendments in the grouping.

14 Feb 2000 : Column 978

This group of amendments relates to the correcting of clerical errors which may have been made in the electoral register after the close of nominations at an election. This is an issue which was debated in the other place and these amendments respond to concerns that were expressed there. They also follow discussions which Home Office officials have had with officers of the Association of Electoral Administrators and SOLACE.

We believe strongly that candidates and political parties need certainty about the electoral register that is to be used at an election. They need to know how many and which electors will be eligible to vote. Accordingly, in line with the existing practice, the Bill provides that no changes to an electoral register to be used at an election can take place after the closing date for nominations. The Government believe that Members of the Committee would agree that that is right.

However, it does not seem right that a person should be denied the right to vote as a result of a clerical error made by electoral registration staff. Such errors are likely to come to light only in the course of the election probably because the voter realises that he has not received a poll card. There can be no one in the Committee today who has not experienced such an eventuality during the course of canvassing during an election, and the upset it causes to the voter when he realises that he is not registered. We therefore think it would be right to make an exception to the general rule.

These amendments make it possible for an alteration to an electoral register to be made after the closing date for nominations at an election where the registration officer is satisfied--those are important words--that this is for the purpose of correcting a clerical error in the register. They also allow alteration to a register to be made during an election period following a decision of the courts. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: I have no objection in principle to the amendment, but I have one query.

In a number of places new Section 13B refers to something happening before the date of the poll. Under Clauses 10 and 11 it will be possible to have polls over more than one day. Should not the provision refer to "the date of the poll", or "the first day of the poll" if it takes place over more than one day?

Lord Bach: That may be a good point. I shall consider it and, if necessary, answer the noble Lord's point on Report.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 50:


    Page 21, line 20, at end insert--


("( ) On publication or alteration to the register, any person registered within a borough or district shall have the right to make a challenge to any inclusion, alteration or omission to the said register; and regulations shall apply the provisions of section 56 in respect of any such challenge.").

14 Feb 2000 : Column 979

The noble Lord said: The objective of the amendment is to make clear on the face of the Bill that the present method of challenging the electoral register is to continue in the way currently carried out on the publication of draft registers. Members of the Committee will remember that I explained that one of the major differences between the old and the new systems will be that we shall not have draft registers. We shall have a register on 1st December. That will be "the big bang". Then monthly (except for one or two months) a supplementary register will show the names added to or deleted from the register.

Members of the Committee who have been involved with elections will know that the only point at which challenges can be made to the inclusion of a name on a register is when the draft register is published. However, with a rolling register the position changes dramatically. I believe that with a rolling register we should ensure that we keep the existing system for challenges. That provision should be on the face of the Bill. My amendment would mean that someone could challenge the inclusion, alteration or omission of someone from the register on 1st January, 1st February and so on. When the supplementary roll is published, political parties and individuals could check whether they are included in or omitted from the list.

It would be useful to have clarification on how the Government envisage challenges to work under the new arrangement. While my amendment may not contain the exact words required, the Government may consider it sensible to put on the face of the Bill or in a schedule provision for challenges as the register rolls on. I beg to move.


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