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Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, it seems to me that the principals who have taken part in these debates are very much to be congratulated on arriving at this compromise. Normally, I distrust very much the usual channels. I tend to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who once described them as a conspiracy against Back-Benchers and Cross-Benchers. I feel rather ungracious in saying that following the informative speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, so close to me on my left. Nevertheless, on this occasion it seems to me entirely satisfactory that each side has found it possible to concede marginally and we have an outcome which, to my mind, is entirely satisfactory.
The principal reason is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said, it vindicates democracy. Society, after all, is democratic in so far as the mass of its members can influence the decisions which affect them. That cannot be done unless they are informed as to the issues which will affect them. In this case, your Lordships have insisted that the information should be available to the electors who will be affected. That is the main lesson of these debates.
The second point, which relates to what we are to engage in tomorrow, is that this has been achieved in your Lordships' House. It was not even raised in the Chamber which originated this measure. It has been achieved in your Lordships' House and I cannot conceive that it would have been achieved in the other place. Perhaps I may add in relation to that point that the fact that a compromise has been achieved seems to owe something not only to the arguments on each side, though they have been cogent on the Opposition Benches, but also to the relaxed and genial attitude of Ministers in charge of the measure. To some extent that is adverted to by the Wakeham report. It is very important. It is not something which a constitutional academic will notice, but it is an important element in the way that the Wakeham report envisages your Lordships coming to acceptable decisions.
A third important point is that we have now vindicated without question the responsibility and right of your Lordships to challenge secondary legislation. That was a matter of expressed resolution of your Lordships' House in 1994. It was rather disturbing that in the debate on the matter just before Christmas the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, challenged that decision time and again, asserting that there was a convention that your Lordships would not vote against secondary legislation. We owe it very much to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill at an earlier stage when he expressly conceded that your Lordships have such a right. Indeed, your Lordships voted in vindication of such a right. Therefore, I trust that henceforth there will be no question but that your Lordships have power to examine, scrutinise and challenge secondary legislation.
That is not to say that every piece of secondary legislation will be challenged. On the contrary, at the time in the 1960s and 1970s when both parties voted against secondary legislation, it occurred only two or three times in each Session. I should think that, your Lordships' House having taken the attitude that it has in relation to this matter, it will be even less frequent in the future. I would surmise that government draftsmen and departments will be chary of misusing secondary legislation after your Lordships' House has vindicated its right to examine it critically. It is only likely to be exercised where the secondary legislation goes beyond the nuts and bolts of the primary legislation and goes beyond putting into practical effect what has clearly been "blue printed" in the primary legislation. This measure is a good example. It was a challenge, as we
The last matter I would advert to is the question of vires. When the Minister was in charge of the Bill earlier, he quite rightly pointed out that what was envisaged in your Lordships' vote was ultra vires the Bill as it then stood. But it was not ultra vires the Bill as it could be refashioned at Report, we being then in Committee. That is what has happened. It could be done only while the Bill was current before your Lordships' House. But it is a very good example of the flexibility of your Lordships' procedures.
I end by congratulating all those concerned on the result to which we have come. It has a lesson for tomorrow as an example of what your Lordships' House can do and what I think the other place is unlikely to do.
Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, like others who have spoken, I welcome the results of the formal and informal discussions about this issue and welcome them for the procedural and perhaps constitutional reasons which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has just spelt out so eloquently. I welcome the result also because, like the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, I look forward to receiving this amusing booklet. Thanks to our efforts, it will not be a best seller because it will be free, but it may well be read by more people than the noble Lord thinks.
I want to state clearly that, unlike the noble Lords, Lord Peyton and Lord Jopling, I am an unreconstructed supporter of a directly elected mayor for this great city. Nothing that has happened in public and media debates over the past few weeks and months has put me off. On the contrary, it has all proved that this is obviously a very exciting position in which parties and individuals take an unusually strong interest, as do some voters; certainly the one who is speaking now.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has spoken in this debate. He is among those who deserve our warmest thanks for what has happened. I have been listening to him on the subject of regulations for
The noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, is quite right that there are imperfections in the amendment as we see it. The amendment is the result of a real negotiation. Nobody got exactly what he wanted, as one should have expected. On the other hand, when one looks at a horse designed by a committee one asks two questions: first, can it walk? Secondly, can it carry the load to be placed upon it? I am quite confident that in this case the answer to both questions is "yes". All I need do is to thank very warmly everyone from all parties who has taken part in these negotiations and to say that their activities reflect credit on the House and democracy.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will allow me to speak before the Minister so that I may comment on the amendment that he has tabled and the points that he made. In my defence I say to my noble friend Lord Peyton that I give this proposal one-and-a-half cheers, but not much more than that. My granny told me that I should be thankful for small mercies, and that is what I am doing. These small mercies have come about because your Lordships have decided to exercise powers, which this Chamber has always had, in the new House in a way that certainly we on these Benches refrained from doing in the old House. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, rightly reminded us that we have always had that power. I believe that he commended us to use it sparingly in the new House. I trust that we shall not be tempted to do more than that, but to an extent that depends on Her Majesty's Government listening to the signals which are sent to them.
In the discussions both the Government and the combined Liberal Democrat and Conservative sides started off a fair distance apart. The Government, in the person of the Chief Whip and the noble Lords, Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Whitty, listened to our concerns. They attempted to meet some of them and explained why in their view some of our demands could not be met. We are grateful to them and their officials for the part that they played. As usual, I am impressed by the fact that, when given a proper steer, in next to no time officials can produce pages and pages of amendments that can, I believe, work legally. I have some experience of the way that officials work.
In the interests of finding common ground in the discussions, we agreed early on to concentrate on the mayoral elections only. It was perfectly clear to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and me that we would not make any progress at all unless we did that. To begin with, there was a gulf between the Government who did not want any of this and ourselves who wanted a freepost for each candidate, in the same way as each candidate in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe and the other place has a freepost. While that remained my preferred solution, clearly it was not one to which the Government were prepared to listen.
However, the issue of the booklet arose. It started with a request to candidates to send in 200 words to be put into a collage, as it were. We have moved from that to an A5 booklet, which will be considerably more attractive, in which the candidates themselves, within the rules of the Post Office and the schedule, are able to produce what is called camera-ready copy. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in the discussions I learnt a good deal about direct mailing. In future I may not treat with such contempt the material that comes to me which I regard as junk mail and place in the wastepaper basket. I realise now that a good deal of effort goes into collating and producing it so that it can reach me. The booklet is important, and I am grateful for the concession by the Government that if there are fewer than 16 candidates it will have a front and back page. However, it will not be like that; it will have facing pages.
What cheered me most was that very early on we were able to move the Government towards the proposition that the freepost should be aimed at each elector rather than each household. It is probable that that move made us more willing to make progress on the other issues than we would otherwise have been. This afternoon your Lordships have again heard the arguments about the importance of each elector, especially in an urban area like London, receiving this material. Therefore, I am grateful to the Government for arriving at that decision.
Aside from the ever-present ghost of the Treasury, the Government seemed to be haunted by the thought that there would be lots of candidates, not just loose (or unloosed) cannons on the deck like Mr Ken Livingstone advertising their political wares, but also restaurateurs, services and others. On reflection, it occurred to me--to be fair, it was not mentioned--that perhaps the Government's real concern was that every "dot.com" business that wanted to establish itself might nominate itself for mayor and, therefore, have a freepost. I am not convinced that that is ever likely to happen.
If a considerable number of mayoral candidates come forward, even if they do not use the freepost, the Government should start all-party talks about how to prevent the serious business of an election degenerating into farce, with candidates from hither and yon having no real interest in the matter. Clearly, deposits, written support and the signatures of an increasing number of electors before a candidate is allowed to stand provide one way to deal with that.
I understand the legal reasons, and I do not wish to go over them. But I want to ask one question on this issue. In his leaflet can a mayoral candidate draw attention to the fact that there are two other votes on that day: one for the assembly, and one for the top-up? I was unable to check at the weekend in Scotland what happened last time. My recollection is that in the leaflets for the first-past-the post and the top-up the parties played on the two votes--give two Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat or SNP votes. The campaign was: do not separate your vote. Will that be legitimate? It may be technical but it is an important matter. The literature of the mayoral candidates is the only literature people will receive. For example, will Steve Norris and the assembly candidates be able to say, "Vote Conservative, and vote Conservative for the top-up", without naming the candidates? We should be grateful for advice on that point.
I welcome the delivery to every elector. I regret that it will not be an individual leaflet with every candidate responsible for his or her own. The Government have insisted on a joint publication, and on the production and timing. They will have to ensure that they do that. The Post Office will have to deliver the leaflets on time. I presume that it will be the responsibility of the official who delivers to the Post Office to ensure, perhaps better than political parties have managed, that all leaflets are delivered by the Post Office and that bundles are not discovered behind hedges some time after the election is over.
We have made progress. I think that noble Lords can be satisfied at the part your Lordships' House has played in bringing about some common sense on the issue. These elections are unique given the size of the electorate. I believe that we are correct to give the mayoral candidate the opportunity to have his or her case read by each elector. If the Government had
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I listened with interest to the contributions to the debate. I think the feeling of the House is that the Government have done the right thing: I may be wrong. There seems a happy coincidence of views from most corners of the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said that he would give the measure one and a half cheers. Those are more cheers than he usually gives measures which originate from the Government. I guess that we may take that as a compliment.
I particularly enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. He indicates that I am a modest man. I apologise for that. I am very modest. I always have been. It is my nature.
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