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Baroness Fookes: My Lords, although I feel somewhat disappointed, I am not at all surprised. Having been taught that half a loaf is better than none, I suppose that I should take the quarter-loaf provided by the Minister. In those circumstances, although with some reluctance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 10:



("or in encouraging voting at the elections in question or enabling voters to make informed decisions at those elections.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11 [Revision of procedures in the light of pilot schemes]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 11:


    Page 15, line 7, leave out ("relevant elections of any description") and insert ("local government elections in England and Wales (or any particular description of such elections)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the same time as moving Amendment No. 11, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 12 to 17, and 26. I believe that I can be brief in dealing with these amendments as we had lengthy discussions of the underlying policy issue both in Committee and on Report.

At the Report stage last week, I said that the Government had listened to the strong views expressed in your Lordships' House about the power to roll out pilot schemes and that we had paid particular attention to the views of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I said that, as a consequence, we would bring forward amendments to limit the extent of the roll-out power in Clause 11 to local elections only. These amendments give precise effect to that commitment.

As your Lordships are aware, another Bill (currently being considered in another place) will establish a role for the Electoral Commission in the instigation and roll-out of pilot schemes. Therefore, we feel that that, coupled with our amendment, should provide all the necessary safeguards in rolling out new initiatives. With those few words, I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, these amendments result from the Government's decision to accept the recommendations in the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. I expressed the gratitude of these Benches for the Government's

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decision to do that because it seemed to us a matter of considerable constitutional importance. We had that debate on the last occasion and I merely repeat my gratitude to the Government for accepting the point.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I too welcome the amendments. As your Lordships made clear in Committee, it was felt that the Government should take on board the powerful recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. At that stage, the Government were rather reluctant to move but I suspect that the events in relation to the London mayoral election showed the Government that we were serious. I also like to think that those of their Members who were in the other place realised that your Lordships took the view that the Government should listen to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. The Government have done that and I warmly welcome it. I only hope that that is a precedent for the future and that we shall no longer have to rattle the cage in Committee if the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee suggests that the Government have gone beyond what is reasonable.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their warm congratulations. I was grateful also on Report for assurances, with caveats of course, that because flexibility has been lost by putting Clause 11 on one side, they may feel minded to assist us if and when we bring forward legislation to have national roll-outs of some of the pilots which we have seen through successfully in local government and which have worked well. I am grateful to noble Lords for their support in these matters.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 12 to 17:


    Page 15, line 10, leave out ("enactment)") and insert ("provision of an Act, including this Act)").


    Page 15, line 11, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert--


("(2) An order under subsection (1)--
(a) may except from the operation of any of its provisions any local government area specified in the order; but
(b) subject to that, must make the same provision--
(i) in relation to local government elections, or
(ii) if it applies only to a particular description of such elections, in relation to elections of that description,
throughout England and Wales.").


    Page 15, line 31, leave out (", or district electoral,").


    Page 15, line 32, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2)").


    Page 15, line 35, at end insert--


("( ) Rules made under section 36 of the 1983 Act (local elections in England and Wales) may make such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in connection with any provision made by an order under subsection (1).
( ) Nothing in this section shall be taken as prejudicing the generality of any power contained in any other Act to make subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978) with respect to elections of any description.").


    Page 15, line 36, leave out subsection (7).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

6 Mar 2000 : Column 831

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Assistance with voting for persons with disabilities]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 19:


    Page 17, line 4, after ("orally") insert ("or in writing").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is almost identical to that moved on Report by my noble friend Lord Ashley. I pay tribute to him. He has fought many battles on behalf of the disabled and I am sure that he will chalk this up as another victory on what is already an extremely impressive roll of honour.

As your Lordships will be aware, the Bill extends the right to be assisted in voting by a companion from the blind to others with a physical disability which prevents them from voting unaided and those who are unable to read. People who wish to be assisted with voting by a companion are required to make an oral declaration to the presiding officer that they need or want such assistance.

On Report, my noble friend drew our attention to the problems that that may pose for the profoundly deaf who are able to communicate only by means of sign language. This amendment overcomes that by allowing declarations to be made in writing. So I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Ashley for focusing our attention on this problem. I am sure that as a consequence, many people will feel indebted to him.

This is an important amendment, small as it is, and we believe that it should make a significant contribution to providing a more inclusive voting system so that all feel that they can happily participate in elections, whether they be local, national or European. I beg to move.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I express warm appreciation to my noble friend. This amendment will help a number of profoundly deaf people who use sign language and who otherwise, without this amendment, may well have been disenfranchised.

I emphasise that the Minister's rejection of this amendment at the earlier stages was not due to an error of judgment. It was due entirely to a misunderstanding between us which has now been resolved. I am extremely grateful to him for his speedy response and for acting as quickly as he did. I thank him very much indeed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 20:


    Before Clause 14, insert the following new clause--

("Miscellaneous
FREE DELIVERY OF ELECTION ADDRESSES AT GREATER LONDON AUTHORITY ELECTIONS

.--(1) The Greater London Authority Act 1999 shall be amended as follows.
(2) After section 17 there shall be inserted--
"Free delivery of election addresses.
17A.--(1) Each candidate at the first election of the Mayor shall be entitled (subject to and in accordance with the provisions of

6 Mar 2000 : Column 832

Schedule 3A to this Act) to have an election address prepared on behalf of the candidate included in a booklet of election addresses--
(a) prepared by the Greater London returning officer; and
(b) sent by that officer, by post, to each elector in Greater London.
(2) In subsection (1) above "elector", in relation to the election mentioned in that subsection--
(a) means a person who is registered in the register of local government electors for an electoral area in Greater London on the last day for publication of notice of the election; and
(b) includes a person then shown in any such register as below voting age if (but only if) it appears from the register that he will be of voting age on the day fixed for the poll.
(3) The Secretary of State may by order make such provision as he considers appropriate for and in connection with enabling candidates--
(a) at ordinary elections other than the first such election, or
(b) at elections to fill vacancies in the office of Mayor or Assembly member,
to have their election addresses (within the meaning of the order) delivered, at the Authority's expense, by the Post Office or by any other means specified in the order.
(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3) above, an order under that subsection may make provision--
(a) for free delivery of election addresses to be available under the order only in the case of any specified description of election falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of that subsection or within section 2(7) above;
(b) for enabling the Authority to determine the descriptions of elections (if any) in the case of which free delivery of election addresses is to be so available;
(c) for regulating in any respect the form and manner in which free delivery of election addresses is to be so available;
(d) for restricting the number of separate mailings in respect of the free delivery of election addresses, whether--
(i) by limiting the number of separate election addresses by reference to any specified circumstances, or
(ii) by requiring the preparation of a single document incorporating all the election addresses to be delivered on behalf of candidates at a particular election,
or otherwise;
(e) for imposing conditions which must be satisfied by any candidate or candidates seeking to avail themselves of free delivery of election addresses under the order;
(f) for authorising election addresses falling to be delivered under the order to be disseminated by such means (other than those by which they are to be so delivered) as may be specified;
(g) for securing that civil or criminal liability in respect of material contained in any election address falling to be delivered under the order (including any such liability arising in connection with any dissemination of the material in pursuance of paragraph (f) above) is incurred only by the candidate on behalf of whom it falls to be so delivered or his election agent.
(5) In subsection (4) above--
"free delivery of election addresses" means the delivery of election addresses, in accordance with an order under subsection (3) above, at the Authority's expense;
"specified" means specified in an order under subsection (3) above.

6 Mar 2000 : Column 833


(6) Before making an order under subsection (3) above the Secretary of State shall consult--
(a) the Mayor and the London Assembly; and
(b) such other persons and bodies as he may determine to be appropriate.
(7) Schedule 3A (which makes provision supplementing subsection (1) above) shall have effect."
(3) In section 420(3) (orders under specified provisions to be subject to affirmative parliamentary procedure), before paragraph (a) there shall be inserted--
"(za) section 17A(3) above,".
(4) The provisions set out in Schedule (Free delivery of election addresses at first GLA mayoral election: New Schedule 3A to the Greater London Authority Act 1999) shall be inserted as Schedule 3A to the Act.").

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


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