Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Bassam of Brighton: I shall reflect further on the noble Lord's point.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, posed a fair question. I can tell him that Clause 97(4) enables the Secretary of State to make an order defining the referendum period for a Bill still before Parliament. I believe, therefore, that that will cover the point. In other words, it will be up to the Secretary of State to define the time period. Clearly, it would be rather difficult to reach back in time.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. However, I shall read it most carefully in Hansard. I am somewhat puzzled as to the press notice point. As I said in my opening remarks, I accept that a press notice explaining a referendum--the time of opening of the polling stations, and so on--is perfectly legitimate. There is no problem in that respect. However, those of us who have been in government know that government produce many more press notices than those relating to a referendum. Such notices are issued by the press office in answer to points that opponents have made, or criticisms that have been made on whatever policy the Government are pursuing. They generally make the case for the Government's position.

As the Government will be taking up one or other side in a referendum campaign, it seems to me that they will be able to continue issuing propaganda under the guise of a press notice, with no debar on the amount of money that they can spend. However, the other campaigning organisations will be debarred. That returns us to the point that nothing can be made fair in this game. As one of the major players, the Government will be able to play without any limit on their costs up to 28 days before the election, while other organisations will have limits on their costs. That does not seem to me to be fair. I shall study the Minister's response and may return to the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 242K:


On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 242L and 242M not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 242N:


    Page 75, line 25, leave out ("display or distribution").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

24 Oct 2000 : Column 211

[Amendment No. 243 not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 243A:


    Page 75, line 31, leave out from ("means") to end of line 34 and insert ("make available to the public at large, or any section of the public, in whatever form and by whatever means (and "publication" shall be construed accordingly);").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 120, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 243B:


    After Clause 120, insert the following new clause--

DETAILS TO APPEAR ON REFERENDUM MATERIAL

(" .--(1) No material wholly or mainly relating to a referendum to which this Part applies shall be published during the referendum period unless--
(a) in the case of material which is, or is contained in, such a printed document as is mentioned in subsection (3), (4) or (5), the requirements of that subsection are complied with; or
(b) in the case of any other material, any requirements falling to be complied with in relation to the material by virtue of regulations under subsection (6) are complied with.
(2) For the purposes of subsections (3) to (5) the following details are "the relevant details" in the case of any material falling within subsection (1)(a), namely--
(a) the name and address of the printer of the document;
(b) the name and address of the promoter of the material; and
(c) the name and address of any person on behalf of whom the material is being published (and who is not the promoter).
(3) Where the material is a document consisting (or consisting principally) of a single side of printed matter, the relevant details must appear on the face of the document.
(4) Where the material is a printed document other than one to which subsection (3) applies, the relevant details must appear either on the first or the last page of the document.
(5) Where the material is an advertisement contained in a newspaper or periodical--
(a) the name and address of the printer of the newspaper or periodical must appear either on its first or last page; and
(b) the relevant details specified in subsection (2)(b) and (c) must be included in the advertisement.
(6) The Secretary of State may, after consulting the Commission, by regulations make provision for and in connection with the imposition of requirements as to the inclusion in material falling within subsection (1)(b) of the following details, namely--
(a) the name and address of the promoter of the material; and
(b) the name and address of any person on behalf of whom the material is being published (and who is not the promoter).
(7) Regulations under subsection (6) may in particular specify--
(a) the manner and form in which such details must be included in any such material for the purpose of complying with any such requirement;
(b) circumstances in which--
(i) any such requirement does not have to be complied with by a person of any description specified in the regulations, or
(ii) a breach of any such requirement by a person of any description so specified is not to result in the commission of an offence under this section by that person or by a person of any other such description;

24 Oct 2000 : Column 212


(c) circumstances in which material is, or is not, to be taken for the purposes of the regulations to be published or (as the case may be) published by a person of any description so specified.
(8) Where during the referendum period any material falling within subsection (1)(a) is published in contravention of subsection (1), then (subject to subsection (10))--
(a) the promoter of the material,
(b) any other person by whom the material is so published, and
(c) the printer of the document,
shall be guilty of an offence.
(9) Where during the referendum period any material falling within subsection (1)(b) is published in contravention of subsection (1), then (subject to regulations made by virtue of subsection (7)(b) and to subsection (10))--
(a) the promoter of the material, and
(b) any other person by whom the material is so published,
shall be guilty of an offence.
(10) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove--
(a) that the contravention of subsection (1) arose from circumstances beyond his control; and
(b) that he took all reasonable steps, and exercised all due diligence, to ensure that that contravention would not arise.
(11) In this section--
"print" means print by whatever means, and "printer" shall be construed accordingly;
"the promoter", in relation to any material falling within subsection (1), means the person causing the material to be published;
"publish" means make available to the public at large, or any section of the public, in whatever form and by whatever means.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 121 [Other publications to contain details of printer and publisher]:

On Question, Whether Clause 121 shall stand part of the Bill?

Clause 121 negatived.

Clauses 122 and 123 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 244 not moved.]

Clause 124 [Orders regulating conduct of referendums]:

[Amendments Nos. 245 and 246 not moved.]

Clause 124 agreed to.

Clause 125 [Control of donations to candidates]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 246A:


    Page 78, leave out lines 10 and 11 and insert--


("Control of donations to candidates.
71A.--(1) In the case of any candidate at an election, any money or other property provided (whether as a gift or loan)--
(a) by any person other than the candidate or his election agent, and
(b) for the purpose of meeting election expenses incurred by or on behalf of the candidate,
must be provided to the candidate or his election agent.
(2) Subsection (1) above does not apply to any money or other property so provided for the purpose of meeting any such expenses which may be lawfully paid by a person other than the candidate, his election agent or any sub-agent (in the case of an election where sub-agents may be appointed).

24 Oct 2000 : Column 213


(3) A person who provides any money or other property in contravention of subsection (1) above shall be guilty of an illegal practice.
(4) Schedule 2A to this Act shall have effect for the purpose of controlling donations to candidates.
(5) In this section and that Schedule "property" includes any description of property, and references to the provision of property accordingly include the supply of goods."").

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments relates to the control on donations made to candidates at parliamentary and local government elections. I intend to be short in my opening remarks.

It may assist Members of the Committee if I say a few words about Clause 125 and Schedule 15, which are the targets of these amendments. The Representation of the People Act 1983 already requires that a return as to a candidate's election expenses includes a statement of all money, securities and the equivalent of money received by the election agent for the purpose of meeting election expenses. It is desirable that a candidate's return should include clearer information about the source and amount of donations equivalent to that which political parties, and other regulated donees, will be required to disclose. It is also right and proper that all candidates are subject to the prohibition on the acceptance of foreign donations.

In placing these new requirements on candidates, we want to go with the grain of the 1983 Act. Under the Act, it is a candidate's election agent who has overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with the controls on the candidate's election expenses. It is the agent who, after the election, submits a return as to those expenses. It follows that it should be the election agent who is similarly held responsible for ensuring that any donations received by or on behalf of the candidate are from a permissible donor and that the relevant details of the donor are properly recorded. The key amendment in this group is Amendment No. 250B, which achieves just that.

The effect of that amendment is as follows. Where a candidate has appointed an election agent, any donation that he receives should immediately be passed to the agent who will undertake the necessary checks. Where a candidate has either not yet appointed an agent or is acting as his own agent, it will obviously need to fall to him to undertake the required checks. I can deal with the other minor amendments in this group, if noble Lords wish to press me on them. But, in the meantime, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page