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Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, for his very kind words. His arguments were not quite so kind. I am sorry that he felt bad about arguing with me today. I would not know him if he were not arguing with me. I am very grateful for the very kind remarks that he made. Indeed, if I shut my eyes and listen to the noble Lord--I never do that when the noble Lord is speaking--I could have been taken back 12 months or nine months, which seems like an age ago. We were discussing similar points about forthcoming elections that saw the triumphant return to the Greater London Authority of my noble friend Lord Harris and some noble Lords from the Liberal Democrat benches as well.

The effect of Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 would be, as the noble Lord said, to make the order-making power under Section 17A(3) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which relates to the free delivery of election addresses at elections to the Greater London Authority, exercisable only on the recommendation of the Electoral Commission. As the Bill stands, that could only be made after consultation with the commission. The question of a free post provoked a good deal of debate and excitement in your Lordships' House. We are not entirely surprised that the noble Lord sees some minor attraction in taking the matter wholly out of the hands of the Secretary of State.

We do not entirely agree. The provision of free post facilities may involve considerable sums of public money. The commission should be consulted and its view taken extremely seriously as regards the proposed arrangements for a free postal delivery of an election address. However, it must be right that the

20 Nov 2000 : Column 587

government of the day, of whatever political persuasion, is able to take account of the cost implications, which may be very large for such arrangements, before making such an order. Therefore, we believe that the government of the day must be able to modify any recommendation made by the commission if they see fit.

Having been consulted, if the commission were to come to a certain view and the government did not, I do not believe that it would be very long before your Lordships' House had something to say about it which might be fairly unpleasant for whichever government was in power at the time. As regards the noble Lord's amendment, that may be a real safeguard against what he fears is in the Bill at present. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am sorry to dispute with the noble Lord after congratulating him. I was not greatly convinced by that argument. It may be that the Government will get their will on there being no free post without having to come before the House. Therefore, the opportunities which arose earlier in the year which allowed your Lordships to deal with the issue in the way we did, will not arise again. Not only was there some secondary legislation, which, very unusually, we voted against, but there was the Representation of the People Bill in which the Government included the clause which resolved the dispute between your Lordships' House and the Government. Two things happened in a fortuitous way; one a statutory instrument and the other the fact that the Representation of the People Bill was before your Lordships at the same time. I do not see such things happening so fortuitously the next time, if we come to such a position. I do not believe that your Lordships would be in the same position as we were earlier this year.

I noticed that the noble Lord congratulated his noble friend Lord Harris on his election and other noble Lords, looking towards the Liberal Democrat Benches. It may be I am becoming hard of hearing, but I did not hear the noble Lord congratulate Ken. However, as the noble Lord has just been made a Government Minister, no doubt he wants to hang on to that position and knows what is good for him.

Lord Bach: I was talking about the Greater London Authority elections. I do not know whether the noble Lord was listening to me. I was not talking about the mayoral election. Indeed, I am not sure whether this particular amendment is about the mayoral election at all, although the noble Lord spoke about it at length.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I believe that this matter is about election to the Greater London Authority and I suspect that the Mayor had something to do with that. If my amendment was technically flawed, I am sure the Minister would have told me. I have learnt that from Ministers. All the answers appear to be the same as the earlier ones;

20 Nov 2000 : Column 588

namely, the involvement of considerable sums of public money and so on. It would be better if we moved this particular paragraph from Clause 6 to Clause 7. As the Liberal Democrats have been silent on the matter, I cannot resist the temptation to see which Lobby they will enter on this issue. I seek the opinion of the House.

6.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 17) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 92; Not-Contents, 109.

Division No. 4

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Ashcroft, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller]
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chadlington, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Cranborne, V.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Deedes, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Howe, E.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Jacobs, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laird, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Maddock, B.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Montrose, D.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newby, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Onslow, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Shrewsbury, E.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strange, B.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tordoff, L.
Vivian, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warnock, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Windlesham, L.
Young, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Chandos, V.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Mitchell, L.
Molloy, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Nov 2000 : Column 589

6.58 p.m.

Clause 7 [Powers with respect to elections exercisable only on Commission recommendation]:

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]


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