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Election Publications Bill [H.L.]


 

These notes refer to the Election Publications Bill [H.L.] as introduced in the House of Lords on 27th March 2001 [HL Bill 41]

ELECTION PUBLICATIONS BILL [H.L.]

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EXPLANATORY NOTES

INTRODUCTION

1.     These explanatory notes relate to the provisions of the Election Publications Bill [H.L.] as introduced in the House of Lords on 27th March 2001. They have been prepared by the Home Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     These notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment none is given.

SUMMARY

3.     The Bill postpones the operation of new requirements relating to the imprint on election publications introduced by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

BACKGROUND

4.     Prior to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 ("the PPER Act") there was a long standing provision in section 110 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 ("the RPA 1983") requiring material promoting or procuring the election of a candidate to include an imprint detailing the name and address of the printer and publisher of the material. There was no equivalent requirement in respect of national election material. The PPER Act made good this omission both in respect of national election material (section 143) and referendum material (section 126). Paragraph 14 of Schedule 18 to the PPER Act also substituted a new section 110 in the RPA 1983 to replace the requirement to name the "publisher" with a requirement to identify the "promoter", as defined (ie. the person who caused the material to be published), and the person on behalf of whom the material is being published (ie. the candidate or third party). The new provisions relating to national material use identical terminology.

5.     These provisions of the PPER Act were brought into force on 16th February 2001 by means of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (Commencement No.1 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2001 (SI. 2001/222). The Government subsequently received representations from the three main political parties that none of them were in a position to comply fully with the new requirements. In particular, doing so would require considerable quantities of election material already printed or commissioned to be abandoned. The Bill responds to such representations by rescinding the commencement of section 143 and paragraph 14 of Schedule 18 to the PPER Act and restoring the operation of the old section 110 of the RPA 1983 in relation to material published on behalf of candidates or third parties at local level.

COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES

Clause 1 : Restoration of previous law relating to election publications

6.     The effect of clause 1 is to undo the commencement of section 143 of and paragraph 14 of Schedule 18 to the PPER Act, and to restore section 110 of the RPA as it applied prior to 16th February 2001. Subsection (1) rescinds the commencement of these two provisions of the PPER Act and provides that they should be deemed not to have come into force. Section 143 of the PPER Act requires that advertisements and other election material designed to promote or procure the electoral success of a registered party or candidates who hold particular opinions must include certain specified information, namely the name and address of the printer, the promoter, and any other person on behalf of whom the material is published. Paragraph 14 of Schedule 18 to the PPER Act substituted a new section 110 of the RPA 1983, which requires the same sort of imprint information as in the case of section 143 of the PPER Act. By contrast, the old section 110 required the name and address of the printer and publisher to appear on election publications intended to promote or procure the election of a particular candidate.

7.     Section 126 of the PPER Act made separate provision in respect of the information to appear on referendum publications. Section 126 also came into force on 16th February 2001. That section is unaffected by this Bill and therefore continues in force.

8.     Subsection (2) restores the old section 110 of the RPA 1983 which is deemed to have continued in force since 16th February 2001. The old section 110 is as follows:

"Printer's name and address on election publications

110. (1) A person shall not -

(a) print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, any bill, placard or poster having reference to an election or any printed document distributed for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate, or

(b) post or cause to be posted any such bill, placard or poster as mentioned above, or

(c) distribute or cause to be distributed any printed document for that purpose,

unless the bill, placard, poster or document bears upon its face the name and address of the printer and publisher.

(2) For the purposes of this section, any process for multiplying copies of a document, other than copying it by hand, shall be deemed to be printing and the expression "printer" shall be construed accordingly.

(3) A candidate or election agent acting in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an illegal practice, and any other person so acting shall on summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

In relation to an election where candidates are not required to have election agents the reference to an election agent shall be omitted and the reference to any person other than the candidate shall be construed accordingly."

9.     Subsection (3) provides that the old section 110 has effect in the form in which it had effect immediately before 16th February, despite the fact that Schedule 22 to the PPER Act repealed an amendment of that section made by paragraph 6 of Schedule 4 to Representation of the People Act 1985.

10.     As a result of the postponement of the commencement of section 143 of the PPER Act no specific imprint requirements will apply to national election material. However, the provisions of the Newspapers, Printers, and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869 continue to operate. Under the 1869 Act "any paper or book whatsoever which shall be meant to be published or dispersed" is required to have the name and address of the printer imprinted on the front (if it is a single sided document) or on either the first or last page (in any other case).

Clause 2: Introduction of new law relating to election publications

11.     Clause 2 enables the Secretary of State to re-commence, by order, section 143 of and paragraph 14 of Schedule 18 to the PPER Act. The order-making power is such that the two provisions may be brought back into force on the same or different days. A new commencement order may contain transitional provisions and savings.

Clause 3: Short title, construction, transitionals and extent

12. Subsection (1) gives the short title of the Bill.

13. Subsection (2) is the interpretation provision.

14.     Subsection (3), together with the further definitions in subsection (4), makes a saving for any material which complied with the new section 110 in the period beginning 16th February 2001 and ending with the date on which the new section 110 is brought back into force. People who have succeeded in making arrangements to comply with the PPER Act provisions will not, therefore, have to change back again.

15.     Subsections (5) and (6) provide that the Bill extends throughout the United Kingdom save in respect of the application of section 110 of the RPA 1983 in relation to local government elections in Scotland. By virtue of section 138(2) of the PPER Act the substitution of the new section 110 did not apply to such elections.

FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL

16.     There will be no additional public expenditure.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER

17.     None.

SUMMARY OF THE REGULATORY APPRAISAL

18.     The Regulatory Impact Unit in the Cabinet Office is content that no Regulatory Impact Assessment is required.

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

19.     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement, before second reading, about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The Lord Bassam of Brighton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, has made the following statement:

In my view the provisions of the Election Publications Bill [H.L.] are

compatible with the Convention rights.

COMMENCEMENT

20.     By virtue of section 4(b) of the Interpretation Act 1978 the Bill comes into force on Royal Assent.

 
 
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Prepared: 28 March 2001