The Government received many representations to this effect and I would like to make it clear, as I have done on previous occasions, that this Bill does not amend the controls on third parties that each incur controlled expenditure as part of a coalition. In addition, only coalitions that incur expenditure that can, in the phrase we have been using,

“reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure the electoral success”,

of political parties or candidates are regulated and will continue to be regulated. Those rules are necessary and I will take a moment to clarify their operation.

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Section 94(6) of PPERA requires that if two or more third parties work together to incur expenditure to a common plan or arrangement, the entirety of the expenditure they incur as part of that coalition must count against each third party’s individual spending limit. However, it is also important to be clear about what is not caught.

5.45 pm

Organisations working together as coalitions on campaigns unrelated to electoral success would not be considered as working together for the purposes of PPERA. Make Poverty History is a very good example of that. The test is, as I said, whether their activities can,

“reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure the electoral success”,

of political parties or candidates. I hope noble Lords agree that the rules on coalitions are a necessary anti-avoidance measure. If third parties in a coalition did not have to count each other’s expenditure they would be able to evade the spending limits by splintering into many groups.

The Electoral Commission has also expressed its support for these rules, believing them to be necessary. I refer noble Lords to the Electoral Commission’s briefing before Committee stage, in which the current rules were described as,

“a vital element of the controls on election spending. Without these controls, individuals or organisations could spend unlimited sums of money by arranging for multiple ‘front’ organisations to campaign on the same issue. This would undermine the fundamental principle of controlling non-party campaigning”.

The Government agree with this sentiment but accept that small campaigners, by which I mean those that only incur small amounts of money when campaigning, should not be subject to unduly burdensome controls. That should be the case across the regime and, in relation to other aspects of the Bill, the Government have already tabled amendments intended to remove burdens from small campaigners.

I shall now explain how government Amendment 39 would work in relation to third parties that operate in coalitions. The Government cannot take full credit for this amendment, as it is inspired by and based on that put forward in Committee by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. I am grateful to him, to my noble friend Lord Tyler and to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, who also tabled amendments to the rules on coalition working in Committee, which led to a very useful and fruitful discussion. Other than some consequential changes, government Amendment 39 leaves unchanged the current Section 94(6) rules on coalition campaigning.

Instead, Amendment 39 introduces an entirely new provision. It has the effect that a third party can nominate another third party, one it is in a coalition with, to act as a “lead campaigner”. The original third party would then become a “minor campaigner” and provided that certain conditions are met, the minor campaigner would not then in any way be required to account for either its own expenditure or that of the wider coalition. Reporting to the Electoral Commission would be done only by the lead campaigner for its own expenditure and that incurred by the minor campaigner. The conditions that must be met before minor third

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parties can benefit in this way from the provision, are, first, that the minor third party’s expenditure must have been incurred as part of a common plan under Section 94(6); that the lead campaigner must notify the Electoral Commission of this arrangement and provide details of the minor campaigner before any expenditure has been incurred; and that the minor campaigner may not itself spend more than the limits that apply to the registration thresholds, either as part of this or another common plan, or independently.

It is on this last point that this amendment differs from that put down in Committee by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. The government amendment allows minor campaigners also to participate in one or more coalitions and campaign independently alongside. They must just ensure that they do not, across the various types of campaigns, incur total spend above the registration thresholds. Lead and minor campaigners would, of course, have to agree among themselves appropriate arrangements to ensure that the minor campaigner provided the lead campaigner with the necessary information for it to report, but I hope that this give some assurance to noble Lords that the Government have seriously considered the impact on small campaigners and taken steps to remove unnecessary burdens.

The Government believe that this amendment gives campaigners greater flexibility and better reflects the way that campaigners in coalitions operate in practice. I hope that noble Lords will accept that this amendment goes quite some way to addressing the concerns of those campaigners and that the smallest campaigners will not be unduly burdened with administrative obligations. I should add that the Government intend to bring forward several clarifying and consequential amendments to this provision at Third Reading. As noble Lords will know, it was a moving feast, and while we do not intend to alter the policy, the drafting can spell out more clearly the Government’s intention that there should be no restriction on there being more than one lead campaigner in an arrangement, and that the lead campaigner would report only for any minor campaigner it had identified in a notice. We think that this provides the flexibility that campaigners seek.

We also intend to make it clearer that a lead campaigner that has notified the Electoral Commission of this arrangement can supplement that notice to identify further minor campaigners. As I said, these clarifying measures are needed to ensure that the drafting of this amendment has the effect sought.

There are two further government amendments in this group, Amendments 63 and 64, which relate to Amendment 39. These are minor amendments, which make consequential amendments to the third-party reporting rules. I shall respond to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Tyler after he has spoken. In the mean time, I beg to move.

Lord Tyler: As my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace has said, I and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and my noble friend Lord Cormack have a subsidiary but quite important additional amendment, Amendment 39A. I am sure that all four of us welcome the recognition

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that my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace has given to the fact that the 2000 Act—this is not about this Bill; it is about the 2000 Act—has caused real problems for any organisations that were encouraged to work together in what were then called coalitions. Since then, the term “coalition” has gained a different connotation, so perhaps we should talk just about “working together”. The way in which this matter was handled in 2000 has caused real concerns. I know from reading


that this confusion was caused at the last minute by a government amendment during the Committee stage of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill, as it then was, in this House.

It is curious that, over the years since 2000, very few of us seem to have heard of the problems that were caused by those provisions. Neither the Electoral Commission nor the Charity Commission ever came forward and said that these matters needed review and either repeal or revision. However, we now know, because a large number of organisations have been in touch with many Members of your Lordships’ House saying that this is a real practical problem—hence the Government’s amendment, which is excellent so far as it goes. However, as I shall seek to explain in a moment, there is one additional problem which I hope my noble and learned friend will be able to say he can look at again, since, as he just said, there will be some additional clarification at Third Reading.

As my noble and learned friend has said, the new provisions should be a major help to smaller players in those joint campaigns, ensuring that others can account for their spending, but the approach in Amendment 39 does not go quite far enough. The fundamental problem with the so-called coalition arrangements in the 2000 Act is as follows. If, let us say, Friends of Earth intends to spend £300,000 on a campaign about climate change and does so in coalition with, for example, Oxfam, which contributes £25,000, under PPERA both are deemed to have spent, or to plan to spend, £325,000. Clearly, that is absurd, because that would mean that Oxfam, which had contributed only £25,000 to that campaign, might well then be precluded from doing anything else on other issues, which it is clear was not intended by the 2000 Act and which, I hope, is not something that we would intend to do today.

To prevent people working together and therefore having to multiply the spending limits under the 2000 Act by a factor equal to the number of organisations involved seems to be most peculiar. Removing the rules altogether would create another new loophole. I keep saying to colleagues in the third sector, “We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t increase flexibility for what we think is a good cause only to create a loophole for much less meritorious campaigning activity”. However, what is unfair about the rules is not that some spending on common campaigns is counted together to prevent an overall breach of the limits but the fact that spending by one organisation on one campaign can then restrict the campaigning of another organisation on a totally different campaign. In my example, Oxfam would be deemed to have spent £325,000 not just for the purposes of that climate change campaign but for all purposes. It would then be very close to the

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limit, which would then mean that it would have to worry about whether any of its other spending on, let us say, development targets could,

“reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”,

of a party or candidate.

If that organisation’s trustees believe that the future spending could be so regarded, they would be left with a very small amount of headroom in the national spending limit even though they had contributed a relatively small amount of money to the tune of £25,000. Therefore, £25,000 spent on climate change would mean very little room left for spending on other development targets. I am sure your Lordships will see that that would not be just and right and does not meet the objectives either of the existing law or of this Bill.

Our Amendment 39A would build on the progress made by the amendment moved by my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace in setting out the principle that there should be an overall cap on spending by any one joint campaign or by any one individual organisation. However, new subsection (6B) proposed by my amendment states that,

“expenditure by a third party within the limits set out in Schedule 10 in pursuance of any matter unrelated to an arrangement and which could not reasonably be regarded as intended to achieve a purpose common to an arrangement”,

should not be so restricted by the coalition rules in PPERA 2000.

The amendment would provide for some affected organisations a silver lining in the passage of this Bill. In short, it would remove a very unjust element of the existing law which has caused quite unintended problems for many non-party campaigners. Their arrangements would be improved immeasurably. The amendment would also improve significantly what the Government have so far managed to come up with. I hope that my noble friends will recognise that the problems with the 2000 Act are considerable. This was one very specific problem that was caused to a large number of organisations. I hope therefore that before Third Reading, when, as my noble and learned friend has already indicated, there has to be some further clarification and therefore amendment of the set of amendments that he is putting before the House today, he could look also at this additional problem, which otherwise will go unresolved and continue to cause considerable difficulty for all sorts of organisations.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for the government amendment, which is a positive response to the suggestion put forward in our commission’s report, as he acknowledged. I have added my name to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. I shall not repeat the reasons that he has already put forward, but it is an important amendment for charities and campaigning groups generally because they do a huge amount of campaigning not just with one coalition but with a whole series of coalitions. For instance, aid agencies may be engaged in a coalition on overseas aid and, at the same time, be engaged in a coalition on climate change. That is the way in which they work.

I want to make a point that has not been made so far in any of these debates. It concerns the fundamental purpose of this part of the legislation and whether it

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will achieve what the Government hope. The purpose of the legislation at this point is to stop front organisations drawing on large sums of money to distort campaigning, but I suggest that the legislation as we have it now will not have that effect. Let us take a hypothetical example. Six very strong anti-Europeans have dinner together. They have access to large amounts of money from various sources. They go away to different parts of the country and they decide to start six different campaigning organisations under different names. But, in fact, everybody knows that their purpose is to get Britain out of Europe. Would they be caught by this legislation? No. I have read carefully the briefing note presented by the Electoral Commission, which says that you are not working together—that is, you are not engaged in co-ordinated campaigning—if you have informal discussions with other campaigners but do not discuss your plans with them in any detail—all this party will have done is have dinner together; if you speak at an event organised by another campaigner but do not participate in other ways—they could even speak at each other’s events; and if you do not consult other campaigners about what you should say in your campaign or how you should organise it. However, it goes on to say that you can sign a joint letter together. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will take seriously the fact that the legislation as it now stands will not have the desired effect of stopping big money coming in and using front organisations. We firmly support the intent but we do not think that the Bill will achieve it.

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My particular concern is that this will have a cramping effect on charities and campaigning groups, even with the government amendment and even if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, is accepted. I beg the noble and learned Lord, if not now, before Third Reading, or at least as part of the examination of how the legislation works afterwards, to try to engage in some lateral thinking. We have not been able to come up with anything satisfactory so far; neither have the Government. We must be able to engage in some lateral thinking to stop what we and the Government want to stop without at the same time cramping the co-ordinated coalition campaign which is so important to charities.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con): My Lords, I intervene very briefly. I tabled an amendment on coalition working and I am very grateful to the Government for adopting this way forward.

The other issue that charities raised frequently was the question of nil returns. I know that we shall come to nil returns later under government Amendments 81 and 89, but that, I hope, will cross-ruff into this amendment. In other words, we will make sure that when the new rules for coalition working come in charities will be able to take advantage of the nil return provisions, which the Government properly propose in Amendments 81 and 89. I should be grateful for the Minister’s clarification on that.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): I, too, welcome the government amendments and repeat something that I have said on earlier occasions about the importance of

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getting the issues about coalitions right in relation to the criminal justice system. If you look at the transforming rehabilitation revolution, you will find that the Government are trying to encourage coalitions to take on the supervision of offenders. They consist of a large number of different organisations, private and voluntary, and it is important that they are crystal clear on anything to do with coalitions before they are formed to take on that very important public work.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, I detect self-restraint in the House at the moment, and I know that we need to move on rapidly, but I just wanted to say a word in support of Amendment 39A. I have to repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said earlier about the value of charities generally within the political system and the role of networks, which have become so important and have been encouraged by government. If the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, were here—she could not be here today—she would explain how the Government were siding with charities all the way through the 1980s and 1990s to achieve consensus with coalitions. The idea of attacking even the larger coalitions seems to be against the Government’s own policy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said on an earlier amendment that a lot of damage had been caused by Part 2, but it must also be said that the Bill has strengthened the charities in opposition to it. That must be a force for good. But one damaging effect of the Bill, which was not intended by the Government, is that if it is unamended, many charities will become more wary in their campaigning. They will in many cases withdraw from the front line. I have been 40 years in charities and church organisations attending party conferences. What would they all be like without those charities displaying their wares, and so forth?

I know that the Government have come quite a long way to meet the smaller charities, but I do not think that they have moved far enough. The noble and learned Lord should recognise the injustice of netting so many legitimate activities just to catch one or two miscreants who would probably be recognised anyway in the context of a local constituency. Charities are usually pretty visible in what they do. The Electoral Commission itself says that we are talking only about a small number. Although the numbers add up and may increase, we are all in danger of exaggerating the number involved. It is the sledgehammer effect.

Surely, when there is disaffection with elections generally and with mainstream politics and politicians, we want more awareness among the public of the range of current non-party political issues. The amendment leads us in the right direction.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, I rise briefly to support Amendment 39A and, in doing so, very much welcome Amendment 39 introduced by my noble and learned friend. In Committee, I drew on my personal experience of being involved in coalitions of charities both previously and currently. It is very important —Amendment 39A achieves this—that even small and medium-sized charities are not restricted to being involved in only one coalition. I end by giving the example of when I was chief executive of a charity in

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the field of family relationships. At any one time, with a very small amount of money, we would be involved in a campaign to do with children and young people, a campaign to do with domestic violence, and a campaign to do with older people and the role of grandparents. All of those were important activities. We could never have done that ourselves; we simply did not have the money. That is why Amendment 39 is so important.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I expressed appreciation for those who have welcomed Amendment 39, not least my noble friend Lady Tyler, because—I do not say this in any critical way—that is where we have managed to build on the amendment moved in Committee by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. It would allow smaller charities, without reaching the threshold limit, to engage in a number of different campaigns.

I respond to the example used by my noble friend, and to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, about the kind of campaigning that charities are doing. My noble friend talked about promoting grandparents’ rights, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has a passionate interest in rehabilitation issues. As he said, the Government have encouraged the work of coalitions. One has to remember that to be subject to controlled expenditure, a campaign must fall within the definition set out in Clause 26. I honestly do not believe, without a huge leap of imagination, that the valuable work done by coalitions to promote the rehabilitation of offenders or grandparents’ rights could be interpreted as seeking the election or promotion of a particular party. By no stretch of the imagination could a reasonable person think that that was intended to secure the promotion of a particular party or candidate in an election. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, raised similar concerns.

The overwhelming amount of campaigning by charities will not fall within the definition of controlled expenditure here. I hope that that gives some reassurance, because I recognise the sincerity with which these concerns are expressed. Work that is being done to promote rehabilitation in prisons cannot be seen in any way as falling within the ambit and scope of activity that would bring it within PPERA-regulated controlled expenditure.

My noble friend’s amendment is intended to allow third parties that set up a coalition to move away from the common plan rules by allowing that coalition to have both its own spending limit and separate, individual spending limits for the members of the coalition. The coalition will be able to spend up to the national limit, and its members will also be able to spend up to the national limit on activities not taken forward as part of the common plan.

My noble friend was right to point out that the issue we are grappling with here has been in place since 2000; I accept that the range of activities increases under the Bill, but the problem has been with us since the outset. I point out that under existing legislation, there is nothing to stop a coalition establishing itself as a distinct third party. This allows the organisations and their members also to campaign on separate issues individually, with a separate spending limit.

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The Electoral Commission has been very clear on this point, both in its guidance and in its evidence to the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement. That evidence gave the example of a lead campaigner which runs the coalition’s campaign and authorises its spending. Only the lead campaigner would be required to register with the Electoral Commission. Contributions to the coalition campaign from other third parties will be treated as donations or donations in kind to the campaign. In the words of the Electoral Commission,

“this means that the ... campaigners do not need to register themselves or report anything themselves to the Electoral Commission”.

Those campaigners would therefore be able to continue to campaign independently, too, to the maximum spending limit.

However, the Electoral Commission also made it clear in its Report stage briefing that it cannot support this particular provision. It noted that the amendment,

“would allow an individual or organisation to spend substantial amounts campaigning on an unlimited number of issues, as long as they are working together with someone else in each of those campaigns. For instance, someone could spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on each of a series of campaigns with others that attack different aspects of a political party’s manifesto in the run-up to an election”.

For example, it could be that you have an energy company that went into campaign with other energy companies, set up a coalition in favour of fracking and supported candidates who would support that. It could spend up to, say, £300,000 on that. Quite separately, under my noble friend’s amendment, it could be engaged in another campaign, with other participants, in which it tried to promote onshore wind power and could spend up to £300,000 on that. I am sure that that is not the intention of what my noble friend is proposing, but I fear that might well be the result his amendment would have.

I know that my noble friend has worked hard on this—as have many people—to try to find the right way to deal with this coalition issue. I do not believe that his amendment would have an effect that was helpful; and, as I indicated earlier, it is possible for a coalition to set itself up as a third party in itself. In these circumstances I invite my noble friend not to press his amendment, as it may have consequences that he does not intend. However, I hope we have indicated to the House, through the amendment that the Government have brought forward, that they have listened, have grappled with the issue and have built upon the amendment proposed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, in Committee.

Amendment 39 agreed.

Amendment 39A not moved.

Schedule 3: Controlled expenditure: qualifying expenses

Amendment 40 not moved.

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Amendments 41 to 44

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

41: Schedule 3, page 57, line 9, leave out “other public meetings or events (other than” and insert “other public events, other than—

(a) ”

42: Schedule 3, page 57, line 10, after “party” insert “, or

(b) any public procession or protest meeting, within the meaning of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, in respect of which notice is given in accordance with section 6 or 7 of that Act (advance notice of public processions or related protest meetings)”

43: Schedule 3, page 57, line 14, at end insert—

“But expenses in respect of such events do not include costs incurred in providing for the protection of persons or property.”

44: Schedule 3, page 57, line 14, at end insert—

“1A (1) Nothing in paragraph 1 extends to—

(a) expenses incurred in respect of the publication of any matter relating to an election, other than an advertisement, in—

(i) a newspaper or periodical,

(ii) a broadcast made by the British Broadcasting Corporation, by Sianel Pedwar Cymru or by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation, or

(iii) a programme included in any service licensed under Part 1 or 3 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 or Part 1 or 2 of the Broadcasting Act 1996;

(b) expenses incurred in respect of the translation of anything from English into Welsh or from Welsh into English;

(c) reasonable personal expenses incurred by an individual in travelling or in providing for the individual’s accommodation or other personal needs;

(d) reasonable expenses incurred that are reasonably attributable to an individual’s disability;

(e) expenses incurred in respect of the provision by any individual of the individual’s own services which the individual provides voluntarily in the individual’s own time and free of charge.

(2) In sub-paragraph (1)(d), “disability” has the same meaning as in the Equality Act 2010 (see section 6 of that Act).”

Amendments 41 to 44 agreed.

Amendment 45

Moved by Lord Harries of Pentregarth

45: Schedule 3, page 57, line 14, at end insert—

“Exclusions of background staff costs

1AA Nothing in sub-paragraphs (3) to (5) of paragraph 1 shall be taken as extending to any expenses incurred in respect of remuneration or allowances payable to any member of staff (whether permanent or otherwise) of the third party.”

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, this amendment is very important for campaigning groups and charities, but I can move it very briefly: it is quite clear and simple.

First, let me say that the charities and campaigning groups, as part of the commission, very much support the aim both of transparency and accountability, and with that aim in mind support the extension of activities that should be regulated and are set out in new Schedule 8A. This amendment is about removing the background staff costs from those activities in sub-paragraphs (3) to (5) of that schedule. They refer to press conferences

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and media events; transport costs, when those are directed towards obtaining publicity—for instance, a campaign bus; and public rallies and other meetings.

We agree that all those should of course be brought into regulation, but this amendment is about excluding the background cost: that is, the cost of the member of staff of the third party. That is not primarily on cost grounds, but because of the additional bureaucracy that it would involve. How do you delineate the amount of time that the staff member spends—let us say, on mounting a public rally—from the amount of staff time they spend on their campaigning work anyway?

It is easy to assess the amount of money you are going to spend on hiring the hall for a public rally; you get an invoice for that. You do not get an invoice for a member of staff or the 10% of their time spent over four weeks doing that. Therefore, we think that the best thing to do is eliminate the background staff costs from the regulated costs in those three areas. It should be noted that the Electoral Commission recommends the removal of all staff costs, at least for the 2015 election. We are not going as far as that; we refer only to the background staff costs in relation to these three activities that are being brought into regulation. I beg to move.

6.15 pm

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I strongly support the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, on this amendment. Indeed, we had very co-operative discussions about how best to tackle this problem. I am grateful to him and, indeed, to others who effectively endorsed an amendment we tabled in Committee on this crucial issue.

Given that there was much quotation of the Electoral Commission’s advice earlier, it is important that it has very explicitly said that Amendment 45 offers some advantages over the current position in the Bill. With this amendment, at least, we have that endorsement.

As I said in Committee, the Electoral Commission actually thinks that counting staff costs for political parties’ election expenses would be an appropriate way to proceed. Of course, that is not in front of us today; it may be for another day and another Bill. For the purposes of this Bill, the NGOs have been dealing with a considerable problem: namely, that the Bill includes not only staff costs on direct campaigning but what are called “background costs”.

As my noble friend will no doubt point out, staff costs for non-parties are already regulated for the production and distribution of election material. Our amendment suggests that this should continue but that costs should also be accounted for if they are incurred in direct relation to canvassing voters. In that context it seems that it would not be very difficult to identify the particular costs; equally, however, we do not want to increase the difficulties that could be caused by burdensome regulation on background costs that are not in any way so easy to account for. For example, the costs in relation to organising meeting rooms, travelling to a venue or setting up a press conference might be a matter of a few minutes of somebody’s time—and therefore, for many small organisations, a considerable absurdity.

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Bluntly, I do not think that anyone cares if a policy officer, whose job for the rest of the year is something completely different, spends a little time booking a room for an election rally, or incurs costs travelling to it. These matters cannot be said to be likely to greatly affect the outcome of an election in that particular area, or nationally. However, if the regulations go through without us thinking about the implications, they could unnecessarily tie up campaigners in accounting for their time—and, worse still, could deter some from campaigning at all.

As was said so forcibly earlier, there are many organisations in this country—and thank God for them—that rely entirely on time being given voluntarily to this sort of activity. Would it be necessary to try to cost that time, or would it be difficult, in any case, whether they were employed or volunteers? Many a charity and many a non-charity would find that totally inconsistent with the Government’s intention of avoiding unnecessary spending on unnecessary bureaucracy.

This amendment, along with some of the others, helps the Government to do what they say they want to do. I hope, therefore, that my noble and learned friend will be able to find some way of making a sensible compromise on the whole issue of staffing costs.

The Government have moved sensibly in so many ways to try to meet the concerns and anxieties about the so-called chilling effect that many of us have understood to be the case with organisations with which we are involved. Many noble Lords are active members of charities and non-charities that do such important work in civil society today. Surely, the last thing that we want to happen is for the time, energy, enterprise, inventive activity and, indeed, the cost of those organisations to be unnecessarily distorted by new bureaucracy of the sort that could occur. Therefore, I very much hope that the Government will see that this is a sensible compromise on the whole issue of staffing costs.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, I have attended a number of meetings which the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has convened and I, for one, am extremely grateful to him for the leadership that he has given and the amount of time he has devoted to the Bill over the past few months. Last week, following those meetings, I met with the chief executive officers of two important charities. I do not intend to name them because I did not say that I would, but when I asked them, “If we could get only one amendment through the House next week, where would your priority be?”, they said that it would be on staffing costs.

Any regulations imposed as a result of the Bill should be clear, simple and, above all, fair. The problem with this is that we would be faced with regulations that would be far from clear or simple, and which would most certainly not be fair. Because I do not want to take the time of the House when we have already had a clear and brief exposition from the noble and right reverend Lord, all I will say is: let us this evening make sure, as far as we can, that that clarity, simplicity and fairness is in the Bill.

I, too, am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness and to the other Lord Wallace, my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire,

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who we are all delighted to see back—but I urge them to go this one further step. They have done a great deal to try to make a bad Bill better; they can take another step this evening.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, the inclusion of staffing costs is hugely burdensome for large and small campaigning organisations. We have heard that tonight and we have all received e-mails and had discussions with campaigning organisations. Like the Electoral Commission, our preference would be for all staffing costs to be taken out for the 2015 election period. However, we recognise that this is an excellent compromise and I urge the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, to accept it. Later on this evening the noble and learned Lord will be putting a review into the Bill, which could be an opportunity to revisit these things, so I very much hope that he will accept the amendment.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for his amendment, because I, too, recognise that this issue has been regularly raised in many of the meetings that we have had—as did my noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. The noble and right reverend Lord’s amendment seeks to exclude those staff costs associated with staff directly employed by a third party from the calculation of controlled expenditure for transport, press conferences and organised media events, and for public rallies and public events.

The starting point is to recognise that the PPERA Act 2000 has always required third parties to account for staff costs. I acknowledge that the Bill extends the range of activities that may incur controlled expenditure; these are the activities that the noble and right reverend Lord seeks by his amendment to remove from staff costs. The Bill seeks to retain the need for staff costs to be included. As I said, I recognise that there has been concern, first, over the unfairness of third parties having to account for these costs when political parties do not. I think that my noble friend Lord Tyler mentioned that. Secondly, there has been concern about the difficulty for third parties in calculating the staff time attributable to activities giving rise to controlled expenditure.

On the issue of third parties having to account for these costs while political parties do not, your Lordships will be aware that when Parliament passed the 2000 Act it felt that it would be transparent and proportionate for a third party to account for staff time. This was on the basis that a third party undertakes campaigning activities other than simply political campaigning, and where a third party enters into political campaigning its spending for those purposes should be fully transparent. I am sure that that was the underlying thinking behind the 2000 Act. I would at least hope that someone who is employed by the Liberal Democrats during an election is actually working for the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, I am sure that the other parties would hope the same on behalf of their staff. It is as transparent as it possibly can be.

Regarding the concerns of third parties over the difficulties associated with calculating staff time, this is an existing element of the regulatory regimes. Its operation in the last two general elections, alongside

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Electoral Commission guidance on this, highlighted that such costs can be accounted for without becoming overly burdensome. The Electoral Commission takes a proportionate approach in current guidance to the calculation of controlled expenditure, including staff costs, by clearly stating that third parties should make an honest assessment of the costs that need to be reported.

I have shared with a number of the groups which have come to see me since Committee the fact that we did examine whether it would be possible to put in a de minimis exemption. Quite frankly, having seen what its terms would be, it would give rise to more concern about legal definitions than it merited, particularly if we had a de minimis exemption in statute. That would make it much more difficult for the Electoral Commission to take that proportionate approach to the calculation of controlled expenditure which it has done through its guidance.

It should also be noted that with the increases in the registration threshold the smaller organisations to which my noble friend referred, be they charities or campaigning organisations, will not be subject to regulation and the need to calculate staff costs. The best way of addressing the de minimis question is by what we have done in raising the threshold and taking so many of these organisations outwith the scope of controlled expenditure altogether.

My noble friend quite properly paid tribute to the work done by volunteers, not only for charities but for so many campaigning organisations. In many respects, they are the people who make the wheels of campaigning and democracy go round. However, volunteer costs will continue to be excluded from the calculation of controlled expenditure. In Amendment 44, which the House has just agreed, volunteer costs are excluded from the calculation of staff costs by virtue of paragraph 1A(1)(c) of new Schedule 8A. They were excluded under the existing regime, but it is important to emphasise that volunteer costs will also be excluded under what we are proposing. There is a world of difference between volunteer costs, which will be excluded, and the great advantage that there can be to candidates or political parties of third parties putting paid staff into campaigning activity in constituencies, or into running media events, press conferences or rallies.

The result of the amendment proposed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, would be to exempt that kind of expenditure associated with paid staff being moved in at the time of an election to facilitate the electoral advantage of a particular party or candidate. It is for that reason that the Government do not feel able to accept the noble and right reverend Lord’s amendment, and I invite him to withdraw it.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I am disappointed with the noble and learned Lord’s reply. This was a very simple step that the Government could have taken to ease the regulatory burden on charities and campaigning groups. It is disappointing. He stressed the fact that staff costs were already in PPERA. With due respect, that is no good reason for continuing them, if we have an opportunity to improve that Act and make it not just workable but one which eases the burden on charities and campaigning groups.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 283

The Minister stressed that the Electoral Commission had found it possible to regulate this, but the fact is, as he knows, that charities and campaigning groups find this whole area very burdensome. I really do not see how the Electoral Commission can possibly police this area and work out what percentage of the time has been allotted, let us say, to the mounting of a public rally. What kind of receipts or statements is it going to get from the charity concerned? I am afraid that I find it very disappointing and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

6.29 pm

Division on Amendment 45

Contents 236; Not-Contents 193.[The name of a Member who voted in both Lobbies has been removed from the Division Lists.]

Amendment 45 agreed.

Division No.  1


Aberdare, L.

Adams of Craigielea, B.

Adonis, L.

Ahmed, L.

Allan of Hallam, L.

Allen of Kensington, L.

Alli, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Andrews, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Berkeley of Knighton, L.

Berkeley, L.

Best, L. [Teller]

Bichard, L.

Blackstone, B.

Boateng, L.

Boothroyd, B.

Borrie, L.

Bragg, L.

Brennan, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brookman, L.

Browne of Belmont, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Butler of Brockwell, L.

Butler-Sloss, B.

Campbell of Surbiton, B.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Carter of Coles, L.

Chandos, V.

Clancarty, E.

Clark of Windermere, L.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Condon, L.

Cormack, L.

Corston, B.

Coussins, B.

Craigavon, V.

Crawley, B.

Crisp, L.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Derby, Bp.

Donaghy, B.

Donoughue, L.

Drake, B.

Dubs, L.

Eatwell, L.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Evans of Parkside, L.

Falkland, V.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Fellowes, L.

Finlay of Llandaff, B.

Flather, B.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Gibson of Market Rasen, B.

Glasman, L.

Golding, B.

Goldsmith, L.

Goudie, B.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Grantchester, L.

Grenfell, L.

Grey-Thompson, B.

Griffiths of Burry Port, L.

Grocott, L.

Hannay of Chiswick, L.

Hanworth, V.

Hardie, L.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollick, L.

Hollins, B.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 284

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Hope of Craighead, L.

Howarth of Breckland, B. [Teller]

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Stretford, B.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Chesterton, L.

Hylton, L.

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Jay of Paddington, B.

Joffe, L.

Jones of Moulsecoomb, B.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jones, L.

Kakkar, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kerr of Kinlochard, L.

Kidron, B.

Kilclooney, L.

King of Bow, B.

Kingsmill, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kinnock, L.

Kirkhill, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Laming, L.

Lawrence of Clarendon, B.

Layard, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Leitch, L.

Liddle, L.

Lipsey, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Low of Dalston, L.

Luce, L.

McAvoy, L.

McConnell of Glenscorrodale, L.

McDonagh, B.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Mallalieu, B.

Martin of Springburn, L.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

Meacher, B.

Mendelsohn, L.

Mitchell, L.

Monks, L.

Moonie, L.

Morgan of Drefelin, B.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan of Huyton, B.

Morris of Aberavon, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Morris of Yardley, B.

Neuberger, B.

Newcastle, Bp.

Northbrook, L.

Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.

Palmer, L.

Pannick, L.

Patel of Bradford, L.

Patel, L.

Pearson of Rannoch, L.

Pendry, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Plant of Highfield, L.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prescott, L.

Prosser, B.

Quin, B.

Radice, L.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Ramsbotham, L.

Rea, L.

Rees of Ludlow, L.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Rendell of Babergh, B.

Richard, L.

Robertson of Port Ellen, L.

Rooker, L.

Rosser, L.

Rowe-Beddoe, L.

Rowlands, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

St John of Bletso, L.

Sandwich, E.

Sawyer, L.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Skidelsky, L.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Smith of Finsbury, L.

Snape, L.

Soley, L.

Stern, B.

Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, L.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stoddart of Swindon, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Sutherland of Houndwood, L.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Taylor of Warwick, L.

Temple-Morris, L.

Teverson, L.

Tomlinson, L.

Tonge, B.

Touhig, L.

Trees, L.

Triesman, L.

Truscott, L.

Tunnicliffe, L.

Turnberg, L.

Turner of Camden, B.

Tyler, L.

Uddin, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Walpole, L.

Warner, L.

Warnock, B.

Warwick of Undercliffe, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

West of Spithead, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Whitty, L.

Wigley, L.

Wilkins, B.

Williams of Elvel, L.

Williams of Oystermouth, L.

Wills, L.

Winston, L.

Wood of Anfield, L.

Worthington, B.

Young of Hornsey, B.


Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 285

Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Avebury, L.

Baker of Dorking, L.

Balfe, L.

Barker, B.

Bates, L.

Benjamin, B.

Berridge, B.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Blencathra, L.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Borwick, L.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bridgeman, V.

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Browning, B.

Burnett, L.

Caithness, E.

Carlile of Berriew, L.

Cathcart, E.

Chadlington, L.

Colwyn, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Courtown, E.

Crickhowell, L.

Cumberlege, B.

De Mauley, L.

Deben, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dholakia, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Doocey, B.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Edmiston, L.

Elton, L.

Empey, L.

Erroll, E.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Faulks, L.

Feldman of Elstree, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fink, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Fowler, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Glentoran, L.

Goodlad, L.

Goschen, V.

Green of Hurstpierpoint, L.

Greenway, L.

Grender, B.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Henley, L.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Higgins, L.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Hooper, B.

Horam, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howe, E.

Howell of Guildford, L.

Humphreys, B.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jenkin of Roding, L.

Jolly, B.

Jones of Cheltenham, L.

Jopling, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Kirkham, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Knight of Collingtree, B.

Kramer, B.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lester of Herne Hill, L.

Lexden, L.

Lindsay, E.

Lingfield, L.

Liverpool, E.

Livingston of Parkhead, L.

Loomba, L.

Lothian, M.

Lucas, L.

Lyell, L.

Lytton, E.

McColl of Dulwich, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

McNally, L.

Maddock, B.

Magan of Castletown, L.

Mar and Kellie, E.

Marland, L.

Marlesford, L.

Montrose, D.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Moynihan, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Newlove, B.

Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.

Noakes, B.

Northover, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O'Cathain, B.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

Paddick, L.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Parminter, B.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Phillips of Sudbury, L.

Plumb, L.

Popat, L.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Randerson, B.

Rawlings, B.

Redesdale, L.

Ridley, V.

Risby, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.

Roper, L.

Ryder of Wensum, L.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 286

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sharkey, L.

Sharp of Guildford, B.

Shaw of Northstead, L.

Sheikh, L.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shipley, L.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Smith of Clifton, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Steel of Aikwood, L.

Stewartby, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Storey, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Suttie, B.

Taverne, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L.

Tope, L.

Tordoff, L.

Trimble, L.

True, L.

Ullswater, V.

Verma, B.

Wakeham, L.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wheatcroft, B.

Whitby, L.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.

Wrigglesworth, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

Amendment 45A not moved.

6.45 pm

Clause 27: Changes to existing limits

Amendment 46

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

46: Clause 27, page 14, line 42, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

“(1) Section 94 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (limits on controlled expenditure by third parties) is amended in accordance with subsections (1A) to (1E).

“(1A) In subsection (3), for paragraph (a) (but not the “and” after it) substitute—

“(a) during a regulated period—

(i) any controlled expenditure is incurred in a part of the United Kingdom by or on behalf of a third party in excess of the limit for that part of the United Kingdom mentioned in subsection (5), or

(ii) any controlled expenditure is incurred in a particular parliamentary constituency by or on behalf of a third party in excess of the limit mentioned in subsection (5ZA),”.

(1B) In subsection (5)—

(a) in the opening words, for “(3)” substitute “(3)(a)(i)”;

(b) in paragraph (a), for “£10,000” substitute “£20,000”;

(c) in paragraph (b), for “£5,000” substitute “£10,000.”

(1C) After subsection (5) insert—

“(5ZA) The limit referred to in subsection (3)(a)(ii) is 0.05% of the total of the maximum campaign expenditure limits in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

(1D) In subsection (5A) for “(5)” substitute “(5ZA)”.

(1E) In subsection (10), omit the “and” at the end of paragraph (c) and after paragraph (d) insert—

“(e) the “maximum campaign expenditure limit” in a part of the United Kingdom is the limit imposed by paragraph 3 of Schedule 9 in relation to campaign expenditure incurred in the relevant period (within the meaning of that paragraph) by or on behalf of a registered party which contests all the constituencies in that part (and to which sub-paragraph (6) of that paragraph does not apply).””

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, one of the aspects of the Bill that has received considerable attention and debate during our discussions, not only in your

15 Jan 2014 : Column 287

Lordships’ House but with campaign groups, relates to the registration thresholds, spending limits and constituency limits.

On registration thresholds, the point has been made repeatedly that small campaigners who do not incur much expenditure would be brought into the regulatory regime. This would, it has been claimed, impose undue administrative burdens on organisations that are not equipped to handle those responsibilities.

Noble Lords will recall that the Government have been considering this issue for some time. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire gave a commitment on the first day in Committee that the thresholds would be revised. Extensive debate in Committee followed, at which representations were made to either revert to the existing PPERA thresholds, or to raise them further. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hodgson and to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for leading that highly useful debate.

The Government have considered this matter and the appropriate level for registration thresholds further. Amendment 46 proposes to raise the levels to £20,000 in England and £10,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, has tabled an amendment proposing those levels be set at £20,000 for each constituent part of our United Kingdom. I simply observe that the Government’s amendment represents not only a substantial increase from the levels currently in the Bill, but reflects the original structure where the amounts were higher in England than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, no doubt due to the fact that there is a substantially greater number of constituencies and voters in England than in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, this is still a significant increase not only for England, but for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and it doubles the current registration thresholds in PPERA.

These thresholds will effectively exclude from the controls those campaigners who incur only small amounts of money. They will be able to campaign as they currently do, secure in the knowledge that unless they spend a substantial amount of money on controlled expenditure, they will not be subject to any aspect of the regulatory regime.

Bearing in mind what not only noble Lords but people outside sometimes hear in general debates or see in e-mails, it is also important to point out that these are thresholds for registration. It has sometimes been represented that there are limits on what organisations can spend, but the thresholds for registration are consistent with our objective of promoting transparency and accountability. We are maintaining the constituency limit of £9,750 throughout the regulated period to prevent a third party focusing a significant amount of its spending power on a small part of the United Kingdom.

Amendment 46 also specifies that, where a third party spends £9,750 in a constituency, it must register with the Electoral Commission. This is to ensure that the offence of spending more than £9,750 in a constituency is fully effective. I know my noble friend Lord Tyler is particularly interested in that point. As constituency limits apply only in relation to regulated periods involving

15 Jan 2014 : Column 288

a parliamentary general election, so the constituency threshold will have effect only in relation to such periods. We recognise that the current draft does not accurately reflect this, and the Government will accordingly bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to correct that.

In contrast, my noble friend Lord Tyler has proposed that rather than require a constituency registration threshold of £9,750, the registration threshold should be only £5,000. Reintroducing a lower constituency threshold than £9,750, as proposed by my noble friend, would only reinsert an extra layer of bureaucracy and confusion, particularly as the Government have also tabled Amendment 53, which would remove a post-dissolution limit of £5,850. The government amendment means that campaigners may spend the entire £9,750 throughout the regulated period, or just in the last few weeks before the election. Having just one constituency limit will be a much more straightforward and easier regulation to follow.

Finally, on spending limits, campaigners and Members of your Lordships’ House have sought to retain third parties’ spending limits at either the existing PPERA amounts, or even beyond those. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, were clear on this point when we addressed this issue in Committee. The spending limits in the Bill for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have particularly concerned campaigners. It has been argued that third-party campaigning in any part of the UK generally has a fixed cost; leaflets, for example, cost the same whether printed in Wales or England, and billboards cost the same, whether they are placed in Scotland or Northern Ireland. As a result, the spending limits for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were felt to be disproportionately low. It is with that in mind that government Amendment 47 would uplift those limits by an extra £20,000 each. This would mean that there would be a spending limit of £55,400 in Scotland, £44,000 in Wales and £30,800 in Northern Ireland.

The Bill proposes spending limits for each of the parts of the UK which add up to £450,000. It is important to remind your Lordships that while these limits were initially to be over not quite a year—from the day after the European elections—if your Lordships approve our amendment which we will debate later, these will apply over the length of the reduced seven-and-a-half-month regulated period, which is also reflected in another government amendment. In fact, therefore, there is a larger amount in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over a shorter period. Indeed, the amount for England is over a shorter period.

I have previously sought to explain that considerable amounts of campaigning can still be undertaken for that amount. In Committee, I gave the example of £390,000 buying a campaigner 40 million leaflets, a dozen front-page adverts in a national newspaper or even 780,000 telephone calls from a professional phone bank. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these government amendments as a whole will lead to a substantial increase in the registration thresholds and a significant uplift to the limits in the Bill for campaigning by third parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 289

I note that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has further amendments on spending limits. I will respond to them when I wind up. I beg to move.

Lord Hardie (CB): My Lords, before speaking to the amendment in my name, I thank the Government and the noble and learned Lord the Advocate-General for listening to the concerns from all sides of the House about the original proposal in the Bill to reduce the existing thresholds for registration as a recognised third party. The government amendment addresses these concerns and, rather than reducing the limits, they have accepted that the limits should be increased. It is appropriate that tribute is paid to the efforts made by the Government and the noble and learned Lord.

However, Amendment 46 does not address the anomaly that I mentioned in Committee, caused by having different registration thresholds for England and the rest of the United Kingdom. My amendment would remedy that by having the same registration thresholds throughout the United Kingdom. I noted that the Minister suggested that the distinction between England and the rest of the United Kingdom was the larger number of constituencies and voters. It is important to appreciate that there is a distinction that should be drawn between total expenditure by third parties in each constituent part of the United Kingdom, as against expenditure limits that determine whether the third party is required to register for recognition.

I accept that a distinction must be drawn between the various countries when one considers the total expenditure by a recognised third party in each country. That distinction reflects the number of parliamentary constituencies in each country and the greater number of voters in England than in any of the other three countries. That is the point that has been addressed since the 2000 Act, and is preserved in that Act, notwithstanding the amendments, in paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 10.

However, the threshold for registration is different. There is no justification for distinguishing between the different countries in this respect. The distinction was introduced in the 2000 Act, which followed the fifth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the funding of political parties in the United Kingdom, which was presented to Parliament in October 1998. I referred to this in Committee and will not repeat these references. However, in Committee I explained that that report and the Government’s response to it never suggested any distinction between the different countries. There was a reference in a footnote which suggested that the reduced figure of £10,000 across the United Kingdom might be more significant in the three countries other than England, but it did not go as far as suggesting that there should be a difference.

I have been unable to find any subsequent explanation for halving the limit of £10,000 allowed for England in the other countries of the United Kingdom. I do not understand the need for a distinction when it comes to the threshold for registration. It is illogical and risks inhibiting local people from engaging in effective political debate about issues that are of concern in their

15 Jan 2014 : Column 290

constituency at a crucial time in the electoral process, by imposing upon them what my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth described at Second Reading as a,

“bureaucratic burden on small charities or campaigning groups, especially during the actual election period”.—[

Official Report

, 22/10/2013; col. 914.]

For example, suppose that a local hospital is threatened with closure and a group of individuals in the constituency wish to make this an issue at the general election but stop short of fielding their own candidate. If some candidates in that election support the retention of the hospital while others do not, the expenditure by the local group will be controlled expenditure. If this occurs in England, the pressure group can spend £20,000 before the need for registration and the administrative burden that entails, but if it occurs in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, it can spend only £10,000. The expenses of running such a campaign in Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish constituencies will be similar to those in many English constituencies. Do the Government seriously suggest that the cost of transport to meetings or venues of meetings in every English constituency is double that in any constituency elsewhere? In his reply, will the noble and learned Lord the Advocate-General explain the justification for this distinction?

My final point is that my amendment is not academic. Apart from being fair to all people across the United Kingdom who wish to campaign in the course of a general election about a matter of local importance to them, there is also a question of perhaps greater significance: that the consequences of not registering but exceeding the registration threshold are a criminal offence under Section 94 of the 2000 Act. Why should electors face prosecution in Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast for spending £6,000 on a campaign without registering as recognised third parties but have immunity in Newcastle for identical activity?

7 pm

Lord Tyler: I have a separate amendment in this group. We all welcome the way in which my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire and my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness have responded to the request for an increase in the registration thresholds. This was a key recommendation of the commission headed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and it certainly deserved to be listened to.

In this last-minute change to the Government’s position, however, there is one new outstanding problem. The interaction between the national thresholds for registration and the constituency limits in the Bill simply do not hold together. As we will discuss in the next group, I believe very strongly that the constituency limits are a very important part of this Bill. Indeed, I am sure Members on all sides of your Lordships’ House are aware that if we did send back to the other place a Bill that did not deal with this point, many people there would think that we were not doing our duty.

For the constituency limits to be effective, those who spend at a constituency level will surely need to make an expenses return about what they are spending. The rules in the 2000 Act and in the Bill rightly also ask where the money is coming from. There is, however,

15 Jan 2014 : Column 291

a problem. As the Bill will stand in the light of these new government amendments, someone could be spending £9,750 in a constituency, or indeed could spend £19,500 across two English constituencies, yet would not have to register. The registration limit is now raised to £20,000, and therefore that spending and its sources would be totally opaque. It would not be transparent even though £9,750 could have a significant impact on the constituency result.

In my own amendments on thresholds in Committee, I suggested that this problem could be dealt with by stipulating that the threshold should be at a particular level which would take that into account. The Government have chosen £20,000, and that is fine, except that all the spending could be concentrated in one target marginal constituency. A group could spend a significant sum—I am suggesting £5,000 in my amendment—all in one place. Surely in those circumstances it should have to register.

The Government’s answer has been that somebody who spends more than £9,750 in one constituency will be committing an offence under their proposals. If that someone does not have to register, because he is below the new registration threshold, how can anyone know that he is committing that offence? I cannot think—and I know a little bit about these things—of any other part of electoral law in which someone who is subject to a spending limit is yet not required to produce any paperwork on what he is spending. Introducing that concept now would make for a completely absurd anomaly.

Lord Cormack: Will the noble Lord not agree with me that there would be more logic in having a figure that was close to that which an individual candidate is entitled to spend? No individual candidate is entitled to spend as much as £20,000 in any constituency in the United Kingdom.

Lord Tyler: My noble friend is right. He and I have relatively recent experience of these things. The normal figure is around £12,000 during the election period. As I will come to in a moment, that could be swamped under these proposals, and therefore this is an absurd anomaly. I understand why the Government have arrived at their position. Their formula sounds simple, but it may be so simple as to be unequal to the task in hand. Equally, the move in Amendment 53 to do away with different limits for constituency spending seven months before an election, and constituency spending seven days before, seems to me to lose what is an important and not particularly complex distinction in the name of simplicity—and I am not sure the Government have got this right.

I ask the Minister to consider carefully the horror story that could emerge. Imagine: a campaigning group could come into a constituency and spend £19,999.99 in the last seven days of the campaign with the aim of affecting the outcome in that constituency, and it would not need to register. A second group, unrelated to the first, could, during those seven days, do the same. It would not register. A third group, unrelated to the other two—not a coalition, not working together— could do the same. In the last few days of a campaign

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in a marginal constituency, just under £60,000 could be spent, completely swamping the amount permitted for a candidate and a party, which is around £12,000, in one constituency. The candidates are, as I say, limited in those final four to six weeks.

Because this spending would not be registered, it might not be revealed until after polling day. Think of the mess that that would cause to our electoral law. Because such groups, though technically in breach of the law, would not need to register, no one would be any the wiser about what they had been up to. My noble and learned friend has said that he is looking at this section with a view to some clarification, and I think he will have to agree that there is a major loophole looming in front of us. I therefore request that he look carefully at Amendment 46ZA. He may find a better solution but a solution must be found, otherwise political parties and those who will be looking at this legislation when it goes back to the other place will not have seen this particular problem, because until now the registration threshold has not been so high. It is only under the present Government’s changes in this House that it has been raised to this height.

I hope that my noble and learned friend will be able to give some reassurance to those of us on all sides of the House who are concerned about such spending that the Government are not prepared to accept this loophole.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, Amendment 46A in my name concerns the spending cap for England. First I would like, on behalf of the commission, to warmly welcome the raising of the registration thresholds by the Government. I think that has done more than anything else to reassure the smaller charities; we give the Government a very warm thank you. We also warmly welcome the raising of the spending cap for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The spending cap for England, unlike that for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, has been reduced by 60%. That reduction has taken place with an increase in the number of activities to be regulated and without taking inflation into account.

It is true that not many campaigning groups and very few, if any, charities would spend a high figure coming anywhere near that. The one I have checked that does spend quite a lot of money is Hope not Hate, which campaigns against racism all over the country. It is not a charity but a campaigning group. In 2010 it spent £319,231. That is very nearly the limit for England as we have it under the Bill, which is £319,800.

There was no evidence of abuse with the previous spending caps for England, and no rationale has been given for this reduction by 60%. Even if the Government are not willing to revert to the PPERA limits for England, I ask the Minister whether he sees any scope for some kind of compromise between the drastic reduction which has been brought about by the Bill and the spending limits there were for PPERA.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, I will add just a few words to what I said a few minutes ago. I fought 12 general elections, in 10 of which I was elected, to go to the other place. In every one of those the expenditure that I was allowed was very clearly defined. The returns

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that one had to make afterwards were minutely examined, and there have been cases within our memory where candidates have been challenged on their returns because they were a little careless in submitting them. We have to be extremely careful. The last election I fought was in 2005, and if I remember rightly I was allowed to spend around £8,000 or £9,000. My noble friend says that it is now about £12,000, and I accept that—I am sure he is right. It was all very carefully defined, and we have to be careful, much as we all want to protect free speech and engagement in campaign and all the rest of it, that the expenditure of candidates who stand for particular political parties or as independents is not put into the shade by the expenditure that is allowed to campaigning organisations within individual constituencies. Although I do not suppose that my noble friend Lord Tyler will push his amendment to the vote, I hope that the Minister will reflect upon what he and I have said.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, when at these debates, I have always felt that not enough attention is paid to the real danger of our fragile system of controlling election expenditure beginning to break down altogether. I am strongly in favour of charities having the right to campaign and being free to speak out about what they believe—that is absolutely right—and a huge contribution is made to us as a society in that way. Frankly, however, I am frightened that here, on the edge of the Third Reading of the Bill, we have observed and commented upon two huge anomalies that are still with us and still in the Bill, which open the door to the misuse of some aspects of the Bill in a way that would make the holding of that line against the misuse of public and private expenditure very difficult to hold.

Throughout my whole political life I have been very conscious, like the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, of the importance of the restrictions on the amount of money that passes into the British political system and what a huge benefit that has been to us in terms of retaining a democracy that is genuinely a democracy of the right of every individual to vote. Some of my colleagues in this House will know that I have been very much affected by the recent history of the United States, having been for 10 years an elective politics professor at Harvard, between 1986 and 1996. I will quickly say what so frightens me.

In 2010, the American Supreme Court decided to lift all restrictions on what amounts of money could be given by either corporations or trade unions directly to campaigns at the federal level. One of the outcomes of that—a decision that was made, let the House not forget, in 2010—was that in 2012 no less than $6 billion was poured into federal elections in the United States in a one-year electoral cycle. That was not enough. The sweeping away of all those restrictions was based upon the constitutional right of free speech, in my view distorted in a very troubling way. Today, the Supreme Court of 2014 has on its agenda yet another proposal, McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission, which would enable any individual, without restriction, to contribute any amount he or she wishes to the election of an individual named federal candidate—in other words, it is back to Eatanswill and the buying of politicians.

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The United States is a great and very open democracy, but we are rapidly seeing the gradual distortion of its democracy by huge expenditure of money for other purposes than simply a desire to register a particular campaigning goal. I fully take the point that every step that can be taken has been taken to avoid that in the Bill. I am dubious about the proposal of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, to increase substantially the limit. However, I appreciate that the original limit was almost certainly too drastically cut. There is a median way there.

7.15 pm

I will not detain the House for very long, but two things that have been raised in this debate trouble me very much. One is the example given by my noble friend with regard to the possibility of piling together expenditure in one or a small number of constituencies. The wording of the Bill adequately defends against that real temptation, which could have a major effect in the case of particular named persons that others would like to see taken away from Parliament. The second danger was reflected in the very wise remarks of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, when he gave us the example of a number of individuals who met for dinner together who decided each to set up their own particular little group and that that little group would then go for a particular objective. There would be nothing to link the two in such a way that they would count as a coalition group under the legislation before us.

I do not wish to detain the House at this late hour, but those anomalies are still only too patently with us. They open an opportunity for serious misuse of the Bill and of the electoral expenditure system. Given what we as a House and the other place have been through as regards other expenses, it is vital that we make sure that those anomalies are dealt with, that the Government consider what to do about them, and that before this legislation passes into history, serious thought is given to how the Electoral Commission in the non-charity field can make moves to try to look into any questions of this kind.

I will conclude with a rather dramatic fact. In the United States a special element in the American tax system enables non-party, non-governmental organisations to contribute to electoral expenditure on the basis of being exactly what we have been talking about—non-party, non-governmental organisations. That has seen expenditure of that source rise from $10 million in 1988 to $470 million last year, and rising. It has become the most significant single source of expenditure in elections on candidates by non-partisan, non-governmental organisations. We should be warned.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I express particular appreciation of the welcome that has been given to the very significant increase in the registration thresholds that the Government have brought forward and to the uplift in the spending limit in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To follow on from my noble friend Lady Williams, it is certainly useful to remind ourselves, as she also did very eloquently in Committee, of the core purpose of the Bill, which is

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to ensure that our electoral and democratic system is not hijacked by people who can spend large amounts of money without proper accountability, and that there is proper transparency. It is important that we keep those important points in our minds when we consider the different measures.

Perhaps that is consistent with the point made by my noble friend Lord Tyler, which I addressed in my opening remarks, on not wanting a particular constituency to be overwhelmed. He proposed a threshold of £5,000 and said that he did not wish to find a situation where an organisation could come rattling into a constituency with one week to go, spend £19,999, get away with it and not be accountable for that. It is important that the Representation of the People Act might have a certain impact on that kind of expenditure, if it offended that Act; under the Bill that expenditure is increased from £500 to £700. I ask my noble friend to reflect on that, although I know that he does not overlook it as he knows full well about it.

But, more importantly, there is not that kind of loophole. My noble friend seems to have overlooked—and I did try to draw his attention to it in my opening remarks —that it will be an offence under the Bill to spend more that £9,750 in a constituency, even where the RPA does not apply. One of the consequences of a situation where we are amending another piece of legislation is that it is not always self-evident. Amendment 46 says:

“In subsection (3), for paragraph (a) (but not the “and” after it) substitute … (ii) any controlled expenditure is incurred in a particular parliamentary constituency by or on behalf of a third party in excess of the limit mentioned in subsection (5ZA)”.

I think that the purpose of that is in fact to make a registration requirement if the constituency limit of £9,750 is reached, or at least that is what I am reliably advised and I know that it is certainly the intent that there should be a registration of the maximum for each constituency to make more effective the criminal sanction that will follow if a party or third party spends in excess of £9,750. His example of spending £19,000 could not actually happen under the Bill, in line with the proposed amendment.

Lord Tyler: Whether it is £9,000 or £19,000, my general point is that I have been unable to find anything in electoral law where there is a spending limit but no paperwork for anybody to provide that shows that they are keeping within that spending limit. It seems to me that there is a potential anomaly. I am just asking my noble and learned friend to be absolutely certain before, as has been said, we send back to the other House a potential anomaly in these circumstances.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I do not think that there is an anomaly. One of the reasons for putting in the registration requirement was to try to address the kind of anomaly that my noble friend mentions. We share the same objective and if he thinks that there is a loophole there then I will certainly make sure that we look at that, because these provisions have been worked up over recent days. I think that it is okay, but it is probably quite good counsel that we should check to make sure that that is in fact the case.

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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, made his case for having similar registration thresholds in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as in England, and I can see some force in what he is saying. He says that he has not been able to divine why there has been a difference, which has been in place since the very outset. Since PPERA, a distinction has been made: it was £10,000 for England and £5,000 for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I will not allow myself the cheap debating point that that was what the noble and learned Lord proposed in Committee, but I think that his purpose behind that was to make sure that the Government considered the threshold properly.

It is interesting too—I will finish this point and then let the noble and learned Lord come in—that what is actually proposed by the Government is also the architecture proposed by the commission chaired by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. The commission report proposes £20,000 for England and £10,000 for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lord Hardie: I was going to say that I would not add such an adjective. The noble and learned Lord will remember that I tabled two amendments: the first was to preserve the status quo and the other was to seek an increase in the limits. As the noble and learned Lord has much more experience in political matters than I have, he will appreciate that it is useful to have a stop-gap in case the main objective is not achieved. In relation to the comment about the point made by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries, the noble and learned Lord might remember that, in Committee, when the noble and right reverend Lord was speaking, having heard my suggestion that there should be uniformity for registration levels, he indicated that he thought that there was some force in that and that it had not been a point considered by the commission.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I was going to say that I was aware that the noble and learned Lord had also tabled an amendment in that group to raise the threshold to provide an equalisation—at, I think, £25,000 if my information serves me correctly.

It is a fair question as to why there is such a difference. I think one of the reasons, which I gave at the outset, is that there is a difference in the number of voters and number of constituencies. It is also the case that spending of less than £20,000 could have a more significant impact in, say, Northern Ireland, which is a very compact area with a very focused media. Spending of less than £20,000 could have a much more significant impact there than in England, and I suspect that the different political and media circumstances was one of the considerations as to why the difference came about in the first place.

There are one or two points made by the noble and learned Lord that I could not quite follow. He said that if there was a hospital closure in a particular constituency, a pressure group could spend up to £20,000 in England but just under £10,000 in Scotland. Of course, following on from the debate that we have just had about constituency limits, they would be restricted to £9,750 in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland regarding the kind of example that

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he gave. He suggested—I apologise if I misheard him—that someone could be prosecuted for spending £6,000 in campaign expenditure in Edinburgh but not in, for example, Birmingham. I think that he will accept that, with a £10,000 threshold, that would not happen in either Birmingham or Edinburgh. I do not think that I misheard him, but sometimes people get that impression and suddenly there are concerns.

Lord Hardie: The noble and learned Lord is correct; it was a mistake on my part, I should have said £12,000. The point was that it is simply over the limit in Scotland but under the limit in England.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, we recognised the core expenditure that was needed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in order to mount campaigns and that has been reflected by—for the first time, actually—making a distinction and giving an uplift for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over and above the percentages that have otherwise been applied.

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, proposes reverting to the total national spending limit of £988,500. As I have explained, the Government have brought forward amendments to increase spending limits for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but, as I explained in Committee, only a few political parties at the last general election spent more than £390,000—the total now would be £450,000—on the full range of activities that we now wish to extend to third parties. Only the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP spent more than £390,000 and, I assume, more than £450,000.

As my noble friend Lady Williams said, there are risks associated with allowing third parties to incur vast amounts of spending. Given that third parties campaign for or against electoral success of political parties, it is a very reasonable assumption that a relationship can and does develop between some third parties and political parties. This opens up the potential for supporters of political parties to demonstrate their backing by diverting their funding to an aligned third party and away from the political parties themselves, which have their own limits. I do not think it is right that, where limits are imposed on political parties, they can be circumvented in this way.

Even the limits that we have allow very extensive campaigns to be mounted. I do not wish to indulge in too much repetition, but £390,000—and of course it has gone up by £60,000—is 40 million leaflets, a dozen front-page adverts in a national newspaper, or 780,000 telephone calls from a professional phone bank. These are not insignificant campaigning activities and I therefore believe that the judgment that we reached in coming to these figures is the right one.

I therefore urge the House to support the Government’s amendments with regard to thresholds and I invite noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Amendments 46ZA and 46ZB (to Amendment 46) not moved.

Amendment 46 agreed.

Amendment 46A not moved.

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Amendments 47 and 48

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

47: Clause 27, page 15, line 3, leave out from “substitute” to end of line 5 and insert “—

(a) in relation to England, 2% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit in England;

(b) in relation to Scotland, £20,000 plus 2% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit in Scotland;

(c) in relation to Wales, £20,000 plus 2% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit in Wales;

(d) in relation to Northern Ireland, £20,000 plus 2% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit in Northern Ireland.”;”

48: Clause 27, page 15, line 6, leave out paragraph (b)

Amendments 47 and 48 agreed.

Clause 28: Constituency limits

Amendments 49 to 51

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

49: Clause 28, page 15, line 29, leave out from “(10),” to “insert” in line 30 and insert “after paragraph (e) (as inserted by section 27)”

50: Clause 28, page 15, line 38, leave out from “exceeded” to end of line 41 and insert “0.04% of the total of the maximum campaign expenditure limits in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;”

51: Clause 28, page 16, line 1, leave out paragraph (c)

Amendments 49 to 51 agreed.

7.30 pm

Amendment 52

Moved by Lord Tyler

52: Clause 28, page 16, line 22, leave out from “if” to end of line 23 and insert “the expenditure relates to—

(a) sending election material falling within paragraph 1 of Schedule 8A which is addressed to electors (whether addressed to them by name or intended for delivery to households within any particular area or areas);

(b) unsolicited telephone calls falling within paragraph 2 of Schedule 8A, made to such persons or households, which may reasonably be regarded as intended to ascertain or influence their voting intention.

( ) For the purposes of this paragraph, “election material” is defined as in section 143A.”

Lord Tyler: My Lords, this amendment, which I am moving on behalf of a number of noble Lords in different parts of the House, deals with some small changes to a previous amendment that we looked at in Committee on constituency limits, but they are changes that I know will be very welcome to a number of organisations which have been in touch with several Members of your Lordships’ House. It received considerable support across the Chamber in Committee and has two compelling advantages to recommend it.

First, it retains the Government’s intention to have a constituency limit. That is surely central to the Bill. As I have said consistently, I strongly support that and I know that a large number of other Members of your

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Lordships’ House also think it is important to retain that. However, even if we were to take it out, as some have suggested, I would certainly expect that Members of the other place would need no whipping at all to put it back in, for the reasons that were advanced so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Cormack a few minutes ago. Surely even Labour MPs would want it to be put back in.

The second advantage to the amendment is that it very closely and carefully defines what the constituency limits should apply to. As many charities and NGOs, big and small, have pointed out to me and to other Members of your Lordships’ House, they are not used to dealing with constituency boundaries; they have quite a different sort of geography from those of us who are involved in politics. Therefore, trying to assess the relative effect of, say, a rally in different constituencies would be quite problematic. It would be problematic for the political parties too, and for that reason we, as politicians, are not asked to account for it.

I shall give a practical example. I once chaired a rally for the five constituencies, as they then were, in Cornwall, and it took place in one particular constituency. It just so happened that we won all five seats but that did not have anything to do with my chairmanship at that rally. However, how would the costs of that rally be allocated to each constituency? You could allocate the costs to one constituency but what about the other four? That clearly is not what this Bill is all about. It really is not possible to measure the effect of a rally, or indeed a billboard or a press conference, on the result in an individual constituency.

I have one other example. I lost a lot of hair—or, rather, most of it went grey—in two elections arranging the national tour of the battle bus for the then joint leaders. Your Lordships may remember that at one stage we had two leaders in the alliance—the two Davids—although they did not always see eye to eye. That caused me a great deal of aggro. However, how I would ever have accounted for five minutes in this constituency, 10 minutes in that constituency and an hour in that constituency if I were running a campaign on behalf of a non-political organisation is quite beyond me.

Amendment 52, on which I am very grateful for the support of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, would limit the scope of the constituency regulations to just activities where people communicate with specific voters. The one advantage of this amendment is that it ties down very specifically the activities that target specific people at a specific address in a specific constituency—letters or leaflets sent or delivered to voters, or telephone calls directed specifically to them—and which try to influence or ascertain their voting intention. Other activity would still have to be accounted for but only on a national basis. Therefore, if it is the national tour of a battle bus, arranging rallies or whatever, that has to be accounted for nationally but under the more generous national limits.

What has been made clear to us by many organisations which think that they may be involved in the activities covered by the Bill is that, if they are asked to account

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only for those activities that specifically target specific individuals, that will make their lives a great deal easier. It will retain the central purpose of the Bill, which is to stop big-money campaigns dwarfing the limits that candidates have to adhere to—my noble friend was very eloquent on this point a few minutes ago, as was my noble friend Lady Williams—and it will mean that the additional costs of activity directed at specific candidates can be identified neatly, clearly and succinctly.

The Electoral Commission has very clearly endorsed this amendment and expressed clear support for it because it makes simpler the guidance that it will have to give and the subsequent monitoring that it will have to undertake. I beg to move.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I support the amendment for the reasons that the noble Lord has set out. Constituency limits have been of very great concern to charities and campaigning organisations. I am fully aware of the kind of concerns raised by the noble Baroness, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, indicated, this issue has also been a very great concern for the Electoral Commission because it does not see how it can regulate and enforce this area. The noble Lord’s amendment will make it far easier for charities to be regulated by the law and for the Electoral Commission to regulate it.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, an amendment that can produce a joint letter from the National Secular Society and the Christian Institute clearly deserves careful consideration. When they take into account that the Electoral Commission also believes that there is good sense in this proposal, I hope that your Lordships will feel likewise. I hope that we will not have to exercise ourselves by going into the Lobbies. I hope that my noble and learned friend will be able to indicate at least a significant degree of sympathy with this and, if he cannot accept these precise words, that he will undertake to come back at Third Reading next week with something similar.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, we also strongly support the amendment. It is not the provision’s intention that we have problems with but its workability. It will add an enormous bureaucratic burden. When people campaign against the proposed path of HS2, flight paths around Heathrow or fracking and so on, that is not divided up by constituency. It is strange that a Government who are cutting red tape elsewhere, and who on Monday said that they could not possibly ask special advisers to list their meetings with lobbyists, seem to want this for really small organisations. Amendment 52, which limits the requirement to telephone calls and literature aimed at households, is immensely sensible. I hope that the Government will do one of two things: either accept the amendment or put off their new rules until after the next election.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, we have just had a discussion on constituency limits, and it was also covered extensively in Committee. The House has agreed to a government amendment to remove the post-Dissolution limit to make the provision less complex, yet there remains some concern about it. From what

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was said in a previous debate, I think that my noble friends Lord Cormack and Lord Tyler believe that there should be some limit on constituency spending. My noble friend Lord Tyler argued for a lower limit but now wants lots of expenditure to be incurred without any limit at all. That is a concern that we have.

It is important to put this in context. Constituency spending limits do not replace the existing controls under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Those long-standing rules stipulate that third parties campaigning for or against a particular candidate may spend only up to £500 in doing so. Other than raising that amount to £700, and requiring records to be kept of such expenditure, this Bill does not affect those provisions.

In contrast to the RPA rules, Clause 28 introduces a new limit on how much a third party that is promoting the electoral success of parties, or candidates who support particular positions, can spend in individual constituencies. As has already been explained, the limit is £9,750. The reason for this amount—which might, on the surface, appear somewhat odd—is that it is equivalent to 0.05% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit applied to political parties. This limit will apply for the duration of the regulated period for a UK parliamentary election.

As has already been rehearsed, the need for constituency limits is profound. It is not right that candidates and parties should effectively be bowled out of the field purely because well funded campaigners are able to outspend them. Elections are the principal domain of political parties and candidates, and those who are not campaigning for their own electoral success should still be able to participate: that is the essence of our democracy. However, in these circumstances, we believe that the voices of such campaigners do not diminish the voices of the political parties and candidates and that constituency limits will ensure that.

The Bill makes clear that a third party’s expenditure would be wholly attributed to a constituency only if that expenditure had “no significant effect” in any other constituency. That means expenditure in a local area could, of course, be attributed to several constituencies if the effect was felt in them all. Expenditure with a wider regional, or even national, reach would be attributed proportionately to all the relevant constituencies.

My noble friend Lord Tyler has proposed an amendment to dampen the effect of these constituency limits. The amendment proposes that only certain costs —in other words, only expenditure related to certain activities—should count towards constituency limits. Specifically, the amendment says that only costs associated with election materials should be counted. That would mean the costs related to leaflets, mailshots and adverts, all of which must also have been either specifically addressed to or delivered to households in a constituency, and unsolicited telephone calls to such households.

I recognise the issue which my noble friend is trying to address, but I believe there are drawbacks. For instance, significant activities such as rallies and events would not be regulated at a constituency level if his amendment passed. I gave some of my colleagues an example of Scottish Liberal Democrat pre-election

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rallies in Edinburgh East. Anyone who knows Scotland will know that Liberal Democrats would not be spending money in that constituency; no doubt Edinburgh East Liberal Democrats will now write to me and say, “Do not let us down”. That was a national campaign, but an event in my own former constituency could not, by any stretch of the imagination, relate to any other—not even Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

In addition, material otherwise distributed or displayed would also not count towards the constituency limit. A third party could therefore freely distribute leaflets by hand in a town centre, or, indeed, in shopping areas in different parts of a constituency, in the knowledge that, because they are not being delivered to voters’ homes, the associated costs need not be accounted for in that constituency’s limit.

We are concerned that these are key gaps which would allow a third party to target an area by holding large partisan events, or flood an area by handing out election material in the street or in shopping precincts. Allowing only certain activities to count towards constituency limits would undermine the entire principle of constituency limits, on which my noble friend spoke so eloquently earlier. For that reason, I urge my noble friend to think again and to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I am rather disappointed by that. Throughout today’s debate and, indeed, on previous occasions, many noble Lords—particularly my noble friends on the government Front Bench—have quoted the advice of the Electoral Commission. I apologise to the House for detaining it for a minute, but this is what the Electoral Commission says about this amendment:

“In principle, we support Amendment 52, tabled by Lord Tyler and others. It narrows the scope of the constituency limits so that they only cover spending in respect of election material sent to voters and households in a constituency, and unsolicited phone contact with such voters”.

Then, in heavy type, it continues:

“We see benefits in defining the scope of activity covered by the constituency controls more narrowly than in Part 2 of the Bill generally”.

The Electoral Commission feels there is a need to deal with this question and has identified it as one of the problems with campaigning organisations. Even if the amendment in our names does not meet the particular point and is not the right way to go about it, there is clearly a need to do something. Will the Minister undertake, in these last few days before Third Reading, to go back to the Electoral Commission and discuss this issue with it again? On that basis, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 52 withdrawn.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving this Motion, I suggest that Report should begin again not earlier than 8.15 pm.

7.45 pm

Sitting suspended.

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8.15 pm

Amendment 52A

Moved by Lord Harries of Pentregarth

52A: Clause 28, page 16, line 31, leave out “0.05%” and insert “0.1013%”

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, Amendment 52A concerns constituency spending limits. It proposes that the spending limit for constituencies, instead of being 0.05%, is 0.1013%. I think your Lordships are well aware that campaigning groups and charities have found the regulation regarding constituencies exceedingly burdensome and the Electoral Commission has found them unenforceable. We take very seriously all that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has said about ensuring that big money does not come in. Nevertheless, we think that the constituency limits are too low. Raising them by this percentage, which reflects the wider percentage of caps, would give that greater degree of freedom which the charities and campaigning groups would like. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, we have Amendment 62A in this group. In order that the notes in reply can be thrown away, I give notice that I will not speak to it. Essentially, the issues were covered in the earlier group. Nevertheless, we retain our concerns about constituency limits and would very much like to have voted on the previous amendment, but there we are. However, we support the other amendment.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has tabled an amendment which would raise the constituency limits from being the equivalent of 0.05% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit applied to political parties to 0.1013%. This would amount to almost £20,000—specifically, £19,753.50. As the noble Baroness indicated, we have already debated the issues on constituency limits. I have explained the necessity of constituency limits being in place. Without these limits in place, a third party could otherwise be able to focus the entirety of its spending power on a small part of the United Kingdom, outspending even candidates and parties in that location. That point was forcefully made by my noble friends Lord Cormack and Lord Tyler. It is important that those limits are set at an appropriate level and it is our view that the noble Lord’s amendment would not be appropriate.

I will not repeat the earlier points. We wish to promote accountability and transparency. Constituency limits relate to campaigning for or against a particular party and instances where a campaign is intended, or may reasonably be regarded as intended, to support groups of candidates who might hold particular views or support particular policies. Where such campaigning is subject to a national limit, it is also right that it is subject to a proposed constituency limit but we believe that that must be at a proportionate level. The comments we heard in earlier debates suggest that the limit we have set is too generous. Indeed, even my noble friend Lord Tyler might think it. However, we think that the limit we have set is proportionate, especially as we have removed the distinction between spending throughout the regulated period and spending during the period

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between the dissolution and election day. The limits are intended to remove undue influence, particularly by those campaigners who can afford to spend significant amounts of money. I do not believe that the noble and right reverend Lord’s proposal would be proportionate. It could allow substantial sums of money—sums, as we have heard, such as £12,000, which is the candidate’s limit. To have a third-party sum that is almost half as much again does not appear to be proportionate. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, I can well appreciate the noble and learned Lord’s answer to that. The issue that is continually raised by the commission I chair is the rationale for always linking third-party spending and regulation to political-party spending and regulation. That has never really been fully set out. I take the point that the noble and learned Lord has made but I hope that he will take on board the fact that there is continuing concern among charities and campaigning groups about constituency spending, and not just the spending but the regulation for campaigning in constituencies. As the noble and learned Lord knows, there is also great concern in the Electoral Commission. Even if he is not prepared to consider this amendment again, will he look seriously at Amendment 52 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler? That would help significantly. If he is not sympathetic to my amendment, I hope that he might be able to look again at Amendment 52 and bring something back in relation to it. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 52A withdrawn.

Amendments 53 to 62

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

53: Clause 28, page 16, leave out lines 34 to 45

54: Clause 28, page 17, leave out lines 16 to 20

55: Clause 28, page 17, line 22, leave out “(3C)” and insert “(3B)”

56: Clause 28, page 17, line 44, leave out from beginning to end of line 5 on page 18

57: Clause 28, page 18, line 7, leave out “(5C)” and insert “(5B)”

58: Clause 28, page 18, line 8, leave out paragraph (g)

59: Clause 28, page 18, line 18, leave out “(3C)” and insert “(3B)”

60: Clause 28, page 18, line 19, leave out “(5C)” and insert “(5B)”

61: Clause 28, page 18, leave out lines 33 to 44

62: Clause 28, page 19, leave out lines 15 to 26

Amendments 53 to 62 agreed.

Amendment 62A not moved.

Clause 29: Targeted expenditure limits

Amendments 63 to 65

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

63: Clause 29, page 20, line 13, leave out ““the purposes of this section”” and insert ““section 94A” (as inserted by section (Arrangements between third parties notified to Electoral Commission))”

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64: Clause 29, page 20, line 15, leave out “94” and insert “94A (as inserted by section (Arrangements between third parties notified to Electoral Commission))”

65: Clause 29, page 21, leave out line 19 and insert “meaning given by section 94(10).”

Amendments 63 to 65 agreed.

Clause 30: Extension of power to vary specified sums

Amendments 66 and 67

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

66: Clause 30, page 24, line 32, leave out “94B(4)” and insert “94(5ZA), 94B(4) or 96(2)(aa)”

67: Clause 30, page 24, line 33, leave out “, (2A) or (2B)” and insert “or (2A)”

Amendments 66 and 67 agreed.

Clause 31: Notification requirements for recognised third parties

Amendment 68

Moved by Lord Gardiner of Kimble

68: Clause 31, page 24, line 39, at end insert—

“( ) In subsection (2), after paragraph (c) insert—

“(ca) a body incorporated by Royal Charter which does not fall within any of those paragraphs of section 54(2),

(cb) a charitable incorporated organisation within the meaning of Part 11 of the Charities Act 2011 or within the meaning of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008,

(cc) a Scottish charitable incorporated organisation within the meaning of Chapter 7 of Part 1 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (asp 10),

(cd) a partnership constituted under the law of Scotland which carries on business in the United Kingdom,”.”

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, Clause 31 seeks to require registered third parties to identify members of their body, management committee or relevant officers. It places requirements on those bodies that are allowed to register as third parties under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

As outlined in Committee, when PPERA was passed, a number of groups were specified: individuals, companies, trade unions, building societies, limited liability partnerships, friendly societies and unincorporated associations. The Government acknowledge that as almost 14 years have passed since PPERA was enacted there may be other bodies that should now be added to the list. My noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts made this point persuasively in Committee. In the light of this, the Government have brought forward amendments to allow royal chartered bodies, charitable incorporated organisations and Scottish partnerships to register as recognised third parties should they incur controlled expenditure over one of the registration thresholds.

These amendments address the Government’s commitment in Committee to ensure that those bodies which would like to register as third parties are able to do so. I beg to move.

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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I will detain the House only for a moment to thank my noble friend and the Government very much for having listened to the persuasive arguments put forward by the Law Society and others and for providing a way forward for CIOs, a new corporate form that has emerged since PPERA was passed. There are more than 1,000 royal charter bodies. This is a very helpful and beneficial result and I thank the Government for it.

Amendment 68 agreed.

Amendments 69 to 73

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

69: Clause 31, page 25, line 2, after “(ia)” insert “in the case of a body falling within any of paragraphs (b) and (d) to (h) of section 54(2),”

70: Clause 31, page 25, line 3, at end insert—

“( ) After subsection (3)(c) insert—

“(d) if given by a body falling within any of paragraphs (ca) to (cd) of subsection (2), state—and be signed by the body’s secretary or a person who acts in a similar capacity in relation to the body.”

(i) the relevant details in relation to the body (see subsection (3C)), and

(ii) the name of the person or officer who will be responsible for compliance on the part of the body with the provisions of Chapter 2,

and be signed by the body’s secretary or a person who acts in a similar capacity in relation to the body.”

( ) In subsection (3A)—

(a) for “or (c)(ii)” (in both places) substitute “, (c)(ii) or (d)(ii)”;

(b) after “(3)(c)” insert “or (d)”.”

71: Clause 31, page 25, line 5, after “(3B)” insert “For the purposes of subsection (3)(c),”

72: Clause 31, page 25, line 27, at end insert—

“(3C) For the purposes of subsection (3)(d), the “relevant details” in relation to a body are—

(a) in the case of a body falling within subsection (2)(ca) (body incorporated by Royal Charter)—

(i) the name of the body,

(ii) the address of its main office in the United Kingdom, and

(iii) the names of its officers or the members of its governing body;

(b) in the case of a body falling within subsection (2)(cb) or (cc) (charitable incorporated organisation)—

(i) the name of the body,

(ii) the address of its principal office, and

(iii) the names of its charity trustees within the meaning of the Charities Act 2011, the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 or the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (asp 10);

(c) in the case of a body falling within subsection (2)(cd) (Scottish partnership)—

(i) the name of the body,

(ii) the address of its main office in the United Kingdom, and

(iii) the names of the partners.””

73: Clause 31, page 25, line 27, at end insert—

“( ) In section 85(7)(c) of that Act (definition of “responsible person”), after “88(3)(c)(ii)” insert “or (d)(ii)”.”

Amendments 69 to 73 agreed.

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Clause 32: Reporting of donations to recognised third parties

Amendment 74

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

74: Clause 32, page 25, line 34, leave out “Subject to section 95B,”

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, these amendments address concerns raised by noble Lords in Committee and by campaigning groups in the discussions we have had with them. It is important to guard against the risk that significant donors might use third parties to aid political parties and evade the party spending controls. That is why at present third parties campaigning nationally during regulated elections are subject to rules on donations similar to those of political parties.

However, recognised third parties need to report only donations related to controlled spending, and currently are required to do this only once at the end of every campaign, as part of a return to the Electoral Commission after the relevant election, rather than at the regular intervals required of the political parties. Therefore, Clause 32 introduces important measures to improve transparency by ensuring that people know the source of reportable donations received by third parties during the regulated period via quarterly and weekly donation reports.

I hope that noble Lords support the principle of providing information on reportable donations during the election campaign. However, the Government acknowledged in Committee that the right balance needed to be struck between increased transparency and the avoidance of overly burdensome reporting requirements. As set out in the Bill, only third parties that are required to register with the Electoral Commission are required to provide reports on the donations they receive. The amendments that this House agreed earlier today to increase the registration thresholds mean that only third parties which incur controlled expenditure of more than £20,000 in England or more than £10,000 in each of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will have to produce donation reports.

Furthermore, government Amendments 81 and 89 remove the need for recognised third parties to provide nil reports. Instead, a recognised third party will be required to provide a donations report to the Electoral Commission only when they receive a reportable donation. Only donations over £7,500 are reportable. If a third party does not receive a reportable large donation, they will not have to provide a report.

The Government have also brought forward amendments to take account of snap general elections. The Government accept that these provisions, while important in the regulated period for an election the date of which is known in advance, may cause problems if they were to be applied to an early parliamentary election. If a snap general election were to occur, third parties would have to provide weekly reports to the Electoral Commission only during the post-dissolution period, and then only if they receive a reportable donation. They would not have to prepare quarterly reports.

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The Government believe that these amendments meet the concerns of charities, particularly in relation to the removal of nil reporting, which was a key area of concern for both the NCVO and the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement. They retain the vital transparency measures introduced by the Bill, but ensure that unnecessary burdens are not placed on campaigners.

I apologise to my noble friend Lord Hodgson, who asked me about nil returns in the debate we had on coalitions. I assure him that if a coalition spends less than the registration threshold, it will not have to produce a spending return. If a coalition does not receive a donation, it will not have to provide a nil return.

At present, recognised third parties have to provide details of their campaign income and expenditure to the Electoral Commission after a UK general parliamentary election and after the poll for certain other elections. Campaigners pointed out that many third parties register with the Electoral Commission with the intention of incurring controlled expenditure but at the end of the regulated period find that they have not spent above the registration threshold. While it is important to ensure transparency in spending any donations, we have listened carefully to the concerns of campaigners and, as I have said previously, we do not want to impose unnecessary administrative burdens, particularly on small campaigners.

To ensure that these provisions are proportionate, government Amendment 98 provides that a third party which registers with the Electoral Commission but does not incur controlled expenditure in excess of the required registration threshold does not have to submit a spending return or a statement of accounts. The intention is that a recognised third party should also have to prepare a report if its expenditure in a constituency, in the case of a regulated period involving a parliamentary election, exceeds the constituency threshold that will from now on apply to non-recognised third parties. We recognise that the amendment does not currently do that so we will bring forward a small amendment at Third Reading to put that right.

To improve transparency by providing a clearer understanding of the finance of those involved in elections and to align the reporting requirements of third parties more closely with those of political parties, the Bill provides that a statement of accounts should also be submitted to the Electoral Commission. To ensure that this additional obligation is proportionate, individuals would be excluded from this requirement. The Government believe that not to exclude individuals would result in an unwarranted intrusion into their personal financial matters. However, individuals who exceed the spending threshold would still be required to provide details of their campaign income and expenditure, as is currently the case.

Under the Bill as introduced, the Government also provided that those third parties, such as companies, charities and trade unions, which provide statements of accounts under another legislative framework that could be reviewed by the Commission would also be exempt from any requirement to provide a separate set of accounts.

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Government Amendments 108 to 111 make minor amendments to improve the working of this arrangement. Government Amendment 112 provides that a statement of accounts can be sent to the Electoral Commission in a longer timeframe: within nine months of the end of the regulated period where they do not have to be audited, or 12 months where they do have to be audited.

Again, the Government believe that these amendments, alongside the existing provisions in the Bill, ensure that transparency is improved without overly burdensome requirements being placed on third parties. I therefore beg to move.

8.30 pm

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I welcome this group of amendments. I said at Second Reading that the Government and, indeed, the House, have a very difficult task in getting exactly the right balance between improving transparency and accountability on one hand and the inevitable potential for more bureaucracy. These amendments are a real improvement on where we were and I commend my noble and learned friend for them. The irony is, however, that we have the complexity of the number of amendments—I have not counted them—that have been necessary to remove complexity. It is a bit alarming, but I particularly welcome the amendment concerning the nil return, which is Amendment 98 if I have got it right.

It is particularly helpful because there really was rather an absurd situation when the organisations with which Members on all sides of your Lordships’ House have been in contact thought that they might be caught up in some elaborate new accountancy exercise when they did not anticipate that they would be engaged in the kind of activities that are caught by the Bill. This is a good balance and we are achieving the right threshold for transparency and accountability, but I just forewarn my noble and learned friend that it will take some time for the organisations that we have all been in contact with to understand the full significance of this battery of complex amendments.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I add my thanks to those of my noble friend Lord Tyler, particularly for Amendments 81 and 89, which concern nil returns. It was extraordinarily difficult to justify to people why nil returns should be made. I am also very grateful to my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench for his reassurance about the interaction with the coalition working returns that we discussed earlier.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, while I welcome the government amendments, I draw the attention of the House to the report of the Electoral Commission on Amendments 74 to 81, 83 to 97 and 99 to 106. It says that it supports the amendments,

“which go some way to simplify the donation reporting requirements”,

but it goes on to say:

“We regret that the Government has not adopted other recommendations we have made to reduce burdens on registered campaigners further without affecting transparency”.

It indicates what these are and ends:

“We continue to recommend these changes … we now recommend two further changes to reduce burdens further”.

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Will the Minister, even in the short time between now and Third Reading, have further conversations with the Electoral Commission to see whether some of its recommendations could be accepted by the Government? From the point of view of the charities and campaigning groups there is still a huge amount of regulation to be carried with the Bill.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I, too, welcome the amendments that have been put forward by the Government, as far as they go, but as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said, there is more work to be done and it would be excellent if the Government would commit to come back at Third Reading with further amendments. This might seem a bit curmudgeonly, because the Government have received plaudits throughout our debate this afternoon for having moved a long way and tabled many amendments. However, if it had not been for the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, his commission, which has also received praise this afternoon, and the excellent work that it has done, the Bill would still be the exceedingly bad Bill that it was when it arrived in our House, precisely because it was rushed, did not have proper pre-legislative scrutiny and a great deal of it was not necessary. So while I thank the Government for having listened—and they have moved—I place on record that none of that would have happened without the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and his fellow commissioners, who undertook the consultation that the Government themselves should have undertaken in the first place.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I acknowledge the welcome that has been expressed for these amendments, which lift a considerable administrative burden from campaigning organisations. I note what the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has said, echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.

I will look specifically at what the noble and right reverend Lord said, but I know that there were a number of other things that the Government looked at and decided they did not wish to accept—it is not as if they have come out of the blue. However, I will check that the suggestions that we looked at and decided not to go ahead with were those to which he referred; it is only fair that we do so. However, I do not want to do that with any raising of expectation, because, as I think the noble and right reverend Lord will realise, we have given considerable consideration to these points. I ask the House to accept the amendments.

Amendment 74 agreed.

Amendments 75 to 97

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

75: Clause 32, page 25, line 36, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

76: Clause 32, page 25, line 40, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

77: Clause 32, page 25, line 42, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

78: Clause 32, page 25, line 43, at end insert—

“( ) A “pre-dissolution period” means a period—

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(a) beginning with the first day of a qualifying regulated period, and

(b) ending with the day before the day (or the last day) during that qualifying regulated period on which Parliament is dissolved.”

79: Clause 32, page 26, line 3, after “elections)” insert “other than a period including the date of the poll for an early parliamentary general election.

( ) An “early parliamentary general election” is a parliamentary general election the date of the poll for which is appointed under section 2(7) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.”

80: Clause 32, page 26, line 25, leave out from “recorded” to end of line 27

81: Clause 32, page 26, line 27, at end insert—

“( ) This section does not require the preparation of a quarterly report in respect of a reporting period if no reportable donations are accepted, or dealt with, as described in subsection (5)(b), by the recognised third party during that period.”

82: Clause 32, page 26, leave out lines 28 to 31

83: Clause 32, page 26, line 36, leave out from beginning to end of line 32 on page 27

84: Clause 32, page 27, line 34, leave out “Subject to section 95D,”

85: Clause 32, page 27, line 45, leave out “during a qualifying regulatory period”

86: Clause 32, page 27, line 46, after “dissolved” insert “for a parliamentary general election”

87: Clause 32, page 28, line 1, leave out from “date” to the end of line 2 and insert “during a qualifying regulated period which is the date of the poll for that election.”

88: Clause 32, page 28, line 7, leave out “general election” and insert “qualifying regulated”

89: Clause 32, page 28, line 19, at end insert—

“( ) This section does not require the preparation of a weekly report in respect of a reporting period if no substantial donations are received by the recognised third party during that period.”

90: Clause 32, page 28, line 21, leave out from “period”” to end of line 22 and insert “means a period in relation to which any limit is imposed by paragraph 3, 9, 10 or 11 of Schedule 10 (periods involving parliamentary general elections);”

91: Clause 32, page 28, line 28, leave out from beginning to end of line 24 on page 29

92: Clause 32, page 30, line 23, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

93: Clause 32, page 30, line 27, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

94: Clause 32, page 30, line 33, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

95: Clause 32, page 30, line 36, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

96: Clause 32, page 31, line 1, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

97: Clause 32, page 31, line 25, leave out subsections (3) and (4)

Amendments 75 to 97 agreed.

Amendment 98

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

98: After Clause 32, insert the following new Clause—

“Returns as to controlled expenditure

(1) Section 96 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (returns as to controlled expenditure) is amended as follows.

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(2) For subsection (1) substitute—

“(1) Subsection (1A) applies where, during a regulated period, any controlled expenditure is incurred by or on behalf of a recognised third party in a relevant part of the United Kingdom in excess of the limit for that part mentioned in section 94(5).

“(1A) The responsible person must prepare a return in respect of the controlled expenditure incurred by or on behalf of the third party during that period in each relevant part of the United Kingdom.”

(3) In subsection (7)—

(a) in the opening words, for “(1)(a)” substitute “(1A)”;

(b) in paragraph (a), omit “falling within subsection (1)(a)”.”

Amendment 98 agreed.

Schedule 4: Requirements of quarterly and weekly donation reports

Amendments 99 to 106

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

99: Schedule 4, page 60, leave out lines 7 to 9

100: Schedule 4, page 60, line 22, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

101: Schedule 4, page 60, line 30, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

102: Schedule 4, page 60, line 42, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

103: Schedule 4, page 60, line 43, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

104: Schedule 4, page 60, line 44, leave out “qualifying regulated” and insert “pre-dissolution”

105: Schedule 4, page 61, leave out lines 37 to 40

106: Schedule 4, page 62, line 6, leave out from “period” to end of line 8

Amendments 99 to 106 agreed.

Amendment 107 had been retabled as Amendment 119A.

Clause 33: Statements of accounts by recognised third parties

Amendments 108 to 116

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

108: Clause 33, page 33, line 28, leave out from “must” to end of line 31 and insert “include—

(a) a statement of the income and expenditure of the third party for the regulated period, and

(b) a statement of its assets and liabilities at the end of that period.”

109: Clause 33, page 34, line 13, leave out from “satisfied” to end of line 18 and insert—

“( ) that a statement or statements prepared or to be prepared by the third party under any enactment contains or will contain the information required by subsection (2) or equivalent information, and”

110: Clause 33, page 34, line 19, leave out “(or, on publication, will be)” and insert “, or will be,”

111: Clause 33, page 34, line 20, at end insert—

“( ) Equivalent information is—

(a) a statement or statements of the income and expenditure for a period or periods other than the regulated period, or

(b) a statement or statements of assets and liabilities at a date or dates other than the end of that period,

but which in the Commission’s opinion gives a sufficient indication of the third party’s accounts for, or at the end of, the regulated period.”

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112: Clause 33, page 34, line 46, leave out from beginning to end of line 13 on page 35 and insert—

““(2A) Where a statement of accounts falls to be prepared under section 96A, the responsible person must deliver—

(a) the statement, and

(b) if an auditor’s report on the statement falls to be prepared under section 97(1A), that report,

to the Commission before the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the end of the period under subsection (1) or (2) for the delivery of the relevant section 96 return.

(2B) “The relevant section 96 return” means the return mentioned in section 96A(1)(a) which gives rise to the duty to prepare the statement of accounts.””

113: Clause 33, page 35, line 17, leave out “or (2B)”

114: Clause 33, page 35, line 43, leave out “a return is delivered under section 98(2) and”

115: Clause 33, page 35, line 46, after “the” insert “relevant section 96”

116: Clause 33, page 36, line 2, at end insert—

“(5) In subsection (4)(a), “the relevant section 96 return” has the meaning given by section 98(2B).””

Amendments 108 to 116 agreed.

Amendment 117

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

117: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—

“Candidate’s personal expenses not to count for local election expenses limit in England and Wales

(1) In section 76(5) of the RPA 1983 (exclusion of personal expenses from limitation on election expenses), after “subsection (1A) above” insert “or a local government election in England or Wales”.

(2) Subsection (3) applies where, before the relevant date, an enactment—

(a) provides that section 76 of the RPA 1983 is to have effect in relation to an election of any description as it has effect in relation to a local government election in England or Wales, or

(b) otherwise makes provision (however expressed) to the effect that that section applies to an election of any description as it applies to a local government election in England and Wales.

(3) If the date of the poll at an election of that description is on or after the relevant date, section 76 of the RPA 1983 applies to the election as amended by subsection (1).

(4) In this section—

“the RPA 1983” means the Representation of the People Act 1983,

“the relevant date” means the date on which the amendment made by subsection (1) comes into force, and

“an enactment” means an Act of Parliament or any subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978).”

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, government Amendment 117 would exclude personal expenses from being considered for the purposes of candidates’ expenses limits at local elections in England and Wales. I do not think that this issue has yet been referred to in any of our deliberations.

The Government have brought forward the amendment to bring greater consistency to the treatment of personal expenses across the different types of election. It will also ensure that the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund can successfully continue operating following the expiry of existing secondary legislation.

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The access to elected office fund was set up by the Government to award grants to disabled people who are, or go on to become, candidates at elections. The fund’s grants are intended to help candidates overcome barriers to elected office that might arise as a result of their disability. Currently, such awards from the fund would not count towards candidates’ spending limits at certain elections, as they would be considered personal expenses. Noble Lords will no doubt be aware that personal expenses are exempted from candidates’ limits at certain elections, such as UK general elections, police and crime commissioner elections and Greater London Authority elections, among others.

However, there is currently no such exemption at local government elections. Given the generally low expenses limits that apply at those elections, recipients of the fund are likely to find themselves in the unusual and punitive position of having their entire expenses limit taken up by fund awards. It is a distinct unfairness that disabled candidates should have to account for costs associated with their disability when campaigning in elections. The Government therefore brought forward secondary legislation last year so that fund awards would be excluded from candidates’ spending limits at all elections. That secondary legislation will cease to have effect in June this year. The Government therefore consider that the Bill presents a key opportunity to make such an exclusion permanent, while also rationalising the position of personal expenses across various elections.

Rather than merely exclude disability expenses financed by fund payments from candidates’ limits, as the order does, this amendment instead extends the personal expenses exemption to local elections, including parish and community council elections, in England and Wales. It will cover any disability-related expenses incurred by a candidate personally, regardless of whether they are financed by the fund. This is a sensible amendment. It seems unfair to require that disability costs should count towards candidates’ spending limits at local elections when they are already excluded from certain other elections.

Amendment 127 is a related amendment that will allow the new clause inserted by Amendment 117 to be commenced by order. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I simply give the amendment a warm welcome. We previously discussed this with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, probably in the Moses Room last year, but we had not seen this clever device to add the provision. We should congratulate the Government on finding a nice wheeze for this.

Amendment 117 agreed.

Amendment 118

Moved by Lord Gardiner of Kimble