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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Perhaps he has more confidence in the various bodies he mentioned than I have. I am not entirely sure whether he is still a resident of the city of Glasgow. In that regard, he is unlike some of his noble
We have had a good run on this issue. I shall reflect on what the Minister said. I remember having often to make similar answers from the Dispatch Box to his noble friends on this side of the Chamber who wanted this, that or the other group taken into account. I find it interesting today that, as regards amendments mentioning the disabled and disadvantaged, the usual suspects are not present to add their voices to mine. I suppose that has something to do with the change of government. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The most fundamental reforms of the civil justice system for over 100 years will come into effect on 26th April. The reforms aim to provide a single system of civil justice based on the fundamental principles of proportionality, clarity and efficiency. The civil procedure rules which will come into force on that day are a key aspect of the reforms, a new unified code of civil procedure to implement the expressed objectives of the new system.
There are other steps to be taken in this process of reform which, although apparently minor, still make an important contribution to the achievement of the modernisation of the civil justice system. One of those steps is the implementation of the Civil Procedure (Modification of Enactments) Order 1999 which is before the House today. The order is made under Section 4(2) of the Civil Procedure Act 1997, the Act which provided the machinery for the reform of civil procedure. It established the civil procedure rule committee and gave it the task of drafting the new rules of court. When the 1997 Act was passed, it was recognised that certain aspects of the reform might
The amendments which this order makes to primary legislation are small but significant. First, the order amends Section 11 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. Section 11 permits the Lord Chancellor by order to provide that there shall be no restriction on the persons who may exercise rights of audience or rights to conduct litigation in relation to proceedings in a county court. That power is restricted to the types of proceedings listed in Section 11(2). Section 11(2)(e) currently provides that the power is exercisable in respect of proceedings,
The civil procedure rules have moved away from treating small claims cases in the county courts as if they had been referred to arbitration. It is a fiction now to think of small claims as arbitration. Article 3 of the draft order amends Section 11(2) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 by referring to small claims instead of arbitration. This will reflect the new rules and allow the current successful practice of permitting lay representation in small claims cases to continue.
The other amendment proposed is to the Civil Evidence Act 1995. This Act made new provisions for the admissibility of hearsay evidence and the proof of documentary evidence in civil cases. Before the implementation of the 1995 Act, the law on hearsay evidence was governed by the Civil Evidence Act 1968 which contained an elaborate system of notices and counter-notices to enable parties to adduce hearsay evidence. Parliament greatly simplified the procedures in the 1995 Act by providing that hearsay evidence should generally be admissible in civil proceedings and by providing for notification to be given to the other parties in accordance with the rules of court. Section 16(3) of the Act provided that transitional provisions could be contained in the commencement order but, subject to any such provisions, the Act would not apply to cases begun before the commencement of the Act.
The Act was brought into force on 31st January 1997 but, by an oversight, the power to provide transitional provisions was not exercised in the commencement order. As a result, cases commenced before that date were not brought under the new Act and had to continue to apply the cumbersome and expensive provisions of the 1968 Act. Part 33 of the Civil Procedures Rules (1998) contains the mechanism for the admissibility of hearsay evidence under the 1995 Act. The amendment proposed in Article 4 of the draft order allows for rules of court or practice directions to make transitional
I have explained why the various provisions of this order are necessary. Together they will help to contribute towards the achievement of the objectives of the civil justice reforms. I commend the order to the House.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, as your Lordships will know, this programme of tidying up the civil legislation has been very much supported on this side of the House. Indeed, much of it was instituted under the previous administration. I therefore commend the order to the House.
My Lords, the European Parliamentary Elections Act received Royal Assent on 14th January this year. It provides for future elections to the European Parliament in Britain to be conducted using a regional list voting system. The draft regulations are to govern how the election on 10th June will be conducted.
The key text in British electoral law is of course the Representation of the People Act 1983, which itself has a couple of hundred sections and several schedules including one containing what are known as the election rules.
The regulations and rules governing all other elections, including of course the European Parliamentary Elections, are based on the adaptation and application of the 1983 Act. So, although the European Parliamentary Elections Act sets out the broad framework for how the elections will be run, this secondary legislation provides the subsidiary detail. The Government have consulted widely and we are grateful to all those who took the time to comment.
I will touch on some highlights. I begin with nominations. In each region every registered political party will be able to put forward a list containing up to as many names as there are seats to be filled in that region. Independent candidates will, of course, be able
As regards expenditure limits, for an individual candidate or a party contesting a single region the maximum that can be spent on the campaign will be £45,000, multiplied by the number of seats in the region. So, for example, in the north east, which has four seats, the maximum would be £180,000. A party contesting every region will be subject to a limit of £3.78 million, the total of all 11 regional limits. The party's expenditure limit is to cover all of its election expenditure. There will no longer be the distinction between constituency expenditure and national campaigning. By virtue of the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, all expenditure has to be accounted for and be subject to the limit. This national limit of £3.78 million is in line with the Committee's recommendations. Parties contesting more than one region are free to spend their money where they choose. The Neill Committee has welcomed these general regulations governing party expenditure.
As regards counting arrangements, as in previous elections counting cannot begin until the polls close in the last EU member state on the evening of Sunday 13th June. Counting will be conducted at Westminster parliamentary constituency level, although the regulations allow an acting returning officer responsible for more than one Westminster constituency to combine them for counting purposes.
On recounts, the first point I make is that the regions which are being used for these elections are vast. There is no possibility of being able to count all the votes cast in one region in a single location. We have given a good deal of thought to that. It simply is not practical to transport the votes to one place from all over Scotland. We are therefore going to have a number of local counts across these regions in consequence of these regulations if they are approved. All the parties, and individual independent candidates of course, will have the right to be represented at all of the local counts. They will have the right to ask for a recount if they are unhappy with the way the count has been conducted.
Once each local count has been completed to everyone's satisfaction the returning officer will transmit the result to the regional returning officer who will in turn give him or her clearance to declare it locally. When all the local results have been passed to the regional returning officer he will perform a seat allocation calculation. The political parties and independent candidates will be allowed to be present at the regional centre where the seat allocation calculation is to be performed. They will be able to ask the regional returning officer to repeat the calculation if they suspect an arithmetical error. The regional result, therefore, is nothing more or less than the amalgamation of all the local results.
Your Lordships have already approved similar procedures in respect of the Scottish and Welsh elections and I am aware that my ministerial colleagues have undertaken that in the event of any real difficulty arising from those arrangements the provisions will be looked at again. I am happy to give a similar undertaking in respect of these elections and these arrangements. We have made repeated assurances, which I am happy again to confirm, that we will carry out a review of the operation of the new system following the election on 10th June and that this area is perhaps one that the review may need to cover.
The design of the ballot paper is based on the results of extensive research which the University of London Constitution Unit and Social and Community Planning Research undertook. The design has been well received and attracted little comment during the consultation process.
I turn to vacancies. This was discussed when we discussed the Bill itself. Where an MEP dies or resigns and thereby brings about a vacancy, if he was originally elected on a party list the vacancy will normally be filled by the next available person on that list. However, that person will need to produce a certificate from the party nominating officer indicating that the party is still content to be represented by that person. This is to guard against the possibility that a candidate on the list may have changed parties between the original election and the time of the vacancy. As I explained to your Lordships in Committee last June, it would be wrong if the next candidate on the list had left that party for another, or formed his or her own party, but was still automatically entitled to fill the vacancy. It was our intention to include in these regulations a provision which would enable the regional returning officer to reject such a candidate in favour of the next willing-- I almost said certifiable, but I mean eligible--candidate further down the party list. That is what we have done.
Where an MEP dies or resigns and was originally elected as an independent, or where a party list is exhausted, a by-election will be held. Those arrangements are identical to those which the House approved for the Scottish and Welsh elections.
I appreciate that I have highlighted only one or two matters. These regulations will enable the next and future elections to the European Parliament to be conducted using the proportional regional list system, which Parliament approved--eventually--in the shape of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999. I therefore commend them to the House.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 24th March be approved [14th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)
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