Previous SectionIndexHome Page

'In section 3(8)(a) of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978'

and insert--

'(1) The European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 (as amended by the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 3(8)(a)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 126, 128 to 130 and 134.

Mr. Tipping: This group of six amendments makes consequential changes to the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978, the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998, arising from part V. Each of those three statutes makes arrangements for the control of election expenditure by registered parties. The detailed arrangements for that, which are set out in subordinate legislation, were intended as stop-gap measures pending the enactment of the Bill.

Henceforth, campaign expenditure by registered parties at elections to the European and Scottish Parliaments and the Welsh Assembly will be controlled by part V. Accordingly, the powers to regulate such expenditure in those three statutes are no longer necessary and will be repealed by the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 126, in page 173, line 25, at end insert--

'(3) In paragraph 2(3A)(a) of Schedule 1 (European Parliamentary elections), for "(including expenses incurred in relation to a general election as a whole)" substitute "of candidates".'.

No. 127, in page 173, line 36, at end insert--

'(5) In Schedule 1 (parliamentary elections rules), at the end of rule 14 (publication of statement of persons nominated) insert--
"(5) The returning officer shall send to the Electoral Commission--
(a) a copy of the statement; and
(b) in the case of each candidate standing nominated in respect of whom a certificate has been received by the returning officer in accordance with rule 6A above, a copy of that certificate as well." '.

No. 128, in page 174, line 37, at end insert--

'(2A) In section 11(2)(c) (power to make provision about elections) omit "and registered political parties".'.

No. 129, in page 175, line 18, leave out--

'In section 5(9) of the Scotland Act 1998'

and insert--

'(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 5(9)'.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 268

No. 130, in page 175, line 20, at end insert--

'(3) In section 12(2)(c) (power to make provision about elections) omit "and registered political parties".'.

No. 131, in page 175, line 34, at end insert--

'Representation of the People Act 2000 (c.00)

14.--(1) Section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 (pilot schemes) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (1) insert--
"(1A) Subsection (1) applies to proposals falling within that subsection which are submitted by a relevant local authority jointly with the Electoral Commission as if in that subsection--
(a) the first reference to any such authority in paragraph (a), and
(b) the reference to the authority in paragraph (b)(ii),
were each a reference to the authority and the Commission; and, in a case where any such proposals are not jointly so submitted, the Secretary of State must consult the Commission before making an order under that subsection."
(3) In subsection (5)(a), after "the authority concerned" insert "and to the Electoral Commission".
(4) In subsection (6), for "the authority concerned" substitute "the Electoral Commission".
(5) After subsection (6) insert--
"(6A) The report shall be prepared by the Electoral Commission in consultation with the authority concerned; and that authority shall provide the Commission with such assistance as they may reasonably require in connection with the preparation of the report (which may, in particular, include the making by the authority of arrangements for ascertaining the views of voters about the operation of the scheme)."
(6) In subsection (7), after "The report shall" insert ", in particular,".
(7) For subsection (10) substitute--
"(10) Once the Electoral Commission have prepared the report, they shall send a copy of the report--
(a) to the Secretary of State, and
(b) to the authority concerned,
and that authority shall publish the report in their area, in such manner as they think fit, by the end of the period of three months beginning with the date of the declaration of the result of the elections in question."
15. In section 11 of that Act (revision of procedures in the light of pilot schemes), at the end of subsection (1) insert--
"The power of the Secretary of State to make such an order shall, however, be exercisable only on a recommendation of the Electoral Commission." '. --[Mr. Touhig.]

Schedule 21


Amendments made: No. 132, in page 176, column 3, leave out lines 27 to 30.

No. 133, in page 176, line 31, column 3, leave out "152" and insert "153".

No. 134, in page 177, line 8, at end insert--

'1998 c.38.Government of Wales Act 1998.In section 11(2)(c), the words "and registered political parties".
1998. c. 46.Scotland Act 1998.In section 12(2)(c), the words "and registered political parties".'.
--[Mr. Touhig.]

Order for Third Reading read.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 269

9.47 pm

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill is important. It implements commitments that the Government made when we came into office. We said that we would ban the foreign funding of political parties and require the disclosure of large donations. The Bill does that. We said that we would refer the matter of party funding to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and the Bill follows from that. It will improve confidence in our political institutions.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear that we wanted to listen during the Bill's passage through the House. The large number of amendments that we tabled in Committee, many of which were first suggested by the Opposition, show that the Government were prepared to listen and to move forward, as far as possible, by consensus. Perhaps we have not always achieved consensus, but we can claim to have achieved it in large measure.

The Government can claim credit for accepting virtually the whole of the Neill report and introducing reasonable proposals. We can also claim credit for having listened, as we amply demonstrated in Committee and on Report.

The opposition parties can also claim credit for accepting and subscribing to the thrust of the Neill report and for the constructive way in which, throughout most of the proceedings on the Bill, they have probed and sought to introduce new concepts and ideas. As a result, the Bill is a much better piece of legislation.

Some issues still divide us, and there are some on which further improvements to the Bill have yet to be made. I am sorry that the official Opposition have not felt able to rally fully to all the provisions on referendums. I wonder whether they would have supported those provisions had they refrained from considering the matter solely from the perspective of the one issue that so preoccupies them. Doubtless the issues will be reconsidered in another place.

We have had some good debates. The House has debated some contentious issues in rumbustious style, but it has also been in good form when considering matters that can engender consensus. Every hon. Member has an obligation to ensure that we tackle some of the public anxiety that existed in the mid-1990s about the way in which political life was moving. We must ensure that the public's confidence in their political institutions is improved.

The Government will want to consider some issues further when the Bill reaches another place. We want to settle the matter that the Liberal Democrats raised about how the provisions can best be applied to parties that have a federal structure. We are trying to progress through consensus and to accommodate genuine anxieties about the structure of the Bill.

It is fair to say that the Bill's structure does not easily accommodate the Liberal Democrats. We hope to integrate the structure of that party into the Bill, through a few appropriate amendments, so that it can continue to function reasonably while complying with the law. I appreciate that Liberal Democrats want to ensure that they are able to comply with the law.

The provisions on donations and sponsorship require clarification. That applies especially to commercial arrangements, including hiring stands at party conferences.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 270

That matter has caused anxiety among all parties. Those who work for Members of Parliament or for political parties and have to make decisions and arrangements--commercial or otherwise--need clear law and guidance about the way in which the Bill will affect them.

Those matters are not likely to be contentious. We agree that work needs to be done in establishing the provisions' operation in detail. However, there is a shared acknowledgement that the issues are complex and require detailed understanding--if only the complexities of political parties' rules on commercial and other funding arrangements, which have developed over many decades and have perhaps become far more complex recently, could be satisfactorily resolved through a spirit of consensus.

I want to revert to the timing of the implementation of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary raised that matter on Second Reading.

Next Section

IndexHome Page