Draft Representation of the People (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations and Draft Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2002

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Pete Wishart: We have heard nothing about enforcement. If credit companies or political parties use the list inappropriately, how will the regulations be policed and enforced?

Yvette Cooper: Enforcement provisions are set out under the regulations. I am rapidly trying to flick through to find them. The hon. Gentleman is right that there is no point in setting out regulations if they are not to be enforced. Reference is made to enforcement in regulation 115. Obviously the Government take that very seriously. The Information Commissioner and the Electoral Commissioner would also take it seriously if these regulations were not complied with. Hon. Members also asked about reviewing these regulations. Certainly the enforcement and operation of these regulations could be considered over time.

Mr. Cash: It might also be convenient to include the question of funding as part of the definition of electoral purposes. Perhaps on reflection the definition of ''electoral purposes'' could be refined, as it is vague. There are problems and the Parliamentary Secretary has acknowledged that in her statements, for which we are grateful. The matter could be narrowed by some delicate drafting.

Yvette Cooper: I disagree. If we try to pin it down too much, we may create the contrary effect and restrict various things that we might all agree should legitimately be part of electoral purposes. I hope that I have made my view clear that fundraising is part of the electoral purposes. Clearly if there were problems with the interpretation of the regulations we would have to look at it again. Our view for the time being is that the phrase ''electoral purposes'' is deliberately broad and should include anything that is for the purpose of seeking election and representing the public in a democracy. It is right to include fundraising. Clearly, if that becomes a problem we will have to look at it again. I hope that it will not prevent any legitimate fundraising by political parties need to do in that regard.

Mr. Heath: I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary. There is a great deal of merit in leaving a slightly fuzzy definition provided—it is a big proviso—that the Electoral Commission interprets it in line with what she has said. Her comments have been extremely useful. I hope that it will be drawn to the attention of the Electoral Commission, and that it will take careful note of what she has said.

Yvette Cooper: Certainly Hansard reports can be used by the courts and across the board to interpret the legislation. That is why I was so keen not to respond too quickly and inappropriately to some of the points that were made earlier and to ensure that we do not inadvertently narrow the scope of the regulations.

Mr. Reid: The Parliamentary Secretary has not answered the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and I made about section 12 of the Scotland Act being a power

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only to make provisions about elections whereas regulation 102 gives all other elected office holders the power to access the register by virtue of their office. Even if powers under section 12 were used, MSPs would not be given the register by virtue of their office, but only for election purposes. There is also no good reason why MSPs are not listed under these regulations. Why do we have to repeat them elsewhere?

Yvette Cooper: The clear advice is that section 12 of the Scotland Act is the right place to have the appropriate powers to make those provisions for MSPs. It will also ensure that MSPs are entitled to use the electoral register on exactly the same basis and from the same time scale. I am assured that it is clearly not intended that MSPs be treated any differently but that the nature of the Scotland Act requires that the arrangements be made under that section rather than

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alongside the provisions that we are discussing today. I hope that I have covered all the points raised in the debate. These are important regulations and I commend them to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Representation of the People (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

Draft Representation of the People
(England and Wales) (Amendment)
Regulations 2002


    That the Committee has considered the draft Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.—[Yvette Cooper.]

Committee rose at twenty minutes past Eleven o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Butterfill, Mr. John (Chairman)
Cash, Mr.
Colman, Mr. Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Field, Mr. Mark
Goodman, Mr.
Hamilton, Mr. David
Havard, Mr.
Heath, Mr.
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Luke, Mr.
Moffatt, Laura
Murphy, Mr. Jim
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Osborne, Mr. George
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robertson, John
Roy, Mr.
Sheridan, Jim
Wishart, Pete

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Prepared 11 July 2002