I am not satisfied, but I intend to make that request to the Committee.
On the parliamentary scrutiny of piloting, when piloting was originally agreed, we did not get the sense that the process would involve piloting, piloting and piloting for ever and a day, allowing Ministers in effect to choose the arrangements in any particular area for elections over a sustained period. There is the risk of abuse in the long term if that continues. We believe that it is a good idea to have that parliamentary protection.
Given that the Minister said that he is thinking about these issues, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 16 and 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Offences as to false registration information
I beg to move amendment No. 25, in clause 18, page 17, line 15, after 'electors', insert 'knowingly'.
The Chairman of Ways and Means:
With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 26, in clause 18, page 17, line 18, after 'who', insert 'knowingly'.
We support the creation of the new offence of providing false information when registering or applying for a postal or proxy vote. The amendment would add the word, "knowingly". We tabled it as a probing amendment to find out whether householders who act in error but in good faith would be able to mount a defence in the courts. As most defences have a mental element, we are simply asking the Minister what the situation is in this case.
I shall make an equally short contribution. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is always difficult to prove intent in such matters, and I am not sure that his amendment is appropriate in these circumstances. I do not want to give the green light to the people who appear every year without fail in a tabloid newspaper saying that their pet dog, goldfish or toddler has been registered and that the local authority is absurd to have done so although it is they who have filled in the name on the registration form. If we can avoid that happening by pain of this offence, we will have done a service to the electoral system.
We agree with the intention behind the amendment. It is right that someone should not be
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prosecuted for making an innocent mistake on a form. However, the amendment is not necessary to achieve that outcome. Clause 18 amends section 13D of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The offence will be set out in subsection (1) of section 13D and must be read with subsection (4), which provides that a person does not commit an offence of providing false information if
"he did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that the information was false."
Although we agree with the sentiments that the hon. Gentleman expresses, his amendment is unnecessary and I hope that he will withdraw it.
That is a most satisfactory assurance from the Minister. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New Clause 3
Death of candidate
'In Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act (parliamentary elections rules) for rule 60 (countermand or abandonment of poll on death of candidate) and the cross-heading preceding it substitute
(1) This rule applies if at a contested election proof is given to the returning officer's satisfaction before the result of the election is declared that one of the persons named or to be named in the ballot papers as an independent candidate has died.
(2) Subject to this rule and rules 61 and 62, these rules apply to the election as if the candidate had not died.
(3) The following provisions of these rules do not apply in relation to the deceased candidate
(a) rule 32(1)(c) and (d) (admission to polling station);
(b) rule 44(2)(b) to (d) (attendance at count);
(c) rule 53(4) (forfeiture of deposit).
(4) If only two persons are shown as standing nominated in the statement of persons nominated the returning officer must
(a) if polling has not begun, countermand the notice of poll;
(b) if polling has begun, direct that the poll is abandoned;
(c) subject to rule 65, treat the election as an uncontested election.
(5) For the purposes of this rule a person is named or to be named on the ballot papers as an independent candidate if the description (if any) on his nomination paper is not authorised as mentioned in rule 6A(1) or (1B).
Deceased independent candidate wins
61 (1) This rule applies if at an election mentioned in rule 60(1) the majority of votes is given to the deceased candidate.
(2) Rule 50(1) (declaration of result) does not apply but the returning officer must
(a) declare that the majority of votes has been given to the deceased candidate,
(b) declare that no member is returned, and
(c) give public notice of the total number of votes given for each candidate together with the number of rejected ballot papers under each head shown in the statement of rejected ballot papers.
(3) Rule 53 (return or forfeiture of candidate's deposit) does not apply in relation to the remaining candidates.
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(4) The returning officer must not return the writ and the proceedings with reference to the election must be commenced afresh subject to the following provisions of this rule.
(5) The writ for the election must be taken to have been received on the first working day after the end of the period of seven days starting on the day of the election mentioned in rule 60(1).
(6) No fresh nomination is necessary in the case of a person shown in the statement of persons nominated as standing nominated, and no other nomination may be made.
(7) The last day on which a notice of withdrawal of candidature by a person who stands nominated by virtue of paragraph (6) may be delivered is the seventh working day after the day on which the writ is taken to be received.
(8) Rule 9 (deposit) does not apply.
(9) The poll must be held on a day in the period which starts 15 working days after the day on which the writ is taken to have been received and ends 19 working days after that day.
(10) For the purposes of this rule a working day is a day which is not a day specified in rule 2(1)(a) to (c).
Deceased independent candidate with equality of votes
62 In an election mentioned in rule 60(1), if
(a) rule 49 applies (equality of votes), and