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9 pm

Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): I declare an interest. For many years I taught the armed forces,
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and I married a commanding officer, who under the old Army was responsible for the registration of her military personnel.

Unlike the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), I support amendments (a) and (b). Many reasons could be given for claiming that members of the emergency services frequently risk their lives and do things that are beyond the norm, but I think that most Members would agree that the armed forces are different, in that they have unlimited liability. They do not work shifts; they can be mobilised literally within an hour, be at Brize Norton and, increasingly, be sent off on overseas operations.

Fifteen years ago, before the collapse of the Warsaw pact, the armed forces were largely stationary. They were based either in this country or in Germany, and the Ministry of Defence had a paternalistic attitude towards them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) suggested, many of them may not have wanted to vote for one reason or another. However, I believe that circumstances have changed. I think that our military personnel should be treated differently, first because of the nature and tempo of operations, secondly because many Members in all parties have received complaints not just from military personnel but from their families—there was considerable foot-dragging on the Government’s part before the general election—and thirdly because the tempo of elections has speeded up. We are seeing more frequent elections at local, national and European level.

I also feel strongly that the MOD and its personnel should be given an opportunity to have the right to vote. I suggest, particularly to the Minister responsible for the armed forces, that denying them that opportunity will increase the likelihood of an inclination towards some form of military federation. Sadly, as we know, many members of the armed forces have begun to view the chain of command with considerable suspicion. I suggest to the MOD that one way in which Ministers can show that they are in touch with the armed forces is to go the whole hog and support amendments (a) and (b).

Bridget Prentice: We have had a very good debate. I noted and understood the passion with which Members made their case. I hope that Members in all parts of the House will recognise that Ministers in both the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Ministry of Defence have tried to deal with the concerns raised here—particularly by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie)—and in the other place. I hope that Opposition Members will read the Lords amendment in detail. It may not go as far as they would like, but it gives the Secretary of State for Defence an obligation to encourage registration. I also hope that they do not continue to make a mistake that has been made in some contributions to the debate, which is to mix up registration with deciding to vote; there is a difference between being on the register and then making the conscious decision to go out and vote.

I remind Members that there are other amendments in this group—affecting people with disabilities, and so on—that I hope they can support. I ask them to
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support the amendments from the House of Lords, I also ask them to oppose amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 6.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendments Nos. 2 to 5 agreed to.

New Clause

Lords amendment: No. 6, after clause 12, to insert a new clause— Registration in pursuance of service declaration.

Amendment proposed to the Lords amendment: (a)— [Mr. Heald.]

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 138, Noes 322.
Division No. 259]
[9.6 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baron, Mr. John
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Browning, Angela
Burt, Alistair
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Hosie, Stewart
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter

Ruffley, Mr. David
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Henry Bellingham

Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, Danny
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Anderson, Mr. David
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cairns, David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara

Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunter, Mark
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Love, Mr. Andrew
MacDougall, Mr. John
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mulholland, Greg
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Mr. Ken

Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Reid, rh John
Rennie, Willie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Bob
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Thurso, John
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Webb, Steve
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Alan Campbell and
Huw Irranca-Davies
Question accordingly negatived.
13 Jun 2006 : Column 727

13 Jun 2006 : Column 728

13 Jun 2006 : Column 729

Lords amendment agreed to.

Clause 20

Review of polling places

Lords amendment: No. 16.

Bridget Prentice: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 17 to 46, 50 to 58, 84 to 86, 96 to 101, 104, 106, 123, 125, 130 and 132.

Bridget Prentice: Amendment No. 16 is a technical amendment that relates to the dividing of electoral wards in Scotland into polling districts. As originally drafted, clause 20 defines an electoral ward in Scotland by reference to section 5 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, but the definition in section 5 is to
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be repealed and replaced by a definition set out in section 1 of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, which will come into force in November this year. The amendment therefore ensures that the Bill refers to the correct statute.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): On the face of it, it seems that we are simply replacing the reference to the UK statute with a reference to the Scottish Parliament statute. My hon. Friend will know that this Parliament determines the electoral laws for elections to the Scottish Parliament, but the Scottish Parliament determines the electoral laws for elections to local councils in Scotland. There has been a lot of concern about the management of the elections that are to take place in May 2007. Many would argue that the arrangements are a dog’s breakfast—indeed, it has been suggested that some places will need two polling stations and people will have to go to both to cast their votes in the two elections. I understand that that might not be necessary, but can my hon. Friend assure us that the amendment will not facilitate its happening in future?

Bridget Prentice: I can give my right hon. Friend that assurance. We are simplifying the procedure to make sure that the Bill reflects the definition in the most recent Act of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Heald: But concern remains about people having to go to two polling stations if more than one election is taking place. Is the Minister able to give us solace on that point by stating that people will have to go to only one polling station?

Bridget Prentice: I can most certainly give the hon. Gentleman that solace. There will be only one polling station.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 relate to false statements at nomination. They are consequential on the removal of what was clause 23 of the Bill. An independent candidate in his consent to nomination would have been required to

Clause 27(3) makes it an offence to make a false statement to that effect. However, as that statement is no longer required to be made, there is no need to create another offence. I know that Liberal Democrat Members will be particularly pleased that we are not creating any further offences.

Amendments Nos. 19 to 26 and Amendment No. 88 relate to the provision for candidates’ expenses. Hon. Members might recall that we had a vigorous debate on that issue—led by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Inverclyde (David Cairns)—on Report in the Commons. [ Interruption. ] Indeed, it was led very ably. Several issues were raised and the Government took on board the views of hon. Members and resolved to work through them in another place. The key concern that we were trying to address by introducing the four-month period for candidates’ election expenses was about unregulated spending taking place in advance of
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the elections expenses period beginning. We touched on that in an earlier debate this evening. The amendments that we are considering today will return us to the present situation in respect of the length of a candidate’s elections expenses period. A candidate’s election expenses will count against his or her statutory expenditure limit from the point at which they become a candidate. In the case of a candidate at a general election, that will be the period between the Dissolution of Parliament and polling day. In local elections, it is the period from the last date of publication of the notice of election up until polling day.

For the record, I should point out that these amendments will not affect the very useful provisions in clauses 29 and 31, which clarify the scope of activity by unauthorised third parties under section 75 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and what counts as election expenses for candidates. I recognise that the Bill will not now address the problem of unregulated amounts of money being spent by candidates in the months or weeks leading up to the point at which the general election is called. As I am sure that we are all aware, political campaigning techniques are becoming more sophisticated and more time, effort, and money is being invested in campaigning in marginal seats in particular. The issue is about money being spent at a local level—sometimes quite large amounts—and not counting as candidates’ election expenses because it is spent before the Dissolution of Parliament.

Labour Members have already expressed their concerns about the way in which that has affected results, particularly in the last general election, and I am sorry that we have been unable to come up with an early solution to the problem. However, along with working towards a consensus on this issue with the parties and peers in another place, we have talked to Sir Hayden Phillips and asked him whether he will extend his review to look at the issue of expenses of parties and candidates during the election period. This approach will make sense, because it means that all facets of party funding and election spending will be examined across the piece. I am sure that a comprehensive approach can then be achieved. I know that Sir Hayden will welcome any input that hon. Members care to make to that review on this and related matters.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I understand the reasons for the withdrawal of the four-month rule, particularly because of the difficulty of finding out what exactly a four-month rule constitutes as far an election is concerned. However, it is a great pity—my hon. Friend is reflecting on this—that something like it could not have been included in the Bill. That is particularly the case given that the abuse—that is what it is—not only took place before the last election, but is going on now, and was going on as soon as the last election was completed. It seems essential that early action be taken. When my hon. Friend replies to the debate this evening, will she indicate whether, should Sir Hayden Phillips come up with something that passes muster as far as providing a proper end to this abuse is concerned, she will consider—

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