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On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In an extraordinary precedent, a Division has been allowed on new clause 23, although it has not been considered or properly debated. My new clause 18 is
also in that category. Given that precedent, may we have a Division on the important issue of returning powers over the Scottish Parliaments electoral systems to the Scottish Parliament? I ask that we be allowed to put that to the vote.
Mr. Hogg: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Without in any sense wishing to question the discretion of the Chair, may I say that I am profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of voting on a matter that the House has had no opportunity of discussing?
David Howarth: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I, too, am disturbed by what has happened, but given what Madam Deputy Speaker said about amendment 84, which the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) tried to raisethat it could not be voted on because it fell at 7 oclockI cannot see why new clause 18, tabled by the Scottish nationalists, should not now be voted on.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I cannot add a great deal to the ruling that has already been given from the Chair. We are operating under a programme motion, and the Chair determines which amendments can be taken. Rulings have been made, to which I shall add by saying that I am unable to accept for Division the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart).
(4) In the Appendix of forms, in the Form of nomination paper, in the first table following the words candidate at the said election, the final column (home address) is omitted.. (Dr. Julian Lewis.)
In Schedule 1.
(a) in rule 6, sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (2);
(b) in the Appendix of forms, in the Form of nomination paper, in the first table following the words candidate at the said election, the final column.. (Dr. Julian Lewis)
(5) A reference in this Part of this Act to a candidate at an election, in relation to election expenses, includes (where the context allows) a reference to a person who becomes a candidate at the election after the expenses are incurred..
In section 76A(2), the word or at the end of paragraph (c)..
In section 149(1), the word or at the end of paragraph (c).. (Mr. Wills.)
Mr. Heath: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have been experimenting this evening with a procedure that is unfamiliar to almost anyone in the House or outside, but, once a new clause has been given a Second Reading, is it not normal for it to be added to the Bill and for the opportunity for a Division to be taken? Given that we are now on Third Reading, has that procedure been followed?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Not after 9 oclock, when the timetable has come into effect. I understand that there is some concern in the House, although the procedures that have been followed are usual in every way if one looks at the terms of the programme motion that the House adopted. Sometimes, hon. Members may be surprised, if not disappointed.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether it is possible to say whether the Speaker could be a little more open about decisions when they are surprising and unusual. [Hon. Members: Oh!] Let me use a different word. Would it be possible for the Deputy Speaker to explain more clearly why a decision is made when that decision is somewhat unusual?
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
The right hon. Gentleman is experienced enough to know that the Chair does not
give reasons for the decision, and that has always been the traditional position of the Chair.
Simon Hughes: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On the matter of the new clause that was moved earlier [ Interruption ] It was voted on without being moved, but we had only one vote. Would you be kind enough to look at page 623 of Erskine May? It says very clearly:
The last question proposed by the Speaker is, That the clause (or the clause as amended) be added to the bill.
May I also draw your attention to the fact that there have been two programme motionson 20 October last year and 9 February this yearneither of which changed that ruling in Erskine May or the Standing Orders? May I ask you for your considered ruling, or that of Mr. Speaker tomorrow, that might determine that we have voted on the first part of a procedure that could have added a new clause to the Bill but not on the second part and therefore that that new clause has not been added to the Bill?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I can give the hon. Gentleman a ruling straight away. What has happened is entirely clear. Once the knife has fallen at 9 oclock, a single question is all that is required. That is the procedure, which the House has followed.
Mr. Heath: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [ Interruption. ] I am sorry to weary the House with this boring bit of procedure, which involves whether we debate a matter before it is added to a Bill, but does not that procedure specify that it relates to all Government amendments and new clauses, and was this not a Back Benchers amendment or new clause, which is quite different?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: There is a distinction between the amendments and new clauses proposed by the Government and all other amendments. Again, the programme specifies what is to happen. If the hon. Gentleman looks at that, it will be quite clear. I am not without advice on this, but nothing has happened this evening that is in any way different, as far as I am aware, from any previous occasion. We have followed the terms of the programme motion, which is not, in itself, essentially different from many of the programme motions that have come before the House.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want to proceed only because it is fundamentally important that the House decides collectively the rules that we apply to Back Benchers and Opposition Members and new clauses. I asked earlier whether anyone could cite a precedent for a debate and a decision to add a new clause that had not been discussed on Report, and I am told that there is no precedentcertainly, nothing that anyone can cite to me. I have looked at the Standing Orders. I have looked in the programme motions that govern the Bill. Is it not normally the case that, where those things are silent, the Speaker or the acting Speaker in the Chair rules in favour of the existing procedure, not a new procedure? May I ask you and your colleagues to reflect between now and tomorrow on whether we have unwittingly broken the rules and whether we can therefore ensure that the new clause introduced by the hon. Member for
New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), but not moved, has an opportunity for debate during later proceedings?
The question on any amendment, new clause or new schedule selected by the Speaker for separate decision.
On a motion made for a new clause or a new schedule, the Speaker shall put only the question that the clause or schedule be added to the bill.
I do not believe that there is any further scope for argument about that matter; otherwise, I would tell the hon. Gentleman [ Interruption. ] I have told himI have done so on advicethat no breach in procedure has occurred during this evenings proceedings. I hope that he will accept that ruling from the Chair and not ask further questions. If he seeks to challenge what has been said, I suggest he write a letter to Mr. Speaker, but I do not believe that anything incorrect has taken place at any stage this evening.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were correct in saying that the decision taken is that the new clause be added to the Bill if that is moved, but it was not in my hearing that any hon. Member anywhere in the House moved that that new clause be added to the Bill. I do not think that it was in the Clerks hearing, but I am sure that you will be advised if it was. I do not think that it was in the hearing of the Deputy Speaker who was in the Chair at the time. I never heard those words used. I do not know whether anyone did.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Again, as far as my advice goesI was not in the Chair at that momentthe hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) moved the Question on the new clause, on which the House voted.
Dr. Julian Lewis: On a separate point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there any way in which, within the rules, I can place on the record the fact that although both the Government and the Opposition treated this free vote as a free vote, the Liberal Democrats whipped all their Members to vote one way?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I do not think that is a matter on which the hon. Gentlemanor, indeed, the Houseshould want me to rule. I think it is absolutely clear that there was a vote on Dr. Lewiss new clause, which the Chair accepted. It was a single vote, and I do not think anyone could have been in any doubt about what was happening at that time. [Interruption.] I have given my advice to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). He is an experienced Member of the House, and if he is disputing what has happened this evening I suggest he write to Mr. Speaker, because there is now very little time left for the Secretary of State to move Third Reading, which I now call on him to do.
In the short time available to me, I wish to place on record my thanks to all those on both sides of the House who have worked to make this Bill better. It began its journey as a set of proposals in a White Paper, which I brought before the House in June last year. It was introduced on 17 July, and there was then a three-month period over the summer break for Members to consider it. Its Second Reading was on 20 October, it moved upstairs into Committee in November and it has been back on the Floor of the House on two daysin February and now in early March.
The Bill is now different from the Bill that was published on First Reading, and it has, in our judgment, been improved. One of the reasons why we have had to take time over it, and in some cases introduce amendments at quite a late stage, is that we have been listening with great care to representations made on both sides. We have sought wherever we can to improve the Bill, and I believe that it has been improved.
The provenance of the Bill goes back to the establishment of the Hayden Phillips inquiry more than three years ago. That time scale is similar to that of the original Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The reason why that Act and this Bill have taken so much time is twofold. First, party funding is inherently complicatedwe have just had a little introduction to that. Secondly, and more importantly, from whatever perspective Members may start debatingand it can sometimes be very partisanthey have in general been careful to recognise the importance of not seeking partisan advantage in the regime for party funding and elections. That was certainly the approach I took in 1999 and 2000 in respect of what became the 2000 Act, and I have taken the same approach on this occasion.
In the Bill, we have achieved major reform of the Electoral Commission and important reforms in respect of donations and expenditure, including by establishing an upgraded regime for unincorporated associations. We have also achieved significant advances in respect of electoral registration.
Pete Wishart: Does the Secretary of State not agree that what we are passing tonight is nothing other than a complete mouse of a Bill? All the publics concerns about cuts in political donations and about trade union funding have been totally ignored. Should we not be ashamed of ourselves tonight for passing such a timid Bill?
On electoral registration, I repeat the point made by the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills). I appreciate the concern that there will not have been a chance to discuss the new clauses on registration in this place. I shall therefore make two commitments. First, we shall use our best endeavours to have them discussed informally in draft with the parties before they go to the
other place and, secondly, we shall use our best endeavours with the usual channels to ensure that there is adequate time to discuss them when they return. With that, I commend that the Bill be read the Third time.
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