Session 2010-11
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2011

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Peter Bone 

Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab) 

Burt, Lorely (Solihull) (LD) 

Cairns, David (Inverclyde) (Lab) 

Collins, Damian (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con) 

Dunne, Mr Philip (Ludlow) (Con) 

Edwards, Jonathan (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC) 

Farrelly, Paul (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab) 

Gapes, Mike (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op) 

Harper, Mr Mark (Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office)  

Jamieson, Cathy (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op) 

Johnson, Gareth (Dartford) (Con) 

Latham, Pauline (Mid Derbyshire) (Con) 

Leslie, Charlotte (Bristol North West) (Con) 

McCartney, Karl (Lincoln) (Con) 

Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con) 

Reynolds, Jonathan (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op) 

Roy, Lindsay (Glenrothes) (Lab) 

Williams, Mr Mark (Ceredigion) (LD) 

Mark Etherton, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Second Delegated Legislation Committee 

Monday 7 March 2011  

[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair] 

Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 

4.37 pm 

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper):   I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2011. 

It is always a pleasure, Mr Bone, to see you in the Chair, but it is particularly so on this occasion. 

The regulations address an oversight in the drafting of the existing regulations on the conduct of local mayoral elections, concerning the use, by candidates, of party emblems on ballot papers. The existing law clearly states that a candidate standing for a single party may use an emblem on their ballot paper, but it does not allow for jointly nominated candidates to do so. For example, candidates standing for both the Labour party and the Co-operative party are not able to use a party emblem because of the flaw in the drafting. The proposed changes will enable a candidate standing on behalf of two or more registered political parties at a local mayoral election to request that the ballot paper feature, alongside their particulars, an emblem registered by one of the parties. 

Five local mayoral elections are scheduled to take place on 5 May 2011, and the regulations will ensure that the issue is addressed beforehand. We have consulted the Electoral Commission formally, and it has indicated that it is content with the changes. Statutory instruments on the same issue for local and parish elections have also been laid before Parliament subject to the negative resolution procedure, and the error is also corrected in relevant separate legislation governing the conduct of elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the conduct of the local elections in Northern Ireland on 5 May. That is the outline of the problem and the proposed solution, and I hope that the Committee will be content. 

4.39 pm 

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):  I have never known greater pleasure than when you walked in the door this afternoon, Mr Bone. Well, that is not strictly true, but it was a great delight to see you arrive. It is a delight to welcome the legislation, not least because the Opposition Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, is one of the people caught by our initial cock-up. It is a particular delight to congratulate the Government on sorting out the tiny mess that we left. 

For those who do not know, many Labour candidates are also members of the Co-operative party, which was one of the instigating organisations that helped the

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Labour party come into existence. Several people stand as both Labour party and Co-operative party candidates. Incidentally, I note that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Rhondda Labour party. 

Because of the mild ineptitude in past drafting, and the way in which legislation is knitted together, if people stand for two parties, they are unable to use an emblem for either one on the ballot paper. People therefore have to decide whether to stand as a candidate for only one party, or not to have an emblem on the ballot paper. That was not the intention behind the original legislation, so it is good to clarify the matter. 

However, I shall ask the Minister a few short questions. First, why not have two emblems? If a candidate can stand for two political parties, why can they not use the emblems for both? 

Secondly, I note from the explanatory memorandum that the regulations deal with mayoral elections. I understand why the Government are moving forward—they have the legal power to do so under statutory instruments in relation to those areas and others. For general election candidates, however, they must proceed through primary legislation. When will such legislation come before us, and what Bill might the Government use? Perhaps it will be the recall Bill. 

Thirdly, the regulations will allow a candidate who is standing for the Labour and the Co-operative parties to choose one of the emblems. There might, however, be significant advantage to the Government in allowing candidates to have both emblems on the ballot paper, because people might want to stand for both the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats in the next general election. I am thinking particularly of the Minister’s boss, the Deputy Prime Minister, who, in Sheffield, might have a specific need to stand for both parties. Will the Minister confirm that the regulations will allow candidates to do that, and that all they will need to do is get the permission of the nominating officer? I gather that the Conservative party nominating officer is Alan Mabbutt, who I am sure is open to suggestions—from the Liberal Democrats, perhaps. For the Liberal Democrats, it is Sarah Morris. I have met neither of those people. Can the Minister confirm that the regulations will allow candidates to stand for both those parties, and would it not be nice for them to put both emblems on the ballot paper so that people would know they were voting for the coalition at the next general election? 

Finally, I note that one of the candidates who will be standing in the mayoral elections is my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Sir Peter Soulsby), whom I wish well. I do not know whether he is intending to take advantage of the regulations, but, none the less, I congratulate the Minister on introducing them. 

4.43 pm 

Mr Harper:  I will not get into just how excited I was when you walked into the room, Mr Bone, because I fear that might lead me into all sorts of difficulties. 

I shall deal first with the couple of sensible questions that the hon. Member for Rhondda has asked; then I shall answer the slightly less sensible one. On the issue about the other elections that need to be fixed, our priority was to fix the problem, which, as he generously explained, was caused by his own party in 2006. We

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wanted to ensure that the problem was sorted out in time for this year’s elections, where it mattered. The regulations obviously fixes it for the mayoral elections, and we have laid statutory instruments to deal with it for the local and parish elections, and the conduct orders deal with it for the devolved elections and the Northern Ireland local elections. We will introduce the necessary secondary legislation for the European Parliament elections and the Greater London authority elections next year and in 2014, not in that order. 

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that to fix the issue for the general election will require primary legislation. We have already set out that we will have a Bill that deals with individual electoral registration and other matters. It is our intention to use that Bill, or if that proves to be unnecessary, we will use another one. That is the likeliest option, however, and we can confirm that is our intention to fix this problem ahead of the 2015 general election. 

Chris Bryant:  So it will be definitely be done by the next general election. 

Mr Harper:  Yes. It is the Government’s intention to fix it ahead of the next general election, so that those candidates who stand for more than one political party, such as the example he gave of the Opposition Whip, will be happy. 

David Cairns (Inverclyde) (Lab):  For the sake of completeness, can he confirm that that will apply to elections to the Scottish Parliament? Responsibility for running those elections still resides with this House. 

Mr Harper:  The legislation applies to those elections. The hon. Gentleman will know that for this year’s election the conduct orders that were laid have been sorted out. He will know that if the Scotland Bill passes through the House, future administrative requirements will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. A number

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of areas, such as the franchise and some of the conduct provisions, are still reserved to this House. Some of the administrative matters are devolved to Scottish Ministers. That is in the Scotland Bill, which is being debated today and was debated last week in the Scottish Parliament. We intend that the measure will cover that as well. 

On the less serious points that the hon. Member for Rhondda raised, I am sure that the two nominating officers—Alan Mabbutt for the Conservative party and Sarah Morris for the Liberal Democrats—are devastated that the hon. Gentleman has not had an opportunity to meet them. I do not know how they will cope. We do not think that it is appropriate for jointly nominated candidates to have more than one emblem. There should be a level playing field, with one emblem on the ballot paper for each candidate. If someone is standing on behalf of two parties, they can either have the emblem relating to one of those parties or they can register a joint emblem. As for the substantive, mischievous point that he was making, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are separate parties that will be running separate candidates. His point, therefore, does not arise. 

Chris Bryant:  I just wonder what the joint logo of a Conservative and Liberal candidate would look like. Presumably, it would be a bird in a tree. To some people, that might be attractive. A partridge in a pear tree, perhaps. 

Mr Harper:  I did wonder, when I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, whether it would be entirely worth while and I fear that it was not. He enjoys having his fun. 

The oversight will be fixed for all subsequent elections and for general elections, before the next general election. I hope therefore that the Committee will be able to approve the regulation. 

Question put and agreed to.  

4.48 pm 

Committee rose.