Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills Minutes of Evidence




  This Bill consolidates the European Parliamentary Elections Acts of 1978, 1993 and 1999.

  The European Parliamentary Elections Bill, which was considered by the Joint Committee in the 1999/2000 Parliamentary session did not complete its passage by the end of that session. Subject to what follows, this new Bill is the same as that earlier Bill as introduced, and the notes circulated with that Bill are not reproduced.


  1.  The new Bill incorporates the effect of the amendment that the Joint Committee made to the earlier Bill (see clause 10(5)).

  2.  Given the delay in the consolidation, the new Bill can dispense with some of the transitional provisions in the earlier Bill (what were paragraphs 6 to 8 of Schedule 2).

  3.  The new Bill takes account of the following recent legislation—

  (1)  The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (c.41).

  Section 142 of that Act made pre-consolidation amendments which are incorporated in clauses 10(6) and 11(1)(b) of the Bill.

  Paragraph 8 of Schedule 3 to the Bill makes consequential amendments of cross-references in that Act.

  (2)  The House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act 2001 (c.13).

  Schedule 1 to that Act made an amendment to the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 (formerly known as the European Assembly Elections Act 1978) which is incorporated in clause 10(2)(b) of the Bill.

  (3)  The European Parliamentary Elections (Franchise of Relevant Citizens of the Union) Regulations 2001 (S.I. 2001/1184), which in part replaced the European Parliamentary Elections (Changes to the Franchise and Qualification of Representatives) Regulations 1994 (S.I. 1994/342).

  Clause 8(5) of the Bill incorporates a consequential amendment to the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 made by regulation 11(a) of the 2001 regulations.

  Paragraph 4(6)(d) of Schedule 1 to the Bill reflects the fact that the register referred to is now maintained under the 2001 regulations rather than the 1994 regulations.

  The amendments of the 1994 regulations made by paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 to the previous Bill are no longer needed.


Members present:

    Acton, L.
    Brightman, L.
    Colville of Culross, L.
    Dundee, E.
    Fookes, B.
    Hobhouse of Woodborough, L.
    Janner of Braunstone, L.
    Mr Russell Brown
    Mr John Burnett
    David Cairns
    Mr Martin Caton
    Sir Patrick Cormack
    Mr John MacDougall


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1 - 17)




  1. Mr Sprackling, you were the draftsman of this Bill we understand.
  (Mr Sprackling) Yes.

  2. We were anticipating two of your colleagues from the Department of Transport would be attending this afternoon, do you know whether they are coming or not?
  (Mr Sprackling) I thought they were coming but they are not here so I am afraid I do not have information on that.

  3. Are you happy to start without them?
  (Mr Sprackling) Fine.

  4. Mr Sprackling, if you would kindly introduce yourself to the Committee.
  (Mr Sprackling) I am David Sprackling and I am a Senior Assistant Parliamentary Counsel at the Parliamentary Counsel Office. I began to prepare this Bill while I was seconded to the Law Commission and have continued to work on it at 36 Whitehall.

  5. Would you kindly shortly explain how this Consolidation Bill comes before us and how it was preceded by a previous draft Consolidation Bill?
  (Mr Sprackling) The Bill consolidates the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1978 and two subsequent European Parliamentary Elections Acts and various regulations. It was introduced for the first time in Parliamentary session 1999-2000 but fell at the end of the session for lack of time. It was re-introduced in substantially the same form in July last year. That is the Bill that we see before us now.

  6. Your notes for the Joint Committee are really drafted by reference to the changes since the last time the Bill was before the Joint Committee. Would you kindly take the Committee through those notes and I would invite any Members of the Committee to ask any questions that they have as we get to the appropriate stage. Mr Rawlings and Ms Passman, we were just starting the explanation with Mr Sprackling taking us through the notes for the Joint Committee. Before he does that if you would kindly introduce yourselves to the Committee.
  (Mr Rawlings) I am Malcolm Rawlings, Head of the Electoral Administration and Legislation of DTLR.
  (Ms Passman) Naomi Passman from the Legal Group at DTLR.

  7. As we go through the notes, feel free to interject any comments that you have, Ms Passman and Mr Rawlings, in supplement to what Mr Sprackling may say. Right, Mr Sprackling?
  (Mr Sprackling) As I say, this Bill is substantially the same as the Bill which was introduced in the 1999-2000 session. There are a few changes to bring the Bill up-to-date. Firstly, when the Joint Committee considered the previous Bill they made a small amendment and this Bill incorporates the effect of that amendment. Secondly, given the delay in the passage of the Bill there is no need for some of the transitional provisions which appeared in the earlier Bill so those have gone. Thirdly, this new Bill takes account of those changes to the legislation which have occurred in the intervening period and those are set out in paragraph three of my notes. They are changes arising from the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act; the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act and the European Parliamentary Elections Regulations 2001.

  8. Now, paragraph two of your note says how you have been able to shorten what was in Schedule 2 and then paragraph three deals with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

   (Mr Sprackling) Yes, and the other enactments I mentioned.

  9. Thank you very much. Paragraph 3(2) the Removal of Clergy Disqualification Act, a minor amendment there. Then the further points relate to various regulations which have since come into force.
  (Mr Sprackling) Yes, that is right.

  Chairman: Lord Colville, I believe you want to raise a question on Clause 8 of the Bill?

Lord Colville of Culross

  10. Thank you, Lord Chairman, yes. It is not really a question so much as a comment. This Bill does appear to reproduce apart from those amendments that we have just heard about, what we had before but of course other parts of the law to which it refers have changed since we saw it before. If one looks at Clause 8 you would think you would be able to find out who was entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections and you would think, for instance, that in Clause 8(4), which obviously is of some interest to persons from my part of the building, you would have the same arrangements as you had in 1985 but you have not because since this Bill was last before the Joint Committee we have had the Representation of People Act 2000 and we have had another Statutory Instrument in 2001 which picks up points which arise from the House of Lords Reform Legislation. Now if we are going to deal with this on the basis simply of Parliamentary elections, it is not actually a very complete job, if I may say so. I wondered whether I could ask whether there was any information about when the underlying provisions for Clause 8 are going to be attended to because certainly you will not find out readily whether you are entitled to vote or not by simply looking at this Bill. I do not know whether any of our witnesses can help us on that?
  (Mr Sprackling) The question is where do you find out where you are entitled to vote in a Parliamentary election?

  Lord Colville of Culross: My question was on the face of it, Lord Chairman, that Clause 8 purports to say who is entitled to vote. It is not the same as it was last time. It is not the same as it was last time we had this Bill.

  Chairman: The law is not the same although the clause remains save for paragraph five in the same form as it was before.

  Lord Colville of Culross: Yes, my Lord Chairman, but actually there are other things which underlie, for instance, clause 4 which have changed since we last saw the Bill.


  11. Can you help us on that, Mr Sprackling?
  (Mr Sprackling) The law relating to Parliamentary elections, there is a consolidation exercise on that at the moment so hopefully in due course this Committee will have another Bill relating to Parliamentary and local government elections, so it may be clearer then who is entitled to vote at Parliamentary elections.

  Lord Colville of Culross: I welcome that very much because I think that is perhaps even more important than getting this Bill right. It is the underlying material which is in a very confused state indeed.


  12. It may be that the consolidation of these Acts is a more limited exercise than perhaps we are visualising because you are solely consolidating the 1978, 1993 and 1999 European Parliamentary Election Acts.
  (Mr Sprackling) That is right.

  13. You see your task as consolidating them together with any amendments which have been made to them in the meanwhile?
  (Mr Sprackling) Yes, indeed.

  14.  Are you aware of any other provision which we ought to have regard to in order to ensure this is a clear consolidating Bill of those three Acts as currently amended?
  (Mr Sprackling) No, I am not.

  Chairman: Now are there any further questions anybody else would like to ask or Lord Colville would like to ask on this particular aspect?

  Lord Colville of Culross: No.

David Cairns

  15. I apologise if this was discussed in detail prior to my membership of the Committee, and this may be slightly outside the remit here. Is it the case that disqualifications for membership of the European Parliament applies to disqualifications for membership of Parliament? Is that why the House of Commons Clergy Disqualification thing is relevant here because that has changed?
  (Mr Sprackling) Yes, if you are disqualified to be a Member of the House of Commons you are disqualified also to be a MEP. This is parasitic on disqualification from the House of Commons to some extent and obviously if disqualification from the House of Commons changes, disqualification for the European Parliament will also change.

  David Cairns: I need to declare an interest at this point, my Lord Chairman. I am actually a beneficiary of the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act. If that had not been passed I would not be here. I had not realised at that time. As part of my great campaign I did not realise I could not be an MEP either. If I had known that it might have added even more weight to my campaign.

Mr Burnett

  16. Does it work the other way round, in other words disqualification as MEP, does that disqualify you as a Member of the House of Commons? Again I apologise. This is my first session on this Committee.
  (Mr Sprackling) I do not think it does directly. The two categories of people disqualified for membership of the European Parliament are set out in clause 10(1): that is, people who are disqualified from membership of the House of Commons and Lords of Appeal in Ordinary who I understand are not eligible for membership of the House of Commons anyway.

  17. And the other disqualifications which are adumbrated later on in the Bill.
  (Mr Sprackling) Yes.

  Chairman: Right, well now are there any other Clauses of this Bill that anybody else would like to ask about or any of the Schedules? In that case, would it be the will of the Committee that I should put the questions to the Committee which have to be answered and we will proceed in that way? Is it the will of the Committee if we take the Clauses and Schedules en bloc? (Agreed) The first question then is that the title be postponed? As many as are of that opinion will say "content", the contrary, "not content", the contents have it.


  Chairman: On the Clauses, the question is that Clauses 1 to 18 stand part of the Bill? As many as are of that opinion will say "content", the contrary, "not content", the contents have it.


  Chairman: On the Schedules, the question is that Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4, be the first, second, third and fourth schedules to the Bill. As many as are of that opinion will say "content", the contrary, "not content", the contents have it.


  Chairman: On the title, the question is that this be the title of the Bill. As many as are of that opinion will say "content", the contrary, "not content", the contents have it.

  Chairman: Finally I have to propose a draft report. I would propose a report in these terms: "The Committee has considered the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. The Committee has heard evidence on the changes made to the Bill since it considered an earlier version in session 1999-2000. The Committee is of the opinion that the Bill is pure consolidation and represents the existing law. There are no points to which the special attention of Parliament should be drawn." As many as are of that opinion will say "content", the contrary "not content", the contents have it. (Agreed) I think, finally, apart from thanking our witnesses for attending today, I have to ask Sir Patrick to present the Report to the House of Commons and to report also the minutes of proceedings. (Agreed) Unless there is any other business to conduct, I declare the meeting closed.

previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 May 2002