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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, further to everything that has already been said from these Benches, which I shall not repeat--I agree with every word of it--I would ask the noble Lord whether he would consider that in one sense--because we do not have the information--the debate is premature and we may have to come back to this matter at Third Reading. I say that because a principle of the utmost importance is involved. By no stretch of the imagination could this group of amendments be considered wrecking amendments. They are amendments which are, and are intended to be, in implementation of the principle of the Bill. It is our right--furthermore to our right, it is our duty--if insufficient time has been provided to anyone inside or outside Parliament to consider measures of great importance, even if they are briefly referred to in an election manifesto, to delay by amending as is proposed in this group of amendments.

If the noble Lord would care to look at Hansard of 19th May 1993 (cols. 1787-8 of Volume 545) he might appreciate the force of what I am seeking to ask him respectfully to consider.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I may raise one brief question. I am disturbed to hear the news of the possible leak in the Scotsman on Wednesday of the Scottish White Paper. The Government had, to my mind very wisely, organised that the Welsh White Paper would come out two days early and that we would, as we urged

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in Committee, have a space in which the Welsh matters could be considered before the tumult of the Scottish debate began. If the Scotsman is to print this matter on Wednesday it will extinguish the very brief period in which the spotlight can be on Wales. If there is truth in this rumour, is there anything the Government can do to restore some primacy to Wales? If they have leaked the Scottish White Paper, perhaps they can leak the Welsh one tonight.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, when I was a small child I was always taught never to believe what I read in the newspapers. Therefore, I am not inclined to believe something that I have not read in the newspapers. I do not know what will be in the Scotsman. I have had much more amusing and interesting things to do this afternoon and this evening; namely, sitting in your Lordships' House. I do not know what is in the Welsh newspapers. I have no particular interest in what may or may not be rumours. I do know, on the steadfast authority of my noble friend Lord Parry, that in one newspaper in Wales over the weekend there was a careful and considered article about me, describing me as Lord Williams of Elvel, with a photograph of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. So they seem to have got it comprehensively wrong.

This Government do not believe in leaks. We do not act on the basis of leaks. As is well known, we propose to publish the White Paper on Wales on 22nd July and that on Scotland on 24th July. That is entirely consistent--indeed, rather more generously consistent--with the undertakings which my noble friend Lord Sewel and I have given to your Lordships on a number of occasions. We promised to deliver and we have.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, observed that the Welsh people and the Scottish people are entitled broadly to know what they are voting about. I respectfully agree. That is the purpose of the White Papers. There is nothing between us on that. He specifically asked about copies of the Welsh White Paper. I can assure the House that copies of the White Paper will be available to Members of both Houses in the usual way. I hope that is helpful.

I think I have been the object of an attempted seduction--although I was asleep at the time and missed it--in wanting me to say that there would be a second referendum. My Lords, no. The first referendum, as has been said ad nauseam, is intended to be advisory and for guidance. The proposals to which the question on the referendum ballot refers are quite plainly the Government's proposals. Those proposals will be set out in the White Papers. There is no benefit in inserting a specific reference to the White Papers.

In respect of Amendments Nos. 5 and 15, they are technically incompetent because they imply that part of the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Act would have to come into effect and have effect before the Act itself came into force.

Obviously these are going to be important matters. The White Papers will be available. The electorate in both Wales and Scotland will come to their own

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conclusion, not entirely on the White Papers; but those are the broad thrust of the Government's proposals. I imagine that the electorate will listen to contributions from your Lordships' House, from the "Yes" and the "No" campaigns or sub-variants of each campaign. We want the public to come to their own conclusion. This is a device which is not common in our country's constitutional regime, but we believe it to be an important one. On that basis I believe that we are going the right way about it.

Answering hypothetical questions is arid enough at the best of times. We are putting forward our proposals for the judgment of the people of Wales and Scotland respectively. Their judgment will be advisory and is intended to guide the Government. Having listened to the voice of the people in both Scotland and Wales we shall bring forward our proposals for full scrutiny in both Houses of Parliament. On that basis I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who took part in this short debate. I am not in the least surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that the Government do not operate on leaks. No government does that, but his party was pretty good at operating on leaks when it was in opposition. So when the position in your Lordships' House and down the corridor changes, one's view on leaks changes. I fully accept that the Government will not be very happy if there is a leak in the Scotsman, unless it is deliberate. Those are not unknown. I can see the merit in one such deliberate leak on Wednesday, but we shall wait to see. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will either be able to tell me that I should not believe what I read in the newspapers next week--I was going to say that I should not believe what I read in the Scotsman, but I might never appear in it again if I said that--or alternatively I may be able to say to the noble Lord, "Occasionally, you should believe what you read in the newspapers".

However, the point really is whether or not somehow we should tie the Government down as to how the legislation will relate to the White Paper and how closely they must follow it. I said that they should follow it, but I have no doubt that the Government will attempt to do so as best they can. But I do not believe that with a subject as complex as this issues will not arise which will mean that the Government will change their view. They will find that there are different ways to do what they want and perhaps sometimes that there are even better ways. They will want to take these matters on board, and that is the whole purpose of legislation. I am simply putting the question as to what extent the Government are going to be tied by the White Paper or to what extent they will be able to move from that. If that move is significant, however one defines "significant", should we then have a second referendum, or what?

The noble Lord said that he did not like answering hypothetical questions. If he is to be a government Minister he will have to learn that he will have to answer such questions. I shall send him some summer reading

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on some of the Bills of the past few Sessions where hypothetical questions from some of his noble friends formed a fair portion of the questioning of government Ministers both at Committee and Report stages. One of the problems of legislation is that one has to try to work out how it will affect people in different circumstances, and that is what we are attempting to do here.

I am grateful for at least one point of clarification. The noble Lord has not made any attempt to say otherwise, but it is interesting to have it on record that the Government's proposals, as spelt out in the preamble, are the ones in the White Paper, so that everything else that we read that comes from the Government, even their manifesto, will be subsumed by the proposals in the White Paper. As I have been invited continually to wait for the White Paper before I make up my mind one way or the other, I must now start the wait. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 13, after ("government") insert ("or parliamentary").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is something more than a probing amendment. Your Lordships will recall that we had a long debate at Committee stage about who votes in the referendum. Put simply, we can read the electoral register in the post office, the library or at our party offices. It contains two main divisions. One relates to those who are entitled to vote at parliamentary elections and the other relates to those who are entitled to vote at local government elections. The parliamentary election list, like the local government list, includes the vast majority of people who reside in Scotland and Wales. But in the parliamentary list there is added to the end of each register a number of people who are overseas and who, before they went overseas, were electors in that ward. They have applied to be considered as overseas electors. They are allowed to vote in parliamentary elections but not in local government elections. I believe I am right in saying that they are not entitled to vote in elections to the European Parliament because it is assumed that if they live in Europe they will have a vote in the country in which they reside.

The local government register has two other groups added to it. Your Lordships will be particularly interested in one group. It consists of those of your Lordships who are resident in Scotland and Wales. Therefore, I am allowed, as are a number of your Lordships, to vote in local government elections in Scotland, but I am not allowed to vote in parliamentary elections. The other group, which is allowed to vote in local government elections but not parliamentary elections, comprises citizens of the European Union--other than those of the Republic of Ireland whose citizens are allowed to vote in all our elections--who have been resident in our country for six months and who have decided that they wish to apply to vote.

The Government's proposals, as they appear in the Bill, state that we should pick the local government list. I put forward an amendment at Committee stage that we

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should pick the parliamentary list. My argument was a simple one. I thought that those of us, including the overseas electors, who were trusted enough to vote on 1st May ought to be the ones trusted to vote in the referendum. I also suggested that perhaps that might be a reflection of people who have a deep and long-abiding interest in Scotland.

However, a robust defence was made of the right to vote, not so much of your Lordships, but of European citizens. There seemed to be a pretty single-minded determination on the part of the Government that the 12,000 EU nationals in Scotland--I do not know how many in Wales because the Government do not seem to have told us that--ought to be allowed to vote along with everyone else in Scotland and Wales and with the resident Peers. In a spirit of consensus, and approaching these matters in the spirit of wishing to find an agreed position, I accept that if the 12,000 EU nationals and the 123 resident Peers in Scotland are allowed to vote in local government elections it is perfectly right and proper that they should vote at this referendum.

I hope that in the same spirit the Government will tonight accept my amendment, which proposes that overseas voters should also be allowed to vote. There are not many of them. I doubt whether the result of the referendum will be so close in Scotland (it may be in Wales) that it will make much difference to the eventual result. I am told that in Scotland there are 1,500 overseas electors. Some of them will not vote, but I suggest that if they have gone to the trouble of putting their names on the overseas register, which is not an easy task, they are probably interested enough in the affairs of their homeland to vote in this important referendum.

So I have brought forward here an amendment which adds to "local government" the words "or parliamentary" so that all people who are currently on the electoral register, both parliamentary and local government, will be allowed to vote. That will allow those of your Lordships who live in Wales and Scotland to take part in this momentous decision. It will allow 12,000 EU nationals in Scotland and perhaps 7,000 or so in Wales--perhaps the noble Lord can tell us the figure--to vote on the future of Scotland and Wales. It will also allow to vote that much smaller number of overseas voters who left Scotland and Wales within the past 20 years, but who have retained an interest and ensured that their names remain on the electoral register.

Perhaps my amendment is in some way defective in its drafting. I would always defer to the parliamentary draftsmen in these matters and if the amendment is defective, I should be happy for the Government to introduce an amendment which encapsulates the point that I am making. However, the Government should take on board the simple proposition that the people who are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections ought also to be entitled to vote in this referendum, just as I am taking on board the Government's point that people who are allowed to vote in local government elections, including EU nationals, should be allowed to vote in the referendum. In that spirit of consensus and so on, I very much hope to hear the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, use the immortal words, "I think I can accept the noble Lord's amendment". I beg to move.

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6.30 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I support the amendment and I hope that we shall not be told that there will be any kind of administrative problem or delay. Not all noble Lords would remember it, but in 1945 there was an interval of three weeks between polling day and the declaration of the poll in each constituency so that service votes could be brought in from all over the world. It worked perfectly smoothly. This is a minute administrative effort compared with that. Indeed, the procedure happens anyway in parliamentary elections. I hope that the Government will realise that we owe it to those men who are serving perhaps overseas or, indeed, in this country in our Armed Forces. They should have the right to determine what is to happen.

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