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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I thank him too for changing "complaints" to "questions", because they were not complaints. They were questions. I believed that I had reasonably placed myself in the mindset of this new system but, clearly, I was not quite in it enough. I see the point about needing to nominate a registered party because the party name will be at the head of the column, so to speak, and people will be asked to vote for the party. I understand that and I am grateful for the explanation and for the information about the Registration of Political Parties Bill. I am pleased to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 47 to 50 not moved.]

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 8, line 31, at end insert ("; and
(b) provide that any candidate selected to fill a vacancy from a party's list shall be a member of that party at the time of his selection to fill the vacancy.").

The noble Lord said: I believe that the gremlins must have got at this amendment because I rather suspect the Minister is going to tell me that it is wrongly placed. I suspect that it may relate to a previous draft of the Bill; I wonder if I have the right draft. In any event, I know what I mean and I suspect that the Minister knows what I mean because we discussed this issue in relation to the Welsh Bill.

The problem I am trying to overcome is this. In the event of someone who has been elected either dying or resigning, the way I understand the list to work here, as it will in Scotland and Wales, is that the next person on the list standing for that party who failed to be elected would, if that person was willing, be returned as the Member. There would be no need for a by-election. That is fine.

But what happens if, two years later, Joe Bloggs, let us call him, having been nominated to the list and having failed to be elected, there is a death. His is the next name but he has left the political party that nominated him. It seems to me rather daft--I believe that the Bill would inevitably lead to this--that he would then find himself as the Member of the European Parliament for the party he had just left, with no obligation to do the decent thing and fall on his sword, so to speak. He would happily go off to Brussels and join the other party despite the fact that he had been in the list of the party whose seat it was.

We discussed this matter on the Welsh Bill. The noble Lord brought forward an amendment at about the same time that I put down an amendment to get round the difficulty. As I see it, that has not happened here. I do not believe that the Minister can accept my amendment because it is wrongly placed, but I hope that he will acknowledge that this is a difficult problem and will come forward with an amendment at the next stage to deal with it. I am sure that we all agree that we are faced with an entirely unfair proposition.

There is the related issue of the person who is elected and then decides to abandon the party. Currently, we take the view that that person was elected as the individual for that constituency and that is that. However, if we move to party lists and party systems, that nice argument cannot apply. I wonder whether the Minister has given any thought to that. I know that in the Welsh Bill we decided, at least in Committee, that we would not address the matter although the Minister did address the problem I am attempting to deal with here. I would be grateful if he could give me his advice on where the Government stand with regard to the European Parliamentary Elections Bill and what might happen in the circumstances I have outlined.

Earl Russell: I can understand why the party of the noble Lord believes that it may be worth putting forward this amendment. His final remarks crystallised the

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suspicion that had been forming in my mind as he was speaking that this should be known as the "Temple-Morris amendment".

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Not unless the noble Lord had the gift of prophecy, or at least serendipity. I take the points that the noble Lord made because I believe that they are soundly based. Perhaps I may offer this solution which the Government have in mind, at least in part. If there is a vacancy, as the noble Lord rightly says, arising from death or resignation of the candidate originally elected on a party list, that will be filled by the next eligible person on the relevant party list. Of course, he is quite right. One has to include the description "eligible and willing person on the party list". We are quite at one there.

If the person whose death or resignation caused the vacancy was originally elected as an independent, or if the relevant party list has been exhausted, then a by-election would be held. That is the general way that the system works in jurisdictions which have a similar regime to the one that we propose here.

It would of course be wrong if the person filling the vacancy, on the example given by the noble Lord, had left the original party and was in his own party or in a completely different party after the election. That is a potential problem. What we propose has been set out in an Answer to a Parliamentary Question in another place given by my honourable friend Mr. Howarth. We propose to make regulations under the Bill. That will require the regional returning officer to work down the party list to find the first eligible and willing candidate to fill the vacancy. I have dealt with that already.

There will, however, be an additional hurdle. The Registration of Political Parties Bill creates the position of a nominating officer in each party. The nominating officer or his representative, on behalf of each party, will have to signify that at the relevant date, which is triggered in the circumstances that the noble Lord posited, the candidate remains an approved candidate of the party concerned.

The question of an elected member who wishes to leave his party to join another party or his own party is different. That is a matter that should be dealt with in the usual way; if one is elected one cannot then be deselected or expelled merely because one has changed one's party allegiance. I take the point that the noble Lord put foremost in his question, and that is the way that we intend to deal with it. It means that the party can set up the additional hurdle so that one does not have absurd situations of the sort that the noble Lord feared. I hope that that is helpful.

5 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I think we agreed about someone changing his party after he was elected. I think we agreed in the Welsh Bill that parties would just have to live with that. I think I have come to the view that on this Bill we probably have to do so as well.

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I am pleased to hear that the matter will be put into regulations. My only concern about the rules which the Minister outlined is that it is the nominating person from the party who decides whether the party still wants the individual to be on its list. My concern about that is fairly obvious. There is a difference between someone who leaves say, the Conservative Party, and someone who remains inside the Conservative Party and who falls out of favour with the people running and controlling the party, and so being in a position to influence the nominating officer.

I am giving the Conservative Party as an example so as to be fair to everyone else. A similar situation could occur in the Labour Party, and--dare I say?--has occurred to a large degree in the selection of individuals who are allowed to present themselves as candidates for the Scottish parliament, where at least two Members of the other place have been judged to be unfit to be members of the Scottish parliament, although they have been reasonable Members of the other place for over 20 years. We will leave that aside. That is my reservation.

The Minister knows that I have that reservation. I would rather that it were simply membership of the party so that the parties would not be able to decide that someone had become too difficult a customer and could be ditched. I worry about that just as I worry about the closed list. That is a minor worry. I ask the Minister, whether it be in this Bill, the Welsh Bill or his colleagues on the Scottish Bill, to consider that worry and to ask themselves whether, in the interests of democracy and looking to the future, it might not be wiser just to make it membership of the party.

I would rather see the Minister's proposition on the face of the Bill. It is, after all, going to be on the face of the Welsh Bill. This Bill is not nearly as long as the Welsh Bill. Another two or three lines in this Bill would not come amiss. If they were there, we would all be clear as to how the system would work. Will the Minister perhaps reflect on that matter to see whether it would be possible to put it, as it will be in the Welsh Bill, and, I trust, in the Scottish Bill, on the face of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill? However, with the assurances that I have been given, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 52 to 69 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Schedule 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I have three points. I think that the Minister answered one of my questions. I shall put the matter this way rather than put down a probing amendment. I am looking at the filling of vacancies and the question of by-elections. I was going to ask about the circumstances in which by-elections would occur, but I have had the answer that I thought I would get. I take it that when it comes to a by-election in one of these enormous seats, it will be run as--dare I say it?--a first-past-the-post election. I should be grateful for confirmation that I have worked out the system correctly.

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Lines 15 and 16 of page 8 provide that regulations will be made about the limitation of election expenses, and then:

    "(including expenses incurred in relation to a general election as a whole)".
We have not, heretofore, in this country regulated the expenses incurred in relation to a general election as a whole. I know that these are issues currently under discussion by the Neill Committee. Do I take it that the Government are just being prepared in case Neill suggests that there should be limits, or have the Government already decided that there should be limits? I should be grateful for some advice on that.

My next question might be in the way of a "daft laddie" question. One of the problems--people complained when I did it to them--about a Bill which is devoted entirely to amending a previous piece of legislation is that one has to look backwards and forwards. What lawyers describe as a Keeling schedule might have been handy here.

When I go to line 6 on page 10 I see £200 substituted for £5,000. I presume that that is the deposit. I cannot for the life of me see the deposit-saving percentage anywhere. That leads me to another question. I presume the deposit is for the party's vote.

I appreciate that it is always difficult to be asked questions on clause stand part. So if the Minister cannot find the pieces of paper and follow my questions--I am giving him a little time to do that--I shall fully understand if he writes to me. It would be easier, especially for the non-lawyers among us, if we had Keeling schedules for Bills of this nature. I hope that the Government Chief Whip is taking note of that request.

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