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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I am sorry if anything I said was responsible for stirring the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, to get to his feet. However, my grief and sadness at not being able to agree with my own Front Bench is much more severe than that caused by my inability to agree with him.

Viscount Bledisloe: I suggest that if there is to be a right of objection it cannot be reserved only to registered parties. What about someone who is trying in some way to pretend to be independent and who sought to register the Cross-Bench party? Surely those who are Cross-Benchers must be entitled to object even though they are not a party and therefore obviously would not be registered. There must be a right for the public to object if there is to be a right to object at all.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: I welcome the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, because on Second Reading I said that we had to be particularly careful in considering a Bill which may on the face of it appear to be "carving things up" between the major parties. That remark was not received in the Chamber with universal approbation. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is the first person I have heard make the same point. I believe we need to be careful with this matter. What concerns me with regard to Amendment No. 6 of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, is mention of,

that is, the registrar--

    "to be appropriate".

I have in this Chamber previously drawn attention to the way in which the "chattering classes" have thrashed through their constitutional change programme. The national newspapers they have used have been restricted to the Guardian, the Independent, the Telegraph, and one insertion in a tabloid newspaper--Today. However, nothing else has been used. A phrase such as the one I have mentioned is far too sloppy. If the registrar is to be given some kind of control over which national newspapers may be used to advertise in, the provision must be much more specific to ensure that it is not simply a case of special pleading appealing to a particular audience.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As is so often the case, the propositions put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, seem to me unarguable. In other words, one could not sensibly dispute them. Had I been irresolute, he would have stiffened my resolve. He said--I think this is the heart of the matter--that if one is to appoint a person to do this work, one will assume that he or she will have his or her wits about him. That is precisely the case. I shall develop that theme in a limited way.

Amendment No. 4 limits the right of objection--I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Henley--to registered parties. That is a point of concern to both the

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noble Lords, Lord Peyton and Lord Cocks. Amendment No. 6 puts that in a wider context. Clause 3(1)(a) already requires the registrar, when considering applications, to take account of whether the proposed name is,

    "likely to result in the party's being confused by voters with a party which is already registered".
During the transitional stages, Clause 18(1)(b) provides an additional test of considering the historic use of a name when deciding whether an application for registration should be granted. If one wants the belt, the braces and the corset, Clause 10 gives the registrar the opportunity to take advice from the Speaker's committee. It is difficult to understand why anything further should sensibly be wanted bearing in mind that we need a scheme to be operative by May of next year, which is not far away. We do not want significant delays. The scheme gives the registrar the authority and the discretion to come to sensible judgments which are not difficult for a person charged with those responsibilities.

Lord Henley: I take it therefore that there is no objection--the noble Lord did not touch on this--to individuals, whether they be Cross-Benchers or parties, making objections to the registrar. The registrar would obviously take note of those objections if they were made.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think the registrar would be derelict if he did not take them into account.

Lord Clement-Jones: I think the Minister will forgive me for saying that we on these Benches are rather disappointed with his response. He displays an ultimate faith in the registrar who will have a difficult job to discharge in a political minefield, especially if he is not to have the benefit of hearing people argue their case. There is the issue of political parties being given notice of the applications for registration. There is also the important issue of their being able to argue their case before the registrar.

I accept to some degree the criticisms that have been made about the Liberal Democrat amendment. Clearly I do not wish to create a closed shop--albeit I am a lawyer--which prevents representations being made by those other than existing registered political parties. The system should be more open than that. However, we defend the making of regulations to allow more considered regulations to be made rather than bringing forward a scheme involving a 28-day notice period. As I said, we are disappointed at the Minister's response to the sentiments behind this amendment. We shall withdraw it at this stage and reconsider it for Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 [Grant of applications]:

Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 9, leave out from ("script") to end of line 11.

The noble Lord said: The Minister will undoubtedly have heard the old adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Bearing in mind how helpful I have been

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to the Government with regard to the previous amendments I believe the moment has come for a tiny pay-off. I would find that gratifying although there is a great limit to my ambitions in that context.

I know it is original to consider the Bill, but I invite the Committee to have a brief look at Clause 3. Clause 3(1) states,

    "The registrar shall grant an application by a party under section 2 unless in his opinion it proposes a registered name which--

    (a) would be likely to result in the party's being confused ...

    (b) comprises more than six words

    (c) is obscene or offensive

    (d) includes words the publication of which would be likely to amount to the commission of an offence".
I know that there is little limit to the noble Lord's intellectual powers. He can perhaps help me on this matter. I have omitted the provision about the application needing to be written in Roman script. There follows a kind of "sweep-up" provision:

    "(f) includes any word or expression prohibited by order made by the Secretary of State".
By including that kind of verbiage in the Bill, do the Government have anything in mind? Or are they merely having a general sweep-up? Did they say, "We are getting awfully tired of this exercise. Let's include a general, safety-net clause that will catch everything that the Secretary of State finds in the least distasteful"?

In relation to the previous amendment, which he sensibly rejected, the noble Lord said that a "belt and braces" provision was unnecessary. Clause 3(1)(f) is a further example of belt and braces and the Government saying, "In case we have left anything out, let us include some words that will cover more or less whatever we do."

I hope that the noble Lord will give serious thought to this matter and give me a tiny pay-back, which I believe I have fully earned for my very helpful conduct so far.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Henley: I do not know whether my noble friend wants support from this Bench, or whether he thinks it might upset the "pay-back" to which he believes he is entitled, the "free lunch" to which he referred earlier. However, I can offer him some slight support for his amendment. It may be useful if I refer the Committee to the 29th Report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which made only one recommendation in regard to this Bill; namely, it invited the House to consider the degree of parliamentary control that should be provided for the power being granted to the Secretary of State by Clause 3(1)(f).

A better way of dealing with the matter, as my noble friend proposes in his amendment, may be to remove the power from the Secretary of State absolutely. That seems to be what my noble friend generally likes to do, operating on the basis that powers should be taken away from Secretaries of State rather than granted to them. But if we are not to remove that power, it is right that the Committee should consider exactly what control we should have over this particular clause. I understand that at present it is subject to the negative resolution procedure. I should be grateful for confirmation from the noble Lord that that is correct and that it appears in the Bill.

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At this stage I simply give notice that we shall probably wish to return to this matter at a later stage so that the House can give proper consideration to whether the provision should be under the negative or affirmative resolution procedure.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am sure that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, say that he had been co-operative. There was then a considered pause before he introduced those two words which sent a shiver down my back--"so far".

The noble Lord asked for examples. It is not a matter of over-nannying. We have in mind names containing a word such as "royal". That would be inappropriate and ought to be forbidden. Words in the same context are "duke", "duchess", "Her Majesty", "His Majesty", "king", "prince", "princess", "queen" and "royalty". Those are the kinds of expression that we should wish not to see used. I mentioned other examples earlier. We do not want people to be able to register and simply use the word "independent" in order to prevent anyone else using a similar word. But questions relating to the Royal Family ought to be subject to the prohibition that is anticipated.

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, is right. Clause 3(1)(f) is subject to the negative resolution procedure by virtue of Clause 20(2). I hope that I have satisfied the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, with my persuasive explanation.

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