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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most grateful not only for the tone which both noble Lords have used today but also for the tone of our meeting. Indeed, when they put the problem of Scotland to me at

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the meeting, the officials, as always in the Home Office, were extremely helpful. When the three of us invited them to consider whether they could redraft the Bill at a very late stage, they immediately cheerfully and willingly said that they could do so. One of the problems is that these logos will become the property of the first stage parties. The first stage applicant parties are those which have at least one seat in the House of Commons. I think that that amounts to nine parties. If one then multiplies nine by three, that will produce 27 emblems which may possibly be bagged at a very early stage.

We were asked specifically to deal with the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish; namely, that the Scottish Conservatives may want a distinctive logo. He told us on the last occasion that that was a lion and we were able to meet that request. It is really a matter of practicality and whether or not this can be done. I am not holding out undue hope, but I shall certainly consider the matter. Time is very tight, not simply for Third Reading but also for the registrar's preparations. I believe that the registrar had already begun to make preparations on the basis of one logo. He is now being invited to cast his mind to two logos. If we are to have three, it will be very difficult with a tight timetable because these provisions must be ready, published and available for public scrutiny in respect of elections which are due to take place as early as May next year.

I am not being difficult; I am simply looking at the practicalities. With that cautionary though not gloomy note, I can certainly undertake to consider the matter to ascertain whether or not we can have an accommodation in this respect. However, I make one plea to noble Lords: please not more than three emblems. Indeed, what about Northern Ireland?

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his typically helpful reply. My only point of clarification is that it would be very unlikely for our Scottish and Welsh parties to apply for separate logos. Therefore, the possibility of trying to scoop the pool with all these logos is remote. Indeed, it is a potential issue and not a current one.

Lord Henley: My Lords, before I withdraw my amendment and allow the government amendments to be moved and, I hope, accepted by the House, perhaps I may say how grateful I am to the Minister for considering the point. It is a very real point for us in that we do have three separate logos and that could cause us considerable embarrassment in deciding the apportionment of two logos between three separate parts of the party. I am most grateful that the noble Lord is at least prepared to consider the matter over the next few days when I imagine that Home Office officials might have their minds on other matters. I appreciate that the time is tight. However, we have at least until next Wednesday to consider these matters.

When speaking to a previous amendment, I gave the Minister notice that I thought it unlikely that I would be present on Third Reading. However, I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Mackay will be. If the

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Government are not able to bring forward some amendments at that stage, I am sure that my noble friend will wish to return to the matter next Wednesday. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Emblems]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 18, leave out ("an emblem") and insert ("up to two emblems").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 4 to 6:

Page 2, line 19, after ("section") insert ("in relation to an emblem").
Page 2, line 20, leave out ("the emblem") and insert ("it").
Page 2, line 22, at end insert ("for another party").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 6 [Changes to the register]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 2, line 39, leave out ("a registered emblem,") and insert ("two registered emblems,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 8 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Speaker's committee]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 4, line 12, at end insert--
("(2) A party whose application under section 3, 5, 6 or 18 is refused may appeal to the committee against the decision of the registrar.
(3) A registered party may appeal to the committee against a decision of the registrar under section 3, 5 or 6 in respect of another party.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, again, this is an amendment which has been brought back in order to hear what the Minister has to say about it. There is concern that there is no appeal process against a decision of the registrar other than by way of an application to the court for judicial review. It is felt that there ought to be some process by which either a party whose name is rejected by the registrar should be able to appeal against that decision or an equal process by which a party which is already registered, or which may be seeking registration, can object to the proposal of the registrar to register another party with a particular name. In those circumstances, I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on the issue. I beg to move.

Lord Henley: My Lords, there is nothing that I wish to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has just said. We also have concerns about there being some appropriate appeal system. We met the Minister and he explained the practical difficulties in the way of doing something on this occasion under the Bill in terms of time. However, he offered us the prospect of some reassurance in that respect. I, too, look forward to hearing the Minister's response on this particular matter.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I should like to say a few words at this point, especially as I did not have the

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privilege of being on the "net" of the Front Benches in their discussions with my noble friend the Minister. I also expressed concern at earlier stages of the Bill that there was no appeal process and pointed out that the decisions of the registrar are of tremendous importance over a long period.

I have some queries in regard to Amendments Nos. 9 and 10. For example, on Amendment No. 9, it seems clear to me that it is a committee of MPs because the committee referred to is one which is appointed by the Speaker from Members of Parliament. Alternatively, the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, refers to the Secretary of State establishing a committee, and says:

    "The committee shall consist of seven persons appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons, a majority of whom shall not be members of any political party".
One might suppose at first sight that a committee appointed by the Speaker would be a committee composed of Members of Parliament. However, to find a group of seven Members of Parliament, the majority of whom do not belong to any political party, may be rather difficult at the present time and indeed at other times. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is referring to a committee which is more broadly based and would include people who are not Members of the House of Commons. However, that is not clear.

In previous discussions on this matter I expressed some concern--as did noble Lords opposite--about the absence of any appeal. I was particularly concerned because of the kind of person the registrar is. With respect to him, an expert on companies appointed by the Department of Trade and Industry is not particularly an expert on the matter we are discussing. Over the next few months he will take decisions on matters on which he can hardly be considered an expert. The only possibility of becoming an expert is by approaching the Speaker's committee for advice. According to my noble friend the Minister, that advice would be expected to be accepted. That is good up to a point.

I would worry less about the absence of an appeal if the electoral commission was in existence now and was taking all these vital decisions as to the registration of political parties for the long term. I hope that the Minister will comment on the absence of an appeal against the registrar under the Bill as it stands. That still disturbs me. While the electoral commission may be a much more satisfactory body--noble Lords opposite have mentioned this--it will not come into existence until later next year when most of the vital decisions may well have been taken on the first round of registration of political parties (those which are represented in the House of Commons) and on the second round, those parties which are not represented in the House of Commons. The electoral commission will therefore come into play when matters have already been determined. I hope that the Minister can reassure me on those worries. I should be most grateful for that reassurance.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we discussed these matters on an earlier occasion. We thought that a number of the points raised were worthy of a fair degree

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of reflection. As I indicated on the previous occasion, Amendment No. 9 could be circuitous because the registrar is likely to refer the application in the first place to the Speaker's committee if there is any difficulty. The Speaker's committee cannot be an appellate body on its own decision. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, used the phrase, "in the long term". We are tight on the timetable. I believe that as regards the first raft of elections which concern the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish parliament there will not be any real difficulty. We can all anticipate perfectly easily the kind of parties which are likely to stand in an election which is as soon as next May. I take the noble Lord's point about the long term as other parties may develop which would wish to stand in future years.

The proposed new clause in Amendment No. 10 is extremely wide. But it is rather short on detail. I accept entirely that it is tabled on the basis of a probing amendment, as I believe the noble Lord said. I have some sympathy with the reasons for tabling Amendment No. 10. I understand the arguments which were developed on the previous occasion, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. At the moment an appeals machinery would add significant delay to the registration process. Our priority is to get the elections under way with registered parties.

Among the Neill committee's 100 recommendations is included the proposal that an electoral commission should be established and that it should, as I said, assume the role of registrar of political parties. There have not been any decisions on the precise role and remit of the electoral commission but it may well make sense for it to take over the role of registrar. When the commission is set up we shall want to look again at the arrangements for registering political parties. The experience up to and beyond the Welsh and Scottish elections will, of course, form an important part of that consideration. We shall examine in particular--I give this undertaking--whether or not the absence of any appeals machinery has in practice been a cause of disquiet. We shall consider in the light of our findings what additional safeguards, if any, need to be put in place. I hope that is helpful; it is intended to be.

I shall discuss the Speaker's committee because it was mentioned. As I understand the position from the Speaker, she will shortly announce the composition of her committee in the Votes and Proceedings of the other place. She has told the Home Secretary she thinks it is important that the committee should not operate, or appear to operate, on a party political basis. In setting it up she does not therefore intend to take into account in any precise way political balance or geographical spread. Her intention--I think it is a sensible one, if I may say so without disrespect to her--is to appoint senior Members of the House. I hope those comments are helpful. As I said, they are intended to be helpful. If the amendments were intended to be probing amendments, they have perhaps winkled out a pearl or two.

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