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Lord Whitty: My Lords, as ever, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving me guidance as to what I may unfortunately have to do later tonight. I hope that I shall not have to do it. Until we submit virtually equivalent orders and the House agrees those virtually equivalent orders, we have no basis on which to fight the election and no basis on which to limit expenses in that election. That would be an absurd situation in which to place the House.

I have contended throughout that not only does this take us into uncharted territory, which I submit your Lordships should be cautious of entering, but that it is also particularly inappropriate that we should do it today. The noble Lord is well aware of, and has referred to, the fact that an appropriate Bill is possibly going through Parliament at this time. We have very good arguments against his proposition, which we shall deploy on Report. It may be rather late in the day to do it. We should perhaps have included that provision in the GLA Bill. Belated though it may be, however, it must be within the scope of the Representation of the People Bill. My noble friend Lord Bassam will be taking the Report stage of that Bill on Tuesday. That surely will be a legitimate opportunity for the noble Lord to

22 Feb 2000 : Column 177

press these matters--not by effectively rejecting a basis for fighting the London election on which we are all agreed.

If the noble Lord wants to present any propositions, or indeed if we have any new propositions, which will avoid huge cost to the taxpayer and avoid the possibility of abuse, my noble friend Lord Bassam and I shall be quite happy to talk to him or to anybody else about sensible propositions which meet our criteria. We are not, however, prepared to be bounced--I might even use the term "blackmailed" at this point without impugning anybody's integrity in a personal sense--into surrendering our advocacy of this order and these rules on the basis of something which is irrelevant and on the basis of a Prayer which would bounce the Government into doing something which is ultra vires. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, will mark my words well in this respect. I hope, therefore, that the House will also understand what it will do if it follows the noble Lord's lead.

Earl Russell: Is the Minister about to tell us that this Government have never bounced anybody into doing anything?

Lord Whitty: Only within our vires, large though they may be!

5.55 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I wish I could say that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for his summing up. I am not sure that I can say that. I believe that we have been round the same sort of course which the media went round and which we went round last week on the Representation of the People Bill. The Government's case seems to be entirely that we cannot complain about the orders simply because something is missing. That is new. I have heard Labour Members complaining fairly vigorously about many matters being missing from legislation and yet it has never stopped them.

The more serious point made by the noble Lord, if I heard him correctly, is that there are no powers in the Greater London Authority Act. I have checked that the Scotland Act does not directly mention these matters, but it does give power under Section 12(4)(a) to,

    "apply, with or without modifications or exceptions, any provision made by or under the Representation of the People Acts or the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 or by any other enactment relating to parliamentary elections".

Section 405(1) of the Greater London Authority Act seems to give Ministers powers every bit as wide as the powers that I have mentioned under the Scotland Act. It states:

    "Any Minister of the Crown may by order make such amendments, repeals or revocations as appear to him to be appropriate in consequence of this Act, or of any regulations and orders under this Act ... in any enactment contained in an Act passed before the relevant day or in the Session in which that day falls".

22 Feb 2000 : Column 178

That is a fairly extensive power.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is the standard clause which appears at the end of a number of pieces of legislation. The key words are,

    "in consequence of this Act".

If it is not referred to elsewhere in the Act, one cannot invoke it for this purpose.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not a lawyer, neither is the noble Lord the Minister, but it seems to me that it is a matter of common sense to suggest that such a freepost is in consequence of an election, and I believe that the public would agree with that. The Government may therefore find that they are able to try these powers. In any case, as we have said frequently, they could use the Representation of the People Bill. All that I derived from the last part of the Minister's statement is that we and the Liberal Democrats could put forward amendments to the Representation of the People Bill and take the temperature. We have now twice taken the temperature and I have not seen the patient--namely, the Labour Party--show any sign of responding to the medicine that we have tried to administer. It is simply not prepared to budge an inch. It is not even prepared to concede that there may be an argument in this respect or that there may be ways in which we could address this issue. I am not therefore terribly impressed by the Minister's point.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thought that I had made it clear in the latter part of my speech that if the noble Lord wished to pursue this matter in that context, my noble friend Lord Bassam and I would be willing to talk to him and to the Liberal Democrats to see whether there is a way of meeting their objectives which does not meet the objections that we have currently spelt out. I believe, therefore, that mine is a fair reaction to the points that have been raised in this debate. It does not alter the basic impropriety of pressing the Motion tonight, but it is a positive and a constructive reaction.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, it is possible that in that event we would make a tiny bit of progress but, of course, we would still have no guarantee that our position would be met any more sympathetically when we come to Report stage next Tuesday. It would give us more confidence in the noble Lord's bona fides if he simply decided not to proceed this evening with the affirmative order, but to withdraw it, in which case my amendment would fall and I would certainly withdraw my Prayer against the negative instrument. Those matters could then stand aside until we see what happens next Tuesday. In that way, the Government would have to produce some goods next Tuesday. If they do not produce any goods next Tuesday, we would still have some power.

The fact of the matter is that if I do what the Minister would like me to do, I shall be left tomorrow morning absolutely powerless. The Liberal Democrats

22 Feb 2000 : Column 179

and I would be left without any clothes at all so far as this battle is concerned. We want the Representation of the People Bill for other reasons, and the Government know that we would not play ping-pong in relation to it and invoke the Parliament Act. Frankly, the Government are asking me to give away what little weaponry I have to try to persuade them to come forward with a decent solution.

Lord Whitty: Far be it from me to advise the noble Lord on his powers; this is not the normal job of the Government Front Bench. Nevertheless, his Prayer is, of course, a Prayer against a negative resolution. If he withdraws it, it is still laid before the House and he can therefore bring forward his Prayer before the House at any time. He would not be bereft. I hope that he does not use it; I would expect him not to use it; and I would expect a constructive outcome. Nevertheless, it is untrue to say that he would be bereft of all power if he did not press his amendment tonight.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I understand that, but we are left with the affirmative order. I do not believe that any damage would be done to the Government's position if we could genuinely make progress next Tuesday. No damage would be done to the Government's position if they withdrew their affirmative order and I withdrew my Prayer. That would put us on all fours and we could go on to discussions; see what conclusion we could reach; come forward with an agreed package at the Report stage, or even at Third Reading if the worst came to the worst, of the Representation of the People Bill; and then the affirmative order before us and the negative order would pass happily without further comment. That is a reasonable proposition, rather than asking the Liberal Democrats and myself to take on faith that we shall make a little more progress on Tuesday.

The Minister can withdraw his Motion, which means that my amendment falls. I shall then happily withdraw my Prayer. If the Minister proceeds with his affirmative order, I must ask my noble friends--and my new noble friends, too--to join me in the Lobby.

6.1 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 215; Not-Contents, 150.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Aldington, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bell, L.
Belstead, L.
Biffen, L.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blackwell, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridges, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Buscombe, B.
Butterworth, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chadlington, L.
Chilver, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cockfield, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Cowdrey of Tonbridge, L.
Cox, B.
Craigavon, V.
Cranborne, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Cuckney, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Deedes, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Donaldson of Lymington, L.
Dundee, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Geddes, L.
Geraint, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. [Teller]
Harris of High Cross, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Holderness, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Inglewood, L.
Jacobs, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jellicoe, E.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jopling, L.
Kelvedon, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Laird, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Listowel, E.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Ludford, B.
Luke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
McNally, L.
Mancroft, L.
Marlesford, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Montrose, D.
Moore of Lower Marsh, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newby, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Oliver of Aylmerton, L.
Onslow, E.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peel, E.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prentice, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Rennard, L
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
Saatchi, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Sandwich, E.
Seccombe, B.
Selsdon, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stewartby, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Thatcher, B.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Tugendhat, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Wilson of Tillyorn, L.
Windlesham, L.
Young, B.


Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brightman, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Burns, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Diamond, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkhill, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Orme, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stern, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Tenby, V.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

22 Feb 2000 : Column 182

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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