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("(7) The Scottish Ministers may by order provide that, despite subsection (3), the Commission may perform the functions conferred by this section in relation to local government elections or to local government in Scotland.
(8) Subsection (6) shall not apply to the expenditure incurred by the Commission in performing their functions exercisable by virtue of an order made by the Scottish Ministers under subsection (7); but such expenditure shall not exceed such sum as is for the time being specified for the purposes of this subsection in an order made by the Scottish Ministers.
(9) The Scottish Ministers shall reimburse the Commission for any expenditure incurred by them which is attributable to the exercise of any of functions mentioned in subsection (8).
(10) Section 146(5) shall apply to an order made by the Scottish Ministers under this section as it applies to an order made by the Secretary of State under this Act and the reference in that section to enactments shall include a reference to any enactment comprised in or in an instrument made under an Act of the Scottish Parliament.
(11) The power of the Scottish Ministers to make an order under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of the Scottish Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I would not normally intervene, because we have already spoken to the amendment, five months ago, but I am surprised to see it appear on the Marshalled List with an asterisk. An asterisk means that either the amendment is new--I know that it is not--or it has been altered. I want to know why it has been altered.

While I am at it, I also want to know what will happen if the Scottish Ministers decide not to confer the functions. If there had not been an asterisk, I would not have read it, so the Minister has the asterisk to thank for this intervention.

Bearing in mind subsection (10), if it is found that an amendment is needed to a United Kingdom Act or order, how can it be done by Scottish Ministers in the Scottish Parliament? Who will be able to do it? I am a little puzzled by that.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I knew that I should be grateful for an asterisk. The amendment is starred because the words "by order" have been added in subsection (7). Those words were missed out in error previously. It is clear from new subsection (11) that the power in new subsection (7) to extend the electoral commission's voter education function to cover Scottish local government elections is intended to be exercised by order.

On the noble Lord's second point, if the Scottish Executive decided that it did not want to buy into the electoral commission, one would assume that it had its reasons. That would be a matter for the Scottish Executive.

Thirdly, I am advised that there is no need to amend UK legislation for the Scottish Executive to exercise the powers.

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On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 [Boundary committees]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 50A:

    Page 9, line 13, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert--

("(2) Each Boundary Committee shall consist of--
(a) a chairman, and
(b) not less than the appropriate number of other members,
appointed by the Commission.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) "the appropriate number", in relation to a Boundary Committee, is--
(a) two, if no functions fall to be exercised by the Committee by virtue of section 17(1), section (Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland)(1) or section 18(1) (as the case may be); and
(b) four, if any functions fall to be so exercised.").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 50B, 52A, 53A, 53B, 54A, 55A, 55B, 93A, 313A, 322R and 322T. Despite the apparent detail, the purpose of the amendments is straightforward. The intention is that the Bill should provide for the transfer of the functions of the existing parliamentary and local government boundary commissions to the electoral commission.

The case for such a transfer is simple. The Jenkins commission on the voting system, about which we have already heard today, pointed to the need for greater co-ordination of the work of the four parliamentary boundary commissions. In addition, a review of the Local Government Commission for England, which reported in 1998, concluded that a merger between the parliamentary and local government boundary commissions for England would lead to improved efficiency and greater effectiveness and coherence in the review of boundaries from ward level up to Westminster constituencies.

As it stands, the Bill provides for such a merger of functions within the electoral commission. However, the apparent role of the commission essentially is to delegate the exercise of the existing commission's functions to the boundary committees which it will be required to establish.

On reflection, that is not entirely satisfactory. The full benefits of a merger of the existing boundary commissions would not be realised unless the electoral commission had a clear strategic role in directing and co-ordinating the work of the boundary committees. Without such strategic oversight, there is a danger that the new arrangements will not represent any great advance upon those which exist currently.

The key amendments in this group are Amendments Nos. 52A and 93A. Amendment No. 52A would insert a new clause which would replace existing Clause 15. The new clause would give effect to a new schedule, inserted by Amendment No. 93A, which amends the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 so as to set out the respective roles and functions of, on the one hand, the electoral commission and, on the other, the boundary committees in relation to the review of parliamentary constituency boundaries.

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The new schedule is rather lengthy. However, in large part that is because it would also make a number of equivalent changes to the provisions of the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998 concerned with the review of electoral boundaries in respect of the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament.

The principal points are that, under the revised arrangements, responsibility for keeping under review the distribution of parliamentary constituencies would rest with the electoral commission. It would be for the commission to make a report to the relevant Secretary of State, recommending changes to constituency boundaries. Where the commission decided to make a report, it would then be for the relevant boundary committee to carry out the required review and to submit to the commission proposals as to the recommendations for inclusion in its report.

The commission could ensure that the four boundary committees took a consistent approach to the review of constituency boundaries by issuing directions to each committee. However, any such directions would themselves need to be consistent with the rules for the redistribution of seats.

On receipt of a committee's report, the electoral commission would have five options. It could: first, accept the proposed recommendations; secondly, accept the recommendations subject to modifications agreed with the committee; thirdly, reject the recommendations and require the committee to reconsider its proposals; fourthly, reject the recommendations and require the committee to undertake another complete or part review; and, lastly, in the case of a review into only part of the area for which the respective committee is responsible, take no further action.

We hope and expect that the commission would never have to exercise the option of requiring a further full review. However, it is right that the commission should have that in its armoury; for example, to cover a situation where a committee had failed properly to apply the rules for the redistribution of seats.

A number of the remaining amendments are consequential upon the revised arrangements. Amendments Nos. 53A, 53B, 55A and 55B are concerned with the order-making powers in Clauses 17 and 18. Those clauses empower the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to transfer to the electoral commission the functions of the Local Government Commission for England and the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales respectively. The amendments would require that the arrangements effected by any such order were consistent with the respective roles of the commission and the boundary committees, as set out in the new schedule.

The new clause inserted by Amendment No. 54A makes parallel provision for the Scottish Executive to transfer to the electoral commission the functions of

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the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. Amendments Nos. 322R and 322T make minor consequential changes to Schedule 21.

Amendments Nos. 50A and 50B are concerned with the membership of the boundary committees. Amendment No. 50A provides that, where the functions of a boundary committee extend to the review of local government boundaries, the committee must have a minimum of five members rather than three. That is simply an acknowledgement of the workload of a boundary committee involved in both parliamentary and local government boundary reviews.

Finally, Amendment No. 50B requires that at least one member of each committee has experience of local government matters in the relevant part of the United Kingdom and also, in the case of the boundary committee for Wales, that one member is a Welsh-speaker. Beyond that, I hope that the changes speak for themselves. I beg to move Amendment No. 50A.

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