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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, of course I shall not move the amendment tabled in my name because, as the Minister rightly pointed out, the government amendments achieve the same end. Indeed, they go a good deal further because they address the problem as regards the Prime Minister. I confess that I did not bother to mention the Leader of the Opposition or the leader of the Liberal Democrats because I thought that the matter would be brought home to the Government slightly more firmly if I suggested that every time a constituency treasurer changed, a Minister would have to troop along to Downing Street to get the signature of the Prime Minister. I must say that I have never seen a government retreat quite as rapidly from a position.

Lord Bach: My Lords, we may have retreated rapidly, but I hope that we have shown good grace.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, yes, the Government have shown very good grace. I was about to say that, in all fairness, I, too, would have retreated rapidly if I had been in the same situation.

I welcome the amendments. They improve the Bill and ensure that the provisions are more realistic in their operation in the real world. For that, I am most grateful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 59:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 60 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Registration of parties]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 61:

    Page 21, line 20, at end insert--

("( ) Where the Commission refuse an application by a party under this section, they shall notify the party of their reasons for refusing the application.").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 61, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 62 and 65. These amendments address another point raised in Committee. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, argued that where the electoral commission refused an application or request under Clause 26, it should be required to notify the party concerned of its reasons for the refusal. I thought that that was an extremely sensible suggestion.

I indicated in my response to the noble Viscount that that would be what would happen in practice. That being the case, I agree that, in the interests of clarity, it would be beneficial to place the requirement on the face of the Bill. The same principle extends to Clauses 27 and 28. I believe that we are now all happily agreed on this proposition. I commend the amendments to the noble Viscount and to the House. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I thank the Minister. When he responded in Committee, he stated that he had no doubt that the commission would set out its reasons in writing. However, he has not thought it necessary to specify such good practice in the Bill. Nevertheless, he has gone some way to meeting the point by tabling a helpful amendment which sets out that the commission should notify its reasons for refusal. I am grateful to the Minister for the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27 [Emblems]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 62:

    Page 22, line 2, at end insert--

("( ) Where the Commission refuse a request made by a party under this section in relation to an emblem, they shall notify the party of their reasons for refusing the request.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 63:

    Page 22, line 2, at end insert--

("(5) The Secretary of State may by order, made on the recommendation of the Commission, vary the maximum number of emblems that may be included in a request for registration under subsection (1).
(6) An order made under subsection (5) may not provide for the maximum number of registered emblems that may be included in a request for registration under subsection (1) to be less than three.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 63. Let us see if we can maintain this run of agreement between ourselves and the Government.

Amendment No. 63 deals with the number of emblems that a political party can employ. When, initially, we decided to allow emblems to be reproduced on the ballot paper, I expressed some dismay at the proposal. We were introducing something which to me seemed necessary only in a country with a low standard of literacy. It seemed ludicrous, at this late stage in our history, that we should introduce the use of emblems. However, I regret that my argument did not garner sufficient support on that day and so emblems may be used.

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However, I had one point for discussion. Sometimes political parties need to use different emblems in different parts of the country. I was grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for accepting that argument and agreeing to the use of three emblems under the terms of the 1998 Bill. Since then we have looked again at the situation. In Committee, I suggested that we should increase that number to six. The Government understood the point that I was making but then decided that they did not wish to stipulate that number on the face of the Bill.

However, as we move on towards elections for Westminster, local, district and county elections, possibly regional assembly elections in England and certainly devolved elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as mayoral elections and European parliamentary elections, it is possible that more than three emblems may be needed.

I now propose a course that I would not normally choose; namely, as the amendment states, that if the electoral commission suggests that it would be appropriate to increase the permissible number of emblems, power should be given to the Secretary of State to allow for this. Clearly, such a power would not be used lightly. It would be used only if the commission felt that it was justified because a political party had approached it and said that, because of the circumstances, it needed to use more than three emblems. If the commission agreed with the argument, it would then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. In those circumstances, I would be content to give the Secretary of State power by order to change the allowable number.

This is a modest amendment--so modest that I am almost too modest to propose it. However, I am doing so and I hope that the Government are listening. I beg to move.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I wish that the noble Lord had been a little more modest and had not moved the amendment. I am afraid that we do not feel that we can accept the proposal.

Part II re-enacts the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 with such modifications as are necessary to establish a new scheme for bringing political parties within the controls on income and expenditure set out in the Bill. We have, however, sought to leave the 1998 scheme set out in the Act intact as far as possible.

One of the purposes of the 1998 Act is to protect a party's exclusive use of its name and its emblems in order to prevent voters being either confused or misled. The original intention had been to restrict political parties to the registration of only one emblem. However, as the noble Lord reminded the House, during the passage of the 1998 Bill it was pointed out that the Conservative Party used different emblems in England, Scotland and Wales. It was therefore conceded that a political party should be able to register up to three different emblems. Indeed, to have deprived a party of the use of an emblem with which

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voters in a particular part of the United Kingdom were already familiar would have run counter to the purpose of the 1998 Act.

We are not convinced, however, of the need to provide for an order-making power--as the amendment seeks to achieve--under which the maximum number of emblems may be increased further. The present arrangements will allow the registration of separate emblems for each part of Great Britain, and a party which also contests elections in Northern Ireland will be able to apply for the inclusion of further distinct emblems in the Northern Ireland register. But, on balance, we do not think that the aim of preventing the confusion of the voter would be well served by permitting any further proliferation of emblems. Although requests for the right to introduce order-making powers often emanate from this side of the House, on this occasion we think that this would be one power too many.

I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, having listened with care to the argument I am sorry that the noble Lord takes that view. All I can say is that I am glad that it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who faced me when we debated the Registration of Political Parties Bill on the occasion when I managed to persuade him to increase the number of emblems from one to three. As I recollect, I believe that the noble and learned Lord argued firmly in favour of only one emblem until he heard my arguments to the contrary.

However, I shall not trouble the House further with this point. I hope that over the next two or three years we shall not reach a stage where we find that we do need another emblem for one of the parties. We shall then be left to wonder why such a modest change had not been introduced to this Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 [Changes to the register]:

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