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Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 230 and 231:

    Page 208, line 32, leave out (", (6) and") and insert ("to").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 232 and 233 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 234:

    Page 208, line 45, at end insert (", or in respect of any activities on the part of the company such as are mentioned in subsection (6A)(b) or (c)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 235 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 236:

    Page 209, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert--

("(b) any other organisation to which subsection (6A) applies.
(6A) This subsection applies to an organisation if--
(a) it is a political party which carries on, or proposes to carry on, activities for the purpose of or in connection with the participation of the party in any election or elections to public office held in a member State other than the United Kingdom;
(b) it carries on, or proposes to carry on, activities which are capable of being reasonably regarded as intended to affect public support for--
(i) any registered party,
(ii) any other political party within paragraph (a), or
(iii) independent candidates at any election or elections of the kind mentioned in that paragraph; or
(c) it carries on, or proposes to carry on, activities which are capable of being reasonably regarded as intended to influence voters in relation to any national or regional referendum held under the law of any member State.
(6B) "Organisation" includes any body corporate and any combination of persons or other unincorporated association.
(6C) "Registered party" means a party registered under Part II of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Blackwell moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 236, Amendment No. 236A:

    Line 9, after ("as") insert ("primarily").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome Amendment No. 236 as a step forward from where we were at the previous stage of the Bill. Once again, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies, which is an independent think-tank.

The difficulty that I have with the wording of Amendment No. 236 as it stands is that it leaves a grey area in regard to what is or is not a political organisation. I refer in particular to paragraph (6A)(b), which refers to a political organisation as one which,

    "carries on, or proposes to carry on, activities which are capable of being ... regarded as intended to affect public support for ... any registered party".

Any publication of a policy document might be regarded as having, as one of its consequences, an effect on public support for a registered political party. Let us suppose that an organisation publishes a critique on an aspect of public policy, part of which is critical of current government policy in that area. That might be regarded as "intended to affect public support" for that policy and, therefore, for the party advancing it. However, it seems to me that publishing a reasoned view on a policy area is not intended to be captured under the Government's amendment as a party-political activity or that donors to that group should be regarded as giving money to a party-political group.

My amendment therefore seeks to insert the word "primarily" into sub-paragraph (b) of the amendment. That would make it clear that, in publishing a policy critique setting out views that were different from those of the government or alternative groups, so long as the prime intent was to advance argument about the policy, it would not be captured by this provision; whereas if the intent and the wording were reasonably regarded as "primarily" intended to affect political support for the party, that would place it in a different category. My amendment is simply intended to move the line slightly out of the grey area and make it clearer that the Government are after organisations that are primarily about canvassing support for political parties or a political point of view.

I believe the Minister said that he was not very keen on my amendment. However, in the light of my remarks perhaps he will take a different view and will reconsider the matter before the next stage of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord McNally: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Newby has added his name to this amendment. He is the chairman of the Centre for Reform, another think-tank. I do not want to add much to what the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, has said. He set out very clearly the case that is made by the think-tanks. Frankly, like the noble Lord, I was slightly surprised that the

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Minister "got in quick" with his rejection of a "one-word amendment" which would give a little more elbow-room. Quite honestly, I think that the Minister is straining at gnats not to accept this amendment. I ask him to reconsider what the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, said and ponder on the matter. This is a concession that the Government could very easily make.

My noble friend Lord Newby, who, unfortunately, cannot be here this evening, asked me to say how much the approach that the Government have taken on the matter is appreciated. In terms of general welcomes, perhaps I may also say that I was lobbied by the North West Pharmaceutical Group to support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, just in case the government amendment failed. Obviously, the group does not have as much confidence in the Government Whips as I have. The lobbying brief says that if the government amendment succeeded, those concerned would be content.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, the amendment raises an important issue. It goes to what is intended by those who are carrying on such activities. First, there is no more difficult problem than to decide what is intended by people, although it can be done. But various areas of the law show that determination of the "primary" intention--or, perhaps, in some cases, the "dominant" intention--causes an enormous amount of work for lawyers. Therefore, I would be against the amendment on that ground.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I listened most carefully to the introductory remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, and, indeed, to the subsequent comments. I should declare an interest at this point because I serve on the executive of the Fabian Society. I should have thought that the word "primarily" would help organisations that publish documents or pamphlets dealing with political issues, or put forward options for the sake of consideration by political parties, and by others. I have in mind organisations like the Fabian Society that organise workshops and seminars, all of which are intended to highlight political issues and lead to more informed debate.

Those activities might indirectly be construed as affecting political support for a registered party, but, in practice, we know that that is not what they are really about; they are about informed, sensible political discussion. As I say, I believe that the addition of the word "primarily" would help. It would clarify matters and make the understanding of them much easier. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will think again. As has been said, it is a very small amendment but one which would help organisations like the Fabian Society, and others.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my answer to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is that one word can make a lot of difference. Unfortunately, that is the case with the amendment now before us. I am extraordinarily sympathetic in this respect. Before I

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continue, perhaps I should declare that I am a member of the Fabian Society. In fact, I ought to have declared that interest before. It was just an oversight on my part. I must make that point clear.

The problem here is, first, that the amendment tends to muddy the waters. I believe that it would make the definition less clear. Secondly, as I said earlier, a test based on intent to affect the way in which people vote appears from the Government's point of view to be only fair and proportionate. Those are the two reasons why we cannot be as helpful as the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, would wish. I shall, of course, study what the noble Lord said with care. I shall also take careful cognisance of the Hansard report. But no more than that can I promise. We have probably been as helpful as we possibly can.

I well respect the work that all these valuable and valid organisations undertake, as do the Government. I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful. As I said, I shall read the Hansard report and study it most carefully to ascertain what further assistance we can render. However, as I said, I can promise nothing more.

Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his response. This is not an issue that I wish to press at this stage. However, I welcome the noble Lord's offer to reconsider the matter. Perhaps between now and the final stage of the Bill we can discuss the matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 236A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 236, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 236 agreed to.

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