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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, on this amendment we return to the role of government during a referendum campaign. Having listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, has said, he is obviously fearful of the scales in a referendum on the euro being weighed against the "No" campaign by a deluge of government misinformation, as he puts it. On Report he referred to the fact that,

He repeated that this evening. I remind the noble Lord that the Government's communication campaign on the euro is not aimed at promoting the euro, but at ensuring that UK small and medium-sized enterprises are aware of the implications of the single currency and have the information that they need to prepare. No doubt, if we were to revert to the groat we would do exactly the same in the interests of ensuring that small, large and medium-sized enterprises knew what the reintroduction of the groat may involve.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, before the Minister goes on too much about the euro, I cut what I said as short as I could, but I did test the patience of the House by spending some time saying quite specifically that I thought that this went far wider than simply a campaign on the euro.

27 Nov 2000 : Column 1168

6.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it seemed to me that the primary interest of the noble Lord was in promoting the position of Business for Sterling. It seems that this whole debate is overshadowed by the interest--some may say the obsession--that some Members of your Lordships' House have about a referendum at some future point on the euro.

It is worth putting on the record and pointing out to the noble Lord the longstanding conventions governing the work of the Government Information Service. In presenting government policy and providing publicity and advertising material during a referendum period, these conventions require of the GIS that its activities are relevant to government responsibilities; objective and explanatory, not tendentious or polemical; not open to misrepresentation as being party political; and conducted in an economic and appropriate way, having regard to the need to be able to justify the costs as expenditure of public funds.

No doubt all governments seek to ensure that those fundamental principles and rules are carefully adhered to. No doubt previous Conservative governments adhered precisely to that when explaining the implications of the single European market; no doubt they provided the same level of support so that businesses could well understand what the single market meant to them.

Of course, there will always be debates about whether material can be wholly factual and impartial. That is why the Neill committee recommended that the government of the day in future referendums should, as a government, remain neutral and should not distribute at public expense literature, even purportedly "factual" literature, setting out or otherwise promoting their case. The 28-day purdah period provided for in Clause 125 is our response to that recommendation.

I remind the House of what the Neill committee has made of that response. In its comments on the White Paper and draft Bill, the Committee said:

    "We welcome your proposals on the part which should be played by the government in referendum campaigns, and your recognition of the importance of ensuring that there is a period immediately prior to a referendum in which, as you say, 'the government of the day ... stands aside and the campaigning is left to the political parties and other organisations'".

That message was reinforced by one of the members of the Neill committee, John MacGregor, at Second Reading in another place when he said:

    "I am glad that the Bill includes the 28-day moratorium, which meets our point".--[Official Report, Commons, 10/1/00; col. 67.]

So, Clause 125, as it stands, fully addresses the recommendation of the Neill committee and as such there is no case for this amendment.

The noble Lord strayed from his amendment to raise the issue of the referendum spending limits. As there were no amendments down on this matter for Third Reading, I had rather hoped that the issue had been settled once and for all, but I see from the press

27 Nov 2000 : Column 1169

that Business for Sterling, of which the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, is a member, is threatening to challenge this part of the Bill under the Human Rights Act.

The Government are satisfied that the referendum spending limits are entirely compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. In the context of elections, in the Bowman judgment the European Court of Human Rights accepted that a restriction on the amount that could be spent during a campaign is not in itself a breach of Article 10 of the convention. The court recognised that there may be a conflict between the right to freedom of expression and the need to ensure free expression of the opinion of the people and that it may be necessary in a period preceding a poll to place certain restrictions on freedom of expression.

In support of the spending limits, for which we have previously argued, I refer the noble Lord also to a passage in a judgment by the Canadian Supreme Court in the case of Libman v. Quebec 1997.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I had not actually noticed an amendment about spending limits. I thought we had resolved that matter. So why is the Minister addressing the issue of spending limits? I thought I had been defeated on that.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is right, but I was seeking to address the issue of inequity between the "No" and the "Yes" campaigns.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, I would be grateful if the Minister would take no notice of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, and continue. He is actually saving us a fortune!

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am most grateful for that amusing intervention.

The court noted that:

    "In its egalitarian aspect the Act [was] intended to prevent the referendum debate being dominated by the most affluent members of society. At the same time, the Act [promoted] an informed vote by ensuring that some points of view are not buried by others. This highly laudable objective, intended to ensure fairness of the referendum on a question of public interest, [was] of pressing and substantial importance in a democratic society".

Both the European Court and the Canadian Supreme Court acknowledged the need for spending limits.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, he is surely aware of the enormous difference between the European Convention on Human Rights and the Canadian charter. He cannot quote cases on the Canadian charter as though they are related to the same wording as the convention.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, of course; I take the point of my noble friend. But there is a bearing on this issue in trying to develop a general point.

27 Nov 2000 : Column 1170

The European Court and the Canadian Supreme Court acknowledged the need for spending limits. We believe that the limits set out in the Bill are fair and equitable and will stand up to scrutiny in any court. We do not believe that this amendment is appropriate in the way in which it is argued. Therefore I invite the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, to withdraw Amendment No. 22.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, first, I thank all those who took part in this debate. The Minister raised some interesting subjects. I could not resist rising because, with the greatest respect to some other Members of his Front Bench, lawyers' fees are colossal and the cases produced by his department are greatly appreciated.

But my basic argument remains; that is, that this is an issue of principle. It is a fundamental issue and, since so many Members of your Lordships' Chamber have stayed behind, we should test the opinion of the House.

6.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 22) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 134; Not-Contents, 184.

Division No. 3


Aberdare, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Ashcroft, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Barber, L.
Bell, L.
Belstead, L.
Blatch, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Buscombe, B.
Butterworth, L.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Chadlington, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chilver, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Cranborne, V.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glentoran, L.
Greenway, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Hanham, B.
Hanson, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Hogg, B.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Macfarlane of Bearsden, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L. [Teller]
Montrose, D.
Moore of Lower Marsh, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Prentice, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Sterling of Plaistow, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thatcher, B.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Walker of Worcester, L.
Warnock, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L. [Teller]
Wolfson, L.
Young, B.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Chandos, V.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jacobs, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Jordan, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mitchell, L.
Molloy, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Peston, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Callow, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sewel, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shepherd, L.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warner, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Dartington, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

27 Nov 2000 : Column 1172

7.2 p.m.

Clause 134 [Meaning of "election expenses"]:

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