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Lord Rennard: My Lords, again, the regulations are obviously necessary, and therefore welcome. I, too, think that the registration forms are relatively simple; and that helps the process. Comparing the form with that for Northern Ireland leads me to look forward to a time when, having moved to individual registration in England, Scotland and Wales, which already exists in Northern Ireland, perhaps before too long we shall move to a point where the registration process can be completed entirely over the Internet as opposed to having paper-based systems. But that is for the future.
I have one technical question on the process. I am wondering how those with access to the voting register would know from the register whether people are from EU accession states. Will that be marked in some way? We should be wrong to treat them as being on a list of voters perhaps even before their country's accession is complete. Their names will appear on the electoral register as though they are entitled to vote, but perhaps the member state will not yet have joined the Union. Will the entries on the register be coded in some way; and, if so, could that be on a national basis, so that for each register the basis on which such people were included could be readily understood?
I should not, for example, like to see nationalities coded on the register. That could be quite dangerous. But the situation will be different for each of the accession states. I wonder how that might be indicated if, for example, a Hungarian citizen was on the register in anticipation of entitlement to vote in local and European elections and a local election occurred before Hungary joined the European Union. How
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked whether we knew the percentage of people who sign up. The short answer is no. One clearly has some understanding of the number who do sign up; the problem is knowing exactly who is on the base. I suppose that the census may start to give us some indication of that in that it asks people to declare their country of origin, which might be a pointer. Let me reflect on whether there is anything further that we can add to that.
The thrust of the noble Baroness's question was important; namely, how we try to ensure that people who are eligible to vote actually register, and actually vote. Every household will receive a form explaining what EU citizens should do. We must make sure, in addition, that it is explicit as regards potential future citizens of member states of the EU, not merely the current ones. In addition, the Electoral Commission will be publicising the new right for citizens of accession states as part of its publicity processes.
On the wider level, that is part of the responsibilities that one would expect electoral registration officers to have particularly in mind this year in terms of how they seek to obtain a full register, and to promote the importance of registering and voting. I agree with the noble Baroness on that point.
The question of electronic registration raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, is an important one for the future. It is part of our general thrust that we should move towards allowing electronic access to government functions as far as possible. I shall reflect as to what extent that is the current plan and write to the noble Lord if that is of interest to him.
As regards the issue of the full register, as the noble Lord well knows, the full register is available only to political parties and only within the confines of their work for canvassing and not for divulging wider than that. Clearly, the full register has in some way to carry an indication that the person is from an accession state; otherwise, the electoral registration officer will not be in a position to identify who is not, should he need to act on that. I should expect that the entry would not divulge a person's full nationality, but I do not know. I shall see whether we can be specific on that point and shall write to the noble Lord. I take his point. I am certain that it would not be possible to identify on the public register that someone was, for example, a Pole. Without being too prone to fears about xenophobia, one would have some worries about that.
With regard to the noble Lord's final question, if country X did not join the European Union and complete all the processes by 1st May, there is a facility in place for the Government to inform electoral registration officers formally of that fact and for them
The draft order is made under Section 69 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, which allows a Minister to authorise another person to exercise the Minister's statutory responsibilities. The responsibilities are those of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and for the management of the historic Royal Palaces and Royal Parks.
The draft order extends authorisation approved by your Lordships' House in the Contracting Out (Functions in relation to the Management of Crown Lands) Order 1998. The 1998 order allowed the Secretary of State to contract with the Historic Royal Palaces Trust to manage the Historic Royal Palaces. I can assure the House that this draft order does not allow the contracting out of additional responsibilities. It puts right an error, made at the time of the 1998 order, which only recently came to light.
The draft order allows the Secretary of State to contract out the responsibilities for the management of Hampton Court gardens, green and road and Hampton Court park and Kensington Gardens. The 1998 order authorised the contracting out of responsibilities under Section 21 of the Crown Lands Act 1851. Unfortunately, powers to manage the gardens, green and park at Hampton Court and Kensington Gardens are contained in Section 22 of the
The Secretary of State entered into a contract with the Historic Royal Palaces Trust on 1st April 1998 whereby the charity would manage all the unoccupied Royal Palaces, including the gardens, green and park at Hampton Court. I can confirm to the House that the 1998 arrangements work very well. The right decision was made in 1998 to pass day-to-day management of the unoccupied palace to a body of expert and experienced trustees. The unoccupied Royal Palaces have been maintained and presented to the highest standards, consistent with their status and architectural and historic importance.
The visitor experience has been further enhanced by several improvements and innovations with absolutely no compromise on standards and no over-commercialisation. Since 1998, HRP has invested £41 million in the conservation of the palaces and their contents. The state of conservation is better than at any time in the past. This success is due to the commitment of the trustees and a very dedicated staff.
Therefore, the draft order does no more than put right an administrative error made in 1998. It confirms Parliament's authorisation for the Secretary of State to contract with HRP to manage the gardens, green and park at Hampton Court and parts of Kensington Gardens which are currently looked after by HRP. HRP will continue to manage and present those areas to the highest standards. I commend the order to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order. It seems just a little careless to have ignored places such as Hampton Court and Kensington GardensI declare an interest as living very close to Kensington Gardenswhen the original order was made. However, the order begs one or two questions, and I should be grateful if the Minister could answer them for me.
I am not certain what is the base of the contracting arrangements. Presumably, there are financial implications in these contracts and arrangements. Therefore, was the extra work involved in including Hampton Court and Kensington Gardens taken into account in the original contract or is it additional? And, consequently, does recompense need to be made to the trust for the years when it carried out that work, apparently without either contractual or, indeed, monetary liabilities?
Thirdly, what is the length of the contract? Is it now a perpetual contract, devolved by the Minister to the trust, or will these properties fall within a certain time period for the duration of the contract? I should be grateful if the Minister could respond to those points.
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