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A similar problem arises in relation to Stop HS2. As well as the national organisation, there are 120 local action groups. In the Kenilworth and Southam constituency alone, there are 11 separate action groups. Stop HS2 goes through a whole range of different constituencies. How are the groups that are part of this campaign to allocate their expenditure to the different constituencies? Even if they were able to do that, how would the Electoral Commission be able to enforce it?

I shall not repeat other examples because of the shortage of time. They are all set out at the back of the report. One example relates to stopping climate change. We must take seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has said. It may be possible for the Government to bring forward a very sharply focused amendment to deal with that problem. As it stands at the moment, for the reasons I have given, it would be difficult if not impossible for campaigning groups to comply with the law and the Electoral Commission would have great difficulty in enforcing it.

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I, too, intend to oppose the Question that Clause 28 stand part of the Bill. I shall be brief.

Clause 28 needs to come out altogether. First, it is written in gobbledegook. At Second Reading I took up some of the House’s time by reading out part of Clause 28. I recommend it to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, for his insomnia. It is impossible for a criminal lawyer like me, not a charity lawyer or an electoral lawyer, to begin to understand it. It is inconceivable that any small charity or campaigning organisation without its own legal team would be able to look at it and understand it. They would be bound to have to seek expensive legal advice that would take money and staff away from the objects and the work that they were doing. Whatever else happens in relation to Clause 28, this present clause should be taken away and written in English.

Secondly, if the Government insist on having a clause of this nature, perhaps I may also point out, as has already been done by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, that it is unworkable. It is impossible to divide some of the expenditure by campaigning organisations between constituencies. Where does it leave the rally that draws people from a number of different constituencies? Where does it leave the battle bus that drives around the streets and crosses some constituency boundary? How on earth does an organiser who is running a national campaign apportion the particular pieces of his time to the various constituencies that may or may not be covered?

Thirdly, it is unenforceable. The Electoral Commission, comprising the people who are meant to be doing that, has said so, as your Lordships have just been reminded. One can well imagine the avalanche of complaints that are likely to be made to the Electoral Commission during and after a campaign, especially if a result has been close. Its resources are now stretched beyond what it is being required to do. It is unlikely that it will receive adequate additional resources to help with the Bill. If it does, they will be inadequate for investigating and dealing with the process of investigation and adjudication of these complaints.

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Lord Tyler: Should I interpret the noble Baroness’s remarks that she is supporting the very carefully targeted Amendment 170A that I moved? That would deal with all the uncertainty to which she understandably refers.

Baroness Mallalieu: That would certainly be a much better step than what is included at present. I would say that it is absolutely unnecessary. If it is right that the spending limits are to be reduced, does that not provide one safeguard? I return to my old friend, the Representation of the People Act 1983, which in any event provides the safeguard that people are concerned does not exist now. For all those reasons, Clause 28 needs to be scrapped.

2 pm

Lord Horam: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness about the way in which this clause has been written. I thoroughly applauded her speech at Second Reading in which she drew out the extent to which this is incredibly complicated, even for someone with some arithmetical skills, which I do not possess, let alone any understanding of law by a non-lawyer. None the less there is a supremely important principle in this clause and my noble friend Lord Tyler drew it out perfectly. In many ways it is the heart of this Bill.

The fundamental issue is that spending by political parties is controlled because we do not want there to be a free-for-all spending-wise in this country in the way there is in America. Therefore, we have control of political parties’ spending. We have control at a national level and we have control in a regulated period; we can argue about the length of the regulated period but we have one. We have control at the constituency level. That control must be strong. Therefore, we are really arguing about what the level of control should be.

I am quite amazed that the commission of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said quite specifically that there should be no constituency limits on spending by third-party campaigners. That must be absolutely wrong in principle because they are not standing in the election. Why should they have an unlimited influence in a particular constituency as opposed to the people who have actually got the guts to stand for election and put their name, personality and fortune on the line in the hope of coming to Parliament? It must be wrong for them to be outbid financially by some third party, who is not willing to put their name and person up for election in the way the candidate has had the courage to do.

I hope that the noble and right reverend Lord will reflect on this. The idea that there should be no constituency limits is wrong in principle. Therefore, I think there should be a clause of this kind, although I would hope it would be very much better drafted than the one we have at the moment.

Secondly, the argument is put forward by the commission that any limits placed are unenforceable. Obviously, the commission is making the point that it is being asked to do a new task. Previously, the commission has looked post hoc at what has happened in a general election; here it is being asked to do it in real time, during the course of the election, to find out exactly what is going on and whether the system is being

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abused. That is a very difficult task and the commission is right to say that it is having tasks imposed on it that it has not done before and which therefore may well be very difficult to enforce, to the point of being unenforceable in some circumstances.

Those of us who have fought elections know that the existing limits on what parties can spend in elections are very often unenforceable in practice. As I know to my personal cost, parties find all sorts of devious ways around the amount that can be spent in a general election and it is very difficult to track them down. In that sense, the existing rules are unenforceable, but they do have a restraining effect. As a candidate in a general election, when I came to fight the election I knew that I had to get a little war chest together. The general assumption was that you had to try to get together about £10,000 to fight an election.

I will say in passing that most associations and local parties are extremely poor. Getting together £10,000 is quite hard to do. At the penultimate general election, when I was defending a majority of 269 against the Liberal Democrats, I reached £10,000 only by having a gift from the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, of £6,000; otherwise, I and the local party would have had to fork out. We are living in a poor world. Local parties do not have the resources of Oxfam and all those large organisations that want to home in on an election and put their view—as they rightly should, within proportionate limits—to the people who stand in elections.

Having constituency limits acts as a clear restraint on what parties think they can spend and what third parties think they can spend. Therefore, if there was a restraint of the kind the Government recommend, that would exercise a good influence on the whole electoral system.

The issue has been raised, in relation to the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, that you cannot have a spending limit related to one constituency. There are three constituencies in Lewisham; of course you could have the expenditure divided between three constituencies. Some expenditure would not be allowed in a particular constituency. In Orpington, for example, there was always a huge banner, usually taped up by the Labour Party, in one main road in my constituency and it was never accounted for in the local expenses of the Labour Party in Orpington although it would actually influence people going round the M25 and other roads nearby. These things can be dealt with and there is no real difficulty in trying to apportion expenditure in the way that is described.

It is all perfectly possible, it is doable and it is essential if we are to have a proper democracy in this country. Indeed, I would argue that what the commission is proposing is actually anti-democratic.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth:I feel I ought to point out something that the commission made quite clear at the beginning of its report: that its recommendations were for the 2015 election only and that there should be a proper review post-2015. We had only six weeks to consult, despite the recommendation of a lot of bodies, including ourselves, that there should have been a proper three-month or six-month review. In the six weeks, we could not find a workable solution to

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this, so for the 2015 election our recommendation was that we should not have limits. We could not get our minds round this to find one that is really workable. The Government may be able to do this—we will just have to see—and they may accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. In defence of the commission, I point out that this was only for the interim because we had such a short time to consult.

Lord Horam: I understand what the noble and right reverend Lord is saying and I accept that. None the less, I want him to understand that, in running a proper democracy, at a constituency level this is a very important issue.

Lord Tyler: I know that the noble Lord speaks in a personal capacity but he has also the very important, practical experience of being a member of the Electoral Commission. For the avoidance of doubt, I will read again the specific recommendation of the Electoral Commission on my Amendment 170A, which deals with this very important practical point of being able to tie down where precisely a campaign is aiming its efforts. The commission says:

“In principle we see potential benefits in defining the scope of activity covered by the constituency controls more specifically than in Part 2 of the Bill generally. For example, costs relating to material sent to specific addresses can be identified and evidenced with some confidence”,

which will deal with precisely the circumstances to which the noble Lord is referring. I hope, therefore, that there may be support from the Government for what I think is a very practical approach to this otherwise quite tricky problem.

Lord Horam: I hear what my noble friend says and I think he will also recognise that the Electoral Commission made the point of practicality—whether this really is a practical way forward. Whether it is workable in practice has to be the test.

As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, knows, I have supported quite a few of the recommendations of his commission, which was a very thoughtful and helpful exercise. But on this point, I am very certain that the Government must hold their ground for the sake of democracy in this country.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, because constituency-based limits seem to be even more inappropriate than some of the other sanctions we have been discussing when related to non-party charities and other organisations working in the criminal justice system, as the noble and right reverend Lord pointed out—and I have referred to these organisations already—I would like to preface my contention that Clause 28, which was so admirably described by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, should not stand part of the Bill in its present form.

On Monday, we took almost six and a half hours to complete four groups of amendments in Committee, which not only confirmed what many other noble Lords have felt since it appeared—namely, that this is a thoroughly bad Bill—but caused me to reflect on its

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actual aim. My reflections were stimulated by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who suggested that its purpose was to prevent money taking over politics as it is doing in the United States.

On rereading Part 1, which is all about professional or consultant lobbyists, the scales fell from my eyes. The noble Baroness’s description of young people being trained to lobby by the Tea Party called to mind a conversation on the steps of Washington Cathedral one Sunday in September 1973 when I was accompanying my then boss, the Chief of the General Staff, to Matins during an official visit to the American army. A delightful elderly ex-ambassador to South Vietnam whom we met earlier in the visit said to him, “The trouble with this country is that it’s governed by whizz-kids, and the trouble with whizz-kids is that they haven’t got time to listen. You see, I’d told them that the Watergate building was in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, and if they’d only called it the Foggy Bottom incident nobody would have taken them seriously”.

Then it dawned on me. Looking around Whitehall, I am struck by the numbers of whizz-kids advising every ministerial office. I understand that this is soon to be increased by 10 more per Secretary of State. They are not civil servants but whizz-kids: clever young people employed because they are uninhibited by practical experience. They are not afraid to put forward blue-skies theories, many of which I suspect that the more experienced Ministers would confine to the waste-paper basket.

The Bill is nothing more than a whizz-kid panic attack, brought on by the spectre of hordes of Tea Party-trained consultants flooding across the Atlantic and rotting up the 2015 election. Having panicked, they then tried to prove their virility by dreaming up preventive measures, which in their headlong rush they tried to process without submitting them to the normal procedures which, as we know, rubbished them once they saw them. This House too was swept along by this rush, until on Monday the voice of experience had a chance to make itself heard. I hope that on looking through Hansard their bosses will have realised that something is wrong and the whizz-kids need to be told to calm down. These hordes are not going to stream across the Atlantic, and even if they did we already have mechanisms in place that can cope with them.

Our political system, including our electoral system, may be at risk, in which case we may need to take remedial action. However, let us watch what happens in the 2015 election to see what action may need to be taken. Having made so much noise about the big society, the very last thing the Government ought to do is risk alienating voters by threatening the contribution of the voluntary sector, which is one the UK’s jewels. Rather than risk doing any more damage to ourselves and our reputation, surely we should now withdraw the Bill until we know whether we need such an instrument after 2015. I wonder whether any other noble Lords share the pious hopes of an old general.

I turn now to Clause 28. Again, we have had no examples from the Government of where disproportionate expenditure in one constituency has had an undue influence on the outcome of an election. Non-party

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organisations and charities, particularly those which work in the criminal justice system, are not organised into political constituencies. I cannot imagine how it is possible to divide their activities and apportion them to what is going on in constituencies, as my noble and right reverend friend pointed out. For example, consider the Shannon Trust, which provides the Toe by Toe reading programme in every prison in the country. Would it have to report how it is campaigning for funds in each of the constituencies which are involved in an election?

As has been pointed out, the Electoral Commission said that controls may be unenforceable within the regulated period, given the difficulty of obtaining robust evidence to determine and sanction breaches. If all of that is so abundantly clear to anyone looking at the whole system, why on earth are we presented with what the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, so rightly called gobbledegook which I defy anyone to understand?

Lord Hardie: My Lords, I rise as a fairly junior judge, and I also have pious hopes about the future of the Bill. My name is among those who oppose Clause 28 standing part of the Bill. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth and my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. I will not repeat what they have said. Much of what I wanted to say has already been said, but I want to concentrate on two things.

2.15 pm

The first thing I want to highlight is the concern about the enforceability of this provision by the Electoral Commission. I heard what was said about that by the noble Lord, Lord Horam, but the commission has expressed concern. Indeed, I raised this issue on Second Reading. I sought confirmation from the Minister that the Government expect the commission’s regulatory regime to continue to focus primarily upon retrospective action, as at present, and that the use of stop notices would be confined to cases where there is a significant risk of seriously damaging public confidence in the statutory controls. I did not receive a reply. I wonder if the noble and learned Lord the Advocate-General is now able to answer that question.

I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Horam, seemed to suggest that that might not be the position and that there might be an expectation of contemporaneous enforcement. If there is to be contemporaneous enforcement, the challenge for the commission is huge, because it will have to monitor every constituency in the United Kingdom to see what is going on. Clearly, it will have to have the resources to do that and, in appropriate cases, it may then have to use stop notices even where risk to the system is not an issue. If that is not the expectation and there is not to be contemporaneous enforcement but regulation after the event, as it were, then one calls into question the enforceability of these provisions. I accept, of course, that as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Horam, even checks after the event might impose some restraint on individuals, but it would not be an effective enforcement of the clause.

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The other matter I wanted to raise was the point made by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries about the fact that political parties do not have to account in this way for individual constituencies. At the moment political parties and third parties do target marginal constituencies, particularly constituencies where they think that their resources will be most effective. That is unconstrained on the part of political parties, except within the overall expenses limit. After the Bill becomes law, if Clause 28 remains political parties will still be able to act in this way, but third parties will not. What is the reason for that discrimination against registered third parties? Apart from their being prevented from operating in the same way as political parties, there is the added concern that they will be obliged to return a note of expenditure in each constituency during the regulated period of a year before the election, if the expenditure exceeds £5,850. Why was this figure given rather than £9,750, which is fixed for the total period of a year?

Whatever the reason for that, it is clear that the administrative burden on third parties occasioned by this provision will be significant. When it is taken along with the other restrictions imposed upon them by the clauses that we have already debated, the impression is that we are discriminating against third parties. There is a positive disincentive to them to become engaged in the political process in the crucial period immediately before an election. The public may well consider that this clause is simply another illustration of their belief that politicians consider that politics is for professional politicians and that the general public will be discouraged as far as possible from participating in politics. That is the wish of politicians. Their only wish is that the public’s only participation should be to cast their vote and otherwise to remain silent. In the absence of sound reasons for imposing this additional restriction solely on recognised third parties, I invite the Government to withdraw this clause.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, we have talked about taking money out of politics. If I heard the noble Lord, Lord Horam, correctly, he received a donation from the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, of £6,000. It is Labour Party policy that donations should be limited to £5,000, so perhaps the most important thing that we could do to get money out of politics—not under the Bill—would be for him and other members of his party to sign up to a maximum donation of £5,000.

Whatever the intention of constituency limits, we have heard that they are unworkable for campaigning organisations and certainly unenforceable by the Electoral Commission. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, said, political parties do not have these rules for national campaigning, let alone for a whole 12-month period. They do not have to account for staff costs nor try to parcel up their national spending by ward or constituency boundaries. However, political parties at least have a very good reason to organise by constituency; campaigning organisations do not. They campaign against wind farms, for a new zebra crossing, against payday lenders, or in favour of badgers. As we know, badgers move, as does HS2, which will run through

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hills and dales, counties and boroughs. Such campaigning does not fall into neat little constituency boundaries, which of course the Government anyway want to change for every election under their new law.

The new limit is £9,750 per constituency spread over a full year. That must cover costs of staff, hire of halls, adverts for meetings, posters and publicity. It will cause difficulty for small organisations which run a campaign limited to a geographical area but also for national campaigns with a federated structure. The boundaries for national and even local organisations rarely follow the constituency boundaries that we in politics know well.

Those organisations will need to estimate whether their campaigning costs relate to activity in particular constituencies and ensure that their planned spending will then stay within the new limit for each activity in each constituency. That will be problematic. First, they will have to find what the constituencies are. Many of them will not know—they are not political anoraks and they do not know the boundaries of those constituencies. They will then have to see which bit of spending lies where. It will be different for local organisations, but it will also be, as has been mentioned, virtually unenforceable within the time limit of this election by the Electoral Commission, particularly where breaches occur in the last few weeks of a campaign. It will require real-time monitoring; it will require the commission to respond to allegations across 650 constituencies during a whole 12-month period—that is, starting in May. I defy anyone who, like me, has run an organisation to be up and able to do by then something of that nature.

As has been said, this clause is incomprehensible, unworkable and unnecessary. The Conservatives, of course, have form on Clause 28. I suggest that they get rid of this one so that they do not have the same trouble as they did with the last one.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, it was clear from many of our previous debates that the issue of constituency limits had attracted considerable discussion, not to say controversy. The fundamental point here, which was very well made by my noble friends Lord Tyler and Lord Horam, is that it would be wrong if a third party could choose to direct its entire national spending limit at only one small part of the UK, thereby focusing the full force of the considerable spending available to it on that very small part. It would be disproportionate if that was one constituency. That point was articulated. It would be a travesty of the democratic process if so much was focused on one constituency.

To prevent such occurrences, the Bill introduces what I admit is a new provision whereby third parties will be permitted to spend only a certain proportion of their controlled expenditure in individual constituencies. Clause 28(6) limits per constituency spending to 0.05% of the maximum campaign expenditure limits applied to political parties. This amounts to £9,750. The limit applies for the duration of the regulated period for a UK parliamentary general election.

It is proposed that a third party’s expenditure would be wholly attributed to a constituency provided that the expenditure had “no significant effect” in any

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other constituency. It is of course possible that expenditure in a local area may be attributed to a number of constituencies—for example, in Lewisham, where I think that it would be relatively straightforward to see three constituencies.

I accept that if someone was handing out leaflets in Princes Street in Edinburgh, it would be very difficult to say that that was focused on a constituency—which I think used to be Edinburgh Central, but these boundary changes happen so often—and was not having an effect elsewhere. If anyone was handing out leaflets in the constituency which I formerly had the privilege of representing, in Kirkwall or in Lerwick, it would be almost impossible to suggest that it was intended to have an effect on any other constituency, as it would be focused in the one place. The concerns that have been expressed about how you identify boundaries will often be easier to determine with regard to specific case examples.

In response to a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, raised on a number of occasions, I should stress that the limits on constituency spending do not remove or replace the important existing controls of the Representation of the People Act 1983. These rules are long-standing and stipulate that third parties campaigning for a candidate or candidates in a particular constituency—which includes negative campaigning against others—may spend only up to £500. Clause 34 would raise this amount to £700. While introducing a limited requirement to keep a record of such expenditure, the Bill does not otherwise affect the provisions of the Representation of the People Act. Third parties campaigning in local campaigns would be well advised to heed the strictures of the Act. First and foremost, if a particular organisation or group intends to go into a single constituency to promote a particular candidate, or to attack a particular candidate, it would be well advised to have regard to the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

Lord Tyler: Will my noble friend confirm that that applies to the post-dissolution period in a constituency and not to the 12 months leading up to a poll?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My noble friend is absolutely right, but it is important that we do not lose sight of that provision.

There are other types of campaigning that are already regulated under PPERA and that we consider should be subject to the national third-party controlled expenditure campaigning limits and the constituency limits which this clause introduces: first, campaigning for or against a particular party; and, secondly, when a campaign is intended, or may reasonably be regarded as being intended, to support groups of candidates because they are of a particular type or because they support particular policies or hold particular views. For instance, if a third party campaigns with the message “vote for those candidates who support green taxes”, this would be spending regulated under PPERA and subject to the national third-party controlled expenditure campaigning limits and the proposed constituency limits. For both types of campaigning, a third party could choose to direct this entire national spending limit at only a small number of constituencies. That is why we consider this clause to be necessary.

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A number of amendments have been proposed. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has proposed Amendment 170, which would remove constituency limits altogether. I accept his point that this would be for the 2015 election, and that we must look at it in that context, but I think that there is concern that a huge loophole could be created.

Some have said that there was no evidence of a problem in 2010—or, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, that there has been no example of a constituency being completely swayed or influenced by third party expenditure. But how many times do Ministers receive strictures because they did not anticipate a problem? If this were not in place, what would happen after the 2015 election if the kind of event to which the noble Lord refers had taken place in a constituency and there was felt to be a considerable travesty? I rather imagine that some would say, “Ministers knew they had a Bill going through Parliament. Why did they not do something about it at the time?”. Is it the case that we always have to wait for a problem or travesty to arise before we take action?

The constituency limits will be enforced by the Electoral Commission. I have heard the concerns that have been expressed about that. The Government have been in many discussions with the regulator on this issue, and we believe that the commission can regulate spending in constituencies in the same manner as it regulates national spending. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, asked whether an Electoral Commission enforcement officer would be needed in each constituency. That is certainly not what is anticipated.

2.30 pm

Lord Hardie (CB): I did not say that. I was not anticipating 650 enforcement officers. I was suggesting that if there was to be contemporaneous enforcement of this provision, it would be necessary to monitor each of the 650 constituencies, and for the appropriate enforcement officer, who might be covering several constituencies, to take action.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I accept that clarification and apologise if I misrepresented the noble and learned Lord. As I think my noble friend Lord Horam indicated, the current political parties expenditure rules are not always the easiest to enforce. Very often the best enforcers are the opposition—because, as those of us who have had active experience of political campaigns know, if there is any hint that somewhere or other there has been jiggery-pokery or money spent that should not have been, the candidates on the receiving end will be very quick to alert the regulatory authorities to what has gone on.

The same applies to the question that was raised, quite fairly, about how expenditure could be attributed to a constituency. We believe that it would be in line with the current guidance that attributes spending between different parts of the United Kingdom. Where spending in constituency A has a minor effect in constituency B, the entire spending amount should be allocated to the constituency that it was aimed at. For example, if a third party advertised in a local paper in constituency A that just happened to be distributed in a small part of constituency B, the entire amount should be allocated to constituency A.

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That was really brought home to me when the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, asked, “How would we allocate the timing of the activities of a battle bus?”. I say this with no criticism whatever, but those who have not been involved in party election campaigning do not understand the difficulties that are sometimes experienced by those who have to act as election agents in allocating and working out expenditure returns for those who are involved in it. The noble Baroness wishes to intervene but I am just going to give an example. In 1979, my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood, then David Steel, the leader of the Liberal Party, probably introduced the battle bus to British politics. Immediately after that election in May 1979, I was adopted as the Liberal European candidate for the south of Scotland, which included the constituency of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. I had as my election agent the agent for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, who had been David Steel’s election agent in the general election that immediately preceded it. He went by the wonderful name of Riddle Dumble, and, as my election agent, he told me, “I’ve got this nightmare of trying to do David’s election expenses return; I have to sit down and allocate the amount of time that his battle bus was in the constituency, and what part of it represented constituency campaigning and what was part of the national campaign”. This is not something that is new.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): We are professionals in a party. It is our job to run elections. That is the whole point that we are making. It is core to us; it is what we are trained for. I ran European elections. We know about it; we train our agents; we have the systems and have our computers set up for that; and we know ward boundaries and constituency boundaries. Here we are talking about different organisations that are here to help people with a drink problem, people in poverty and people who are going to be affected by the bedroom tax. They do not get trained in the way that we do.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I hear what the noble Baroness says, but if we are dealing with a situation where an organisation is trying to intervene in a constituency for the purpose of promoting the electoral advantage of one particular party, one particular candidate or a series of candidates in an area, then it is not unreasonable that there might be some responsibilities that go with that, particularly with the kind of substantial volume of money that we are talking about being spent in one or a number of focused geographical areas. No one is asking them to account for the work that they are doing in trying to tackle mental health issues or alcohol problem issues—that does not arise. They are caught by this only if the amount that they are spending in one particular constituency or group of constituencies is caught by these provisions, in which case there might just be a responsibility that goes with that. The point that I am making is that there is nothing new about that in terms of its enforceability. It is something that people, not least the Electoral Commission, have been grappling with for some time.

My noble friend Lord Tyler tabled a series of amendments that he hoped would add clarity to the provision. The word “clarity” is something that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble Lord,

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Lord Ramsbotham, would certainly echo. My noble friend quoted the Electoral Commission with regard to his Amendment 170A, which would mean that election materials—leaflets, mailshots, adverts and so on that were specifically addressed to or delivered to households in a constituency, and unsolicited telephone calls to households—counted towards constituency limits. The main issue that I have with this amendment is that there could be key activities, such as rallies or events that were deliberately focused on an area, which would not be regulated, and it would not restrict material from otherwise being distributed or displayed. As I said, leaflets being handed out in the middle of George Square in Glasgow are different from leaflets being handed out in the marketplace of Thurso, for example, in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency, which could not be said to be influencing any other constituency. However, I hear what numerous contributors have said in this debate about simplification, and there is an obligation on us to look at the provisions, without giving any commitment, to see if there is the possibility of looking generally at the question of simplification.

My noble friend also tabled Amendments 170B and 170D, altering constituency limits so that the figure was £10,000 for the whole of the regulated period and £5,000 for the post-Dissolution period. He has already pointed out that RPA kicks in for the post-Dissolution period. As for the proposal that there should be an opportunity for the Secretary of State to amend the constituency limits by order, there is already provision in Clause 30 for the Secretary State to amend constituency limits by order on the recommendation of the Electoral Commission. I hope that that covers his concerns, but no doubt if he thinks that they do not meet what he was proposing, he will indicate that to me.

His final amendment was one that I thought had much to commend it in terms of, as he said, trying to encourage political engagement. Amendment 170G would allow the constituency limit to be exceeded to a maximum of £15,000, or £10,000 in the post-Dissolution period, if a third party’s controlled expenditure was being funded by donations of less than £250 from donors within a parliamentary constituency. It would also allow a third party to spend up to 50% more than the national limit that would otherwise apply.

Because amounts below £500 are not currently considered to be donations under PPERA, the amendment would require a third party to carry out permissibility checks and record all donations, however small. This would be a fundamental change to the PPERA donation rules and would be likely to involve unmanageable compliance. Given the concerns that have been expressed about compliance and regulatory burdens, that factor would have to be borne in mind. It would increase the burden and would also risk having the opposite effect to what was intended. A large third party organisation with members and donors across the country may be able to identify sufficient donors in each constituency to give itself a disproportionate advantage, whereas a small organisation funded by very small donations would not be able to benefit in the same way.

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I referred earlier to the Representation of the People Act. We are also concerned that linking expenditure to local donations in constituencies in this way could quite easily risk confusion with and undermine RPA rules or third party candidate campaigns, and I know that my noble friend would not wish to have such confusion between the two regimes. I hope that noble Lords agree that there is a need for constituency limits and that these can be properly enforced. I urge my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I will respond very briefly to the debate. I think my noble friend the Minister will accept that there is real concern about making sure that we have—if we are going to have—applicable, effective and manageable constituency limits. Therefore, I am sure that we will return to this on Report. If we do not and were to remove the whole of Clause 28, I am sure that it would be put back, in one form or another, by our colleagues in the other place, who have a considerable interest in the extent to which their constituencies are subjected to considerable investment—

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, perhaps I may point out that it has already been through the other place and it was not thus amended.

Lord Tyler: The very fact that it has come to us is making the point for me. I think that the other place would consider it essential to retain some constituency limits. However, I accept that there are concerns about workability. I hope my amendments will improve the extent to which they will be manageable and enforceable, but in the mean time I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170A withdrawn.

Amendments 170B to 170F not moved.

Clause 28 agreed.

Amendment 170G not moved.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 3.41 pm.

First World War: Personnel from the Indian Subcontinent

Question for Short Debate

2.41 pm

Asked by Lord Sheikh

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to commemorate the role of armed forces and other personnel from the Indian sub-continent in the First World War.

Lord Sheikh (Con): My Lords, I am pleased that this important subject was called for debate today. The centenary of the First World War is almost upon us. This war saw conflict and suffering on an unprecedented

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scale. The four war years serve as both a reminder and a commemoration of the struggles and the sacrifice of so many people across the world. I hope that time will encourage us all to honour and appreciate the lasting impact these events have had and will continue to have for generations to come.

In March this year I spoke in a debate on the centenary of the war in your Lordships’ House. I specifically focused on the contribution of Indian forces then and I want to expand on those points today. The significant part they played is not widely acknowledged and the sacrifice made by the Indians and the suffering they endured need to be fully appreciated. I hope today’s debate will serve to inform others and help address the situation.

This matter holds a special significance to me; I trace my family heritage back to India. That is where my father originally lived before moving to Uganda in the 1920s. I feel a deep connection with the many stories documented by Indian soldiers throughout the conflict. On the outbreak of the First World War all opposition to the British Government ceased, and the feelings of Indians at large were well summed up by the Honourable Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, a former president of the Indian National Congress. He assured the viceroy and the governor-general that,

“India would ensure the sacrifice of men and money in order that the British armies shall triumph”.

India raised the world’s largest volunteer army, with a total of 1.5 million people, during the First World War. Indians from all over the world, from such remote countries as Australia and Argentina, came forward to serve the Empire in its hour of need. More than 1 million of these personnel were sent overseas and 140,000 were engaged in active service on the western front. This marked the first time that Indian soldiers had ever fought on European ground.

They were originally called on to help when the British forces were suffering heavy causalities, which reinforces just how historically important their role was. The great Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in making the case for Indian assistance. On 13 August 1914, he and 50 other activists signed an important circular, which stated the decision,

“for the sake of the Motherland and the Empire to place our services unconditionally, during this crisis, at the disposal of the Authorities”.

The seven Indian expeditionary forces provided crucial support and fought directly alongside British Forces in Europe. For example, at the battle of Neuve Chapelle they provided half the attacking force. A British general described them as a magnificent body who performed the most useful and valuable service. The expeditionary forces also saw action in east Africa, Mesopotamia, Sinai, the Suez, Gallipoli and Palestine. The Royal Indian Marine also served alongside the Royal Navy in a number of functions. Some ships served as gunboats and others as coastal minesweepers. Their merchant services in transport and supply were also crucial to the war effort. More than 74,000 Indian troops were killed or declared missing in action during the First World War, a number that is testament to the level of sacrifice and loyalty shown by the Indians in supporting the Allied Forces.

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Participants from the Indian subcontinent were recognised for their bravery and valour in combat during the First World War with more than 9,200 decorations, including 12 Victoria Cross medals. Sepoy Khudadad Khan was the first native-born Indian to win the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in the face of overwhelming numbers in Belgium. He served in the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis regiment. Similarly, the courage of Naik Darwan Singh Negi of the 1st Battalion of the 39th Garhwal Rifles was recognised in 1914. He was one of the very few soldiers to have the great honour of being personally presented with the Victoria Cross on the battlefield in France by King George V. A notable example of the spirit and pride of the Indian subcontinent soldiers is that of a platoon of Sikhs, who in 1914 died fighting in Belgium to the last man, who shot himself with his last cartridge rather than surrender to the enemy. The soldier believed in the concept of chardi kala, which gave him the strength to be courageous and not to surrender.

The participation of the Indian subcontinent was not confined to the battlefield alone. Doctors and students from the Indian Medical Service provided care and rehabilitation to the wounded and many Indian military hospitals were set up across the UK, perhaps the most famous of which was the Royal Pavilion Hospital in Brighton. This housed more than 600 wounded soldiers from the western front. As shocking as these facts and figures are, we must also remember the personal and social hardship that was felt by Indian citizens and families not directly involved in the conflict. Much of the essence of the war is captured in writings from the time, and India contributed in this respect, too. One of the greatest poets during those years was an Indian called Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore wrote in a letter on 18 November 1915 that the war was fought,

“for the cause of liberty”.

Speaking in 1921, upon the placing of the foundation stone of the All-India War Memorial, Lord Chelmsford, the viceroy of India, remarked that the,

“immortal story of the endurance and valour of the sons of India is a legacy which their sons and their sons’ sons will treasure above all the wealth the world can offer”.

This memorial, completed in 1931, remains a testament to the sacred memory of the Indian soldiers who fell in different parts of the world. There are indeed numerous similar memorials in existence across the world to commemorate those soldiers who gave their lives during the First World War. A site called the Chattri exists on the South Downs, at Patcham near Brighton. It is associated with 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers whose remains were cremated at that spot. A memorial service is held there every year. There is also a Muslim burial ground on Horsell Common in Woking, where 17 Indian soldiers were originally buried. Further burials took place after the Second World War. Renovation works are currently taking place there in preparation for next year’s anniversary. In Neuve Chapelle in France, there is a memorial that has been erected to honour the memory of the Indian soldiers who died fighting in Europe. In addition, I know that some years ago the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, led a successful campaign

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to erect a memorial on Constitution Hill to soldiers from India and other regions of the British Empire who served in the two world wars.

The commitment of these brave men to the war effort often emerged from a strong sense of personal duty to the Empire. Many letters written by Indian soldiers at that time reveal the honour they felt in fighting for their king. It was this loyalty and dedication that endeared many British troops to them. Indeed, alongside the military assistance they provided, there was the opportunity for social interaction between our different cultures.

I know that the Government have been proactive in developing a substantial programme of tributes and events, including last month’s announcement that a series of lectures will be held to commemorate the contribution of Commonwealth countries to the war effort. I shall be obliged if my noble friend the Minister can explain to your Lordships’ House what plans have been formulated to honour the contribution by the people of India during the First World War. I am looking forward to sharing in the commemoration and honouring their memories.

2.53 pm

Lord Parekh (Lab): My Lords, next year we commemorate the centenary of the First World War, which until 1939 used to be called the Great War. The Government, the British Library and various organisations have provided a syllabus of a wide range of activities that should be undertaken, and adequate resources for this. I welcome this, but have two reservations. First, I am not sure that those organisations are entirely clear about what they are commemorating. Commemorating the war: what can that mean? Do they mean our victory in the war or remembering those who died? We need to be clear about what exactly we are commemorating. Secondly, how should we be commemorating? Are we proceeding along the right lines?

On the first question, the war needs to be placed in a context. We need to ask how the war started. How did it become a world war, so that it was not just an ordinary war but had to be given a special name: the Great War or, after 1939, the First World War? What were we doing in the war? How did we use the war to break up the Ottoman Empire? How did the Germans intervene in the war in order to urge the Ottomans to declare jihad against Britain and France, while we in turn asked the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman Empire and change the geography of the Middle East, as it is now? In short, we ought to understand the origins of the First World War and draw important lessons. It was a horrendous war which resulted in enormous tragedy and pain, as seen in the letters and poetry that grew out of it.

We could use the event to exorcise the fascination with war that has sadly been an important part of our psyche. We have more statues devoted to military generals and heroes than many other countries. It is about time that we asked ourselves whether there are some elements of our national psyche that need to be addressed more carefully than we have done so far.

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Secondly, we need to commemorate the fact that the war was a collaborative effort. We were able to survive, maintaining our liberties and prosperity because of the enormous contribution of the Commonwealth troops. Indians alone contributed substantially: 1,250,000 Indians were involved, of whom about 72,000 died, 12,000 won medals and about 11 won the Victoria Cross. We must also not forget that about 200 Army nurses died, of whom more than 50% were Indians. Many of the Indian soldiers fought in a climate which was not at all familiar to them, in the European theatres of war. Many of them spent weeks in freezing, waterlogged trenches.

Since the war was a collaborative effort, in which others countries helped us, it is important to highlight the fact that this is not peculiar to the First World War. The situation was only slightly different in the Napoleonic wars. You need only to walk down the Royal Gallery and see the fresco on the right, which depicts Nelson’s death. In that picture, you see a black gentleman and an Arab, showing that even during the Napoleonic wars, countries other than our own contributed. Those are the two things that I would like to see commemorated.

How do we commemorate? Obviously, exhibitions, lectures and information packs for schools are all important, but I suggest three things in particular as relevant to commemorating the Indian contribution. First, the Indian community here should be involved in the planning and execution of the various projects, because the whole thing seems to be operating over their heads. Secondly, we should commemorate in such a way that the multi-ethnic character of Britain is highlighted and our people are able to feel at ease with it. In those areas where large numbers of ethnic minorities are concentrated, it might be useful to devote greater attention than we have done to commemorating the Indian contribution to the First World War so that Indian kids grow up knowing that they were part of this country’s history long before they arrived, and white kids grow up recognising that Indians are not simply arrivals after the Second World War but have also been making an important contribution.

We should also use the occasion to consolidate consciousness of the Commonwealth in our schools and the Commonwealth as an international institution, because the Commonwealth played an extremely important part. If we are lucky, in emphasising the Indian contribution we might also be able to bring the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis together and create, here in Britain, the kind of harmony that should obtain, but sadly does not, in the subcontinent itself.

2.59 pm

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, for initiating the debate. We shall for the next five years be marking the centenary of the Great War and remembering the horrors that it represented. I pay tribute immediately to all those who are planning events to commemorate the war, from the Imperial War Museum, to local museum services and to the thousands of community and local groups.

In the UK, we tend to think of the war in terms of family memories, local war memorials, the volunteers who responded to Kitchener’s call to arms, the Somme,

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Passchendaele, the war poets, literature, plays and so on. However, the role of the Indian Army in World War I is not as widely understood in the UK as it should be. I hope that the centenary commemoration over the next five years will be an opportunity to redress the balance.

The Indian Army played a critical role in France and Belgium in the early days of the war because it plugged the line on the western front before Kitchener’s army was ready to cross to Flanders and France. As we have heard, it was the first time that troops from the Indian Army had fought in Europe. The Indian Army also played a critical role in Mesopotamia in the early months of the war. In 1914, it was the largest volunteer army in the world and, during the course of the war, over 800,000 volunteered for the army and 400,000 for non-combatant roles. Some 657,000 troops went to Mesopotamia; 144,000 to Egypt and Palestine; 138,000 to France. Troops also went to East Africa and Gallipoli, and there were of course people in the navy and merchant navy. In autumn 1914, troops were moved from India to Mesopotamia to secure the oilfields if Turkey came out in support of Germany. As I mentioned, the movement of troops to Europe at the end of September 1914 was to help hold the western front against the German invasion of Belgium and France.

How do we mark the role of those from the Indian subcontinent and all that they did? There are two ways: places and people. On places, we have to have specific events on the western front. First, the role of the Indian Army in the first battle of Ypres in October 1914 was particularly important. In the first attack, on 26 October, the Indian Army demonstrated huge bravery, with over 200 soldiers killed. Secondly, its role at Neuve Chapelle, 25 miles south of Ypres, two days later on 28 October, when the German troops had driven a gap in the British lines, was marked. Its troops were engaged for six days in house-to-house fighting in Neuve Chapelle: 500 Indian Army officers and men were killed and almost 1,500 wounded. On 23 November, when German troops broke through at Festubert, near Ypres, Indian Army troops were ordered to recover the line by dawn, which they did showing immense bravery. I suggest there should be events at all three of those places, on the relevant centenary dates, to mark their massive contribution in those early days of fighting on the western front.

More troops were committed to Mesopotamia, which was largely an Indian Army campaign. Despite eventual success, by October 1918 11,000 Indian Army troops were killed, with 4,000 more dying from wounds and 12,500 from disease. Some 51,000 were wounded, many of whom were shipped home in inadequate hospital ships because they had to use ordinary troop ships. We should also mark the disaster at Kut, in the spring of 1916, where 9,000 Indian Army soldiers were captured and marched northwards. They were not treated as prisoners of war and 2,500 died on the march. We have heard about the East Africa campaign and Gallipoli, where another 1,700 died in 1915.

Turning to people, we have heard about the award of Victoria Crosses. There were nine on the western front, eight in the first two years of the war and they were won in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt. Is there a case for commemorating the award of those

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crosses in the towns and villages the recipients came from in the Indian subcontinent or, perhaps, through their descendents? Some practical demonstration of our thanks to them is particularly important.

In conclusion, we have to express our appreciation to the people of the Indian subcontinent. Last year, I stood at the India Gate in Delhi pondering the enormous contribution made by so many individuals. Let us not forget that people from the Indian sub-continent kept volunteering throughout the war. We owe them a very great deal for the sacrifice of so many so far from home.

3.04 pm

Baroness Flather (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, for securing this debate. Part of me is sorry that there are not more speakers, and part of me is very glad because it gives me a few more minutes to speak. I hope this is not because of lack of interest: perhaps holidays have started for most people.

This is an important issue and is particularly so for me personally because my father volunteered in the first war—I was going to say “Great War”. Gandhiji said to Indian students that they should volunteer but not fight to kill. So my father was a stretcher bearer in Mesopotamia. Goodness knows what kind of a time he had there. He would not speak about it, which tells us it was a pretty awful time for him. All I know is that he lived on bully beef. I remember him saying that and it was the first time I had heard the word.

Young people who were studying in this country also volunteered because Gandhiji said so. Gandhiji himself was an amazing man who had fought in the Boer War—I know we are not talking about that war—and was at the battle of Spion Kop. Spion Kop was a hill that some noble Lords will know about. All the stretcher bearers at that battle were Indians and Gandhiji held the rank of sergeant-major. It is good to remember his contribution. As the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said, he actually canvassed people to join the British Army in the first and second wars and said, “We have to save the Empire”. Even Mark Tully got that wrong.

When I was deputy mayor and then mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead, I laid the first wreath on the war memorial. During my mayoralty, one of my fellow councillors asked me if Remembrance Day meant anything to me. Noble Lords might feel the same shock I did that an educated man, an elected councillor, had no idea what the Indians had done in the two world wars. This was so shocking to me I started to think about the memorial mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh. It took me many years to get people to agree to work for it and I am not sure anybody really believed we would get a memorial in the end, but we have one. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said about the Indian community. I have been very disappointed indeed by the interest it has shown—or not shown—in the memorial. It is their memorial, built not by the Government but by people giving money. However much I have tried to get them interested in visiting, I have not been very successful. Every year, we have a commemoration—a gathering not a service—when we try to remember the people.

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The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, asked, “What is war?”. War—whichever war it is—is horrible but we should never forget the contribution of the people and that is what this debate is about.

I remind noble Lords that when the British Expeditionary Force went to France the British standing army was very small and it lost. The first group who came to support them were 150,000 members of the Indian standing army. When they arrived in November they had no warm clothing. It was not just that they were not used to the cold: the army had not thought to provide them with the appropriate clothing. This has happened in many wars. There was also a lot of racism, and many problems with food. Nevertheless, our people were stalwart, and stayed with the Army and fought—and in such a way that they cannot be said to have been just cannon fodder. They were wonderful people and had a very important role to play in both roles.

Brighton Pavilion is an interesting place, because the then Prince of Wales thought that if he put the wounded Indian soldiers in Brighton Pavilion they would feel at home. Those people were from villages and had never seen any kind of palace, not even an Indian one, let alone the English Brighton Pavilion. In any case, they were put there; I hope that they were looked after but do not know whether they were—probably not terribly well, I should not wonder.

We have to work on the curriculum. We have to get some information about the Indian contribution in the curriculum—not just to the First World War, but even more importantly to the Second World War. I urge noble Lords to try their best to influence those who should be influenced.

3.10 pm

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, this short debate made possible by my noble friend Lord Sheikh, to whom we are all greatly indebted, provides us with an opportunity to recall and to reflect upon the immense contribution made by the peoples of the Indian subcontinent during the First World War. There is so much to remember, and so much to hold firmly in our minds with gratitude and veneration as the centenary of the outbreak of this terrible conflict approaches. The part played by the Indian Armed Forces and by all those who assisted them in their many tasks in three continents, on which my noble friend Lord Shipley has elaborated, should feature prominently in the period of commemoration that lies ahead.

Speaking as a historian, although I lack the eminence of the noble Lord, Professor Lord Morgan, who is to follow me and who can correct all my mistakes, I am particularly glad that the Imperial War Museum—the world’s leading authority on conflict and its impact, which as many noble Lords know is so conspicuously involved in the work of commemoration—has incorporated within its plans full recognition of India’s role as the biggest imperial contributor to the war. The museum’s famous First World War galleries will re-emerge next year, utterly transformed. One of the central objectives is to ensure that a proper understanding of India’s contribution and of the sacrifice made by its peoples is conveyed vividly and powerfully to visitors.

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Film, photography and representative items of warfare, which can stir the imagination so strongly, will all be deployed effectively for that purpose. Nor will the disappointment that was so widely felt in 1918 and thereafter be neglected. The final section of the renovated galleries will make clear the widespread discontent aroused by Britain’s decision to withhold from India the large measure of self-government that was conferred elsewhere as dominion status emerged.

I very much hope that the Imperial War Museum’s plans will be widely noted, as I am sure the Minister will agree. The plans need to be reflected at all levels throughout the country to make commemorative activity full and complete. That is particularly important where India is concerned, since among British historians there was for too long a tendency to underrate the contribution its peoples made. It was suggested, for example, that the Indian Army Corps, dispatched to France on the outbreak of war, failed to come up to expectations. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the current generation of my fellow historians has now properly acknowledged. Indian troops—and they alone—made good Britain’s acute shortfall in trained manpower in the first year of war on the western front. As one senior British officer emphasised,

“they filled a gap in the line when we had no other troops to put in”.

It should be added that that was at a great cost to themselves. By 1915 the Indian Army Corps had lost 50% of its original strength. Indian troops taught the rest of the British Expeditionary Force the art of patrolling in a form that would be suited to trench warfare on the western front. Skills that had been learnt while skirmishing in the Himalayas were adapted to a new purpose in the first night raids on the western front.

We can hear the voices of brave men from India, caught movingly in the letters they sent home. Here is one written on 1 May 1915 from the hospital established for them at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton:

“Do not be anxious about me. We are very well looked after. White soldiers are always besides our beds—day and night. The King has given a strict order that no trouble be given to any black man … in hospital. Men in hospital are tended like flowers, and the King and Queen sometimes come to visit them”.

I hope that that might provide a measure of reassurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, who wondered about the treatment that had been accorded to Indian soldiers in hospital in Brighton. The Indian troops, to whom so much is owed, speak to us across the century through such letters published in a fascinating volume entitled Indian Voices of the Great War.

At the moment we know rather less about what courageous Indian troops had to say about the grave hardships which they faced in Mesopotamia, where most of them served—some 650,000 altogether, as my noble friend Lord Shipley mentioned. It was very much an Indian campaign from first to last. In Britain today it is not remembered with the gratitude that it deserves, or with sufficient consciousness of the sacrifices that were made. My noble friend Lord Shipley referred to the siege of Kut in early 1916, where Indian soldiers endured terrible privations. After the inevitable surrender they were held captive by the Turks in conditions so

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appalling that more than half of them died. Next year’s commemorations must give full and proper recognition to those sacrifices.

There is one thing above all on which our country should reflect. As we look back across the century to the First World War, it is surely always important to remember that the magnificent contribution of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent to the great common endeavour in war also contributed to strengthening ties with the people of Britain—ties that would survive all the political difficulties, violence and crises that were to follow.

3.16 pm

Lord Morgan (Lab): My Lords, this debate, admirably launched by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, is very welcome. It enables us to pay proper tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the over 1 million Indian troops who took part in the First World War, as well as enabling us to test the Government’s resolve: how far will they subscribe to what we heard from the Minister, that the commemoration of the war would not be a celebration of militarism but would deal with matters such as the role of women, trade unions and new currents in poetry, and that in the case of Ireland it would focus not only on the Irish troops who volunteered to fight in the war, but also on the fact that it led to the Easter Rising and to the domination of Sinn Fein?

So it should be in India. As we have heard in a series of admirable speeches, Indian troops fought in very large numbers on the western front and in east Africa; enormous numbers fought in Mesopotamia and at the terrible siege of Kut al-Amara. The names of Indian troops are recorded in monuments in at Neuve Chapelle and on the Menin Gate. My own father served with Indian troops in the First World War in Palestine and always spoke with enormous warmth about that experience.

Gandhi encouraged Indians to volunteer for the British Army. At the same time, it is important to say how Gandhi shows how the war changed the perceptions of so many public figures in India. He was not at first the major nationalist in India—that was BG Tilak, who founded the Home Rule League. By the end of the war, Gandhi was convinced that the experiences of India in the war—the sacrifice of Indian troops—had given a new sense of unity and identity to all Indians; as we know, Gandhi worked a great deal with Muslims as well as with Hindus. The war gave the movement for home rule—swaraj—and Gandhi himself a new historical significance. Gandhi therefore illustrates what we should perhaps most fundamentally commemorate about the First World War.

We should note how the war encouraged movements in India to expand and to take up wider horizons. At first, Gandhi himself focused on internal issues within India—famously, the role of the untouchables, which he worked in a dedicated fashion to cope with in his own community. But by the end of the war he was adopting a much wider viewpoint, and challenging what he saw as the harshness of British rule, and how far a war supposedly fought to liberate subject nationalities was in fact reinforcing British control over his country.

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It is enormously important both for Gandhi and for the Indian nationalist movement that the First World War within India encouraged the famous non-violent strategies with which Gandhi is associated to work against the grain of imperial policy and win support for Indian nationalism outside India. Gandhi did this very conspicuously, if I may say so, within the Labour Party.

The First World War should be commemorated above all because in India, and thereby in a wider world, it was a period of historic change. The legacy of the Indian troops fighting so gallantly, on the western front and elsewhere, was not a stronger commitment of Indians to imperial rule; it marked the beginning of the end for the Raj. It was followed by the Rowlatt Bills against what was called terrorism, and by the terrible massacre at Amritsar. General Dyer was sacked after Amritsar, but Indians were appalled by the sympathy shown by many people in this country for his conduct. It is deeply to the discredit to the House of Lords that at that time it passed a Motion sympathising with and supporting General Dyer.

The legacy of the war appears to be commemorated in the imperial architecture of Lutyens and Baker in New Delhi. But the most prescient observer of these developments was the former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, who said that it would be,

“the grandest ruin of them all”.

That, perhaps, is what we should be commemorating.

3.22 pm

Viscount Slim (CB): My Lords, it is with pride that I am able to speak to you today, because I was an officer in the Indian Army. We had quite a few here when I first came to your Lordships’ House, but we are withering away. I am old, but not old enough to have fought in the First World War. Lord Weatherill was probably the most famous officer of the Indian Army in World War II who has been among us. He had a great record of gallantry and service in a very wonderful Indian cavalry regiment in Burma.

My father was in the Indian Army too, as was the father of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. He too fought in Mesopotamia, and also in Gallipoli. He was then in the British Army, but fought alongside a couple of battalions of the Indian Army. He was so impressed by their gallantry, by the way they fought and by the way in which they were commanded and organised that he said to himself, “If I get out of this mess, I shall transfer to the Indian Army.” And he did—for the next 30 years.

We have talked loosely and happily about the bravery of the Indian Army, but I would like to take you into a battalion of the Indian Army as it was then, and show you the various components. As the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, there was no conscription: every man was a volunteer. Some regiments were strictly of one warrior, martial tribe; others were mixed. There were about 14 or 15 Punjab regiments, and in those there were Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christians, completely integrated. There is a lesson there, you know, for the good people of Bradford and elsewhere in our nation. Of course they lived, not separately, but alongside each other, because they all ate different types of food,

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but there was a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Sikh gurdwara, there was the nearest Christian church, and there was often a Buddhist temple. We used to go to each other’s—and that was really rather good. It was the first real sign of integration of the people in India in those days. The Indian Army led, and later the police in India did much the same.

There was a difference of content, in that we had two types of officer in the battalion—the King’s commissioned officer and the Viceroy’s commissioned officer. They were probably the most important part of the Indian Army. The average British battalion had probably 30 or 40 British officers. But in an Indian Army battalion we had only about a dozen, because underneath those 12 or so officers the Viceroy commissioned officer was also an officer: he had his own officers mess, soldiers saluted him, and he provided the stability and the junior leadership of the Indian Army battalion—a rather special sort of battalion.

I do not think that it is generally known that in peacetime, the British officer was not accepted in the Indian Army unless he passed very high up out of Sandhurst. My father was the Indian Army instructor at the Staff College next door to Sandhurst, and I remember all those hopefuls coming to him to be looked at to see whether they were up to the very high standard of British Army officer required. He took some, and I know that he rejected one or two. You certainly needed to pass out in the first 25 or 30 at Sandhurst to be accepted.

May I end on a story? The Duke of Wellington always said that he learnt his soldiering in India, and he was damn nearly beaten by the Marathas, who had been led by probably one of the greatest guerrilla leaders in history, a man called Shivaji. The Duke, like all of us, learnt a lot in India.

3.28 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, as this is a time-limited debate and we have to give the Minister time to give a complete response, I am time-limited to one minute. I shall try to observe that limit, but I may slightly exceed it. I do not think it is important for me to say what I would have said if I had had time, because I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, will give us other opportunities to reflect on some of the important issues that have been raised today. So many good speeches have been made that anything I would have said would have been relatively uninformed and lacking in authority.

However, I would like to say two things. It seems to me that the legacy of the Empire and Commonwealth soldiers, like so many aspects of the First World War, will be argued about. The centenary debates must capture the fact that the tale of the Empire and Commonwealth soldiers is a contested, complex story—a human story of valour and tragedy, of victory and futility, of respect and racism, and of forgetting and re-remembering. What cannot be doubted is that these events and encounters provide an important foundation stone for an understanding of the making of modern Britain. If we know the history, we can hope to understand how we became the country we are today.

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It is important to recognise that the British and Empire Army that fought the First World War a century ago had more in common, demographically, with the Britain of 2014 than that of 1914.

A number of noble Lords have asked the Minister to give us more details about what events are planned. Within that response, will he think hard about what my noble friend Lord Morgan said about the resolve of the Government to make sure that this is an all-inclusive, non-celebratory event?

3.30 pm

Lord Bates (Con): My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for generously curtailing his speech to allow me more time to respond. On behalf of all who have spoken in this debate, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, for giving us the opportunity to discuss how we commemorate the role of soldiers from the Indian subcontinent in the First World War. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, the emphasis on commemoration, not celebration, is absolutely central to everything that we will do. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, for what he has done not only in initiating this debate but in ensuring that we are reminded of, acknowledge and recognise the contribution made by people from the Indian subcontinent to business and our culture in general.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, spoke of her personal story and experience at the war memorial in Maidenhead, and of people’s ignorance of the enormous contribution made by forces personnel from the Indian subcontinent. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, spoke very powerfully about the need to ensure that that contribution is not forgotten in any way. That is one of the reasons why I reassure noble Lords that the commemorations will have education and the curriculum at their centre.

The noble Lord, Lord Morgan, who is a distinguished historian, will recognise that this is not about the Government handing down a sterile statement or version of history that people must discover. What we want to do—this is the purpose of all the Government’s action in this area—is simply to encourage people to pause, think and take note of the scale of the suffering, and the reasons for it, and to engage with it in a very personal way and draw their own conclusions about what happened.

The most powerful contributions in this debate came from noble Lords who brought their personal experiences to it, such as the noble Viscount, Lord Slim. We appreciate their comments very much. The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, said that the Indian Army was an entirely voluntary army. The fact that it raised so many volunteers to fight in a different continent should be humbling for all of us who cherish our freedom won through their efforts, energies and sacrifice. That is another reason why we want to ensure that that is not forgotten.

I want to mention a couple of things that the Government plan to do. The British High Commission in New Delhi is working with the Indians on a number of projects to mark the centenary. These include a guidebook about the Indian Army’s role in France and Flanders, the digitisation of the Indian Army’s

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war diaries and the production of a number of books about India’s contribution and experiences. My noble friend Lord Lexden spoke about the voices that we can hear down the generations emanating from moving letters, and how those will be central to the Imperial War Museum’s new galleries’ commemoration of the contribution which India made.

The Government plan to recognise the outstanding contribution of Victoria Cross recipients. The Indian corps won 13,000 medals for gallantry, including 12 Victoria Crosses. We will create lasting memorials to all those who served with courage and valour. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked how these people might be commemorated in their own country. There are plans for paving stones to be inscribed with the names of the recipients of the VC in the cities, towns and villages from where they came, but Her Majesty’s Government cannot dictate how other countries commemorate these people but we are coming together as a Commonwealth to recognise them.

A number of noble Lords referred to the importance of the Commonwealth. Indeed, the commemoration process will begin at the end of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year. The first service will be a Commonwealth service with the entire Commonwealth coming together to commemorate the First World War and recognise its effects. That service will be held in Glasgow cathedral. More countries were involved in the war than not—from the vast Indian subcontinent to the small island of Nevis. All should be remembered for the part they played, and I assure noble Lords that that is central to the commemoration plans.

The noble Lords, Lord Morgan and Lord Parekh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, referred to the role of Gandhi. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has written extensively on the life of Gandhi. It is absolutely appropriate that his life, example and story should also be part of the commemoration process. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Warsi has initiated a series of lectures with the Curzon Institute to explore the stories of the individuals involved. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, referred to soldiers such as Sepoy Khudadad Khan, the first soldier from the Indian subcontinent to be awarded the Victoria Cross. I would mention also Walter Tull, the first Black British officer and George Blackman of Barbados, the last survivor who served in the war from the West Indies, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 106. We will come back to these personal stories time and again as we realise that they are the most powerful way of communicating the horrors which affected the world at that time, and that they shaped a generation.

My right honourable and noble friend Lady Warsi has visited Grootebeek military cemetery and the First World War graves of soldiers from her parents’ home village in Pakistan—another personal story. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked whether there would be commemorations at Neuve-Chapelle. Those preparations are being discussed and I think that my noble friend Lady Warsi will find the contributions to this debate very helpful.

I am afraid that because of the time constraints I have not been able to cover this matter in as much depth as I would like. Nevertheless, this has been a

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very important debate. There is no doubt that we could not have prevailed in the First World War without the support and sacrifice of our Commonwealth partners. As we came together then, so the centenary gives us an opportunity to come together now, not just people in this country but also people in the subcontinent, as noble Lords said, with the different faith traditions and nationalities which make up that subcontinent. We should come together to reaffirm our shared values, forged through experiences that will not be forgotten, and that bind us together inseparably.

Recognition of the important role that those from the Indian subcontinent played is an integral part of the Government’s plans for an inclusive commemoration —the inclusive commemoration that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, implored us to establish. This commemoration will not airbrush the horror of the war nor shy away from the concept of victory. We approach the centenary in a spirit of reconciliation, acknowledging that the loss and suffering recognised no national boundaries and that those who were once our adversaries are now our partners in building a better world.

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Committee (4th Day) (Continued)

3.40 pm

Relevant documents: 5th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 3rd Report from the Constitution Committee and 12th and 16th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee.

Clause 29: Targeted expenditure limits

Debate on whether Clause 29 should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): My Lords, in putting my name down to oppose Clause 29 standing part of the Bill, I hope that the Minister will be able to explain what this whole clause is really about, and what mischief it is intended to block. I went to the Public Bill Office, whose staff have been extraordinarily helpful on this occasion, as on so many others. In order to run through my amendments and to make sure that I understood the Bill properly and what I was putting forward, I asked about this clause, and what it really meant. I said to them, you are all highly trained lawyers; you will be able to tell me what it is all about. They said that they deliberately do not have lawyers in the Public Bill Office because it is very important for people to understand legislation, and that is why they are lay people and not lawyers. I said, “That’s very good—I’ll leave this with you for a day, and perhaps you can tell me what all of this is about”. I went back the next day and they said that they were very sorry but they did not think they would be able to help me with this one. I then contacted the lawyer who specialises in electoral law who has been advising the commission,

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and asked her. She sent me a reply. I am still not quite sure that I understand what it is all about, but this is what she says:

“Clause 29 imposes limits on the amount non-parties can spend on activity that could reasonably be regarded as promoting a particular party and none other, to £38,500, unless they have the party’s authorisation. This limits the freedom of expression association beyond the limits of proportionality”.

She adds:

“Although not a focus of the commission’s work, it is another position that would leave groups open to inadvertence, and the onus on what parties do, as opposed to campaigners’ intent. If the rest of the commission’s recommendations are implemented, this would be a highly peculiar—and, from a regulatory viewpoint, bizarre—provision to remain”.

I hope that the Minister will be able to explain what this clause is really about, and what mischief it is intended to block.

Baroness Mallalieu (Lab): My Lords, my name is also down to oppose the question that Clause 29 stand part. We had some powerful speeches from Welsh Members of your Lordships’ House the other day about the living language that is Welsh. This is another part of the Bill that is written in the living language of gobbledegook, although that is living only in parts of Whitehall. I, too, was completely puzzled by it. I obtained the Explanatory Notes, read them with care, and was none the wiser at the end of it. This, I hope, will also be included in the undertaking that the Minister gave when he said that he felt an obligation to look at those parts of the Bill that are incomprehensible. This certainly needs translating; it has been written by lawyers for lawyers—of a specialist sort—yet not for the people who have actually to apply it, particularly those in small charities and organisations. They have to be able to understand the detail of the Bill. I hope this clause can be completely rewritten, if indeed large parts of it are at all necessary.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I also put my name down here. I apologise to your Lordships for not being able to participate for the latter part of Monday, and earlier today. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, have both indicated something that ought to be of prime and absolute concern to every Member of both Houses of Parliament: legislation should be intelligible. People to whom this will apply ought to know what the law says they can and cannot do. In this House and in another place, I have often advocated a redistribution of Sir Ernest Gowers’s famous book Plain Words. If anyone needs a copy, it is those who give—devoted and conscientious, I am sure—service to my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, because what has been produced here is utterly incomprehensible, to moderately intelligent people in all parts of this House. First, we need my noble and learned friend to give us a child’s guide from the Dispatch Box, to tell us what is intended. He should then take this clause away, which is total gobbledegook, as the noble Baroness said a few moments ago, and after Christmas, bring us a new year’s gift of something which we can all understand.

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3.45 pm

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, I hear the message. The current provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 do not prevent political parties benefiting from expenditure by third parties in a way that would enable the political parties to avoid party spending limits. Although measures exist to regulate political party spending, third-party spending and the notional campaign expenditure of political parties—that is, spending by third parties for or on behalf of a political party—those measures are not necessarily effective in ensuring that all spending for the benefit of a political party is properly captured. Our concern, which influences or informs this clause, is that that risks undermining trust in the controls on party spending.

Clause 29 therefore introduces a new measure that requires third parties that spend significant sums in a way that can reasonably be regarded as supporting a particular political party or its candidates to be specifically authorised by the relevant political party to campaign in that manner. I heard and will certainly reflect on what the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, of Pentregarth, said—that this might somehow be something that innocent people or groups can stumble into, but I rather think that the political reality on the ground is that if a particular group is, to all intents and purposes, supporting the Liberal Democrats—I am being neutral about this—it will not do so innocently or without any notion that that is what it is doing.

Under proposed new Section 94B(3), authorisation would be required only in instances where the third party wishes to incur expenditure that exceeds 10% of its spending limit for a part of the UK. This would be treated as “targeted controlled expenditure”, and the Bill defines it as more than 0.2% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit for political parties in that part of the United Kingdom. That limit would be £31,980 in England, £3,540 in Scotland, £2,400 in Wales and £1,080 in Northern Ireland. If a political party does not want the third party to spend more than 10% of its spending limit in support of it, or for that expenditure to count towards its limit, it can simply withhold authorisation. A third party will commit an offence if it either exceeds the targeted expenditure limit without authorisation or exceeds an authorised cap set by a political party. In other words, if such a group comes to the Liberal Democrats, in the highly unlikely event that the Liberal Democrat treasurer says, “Sorry, we are not going to accept your offer of going beyond the 10% limit and we are not giving you authorisation”, it would be an offence if the group then spent money in obvious support of the Liberal Democrats beyond the 10%.

The intention of this clause is to bring a greater degree of transparency where third parties campaign to support a particular political party or its candidates. Requiring expenditure incurred as part of that campaigning to count towards the spending limits of both the third party and the political party, and for this information then to be disclosed to the public, will prevent political parties evading their spending limits by relying on co-ordinated support from campaigning

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groups. Clause 29 will not prevent third parties campaigning up to a significant limit without needing any kind of authorisation from a political party. Nor will it curtail third-party expenditure that cannot reasonably be regarded as intended to benefit a particular party—for example, because that expenditure supports multiple parties or candidates who support the third party’s aims.

This is an important provision to try to prevent the spending limits on political parties being circumscribed or undermined by third parties campaigning on their behalf. It does so by requiring authorisation at 10% of the third party’s spending limit. I take the point that what I believe is a relatively simple and important principle or objective may not have been expressed in the most felicitous terms. I would normally share my noble friend Lord Cormack’s desire to see legislation in much plainer English. I confess that having negotiated a coalition agreement with the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament in 2003, including a commitment to making progress towards drafting legislation in plain English, I fear that we failed to honour that commitment. That suggests that it is easier said than done. Some challenges are bigger than others.

I do not know whether delivering the objective can be done in much simpler language. In the previous clause, much of the apparent complexities related to an interrelationship between different relevant periods because of different elections. However, judging by the mood of the House, we at least ought to look at this clause to see if something can be done in that regard. However, the underlying objective, to stop the subversion of the limits on party political funding, is a proper objective.

Clause 29 agreed.

Amendment 170H

Moved by Lord Tyler

170H: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—

“Third parties acting in concert

(1) Section 94 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (limits of controlled expenditure by non-recognised third parties) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (6)(b) after “arrangement” insert (“the plan”).

(3) In subsection (6), at end insert “in pursuance of the plan”.”

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, I have tabled this proposed new clause with my colleagues, my noble friends Lady Williams of Crosby and Lady Tyler of Enfield and, in a private capacity, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. We have given it the heading:

“Third parties acting in concert”.

We think that that is a better definition of the problem that has been brought to our attention on many occasions than using the word “coalition”, which might have other overtones.

Among all the groups that we have met, the present PPERA 2000 rules on this type of working between different organisations have emerged as a major area of concern. Indeed, they have caused great confusion

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and, more than anything else, given rise to the alleged chilling effect among smaller organisations. I checked with the Electoral Commission earlier this week about what exactly is meant by the present rules. Suppose organisation A contributes £15,000 to a combined operation, which acts in concert in some form of policy coalition. Then organisation B contributes £375,000 to that same campaign. Therefore, under the present rules, A and B have to record £390,000 as having been spent. However, vitally, organisation A, which has spent only £15,000, is recorded as having spent right up to the total of £390,000. That creates an extremely difficult situation for small organisations. Just by being caught up by some joint operation, they get clobbered because they might very well want to take on some different campaign activity that is nothing to do with that original campaign, and then find that they have already exceeded the limit. That is the nature of the present law, and that is the nature of the present problem that so many organisations have drawn to our attention.

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and his colleagues have a good amendment that would deal with this for small organisations making a contribution below the registration threshold and, of course, that is welcome. Our amendment goes further: it embodies the principle that any one group or any one campaign should be capped at the level of the national or constituency limit. We do this by engaging in the amendment with the phrase,

“common plan or other arrangement”,

which is already referred to in the 2000 Act. We are effectively saying that the money spent on that plan should be capped—it should not then be carried forward for any other campaign of a different nature—or that that money spent by a different organisation should be capped. If, in my example, organisation A was spending only £15,000, that would be the limit of the restraint on it because it clearly would not be contributing a huge sum. Just because organisation B has spent a considerable sum in pursuance of the common plan, it should not be effectively restricted by what has happened with one of their allies.

There is a way around these rules at present, which is to set up an umbrella organisation to accept donations from all the different organisations involved, but if they simply campaign together then they will be caught by the present rules. There is a defect in the 2000 PPERA rules and the Bill is our opportunity to deal with it, remove that uncertainty and assist a number of organisations that feel that this is a real constraint on what they are permitted to do. I should say briefly that, on these Benches, we strongly refute the case for Amendment 182A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, which would seek to take away all the coalition rules. It would mean no constraint whatever on organisations, allowing them simply and artificially to multiply and then provide multiple spending limits. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, is not here to explain exactly the rationale for those original 2000 PPERA rules, which were thought at the time to be both necessary and desirable. Unfortunately, they have proved to be, to a large extent, not very effective and, in some respects, a discouragement to small organisations being involved in perfectly proper campaigning operations.

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The amendment of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, goes a long way to dealing with the problem, but we think that our approach goes a little further and we hope that the Government will accept the direction in which it is going. I beg to move.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 170M. First of all, the charities and campaigning groups have indicated very strongly that what the present Bill puts forward on coalition working is totally unacceptable. All charities are encouraged by the Charity Commission and by their own trustees to work together in coalitions. We have seen many very successful examples of coalition working, but under the law as it is put forward in Part 2 of the Bill, the total amount of money spent by the coalition is attributed to each single member of the coalition. This must be, by any standard, totally unfair. We have racked our brains for the past six weeks and do not feel that we have come up with any solution to the fundamental problem. Therefore, in the first week after we come back, we will be calling a round table conference to which the Minister has agreed to come and various other people will be invited, to see whether, together, we can crack this fundamental problem of coalition working and how it can be fairly regulated. I am sure that the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, to which I put my name in a private capacity, will be very much on the table to be considered at that point.

However, as he mentioned, our Amendment 170M will go some way towards solving the problem for smaller groups. In that amendment, we mark the difference between a minor third party and a nominated third party. A minor third party is one that has not yet reached the registration threshold. If it is working in coalition with other parties, on the basis of my amendment it will be able to nominate another party, called the nominated third party. With the agreement of both the third party and the nominated third party, the money that the minor third party spends on that campaign will be attributed to the nominated third party as part of its overall expenditure and the minor third party will simply be able to indicate to the Electoral Commission that it is below the threshold and has, as it were, contributed this amount of money towards the nominated third party, which is very likely to be regulated. We believe that this is quite a neat way of ensuring that smaller parties—those which do not hit the registration threshold and certainly are very anxious to work in coalition —will not be brought within the scope of regulated expenditure. The Electoral Commission, in examining this amendment, remarked that it is “attractive in principle”, but wants to think about it further to see whether there are any unintended consequences.

The issue of coalition working is one of the key areas about which charities and campaigning groups are concerned. I will not go through any of the examples set out at the end of our report, but I would draw the attention of noble Lords to the Human Rights Consortium in Northern Ireland, which has been referred to at least once in this debate already, where something like 180 NGOs work together on a crucial issue. That gives some indication of why getting coalition working right is absolutely fundamental to the charity sector and, indeed, to the workings of our democracy.

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4 pm

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, I add my support for Amendment 170H, to which my name is attached. As my noble friend Lord Tyler has already explained, the amendment seeks to apply the limit of £390,000 to any one registered third party or to any one coalition campaign, but not to limit the spending of one body by virtue of the spending of another. That is a key point.

As I looked into this issue, it became clear that, under the existing 2000 legislation, if a number of organisations campaign together on one issue, each member has to account for the full amount spent on that joint campaign, regardless of their individual contributions, however large or small. As I understand it, this aggregated reporting of coalition spending was put in place at the time as a form of anti-avoidance mechanism for these rules. My concerns are based on my own experience of working in coalitions of charities, and focus on the impact that this can have on collaborative working across the voluntary sector. I am particularly concerned about the impact on small and medium-sized charities and other organisations. In the year before an election, small organisations are quite unlikely to join coalitions for fear of having to deal with the related administrative burdens, while larger organisations are likely to walk away from such coalitions in order to avoid reaching the maximum expenditure limits.

I have also looked at the work of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, and I pay tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for highlighting the issue of the impact on coalitions of charities. I was struck by how charities would be affected, because they will have to deal with two regulators. I know very well that the Charity Commission encourages coalition working in order to achieve the efficient use of resources—and, frankly, because when smaller charities work together they are likely to have a far greater impact on the policy area they are concerned about.

My personal experience is based on three things. For two and a half years I was the chair of the Kids in the Middle coalition—an interesting coalition of around 30 charities in the children and families sector, working with 30 of the country’s agony aunts and one or two agony uncles. It was all about the impact that very high-conflict separation of parents can have on children. I like to think that it was a rather effective campaign in terms of the things that were achieved, but I fear for how such a coalition of charities would be able to operate under the Bill as it stands.

I am also currently the chair of a coalition of charities called the Making Every Adult Matter group, which looks at how organisations trying to help adults with multiple and complex needs can better work together to produce more joined-up solutions on the ground. It is very difficult for small to medium-sized charities, given the size of their resources, to campaign individually. They simply do not have the resources to do it, and it is probably not a very good use of their very limited time.

I will finish by making a couple of broader points about coalitions and how they could be affected by this legislation unless these amendments are taken on

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board. It is really important that coalitions are able to campaign effectively, often over a long period of time, to get their point across. I think, for example, of the Mental Health Alliance, which has existed for nearly 10 years. The lead organisations in any alliance or collaboration need to have clarity that they themselves will not be penalised by excessive regulation if their campaign happens to straddle election periods. They also need to be absolutely sure that their governance responsibilities are clear.

I feel quite strongly about federated charities. I was chief executive for five years of Relate, a federated organisation in exactly the same position as federated charities such as Mind or Age UK. They are federations of local independent charities that operate under an umbrella and are federated with a central charity. My concern is that, unless an amendment of the type that we are talking about is taken forward, individual charities that work as part of an umbrella charity will find themselves in a very difficult position and will perhaps feel that they would not wish to be involved in any campaigning work. That would be very unfortunate.

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, my name is on Amendment 170M. This issue creates a number of problems, some of which have been mentioned and some of which have not. One concern is that it gives a completely misleading impression of what each partner in a coalition has spent, because it has to include everybody else’s contribution with its own. This does not give the impression of transparency—if that is what we are trying to achieve—but just the opposite. It gives the public a picture of smaller organisations, and the campaign as a whole, spending far more than they have actually done.

It also of course reduces the amount that can be spent by those groups on other messages or campaigns that they may be conducting. It is inhibiting in both ways and provides the opposite of transparency—it draws a veil over the whole coalition and does not give a true picture to those who want to see how much each of them is spending. Others have said that it is a discouragement to coalition working, which charities are encouraged to do.

We also know from the evidence we have heard that there is very considerable concern about coalitions that involve charities and non-charities working together. How does the Minister see such a coalition working if he were tempted to agree to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, which sought to take charities out of the Bill? If that was done, the charity would of course be under no obligation to register or, indeed, to record its contribution, but the non-charity would. If he has a chance to do so, I would be grateful if the Minister could deal with my worry about that particular situation.

It is quite clear, as we grapple with this, that five weeks is totally insufficient to reach a proper conclusion that would create transparency but at the same time not inhibit proper campaigning. The Electoral Commission has said that, ahead of Report in this House, it is looking at all the options for mitigating the burdens on campaigners with a common plan that spend less than the registration threshold, and that it will publish its conclusions to help the House before that stage.

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Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment. I have done so in relation to the organisations involved with the criminal justice system that I have mentioned before. I refer in particular to the two initiatives being driven at the moment by the Secretary of State for Justice. One is Transforming Rehabilitation, which involves establishing new partnerships working with prisons. The other is the transforming of the probation service, which involves setting up community rehabilitation companies. These consist of a mixture of private companies, charities and other non-voluntary organisations.

They are being encouraged to do this and to do it on a payment-by-results basis. The results are not yet clear. It should be borne in mind that 50% of the rehabilitation work in prisons today is done by voluntary organisations, many of which are very small. Have the possible implications of them joining in coalition with larger organisations that may well fall into the catch of this amendment been explained to the Ministry of Justice and does it have any comment to make? In theory it should explain the implications to those who are minded to join in the coalitions under its leadership.

Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, there is little wonder that there is so much concern in the charitable and voluntary sectors about the idea of collaborative working being detrimentally affected by the Bill. That is because collaborative working coalitions are the most effective way of campaigning and bringing about policy change. They bring together large and small organisations, single-issue and multiple-issue organisations, service providers and self-help organisations, and charities and other types of organisation. As well as enabling a powerful voice, collaborative working moderates the kinds of demand that are made and makes them more realistic. You have to achieve some kind of consensus, if, for example, you are putting together a manifesto, as many coalitions do in the run-up to an election. This may mean moderating the demands of the more extreme and pushing along the demands of the more cautious. These coalitions are very effective and this is why it is important that we get this right. This issue requires much more detailed consideration. In the mean time, the amendment proposed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, gets us some way along that road. I very much support it.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con): My Lords, I should like to emphasise the challenge posed to coalition working by the present PPERA rules. I have an amendment in a later group about the practical reporting requirements that flow from it.

My noble friend Lord Tyler laid out the challenges, but the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, put his finger on the issue. Our big challenge is to come up with the answer. Charities, particularly smaller ones, will always work in coalitions and therefore we must find a way to facilitate that, for the reasons given by several previous speakers. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield, explained this clearly from her personal experience. I can see that we are not there yet, but I hope that the round-table conference taking place early in January, to which the

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noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, referred, will produce something that will address the weaknesses of the present system. I also hope that my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench will be able to approach that with an open mind so that we can tease out the right solution to this undoubtedly difficult but fundamental challenge.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, I have already expressed my concerns about the smaller charities and the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has articulated this so much better than me. I think that the Minister has been waiting for this amendment to reply to me and to others.

I back up what my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries has said about encouraging charities to work together. Let us look at the example of slavery, which is in the minds of the Conservatives at the moment. We are rather surprised about that because that campaign comes from the voluntary sector and the Liberal party and not the Conservatives. Why is that? It is because the ecumenical coalition against trafficking and Anti-Slavery International came up with legislation. They have been working on this subject for 20 years, not five or 10 years, and the Prime Minister has embraced it at the forefront of present legislation. I am delighted about that but the Government have a lot of difficulty in the voluntary sector at the moment. If they are proceeding along these lines, they are going to have to think of something else soon.

4.15 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, the last example given by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, is a really powerful one and it adds to the criticisms, which I endorse, of the catch-all provisions that have been added to the existing rules, which worked in the past but have become unworkable because of the increased range of activities, the addition of staff, travel and other costs, the reduction of thresholds, and the cut in the spending cap. This is what makes what was a quite innocuous concept now very difficult.

We endorse the criticisms but go further and suggest in Amendment 182A, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Royall, that the combined effect of all of that is so serious and could so jeopardise joint working that it is time to review whether such an anti-avoidance dollop of restrictions, red tape and responsibility for another organisation’s spending is actually worth the candle.

Of course, had we had pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and known about this in advance, we might have ironed it out before, but we did not, so we are left with a situation in which restrictions on coalition spending—or, at least, subjecting it to joint limits and reporting—seem aimed at anti-avoidance only in the belief that 10 groups will get together and campaign and they will all spend £100 less than the limit. Again, we have had no evidence of this. It seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which supports our amendment, has pointed to the increased significance of the rules because they will

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now apply to such a wide range of activities, and with new constituency limits. It thinks that this will threaten legitimate coalition campaigning, especially locally. For example, the RSPB works locally with other groups on infrastructure projects that affect the natural environment, such as an M4 relief road, when public reports or press events may be used. This may well be caught because one party may be in favour of a road and another party against it. Even if that is not the purpose of its work, the RSPB risks being caught if its particular objective chimes with—or is at variance with—one party, even though the RSPB’s objectives are based on the interests of birds rather than politics. It is particularly worried about how its spending would count against every member of the coalition’s spend and each member’s £9,750 limit would in a sense be double- or treble-counted if each group had to declare it as if it was its own. As the RSPB says, the combined effect of all the different rules is likely to limit what it can do.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, also looking at the confusion surrounding coalition spending, was worried that simply having its logo on something, with therefore a bit of cost involved, would mean that that would have to be apportioned to a coalition, which could present problems and reduce its ability to support a campaign. The Libel Reform Campaign, which is made up of Sense About Science, English PEN and the Index on Censorship, believes that if it was pooling all those expenditures over a year, all those three organisations would hit their limit even if the combined limit was still below what is permissible.

NAVCA highlights that £5,000 is a lot of money for one small charity alone to spend. However, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley said, working in partnership can be much more effective for charities and what they want to achieve for the groups they support. Yet because all the funding is put together, the thresholds create a burden. This could discourage small charities from working in partnership to gain a voice, because they would fear everything that went with that.

It has been mentioned that the Electoral Commission itself, which traditionally saw the old coalition rules as a good anti-avoidance tool, now acknowledges that there are strong concerns about the impact, particularly on small local campaigns. If a local campaigner which is spending only a few pounds enters into a coalition with another which is spending more than the registration threshold, it may then be required to register. One campaigning group would have to take the other party’s spend as part of its own, and then comply with all the rules.

Of course, the amendment proposed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, might appear attractive. It allows a bigger organisation to take responsibility for some of the spending of a smaller organisation. The problem is that a smaller organisation may have decided to spend only £1,000 on something over a year, but then something happens—it gets another member of staff, or the car breaks down and it has to hire a bus—and its expenditure suddenly goes up over that year. It will be the bigger organisation, the responsible body, which will suddenly have to answer for a new range of expenditure that has not been agreed in advance.

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I am afraid that for small voluntary organisations that is often how spending takes place. They do not spend with a budget in advance, as the Government do. Spending is often as and when.

Problems remain, despite the attempts to answer this. As has been said, the Electoral Commission itself has failed to come up with a response, only promising us its ideas by Report. This highlights the fact that not only was this not subject to pre-legislative scrutiny but the Government did not even consult the Electoral Commission before they brought in the Bill. It is a little worrying that neither the Government nor the Electoral Commission have found a way to answer these very serious questions. For that reason, we suggest removing the old requirements on all participants to be responsible for the actions of the other. We ask the Government to find a better way of tackling any attempts by various bodies to circumvent the very proper objectives of PPERA.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, from almost every meeting I took part in with charities or representatives of NGOs, I was certainly aware that the issue of what we described as coalition or co-ordinated planning was of considerable importance to them. That said, it is worth reflecting that the Bill does not actually make any changes, apart from the technical changes to take into account the other activities. The basic architecture on expenditure by organisations going towards a coalition plan was set down in the 2000 Act. I am not quite sure whether there was pre-legislative scrutiny before that particular architecture fell into place. However, it is not the case that the law was put forward in Part 2, as was said by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. That law is already there in PPERA.

What has happened has perhaps been fortuitous. The Bill has brought activity and greater focus, which have targeted minds on what is actually there. I accept that there is more activity now, as I am sure would be said by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. Yet in fact, as the law stands at the moment, if 10 groups each contribute £1,000 to the activities or to the election materials covered under the present Act, they would each be required to register. This is therefore an important issue. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made this point about the concern of smaller organisations in a number of his contributions. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that we should remember to put this in the context of what the controlled expenditure is. If we are talking about the valuable and important work that is done in our prisons in terms of rehabilitation, it does not readily strike me how that would be the kind of expenditure envisaged, albeit that the groups concerned might be engaged with other bodies which fall within the ambit of the Bill and of what would lead to controlled expenditure. However, it is important that we recognise that this issue has now been identified, and I think that we all agree that we should seek to address it.

The rules on coalitions are necessary. In its evidence to the Commission on Civil Society, the Electoral Commission said:

“In our view, rules that limit what different campaigners can spend on co-ordinated campaigning are a vital element of the controls

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on election spending. Without them, individuals or organisations seeking to spend more than the limits on campaigning at elections could do so by setting up multiple organisations working together, with each organisation able to spend the full amount”.

As I have said, the existing provisions have been in place for both the 2005 and 2010 general elections. They seemed to work well and they remain unchanged by the Bill.

There has been some confusion about the operation of the rules, so perhaps I should take this opportunity to clarify them. Section 94(6) of PPERA stipulates that where two or more third parties work together as a group or coalition in pursuance of a common plan, the whole of the expenditure they incur as part of that coalition must count against each third party’s individual spending limit. As my noble friend Lady Tyler pointed out, that is a key anti-avoidance provision. If total spending by a group of third parties acting as part of a common plan was not counted in full against each individual third party’s limits, it would allow third parties to form many coalitions on single issues in order to evade their spending limits.

However, the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Tyler perhaps does not have the effect that, I am sure from what he said in moving it, he intended, because it would appear simply to reinforce what is already provided for in PPERA. I am sure that my noble friend seeks a different outcome, which is perhaps the cessation of third parties accounting for aggregated coalition expenditure. Nevertheless, his amendment has raised an issue which I see as current and, as will be clear when I come to respond to the specific amendment proposed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the Government want to look carefully at what more can be done to deal with these concerns. My noble friend mentioned a round-table conference—when we broke for lunch, I think that dates and times were being arranged for that.

The amendment proposed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, would create a category of what he described as “minor” third parties which are exempted from having to account for any coalition expenditure provided their individual contribution is below the registration threshold. The third party must not have incurred expenditure in any other circumstances, and a “nominated” third party must be willing to absorb the “minor” third party’s spend and report it as its own to the Electoral Commission.

I accept that that is a constructive approach to addressing the problem that has been identified. Already, if a coalition campaign is organised by a lead third-party organisation which alone incurs, or decides when to authorise, regulated spending for the campaign, only the lead organisation is required to register with the Electoral Commission. The lead campaigner may receive contributions or donations from other organisations towards the campaign. These will be considered as donations. Where other organisations provide services or materials to the lead campaigner, these will be regarded as both in-kind donations and “notional” spending on behalf of the lead organisation. I reiterate: it is only where there is no lead organisation, and several third parties co-ordinate their campaigning while making their own decisions on when to incur regulated expenditure, that they will be covered by the rules on coalition campaigning.

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I hope that in indicating what the present position is on when donations are made I have gone some way to reassuring the noble and right reverend Lord, but we recognise the concerns of small organisations which may wish to join a larger coalition to campaign on an issue. We will continue to look carefully at what more can be done. I hope that, when we meet, the benefit of a break might have enabled us to find a way to address an issue which, as I said at the outset, already exists even under the law as it stands.

In the same vein, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, specifically asked what the position would be with regard to charities. If charities were exempted, they would not incur the controlled expenditure so it would not be counted towards spending on a common plan. As I indicated in my response to the amendment moved on Monday by my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury, though, while there is certainly an issue there to be addressed and we want to consider it, the Government’s position has not been to exempt charities. If we were to go down that path, the kind of issue that she has raised is one of those that would have to be considered.

4.30 pm

Amendment 182A in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Hayter—the latter spoke to it—would remove the requirements for third parties to operate to a common plan to account for the total spending. This amendment would create a significant loophole. Third parties together pursuing a common plan would find themselves unconstrained by spending limits. It would be a simple and obvious avoidance technique for an organisation wishing to spend above the spending limit to split itself into multiple splinter groups, each with their own significant spending limit. They could all work together, with each able to spend up to £390,000 individually. That risks bringing big money into campaigning, which the Opposition said earlier they do not wish to encourage.

I hope that, with some explanation of the current position and with the guidance that smaller organisations contributing to a larger campaign run by a larger body would not draw them into controlled expenditure, I have offered some reassurance, but I do so against the background that we are willing to engage on this issue. As I have indicated, this is a problem that exists even under the law as it presently is. On that basis, I invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tyler: I am very grateful to the Minister but also to others who contributed because, if we have done nothing else in recent minutes, we have demonstrated that there is a basic misunderstanding of the current law. It is therefore not surprising that many organisations outwith Parliament, large and small, have been confused by this issue. We should be absolutely clear, and my noble and learned friend’s latter remarks underline this, that if we are not very careful, if it were removed completely from the current 2000 Act by this Bill, this could result in those who have a direct interest in avoidance using this as a cunning plan to get around the constraints of the current law. I have read the Hansard from the time and this was anticipated as a

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potentially dangerous loophole in the debates in 2000 that led to the PPERA Act, and it would be totally wrong to just tear it up and throw it out.

Incidentally, in that connection, there have been comments about the role of the Electoral Commission. As I have frequently reminded your Lordships, I have a role as a member of the cross-party informal advisory group to the commission. I think that the commission should be taken to task for not identifying that this was a problem over 13 years of experience. It is unfortunate that in that respect it did not recommend to the previous Government and to Parliament that this needed to be looked at, whatever future legislation was going to try and tackle it.

It is clear from the contributions right around the House that many here who have contact with small organisations and charities know that in the past there has been a chilling effect, to use that expression, on those who wish to work in a collaborative way, which, for the reasons that have been explained so well by my noble friend Lady Tyler, needs careful attention. We need to try to avoid the existing distortions that have been identified as having been there for some time, although obviously are now more pressing, given the other changes in the Bill.

Obviously I, too, hope that between now and Report the promised discussions will result in a fairer, more rational approach for those who wish to campaign in an election together. I therefore hope that in the next two or three weeks we will see a practical solution. A number of ideas have been put forward to the Minister and I have every confidence, given what he has just said, that the Government will look at them very carefully. In the mean time—

Lord Hardie (CB): Can I just clarify the noble Lord’s comments about the Electoral Commission, as I did not fully understand them. The criticism of the commission for not identifying this problem—was it that it ought to have identified it before the 2000 Act or between the Act and now? It was set up, as I understand it, by the 2000 Act so it could not have done it in anticipation of that.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I am so sorry if I did not make that clear. Since the 2000 Act it has become increasingly evident that this was having an effect and discouraging a number of organisations from working together. This has come to a head now but the principle was explicit in PPERA in 2000 and it is unfortunate that the commission allowed some discussion to continue at a low level but was never in a position to nor felt able to recommend to government and to Parliament that this matter needed close attention.

Amendment 170H withdrawn.


Amendment 170J

Moved by Lord Hardie

170J: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—

“Publication of guidelines for third parties regarding regulation of expenditure

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(1) As soon as is reasonably practicable after the passing of this Act, the Electoral Commission shall publish guidelines to assist third parties to determine what procedures are necessary for them to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Act.

(2) The provisions of this Act regulating expenditure by third parties shall not come into effect until three months have elapsed after the publication of the guidelines mentioned in subsection (1).

(3) In the event that the effect of subsections (1) and (2) is that the period remaining prior to the 2015 general election is less than the relevant period, the limits on expenditure by third parties will be reduced to the relevant proportion of the maximum permitted expenditure.

(4) In subsection (3) the “relevant proportion” means the proportion of the maximum permitted expenditure represented by where A is the number of days remaining after the expiry of the three month period specified in subsection (2) until the date of the poll for the 2015 general election and B is 365.”

Lord Hardie: My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 170K. Both amendments introduce new clauses into the Bill. Amendment 170J introduces a requirement on the Electoral Commission to publish guidelines for the assistance of third parties to ensure that they comply with the provisions of the Bill, when it is enacted. I understand that it would be normal for the commission to provide such guidance, but subsection (1) of the proposed new clause requires publication to be:

“As soon as is reasonably practicable after the passing of this Act”.

That provision recognises that the commission may not be able to prepare such guidance until the final version of the legislation is known.

Unlike many pieces of legislation where one might be able to prepare guidelines in anticipation of enactment, the Bill has a number of issues of uncertainty. There remains a considerable amount of uncertainty about the final provisions of the Bill in view of the extent of the opposition to different clauses and the commitment by the Government—which is welcome—to come back on Report with amendments. The Government’s response to the report from the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement is also awaited. Until all of that is known it would not be sensible to embark on preparing guidelines because one might ultimately be dealing with different provisions. It would be a waste of resources to commence work until the picture was much clearer.

Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause thereafter allows a period of three months after the publication of the guidance to enable recognised third parties to put in place procedures necessary to ensure that they comply with the Act’s provisions. It is clear from the discussion in Committee that there will undoubtedly be a bureaucratic burden on third parties. Once the guidelines are known, the procedures might well involve the recruitment and training of staff. It will certainly involve administrative procedures, including measures for recording and monitoring expenditure on a constituency basis—if the constituency provisions come in—and it will involve procedures for making returns, including weekly ones, as mentioned by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth.

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We should not underestimate the huge bureaucratic burden imposed on small organisations by this legislation. It is appropriate that, if this legislation is to work, they should be given a reasonable period to make arrangements to enable them to comply, particularly as a failure to comply will expose them to criminal conviction and sanction.

I recognise that by furthering this approach, one might well be encroaching into the year before the election. Subsections (3) and (4) of the proposed new clause are my attempt to address that difficulty. They provide, in that eventuality, for the regulated period to be reduced below the 365 days before the next election. Their effect is to reduce the period and to reduce the maximum amount of allowable expenditure in proportion to the amount of the year that is left.

The provisions of my proposed new clause are fair and reasonable. They will not prevent the Bill, when enacted, having effect prior to the next election, if that is the will of Parliament. However, I recognise, having regard to other possible approaches, that the new clause will be unnecessary if the relevant period is reduced to, say, six months, which other noble Lords suggested. However, it is lodged in anticipation that the period will remain at one year.

The second proposed new clause is in Amendment 170K. It would ensure that the Government recognise—as I am sure that they do—the significant additional burden that the Bill would impose upon the Electoral Commission. This is reflected in the various new provisions, requiring guidance, monitoring and enforcement, particularly if the commission has to monitor and enforce contemporaneously the provisions on constituency expenditure. I referred to my concerns about that when opposing the Question that Clause 28 should stand part of the Bill, and I do not intend to repeat them here.

In addition to those concerns, I anticipate that if we are in the realms of monitoring constituency expenditure and taking contemporaneous action, and stopping campaign groups or whatever from doing particular things in the course of an election, there will be a great increase in the work of the courts in the form of judicial review. Some campaign groups will just not accept the decision of the commission and will challenge its action. Has provision been made for that eventuality by the Government in making some allowance for the commission to resist such actions, should they arise?

There will be an added burden on the commission’s resources due to the time constraints occasioned by the history of the Bill. Many noble Lords expressed concern about this at Second Reading. Again, it is unnecessary to repeat those concerns today. Suffice it to say that the limited consultation and the short period of time available before the general election, coupled with the 365-day relevant period, combine to impose additional pressures on the commission’s staff to produce guidelines that will be effective within a very short timescale.

Of necessity, that will involve the commission in expenditure that could have been avoided, or at least reduced, if the Government had followed a different course. The commission should not bear that cost or the additional cost of monitoring and enforcement.

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This clause seeks to ensure that they do not do so. There is no point in passing the Bill if the Government will not give a commitment to provide adequate resources to those who are charged with the responsibility of regulating and enforcing the regime that the Bill introduces. I beg to move.

4.45 pm

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con): My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie. Amendment 175 picks up the early part of Amendment 170J and seeks, as a probing amendment, to require the production of joint guidance between the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission. During all the debates on Part 2 of the Bill, the underlying theme has been the practical implications for individual charities, especially smaller ones, many of which—as has been pointed out on several occasions—were not yet aware of their responsibilities. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, pointed out on Monday, the overwhelming proportion are run by people of the utmost integrity. The challenge is how to do this so they can discharge their responsibilities at minimum commensurate cost and disruption.

As we have discussed, there is guidance. The oft referred to CC9 from the Charity Commission is 35 pages long but is commendably clearly written and laid out. There are two parts to the Electoral Commission’s guidance: one is entitled Overview of non-party campaign material and the other is on non-party campaigners. That runs to another 15 or 20 pages, so we are talking about something north of 50 pages in total. That is what it looks like for a small charity. I suspect my noble friend Lord Tyler would call it a very good aid to sleeping.

These are two separate sets of guidance which are not easy to integrate. For example, in section G of CC9, entitled, “Campaigning: getting it right”, it says:

“This section is aimed at charities that have already decided to campaign or work in the political arena. There are a range of detailed questions and issues that may arise, along with the need to comply with charity law, and other laws and regulations.”

Strangely, the Electoral Commission is not mentioned at all in the text that follows. What is mentioned is the Advertising Standards Authority, a body which has not hitherto featured large in our discussions. In the Electoral Commission guidance on non-party campaign material, the focus is on two tests: the purpose test and the publicity test. These form no part at all of the CC9 guidance and the overall impression is of two ships passing in the night. This will pose considerable challenges, especially to smaller charities, so the amendment is intended to require—force is perhaps an unattractive word—the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission to produce an integrated set of guidance laying out how to comply with the new Act.

This is a challenge but not an insuperable one. It will, of course, be opposed by both commissions. Members of your Lordships’ House will already have had an opening salvo from the Electoral Commission:

“We think that a legal requirement for us and the charity regulators to produce joint documents is unnecessary and likely to be inflexible. It may also be counterproductive because it could hinder our ability to respond quickly to the needs of charities

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whose activities fall within our regulatory remit, especially as new questions will arise during the regulated period.”

I do not find these arguments persuasive at all. I see nothing in them that will be made more difficult by requiring a joint approach. Indeed, if the Electoral Commission is proposing to introduce new guidance during an election campaign without the agreement of or consultation with the Charity Commission, this has the potential to put charities in an extremely difficult position.

I do not underestimate the challenge this will pose to my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench. I have been trying for some three years to encourage greater co-operation between Companies House and the Charity Commission to save 30,000 charitable companies making two returns where one could and should suffice. That has never seemed an insuperable objective but progress to date has been glacial. The same applies to collaboration between HMRC and the Charity Commission. However, that issue of collaboration between the Charity Commission and the Electoral Commission is altogether more pressing because of the short timescales and the imperatives created by a general election campaign.

If the requirement to produce joint guidance is not made a statutory one, I confidently forecast that none will be produced. The two commissions will keep to their own separate turfs, and the affected charities will be left in no man’s land in the middle. I therefore hope that my noble friend will appreciate the importance of tackling this matter.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, for his amendments and I welcome the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, who just pointed out the ghastly complexity and challenges that will be faced by charities as a result of the Bill. It is eminently sensible to have an integrated set of guidance, and I very much hope that the Minister will accept this amendment so that it will be clear that this House and the Government want there to be a requirement for an integrated set of guidance.

On Monday the Government made a great deal of how the guidance that would be issued after the Bill becomes law would clear up many of the apparent difficulties contained within it. The Minister—I do not know if it was the noble and learned Lord—said:

“The Government believe that it is essential that campaigners have clarity on how they are to comply with the third-party regulatory regime. The Electoral Commission has a power to produce guidance for third parties campaigning in elections, and indeed has exercised that power in previous elections”.—[Official Report, 16/12/13; col. 1040.]

Indeed, the Minister placed such a heavy emphasis on the guidance that would be given that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, was moved to say while speaking to his amendments:

“However, perhaps I may anticipate, rather too boldly, the response that the Government are likely to make: that these kinds of issues can be dealt with in guidance”.—[Official Report, 16/12/13; col. 1057.]

Charities and NGOs need to understand how the Bill will affect them as the Bill passes through the House.

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To place the amount of weight that the Government place on guidance is effectively another way of avoiding proper consultation.

The first amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, would ensure that the Electoral Commission is able to give charities and NGOs guidance in good time before they are subject to the regulated period, and would reduce the spending limits in line with the reduced regulated period that would result. The second would ensure that the Electoral Commission is resourced to apply these changes. As the Electoral Commission has said itself,

“The current PPERA rules on non-party campaigning are relatively narrow in scope … and the definition of what is covered is relatively clear, so we are able to produce guidance that builds on the legislation”.

However, it goes on to say with regards to the Bill before us:

“This will be particularly challenging for campaigners because of the need to apply the definition of ‘election purposes’, which is new and untested in the context of non-party campaigning. In the limited time available we will aim to produce guidance to assist with this, and will offer advice on particular queries where possible, but our experience strongly suggests that it will not be straightforward to apply the new rules to many specific types of activities”.

I know that the Electoral Commission will do all in its power to produce the guidance, but it will need time because of the complexities.

I say to the Minister that of course the best way of ensuring that the Electoral Commission is able to issue clear guidance in time is to draft clear law—to draft a very clear Bill. These sensible amendments would therefore assist in that. However, notwithstanding the desired clarity, this is a complex Bill, and time will be needed to ensure the best possible guidance so that the voluntary and charitable sectors understand their new obligations and do not unintentionally fall foul of the law. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, I think that small charities and voluntary organisations that do not employ lawyers as a matter of course could well find themselves unintentionally in breach of the law. As in so many things we do in this House, the lawyers will gain the most, and we cannot allow that to happen. I therefore very much hope that the Minister will signal that the Government will accept these or similar amendments in due course.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, Amendment 170J, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, would require the Electoral Commission to produce guidance for third parties, so that they are clear what actions they must take to comply with the provisions of the Bill. The Bill, should it have received Royal Assent by the time that guidance is produced, would not be permitted to take effect for a further three months. The noble and learned Lord further proposes that the Electoral Commission be given the extra resources it might need to produce this guidance and to comply with its other obligations under this Bill.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson has tabled Amendment 175, which, similarly, would require the Electoral Commission to produce guidance, but jointly with the Charity Commission. This would be designed to address specifically the impact upon charities.

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The debate surrounding this Bill has made clear just what a lack of awareness there was, not only among third parties but among the public at large, of the existing provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000—PPERA. I have certainly heard from more than one of the organisations that I have spoken to that they had not been aware that they might just have been edging towards a registration threshold back in 2010. They had not appreciated that fact. This lack of awareness has highlighted the crucial importance of comprehensive and clear guidance for all third parties, not just charities, so that they understand whether they could be affected by the provisions of this Bill as it amends PPERA.

As I said in at least one of the debates on Monday, when the original Committee on Standards in Public Life was considering the architecture and proposing the idea of an Electoral Commission it accepted that in some ways we could never achieve an absolute definition, and that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, predicted, some cases may have to go to the courts. However, much of that uncertainty could be avoided through guidance. That was one of the functions and roles that the Committee on Standards in Public Life saw for the Electoral Commission that it proposed should be set up.

The Electoral Commission already has the power, under PPERA, to produce guidance for third parties. As I said on Monday,

“The Electoral Commission has a power to produce guidance for third parties campaigning in elections, and indeed has exercised that power in previous elections. Campaigners require clear guidance to support them and help them understand the revised regime, and I am reassured that the commission recognises this too”.—[Official Report, 16/12/13; col. 1040.]

I think that I went on to say that the sooner the guidance can be produced in draft, the better.

Although there is existing guidance on third parties and the PPERA rules, noble Lords will be aware that the commission has already indicated that it will indeed produce fresh and enhanced guidance in time for the 2015 UK general election. It did so in its briefing to members in the other place, as recently as 29 August. Both the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission will be aware of the demand from campaigners for clear and detailed guidance of this sort. I have no doubt that today’s debate, and the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, and by my noble friend will have reinforced that message.

As in previous elections, the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission will work closely together to develop guidance that will assist campaigners and charities to have a clear understanding of how the provisions in Part 2 relate to them. Again, the Electoral Commission made this clear in its briefing of 4 November. The Government stand ready to support this work.

I hope that the fact that the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission have indicated an awareness of the need for clear and comprehensive guidance is of some reassurance to the Committee. However, the Government are also keen to reassure campaigners and charities that the provisions of the Bill and the PPERA rules will, and should, be clearly communicated to them. It is our view that the Electoral Commission

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should produce guidance in consultation with the Charity Commission, and provide specific consideration of charities. I am not sure whether a particular statutory provision is needed, but the benefit of that is very evident.

The other point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, in his amendment, which was also spoken to and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was about the funding of the Electoral Commission. It is important to be aware—

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Before my noble and learned friend moves on, may I ask him a question? When he was speaking so encouragingly about the joint guidance, I was not quite clear whether, in his mind’s eye—I know that he will not wish to commit himself yet—this will be one document produced by the two commissions? I ask this because once the two bodies are able to produce two documents they will do just that and leave the charities to connect them. They should be doing the connecting. They are the regulators, and they really need to do that. Is that how my noble and learned friend sees it?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I am not sure that that is entirely how I see it; my point was that whatever is produced should be produced in collaboration. I certainly am wary of saying anything that might be seen as a direction to two independent bodies, which must act independently of Government. That is why I hesitate, as I am sure my noble friend will understand. Ministerial colleagues have had meetings with the Electoral Commission—I have not done so personally—and, I think I am right in saying, with the Charity Commission, and I am sure that the message conveyed by noble Lords here will also be conveyed by Ministers.

5 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord says, he cannot give directions. However, if the measure were included in the Bill, both the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission would be obliged to produce joint guidance.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: Obviously, if Parliament wishes that to be the case and the measure is included in the Bill, we would have a different proposition, and we would want to reflect whether that was one which the Government would wish to support. Notwithstanding whether or not the measure is in the Bill, the respective commissions will no doubt hear the concerns that have been expressed and the legitimate expectation as regards their response in respect of these matters.