118: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—

“Post-election review

(1) The Minister must, within the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, appoint a person to conduct a review of the operation of Part 6 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 in relation to the first relevant parliamentary general election.

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(2) The “first relevant parliamentary general election” is the first parliamentary general election to be held after the beginning of the first Part 6 regulated period in relation to which one or more of the amendments made by Part 2 mentioned in section 42(1) have effect.

(3) A “Part 6 regulated period” is a regulated period within the meaning given by section 42(2)(b).

(4) The Minister may specify matters which the review must, in particular, consider.

(5) On completion of the review, the appointed person must—

(a) make a written report on the review, and

(b) provide a copy of the report to the Minister.

(6) The Minister must—

(a) lay a copy of the report before Parliament, and

(b) publish the report in such manner as the Minister considers appropriate.

(7) The Minister may pay to the appointed person such remuneration and expenses as the Minister may determine.

(8) “The Minister” means the Secretary of State or the Lord President of the Council.”

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, government Amendment 118 requires that within 12 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent, the Minister must appoint a person to review the operation of Part 6 of PPERA as it is amended by Part 2 of the Bill. Noble Lords will recall that in Committee there was some debate about the need for a post-legislative review of the provisions of Part 2.

I am most grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who tabled amendments in Committee to ensure that this important matter was discussed. As was explained during Committee, it is right that an assessment should be made of the entire system of rules governing third-party campaign expenditure. That assessment should of course extend to the changes made by the Bill. The entire range of existing and newly introduced rules should be carefully reviewed after their first operation, which is expected to be at the 2015 UK parliamentary general election. A commitment was given by my noble and learned friend that an amendment would therefore be brought forward at Report to require a review of the operation of Part 6 of PPERA as it is amended by Part 2 of this Bill. That is indeed what the Government have now done. The next scheduled general election presents the first opportunity at which all the third-party campaigning rules will be in operation, and it is a timely opportunity to review the effectiveness of those rules.

The Minister must appoint a person within 12 months of Royal Assent to allow the reviewer to start work during the general election campaign. The Government believe that it is particularly important that a reviewer should be appointed sufficiently ahead of the general election to allow him or her to fully assess the operation of the rules. The amendment requires that on completion, the person carrying out the review must produce a written report. That report must then be laid before Parliament by the Minister. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that it is only right that Parliament should have the opportunity to consider how to respond to the findings in the report. Noble Lords will also have noted that in its most recent parliamentary briefing, the Electoral Commission gave its support to the amendment.

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Government Amendment 135 is a related but minor amendment, which clarifies that government Amendment 118 extends to the United Kingdom only. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I congratulate the Government on having brought this forward. It is really important, because so much of what we have been discussing is supposition. We are peering into the fog of the future concerning how things will work out. This will be a chance to see what the reality is. I have just one question. The amendment talks about the person—the lucky person—who will presumably be imposed for about a year, if they start in March 2015. There will be the aftermath of the general election, and the returns required after that will be six to nine months later, so they will have to be in post for a year.

The amendment refers to remuneration and expenses. One issue when people undertake such reviews is access to skilled manpower and a team who can help them. No matter what he or she is paid, if they are trying to do it on their own, they will undoubtedly be in a much weakened position. I assume, but I want to have it confirmed, that the amendment implies that adequate manpower resources will be available to the reviewer to ensure that he or she can carry out their work and appropriate investigations. I think it is an excellent proposal.


8.45 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, I will not trespass on the delicate field of remuneration; but I would like to congratulate the Government on doing what they said they were going to do in putting this excellent review in the Bill.

I will add something that I can only say because of my parliamentary background. It would be immensely helpful if it could be understood that the person who conducts a review will, in the course of doing so, consult and listen to evidence from parliamentarians of all parties engaged in the campaign. They are likely, at grass-roots level, to know more than—with great respect—most leading lawyers or leading statesmen are likely to know. I very hope that it will be indicated to the person who conducts the review that he or she will be expected to invite evidence from people who are standing for Parliament and to consider the particular evidence they would like to bring to his or her attention.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: It is a great relief to be able to welcome an amendment without any qualification at all; but it might be worth reminding ourselves why a review is so essential. First, with the existing PPERA, most charities were not even aware that they were regulated; it is only recently that they have come up against it. Therefore, there are fundamental problems with PPERA that have only just been revealed, and probably we have not yet had proper time to put them right.

Secondly, we have had a very short time to think about and amend the Bill before us. As we know, there was no pre-legislative scrutiny and no six-month period for consultation—which we recommended. We have had only a very short five-week period. The commission that I chair has always made it clear that the recommendations we put forward were only for the 2015

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election, because we could not see the answer to a number of issues. In particular, the issue of coalition working keeps coming up and we have not yet found a satisfactory answer to that. Therefore, it is extremely good that the review body is going to be set up and that it will be in time to watch what happens with the election. It is going to have to report within a year, which of course meets the concern raised earlier by the noble Baroness about a sunset clause. It will now have to report within a year.

I have only one question: why have the Government decided that the review should be done by one person, rather than by a committee of Parliament?

Lord Tyler: I very much welcome the initiative that my noble friends have taken on this. It is vastly preferable to a sunset clause, precisely because it will start at the right moment. The timing is going to be critical, as the noble and right reverend Lord and my noble and learned friend said, because it will see right through the process of the next election and beyond. For that reason it is preferable to a sunset clause.

I, too, wonder whether the precise definition of a “person” is appropriate to this, but we will have to judge it on its results. Because my noble and learned friend has put into his amendment that a copy of the report will be laid before Parliament, the process thereon is extremely interesting. If major changes are required in this legislation, we will need to know quite quickly in order that we do not run into another period of rapid digestion, as we have on the Bill.

I particularly want to underline the point made by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, just now. We should have this review of the 2000 Act. I take some responsibility, because I sit on a little, totally informal cross-party advisory group for the Electoral Commission. We were never forewarned of all the problems with the 2000 Act that have now come to light—not least, the coalition issue to which the noble Lord has just referred. It has been 13 years; the Electoral Commission never forewarned us of the difficulties it was encountering in giving appropriate advice to organisations that wished to campaign in this field. The Minister has taken elaborate and proper precautions to make sure that the situation never arises again, and I congratulate the Government on that.

Lord Cormack: Briefly, I add my congratulations and thanks. Those who criticise—and I have been very critical of aspects of the Bill—should always praise when the right thing is done. I am exceptionally grateful to my noble friend and his ministerial colleagues for putting this amendment into the Bill. It is a very satisfactory outcome and I agree entirely with what the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and my noble friend Lord Tyler said.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we, too, warmly welcome this amendment and the fact that there will be a review, and that a report will be laid before Parliament. The timing is absolutely correct. Should there be a Labour Government after 2015—and in 2016 when the report is laid before Parliament—as I very much hope, if there are any recommendations for change I will guarantee at this Dispatch Box that there

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will be proper consultation and that if any legislation is necessary, there will be pre-legislative scrutiny of such legislation.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am most grateful for what has been a short but quite buoyant debate. It is important that we have this review. My noble friend Lord Tyler referred to the 2000 Act and a number of problems there which had not been properly identified. I am very mindful of what the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has said. Who knows what the result will be? However, there are always lessons to be learnt from all these adventures that we have.

I say to my noble friend Lord Hodgson that it is absolutely clear that the reviewer has to have the appropriate resources to do a proper job. My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby asked about evidence. It is clear that for the reviewer to do a proper and thorough task, that person should seek views from many sources. Clearly, it would be sensible that those in the front line of political activity, such as candidates and elected representatives, should be part of that process.

It was nice of my noble friend Lord Cormack to be cheerful about this amendment. There is important work to be done and I understand what the noble and right reverend Lord said about his inclination or desire to have a parliamentary committee. However, I have no doubt that we will see the reviewer doing what we expect him or her to do—a thorough piece of work. I look forward to that, in whatever capacity I remain.

Amendment 118 agreed.


Amendment 119

Moved by Lord Campbell-Savours

119: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—

“Part 2ATax relief on donations

Tax relief on donations

(1) In the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, after section 70 insert—

“70A Tax relief on donations

Tax relief shall be given, subject to Schedule (Tax relief on donations), to individuals who make donations to a registered political party.”

(2) Schedule (Tax relief on donations) has effect.”

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, in moving Amendment 119, I shall speak also to Amendment 119A. We had a long debate on this subject in Committee and I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments that I used on that occasion. In Committee, it was quite clear that support for the amendment was overwhelming. Apart from the two Front-Benchers, and the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, no one spoke against the amendment. Everyone supported the amendment as it was phrased on that occasion. Perhaps I should clarify at the beginning of my contribution what my amendment would do. It would incentivise a system of donations by individuals by allowing taxpayers to reclaim the basic rate of tax on their donations to political parties.

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It would limit the relief to the standard rate and operate in the same way as gift aid to charities or covenanting to your local church.

This issue has had much support over the years from all political parties and all the organisations associated with political debate. The Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, recommended essentially this amendment in 1998, some 15 years ago. The Electoral Commission’s report of 2004 on the funding of political parties recommended a similar change in the law, with a £200 cap. In 2006 the Constitutional Affairs Committee in the House of Commons made a similar recommendation in line with my amendment. The Conservative Party’s Tyrie report of 2006, entitled Clean Politics, also made reference to an amendment of this nature. In 2004 the Liberal Democrats called for a scheme of tax relief of a similar nature, and indeed in 2009 moved a very similar amendment to this during the proceedings on the Political Parties and Elections Act. When the Labour Government established the Hayden Phillips inquiry in 2007, they recommended a tax relief match funding scheme that bore a close resemblance to the scheme that I am proposing, but on that occasion with a £500 cap on contributions.

Over recent weeks I have not found a single Member of this House, apart from those supporting the hierarchies of the political parties, who is opposed to my amendment. Everyone I speak to cannot understand how it is that sane politicians in sane political parties can possibly oppose what is deemed to be a perfectly reasonable and sensible amendment. They all ask, “What is the problem?”. I intend to set out briefly what the four principal objections are and how they are being answered.

First, I am told that there is a need to continue negotiations. Indeed, a colleague sent me a note on my BlackBerry today to say that that was one of the reasons why my colleagues were being advised to vote against my amendment. The fact is that no negotiations are going on. They terminated earlier this year and anyone who suggests that they are continuing is actually fibbing and not telling the truth. There are no negotiations. They fizzled out and there are people in this Chamber today who were party to those negotiations and know exactly what the position is. Indeed, I understand that Mr Clegg has stated in the other place that the negotiations have finished and, obviously, will not be reopened until some time in the future, perhaps under a separate Government. My view is simple: negotiations on these matters will not work and the only way in which we will get change is by introducing incremental improvements—a little bit here, a small change there—and over a period of time we will see a new regime established for political donations in the UK.

Secondly, I was told that a party might gain out of the proposals that I am making and indeed might abuse its position by unilaterally increasing the contribution threshold in future. I took that problem on board. In the amendment before the House today there is a change to ensure that the only way in which the contribution threshold can be changed in future is by way of primary legislation and not by regulation. A new Bill would have to be introduced in primary legislative form to change the thresholds in the Bill. In

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my view there is another argument in favour of the amendment. It is right to allow a scheme to percolate throughout the system to see how it beds in and whether it works. My view is that it will work and that at some stage in the future there will be a need to review the thresholds as set out in my amendment.

Thirdly, there is the cost of the scheme. When the Hayden Phillips report was published in 2007, there was a reference to a £500 cap on contributions. That cap is 25 times greater than the cap that I have set for the first year in my amendment and five times greater than my third-year figure of £96 per calendar year. My view is simple—and it is the view of others—that my proposal would cost but a few million pounds, perhaps £2 million or £3 million per year. We need to balance the problems of introducing that against all the malevolent publicity that surrounds political institutions today. Is it worth £2 million or £3 million to begin the process of avoiding all the adverse publicity that surrounds donations?

However, the fourth objection to my amendment—the one I found most ludicrous—is the view that it would be impossible to sell the principle of support for political parties through tax relief at a time of austerity. That objection surfaced during the course of discussions. It is always a time of austerity. There is never a right time to spend money, but we are talking only about a very small amount of money. However, again in a spirit of generosity, I have amended my amendment for proceedings in the House today to ensure that it would not trigger until the financial year that follows the next general election so as to avoid the very debate that people might be concerned about. I have made two concessions on my amendment, almost neutering it, but it would still stand on the statute book as a scheme to be introduced in the first year, 2016-17, at £16; in 2017-18 at £32 and in 2018-19 at £96—the threshold under which tax relief could be secured on a donation.

Today I can be even more flexible. If the Government, even after all these concessions, feel that they cannot give way, I understand that it would be possible for them to introduce an amendment to delay commencement of my proposed scheme pending an order to be brought in by the Secretary of State under the next Government. In other words, an amendment to Clause 41 could be introduced at Third Reading to allow for an order to be introduced to delay the date of commencement of the scheme.

I cannot understand, in the light of all the concessions that I have made on my amendment and the way in which I have bent over backwards to make it possible for the Government to deal with all the problems and objections that have been raised, how the Front Benches of both parties find it objectionable to introduce an amendment which I know is supported in reality in free debate by an overwhelming majority of this House as well. I say that having talked to colleagues across Parliament who simply cannot understand why the Government refuse to go down this route.

At the end of the day, the very credibility of this institution is at stake. We have had far too many scandals over the years; political scandals relating to money and politics. All I am doing in moving my

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amendment today is setting in train a course of events towards bringing in the embryo of a provision of change that might one day lead to a cleaner donation regime for British political parties. I am confident that, if the measure is presented in that form, as against all the scandals that we currently have in this area of political activity, the general public will support me. I hope that noble Lords will support me in the Division Lobbies later this evening. I beg to move.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment because it is a very modest and necessary step to take towards taxpayer funding of political parties. None of us should be pleased, content or comfortable with the fact that political parties in this country are financed by the trade unions and, to a very large extent on all sides of the House, by extremely rich men who are seen to exert influence. I am not saying that they do exert more influence than anybody else who runs industries or anything, but they are seen to exert influence over policy. This does us no good at all and we should grasp this nettle and do something about it.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has arranged that these measures would come into place after the general election. I would like to see a lot more done after the general election. I would like to see matched funding up to a certain limit, but now is not the time to talk about that. The fact remains that we are already paying opposition parties millions of pounds a year. We are paying the Opposition in your Lordships’ House Cranborne money of hundreds of thousands of pounds. I challenge anybody in this House to say that anybody has mentioned on a doorstep either Short money or Cranborne money. They do not know that it is happening. In terms of public expenditure, they are insignificant sums of money.

We should be grasping this nettle early on in a Parliament. I hope that whoever wins the election will do so at the beginning of the next Parliament and get the entire funding of our political parties in this country into a sleaze-free zone, where it should always have been. If we go on as we are, we will have endless problems. We will always be accused of having an unhealthy influence on the political system. This does nothing for politics in this country. I therefore support the amendment with enthusiasm.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, my name is also on the amendment. I will make a slightly different point from those of other noble Lords who have spoken to it.

Public service in a parliamentary democracy is an honourable activity. I look around the House, and I could say exactly the same thing about the other place, and see a great majority of people who give of their time, talents and careers, and sacrifice their family life, to public service. That is something that we should recognise as being an extremely important part of our civic life.

Yet it is absolutely true, as noble Lords have already said, that it is somehow thought that to be active in politics is less reputable than, for example, supporting a charitable or voluntary organisation; many of us do that as well. That is exaggerated, underlined and repeated every time one of us contributes something to our

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local church or favourite charity and gets respect from the tax system for so doing, in exactly the way that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has described. If politics is an honourable activity, why are we not allowing our fellow citizens to recognise that and, in their own way, be more active participants through the gift aid system?

It is not just because of the way in which politics has been supported in recent years by bigger and bigger cheques from smaller and smaller numbers of people, but also because millions of people feel disenchanted by and disconnected from the business of politics, that we have reached such a low reputation in the public mind. It is far more important to engage and incentivise millions of people than to engage and incentivise millions of pounds. In those circumstances, it is perhaps worth reminding your Lordships’ House, in addition to the points already made by my noble friend Lord Hamilton, that the taxpayer already makes a huge contribution to the business of politics. For example, the Royal Mail free delivery of election addresses for every single party and contestant in the European parliamentary election in May will cost the taxpayer something between £30 million and £40 million. The sums that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is referring to are a drop in the ocean compared to that. Yet it is far more likely to engage the individual citizen in the business of politics than the necessity for every single elector to receive a separate delivery from each of the parties.

It is perfectly true that there are already a number of proposals for a wider reform of the funding of political parties. Indeed, last year, I, along with colleagues from two of the other parties, produced a draft Bill that would have incorporated the latest proposals of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on this wider issue. We will not move in that direction between now and the general election but, in this modest way, we could put down a marker that we believe that the actual, practical financial support of our fellow citizens for the business of politics is just as honourable as their support for a charity or a church. It would be a very welcome development.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: I feel deeply privileged to belong to such a broad church as is suggested by this amendment. I little thought that I would have the privilege of standing in the same rank as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, and the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, but I am utterly sincere in the support that I give to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. When he very respectably sought to accost me some days ago to support this matter, I had misconceived the situation. I thought he was seeking to place political parties on a charitable basis, which of course would have been utterly improper. The definition of charity, however impractical it may be in the modern period, is well laid down in the statute of Elizabeth I and in the authority of Re Pemsel, which I still remember from my student days.

That is not at all what the amendment is about. It is a question of what fuel there should be available in a democracy to any political movement. That fuel, I suggest, is the united will of millions of people, of government, opposition or a third force, or a fourth,

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for that matter. That fuel is the desire and hopes of millions of individual people, possibly for tens of thousands of different reasons, but it is the amalgam of that united force that gives politics significance.

If you interfere with that system from above by the injection of vast amounts of money, you corrupt that system. It was Oliver Goldsmith, in the 18th century, who had these words:

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay”.

In this case, wealth will diminish completely the significance of democratic politics. Now, we will say, “That is highly idealistic and immensely impractical”. It may well be, but we are deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, who is a brave, iconoclastic, reforming character and to whom the House owes a great debt.

In America, in the two elections that President Obama has won, it may very well be that there were tactical and highly materialistic reasons why he chose to rely on millions of people rather than on the support of a few wealthy, almighty subjects. Be that as it may, it gave those campaigns impetus and significance. That is exactly what this amendment proposes. It may very well be that the amounts that are mentioned could be debated high and low. That does not matter at all. The significance is that we wish to see politics as an amalgam of millions of people with desires supported, we hope, by the substantial subvention of most of those people.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, I have always believed that public life is a vocation. I greatly regret the decline in membership of political parties over the nearly 44 years that I have been in the Palace of Westminster; I touched upon that in an earlier amendment today. We do not know the precise figures, but our three major political parties in this country together have probably less than a quarter of the membership of the National Trust. That is a dismal statistic, which we should all take to heart. However, we have to recognise the realities. One of those is that if the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, were adopted—and in principle I support them—they would not have an immediate and enormous transforming influence. I am glad to see him nodding assent.

9.15 pm

I have no objection to Short money or Cranborne money—both are essential. We do not support our opposition parties as much as we should, and I speak with some experience, having done a stint on the Front Bench in opposition after 1997. Of course, that is taxpayers’ money. It is also right—my noble friend Lord Tyler knows my opinion on this after our brief exchange in the previous debate—to give individual candidates the opportunity to communicate with their electors at the time of a general or European election.

However, apart from principles, tonight we have to look at practicalities. Would we advance the cause of a campaign which I support if we put this to a Division tonight when we know, even though we may regret it, that the two Front Benches would oppose it, and would we advance the cause if we mustered a fairly derisory vote? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord

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Campbell-Savours, that there is a very wide measure of sympathy for what he proposes. However, that wide measure of sympathy would not necessarily be reflected in any Division late at night in your Lordships’ House. That could retard the case rather than advance it. I see him shaking his head, but that is a real point, and I hope made reasonably. We have to be very mindful of the realities of parliamentary arithmetic.

I hope, therefore, that what we could see from tonight is the launching of a campaign in both of the major parties—I hope among the Liberal Democrats, too—to persuade those who head up the various parties that this would be a modest but sensible move to make.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords—

Lord Cormack: I will finish in one second. As one of our colleagues pointed out, this does not confuse political parties with charities but elevates the role of the political party in our national life, and it would be right to have some form of tax concession for those who nail their colours to a mast, be it blue, red or yellow.

Lord Campbell-Savours: I have fought long and hard about the point the noble Lord has just made. The difficulty is this: I know that among those who will vote against my amendment in the Lobby tonight there will be many who support it.

Lord Cormack: Of course—I was going to say “my noble friend”, but he is my friend—the noble Lord may well be right. However, I remember the famous words of Jack Straw, when a lot of people in the other place voted for an all-elected second Chamber on the advice of the Labour leader of the campaign for an appointed second Chamber, although he then acknowledged that he had made a tactical mistake. Jack Straw kept saying, “A vote is a vote, and that’s all that counts”. That is what will be said tonight. The noble Lord should reflect very seriously on that.

We also have to consider whether the Bill is the right one in which to insert such an amendment.

Lord Tyler: I am very grateful to my noble friend and I know that he shares with me the same objectives. I think that he is advancing the old, old argument of unripe time, which we hear in this House so often. If you wait for the ripe time, it is usually when it has gone bad again, when it has gone beyond ripeness. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, by saying that the actual introduction would not take place until beyond the next general election, is simply insisting that we should put down a marker of the direction in which we wish to go. If we are not permitted to do that, what are we allowed to do in this House?

Lord Cormack: Of course we are permitted to do that, but at the same time it is not unreasonable to talk about the practicalities. The fact of the matter is that if we have a vote tonight, this amendment will be very heavily defeated. It will not advance the cause. Whereas if we do not have a vote tonight, the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, which I believe

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not to be hyperbole but to be accurate—that there are many, many members of your Lordships’ House who are sympathetic to this point of view—will stand on the record. What will stand on the record if we have a vote is that because of a very, very small number of people, for a variety of reasons—one of them being that this may not be the right vehicle for such an amendment—the figures will not be encouraging to our cause.

I end by pleading with noble colleagues in all parts of the House that we seek in our respective parties to begin a campaign to advance this and that we talk to our colleagues in the other place as well. That is crucially important, as they are the people who get elected. Tonight is not the moment to be heavily defeated when we know, and the noble Lord in particular knows, that there is such widespread sympathy for the principle that he has very reasonably advanced.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: Surely—

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, but I am very conscious of the Companion and I am very conscious that we are at Report. I sense that noble Lords would like to make progress. I apologise for intervening.

Lord Cormack: I was just about to sit down anyhow.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My reason for having supported the noble Lord in Committee and again tonight is that if, like me, noble Lords participate in the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme, they will know that when you go to schools up and down the country the issue that comes up again and again and again is that of money. We have a generation of schoolchildren about to go to university who have grown up with the idea that this is a dishonourable place where rich men and influential groups have a power because of their ability to fund.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has put forward some incremental steps, which I support. I can only believe that the Front Benches cannot support them because they believe somehow, or they fear, that the comparative advantage, or competitive advantage, will be lost forever. They cannot think what it is, but something might come out of the woodwork that leaves one party at a disadvantage forever.

Sometimes, somewhere, we have to be brave, because against the £2 million to £3 million that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has said that it was going to cost, is the drip, drip, drip of damaging information about the behaviour and performance of this Parliament. That cannot be right for our country, whatever your political beliefs. Someone, sometime, somewhere has to be brave, and we need to give them a nod tonight to get on and be brave as soon as possible.

Baroness Corston (Lab): My Lords, I rise very briefly to support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. It takes me back 40 years to the Houghton committee on state aid for political parties. Both political parties ran away from the idea at the time—and there were only two major parties at that time, it has to be said. The campaign itself for the Houghton committee was under the slogan of “A

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penny from the workers to support our politics”. It was said that we had our politics on the cheap. The amount of money that is now required to mount a political campaign or to support a political party in a constituency is eye-watering compared with what was considered to be normal in 1974. Now, we are all more and more dependent on very large donations from a very small pool of people. Whether or not those people seek personal advantage from it, the public think that that is what will happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, is entirely right about the attitude of young people towards politics. We find a great deal of apathy and disgust, as well as a decline in participation in politics and certainly a decline in turnout in local and general elections. It is never the right time to introduce a measure such as this. I have been active as an organiser and a parliamentarian for well over 40 years and I have never, ever heard anybody from a Front Bench say, “Perhaps this is the time”; it is always, “Well, this is a really good idea, but not yet”.

The person whom I think of as my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, has just referred to President Obama. He was wise enough and smart enough to see that this issue was poisoning politics in the United States. What did he do? He had a deliberate strategy of asking for $20 from millions of people. Can any of us remember—I certainly can—what Washington looked like on the day of his inauguration? Washington had never seen so many people turning up for an inauguration, and I do not think that that was an accident.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am sorry to be the sad spectre at the feast. I am grateful to my noble friend for the important changes that he has made to his amendment since Committee. I am also grateful to him for providing answers to the various hurdles raised in Committee and in the many discussions that he has had since.

All noble Lords are absolutely right to say that the current situation is untenable. None of us—nobody who is active in politics—is comfortable in any way with the current situation. We absolutely have to get big money out of politics, and we have to find a solution to the problem of party funding, which is undoubtedly a running sore that diminishes trust in politics. That trust must be restored if our democratic system is to thrive.

As has been said—and I completely agree—politics is a noble part of our civic life and we have to find a way forward. The proposal from my noble friend could well be part of that solution. Of course, it is correct to say that there is never a good time to put forward such proposals, but I take issue with my noble friend when he says that it is always a time of austerity. I do not think that that is true and I do not think that now is a particularly good time to put forward this proposal. However, I understand why my noble friend is doing it and I recognise that, should he wish to test the opinion of the House, he will undoubtedly have the support of some of my colleagues. However, my party’s position is that, while, as I said, this may well be part of a solution, it should not be dealt with in isolation. We have to find a comprehensive solution to the problem of party funding and it is incumbent on

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all of us to try to do that. Until we do, as has been said, politics will suffer, our democracy will suffer and young people will not have the faith in politics that we would wish them to have in order that we may have a healthy, democratic society.

Having said that, although I think that it is an interesting idea, should my noble friend wish to test the opinion of the House, I regret that I will not be following him into the Lobby this evening.

9.30 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, perhaps I may reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, that she is not the sole spectre at the feast. Indeed, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, indicated when he moved the amendment, he does not expect the Front Benches to fall into line with him. We had this debate four weeks ago. Admittedly, there are differences in this amendment—but, frankly, in the intervening four weeks the Government’s position has not changed.

That is not to say that raising these issues is not without merit. As my noble friend Lord Cormack said, it may serve to stir up the leaderships of all three parties. I endorse what was said by my noble friends Lord Tyler, Lord Cormack and Lord Hodgson, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, about politics being a noble calling. We in your Lordships’ House like to think that we make a contribution. We may disagree with each other—sometimes quite strongly—but we recognise, across the House, that we have good motives for coming into politics. Although we operate, vote and make speeches by different lights, we nevertheless have the common good of the nation at heart.

However, the proposal we are dealing with this evening is not necessarily the one and only way to restore the nobility of the political calling. The rules on party financing have been the cause of much discussion. The noble Baroness, Lady Corston, gave us a very good historic perspective when she mentioned the Houghton committee. This has gone on for some time. Most notably, this Government led talks on the subject between the three main political parties during 2012 and 2013. In 2010, each of the three parties had a manifesto commitment of one kind or another to some reform of party financing.

It is a complex issue. I noted the four points that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said had been given as excuses. I checked the speech I made in Committee, and we advanced none of the four then. In particular, I made it very clear that talks were no longer continuing, and I quoted from the Written Ministerial Statement issued by the Deputy Prime Minister on 4 July 2013 when he announced that the talks had not produced results—I think they met seven times—and that it was clear that the reforms would not now go forward in this Parliament.

The noble Lord’s point was that some people were arguing that talks were still going on. I did not seek to do that, but it is a legitimate expectation that all parties will seek to find a way forward on this complex issue in the next Parliament. I was not party to these talks but I am told that they were close. The Government want party funding reform but, as the noble Baroness,

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Lady Royall, said, it should come as part of a package and by consensus. Some have asked for donations to be treated in the same way as charitable giving, and I can understand the relevance of that comparison from a tax point of view. However, I am not sure that the public necessarily see donations to charities—many of which we have been discussing in the course of our debates on the Bill—in the same light as giving support to political parties through the tax system.

I suspect that many noble Lords support state funding of political parties. As has already been mentioned, we have Short money, Cranborne money and the money that goes to the Royal Mail. However, this would be a significant step. Short funding is probably not mentioned on doorsteps. However, although I was probably still a student when it first came in, I remember that it was a major step which attracted quite a lot of discussion. It would be naive to think that a step as significant as the Exchequer funding political parties in this way through the tax system would not be devoid of any comment, which is why I think all parties have sought to go forward together by way of consensus.

As my noble friend Lord Cormack said, I do not believe that this is the appropriate Bill for dealing with this issue, but it is the Government’s hope that further discussions will take place in the next Parliament. My noble friend Lord Hamilton said that he wanted more done after the next election. I would echo that. Anyone from all party leaderships who reads our debates and follows this will realise that there is an appetite among Members of all parties that this matter should not be allowed just to gather dust in the next Parliament. But I do not believe that it is appropriate to act in the context of this Bill or at this time and without a bigger package that commands a consensus among all the parties. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. If he seeks to push it to a vote, as he has indicated, the Government will not support his amendment.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I shall push my amendment to the vote. I thank all those who contributed in a most passionate way to the issues that we have raised in this debate. In the 1997 to 2001 Parliament, we were told that the matter would be resolved during the next Parliament and it was not. In that Parliament we were told that it would be dealt with in the next Parliament. Hayden Phillips came in the next Parliament and it was not resolved. We were told that it would be resolved in this Parliament. Again, there have been talks but it has not been resolved. We will go through Parliament after Parliament after Parliament ducking this issue. That is why it is important that we take a decision now. Some of us are becoming exasperated by the ducking and weaving.

For me, one of the great joys of coming to the House of Lords from the Commons is that I have always regarded ours as the House of free thinkers. In the Commons, you are held in a rigid, party, heavily whipped atmosphere where there is very little room for the kind of flexibility that we can exhibit as Members of this place. Because of the rigidity of debate in the other place, I believe that party reform ultimately will come through this House and not from the House of Commons. That is why tonight I am going to push my

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amendment to a vote. As I have said, I believe that this is the House which at the end of the day will make the reforms. I do not know, but it might well be that I will be defeated this evening—although I suspect some people will be surprised by the names of those who move into our Lobby.

As has been said, it is never the right Bill, the right time or the right moment to spend money, but this is the right time to take a decision. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

9.37 pm

Division on Amendment 119

Contents 28; Not-Contents 148.

Amendment 119 disagreed.

Division No.  2

CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.

Allan of Hallam, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Barker, B.

Berkeley, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Clement-Jones, L.

Corston, B.

Cotter, L.

Craigavon, V.

Dholakia, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Greaves, L. [Teller]

Hamilton of Epsom, L. [Teller]

Hardie, L.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Layard, L.

Phillips of Sudbury, L.

Roper, L.

Shipley, L.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Soley, L.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Taylor of Goss Moor, L.

Tyler, L.

Williams of Crosby, B.

NOT CONTENTS

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Bates, L.

Benjamin, B.

Berridge, B.

Blencathra, L.

Borwick, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bridgeman, V.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Browning, B.

Caithness, E.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Chadlington, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Courtown, E.

Crickhowell, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deben, L.

Deighton, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dundee, E.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Edmiston, L.

Faulks, L.

Fink, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Goodlad, L.

Grender, B.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Harrison, L.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Higgins, L.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Hooper, B.

Horam, L.

Howe, E.

Humphreys, B.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jolly, B.

Kakkar, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kingsmill, B.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Kramer, B.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lindsay, E.

Lingfield, L.

Liverpool, E.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 330

Livingston of Parkhead, L.

Loomba, L.

Lyell, L.

McAvoy, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

Maddock, B.

Magan of Castletown, L.

Mar and Kellie, E.

Marks of Henley-on-Thames, L.

Marlesford, L.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Mawson, L.

Mayhew of Twysden, L.

Meacher, B.

Mendelsohn, L.

Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.

Montrose, D.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Moynihan, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Newlove, B.

Noakes, B.

Northover, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O'Cathain, B.

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

Paddick, L.

Parminter, B.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Popat, L.

Prosser, B.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Randerson, B.

Ridley, V.

Risby, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

Sassoon, L.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sheikh, L.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Stephen, L.

Stewartby, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Suttie, B.

Taylor of Holbeach, L.

Teverson, L.

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Trenchard, V.

Trimble, L.

True, L.

Tunnicliffe, L.

Tyler of Enfield, B.

Ullswater, V.

Verma, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wheatcroft, B.

Whitby, L.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Younger of Leckie, V.

9.48 pm

Amendment 119ZA

Moved by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

119ZA: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—

“Electoral Commission and Charity Commissions: joint guidance

Before the commencement of this Act, the Minister shall require the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commissions to produce co-ordinated guidance on the requirements of Part 2 as they apply to charities.”

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, after the fireworks, we return to the meat and potatoes. This amendment returns us to an issue we discussed in Committee: how to ensure that the work of the two relevant regulators—the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission—is truly joined up.

As I explained in Committee, both commissions have produced guidance. Both sets are clearly written and well signposted but they are not yet joined up. As I also explained, CC9—the Charity Commission guidance—is 35 pages long. There is a section titled “Campaigning: getting it right”, in which the Electoral Commission’s role and purpose are not mentioned at all, although the Advertising Standards Authority is. Meanwhile, in the Electoral Commission’s guidance, no reference is made to charity law; it confines itself to the two tests of the purpose test and the publicity test.

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Of course, as both commissions have pointed out to me—and, indeed, in guidance to Members of your Lordships’ House—both have their individual, separate procedures for updating their guidance from time to time as the months go by. Therefore, any and all joining up has to be done by the individual charity and this is quite a challenge for a charity, especially smaller ones with limited financial and operational resources. Indeed, there must be, as some noble Lords have said, a real danger that many smaller charities will merely throw up their hands in horror and give up.

I explained to my noble and learned friend that without some ministerial pressure I was convinced that the two organisations would likely continue to plough their own individual furrows. My noble and learned friend gave the Committee some pretty honeyed words, I thought, when he said:

“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 … 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 should produce guidance in consultation with the Charity Commission, and provide specific consideration of charities”.—[Official Report, 18/12/13; cols. 1348-9.]

However, he could not quite bring himself to commit specifically to joining up the two sets of guidance. I have retabled this amendment tonight because I remain convinced that without this statutory pressure the two regulatory silos will remain intact.

The two commissions were very kind and courteous and they agreed to meet to discuss how to address this issue. Following that meeting, I have retabled my Committee stage amendments, but I have made two significant wording changes. I have replaced the phrase that I originally used, “joint guidance”, with the phrase, “co-ordinated guidance” and replaced “Commission” with “Commissions”. It was explained to me, of course, that the Charity Commission does not regulate charities in Scotland and Northern Ireland. OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, and a new body recently set up in Northern Ireland will do that. By contrast, of course, the Electoral Commission regulates the whole of the United Kingdom.

So the vision I have and the vision I shared with them of co-ordinated guidance, which we discussed and they felt was a possibility, was for a homepage, prepared and signed up by the commissions, with links to policy issues or subjects that might be of more specific and important concern. This will offer two great advantages. The first is simplicity. Any charity of any size has just one place to go to look for guidance on this quite complex topic. We know it is complex because of the discussions we have been having over these past few hours. The second advantage is consistency. No regulator can introduce new policies or approaches without the other regulatory bodies knowing about it and being able to have their own specialist input. This avoids charities being caught in the crossfire of the regulators acting independently and quickly—maybe too hastily—in the heat of an election campaign.

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To conclude, this amendment has, at least in principle, the support of the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission. It certainly has the support of the NCVO and the commission of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. I believe that it will be warmly welcomed by the sector as it grapples with the undoubted challenges of the Bill, so I hope that on this occasion my noble and learned friend can go further than honeyed words and accept this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Horam: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, certainly raises a very important point, which I am glad we are discussing, even though it is rather a late hour to do so. We should have some reassurance from the horse’s mouth: he mentioned that the Government have made various points, he has made various points and he has talked to the Charity Commission—presumably the Charity Commission for England and Wales—and the Electoral Commission. However, I remind the House and read into the record that our briefing from the Electoral Commission says specifically, under the heading, “A joint introductory guide for charities”:

“We are committed to working with the UK’s three charity regulators”—

that is, the one for England and Wales, the one for Scotland and the one for Northern Ireland—

“to ensure that charities have clear and reliable guidance about how to comply with the rules. The Electoral Commission and Charity Commission for England and Wales will produce a joint introductory guide for charities that need to understand if their activities are covered by non-party campaigning rules”.

It goes on to make various sensible points about testing its guidance, about taking campaigners’ views into account and about supporting and advising campaigners. That is all part of a process of being available in a sensible and practical way to charities and to campaigners who are not charities—which is equally important.

Given that the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission are, I believe, working along the same lines and intend to produce joint guidance for charities and non-charity campaigners, and given the clear commitments being made, I think that it would be unnecessary to put this provision in the Bill. Neither the Charity Commission nor the Electoral Commission has the slightest doubt that it has to produce something sensible in this area. As a result of the amendments that have now been made by my noble and learned friend, there is time to do that before September, before the new arrangements kick in. While I support the spirit of my noble friend’s amendment, I think that it is unnecessary in the light of the clear commitments which have been made.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I am happy to have added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for the reasons that he articulated so clearly. Reading through the guidance provided by the Charity Commission, both its general guidance and its specific guidance for election periods, it is clear that it covers the same kind of ground as the guidance of the Electoral Commission—it has to give the same kind of detailed guidance—and it must make total sense for the two bodies to produce some

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co-ordinated guidance. I do not think that we need any reminding that guidance for future elections will be crucial. There are so many complex areas here, and this whole subject has been so raised, that charities and campaigning groups will need to be crystal clear as to what part of their activity is covered by the regulation and what is not. I am therefore very happy to support the amendment.

Lord Cormack: I am glad to add my name to the amendment. I was delighted to hear what my noble friend Lord Horam had to say, but I see no harm in putting this provision into the Bill. I hope that when my noble and learned friend the Minister replies, it will not just be with honeyed words but with a promise of a taste of honey.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, this will be my shortest contribution through the whole length of this Bill, as I hope the night shift will appreciate. I want to make just one point: I am not sure whether the solution suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, is right; I am absolutely convinced that there is a problem. I instance that by saying that, as somebody who has been involved in this area for years, I have never had advice or guidance on the problems that we have heard about so often in recent weeks from anybody in the Charity Commission. The first time that I ever heard from the Charity Commission was at 6.30 last night. There is a clear need for comprehensive, careful and co-ordinated advice from the two organisations. It has not been there in the past. They have not fulfilled their responsibilities to Parliament, to which they are responsible, over many years, and it is about time that they did. Throughout today’s discussion, it has been apparent that this lack of co-ordinated information from the two organisations has been one of the major problems that many organisations have had to face, as well as parliamentarians.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, made that point about the Charity Commission, because no matter how good the commitment, we want to see this co-ordinated guidance. Having this requirement in the Bill would mean that it was not just a promise but an actuality.

In addition to making sure that it happens, the provision would be a signal to the charities, given that they will be caught by new restrictions under the Bill that they have not dealt with before, that the House has taken seriously the need for them to be absolutely clear and for there to be co-ordinated guidance on that. There is no downside to having it in the Bill, so I hope that the noble and learned Lord has one yes that he can pull out of his bag at this stage.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hodgson tabled a similar amendment in Committee and brings forward this amendment to require the Electoral Commission to produce guidance for third parties and for that guidance to be co-ordinated with the Charity Commission, particularly to consider the impact of Part 2. As has been said, the issue was discussed at length in Committee, and it is clear to the Government that there is a lack of understanding among third parties and charities as to exactly what are their

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responsibilities under existing PPERA provisions—the point made by my noble friend Lord Tyler. That the Bill amends those provisions reinforces the need for clarity. The Government made clear in Committee that the issue of guidance and whether a duty should be imposed on the Electoral Commission would be revisited at Report.

Those are not just honeyed words, because since our debates in Committee, the Government have discussed with the Electoral Commission the importance of its producing clear guidance. It is essential that such guidance take into account the impact on charities in particular. Although charities do not campaign in support of political parties at elections and only two have ever registered as third parties to date, there is still an obvious need to ensure that they fully understand the workings of the new regime—that has been made very apparent during our many debates today—and whether they might be held to account by the new provisions as a result of their activities.

As the independent regulator, it is of course for the commission to provide this guidance, but the Government agree that the views of the charities regulator, the Charity Commission, must also be taken into account. Indeed, this involves not just the Charity Commission but its equivalent in Scotland, OSCR, and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. Suitable guidance, particularly aimed at charities, can come only if it is jointly produced.

I am pleased to note what the Electoral Commission stated in its briefing to Parliament. If your Lordships will allow me, I shall repeat the words already cited by my noble friend Lord Horam, because they are important. That is why this is substance, not just words. The commission’s precise words are:

“We are committed to working with the UK’s three charity regulators to ensure that charities have clear and reliable guidance about how to comply with the rules. The Electoral Commission and Charity Commission for England and Wales will produce a joint introductory guide for charities that need to understand if their activities are covered by non-party campaigning rules ... Our guidance will explain key areas of the rules such as deciding what counts as regulated spending, how to manage regulated spending, and how the rules cover co-ordinated campaigning in coalitions”.

The Government welcome that clear commitment. At the big risk of quoting again from the e-mail from the Charity Commission, sent at 18.08 yesterday evening, in that e-mail, under the heading, “Co-ordinated guidance for charities that need to understand if they are covered by the rules”, Mr Rowley states:

“The Charity Commission and the Electoral Commission have committed to producing co-ordinated guidance along with a joint introductory guide for charities ahead of the regulated period for the 2015 General Election should charities not be exempted. We are sensitive to the particular help that some charities may need to comply with both electoral and charity law. In the past we have worked closely with the Electoral Commission to ensure their advice for charities on complying with electoral law and our guidance on charities and political campaigning in an election period is aligned and have continued to work closely together throughout the passage of this Bill”.

The Government will continue in our discussions with the Electoral Commission. We will follow them up, and I am sure that our brief debate this evening will have further reinforced to the Electoral Commission

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the need for it to provide clarity to campaigners. It is the Government’s view that the Electoral Commission must produce guidance in consultation or co-ordination with the Charity Commission and the other charity regulators in the United Kingdom, particularly with regard to how charities might be required to comply with the regime.

I can see why noble Lords say that there is nothing to be lost by having the provision in the Bill, but when a clear and unequivocal commitment has been made by the Electoral Commission, and by the Charity Commission in the quote I have just read, as my noble friend Lord Horam said, it is unnecessary to put this in the Bill. In the light of these commitments, which I think go further than honeyed words, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.


Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, as it is 10.05 pm I shall be brief. I am very grateful to all those who have spoken in support of this amendment—the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, my noble friends Lord Cormack, Lord Horam and Lord Tyler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town.

I tabled the amendment with the Hippocratic oath in mind—first, do no harm. I could not see that this could do any harm. It could only do good, because it is either superfluous—in which case, it does not matter—or, if things started slipping, it could be brought into play. Therefore, I cannot say that I am pleased with the outcome. The “too difficult” tray, in which I always thought this would end up, probably has been pushed a bit further round the desk by the words that we managed to extricate from the two commissions. However, it is late. I hope that my noble and learned friend will continue to look at this.

Another amendment that I was keen on, which the Government have accepted—namely, the review—will be an issue for the reviewer to look at. I think that there will be issues, unless we really join this up tight; charities will find things complex and difficult. However, given that it is 10.05 pm, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 119ZA withdrawn.

Amendment 119A not moved.

Amendments 120 to 125, renumbered as Amendments 28A to 28D, 31A and 33A, not moved.

Clause 41: Commencement

Amendment 126

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

126: Clause 41, page 49, line 2, at end insert—

“( ) section 26(10) and (11) (definition of “election material”);”

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, this is the final group of amendments. There has been much discussion about the regulated period for third parties and whether it is indeed of an appropriate length.

15 Jan 2014 : Column 336

Many have argued that 365 days is simply too long. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, proposed in Committee that the regulated period should be shortened to six months. As noble Lords know, there are different regulated periods for different elections. For the general election it is 365 days. For elections to the devolved Administrations and the European Parliament it is four months.

What is the purpose of a regulated period? It is the time before an election within which financial limits on expenditure apply and campaigning rules must be adhered to. It is the time during which expenditure incurred for campaigning purposes must be reported. Noble Lords will know that the Bill already reduces the regulated period for the next general election in 2015, so that it will commence on 23 May 2014, which is the day after the European elections. The reason for this is that the original regulated period would have been a combined period for the 2014 European parliamentary election and the 2015 general election and would have started on 23 January 2014.

However, as the Bill makes changes that would have affected third party campaigning in European parliamentary elections, it would not have been sensible to have those changes take effect in the midst of the regulated period. The two regulated periods are therefore separated by the Bill, so its changes will take effect for the first time only for the 2015 general election.

The Government have now tabled Amendment 128, and Amendments 131 to 134, to shorten further the regulated period for third parties. These amendments will shorten the regulated period so that it commences on 19 September 2014. That is the day after the Scottish independence referendum. Although this Bill does not affect campaigners in the referendum—it is important that we make that clear—for the avoidance of any doubt and to ensure that there is no confusion, the day after the referendum has been chosen as an appropriate start date for the regulated period.

This step has been taken in response to calls from third party campaigners that they will need further time to fully understand the implications of the Bill and to ensure that they know how to comply with its provisions in the run-up to the 2015 UK parliamentary general election. I should stress that we are not reducing the spending limits to take account of the shorter regulated period. Campaigners will still be able to spend up to £319,800 in England, up to £55,400 in Scotland, up to £44,000 in Wales and up to £30,800 in Northern Ireland on promoting the electoral success of parties or candidates.

However—and this is crucial, not least as a follow-on to the previous amendment—delaying the start of the regulated period will give campaigners crucial time. The move has been supported by the Electoral Commission, to give it and the Charity Commission sufficient time to produce clear and easy to follow guidance. As has already been said, we believe that it is essential that campaigners have the clarity they have been asking for, and shortening the regulated period will allow the Electoral Commission enough time to test the appropriateness and clarity of its guidance with the campaigners themselves.

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I should make clear here that only the regulated period for third parties is being amended. The regulated period for political parties will still begin on 23 May 2014, as under the existing transitional provision in Clause 42. It is also the case that for future general elections the period of one year will apply—although, given that there is to be a review, no doubt people will wish to raise this then. I just make it clear that the reduced period is for the 2015 general election.

The Government have also tabled Amendments 126, 129 and 130. These are minor and technical amendments to improve the drafting of Clauses 41 and 42. I beg to move.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, I warmly welcome this shorter regulatory period for the 2015 election, for the reasons that the noble and learned Lord stated: it will enable the Electoral Commission to prepare the guidance to educate the people who will have to conform to it. However, I express the hope that in the review, the review body will look seriously at the recommendation of the commission which I chaired, that for third-party campaigners there should be a six-month period. This seven and a half-month period is absolutely right for this election but a six-month period should be reconsidered afterwards.

Perhaps I might end on one final point. We are all very much aware that this whole process has, towards the end, been extraordinarily compressed. Normally, the Government would listen first, bring forward amendments in Committee and then report those back on Report. We did not have any government amendments in Committee. The Government listened, and I am glad that they did, but this means that this Report stage has been a kind of compression of Committee and Report all in one. The implication of this is that I very much hope that the Minister will take seriously those amendments that we did not press to a vote, while hoping that he might come back at Third Reading having thought again. Because of this very compressed period, that would be a great help to the House.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, following on immediately from what the noble and right reverend Lord was saying about this compressed period, I particularly hope that in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said in withdrawing his Amendment 52 on constituency limits, the Government will bring that back at Third Reading. As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, believes that the Government made a commitment to do so. That was the basis on which he withdrew his amendment. I do not wish to have a discussion this evening but I hope that the noble and learned Lord will look at it.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I did not actually respond to anything that my noble friend said, so there was no commitment. I said to officials immediately after that it would be appropriate if we went back and talked to the Electoral Commission, but that was without any commitment that we would bring an amendment back. We would take the points that were raised on my noble friend’s amendment to the Electoral Commission but, to make it clear, without a commitment on bringing it back. That is only fair because I did not actually make any commitment.

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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful for that clarification but I very much hope that, having spoken to the Electoral Commission, while I understand that the noble and learned Lord has not made a commitment, it will lead to him bringing something back at Third Reading. Having said that, I warmly welcome this group of amendments, which amend the regulated period. I am glad that it pertains only to the upcoming election, when it will be seven months. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord and his officials for listening.

Amendment 126 agreed.

Amendment 127

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

127: Clause 41, page 49, line 6, at end insert—

“section (Candidate’s personal expenses not to count for local election expenses limit in England and Wales) (candidate’s personal expenses not to count for local election expenses limit in England and Wales);”

Amendment 127 agreed.

Clause 42: Transitional provision

Amendments 128 to 134

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

128: Clause 42, page 49, line 32, leave out “regulated periods beginning after that day” and insert—

“(a) regulated periods beginning after that day, or

(b) (for the purposes of enactments having effect otherwise than in relation to regulated periods) expenditure incurred after that day.”

129: Clause 42, page 49, line 36, at end insert—

“(including a period in relation to which a limit is imposed by that Schedule by virtue of subsection (3)(b) or (6A)(b)).”

130: Clause 42, page 49, line 37, leave out subsections (3) to (5) and insert—

“(3) If, apart from this subsection, the day on which this Act is passed would fall within a period in relation to which one or more limits are imposed by paragraph 11 of Schedule 9 to PPERA 2000 (limit on campaign expenditure where combination of parliamentary election and other election)—

(a) paragraph 11(2) of that Schedule (which disapplies limits and periods which would otherwise be imposed by paragraph 3 of that Schedule and substitutes new limits and periods) is of no effect (and is treated as never having had effect) in relation to the parliamentary general election, and

(b) for the purposes of paragraph 3 of that Schedule as it applies by virtue of paragraph (a), the relevant period is the Schedule 9 transitional period.”

131: Clause 42, page 50, line 11, leave out “subsection (4) “the transitional” and insert “subsection (3) “the Schedule 9 transitional”

132: Clause 42, page 50, line 12, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

“(a) beginning with 23 May 2014, and”

133: Clause 42, page 50, line 17, at end insert—

“(6A) If, apart from this subsection, the day on which this Act is passed would fall within a period in relation to which one or more limits are imposed by paragraph 11 of Schedule 10 to PPERA 2000 (limit on controlled expenditure when combination of parliamentary election and other election)—

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(a) paragraph 11(2) of that Schedule (which disapplies limits and periods which would otherwise be imposed by paragraph 3 of that Schedule and substitutes new limits and periods) is of no effect (and is treated as never having had effect) in relation to the parliamentary general election, and

(b) for the purposes of paragraph 3 of that Schedule as it applies by virtue of paragraph (a), the relevant period is the Schedule 10 transitional period.

(6B) In subsection (6A) “the Schedule 10 transitional period” means the period—

(a) beginning with 19 September 2014, and

(b) ending with the date of the poll for the parliamentary general election.”

134: Clause 42, page 50, line 17, at end insert—

“(6C) Subsections (3) and (6A) do not apply in the case of a period in relation to which one or more limits are imposed by paragraph 11 of Schedule 9, or paragraph 11 of Schedule 10, that ends with the date of the poll for an early parliamentary general election.

(6D) An “early parliamentary general election” is a parliamentary general election the date of the poll for which is appointed under section 2(7) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.”

Amendments 128 to 134 agreed.

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Clause 43: Extent

Amendment 135

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

135: Clause 43, page 50, line 43, at end insert—

“( ) In Part 2 of this Act—

(a) section 32(12) to (15) extends to the United Kingdom and Gibraltar, and

(b) section (Post-election review) extends to the United Kingdom.”

Amendment 135 agreed.

Clause 44: Short title

Amendment 136 not moved.

Offender Rehabilitation Bill [HL]

Returned from the Commons

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to with amendments.

House adjourned at 10.14 pm.