All 9 Lord Hayward contributions to the Elections Act 2022

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Wed 23rd Feb 2022
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2nd reading & 2nd reading
Thu 10th Mar 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 10th Mar 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Thu 17th Mar 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 21st Mar 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Mon 21st Mar 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Mon 28th Mar 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 6th Apr 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 25th Apr 2022

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Lord Hayward Excerpts
Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for the opportunity for his Elections Bill officials to have discussions with me about potential amendments which I might bring forward. That may worry the Minister that I will bring forward amendments, but I hope that they will improve the operation of the Bill and of elections in this country, nationally and locally.

This Bill should be about four different aspects, one of which there has been virtually no reference to so far in this debate—the administration of elections as undertaken by our returning officers, who do a truly superb job, despite the propensity of politicians of all political parties to impose an ever-greater burden on them, with the expectation that the elections will be administered effectively, openly and on time. There may be some discussion in that field.

Secondly, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, touched emphatically on another field, the overall regulation by a body—in this case the Electoral Commission—and how it should operate. Clearly, there will be much discussion about that element of how we handle elections, as there should be. The Electoral Commission is a relatively new body, and it is worthwhile, at this point in a Bill, to look at how it operates and should operate.

The third field is an area which I regret has been omitted from this Bill, and which has been touched on by a number of noble Lords, the first of whom was the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman: the report of the Law Commission, which said that, effectively, our electoral law is a mess. We operate on 25 different pieces of major electoral legislation. Its report said:

“The current laws governing elections should be rationalised into a single, consistent legislative framework with consistent electoral laws across all elections, except where there are clear and necessary differences, for example due to different voting systems.”


Some of the amendments, to which I referred in my opening comments, fall within that field to at least introduce a degree of consistency—even though we will not have, disappointingly, a rationalisation of the mess of electoral legislation that we all face at the moment.

Fourthly—and this comes to the nub of the early parts of the legislation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, spoke—there is the issue of fraud, in some form or another. I am afraid that I see a degree of complacency in society. It is not just Tower Hamlets, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, referred to first, and which we will get to many times over the next few days in Committee; we should not kid ourselves that Tower Hamlets is the only place where there has been maladministration.

I am going to enjoy myself at this moment by just reminding the House—some Members may be aware of this, but I fear many are not—that the largest case of personation ever identified and undertaken in this country was by the Liberal Democrats in Hackney in 1998: one hall of residence, which had a capacity of 32 people, managed to have 80 people registered on the electoral roll, courtesy of a Liberal Democrat candidate. I did enjoy that bit.

As I said, the debate will revolve around the question of fraud, and the means of fraud. Quite a few years ago I was asked by Simon Walters, who I think was then deputy editor of the Daily Mail, whether I could identify how you would fraudulently deliver an election result. I asked him how long he had got—because there are so many ways in which you can deliver a fraudulent result.

As the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, identified, it is not purely parliamentary results that matter, but local authorities as well. We have seen, in recent years, substantial fraud cases in Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, Woking and High Wycombe, and we are aware of other cases around the country. I discussed with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, the problems in some of his parts of the country, in west Yorkshire. We have to recognise that there are problems, and we should do something about them before we face a greater problem.

In conclusion, I will identify a particular issue which I will continue to pursue separately from the Bill and of which the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Hayman, are aware: namely, the two-signature issue for local government elections, which—I say to the Minister—I hope we can resolve for the elections this year outwith this piece of legislation. I will continue to pursue that until the closing date for achieving that end has passed.

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Lord Hayward Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Read Full debate Elections Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 96-I(b) Amendments for Committee (Supplementary to the Marshalled List) - (10 Mar 2022)
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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It is a touching gesture. Anybody who considers himself or herself a parliamentarian should be opposed to this particular part of this particular Bill. I hope that message will be received by my noble friend and that he will realise that it should not be his mission to undermine, however indirectly, our parliamentary and electoral democracy because, of course, this applies to elections as well and not just to Parliament.

We are much in the debt of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for tabling these amendments. She introduced them with remarkable brevity. Let us have done with this.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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May I ask my noble friend before he sits down just to clarify his comments about the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher? Will there also, as I see it, be an opportunity to comment in more detail when we debate the clause standing part? That may be the occasion when I comment on his generous comments about me, for which I thank him.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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Yes, that is fine. I think there is even a case for deleting these clauses in Committee.

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Although I believe that the rights and responsibilities regarding devolved elections in Wales lie with the Welsh Government, I cannot resist the temptation to add a further challenge or gentle nudge—and that is for the Welsh Government and the whole Senedd to finally come to a decision about the size of the Senedd and an even more proportional system of voting for our Senedd. I know that this is already a work in progress, but we have been waiting in anticipation since the Richard commission reported in 2004.
Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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My Lords, I have one question of clarification to ask my noble friend. During his introduction, he referred to the change of structure of government and therefore the change of structure of committees in the other place, and their responsibilities for dealing with electoral matters. Given that the Government have a habit of restructuring virtually everything virtually every year, whichever party is in power, can I seek clarification that these amendments are future-proofed—in other words, that we are not writing into the Bill the name of a committee that may not exist in one or two or three years’ time?

Lord Lipsey Portrait Lord Lipsey (Lab)
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My Lords, I will briefly make a point about these proceedings. As I understood it, when we debated the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, the Minister said, “We should not have these general arguments; we should be focusing on the specific amendments.” In a corner, as he was, I can see that that was the best sort of argument available to him. Now we have nearly 100 amendments which change the law of this nation, and how much time did the Minister devote to each of them? It was six seconds. This is not a detailed examination of a Bill; it is a Minister who thinks that whatever he happens to want—I am sure that most of these amendments are completely acceptable—should go through without proper debate, consideration and deliberation by this House.

I say that both as a protest and as something that I hope the House will carry forward in its future deliberations on the Bill. It cannot be done at the kind of speed whereby 100 amendments are considered in one grouping. It will not be done, and we will stop it being done.

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken in the debate. Perhaps I am allowed occasionally to speak as an individual from the Dispatch Box as well as a Minister, and I have not changed a view that I held as Back-Bencher, which is that the minimum number of amendments is desirable and that all Governments should seek to get Bills into the best possible condition before they come before your Lordships’ House. That is desirable, and I made an apology at the outset.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, and others pointed out, a significant number of the amendments arise from our decision to respect the recommendations of the Senedd and the decision of the Scottish Government. We believe that some of the issues concerned are important and that we should proceed to legislate, but, as I said in my opening remarks, we intend to continue discussions with the Scottish and Welsh Governments and would be interested to see how they proceed. We have welcomed the indication that they are considering legislating comparably in a number of areas covered.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked whether there were areas where we were deferring to the Scottish nationalists. I would not put it that way. Some of the areas were where there was a disagreement. Your Lordships have already indicated that you might also disagree with Her Majesty’s Government—let us say, on the elements relating to the proposed strategy and policy document, and that is one area covered by these amendments, as the noble Baroness opposite said.

However, one consequence of the withholding of the consent Motion will be that the modernised undue influence offence will apply only to reserved and excepted elections. The Government’s view is that a UK-wide application of the measure would have delivered greater levels of integrity by upholding what we submit in this Bill should be a basic principle: that those guilty of an intimidation offence should not be allowed to stand at any election in the United Kingdom. That is why we sought legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament on those measures. Following these amendments, which we have introduced for the reasons that I have given, and if your Lordships give assent to the legislation, offenders will still face a five-year ban from standing for all elected offices in the UK save for the Scottish Parliament or Scottish local government. In respect of devolution, it will be for the Scottish Government to make the necessary changes themselves to disqualify individuals who are disqualified for such offences in other parts of the UK. Other areas of undue influence, sanctions against intimidation, measures on notional expenditure—referred to by the noble Baroness—and third-party campaigning will apply only to reserved and combined regulated electoral periods.

There will be divergence, and in some cases there is already divergence. There is already some minor divergence, for example, between the current version of the undue influence offence in the 1983 Act and the situation in Scotland. That has not so far caused any confusion, and we do not expect this to be any different. We would expect ambiguities to be straightforward for the courts to resolve.

Obviously, we will continue to watch events. I am not anticipating that the Scottish Government would not wish to legislate in this area, or indeed, as the noble Baroness said, that the Welsh Senedd might not. But we are submitting to Parliament the idea that Parliament should act in respect of things such as undue influence, intimidation and the measures on notional expenditure. We have taken the judgment to proceed—showing respect to the devolved Administrations not by waiting, but by excising and allowing them to make their own decisions and proposals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, asked me a specific question on a specific matter, which I undertake to write to her about, and to place the letter in the House in the normal way. My noble friend Lord Hayward asked about the designation of the new committee. This is in the legislation, because the effect of one of the amendments before the House is to remove PACAC and put in the other House of Commons committee. Ultimately, if this Bill is not thrown out—as was impishly suggested at the start of our proceedings—it will go back to the other place for it to determine. I shall give way to my noble friend Lord Hayward in a moment.

It surely is the case that if a government department is responsible for an important subject such as elections, the scrutiny should be conducted by the committee of the other place that is responsible for scrutinising that department. As I said, that will be the committee that is being substituted, under the chairmanship of Mr Betts. I give way to my noble friend.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I am sorry if I did not make this clear, but I was asking a question about the future structure of committees, beyond the next change. I think I used the term future-proofing, as it takes into consideration Governments’ habit of changing structures. Is there a part of the Bill that will future-proof structural change, so that when we move on from one select committee having responsibility for overviewing elections matters to another committee having that responsibility, it will not require a change to primary legislation?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I have not had advice from the Box on this, and that is always a dangerous place for a Minister to be. However, I try to read carefully what I put before your Lordships’ House, and I think it is provided in proposed new section 4C(8) that,

“If the functions of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee at the passing of this Act with respect to electoral matters … become functions of a different committee of the House of Commons, the reference … to that Committee is to be read as a reference to the committee which for the time being has those functions”.


Maybe I am parsing that wrongly. If I am, I will apologise to my noble friend and to the Committee and come back with a better explanation—but sometimes a Minister just has to try his best at the Dispatch Box. Does the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, want to intervene?

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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, drew a parallel between the Electoral Commission and Ofcom. However, Ofcom has a huge and evolving remit; inevitably, it has to respond to changes in government policy in areas as diverse as regulating the spectrum and the quality of broadcasting. The Electoral Commission is a very different beast, with a very straightforward role: to oversee elections and regulate political finance to ensure that we have a free and fair election system.

It describes its job as working

“to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity”.

What could a Government want to do to change that? It is simple, straightforward and easily understood. I cannot understand what the policy statement enshrined in Clauses 14 and 15 would add to that quite straightforward purpose. Nothing I have heard today has helped me in that direction, and I hope the Minister might be able to answer the question that others have asked: what is the purpose of this?

That there is room for improvement in the way the commission operates is true, but the proposed policy statement is simply not the way to accomplish that. In my experience, when it comes to elections, political parties have one overriding objective: to win as many votes as possible. Indeed, in the 2015 general election, the Conservative Party was so keen to win votes in South Thanet that it drove a coach and horses—and, indeed, a battle bus—through the rules. So egregious were the breaches that in 2019, Mr Justice Edis, presiding over the subsequent court case, was highly critical of what he termed Conservative Central Office’s

“culture of convenient self-deception and lack of clarity about what was permissible in law and what was not.”

The senior central office employee who was instrumental in this electoral fraud was sentenced to nine months in prison on 22 counts. It was only because of her personal circumstances that the sentences were suspended. There is no doubt that Conservative Central Office is not the only political headquarters to have played fast and loose with the rules if it thought it could. That is why we do not want political parties anywhere near the Electoral Commission.

Those who drafted Clause 14 may have done so with the most honourable intentions in mind but, as has been said, these clauses could have a truly malevolent effect on our electoral system. There is an unpleasant whiff about them, and it could evolve into a foul stink. The positive case for these clauses has simply not been made, and I therefore support the removal of these clauses from the Bill.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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My Lords, I am somewhat conflicted in this debate, to the extent that I, unlike a number of noble Lords who have spoken previously, do not view the Electoral Commission through rose-tinted spectacles. I shall refer to one or two problems that I and others have had with it recently. I have, however, had the opportunity to meet and deal with Mr John Pullinger, its new chairman; I wish him well and believe—partly because of what he has done in relation to some of the issues that I have had—that he will actually change the culture in the Electoral Commission.

I was fascinated by the contribution just now from the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft. I must declare an interest, because the person to whom she and the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, referred is a close personal friend of mine, but I will not deal with the case as such. The noble Baroness aired the view that, although CCHQ had been found guilty of an offence, it was almost certain that the other parties did the same. That is actually the problem—

Baroness Wheatcroft Portrait Baroness Wheatcroft (CB)
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My Lords, I was not insinuating that other political parties had played fast and loose in that particular election. I merely meant that, had they felt able to in some elections, they might have done.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I am sorry; I did not make myself clear. I was referring not specifically to that election but to elections in general, which is what I took to be the comment of the noble Baroness.

I will first cover the Electoral Commission and then come on to this particular clause. As the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, said first and others have said later, the Electoral Commission is required to produce an independent, free and fair set of elections. It is not required to start intruding in terms of developing or interpreting legislation. I was brought up to believe that these two Houses and the judges—the judiciary —decided how our laws operated. But, unfortunately, the Electoral Commission has moved into that field. I say that with reference to the debate in this Chamber on 6 January on the progress of regulatory bodies into fields and issuing edicts that they are saying are law.

I refer here not to the case that I just raised but to the availability of electoral rolls. They are key if you are going to investigate corruption in Tower Hamlets, but access to them is being denied by the Electoral Commission. In an email, it said that, unfortunately, “the law is silent” on this matter. It then went on to develop policy on it, effectively saying that it is law. It has issued instructions to EROs on a certain basis.

Later in the Bill, I shall cover the fascinating development of the law of secrecy when it comes to a polling booth, a practice that we have had for 150 years. The Electoral Commission is now changing the processes—it is changing the law—which is why I have tabled an amendment to stop it doing what it appears to be doing.

The noble Lords, Lord Rennard, Lord Wallace and Lord Kennedy, are all aware of the difficulties that I have had with it since early August on accredited observers—people who can be allowed into a polling station. The Minister wanted to go into a polling station in a by-election in Tower Hamlets and was told that she could not because she was political. She, or her office, was making those arrangements with the chief executive of Tower Hamlets. Nothing in law says that an accredited observer cannot be a political individual. I would have been quite happy if the Labour or Lib Dem spokesmen in the Commons or the Lords had gone to witness the problems there, but, suddenly, the Electoral Commission said, “You cannot do that”. Nothing in law says that.

What makes it worse—this is where I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake—is that the Electoral Commission does not admit its failings. As I say, I made correspondence available to other parties throughout, contemporaneously, and came to the conclusion that, in the way it has operated, the Electoral Commission is institutionally arrogant. It will not admit its failings, to the extent that, despite representations, detailed letters and failures to reply, when challenged about the refusal to allow the Minister into a polling station—it had been involved in conversations some 10 or 15 days before the by-election—it said immediately afterwards that it was not aware of a Minister being prevented from entering a polling station. This is despite the fact that, two and a half months later, it admitted that it had had conversations with the Cabinet Office and the Minister’s office, not to mention one with me in a polling station and with a local councillor, all of whom the Electoral Commission officials are saying it stopped, in one form or another.

What was fascinating was that, when confronted with all these different things, Electoral Commission kept saying, “We didn’t say it.” The Cabinet Office officials thought it did, as did the Ministers and the staff at Tower Hamlets. I believe it did. It is not a body which has previously been willing to admit its failures. As I say, it failed to do so when—

Lord Butler of Brockwell Portrait Lord Butler of Brockwell (CB)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. His complaints against the Electoral Commission may be justified, but can he explain how a strategy and policy statement from the Government would put the matter right?

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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The noble Lord intervenes at a highly apposite time. I said at the start of my contribution that I was conflicted. All I wanted to do was set the record straight in relation to the Electoral Commission as I and others have experienced it. A number of noble Lords have said that these clauses do not solve the problems that might arise from any behaviour of the Electoral Commission. That is why I am conflicted. I do not believe these clauses solve the problem. I believe there are problems with the Electoral Commission and that Mr Pullinger and his new organisation will tackle them, but I do not believe that these clauses solve the problem.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, regularly reminds us of Henry VIII clauses. I regard this as a Henry II clause: “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”—or, in this case, this troublesome regulatory body. I am sorry, but I cannot read those clauses without thinking that in some malevolent hands they will be misinterpreted by some Government or another.

I was an electoral observer in 2018 in a country I know well because I completed the whole of my university career there—Zimbabwe. I met the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and challenged it on the way it operated that election. I would like to be in a position to suggest that it use and operate our law. Could I honestly do that with these two clauses as they stand?

I come back to the position on which I opened. I am conflicted. I would like to see what the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, identified: the clear operation of an electoral commission that produces independent, fair, free elections. That I could commend to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. I hope that, when it comes back, this legislation will be something that I could recommend. As it stands, with these clauses, I could not.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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Just for the record, I am not Lord Kennedy.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I am very conscious of that. I did not necessarily say that the Lords to whom I was referring were present in the Chamber; I gesticulated towards the Bench opposite. I hope I did not offend the noble Lord in saying that.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord. He has delivered a message to people in his party that you can be severely critical of the Electoral Commission and consider that it has shortcomings and has not always owned up to things it has got wrong, but it does not follow that it makes sense to remove a body which is, in many respects, a guarantee of the democracy of our system. His illustration from Zimbabwe is telling. Who among us has not talked to people from various countries with very shaky regimes about the need to have a fair and reliable electoral system? Many have taken part as election observers, as he has, and seen a lack of independence in the electoral process that is fatal and damaging. The fact that the existing members of the commission believe that the provisions of these two clauses would inhibit their ability to behave independently tells its own story. It is on that and one other point that I want briefly to contribute.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, quoted from the letter that all but one of the members of the commission sent to Ministers. However, he did not go on to take a further quote from it, which says:

“If made law, these provisions will enable a government in the future to influence the Commission’s operational functions and decision-making. This includes its oversight and enforcement of the political finance regime, but also the advice and guidance it provides to electoral administrators, parties and campaigners, and its work on voter registration.”


It goes on to say that the “have regard” duty would

“provide a mechanism, driven by the then governing party, enabling that party’s ministers to shape how electoral law is applied to them and their political competitors.”

That is pretty clear, and anyone who took up a position on the Electoral Commission with this law governing how they conducted themselves would be likely to be severely inhibited by it. That raises a question of who will be willing to serve on the Electoral Commission with this kind of statutory statement as something to which they are obliged to have regard.

The other point I want to make is to reinforce something I said by way of an intervention. It really is no use the Government relying on the fact that they have produced an illustrative or indicative statement. That statement may be regarded by some as motherhood and apple pie; it might be regarded by others as offering a few hints of things that might be unsatisfactory in future statements. It is not the law. It does not inhibit or guide even this Government, let alone future ones, as to what kind of statements they will seek to get through the process.

Remember that the process is effectively one of statutory instruments—affirmative procedure, the same as statutory instruments—which, for various other reasons, many noble Lords are reluctant to use in this House to the extent of actually defeating a statement. Indeed, the Labour Party has often taken a public position that it is not appropriate for this House to take such an action, but the noble Lord on the Front Bench pointed out that we are dealing with a different matter here. We are dealing not with a general policy issue but with protection of the integrity of the election process and the body required to regulate it, and the independence that body needs to be able to do those things.

I end with the hope that the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, will be read by quite a lot of other members of his party, who might then feel free to join those of no party, my party and the Labour Party in saying that this matters. This is a threat to the independence and perceived independence of the body that regulates elections. However many of its decisions we disagree with or which may have been discomforting to our own individual party or cause, we must maintain its independence. That requires the removal of these clauses.

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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage
Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Eatwell Portrait Lord Eatwell (Lab)
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My Lords, there is a great temptation to stray into clause stand part issues, which we shall debate later, and it is unavoidable in the context of these amendments and of our first discussion of this issue. I was struck, as I think all of us were, by the speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. Both spoke in favour of greater participation and greater involvement. I say “hear, hear” to that.

What we are discussing is an additional requirement to vote. At Second Reading, a number of noble Lords—for example, the noble Lord, Lord Hannan—reflected on voting in jurisdictions which have identity cards and said that this was no big deal: you go along with your identity card, you vote, and it is all quite normal. Of course that is so, because that is not an additional requirement to vote; it exists in the society in general for other purposes. What we have here is an additional requirement—an additional impediment to the participation which the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, seek.

That additional impediment will inevitably reduce participation—by how much we can debate. There have been a number of studies, including the evidence which the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, cited and the study by the Rowntree trust, as to the degree to which participation may be reduced. We can disagree as to which study is the more accurate and the more satisfactory, but it is impossible to argue that this will not reduce participation. That is the true cost of these measures—not the financial cost so much, but the true cost.

In what I call his precautionary mode, the noble Lord, Lord True, at Second Reading—

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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The noble Lord spoke about reducing turnout. Can he identify the evidence that shows that the introduction of ID in Northern Ireland has now reduced turnout?

Lord Eatwell Portrait Lord Eatwell (Lab)
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I refer the noble Lord to the evidence mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and the study by the Rowntree Foundation. I am quite willing to believe—

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Monday 21st March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and agree with everything he said; that is hardly surprising, of course, because I have added my name to the list of those opposing the Question that Clause 1 and, effectively, Schedule 1 should stand part of the Bill.

The noble Lord put it so well: compulsory voter ID, and in particular photo ID—this needs to be teased out a little—is a solution looking for a problem. It is a bit like compulsory ID before it but, again, as the noble Lord pointed out, there would be a greater logic—it was a position that I opposed for many years, along with many others in this Committee, in your Lordships’ House and in political life, particularly to the centre-right of politics—in the current Government’s position if, when in opposition, they had not been so opposed to the notion of compulsory identification and compulsory photo identification for their citizens. Pretty much every argument that was put against compulsory ID, particularly the more libertarian arguments about this being a country of free-born people who should not need to identify themselves before the exercise of the most fundamental rights and freedoms, applies here. I am afraid that it leaves many people in this country very concerned about the true motivation behind this policy at this time.

This is the clause stand part debate so, necessarily, it reintroduces some of the points that were made in previous sessions of this Committee in relation to various amendments to do with public cost, private cost and various aspects of the argument against.

Once more, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, has pointed out, this is a solution looking for a problem, compared with other solutions that are, some would argue, quite urgently required in relation to real problems, such as voter intimidation and the oppression of some women, in particular, including within their families. That point was at least intimated by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, when we last met. She is not in her place, but her noble friend Lady Noakes is in hers, and I think there was a consensus in the Committee that there are issues there about women, in particular, in certain families and perhaps in certain communities, and that there is work that could be done there.

It would involve some public expense to really empower some of those women, to be sure that they felt truly liberated and empowered to exercise their vote truly independently. But this is not an issue of proof of identification; it is a much more holistic problem of the way in which they live and, perhaps, their lack of support and a certain level of alienation from wider society. The problem could be addressed in many ways with some of the resources which, as we said last time, will instead be diverted towards this untested, new, radical requirement of compulsory photo ID, and all that comes with it.

We have a problem already. I think it was broadly agreed, by consensus, in Committee last time that there are nowhere near as many people registered as there could be, and should be, for them to have at least the potential to exercise the right to vote. We could be using public resources to have truly cross-party, non-party voter registration campaigns. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Woolley of Woodford, cannot join us today—he is detained in Cambridge with his students—but he spoke last time about the importance of such campaigns for voter registration. Resources could have been targeted towards that, rather than this.

Some of us have argued, and will argue on later groups, that we should really be moving towards automatic voter registration, as happens with automatic registration for taxation. Why is it that in this country we are capable of automatically registering people for taxation purposes on their 18th birthday—quite rightly, in my view, because that is not only a right but a duty, and it is an ethical duty, at the very least, to think about voting—but we cannot do that for the purposes of representation and voting? That would no doubt cost some money, at least. But we are spending the money on this, the Government’s intention, and not on that.

There are general levels of disengagement and disenchantment, in some communities more than others. There are so many things we could be doing there to engage people in civil society, political parties and voting. Some of that could be done quite creatively, and some resources would no doubt be involved. But we are not choosing to do that; we are choosing to do this instead. I would argue, as I have done all my adult life, that there is still insufficient constitutional and political literacy in our mature democracy. Yes, that is more the case among some groups than others, and it would take some resources to engage in that kind of voter and citizenship education—not just among school-age children but among new migrants, including refugees who come to our country. There is so much more we could be doing with the resources, but we are choosing—or at least, the Government are currently proposing—to employ resources on this compulsory ID instead of on that.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that this is an expensive solution looking for a problem. Worse than that, it will do more harm to our democracy than any possible good. It is not unusual, when the precautionary principle is used to justify everything from detention without charge to compulsory ID, that we end up with a policy and a law liable to do more harm than good. Whether by accident or design, what some of us fear in this case is nothing short of voter suppression, or at least voter discouragement, on a level that is not what we need at this moment, nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, after some really difficult years in a very divided country. Whichever side people were on in the referendum campaign, with suspicions of interference in elections by foreign powers—including foreign powers now tempting people possibly into another great European war—and during the difficult times of the pandemic and the difficult times now, with yet another refugee crisis, this is not the moment even to whisper a policy, let alone to legislate for one, that will lead people to feel that we are going in for a period of voter suppression.

We do not want to go down the American road on this. There are wonderful things that come from the United States. Many of us who are constitutional lawyers have, when studying, looked in admiration to many aspects of American notions of citizenship, but we should avoid voter suppression or putting hoops in people’s way, particularly those from more vulnerable communities, whether they are more recently arrived Britons, minority groups, the disabled or poor people. Putting any hurdle in the way of registration and voting will smack of voter suppression, whatever the true intentions. Clause 1, married with Schedule 1, makes the photo aspect compulsory, and it is that which I have a principled objection to, and would have whichever party was in government and whichever party was proposing it.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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Given that the noble Baroness has a principled objection to the introduction of photo ID, why is photo ID used in Labour Party selection meetings?

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My noble friends, who have more experience of being selected to stand for elected office in the Labour Party are muttering that it is not—

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Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I have been somewhat orthogonal to this whole debate for a long time. I feel that whether Clause 1 stands part or not is neither here nor there—but there is an important point here. If voting is my right, it is the Government’s duty to deliver the instruments that will make it easy for me to vote. I should not have to go out there and register; the Government ought to be at my door, knowing that I have attained the appropriate age of 18, or whatever it is nowadays, to register me and give me my identity card. I do not know what the fuss is about. Why do we put the burden on the voter all the time? We really ought to make it easy for the voter to vote.

As I have said before, at Second Reading, we should not even have to go to the voting booth to vote; people should be able to vote on their smartphones, as long as it is a valid, encrypted method.

I am not at all worried that the great unwashed and coloured people like me will not be able to handle literacy. That is not the point. The point is that the Government are not doing enough on their own to make good and allay the fears they have that lots of people are going to cheat.

It is very simple. As I have said before in your Lordships’ House, in India they have 900 million-plus voters, and everyone has an identity card. I do not know what the fuss is about. It is not expensive and it is very convenient. After all, when people go out, they have their debit card, and they can give their phone to identify themselves, and so on.

My grandchildren laugh about our system of voting, because it is a very old-fashioned system. I do not think that is anything to be proud of: it is a voting system that puts all the burden on the voter and none on the Government. Whether or not Clause 1 stands part is another matter, but if the Government want identity cards to be introduced, they should introduce them and provide them, and they should make it easy for people to vote.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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My Lords, I hope that I have displayed to the Committee an independence of spirit on certain parts of this Bill, including in my comments on this clause stand part debate previously, but I am absolutely 100% behind the Government in introducing photo ID. It is for the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, touched on, and actually for the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, accidentally touched on last week—and I am pleased that he is here. He raised the question twice in relation to the last general election, about the uncertainty of our democratic institutions.

If one looks at the surveys undertaken by the Electoral Commission, there is serious doubt about the validity of the ballots that take place, persistently. The trials that were undertaken, and then followed up by research thereafter, showed that there was a marked—

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am so sorry to interrupt mid-sentence; it was just due to my hesitation. In the moments which follow, will the noble Lord give some thought to, and reflect on, his comment that there has been some serious doubt about our recent polls? That is quite a serious thing for anyone to say in this House. It may just be a question of rephrasing that point. For the reasons given by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, it is quite serious to now suggest, at this moment in 2022, that there is serious doubt over recent elections. We have had some pretty seismic elections and electoral results in recent years, and it is serious for a noble Lord of any party to suggest in this Chamber that there is serious doubt about the validity of those polls. That may not have been the noble Lord’s intention, but he might want to clarify this.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I did not say those polls, I said some polls. In fact, the noble Baroness actually referred to the disagreement in society in relation to the EU referendum and the closeness of that result. It was that, and others, to which I am referring. Clearly, the noble Baroness has not actually read the Electoral Commission report and the research undertaken associated with the trial ballots which took place in a number of locations in 2018 and 2019. Had she done so, she would have seen that there was serious concern among large parts of the electorate—not a majority—about the validity of the voting process. The noble Baroness is looking at me somewhat quizzically. I suggest that she actually reads the report.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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It is just my mask which makes me look suspicious.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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In which case, I apologise for misinterpreting the noble Baroness’s expression below her mask.

If noble Lords look at the most recent poll undertaken by the Electoral Commission, it is striking that concern about recent ballots and votes diminished quite markedly, despite the fact that there had been no change in electoral law. It is my contention that one reason for this is that we are moving further away from the Brexit vote, which generated large concerns among large numbers of people about the validity of certain votes.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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Has not the noble Lord just undermined his own argument, then? If things are moving in the right direction, with what problem is this legislation seeking to deal?

In addition, the noble Lord said that we have not read the report—I have read the report. There is a huge difference between an expression of concern and evidence of concern. If we sought to change the law of the land for everything about which people expressed concern when responding to opinion polls and surveys, this House would never stop sitting. The issue is evidence of concern. What evidence of concern—beyond that which has already been indicated to the Committee and which is extremely limited—can the noble Lord point to?

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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The noble Lord is misinterpreting the data within those datasets and what the Electoral Commission and an individual research team undertook to do. They were trying to establish the level of concern. Had the noble Lord allowed me to continue for a few more sentences, I would have identified why I am concerned about that. It is not about a particular election; it is about when elections or referendums become close and contentious.

I speak here as a remainer—I was not a Brexiteer. When a referendum, or some form of ballot, becomes both close and contentious, the way in which the ballots have been conducted comes out as a matter of concern. As a result, it is precisely for those reasons that I am concerned that we should have certainty and security in the process.

I do not regard it as a process of voter suppression. President Trump—or Donald Trump, whatever you like to call him—had a basis of foundation for his arguments against the result at the last presidential election because there were uncertainties about the way in which it was conducted. As far as I am concerned, I want to see certainty in this country.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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In my Second Reading speech, I said that I recognised the sense in which we have a problem of people withholding loser’s consent. I made the point that that was one of the problems we had in America with Donald Trump withholding it. Loser’s consent is a fundamental part of democracy. For many years following the referendum result, there was a substantial number of people who wanted to withhold loser’s consent for a majoritarian vote. That is complicated and there is a political issue going on about why people no longer accept that.

My argument—and this is what I want to ask the noble Lord—is that it is not a technical matter. It has absolutely nothing to do with impersonation. Nobody accused anyone of impersonating anyone. All sorts of accusations have flown but not that one in the UK. Therefore, does this technical way of trying to tackle a problem imply that there is a big problem of impersonation when there is not and therefore fuel the very sentiments that we are trying to reassure people around? It just does not make any sense as a way of dealing with a problem that I agree exists.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention. She and I clearly recognise that there is a problem and there are different problems and you can tackle them in different ways. I happen to believe that photo ID is a way of tackling the issue.

Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, is not present. I was present on the Select Committee when he gave evidence. The noble Lord, Lord Rennard, was also present but, unfortunately, he clearly is not able to be here today. The noble Lord, Lord Woolley, dealt with issues way beyond the question of voter registration and voter ID when he gave evidence to the Select Committee. It was an incredibly powerful submission then and it was last week in his contribution here. He was essentially talking about alienation from society in a much broader sense, and I recognise that. I live in the ward which I think has the largest proportion of voters of west African origin of any ward in the country—Camberwell Green. In Camberwell Green, if you want to collect a package from the Post Office—and I did last week—you are required to produce one of six items of ID, four of which are photo ID, two of which are not and one of those I do not think anybody would use in this day and age. In terms of general—

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He spoke about the alienation of voters and earlier he spoke about the validity of the process. Does he agree that concern about that validity of the process surely reflects the fact that people look at the composition of the other place—or, indeed, this place—and feel like it does not represent them? They maybe even know that 44% of votes went to the Tories and they got 100% of the power in the other place. People’s deep feeling of alienation and lack of validity does not relate to voter ID; it is much more deep-seated.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness, but I am not sure that it is specifically or solely related to this particular Bill. There are much broader issues on paths down which I will not go at this stage. I see it on a daily basis. I see it from where I came this afternoon to be in this Chamber.

There have been references to the question of personation and the quantities of that. The police have not pursued personation in some cases. I refer here to Richard Mawrey QC’s judgment in the petitions in relation to Tower Hamlets. He refers to a former Labour councillor, Mr Kabir Ahmed, and I quote from paragraph 326 in his report:

“Applying the statutory test of residence set out above, I am quite satisfied that 326a Bethnal Green Road was not such a ‘residence’ as would entitle Mr Ahmed to be registered to vote from that address”.


That is part of the judgment of an elections court. The police did not pursue it. I am not arguing that there are large numbers of cases, but there are far more cases than are being cited. The police, for a number of different reasons, do not pursue them.

Equally, as I cited in passing at Second Reading, the Electoral Commission makes it difficult to access electoral rolls. If you are going to be able to produce proof of false registration—that is, personation—you have to refer to past electoral rolls. However, the Electoral Commission has quite specifically said that EROs

“should not provide access to any register other than the current register”,

so that makes it very difficult indeed for people to prove personation.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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I was only giving my personal experience.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I appreciate that correction from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman.

But the concentration has been on the problems associated with certain social groups. It was said earlier that it is not necessarily the case that certain groups can or cannot participate in one form or another. The Liberal Democrats will point out that this is a failing of our first-past-the-post system, but selection meetings held by political parties in many constituencies are, in effect, choosing the Member of Parliament. For the selection of the Labour Party candidate for Poplar and Limehouse at the last election, the note that Apsana Begum sent to party members said, “Bring photo ID”. That is a specific instruction. It goes on to say,

“Bring your membership card or another proof of address”—


in other words, at her selection, you had to produce two forms of ID: one photo ID and one proof of address.

You can go on the web for other examples. One of the most racially diverse constituencies in the country—the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, may be aware of this is that it is right next door to his borough—is Tottenham. Again, I quote from the web: for the Haringey shortlisting and selection meetings in 2018, people were told,

“You need to bring ID”.


They were told to bring proof of address—a utility bill or council tax bill—and named photo ID. The types of accepted photo ID were identified as a passport, driver’s licence, et cetera. I willingly give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way again. I understand where he is going: he is drawing analogies with a number of other situations in our country where photo ID is being required, either in law or in practice. Earlier, before everyone started intervening on him and he very graciously gave way, he gave the example of having to prove that you are the person associated with a package when you go to collect it at the Post Office. I could go further and say that if I am going to take money out of a hole in the wall, I will be required to demonstrate that it is me who is entitled to access that bank account, as otherwise someone else could steal my money. But he must surely understand the distinction between my right to specific property and millions of people’s right to go and vote. We could go back to a system where everyone just has some indelible ink put on their finger once they have voted. There is not the same degree of risk of theft and impersonation with universal suffrage as there is with people’s property—whether it is their cash property in the bank or whether it is with their pass.

On the Tower Hamlets example, I know that at one stage the Labour membership amounted to the biggest political membership in western Europe. I do not know the position at the moment, but the noble Lord would concede, would he not, that most people in the country are still not members of the Labour Party and, therefore, in a very contested and slightly toxic selection, people might get very anxious about whether people are actually members of the Labour Party. Therefore, it becomes much closer to the property example than to universal suffrage, does it not?

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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On the noble Baroness’s first intervention, I knew that people would raise objections. I was citing the Camberwell Post Office example as an indication of the fact that people now live with producing ID, including photo ID. She cannot get away from the fact that a series of selection meetings within the Labour Party, which will be choosing the councillors and the Members of Parliament, actually require not one but two forms of ID, one of which is photo ID. If it is so impossible to produce a photo ID to vote at a polling station, how come it is acceptable to require people to produce photo ID at a selection meeting of the Labour Party, which, in the case of Poplar and Limehouse, was almost certain to produce the new Member of Parliament for that constituency? Haringey Labour Party uses the phrase

“each of the wards at the selection which required photo ID will take place.”

I am quite willing to give the noble Baroness a copy of this, although she can go on the web, search “Haringey Labour Party” and she will find it.

Lord Bishop of Leeds Portrait The Lord Bishop of Leeds
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What I am struggling to understand is this. There is a fundamental difference between belonging to an organisation—be it any political party—to which you opt to belong and for which you might be expected to provide ID, and being able to vote as a citizen of the country. Those are totally different things.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate identifies the difference, but I have drawn the parallel, and it is a parallel, between selecting an MP at a constituency meeting and selecting them at a polling station.

As far as the process is concerned, I conclude with a final question, which I put to the Labour Front Bench. I have quoted from documents regarding the requirement to produce photo ID to select an MP. I ask whichever of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, replies to the debate to address this question. I have cited cases where people have been required to produce two forms of ID. Can the Labour Party please say whether, on occasion, at selection meetings they have actually required three forms of ID, two of which were photo and one was the address?

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab)
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Has the noble Lord finished? I am sure my noble friend will deal with his query, which has been dealt with thoroughly already. The Labour Party is a voluntary organisation which you can choose to be in or not, and if you choose to, you abide by the rules thereof—rules that are democratically determined within the party itself. It is totally different, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, from a clear right to vote, which should apply to everyone, irrespective of the degree to which they wish to become involved in daily politics, which is of course a matter of choice.

I wanted to speak now because I did not quite understand what it was that the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, did not understand about my previous intervention on this subject. I shall not discuss any individual details, because we have sundry debates on those coming up. The silence of the Government Front Bench on two or three issues in the whole of this discussion seems to have permeated the Back Benches as well. One of the crucial questions for me is whether the Tory party, which is investing an awful lot of time and effort in the Bill—and money; £180 million at least and rising—is doing so on the basis that somehow, we should be disturbed by the result of the last general election, which, I sadly remind everyone, it won with an 80-seat majority.

The Government are saying—by their actions, if not by their words—that the election is a bit dubious, a bit dodgy. Every contribution from that side is more or less implying just that. If it is not dodgy at a global level—the 80-seat majority—it must surely be dodgy in respect of a number of individual constituencies. So, I would like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, who is an expert on these things, which of the 650 constituencies he thinks should probably be declared invalid on the basis of serious doubts and misgivings about the authenticity of the voters in those constituencies?

Having fought numerous elections and, on one occasion, having won by 360-odd votes in an electorate of 90,000, I can only say to the noble Lord and to all those who say that people do not accept our election results because the system is first past the post, that no one in the ballots in individual constituencies argues for a moment with the idea that the person who was first past the post was the winner and should be declared the winner, even if it was by a short head. But the point I am making now is that no one contested that result. My opponent, to his credit, although he called for a couple of recounts, did not doubt the validity of the result any more than I did when, prior to that, I lost by rather more, it must be said—by 1,500. Likewise, I did not contest the result.

I really do want to know the answer to this, because we are in a very odd situation. You would think we would be on different sides of the argument. You would expect the Opposition to be saying that they were really worried about the last election result and that it looked very dodgy that the Tories got an 80-seat majority, with the Government saying that it was the finest election they have ever been privileged to take part in. But in this Alice in Wonderland world, it is the Government who are raising serious questions about the validity of the election result. So, I repeat that point, which is hanging in the air, and if the Minister would share with the House his deep anxieties about the last general election, I would like to hear them.

I would also like to hear from the Minister precisely what the Government’s estimate is of the effect on voter participation of the proposals in Part 1 of the Bill, which introduce a substantial new requirement for people to exercise their right to vote. This is the biggest change in the electoral requirements in my lifetime. I suppose the voting age has changed and there have been other changes of that sort, but this is a substantial one that says to electors that what they have done in the past is not good enough and there are too many risks associated with it, so they must jump over these additional hurdles.

Our contention—I say ours, but I think it is a pretty broad contention—is that the one thing you can be sure of is that introducing a brand-new requirement such as this will have a completely neutral effect on election turnout, which, I remind the House, has been going down rather badly, certainly since I first started fighting elections. I looked up the figures for a few—1970 was the first one I fought. In February 1974, the turnout was 79% and for the last five or six elections, it has been down in the 60s. That is bad news for anyone who cares about democracy. I was proud of the fact that we used to beat lots of other countries substantially on turnout at major elections. That is no longer the case. It is not credible to say that this big change in voting requirements for voters will have no impact whatsoever on turnout. I will give the Minister three options: is he saying it will have no impact whatsoever; that it risks reducing turnout; or that it is going to increase turnout? That would be an interesting intellectual case to develop.

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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I disagree with the noble Lord, in the sense that I am talking about the rhetoric, and the context and reason for this, whether it is happening on a state-by-state basis or nationally. What is behind it is in my second quote, from Max Feldman at the Brennan Center for Justice, who says that

“claims of widespread fraud are nothing more than old wine in new bottles. President Trump and his allies have long claimed, without evidence, that different aspects of our elections are infected with voter fraud. Before mail voting, they pushed similar false narratives about noncitizen voting, voter impersonation, and double voting”.

To pick up the noble Lord’s point about people’s concerns about the voting system, these days we see a great deal of sharing and cross-fertilisation of concerns on social media. Rhetoric spread by powerful, well-funded forces will have an impact on people’s views, as we have seen in other contexts.

The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, suggested that people were coming perilously close to suggesting that the purpose behind voter ID was voter suppression. I am not going to come “perilously close” to it; I believe that that is the case.

The second point I want to make concerns history. I do not believe that we are guaranteed to gradually progress positively into the future, but look at the trends. In 1832 and 1867, the Great Reform Acts spread the right to vote among men. In 1918 and 1928, women got the right to vote. In 1969, and implemented in 1970, the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18. That is all heading in the direction of greater engagement. In Oral Questions earlier we saw some fairly severe attacks on democracy and devolution in the UK, but Scotland and Wales have gone further down this road, with votes at 16. Democracy has been on a long-term trend of engaging more people. We have to ask why we are suddenly heading in the opposite direction with voter ID.

My final point is a practical one. Most of this discussion has focused on the estimated 2 million people who do not have any ID. I do not think we have talked enough about the people who do not have ID on them at the point where they go to vote. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, pointed out, none of the pilots was in a large urban area.

I was in a large urban area—Sheffield—telling on a polling station in one of the years when the pilots were being conducted. I saw a large number of people who had seen the reports and thought that they had to have ID.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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The noble Baroness is citing where the pilots took place. Earlier on, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, did not seem to be aware that pilots had taken place. Was it not the case that a number of local councils refused to participate in the pilots? It is not that those places were chosen by the Government; it is that those were the places which were allowed to participate by the local authorities.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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I respectfully respond to the noble Lord that, whether it was the choice of the local authorities or not, it harms the quality of the evidence before us.

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Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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That should be a matter of huge concern. In an extraordinarily un-Conservative statement earlier, the noble Baroness said that voting in the way that we used to vote 50 years ago is somehow bad and means that we are not keeping up with modern times. If we applied that principle to every other aspect of life that works well we would be seeking to change everything for the sake of it—something I imagined she thought this side of the House was seeking to do.

A combination of those two great Gladstonian reforms, the Ballot Act 1872 and the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act 1883, has maintained a level of integrity in the conduct of elections in this country that most of the rest of the world finds awe-inspiring. The idea that people look at the United Kingdom and say that, among all the democracies—let alone other regimes—there is great doubt about the integrity of our election outcomes and people are constantly concerned that ballots might be being stuffed and all that, is so far removed from reality that it is obviously a farcical proposition.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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I am sorry to intervene again but is the noble Lord aware of the report of foreign observers who watched the elections in Tower Hamlets? He seems to display complete ignorance of what overseas observers said about what they saw going on in Tower Hamlets.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The big issue in Tower Hamlets, which the noble Lord referred to earlier, was electoral registration. What happened there was clearly improper registration. If the issue of registration had been dealt with, these further issues would not have arisen. This is not just an issue of principle, though many issues of principle have been raised. Rather like the Blair Government’s move to introduce ID cards, I suspect this will become a matter between the two Houses. The fact that photo ID was not in the Conservative Party manifesto will be significant; I do not think the Salisbury convention will cover the reform as proposed in this Bill. On matters of deep constitutional import such as this, how far we can press our concerns is always a fine judgment for this House. We have these debates and send amendments to the other place, and then they come back.

If this Bill gets through in this Session, the issue of compulsory photo ID might be one where we insist on our amendments, particularly in the context which the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, referred to, about how at constituency level and on a substantial scale there have been no pilots.

I have two other points, since I want to add to the debate rather than to repeat other points. This Bill is one of the most substantial that I have addressed in my entire time in Parliament, with 171 pages, 22 of which are Schedule 1, which governs the arrangements for the introduction of photo ID. Most of the legislation that this House passes is shorter than Schedule 1 of this Bill, which introduces some element of these requirements. There are 22 pages of very dense and complicated legal reforms, and I pity the electoral registration officers who will be implementing them—there will be a host of problems over the implementation. Yet despite it being 22 pages long, huge issues are not even properly addressed in Schedule 1. We are being asked to give Henry VIII powers to the Government to produce further changes in due course. Paragraph (2)(4)(a) of Schedule 1, on page 66, says that regulations may make provision about

“the timing of an application for an electoral identity document”

and

“about the issuing or collection of an electoral identity document.”

These are fundamental issues, and they are not even on the face of the Bill. They will all be subject to regulations in due course which this House, in practice, does not have the capacity to influence or to reject.

On a fundamental and crucial issue which I hope that the Minister can help me with, is there now effectively to be one point of electoral registration or two—the first when you apply to go on the electoral register and the second when you apply for your photo ID? I see that my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock has tabled amendments on this precise point, which is of huge importance and has not been addressed in the debate at all so far, of whether there should be provision for you to apply for the photo ID when you complete your electoral registration form. The Minister may have addressed this point in earlier debates, but I could not see it in Hansard. This fundamental issue may be worse than just ambiguous. I look forward to the Minister explaining this, but my reading of paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 is that you cannot apply for the two at the same time.

New Section 13BD in Schedule 1, which amends the Representation of the People Act 1983 by inserting these new provisions, says:

“An application for an electoral identity document may be made by (a) a person who is or has applied to be registered in a register of parliamentary electors”,


It does not say “is applying”. There is a fundamental difference between the two. Can the Minister help the Committee on this, since we are discussing the clause at large and it will pave the way for my noble friend Lady Hayman’s amendment in due course?

Is it the case from my reading of the schedule—I am a non-lawyer—that you cannot apply for both at the same time and therefore that it would not be legal for electoral registration officers to send one form enabling you to fill in your name and details on the register of electors and to make your application for a photographic identity document, but you must do them separately? I may be wrong, in which case I am very happy for the Minister to intervene, but if I am correct, it is a fundamental massive additional issue with this Bill. It effectively doubles the electoral registration requirements. Whereas until now it has been the accepted practice that you register once, you will now have to register twice. My noble friend Lady Lister said that in continental countries, ID cards are the norm, but, of course, there you have them by the time you register to be a voter, and do not have to go through any separate process, nor must you turn up with a separate identity card in due course.

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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage
Monday 21st March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Read Full debate Elections Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 96-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (21 Mar 2022)
Moved by
88: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Evidence of full name
In Rule 6 of Schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 (nomination of candidates), in paragraph (2)(a) after “full names” insert “, as evidenced by a birth certificate or passport”.”
Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this is a small group of technical amendments, and I will speak to Amendments 88 and 91 first. When I quoted Richard Mawrey of the elections court on Tower Hamlets earlier today, I referred to Mr Kabir Ahmed. He had actually changed the spelling of his name to ensure that it was impossible to trace him from his previous electoral background from one borough to another. It is not a common case. I checked with the AEA, and it said there was no requirement that people should use a standard name. This is a probing amendment to establish how we can go about ensuring that people validly put in genuine nominations and do not try to hide their background.

Equally, Amendment 91 concerns an anomaly which has already been dealt with by the Senedd in Wales—the use of commonly used names. It makes sense as it stands but in this regard I give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Norton, my colleague in room 23. Where somebody uses their given name, as per christening, they are not entitled to use it in terms of nomination papers. For example, Harold Wilson would not have been allowed to give his name as Harold Wilson and James Callaghan would not have been entitled to give his name as James Callaghan, because they were not “commonly known as” names but their middle names, and this is currently illegal. Therefore, all I am trying to do is to set right an anomaly which I am sure was never intended.

Moving on to Amendment 89, as my noble friend the Minister knows, during Covid we reduced the requirement for nomination signatures from 10 to two. I wrote to him on 17 January raising the possibility of extending this allowance—that we stick with two signatures rather than 10. If there are objections based on the fear that there will be large numbers of candidates because you have reduced the required signatures from 10 to two, first, it did not happen last year, and secondly, a better way of imposing a restriction would be to require a deposit rather than 10 signatures. I am dealing with these amendments briefly because I am conscious the House wants to make progress.

Of the two other amendments in this group, one deals with the curious anomaly of incorrect declarations. If, by chance, an inaccurate declaration of a result is made and the wrong person is declared elected, it is necessary to hold a by-election. That happens surprisingly regularly, virtually every year, even though people are aware of it. It is an unnecessary expense, and I am working on the basis that all parties would come to an agreement at the count that there had been a declaration error. I am conscious that even in a general election—as in West Bromwich at the last election, where we came very close to an error—incorrect declarations are regularly made. It is an anomaly that these declarations cannot be corrected at a count where all parties are in agreement. I just wanted to put on record that there ought to be a solution to that.

My final amendment in this group concerns something I touched on at Second Reading: the mess we have in electoral law, in that there are exclusions for police and crime commissioners which do not apply to local councillors, and which do or do not apply to Members of Parliament when standing for election. It seems logical to me that we should have the same exclusions for any election, not just a hotch-potch in terms of the requirements of exclusions.

I have covered the five amendments very quickly, and I hope I have done it sufficiently satisfactorily for people to understand the objectives. As far as I am concerned, most of them are probing amendments, but on Amendment 89, I really do believe that the reduction in the number of signatures from 10 to two for local government elections should continue to apply. I beg to move.

Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I would like to comment on Amendments 88 and 89 because for me—and I have read quite a lot of the background—I fear they represent solutions in search of a very significant problem.

Amendment 88 requires the production of a birth certificate or a passport to secure nomination as a candidate. It is not clear to me what widespread problem is being solved by this, nor what problems might actually be created by introducing such requirements. The noble Lord, Lord Hayward, has given one or two specific examples, but it seems to me that a solution which then requires every candidate to produce a birth certificate or a passport when they put in a nomination form is excessive. It is also not clear to me why a passport and a birth certificate have been selected as forms of identification but not a driving licence, which contains a name, or a national insurance number, behind which exists a name. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response, because it does seem to be a proposed solution to a problem which is not that significant.

Amendment 89 would reduce the number of signatures for local nomination from 10 to two. I understand the circumstances in which, during Covid and the pandemic, the reduction to two was wise, because there were difficulties with people speaking to each other. However, in general terms, reducing the total number of signatures to two seems insufficient for nomination to elected positions that carry substantial responsibilities. I remain of the view that 10 is a better number than two.

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Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend for his positive replies to a number of the amendments, and I apologise for the fact that, in my need for haste earlier, I did not give credit to both him and his officials for having taken the time to discuss these issues with me. I should therefore put that on the record now. In light of his broadly positive approach to the amendments —as I said, they were primarily probing amendments on technical matters—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 88 withdrawn.
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Lord Khan of Burnley Portrait Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the amendments in this group all relate to the secrecy of the ballot. Amendment 97 from my noble friend Lady Hayman would expand the offence to include attempting to communicate the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of a ballot paper sent to a person for voting by post at a relevant election. Amendment 100, meanwhile, expands the offence to include those who obtain or attempt to obtain information or communicate at any time to any other person any information as to whether a person voting by post at a relevant election has spoilt their ballot.

The purpose of these amendments is to draw attention to the various ways that an individual could circumvent the secrecy of the ballot for nefarious purposes. I am sure the Minister would agree that legislation must cover each of the possible intrusions. Given that this is not the only legislation that deals with voting in private, I hope the Minister can assure the House that this amendment is not necessary and that this is already an offence.

Government Amendments 83, 99, 101 and 102, meanwhile, each make minor changes to inserted Section 66(3A) of the Representation of the People Act 1983. These all appear to be technical amendments which I have no intention of opposing, but I look forward to the Minister explaining their purpose in more detail.

Government Amendment 103 ensures that no criminal liability arises where information is sought from, or given by, a postal voter at an election for the purposes of an opinion poll or exit poll. Again, this amendment seems to be a technical clarification which has been rightly introduced.

Finally, Amendment 109 from the noble lord, Lord Hayward, allows for a more general debate on the secrecy of the ballot. It would mean that the Secretary of State could issue guidance on steps that presiding officers or clerks should take to ensure the secrecy of the ballot in polling stations, including debarring anyone accompanying the elector into the polling booth, unless on grounds of infirmity. This raises issues similar to those raised in earlier amendments from my noble friend Lady Hayman regarding how we can ensure that votes remain private. The noble Lord is right to table this amendment and to draw attention to further ways that this principle could be compromised. I hope the Minister can allay the House’s concerns ahead of Report. I beg to move.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, earlier this evening the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, made reference to the original secret ballot of the 19th century. To a large extent, what we have seen over the last 150 years is what should happen: a ballot should be secret, in that one person goes into the polling booth alone, marks their vote and then casts it in the ballot box. Unfortunately, because of a series of interventions, with the Electoral Commission and others denying who is interpreting the legislation in whichever way, this issue has been called into question. I am going to cite Tower Hamlets again, but I know that this problem is broader than that. Too regularly, presiding officers in polling stations are faced with a problem whereby people attempt to accompany somebody else into the polling booth, effectively to influence the casting of that ballot.

I can do no better than to quote research undertaken in 2018 by Democracy Volunteers, an organisation of lawyers who operate a system of reviewing the processes of elections, within Tower Hamlets and other similar locations. I make no apologies for quoting the research in full:

“QUESTION 9. Was there evidence of ‘family voting’ in the polling station? … In 58% of polling stations our observer teams identified so-called ‘family voting’. OSCE … describes ‘family voting’ as an ‘unacceptable practice’. It occurs where, generally, husband and wife vote together. It can be normalised and women, especially, are unable to choose for themselves who they wish to cast their votes for and/or this is actually done by another individual entirely. It is a breach of the secret ballot. We identified this in 58% of polling stations (74 separate occasions). As family voting, by definition, includes more than one person this means that we observed this 74 times in the 764 voters we observed. This means that over 19% of all the voters who we observed were either engaged in, or affected by, this practice.”


This is the key qualification:

“We would, however, like to add that the vast majority of cases of this were prevented, or attempts were made to prevent it. However, we believe that this constitutes an unacceptably high level of family voting in an advanced democracy and further steps should be taken to discourage and prevent it. However, this activity is generally not the fault of polling staff, in fact we commend the staff for being so active in their attempts to prevent it.”


As one of the observer teams said:

“Family voting is a definite concern in Tower Hamlets. At the best-run polling stations, the Presiding Officers kept an active watch for potential cases and took steps to prevent it happening. They took care to issue ballot papers to family members one at a time, and then direct them to polling booths in different parts of the room. With three members of polling staff, this meant that while two clerks checked the register and issued papers, the”


polling officer

“could remain vigilant for possible family voting or other problems. All the observed cases of family voting took place when the”

polling officer

“was absent or distracted, or their attention was elsewhere.”

There is no criticism here of the polling staff; they try to do their best. But I am afraid, as this report from Democracy Volunteers identifies, that this is a far too pervasive problem, and we need clear guidance. Most people believed that we had clear guidance for a century and a half, but because of varying interpretations, my amendment is an attempt to ensure that we move away from this practice and back to what was originally intended.

As the noble Lord, Lord Khan, identified, I have tried to allow for those people who need accompaniment. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, in a previous debate, there may be other people in similar circumstances who need assistance. Generally, the assistance will come from a polling officer, but there may be special reasons why somebody needs accompaniment from a member of the family. However, these should be virtually unique occasions, not—as the report from Democracy Volunteers identified—a pervasive problem. I therefore believe that my amendment is attempting to tackle a problem which is quite widespread and needs clarification, and that it is in the best interests of conducting elections across the country.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hayward. As an aside on families and secrecy of the ballot, I have had to ask somebody to be a proxy only once: during the very fraught referendum on Brexit, I had to ask my husband. I can tell your Lordships that, to this day, I still do not know which way I voted. I think I know which way I voted, but the secrecy of the ballot is absolutely sacrosanct, and I do not know.

On a more serious point, these Benches support the raft of amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and those in the name of the Minister that support the secrecy of the ballot. The only difference we have with the noble Lord, Lord Hayward—this has been an ongoing issue with him—is that if guidance has to be given on such issues, it probably would be better coming from the independent Electoral Commission rather than the Secretary of State, although we do not dispute that such guidance would be helpful. However, we understand from previous discussions and debates with the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, why he seeks the Secretary of State giving such guidance, but if it was to come, we feel that it should come from the Electoral Commission. With those points, we support these amendments.

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Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will follow on from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, on undue influence. I think that a large part of this stems from Richard Mawrey’s judgments in the Tower Hamlets case. Anybody who has not experienced what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has clearly seen in places such as Bradford and Kirklees and I witnessed in Tower Hamlets will not appreciate what one is talking about, which is a serious problem. The first time I went to an election in Tower Hamlets a friend of mine, Councillor Peter Golds, to whom my noble friend Lord True referred, identified this: “See those people there? See that person there?” We are talking about people standing 100 metres to 150 metres away from a polling station. They walk alongside people going to vote. They stop people going into the polling station. When complaints are made to the police, the police feel that they are powerless to intervene. Anybody who has not experienced that sort of undue influence cannot appreciate the intimidation involved. I welcome the clause and the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, because it is an important change to electoral law.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the underlying issue here clearly might lead to concern in certain circumstances, but the point I took the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, to be making is that this is a very new category of injury. I have never seen in legislation before the concept of “spiritual injury” or individuals being placed under “spiritual pressure”. Could the Minister give us any precedents for these terms in legislation so that we can get some idea as to what other matters they have referred and how they might actually be applied?

Although we can understand the issue, how do we define what counts as spiritual pressure? If, for example, a religious group put out literature supporting one candidate or another, as often happens, would that count as undue spiritual pressure? There could be a freedom of speech issue here, which I do not think we want to get into, so it would be useful if the Minister could explain to us other contexts in which this has been used so that we can get some idea of what a proportionate judgment on “spiritual injury” and “undue spiritual pressure” might be.

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Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Read Full debate Elections Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 96-VI Sixth marshalled list for Committee - (24 Mar 2022)
Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have a couple of amendments to Clause 28 in this group, and then further amendments, all looking at disqualification from elected office. My Amendments 160A and 161 to Clause 28 are really just to probe different government decisions as to why the Bill is laid out as it is. Amendment 160A is to probe the circumstances of elected candidates being found guilty of terrorism offences; that is pretty self-explanatory. Amendment 161 was tabled because the Government have put in the Bill that someone could be disqualified for five years from standing for elected office, and it probes the reasoning behind the period of five years. If the Minister could give the Committee some understanding of where the figure came from, that would be very useful.

Amendment 168 to Clause 32 would add fundraising as an activity undertaken for election purposes, because I think pretty much every political party does it as an election activity. Amendment 170 to Clause 33 is tabled so that we can see clearly the details of any disqualification orders given to ensure transparency. I am aware that the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, has an amendment in this group, so I will be interested to hear his introduction to it. Amendment 172 to Clause 34 probes the Government’s intention to vary the offences. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister some more detail on that and how it came to be in its current form.

I shall not give a long speech, as we have a long way still to go on the Bill and it is pretty clear what the Government are looking to achieve by this section of it. There is one issue I will raise, which was raised in Committee in the other place as well, and it concerns the five-year period. Many of the people who go on to intimidate candidates, agents or campaigners—unfortunately, I have been a victim of that, as have many people who stand for elected office—and who commit such crimes and acts, are not really interested in standing themselves to become elected representatives. Some of them are just opposed to the whole idea of how we run our democracies. But is that five-year period going to stop anything? Do the Government think that anything further could be done to manage the problem? Intimidation is becoming an increasingly difficult issue which, sadly, anyone putting themselves forward for public life at any level has to deal with.

We support the Government in their really important effort to do something about intimidation of candidates, be it physically or through social media. The Opposition are happy to work with the Government if there are ways in which we can continue to improve the situation, support people who put themselves forward for public office and protect them from this kind of behaviour. I beg to move.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, referred to my Amendment 171 in this group, to which I would like to speak. Before I do, and with the indulgence of the House, I refer to some comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, in Committee last week:

“However, given the important concerns that have been raised on the secrecy of voting, Minister Badenoch will be writing to the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police to confirm our common understanding of the position set out in legislation—that the only people who should provide assistance at a polling booth are polling station staff and companions who are doing so only for the purpose of supporting an elector with health and/or accessibility issues that need such support. We are confident that the Electoral Commission will be able to respond promptly”.—[Official Report, 21/3/22; cols. 750-1.]


I raise that because the Minister wrote to the Electoral Commission and the police last week in very clear terms, covering the points made by, I think, every Member in the debate, and emphasising that there should be no element of doubt. Noble Lords will note that the Minister said that it was hoped that the Electoral Commission and the police would respond promptly. I quote from the letter the Minister wrote to those two organisations. In the penultimate paragraph, she says:

“I would be grateful for a quick response … to reassure Parliament that the secrecy of the ballot is upheld at those polls”—


that is, in May—or the Government may be minded to

“strengthen the law in this area, given the constitutional importance”.

I hope that the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police will respond promptly, so that this matter does not have to come back at Report, as it may well have to do. I thank the Committee for its indulgence while I dealt with that, but it is important, given the general view that was expressed.

I move on to my Amendment 171. I am sorry here to possibly be raking over bad memories for the noble Lord, Lord Collins, who has said on a number of previous occasions that he was involved in the Tower Hamlets affair several years ago—and this is driven by the issue of Tower Hamlets and Lutfur Rahman. Lutfur Rahman was banned for five years, which may be where the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, about five years comes from. That was the maximum penalty available to the election court.

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The fixed five-year disqualification period provided in Clause 28 is consistent with the existing incapacity arising from a corrupt or illegal practice as provided by Section 160 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. I think that that answers the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. The period of disqualification for the proposed disqualification order is designed to strike the right balance between ensuring a sufficient deterrent while remaining proportionate, given the potential interference with the right to participate in free and fair elections, most recently protected under Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights. I therefore urge the noble Baroness and my noble friend not to press these amendments.
Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

Before my noble friend moves off that point, and picking up a comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, although I have referred on a number of occasions to Tower Hamlets, I have done so because that is the most extreme example. Does my noble friend agree that there are other examples of election offences around the country which may be considered minor, but are indications of the sort of problems we are facing in a number of areas?

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Issues from around the country that we need to take note of have been brought forward in this Committee.

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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage
Wednesday 6th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Read Full debate Elections Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 141-I(Rev) Revised marshalled list for Report - (5 Apr 2022)
Moved by
19: After Clause 8, insert the following new Clause—
“Security of the vote
(1) The Electoral Commission must issue guidance on—(a) steps that presiding officers or clerks should take to ensure the secrecy of the ballot in polling stations, including on barring anyone from accompanying the elector into the polling booth, unless on grounds of infirmity, and(b) compliance with the provisions in section 8.(2) Local authorities and returning officers must take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the guidance under subsection (1) is followed.”
Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I first welcome my noble friend the Minister back to his place. He has dealt, as manfully as he possibly could in the circumstances of his ill health, with queries that many of us have had, although I just wish that when he was referring to the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, he had not referred to his greatest victories, since that was a dagger fairly close to my heart—but that is another matter.

In Committee, I moved an amendment in relation to secrecy of the ballot, and I identified the serious problems we have with what is called “family voting”. This is not just in relation to Tower Hamlets but elsewhere too. In the response to that amendment, my noble friend Lady Scott was very helpful in saying:

“The current legislation requires that voters should not be accompanied by another person at a polling booth except in specific circumstances, such as being a child of a voter, a formal companion or a member of staff.”


It is fair to say that there was unanimity in the Chamber in relation to that as an understanding of the law. My noble friend then went on to say:

“However, given the important concerns that have been raised on the secrecy of voting, Minister Badenoch will be writing to the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police to confirm our common understanding”—


that confirms the unanimity within this House—

“that the only people who should provide assistance at a polling booth are polling station staff and companions who are doing so only for the purpose of supporting an elector with health and/or accessibility issues”.—[Official Report, 21/3/22; cols. 750-51.]

My noble friend the Minister has been exemplary in her writing a letter, and it is fair to say that we have had very quick replies from both the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police. One might, therefore, wonder why I am raising this question and this amendment at this stage, but I want briefly to go back over the history of the problems in Tower Hamlets, although it also relates to other parts of the country as well.

While looking at this issue, I turned up a report prepared by the Electoral Commission in 2013, and it said then:

“Without taking steps now to begin rebuilding confidence and trust between the key participants in the election process, we are concerned that the May … elections will again be damaged by allegations of electoral fraud.”


We then had the farce of 2014 in terms of what went to court with Lutfur Rahman. Despite what the Electoral Commission said in that report, Richard Mawrey criticised the commission in paragraph 274 of his judgment:

“All one may say, with the greatest of respect for the Commission, that the enquiries into the structures of”—


Tower Hamlets First—

“cannot have been excessively rigorous.”

We then had the court case and then, in 2018, Democracy Volunteers—to which I referred in the last debate—produced a report citing quite staggering numbers for family voting continuing to take place. Therefore, action is clearly not being taken.

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Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend for his response, which I find reassuring, but I find more reassuring the clear statements from all sides of the House and the emphatic manner in which they were made. Some sections of the Electoral Commission’s guidance relating to the process of voting are inadequate and have given rise to confusion for the police in terms of the actions they take. If I could make one request of the Minister, I hope he will have conversations with a number of people over the next week or so and that, as a result, the Electoral Commission will rewrite certain sections of its guidance. They need to be rewritten to provide reassurance to polling station staff, the Metropolitan Police and other police forces. Given the speedy way in which the Minister in the Commons responded previously—I am sure she will do the same on this occasion—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 19 withdrawn.
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Moved by
31: Before Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—
“Candidate nomination paper: commonly used names
(1) Schedule 1 to RPA 1983 (Parliamentary elections rules) is amended as follows.(2) In rule 6 (nomination of candidates), for paragraph (2A) substitute—“(2A) If a candidate—(a) commonly uses a surname that is different from any other surname the candidate has,(b) commonly uses a forename that is different from any other forename the candidate has, or(c) otherwise commonly uses one or more forenames or a surname in a different way from the way in which the candidate’s names are stated in accordance with paragraph (2)(a) (for example, where the commonly used names are in a different order from the names as so stated, include only some of those names, or include additional names),the nomination paper may state the commonly used name or names in addition to the names as stated in accordance with paragraph (2)(a).”(3) In rule 14 (publication of statement of persons nominated), in paragraph (2A)—(a) for “in addition to another name” substitute “in accordance with rule 6(2A)”;(b) for “any other name” substitute “the other surname or forename”.(4) In the form of nomination paper in the Appendix of forms, for note 2A substitute—“2A_ Where a candidate commonly uses a name or names—(a) that are different from the candidate’s full names as stated on the nomination paper, or(b) in a different way from the candidate’s full names as stated on the nomination paper,the commonly used name or names may also appear on the nomination paper; but if they do so, the commonly used name or names (instead of any other name) will appear on the ballot paper.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies the circumstances in which candidates in parliamentary elections may use names by which they are commonly known. It also makes related changes to the notes that appear on the nomination paper.
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Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, before I make any comments in relation to this group of amendments, I want to pay credit to my noble friend Lord Holmes. I chose not to speak in the previous debate but, throughout my adult life, I have suffered from losing my eyesight—not on a total basis but on a substantially partial basis—on impromptu occasions. Although it has never happened to me, I can imagine going to a polling station and suddenly being confronted by the fact that I cannot see the ballot paper properly. Many Members of this House know that I used to referee rugby matches. Now, I vouch that I never lost my eyesight in the middle of a game, despite what many of the players and spectators may have thought.

More seriously, I will move on to Amendments 31 to 33 and 38 in my name—they involve many words for what I thought would be a simple amendment. Having spoken in Committee on this matter, I intend to speak now only briefly.

In Committee, I made the point that there is an anomaly in our legislation. Had it operated at the time, it would have debarred both Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson standing as James Callaghan and Harold Wilson because, in both cases, those were their second names and what they were commonly known as. The Welsh Senedd has already made this amendment to its legislation; my Amendment 31 is intended to bring us in line with the Senedd. It makes sense that, where people regularly use their second name as their main forename, they should be able to do so on a ballot paper so that, when people go to vote for them in a polling station, they recognise their name when confronted by it.

I thank the department officials and the Minister for their help in drafting what look like enormously substantial amendments but achieve a relatively small but sensible change to our electoral law. On that basis, I beg to move.

Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I simply want to declare an interest in that, if this amendment is passed, I should be a beneficiary of it. When I first stood, as the noble Lord referred to, it was possible to use your commonly used name. On that occasion, I appeared as Andrew Stunell but, subsequently, I have had many a tussle with electoral returning officers. Fortunately, it is not an issue in this place but, I have to say, it is a common-sense amendment. I very much hope that the noble Lord has had some quiet discussions with the Minister and we are about to get a positive surprise.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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My Lords, with respect to Amendments 31 to 33 and 38, under the current law, a person who is nominated as a candidate must give their full name. They may also provide a commonly used forename or surname, which must be different to any of the names already given, that they would like to have included on the ballot paper. My noble friend Lord Hayward has highlighted that this does not, for example, facilitate the use of a middle name where someone is commonly known by such a name.

My noble friend’s amendments would widen the scope of the current provisions concerning the use of commonly used names by candidates. They would allow a person to include on their nomination paper any name that they commonly use as a forename or surname. For example, under this amendment, a candidate would be able to choose to use their middle name if that is a commonly known name for them. A candidate may also use a commonly used forename and surname on the ballot paper.

When my noble friend raised this issue in Committee, the Minister, my noble friend Lord True, indicated that the suggestions had some merit. After further consideration, I am pleased to say that the Government consider that these are sensible changes and we are able to support my noble friend’s amendments.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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My Lords, I note the welcome for that from all sides of the House. I am getting slightly embarrassed—this is the second time this afternoon that I have had support from all sides of the House on amendments I have put forward. I thank the Minister for her support and favourable response.

Amendment 31 agreed.
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Moved by
32: Schedule 6, page 117, line 28, leave out “8” and insert “6A”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in Lord Hayward’s name inserting a new paragraph 6A in Schedule 6 to the Bill.
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Moved by
38: Schedule 6, page 123, line 18, at end insert—
“18A_ In form 1 in the Appendix of Forms (form of nomination paper), for note 3 substitute—“3_ Where a candidate commonly uses a name or names—(a) that are different from the candidate’s full names as stated on the nomination paper, or(b) in a different way from the candidate’s full names as stated on the nomination paper,the commonly used name or names may also appear on the nomination paper; but if they do so, the commonly used name or names (instead of any other name) will appear on the ballot paper.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes provision for the nomination paper of a candidate at a local election in Northern Ireland corresponding to the provision made by the new clause in Lord Hayward’s name to be inserted before clause 10.

Elections Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Cabinet Office

Elections Bill

Lord Hayward Excerpts
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I wish to make two points about these amendments. I do so in the hope—but not the expectation—that noble Lords who have set their faces against these clauses will look at them in a more favourable light.

First, all public bodies must be accountable, whether they are independent regulators or carrying out other kinds of function. This should not be a controversial statement. The role of the Speaker’s Committee, as set out in PPERA, with its focus on budgets and plans rather than outcomes and actions, provides a weak accountability framework. Indeed, the report on election fraud from my noble friend Lord Pickles, who I am glad to see in his place, found it ineffective. Clauses 15 and 16 beef up the Speaker’s Committee so that it can hold the Electoral Commission to account on the basis of the policy and strategy statement, remembering, of course, that that statement is not just the creature of government and must be consulted on and approved by Parliament. Anyone who opposes Clauses 15 and 16 really should explain how they would ensure that the Electoral Commission will be properly accountable, because the current arrangements are simply not fit for purpose.

Secondly, there is a myth that the strategy and policy statement is a de facto power of direction or involves giving instructions—I think that was the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott—to the Electoral Commission. Clause 15 could not be clearer. There is no obligation on the commission to follow the statement. There is no alteration of the core duties and obligations set out in PPERA. The commission’s only duty is to have regard to the statement and report annually on what it has done in consequence of it. That report might, in theory, say that it has done nothing in consequence of the statement, but given the generally bland nature of these policy and strategy statements, I think that would be unlikely.

The opponents of these clauses, however, say that the strategy and policy statements will influence the Electoral Commission, with the implication that influence is always malign. I believe that the independence of the Electoral Commission is founded in the independence of the thought and integrity of the commissioners themselves, and those commissioners are not appointed by the Government. Genuinely independent commissioners will do what they think is necessary in accordance with their statutory obligations, and they will do that whatever the Government tell them to do. The commissioners are the first line of defence against undue influence. Influence can be a positive thing, too. I hope noble Lords would have no problem if, for example, a statement influenced the commission to focus on important issues such as those that arose in relation to Tower Hamlets. I remind noble Lords that the Electoral Commission did not cover itself in glory when first encountering the issues there. I urge noble Lords not to support these amendments.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con)
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My Lords, I shall cover two or three points. I shall not go into detail about some of my concerns about the Electoral Commission, except to make a limited comment about difficulties I have at the moment. I will start by referring to comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, earlier in relation to referees. I wear my rugby referee’s tie with pride today because it is an indication of the impartiality one is required to have under all circumstances. No player or spectator ever accused me of not being impartial. They may have accused me of being incompetent, and did so volubly from the touchline, but they did not accuse me of not being impartial.

I must disagree with both my noble friends Lord Hodgson and Lady Noakes. As far as I am concerned, there are ways of dealing with the problems of the Electoral Commission. As I think many Members know, I have had more problems and more dealings with the Electoral Commission over the last 12 months than virtually anybody in this Chamber—and, my godfathers, does it not drive you barmy? I have sympathy with the Government because they are trying to tackle the problem. All I shall say on my latest difficulty, which has been running for four or five days, is: will the Electoral Commission please look at itself rather than passing to others the responsibility for policing matters—administering elections and the like? This problem has run since 2013 to my full knowledge. It keeps saying that other people need to deal with these matters but it does not look at itself.

These clauses are not a way of tackling the problems that I and others have faced with the Electoral Commission. As the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said, in effect, they tell us that the home team at a rugby match shall have the right to speak to the referee and tell him how he will referee that game. I am sorry, but I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes: if you are giving guidance, however softly and subtly you do it, you are influencing the Electoral Commission and not giving others that opportunity to influence it in the same way. We need to look at the way that the commissioners are appointed, and we may need to look at the way that other organisations around it operate, but the one thing we do not need to do is to tie the commission to guidance from the Government.