Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill — Disqualification — 22 Apr 1998
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 25, leave out 'local' and insert 'Parliamentary'.
This is a probing amendment. I am curious to know why the Government want to use the local rather than the parliamentary electoral roll for this purpose. I am sure that there is a good reason, but it is not immediately apparent to me. I assume that some people are on one register but not on the other. What is the precise reason for using the register of local electors rather than the electoral register used for parliamentary elections? Will the Minister elucidate that point?
Mr. Paul Murphy:
The first reason is that the franchise reflects that which will be used for the Scottish Parliament. The second reason is that nine members of the House of Lords will be able to vote and we should not deny them that opportunity in Northern Ireland. The third
I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 2, leave out lines 12 and 13.
The Second Deputy Chairman:
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 7, in page 2, leave out lines 15 and 16.
No. 8, in page 2, leave out line 17.
No. 9, in page 2, line 17, at end insert
Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), the Minister should tell the Committee exactly what is being done to combat electoral fraud and to ensure that the electoral process is honest, because IRA-Sinn Fein are not in the slightest worried about complying with UK electoral law; they are out to break it in every way they can. That being so, we should be told whether the Government are thinking of other means of identification for both the assembly and the referendum.
We have not yet been told anything about how people will be identified in either of the electoral turnouts. We need to know, because the parties will want to have a clear idea of what they will be expected to do in the run-up to the assembly elections and, indeed, to the referendum. Therefore, as the Government are taking this very wide power to make provision about the election and
"any matter relating to it"--
it is not just some matters--perhaps we can be told exactly what is intended.
Subsection (6)(a) says that an order may
"provide for an alteration made after a specified date in a register of local electors to be disregarded".
There is a cut-off date whereby a name can be placed on the electoral register. I am one of those folk who have always taken a fairly black-and-white view of the electoral register. As the Minister and the Committee will know, the register is compiled using electors' place of residence on 15 September in Northern Ireland and 10 October in Great Britain. That extra month in Northern Ireland gives the parties, the chief electoral officer and his deputies an opportunity to investigate those claiming the right to cast their ballot in elections in Northern Ireland. I welcome that.
I would be happy if the date of 15 September applied to Great Britain as well as to Northern Ireland. A date of 10 October creates a huge problem on this side of the Irish sea, as students return to university and are registered both at home and at university. A 15 September date would probably mean that 90 per cent. of those students would be at home and registered at home. A whole series of problems would then disappear overnight. I have made that point a number of times to the Home Office, but so far--
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, leave out lines 21 to 23 and insert--
'(2) An order under subsection (1) above may--
(a) require a seat last filled by a member of a registered party to be filled by another member nominated by that party (without a by-election);
(b) provide for a by-election to be held;
(c) prescribe such other method of filling vacancies as the Secretary of State thinks fit; and different provision (including provision that a vacancy shall not be filled) may be made for different circumstances.
(3) In this section "registered party" means any party registered under any enactment providing for the registration of political parties.'.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
That applies to shadow Ministers and Ministers when they take office. It cannot be clearer than that.
Question put, That the amendment be made:--
The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 174.
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