CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

NOT EXACTLY A SPEECH BUT ... – 2 March 2009

LEWIS WINS BY 235 TO 176 VOTES (majority: 59)

Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should be most grateful if there were an opportunity to put new clause 23 to a vote on the grounds that it is consistent with decisions previously taken by the House about the security of hon. Members’ home addresses. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. In view of the comments that the hon. Gentleman has made, I have decided that in the circumstances he has outlined, I will select new clause 23 for a separate decision.

New Clause 23

Candidate at parliamentary election may withhold home address from publication

'(1) Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act (parliamentary elections rules) is amended as follows.

 (2) In rule 6 (nomination of candidates) –

     (a) sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (2) is omitted;

     (b) after paragraph (3) there is inserted –

“(4) The nomination paper must be accompanied by a form (in this Schedule referred to as the “home address form”) which states the candidate’s –

     (a) full names, and

     (b) home address in full.

Provision in paragraph (1) above about delivery of the nomination paper applies also to the home address form.

(5) The home address form –

     (a) may contain a statement made and signed by the candidate that he requires the home address not to be made public; and

     (b) if it does so, must state the constituency within which that address is situated (or, if that address is outside the United Kingdom, the country within which it is situated).”

(3) In rule 11 (right to attend nomination) –

     (a) in paragraph (3), after “nomination paper” there is inserted “and associated home address form”;

     (b) after paragraph (4) there is inserted –

“(5) The returning officer shall not permit a home address form to be inspected otherwise than in accordance with this rule, or for some other purpose authorised by law.”

 (4) In rule 12 (validity of nomination papers), in paragraph (1) –

     (a) after “consent to it” there is inserted “and the home address form”;

     (b) after sub-paragraph (a) there is inserted –

    “(aa) the returning officer decides that the home address form does not comply with rule 6(4); or”.

 (5) In rule 14 (publication of statement of persons nominated), after paragraph (3) there is inserted –

   “(3A) In relation to a nominated person in whose case the home address form (or, if the person is nominated by more than one nomination paper, any of the home address forms) contains –

     (a) the statement mentioned in rule 6(5)(a), and

     (b) the information mentioned in rule 6(5)(b),

the reference in paragraph (2) to the person’s address shall be read as a reference to the information mentioned in rule 6(5)(b).”

 (6) After paragraph (4) of that rule there is inserted –

    “(4A) Where –

     (a) two or more of the names shown on the statement are the same or so similar as to be likely to cause confusion,

     (b) paragraph (3A) applies in relation to each of the persons in question, and

     (c) the information mentioned in rule 6(5)(b) is the same for each of them,

the returning officer may cause any of their particulars to be shown on the statement with such amendments or additions as the officer thinks appropriate in order to reduce the likelihood of confusion.

    (4B) Where it is practicable to do so before the publication of the statement, the returning officer shall consult any person whose particulars are to be amended or added to under paragraph (4A).

    (4C) The returning officer must give notice in writing to any person whose particulars are amended or added to under paragraph (4A).

    (4D) Anything done by a returning officer in pursuance of paragraph (4A) must not be questioned in any proceedings other than proceedings on an election petition.

    (4E) A returning officer must have regard to any guidance issued by the Electoral Commission for the purposes of paragraph (4A).”

     (7) Before rule 54 there is inserted –

“Destruction of home address forms

53A The returning officer shall destroy each candidate’s home address form –

     (a) on the next working day following the 21st day after the officer has returned the name of the member elected; or

    (b) if an election petition questioning the election or return is presented before that day, on the next working day following the conclusion of proceedings on the petition or on appeal from such proceedings.” ' – (Dr Julian Lewis)

Brought up .

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

The House proceeded to a Division.

David Heath: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether there is any precedent for taking a Division on a completely undebated new clause, which falls in a later group that we have not yet reached, which is in the hands of Back Benchers from an opposition party and which has not even been moved. Is there a precedent for that?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I have made a decision, and given my ruling and the reasons why this vote has been taken. I have nothing further to add.

The House having divided: Ayes 235, Noes 176.

* * *

POINT OF ORDER 2 March 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: On a separate point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is there any way in which, within the rules, I can place on the record the fact that although both the Government and the Opposition treated this free vote as a free vote, the Liberal Democrats whipped all their Members to vote one way?

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I do not think that is a matter on which the hon. Gentleman – or, indeed, the House – should want me to rule. I think it is absolutely clear that there was a vote on Dr Lewis’s new clause, which the Chair accepted. It was a single vote, and I do not think anyone could have been in any doubt about what was happening at that time. [Interruption.] I have given my advice to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). He is an experienced Member of the House, and if he is disputing what has happened this evening I suggest he write to Mr Speaker, because there is now very little time left for the Secretary of State to move Third Reading, which I now call on him to do.

* * *

POINT OF ORDER – 3 March 2009

Simon Hughes: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, at the end of Report stage of the Political Parties and Elections Bill, the Deputy Speaker allowed a vote on a new clause that a Back-Bench colleague had tabled, which was not in a group of amendments that had been reached when the guillotine fell. I make no complaint about the Chair’s discretion to use the power that Standing Orders permit. However, I ask for your guidance about when the power can be used, given that until yesterday, whenever colleagues asked whether we could vote on an Opposition or Back-Bench new clause or amendment that would not have been reached by the time the guillotine fell, they were told that it was not possible, and that there was no precedent for it.

How, therefore, are colleagues to know whether an item that has not been reached by the time the guillotine falls will be called? How will they know that there will be a vote? How can they express any view about whether there should be a vote? Above all, how can we have a transparent system, whereby we know whether we can vote on business that is coming down the track, and – more importantly – whether we can debate it? My last point – [HON. MEMBERS: “Hear, hear!”] Everybody’s complaint on Report is that we do not have enough time for Opposition or Back-Bench new clauses or amendments. There is a wish for more time for debate, but not for voting, with no chance to debate.

Mr Speaker: Order. Let me put it on the record, in case there is any doubt, that the Deputy Speaker was acting on my instructions. I used the powers that the House gave me to allow a vote to take place. I do not need to give reasons for that, but I expect hon. Members to use some logic. Only a few weeks ago, a statutory instrument went through the House that allowed the addresses of Members of Parliament to be kept private. There was a debate on the matter, and when the amendment was tabled, I considered it right and fitting for parliamentary candidates to have that privacy. After all, as soon as a general election is called, every hon. Member becomes a parliamentary candidate. That is simple. The hon. Gentleman asks how Members will know when there is to be a vote. If any hon. Member comes to me or the occupant of the Chair and asks, “Is there going to be a vote on that amendment?” sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. It could not be simpler.

[For the relevant entry in the blog of Nadine Dorries MP, click here.]

[For what happened later in the House of Lords, click here.]