New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: I thank the Minister for allowing a free vote on the issue of the keeping of candidates' addresses confidential, if they so wish, at election time. I also thank him for the excellent assistance that I received from his officials in making it possible to draft such a satisfactory clause, which has now gone to the Other Place [House of Lords]. Given that this House has expressed its view – in a free vote by every party, apart from the Liberal Democrats – does he agree that it would be bizarre if the unelected House were to try to interfere with the clause? Can he give any indication as to what attitude the Government will take in the Other Place on the fulfilment of the wishes of this House? If the matter comes back here, will he guarantee that we will have enough time for a full debate on the subject?

[The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr Michael Wills): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his graciousness, particularly towards the officials. They are not often mentioned in this House, and when they are it is not always complimentary, but they do a fantastic job and so I am extremely grateful to him for those gracious words.

On the matter of substance, we took the view very seriously that the subject was a matter for this House, and hence there was a free vote. We took a great deal of trouble to ensure that the measure came to this House first, because we thought that it was proper for those who were elected to make a decision on their behaviour during elections and on what information they should make available. I am quite sure that those in the other place will take due account of that and behave appropriately. Of course, we will have to see what they do. When we have seen what they have done, we will make a decision about what will happen when the measure comes back here.]