PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (NORTHERN IRELAND) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1989

DRAFT LOCAL ELECTIONS (VARIATIONS OF LIMITS OF CANDIDATES' ELECTION EXPENSES) (NORTHERN IRELAND) ORDER 1989

Tuesday 7 March 1989

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1

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Geraint Howells

Bell, Mr. Stuart (Middlesborough)

Buckley, Mr. George J. (Hemsworth)

Carlisle, Mr. John (Luton, North)

Dorrell, Mr. Stephen (Loughborough)

Evans, Mr. David (Welwyn, Hatfield)

Flannery, Mr. Martin (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)

Goodson-Wickes, Dr. Charles (Wimbledon)

Knowles, Mr. Michael (Nottingham, East)

McNamara, Mr. Kevin (Kingston upon Hull North)

Page, Mr. Richard (Hertfordshire, South-West)

Parry, Mr. Robert (Liverpool, Riverside)

Powell, Mr. William (Corby)

Ross, Mr. William (Londonderry, East)

Short, Ms Clare (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Stewart, Mr. Ian (Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office)

Vaughan, Sir Gerard (Reading, East)

Wolfson, Mr. Mark (Sevenoaks)

Seaward, Dr. P. C. Committee Clerk

2
3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 7 March 1988

[MR. GERAINT HOWELLS in the Chair]

Draft European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1989

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Ian Stewart): I beg to move, That the Committe has considered the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1989.

The Chairman: With the agreement of the Committee, it will be convenient to discuss with the regulations the draft Local Elections (Variations of Limits of Candidates' Expenses) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.

Mr. Stewart: These instruments introduce revised limits for election expenses and, in the case of European elections, for the deposit, uprated broadly in line with inflation since they were last increased. The new figures are the same as those proposed for the rest of the United Kingdom.

10.31 am

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East): These both appear to be small and simply matters, but they strike fairly solidly at the heart of democracy. They lay down the sums that can be spent by candidates in the two elections due to take place in Northern Ireland this year. In introducing and commending the order to the Committee, the Minister said that the increases were broadly in line with inflation, but even a casual look at the figures before us will show that they are very different sums. Given that both instruments relate to elections held under the proportional representation system—of which you would no doubt approve, Mr. Howells, if it were introduced into the rest of the United Kingdom, but of which the rest of the House appears only to approve for Northern Ireland and certain limited fields in Northern Ireland—a few more questions need to be asked. How do these sums compare with the limits on parliamentary expenses allowed for parliamentary elections? Why is there such a considerable difference in the sums involved? For the European Community election, there is an increase from £8,000 to £10,000, or 25 per cent. In the case of the local elections the increase is from £135 to £162, or 20 per cent. That does not seem to be a reasonable way to proceed. Surely individual candidates at local elections can expect to spend comparable sums locally to those permitted to be expended on an EC election. The other sum involved in the European election goes up from 3.5p to 4.3p per elector, or 22.8 per 4 cent. On the other hand, the local government sum increases from 2.8p to 3.2p, a considerably smaller rise. The EC election deposit increases from £750 to £1,000, which is a rise of one third. Those are vastly different increases, and one is entitled to ask how the different sums have been arrived at. Is there any rational, cohesive thought behind the increases? What is the basis of them? We should look more carefully at the amounts that are allowed to be spent in elections not only in Northern Ireland but more widely afield. I was in the United States 18 months ago in company with a member of Congress, who was at that time busily gathering money for his election. He is a nice chap. They are always nice chaps when they are not direct competitors, so as he was an American fighting an American election, he did not worry anyone in this House. I recall that he had spent about $300,000 in his previous election to the Hosue of Representatives, and he was expecting to spend more than $500,000 in the election last November. Happily, this country has long since moved away from that crazy system. However—to lift the hearts of everyone here—he took me off on a Sunday morning, which went against my rather Calvanistic principles, on a fund-raising exercise at a millionaire's home. There were 34 people present, and they raised $25,000 plus the train fare of the ex-governor, who came to speak for him. If political parties in the United Kingdom could raise such a sum on a Sunday morning from 34 people, they would be much more content with their fundraising activities than they are at present. I do not want to see that anywhere in the United Kingdom. I believe that the concept of a strict, rigidly-imposed limit is correct. But if we are to have such limits, they should be on a reasonable, logical and easily-understood basis. Simply to say that these are the sums that have been arrived at on the basis of a broadly similar percentage—and, as far as I can see, it is not very similar—and to leave it at that without giving an explanation of the roots out of which these sums grew, is insufficient for the Committee. Will the Minister tell us how the STV/PR system of election affects the sums allowed? Has it been taken into account that, if one were fighting either of these elections anywhere in the rest of the United Kingdom, the sums would apply to a single ward or constituency? The EC election applies to the whole of Northern Ireland; therefore the total sum that any candidate can expend is large. Exactly what is that sum? What are the sums in, say, the city of Belfast for a councillor standing there? The electorate may be 30,000, perhaps more. In my own local government area of Limavady, where there are perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 electors, the sums are very different. All those factors have an effect on the fundraising activities of the parties and on the difficulties that parties and individual candidates encounter in raising such sums. Indeed, I suspect that none of the candidates in the EC election will produce and spend sums of this magnitude. When we come down to local government elections, with much more restricted electorates, we find that the sums are much more reasonable. But 5 those sums are magnified by the fact that we have a PR system. We are now electing people under this dreadful system to local councils in Northern Ireland whose power is comparable to a parish council in Great Britain. Not only is it small. If all the Government's plans for privatisation go through and are applied in Northern Ireland—not least in relation to the Health Service, where local councils have a small input at present, albeit it is an ineffective, weak and pretty useless consultation process—we shall find that the powers are not being increased but decreased and degraded. Perhaps that is the reason for the much smaller sums being applied to local council elections. We must look at the system further. Candidates in the city of Belfast have to fight elections involving very large electorates, comparable with the smallest constituencies in the United Kingdom that you, Mr. Howells, and I both recall when we entered this House. I am not sure what the smallest electorate in the United Kingdom is at present. I suspect that it is the Western Isles, with about 25,000 to 30,000 constituents. That is roughly the size of the local government electoral areas in Belfast, where there are admittedly seven, eight, nine, 10 or perhaps more candidates fighting for a number of seats. All those candidates can spend these sums of money. It is a colossal waste of party resources. It would be far better if people fought single-member wards. Much of the problem of local government, with all the hullabaloo in the House during the past year about limiting the powers of local government, stems from something fundamentally wrong in its structure. If we got that structure right, the country would be in a much happier position. Reverting to my visit to the United States, if any members of the Committee have not been there, I advise them to go. During that visit we looked at federal, state, city and township government—a very interesting experience. It was borne in on me with great force that each layer of local government there had a specific function or functions, which had to be fulfilled and carried through on sums raised by it. Yesterday evening in the Chamber of the House, we discussed local government finance—an effort to make people aware of what their councillors were doing. In some respects this is a step in the right direction, but one that replaces one unjust system by another which is equally unjust, although the injustices fall on different people and from different directions. In the United States, that system has been overcome by having local taxes which are applied to specific functions. In those circumstances, those who administer local government functions cannot escape responsibility. Taxes that are widely based come from different sources. Yesterday, the House passed the final act for Scotland for the new local government finances, having ignored the same system in Northern Ireland. That system has two levels of local government rates, tailor-made, if anything can be in the United Kingdom, for the system that we are introducing for Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, the local rate could have been translated easily and effectively into a poll tax or community charge, with the rating system left for the regional functions into which at present local councils have a small input. 6 I am well aware that the subject of local government in Northern Ireland is a can of worms, which the Government have carefully buried. They opened it in 1979, when the late Mr. Neave, the protagonist at the time, was unfortunately murdered in the precincts of the House, and the Government then carefully closed it up and left it. They lament for all time having no local democracy, no local powers for Northern Ireland, and local people having no responsibility. It seems that that can be fulfilled in only one way—through a power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland, which was not covered by that. A local government election is coming up in Northern Ireland, we are asking people to stand up and take an enormous amount of abuse, and face great danger. I recall talking at some length to members of my own party on one of my local councils, who have had to sit watching Sinn Fein members noting down all that they said, so that everything noted down could be trotted out to justify future murder. If those councils were given more modest powers, or if we had an upper tier of local government in Northern Ireland such as the Government looked at 10 years ago and then considered sensible and six months later threw away when its architect was dead, we might have made progress. An opportunity is coming up in the elections for the Government to make announcements on what progress can be made. Methods and opportunities are open to them, yet they continue to beat against a stone wall, knowing that it will not move. They give the impression of doing something when they are doing nothing. The whole thing is tied up in local elections, and the sums that we expend on them are a large part of it. It is a waste of my time and that of the people of Northern Ireland to go to the polls to elect people who have no power and who cannot meet the needs of their constituents. That is the reality in Northern Ireland. If the Government get approval for the order today, as they undoubtedly can, they should consider it as but one small mechanical cog in the system of government. We must put heart and soul into the governing process of Northern Ireland. The only way that can be done is by giving people real power and authority at the levels where they operate. I and my friends in Northern Ireland have found it increasingly difficult to get people to stand in local government elections. We can always find candidates, but often people who have been in office since 1973 ask, "Why should we go on? We are utterly frustrated by seeing things that are wrong and can do nothing about them." Sometimes we find new candidates, who come in with great enthusiasm. By the end of their first term they have joined the ranks of the disillusioned. It costs parties a lot of time and effort to fight elections. Candidates fight them not because they particularly want the jobs, or want to be representatives, but to show that they are still there—more to stop their opponents from having control of those councils than because of any real good that they are capable of doing for those who elect them. The system funded by this measure is rejected by the House in this part of the Kingdom. The Northern 7 Ireland proportional representation of STV system is always sold as being fair and as a uniting system when in fact it is the most divisive system that the mind of man could come up with. It ensures that every tiny group—even an eight-seater, which is less than one-ninth of the electorate which elects the individual—has its own candidate, and therefore has someone to go to. Often they go round the whole eight, or however many it may be, and everybody is working at cross purposes. That does not happen to the same extent in single-member wards and constituencies, but, as people find that each group—however extreme, like Sinn Fein or the Ulster Volunteer Force—has a representative, they cling to that representative, and, instead of the whole electorate's going to an individual and learning that the opponent has not horns, hooves and a forked tail, they are driven further and further apart and are more splintered and fragmented into their various groupings. That is an outcome of the proportional representation system, and of any such system, which cannot be recognised or understood unless one has been elected by it, as I have, and lived under it, and had to deal with its consequences. There are consequences of everything that we do in politics, and that is but one of the PR system. It is time that it went, and the Government know it. It is time that we had single-member wards in Northern Ireland, with more power for local government. Given the decreasing role of local democracy, it is time that we had a local government body in Northern Ireland to take control of those functions that are controlled by local government here. The Minister knows the problems of housing, planning and health education and roads, in all of which councillors have a consultative role. What does "consultative" mean? It means that we listen to people. "Thank you very much," we are told. "But we are still going to do what we intended in the first place." I have rarely seen any major change, and only occasionally minor changes, made in plans as a result of that consultative process. Local government should have power, be seen to have it, and exercise it. It should be seen to be raising and spending its own finance and be responsible for it. At present in Northern Ireland it has no responsibility at any level, and, where there is no responsibility, people will not be responsible. They will always ask and complain, and never be constructive. That is the situation created in Northern Ireland more than 20 years ago, and it has had horrendous consequences for the community. Part and parcel of those problems of Northern Ireland rest at the roots of local government. The present structure was set up by the old Stormont Parliament. With the disappearance of Stormont, the central controlling body went. Because control is vested in the Minister—who does not stand for election there and knows little about what people feel and think on the spot—the system has been rendered headless. There is no democratic control. That is wrong. The system that Stormont set up could have worked had the democratic system of 8 Stormont remained. Once the head was cut off, we were left with a situation that should have been long since corrected but has not been. The Minister may well make the excuse that it has nothing to do with us, but it has, because the Government fund the elections. We shall hear the excuses, but they will not satisfy me. The local government structure of the United Kingdom has something fundamentally wrong with it. The Government, and probably former Governments have gone down the wrong path. The time is long past when we should find a more reasonable, sensible, responsible and responsive structure in which the financing of local government is clearly laid out so that people can understand it and, if money is wrongly or foolishly spent, have the power to dismiss the councillors responsible. It is long past the time that we should have a clear, simple electoral structure, where everyone could say, "That individual is my councillor, or my Member of Parliament, or my Member of the European Parliament". Time and time again people who would not vote for me and who hate my guts politically come to see me because I am their MP and am seen as such. Every Member of this House has the same experience. One hon. Gentleman no doubt has strong Tory constituents, and another has many Labour and alliance constituents, but they all come to see their MP whenever his services are needed. Councillors do not experience that. My council electors have their Sinn Fein member, their Unionist member and their SDLP member. It is all the fault of the Government, who know that such things are wrong, because if they were right they would not exist only in Northern Ireland; they would exist right here in the rest of the United Kingdom. This is washing the boil, not even putting ointment on it. It is time that the Government did something constructive about it.

10.56 am

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): I must apologise to the Committee for arriving 30 seconds late. I therefore did not hear the exposition by the Minister, but I listened with some concern to the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross), to whom the Committee and, indeed, the House, owes a considerable debt. He has put officially on the record some of the matters associated with deposits for elections in Northern Ireland and warned us against any system that detaches the accountability of the primary gift of any Member of this House to represent his constituency with a known tendency one way or the other. That is something that we in this place forget or neglect at our peril. He was right to do that. He also warned us against the electoral pitfalls of a list system.

Mr. William Ross: It is not a list system. It is the single transferable vote system.

Mr. Spearing: I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. What he said, therefore, is even more 9 important, in that discussions about the possibility of the single transferable vote are now perhaps fashionable. But what he said about the deposit is also important. He said that the STV system encouraged everyone to have a go. The splinter interests of all sorts, which we all have and know in our constituencies, sometimes provide a little spice of life, sometimes they are a perishing nuisance, and sometimes they are a downright undermining of democracy. I take it that the increase of the deposit from £750 to £1,000 goes some way to ameliorate that tendency, and to that extent I imagine that the hon. Member for Londonderry, East would be in favour of the regulations. But it hardly does much more than account for inflation over a few years—perhaps fewer years than Conservative Members would like, from the way inflation is going at the moment—and simply maintain the status quo. In view of what the hon. Gentleman said, there may be a case for putting it up still further. But while that system may endure, irrespective of its merits, certainly some of the disadvantages to which he drew our attention could be reduced.

Mr. William Ross: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that increasing the deposit is only one part of the order. It also lays down the proportion of votes that saves the deposit, and it is now a fraction of a quarter. That means that a candidate does not need many people voting for him to save his deposit, so all the evils of the PR system remain.

Mr. Spearing: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for providing that further information. I am afraid that I am ignorant enough not to know that that order is part of the total picture. I hope that the first thing that the Minister will tell us is why this part of the chain has been torn out of the total picture. An electoral picture must surely be all of a piece, and, if the deposit is going up but the fraction required for repayment is going down, we should know about it. I am getting signals that that might not be the case. I had better depart from Northern Ireland—a topic on which I have very little knowledge, although I am always willing to learn. It is in my willingness to learn that we can perhaps also understand what the hon. Member for Londonderry, East said, because the dearth of local government candidates is not only a matter for Northern Ireland. There is a similar dearth in the whole of the United Kingdom. I see Conservative Members nodding. It would be out of order for me to dwell on the reasons for that. I am a serious politician, although I do not always talk with the seriousness and profundity that people might like. Every Conservative Member is supporting a regime that demeans local government and therefore demeans government itself, because government in the United Kingdom is both central and local. If local government is weakened, the sinews of national government are weakened also. I put that to Government supporters as representatives in this place, irrespective of the parties to which they belong, because the support or undermining of local government is not necessarily primarily a party matter—or it should not be, although it has become 10 such, to their discredit and the discredit of their leader. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East has set us off on a train of thought that is important to us. I am an enthusiast for Parliament. I am disappointed with the Minister because, although I arrived in the Committee 30 seconds late, I do not think that he could have set out the importance of the instruments for us in that time. Although I know that he meant no disrespect either to the Committee or to the House, I am sorry that he did not spend a few minutes telling us the background and significance of the measures and their impact on the electorate. I do not blame him personally, because his lack of presentation and his attitude entirely reflect the style of the Administration. That style mirrors that of its leadership which in time will be seen to be one of the most disastrous that the country has had for some time. The Minister has, unwittingly perhaps, reflected the style to which the former right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) referred in a dramatic speech to Parliament. Will the Minister tell us more about the instruments? There are three, which have come out at various dates—for Wales, dated 22 July last, for England, dated 5 December last, and for Scotland, dated 5 January this year. The so-called explanatory note says that they result "where changes to the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies have resulted in inconsistencies between those boundaries and the boundaries of European Parliamentary constituencies." I do not understand that. I should say at once that I am not involved, and therefore have not read—perhaps I should have done—the report of the Boundary Commission to which it refers. If the boundary of a parliamentary constituency is changed, the name is not always changed. Therefore, if the names in the existing schedules, which we are now changing, are of the same parliamentary constituencies, one would suppose that, holus bolus, automatically any boundaries between parliamentary constituencies were reflected in the names, and that for European Community constituencies—I shall not use that word as accurately as is often the case—there would therefore be no need for the instrument. I do not think that the Minister told the Committee why in the 30 seconds for which I was absent, although he may have done, but I should like him to tell us, and what inconsistencies require adjustment. The schedules contain complete lists of parliamentary constituencies for a limited number of European Community constituencies where changes have taken place, but the order does not tell us the previous distribution. I am not complaining about that, because one should be able to make a comparison by looking up the relevant boundary in the previous order. It would have been helpful, however, if in laying out the schedule—whose authors may be in this Room, for all I know—the old schedule had been shown and the new one at the side. The Order could then have made the new one column (b), and anybody could have consulted it to see what the changes were. That would have been a better way of doing it, unless the reason for it is other than is 11 shown. If so, it ought to be in the explanatory note. Explanatory notes from Whitehall are notoriously inadequate, and not always accurate. So I should like the Minister to explain that. The third point that I should like the Minister to comment on, if he knows, is the degree of change. Will these regulations affect the electors? After all, this is a constitutional matter. How many electors will find themselves in different European Community constituencies? It may be only a few score here and there. It may be whole towns. Who is to know? If any hon. Member, particularly one who represented a rural seat—I know that the Minister represents Hertfordshire—found a major market town transferred to another European Community seat, it would be a matter of some concern to him. I do not suppose that it would make all that much difference, but we should know, if only to prepare the electorate. I have no doubt that the various parties in these areas, large and small, will already have had some wind of the order, because clearly they will have to have had some notification and, where necessary, a local inquiry, and they will probably be aware of the Boundary Commission's recommendations. The fact that nobody is challenging those recommendations here today suggests that they are not controversial, and we are in effect rubber-stamping them, but we should have some notion of the degree of change to which the Committee is being asked to give assent. I do not wish to be unduly critical nor do I wish to sully the fraternal atmosphere of the Committee by undue partisan remarks, but I believe that those that I have made are justifiable, they are the principle and they will be shown in the light of history to be correct. The procedural matters that I dwelt on latterly are also correct, because, if anybody wants to find out the whys and wherefore, they always look up the Committee Hansard and so far they will not have obtained much idea of the England, Wales and Scotland orders, although they will have learnt a great deal about politics in Northern Ireland, as we have this morning. Therefore, I hope that the Minister can throw some light on what may be naive queries. They may be questions the answers to which as a Member of Parliament I should know, but, although a Member of Parliament, I am speaking here as the man or woman in the ballot bax or the polling station who will be most affected by the orders.

11.8 am

Mr. Ian Stewart: First, let me say to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) that my purpose in giving the briefest of introductions to these instruments was solely to put the ball into play so that eloquent members of the Committee and visitors to the Committee like himself could make their points and then I could respond. It is right that I should now comment on the matters relating to the instruments that have been raised, but it seemed to me more sensible to listen to the contributions before trying to respond to them. I understand that the schedule to which the hon. Gentleman referred is currently being considered by 12 another Committee this morning. Therefore, I shall not attempt to deal with questions that go far beyond the implications of the instruments before us. The hon. Member for Newham, South asked about the UK position, which is different. It applies to the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, and is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I believe that the figures represent an increase from £3,370 to £3,648, plus an increase from 3.8p per elector in a county constituency to 4.1p and, in a borough constituency, from 2.9p to 3.1p. No doubt deposits and other matters will be considered closer to a forthcoming general election, as they normally are. I was glad that the hon. Gentleman welcomed the increase in the deposit for the European elections. The reason why that percentage is different from the others is that it was under-uprated the previous time. As hon. Members can see, it has been taken broadly in round figures, but we felt that it was not right to allow it continuously to fall behind, for the good reason put forward by the hon. Members for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) and for Newham, South.

Mr. William Ross: If there is a difference in the sums allowed to be expended and if those sums are changed only by reference to the inflation rate, the gap will widen with every uprating. When will they be brought more religiously into line?

Mr. Stewart: I was not dealing with the amounts of expenditure at that point, but simply referring to the question about the European deposit. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East asked about electoral expenses. The figure has been set after extensive consultations by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in conjunction with the Secretaries of State for Scotland, for Wales and for Northern Ireland to deal with the practical problems of expenditure in larger constituencies. There were cases in Scotland where, because of the large constituencies, a high figure was required. The limit for European elections in Northern Ireland, which the hon. Gentleman asked about, would be £55,000, but that is only a limit; no one has to spend anything like that amount. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be crazy if people in the United Kingdom spent the sterling equivalent of $300,000 or $500,000 on elections, and I hope that we never go down that road. Many of the hon. Gentleman's comments related to the system of local government rather than to the matters before us today. I do not criticise him for that. He has taken the opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with the electoral method used in Northern Ireland. It is a restatement of his party's position, which is well known, but it was interesting to hear his comments this morning. I also take note, although they go beyond the matters that we are considering, of his general comments about the desirability of extending local government in Northern Ireland and giving greater responsibilities to elected representatives. As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is easier said than done, but I very much 13 hope that it will be possible in due time to move towards a greater devolution of responsibility to the elected representatives. But here and now we are faced with elections in the next three months, both for local government and for the European Assembly, and we need to set new figures for candidates' expenses. The hon. Gentleman perfectly fairly asked me why there was a difference between the percentage uprating for the local government elections and that for the European elections. The reason is simple. The European figures was established in 1984 and the local government elections figure was last established in 1985. Therefore, the figure for the European elections covers a further year. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East also said that he thought that there were difficulties in Belfast and elsewhere because of the size of the constituencies under the present system. I acknowledge that that causes problems, but in local elections there, that is to some extent offset by the free delivery of election material, which does not apply elsewhere in the UK. The matter before the Committee is merely whether we should approve the adjustments in the regulations and the order. They have been the subject of wide consultation with, amongst others, the main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland and have been generaly accepted as desirable. I think it right that, as we are a few weeks away from the elections, we should now take the decision to uprate the amount of candidates' expenses in line with the figures that have emerged from that consultation. Therefore, I commend the orders to the Committee.

Mr. Spearing: I had thought that the Minister might have pursued matters relating to England, Wales and Scotland, interesting though his remarks 14 on Northern Ireland were. Do I take it that he does not wish to continue on this point and deal with the matters that I raised in my contribution?

Mr. Stewart: Not only do I feel that I should be out of order if I talked about matters which are specific to other parts of the United Kingdom, but I have to say in all modesty that I am not qualified to do so.

Mr. Spearing: On a point of order, Mr. Howells. I must apologise to the Committee. I was given the impression—perhaps I have it wrong—that we were dealing with the distribution of seats in the United Kingdom as well as in Northern Ireland.

The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman is not correct.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1989.

Draft Local Elections (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Expenses) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Local Elections (Variations of Limited of Candidates' Election Expenses) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.—[Mr. Ian Stewart.]

Committee rose at Nineteen minutes past Eleven o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Howell, Mr. Geraint (Chairman)

Buckley, Mr.

Dorrell, Mr.

Fox, Sir M.

Goodson-Wickes, Dr.

Knowles, Mr.

Page, Mr.

Powell, Mr.

Ross, Mr. William

Stewart, Mr.

Vaughan, Sir G.

Wolfson, Mr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(2):

Spearing, Mr. Nigel (Newham, South)