HOUSE OF COMMONS
Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
DRAFT REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE (NORTHERN IRELAND) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1989
Thursday 20 July 1989
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairman: SIR JOHN STRADLING THOMAS
Abbott, Ms. Diane (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
Corbyn, Mr. Jeremy (Islington, North)
Forsythe, Mr. Clifford (Antrim, South)
Hampson, Dr Keith (Leeds, North-West)
Harris, Mr. David (St. Ives)
Haselhurst, Mr. Alan (Saffron Walden)
Hayes, Mr. Jerry (Harlow)
Irvine, Mr. Michael (Ipswich)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine (Lancaster)
Knowles, Mr. Michael (Nottingham, East)
Leigh, Mr. Edward (Gainsborough and Horncastle)
Loyden, Mr. Eddie (Liverpool, Garston)
McCartney, Mr. Ian (Makerfield)
McNamara, Mr. Kevin (Kingston upon Hull, North)
Needham, Mr. Richard (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)
Taylor, Mr. John M (Solihull)
Wall, Mr. Pat (Bradford, North)
Wood, Mr. Timothy (Stevenage)
Dr. P.C. Seaward, Committee Clerk2 3 Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Thursday 20 July 1989
[SIR JOHN STRADLING THOMAS in the Chair]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Draft Representation of the People (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1989. The Regulations before us result from changes to the local government franchise made earlier this year by the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989. The transitional provisions contained in section 13 of that Act allowed the 10,800 or so "I" voters on the register to vote at this year's local government elections and I am sure that many of them will have done so. These regulations will make proper permanent provision for the registration of local electors for the future. There are two other points to which I should like to draw attention. The Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act brought the local elections franchise broadly into line with the franchise for elections to this House. I say "broadly" because there is still one group with whom I have a tangential interest who would be precluded from voting in local elections if we did not have these regulations. They are the peers of the United Kingdom who live in Northern Ireland. It would be a sad day if Lord Brookeborough and Lord Dunleath could not cast their votes in local elections. In future, such electors will be denoted by the letter "L", standing for local, not Lord—next to their names in the register. That brings the position of peers of the United Kingdom living in Northern Ireland in line with that of those in the rest of the United Kingdom. It does nothing for peers of Ireland who live in Northern Ireland. The second point covers the provision of copies of the 4 register. We have taken the opportunity of these amendment regulations to review who receives how many copies and whether they are provided free of charge or not. Under the former registration rules, repealed by the 1989 Act, candidates at local elections in Northern Ireland, or their agents, were entitled on request to two free copies of the electoral register for the district electoral area in which they were standing. We now propose that the future entitlement will be one free copy per candidate. That also brings the law into line with the position in Great Britain. However, it seems reasonable that serving councillors should also be entitled to one free copy of the register for their district electoral area, as the draft regulations now provide. The councils themselves will also be entitled to one free copy of the register for the whole of the district. We believe that this will be welcomed by those concerned. Some district councils, and others, have expressed concern that the councils were not entitled to a free copy of the register. These changes will also bring Northern Ireland into line with the current position in Great Britain. As previously, under the present regulations, anyone who is entitled to receive a free copy of the register may purchase additional copies at the lower rate of 20p per 1000 names, rather than the usual rate of £2 per 1000. This provision will thus apply to councils, councillors and candidates.
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North): The only welcome provision in the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 was the matter which we are regularising today. I therefore salute the Government for doing this. We welcome the supply of copies of registers to all candidates and local councillors; that is important for democracy. Finally, may I welcome the provision about peers of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland? It was never a problem for Irish peers on this island, only that they lived here rather than in the Kingdom of Ireland.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Draft Representation of the People (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1989.
Committee rose at twenty-seven minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Stradling Thomas, Sir John (Chairman)
Forsythe, Mr. Clifford
Kellett-Bowman, Dame E
Taylor, Mr. John M.