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Clause 27 — Changes to existing limits

Part of Access to Mental Health Services – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 10th September 2013.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee 6:00 pm, 10th September 2013

I do not want to get drawn into too many specific cases, but my right hon. Friend highlights one issue, which is, when two charities who wish to pursue their legitimate aims are at variance with each other, how do they not, in an election year—because it is known when the election will be; it is 602 days from today—launch legal action against each other? Such bodies can be a bit litigious. Will the League Against Cruel Sports allow the Countryside Alliance to get away with something that might just be embarrassing? Instead it will say, “Let’s see if we can nudge them into court; let’s tie ’em up a little bit.” Or is it possible—Simon Hart is in his place—that the Countryside Alliance might even say to the League Against Cruel Sports, “You have stepped over the line here,” with such amounts of money as my right hon. Friend Mr Clarke referred to?

Then in comes the police force. Who will be the police force? It will be the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission will be pushed in between two contending charities to be the referee—to push those people apart. And do what else? If it is informed by one slightly malicious party that an infringement is going to take place, does it have to send its own people? Do they have to stop people getting on the platform? Do they take down the advertisements outside? What are we doing making the Electoral Commission the thought police of free speech in this country—a job it does not want and has not asked for, and was not even consulted about before it picked up the Bill at The Stationery Office? It was not even consulted about the proposed change to its role.