Second Reading

Part of Political Parties and Elections Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:34 pm on 18th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative 5:34 pm, 18th March 2009

My Lords, if we have a particular security threat, which is a rather specialist case, then the case might be made. However, as a matter of course, if every single parliamentary candidate can avoid giving any detailed information about where he lives, we are shutting off the electorate from the candidate in a way that is undesirable as a matter of course. Clearly, we hope that the issues that particularly affected my noble friend—Northern Ireland and so on—are a thing of the past. The proposal to introduce this without debate or consideration of the various aspects of which this is an important part is something that we should examine again in Committee.

My final point is that the Electoral Commission will have an extraordinarily heavy burden to play in this new world. The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, quoted from the report on the Committee on Standards in Public Life. After her quote, the report went on to say:

"Through a combination of deficiencies in its current mandate, that is too weak in some areas and too broad in others, combined with a lack of courage, competence and leadership in its regulatory and advisory approach, the Commission has not successfully performed these core duties".

We cannot legislate for courage, competence and leadership; that will be achieved in the hearts of the men and women who serve on the commission, who will need to be well endowed with those characteristics. But we can and should provide the appropriate framework. While welcoming the rather glacial progress that this Bill represents, I am not convinced that the Government have done enough to provide the right architecture to enable the Electoral Commission to execute its heavy responsibilities.