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European Parliamentary Elections Etc. (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 7:00 pm, 23rd October 2019

My Lords, I welcome the noble Earl to his Cabinet Office brief and look forward to our exchanges in the future. I join the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. He certainly had an encyclopaedic knowledge of these matters and was always very courteous in all our dealings. He will be missed from the Government Front Bench.

I thank the noble Earl for going through the regulations. He explained them very carefully and I read them and the report of the JCSI carefully. He elucidated them well for the House and I thank him for that: it was very helpful. I agree with everything said by all noble Lords who have spoken. A number of points were raised, and I know that the noble Earl will come back to us on those points. It is very regrettable that we find ourselves in this situation. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, made reference to the work of the Law Commission in respect of electoral law. This is slightly different from the main body of the regulations, but he said that it is looking at our electoral legislation.

I have raised these matters many times standing here. Usually the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, would answer them. I would say that our law is not fit for purpose, and he would say, “I agree entirely with the noble Lord that it is not fit for purpose”. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, has been great; we have had meetings with the noble Lords, Lord Tyler, Lord Rennard, Lord Hayward and Lord Gilbert, from the Conservative Benches, and my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley. We have sat there in meetings, including with Chloe Smith, and everybody agreed that our laws are not fit for purpose and we have to do something about it. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, says, we do nothing about it.

In the Queen’s Speech we have one tiny Bill about needing identification to come along and vote. We have a massive problem here, including what is going on with online campaigning. Who is behind these adverts, who is funding them and who is paying for them? What is going on? Is it foreign Governments? We do not know. We have the Prime Minister saying, “I want a general election”, but he is not prepared to do anything about this. Some time in the next few months or whenever it will be, we will have a general election, and there is no attempt from the Government to do anything about the state of electoral law.

We have an analogue electoral law system in a digital world, and that cannot be right. The Government really should talk to the other parties, then we could agree a Bill in both Houses that could go through very quickly to start to put some of this stuff right. That is the important thing. If we are to elect Governments, they have to be elected properly and fairly and everybody has to know that they have been elected properly and fairly. That is the tragedy of all this. That needs to be done but so far—I hope I am wrong—there seems to be no evidence that the Prime Minister wants to do that.

I will leave that there, but I hope that the noble Earl can take it back to his colleagues in government. On all sides of the House, we have to deal with the whole question of ensuring that our elections are free and fair and properly run so that we know that when we elect people, they will have been elected properly and fairly, and they can get the respect they deserve.