Clause 8

Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 25 April 2006.

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Tenure

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I beg to move amendment No. 11, in clause 8, page 7, line 28, after ‘by', insert

‘Her Majesty The Queen on the recommendation of'.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 12, in clause 8, page 7, line 35, leave out ‘Secretary of State' and insert ‘Her Majesty'.

No. 13, in clause 8, page 7, line 37, leave out ‘dismiss' and insert

‘recommend to Her Majesty the dismissal of'.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I have just agreed to the programme motion, but I do not intend to fill both sittings, although if we need to do so, we shall. I do not want to drag debates out, so I shall speak briefly to the amendment, which is intended to probe the Minister.

I have mentioned in the Chamber the fact that the police ombudsman, for example, is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, no doubt on the recommendation of the Secretary of State. However, the chief electoral officer is to be appointed by the Secretary of State. We had a long debate on that issue on the Floor of the House during discussion of a separate amendment.

I was concerned that there could be a rather incestuous relationship between the Secretary of State and the chief electoral officer. It particularly concerned me that, in circumstances that were not clearly defined—they were defined by the words “public interest”—the Secretary of State would have the power to cancel a canvass of the electorate if he felt that appropriate.

We could not satisfactorily tease from the Minister the circumstances in which it might be in the public interest to cancel such a canvass. I have tabled the amendment to explore the situation again and ask the Minister why it is appropriate for the Secretary of State to make the appointment. That seems inconsistent with other, similar appointments.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I hope that I can help the hon. Gentleman, and I fully understand why he tabled his amendment. I refer him to the statutory provision that provides for the appointment of the chief electoral officer—the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962, in which no mention is made of Her Majesty the Queen. However, the post is, is understood to be and is defined as a Crown appointment. The wording of the clause will preserve the current position; in essence, the chief electoral officer will still be a Crown appointment.

There is no need for the amendment. In fact, inserting a reference to the Queen would put the chief electoral officer, for the first time, on the same statutory footing as, for example, senior clergy in the Church of England. The amendment is unnecessary because the post will be a Crown appointment. Given that assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. The concerns that we raised in Committee in the House remain—we were not satisfied with the explanation on that occasion—but I accept that we were discussing a different amendment on a different day. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I beg to move amendment No. 20, in clause 8, page 7, line 30, at end insert—

‘(1A) A person must not be appointed as Chief Electoral Officer for less than two years at a time.'.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 5, in clause 8, page 7, line 31, leave out subsection (2).

No. 6, in clause 8, page 7, line 33, leave out subsection (3).

No. 7, in clause 8, page 8, line 5, leave out subsection (6).

No. 23, in clause 8, page 8, line 10, leave out ‘plus' and insert ‘less'.

No. 8, in clause 8, page 8, line 11, leave out subsection (7).

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I, too, am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Taylor—in this and perhaps a second sitting.

We are still discussing clause 8, which concerns the tenure of the chief electoral officer. Amendments Nos. 20 and 23 stand in my name and I shall say a little about each. However, I would like to remind the Committee of the words of the Minister in his winding-up speech on Second Reading. Speaking about the chief electoral officer and his independence, the Minister said:

“The proposal will bring the chief electoral officer into line with other modern approaches and modern terms and conditions of appointment.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2006; Vol. 443, c. 1244.]

I would be thrilled and delighted to hear from the Minister which other modern approaches and modern terms and conditions of appointment are mirrored by  those of the chief electoral officer. I say that specifically because, under clause 8(3), the period for which a person holds office as chief electoral officer must not exceed 10 years. That seems clear. There is no discretion.

This is where my amendment No. 23 is particularly important. It applies to subsection (6), which drives a coach and horses through the provision that the fixed-term appointment must not exceed 10 years. It sets out an exception to that golden rule and states:

“This section applies in relation to the person who at commencement holds the office of Chief Electoral Officer as if...the total period which under subsection (3) must not be exceeded were 10 years plus the period of his appointment before commencement.”

If the Minister wishes to have a fixed term and wishes to have, as he said on Second Reading, the chief electoral officer brought into line with other modern approaches, let us have a fixed term of 10 years and let us replace the word “plus” with “less”. Let us have 10 years. Let us have a fixed-term appointment. That is the purpose of amendment No. 23.

I turn now to amendment No. 20, which is the lead amendment in the group. Curiously, subsection (2) states:

“A person must not be appointed as Chief Electoral Officer for more than 5 years at a time.”

That seems clear. However, it means that the person who is appointed as chief electoral officer could be appointed for a week, a month or an hour. I gently suggest to the Minister that one of the modern examples to which he referred on Second Reading could have been a reflection of the appointment of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. According to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, an appointment as ombudsman may be full-time or part-time, but it

“shall be for a period of 7 years.”

That was the modern approach to take to the appointment of the chief electoral officer.

Under the Bill, the chief electoral officer has no security of tenure and cannot be appointed for more than five years. Amendment No. 20 would secure a basic minimum tenure of two years for the chief electoral officer. That is a significant and responsible position, particularly in Northern Ireland where we have a history of electoral fraud. Can the Minister explain why this phraseology has been used? Is it just poor drafting? Will he accept the amendments, even at this late stage?

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 10:45, 25 April 2006

I understand the spirit in which the hon. Lady tabled the amendments. There is nothing unusual in the way that the clause is drafted. It uses similar terms and conditions to those used in other legislation, for example, provisions relating to the commissioners on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the police ombudsman. The same conditions and the same method of appointment that apply under this clause apply to those posts. All those office holders, like the office holder we are discussing, are, of course, independent of the Government. Therefore, they are useful role models in respect of the  appointment of the chief electoral officer. The time limit on their terms does not in any way diminish their independence.

As the hon. Lady identified, under clause 8, the chief electoral officer can be appointed for a term of up to 5 years, and nobody can hold the post for more than 10 years. I have also made something clear about the incumbent at the time the Bill is enacted. Denis Stanley has recently retired as chief electoral officer and we are in the process of appointing a new one. I am not yet clear, as you will not be either, Mr. Taylor, when or if the Bill will receive Royal Assent. Therefore, we have said that the time scale for the appointment of the chief electoral officer will commence when Royal Assent is given to the Bill and when it is enacted. An individual might be appointed in the next few months and they will have up to 10 years, plus the period up until the Bill receives Royal Assent. I hope that that clarifies matters.

I understand the reasons why the hon. Lady wishes to specify a minimum period. I simply say to her that the normal practice is that individuals will be appointed for up to five years and that will, in normal practice, mean five years; there are few circumstances in which I can foresee the Secretary of State appointing someone for less time than that.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

Does the Minister agree that the present wording indicates that the person who is appointed chief electoral officer, and who will take up the work that Denis Stanley has been doing so courageously and well for such a long period, can be appointed for just a week or just a month? The Minister referred to “normal practice”. Why will he not simply change the wording to make it clear that the initial appointment will be for a term of not less than five years?

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I can confirm to the hon. Lady that the Bill, as drafted, will ensure that a person can be appointed for a term of up to five years. I am happy, outside the Committee, to reflect on the points that she has made. There might be merit in specifying a minimum term, but the normal practice for other posts is the same as is in this provision. I hope that she can accept that. I shall happily examine whether it is in the interests of the chief electoral officer and the Government to consider her proposals, because there might be merit in them. I shall not prejudge the case. The normal practice is proposed in the Bill. Given those comments, I hope that she will withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I am most grateful to the Minister. I am glad that I intervened, because following my intervention he gave a commitment, honourably and rightly, as is his habit, to listen to representations, particularly those from Members from Northern Ireland, who have particular concerns having grown up there, borne the brunt, and known what electoral fraud means and how votes are stolen. Stealing votes is a serious criminal offence. The office of the chief electoral officer is a particularly important one in Northern Ireland.

I am reflecting on earlier clauses, which I shall not comment on in detail. The Minister will know from a debate on the Floor of the House last week, that the Bill, in its earlier clauses, also abolishes the annual canvass and has instituted a canvass that might take place at 10-yearly intervals. That means that it is important that whoever is appointed as Denis Stanley’s successor has independence. Such independence is brought about by a secure tenure in post of at least five years and up to 10 years, and not by their having a short minimum period. If fraud is creeping back into the system, and if the antennae of those in the electoral office tell them that there is mischief, such as people being registered to vote who are not entitled to do so, it is important that the chief electoral officer has been in post for a considerable period of time.

Reflecting on the change to the annual canvass and the importance of the point that the chief electoral officer should be independent and have security of tenure, I look forward to subsequent discussions with the Minister on this point after the Committee. However, given his assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I beg to move amendment No. 19, in page 7, line 41, leave out ‘an' and insert ‘a criminal'.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 9, in page 8, line 4, at end insert—

‘(5A) The Secretary of State must set out in writing the reasons for dismissing the Chief Electoral Officer in this section and place a copy before each House of Parliament.'.

No. 21, in page 8, line 4, at end insert—

‘(5A) The Secretary of State must dismiss the Chief Electoral Officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment.'.

No. 22, in page 8, line 4, at end insert—

‘(5B) The Secretary of State must dismiss the Chief Electoral Officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence and been sentenced to a term of imprisonment whether suspended or not.'.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

Amendments Nos. 19, 21 and 22 relate to the chief electoral officer him or herself, who will be appointed shortly. Again, it is curious drafting that has caught my attention and led to my tabling of the amendments. Clause 8(5)(b) is critical in relation to the amendment. It contains a discretion, not a duty that

“The Secretary of State may dismiss the Chief Electoral Officer if satisfied that—... b) he”— or presumably she—

“has been convicted of an offence”.

What jumped off the page was the omission of the word “criminal”. I am not a member of a golf club, but without anything to limit it, the word “offence” includes offences referred to as disciplinary offences, which are breaches of the rules of a golf club—or those of other organisations. I am sure that it is not intended that the Secretary of State may dismiss the chief electoral officer for a minor infringement of golf club rules.

Amendment No. 19 would ensure that the word “criminal” is included in the subsection to make it clear that the current drafting is far too wide and would ensure that the wording is narrowed to make it clear that only a criminal offence would be relevant. That would bring the wording into line with the appointment of members to the Policing Board. I notice that the Minister has his colleague who is responsible for policing and security with him, the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward). Given the recent controversy about appointments to the Policing Board, I am sure that both Ministers from the Northern Ireland Office will know that the Secretary of State may, under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, dismiss and remove an independent or a political appointment to the Policing Board, if that person has been convicted of a criminal offence in Northern Ireland after their appointment.

Regarding amendments Nos. 21 and 22, I repeat that the office of the chief electoral officer is important because its holder carries out a job that gives confidence to the public in Northern Ireland. The person in question must be satisfactorily qualified and remain qualified to command the respect of the community in Northern Ireland, whatever community it might be. Amendment No. 21 would insert a requirement for the Secretary of State to dismiss the chief electoral officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment.

Amendment No. 22 would ensure that the Secretary of State must dismiss— [Interruption.] This is for the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), who, I am sure, will wish to comment on this amendment. Amendment No. 22 would ensure that the Secretary of State must dismiss the chief electoral officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, whether suspended or not. It seems incredible to me that even if the chief electoral officer has been found guilty of a heinous crime that carries with it a term of imprisonment, there is no duty under the Bill to require the chief electoral officer to stand down from his post. We are not talking about a member of staff in the electoral office, but the chief electoral officer himself or herself.

It is incumbent upon the Minister to accept the amendments so that there will be no discretion for the Secretary of State and so that the removal of the chief electoral officer will be compulsory when the criminal conviction carries a sentence of imprisonment. I am not aiming at minor infringements of the criminal law, but at the compulsory removal of a chief electoral officer who has been found guilty of a criminal offence that is punishable by a term of imprisonment. That is the simple import of the amendments, which are all sensible and straightforward. The Minister would do well to accept them.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I shall speak to amendment No. 9, which may sound a little heavy-handed and bureaucratic. However, I refer the Committee back to our debate on the Floor of the House about the control that the Secretary of State might have over the chief electoral officer and the concern that was  expressed at the time. I refer to the opportunity for the Secretary of State to cancel a canvass of the electorate that might be recommended by the chief electoral officer, and the fact that his reasons for cancelling such a canvass are apparently covered by the words “in the public interest”. We did not receive a satisfactory explanation of that phrase.

The chief electoral officer can be dismissed for the reasons set out in the Bill. According to clause 8(5)(d), those include if

“he is unable or unfit to carry out his functions.”

That could be considered slightly vague. In the context of Northern Ireland, in particular, it is important to have a chief electoral officer with some degree of autonomy and independence. I am concerned that that will not be the case under the arrangements that have been made.

I will not try the patience of the Committee by going over the ground that we covered on the Floor of the House, as hon. Members will be familiar with what was said. However, if relations become strained between the Secretary of State and the chief electoral officer, it should be made public why the Secretary of State feels the need to dismiss the chief electoral officer. It seems a bit bureaucratic to lay the report before the Houses of Parliament, but I do not think that it would take up a great deal of the Secretary of State’s time. There are not many changes taking place with regard to drawing up the list of electors, but transparency and, more importantly, confidence in the process in Northern Ireland are essential. That is my motivation in introducing amendment No. 9.

Photo of Alasdair McDonnell Alasdair McDonnell Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

I want to add my tuppence-worth to the comments made by my learned colleague, the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon). The point is that the chief electoral officer needs to be seen to be independent and to be as autonomous as possible. Others have expressed significant concerns, which are genuine. It is possible—I hasten to add not under the present Government, as no such thing would ever happen with the present team of Ministers—that a future Government could try to exercise control over the chief electoral officer.

The SDLP shares those concerns and thinks that it would be right to build in that sensible safeguard. All it will do is require the Secretary of State to set out his reasons for dismissal of a chief electoral officer in a report to Parliament. We think that is entirely appropriate. We are therefore pleased to have the opportunity to add our names to the amendment and urge the Ministers to take our genuine concern into consideration.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 11:00, 25 April 2006

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Hopefully, I can reassure him that the chief electoral officer is and will be independent of the Government. The safeguards in the Bill allow that position to be independent. It is reflected throughout the Bill and in the way in which the current Government operated with the previous chief electoral officer, Denis Stanley.

I understand the points that the hon. Member for North Down made. I do not believe that the word “criminal” is necessary. It is used in other legislation—and there are different drafting styles in legislation—but the meaning of this Bill is exactly the same as the meaning of other Acts with regard to criminal convictions. It is not necessary to specify that the offence in clause 8(5)(b) should be criminal.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

Will the Minister just name one piece of recent Northern Ireland legislation where the word “criminal” has been omitted from in front of the word “offence”—just one?

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am the fount of much knowledge and I have taken through a number of Northern Ireland Bills but, off the top of my head, I cannot answer that particular question.

However, clause 8(5)(b) does refer to criminal offences, as the clause is clear that the chief electoral officer can be dismissed only if a conviction has taken place, and convictions are available only in the criminal courts. Therefore, although I accept that the word “criminal” is not included in the clause, in essence, a conviction means a conviction in a criminal court, and that means exactly the same as what the hon. Lady’s amendment is trying to achieve.

I could add the word “criminal” into the legislation. There is not a problem with that, but the Bill, as drafted by myself and my officials, will achieve the same purpose. If the hon. Lady so wants, I am happy to reflect on whether the word “criminal” should be included, but the effect will be the same.

Mr. Robertsonrose—

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, it is important to clarify matters, because I want to refer to amendments Nos.21 and 22 that the hon. Lady has tabled. I differ from her because under her amendments, the chief electoral officer would be dismissed if he or she were convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, whether suspended or not, at any time during his or her career. I want to ensure that a criminal offence would mean a dismissal if it occurred during the tenure of the chief electoral officer, not historically.

I am not suggesting that any future Secretary of State or, indeed, Her Majesty would appoint a chief electoral officer who has criminal convictions. However, the clause is designed specifically to ensure that if a criminal conviction occurs during the tenure of the office, the Secretary of the State can dismiss the individual. As we discussed last week in the Chamber, previous convictions are matters for consideration but are not a bar to holding the particular office.

I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson). There may be a need for a statement on the reasons why the dismissal of the chief electoral officer has occurred. Clause 8(5)(a),(b),(c) and (d) show clearly the circumstances in which a chief electoral officer may be dismissed by the Secretary of State. It would be an additional  bureaucratic burden for the Secretary of State to undertake the hon. Gentleman’s proposal. He used those words when speaking to the amendment. I agree with him that it would be an additional bureaucratic burden.

Should the chief electoral officer have need to contest why the Secretary of State dismissed him or her, he or she has recourse in law, as does any individual dismissed from a post. They could also make their complaints public if they so wish. So if the Secretary of State had acted in an underhand way, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, the chief electoral officer could go public with the reasons why he or she was dissatisfied with that decision. To add a legal requirement to produce a report for Parliament would be a step too far. I hope that the safeguards built into the clause will satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

With that, I ask hon. Members not to press their amendments. I hope that I have given a satisfactory explanation of the way in which we approached the legislation and that I have satisfied hon. Members on the points raised.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I am terribly sorry to disappoint the Minister but I did not find his response satisfactory in the least. He kindly said that he “could”—I am quoting him directly—add the word “criminal”. That is precisely what I am asking him to do under amendment No. 19. I understand from the Minister’s hesitation that he accepts that “criminal” should have been included.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

There is no hesitation on my part; I simply say to the hon. Lady that the clause does what she wishes it to do. If a conviction occurred, it would occur in a criminal court, and the individual would be dismissed on that basis. That is an accepted definition. There are differences in drafting styles between different Bills, but that is an accepted definition, and I hope that it will satisfy the hon. Lady that there is no need for her amendment, which would add an extra word to the Bill but not change its meaning.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I am most grateful to the Minister. I can assist him with some references to recent Northern Ireland legislation on that very matter. He might like to know that the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 says:

“The Secretary of State may call upon the Ombudsman”— that is the police ombudsman—

“to retire...if satisfied that the Ombudsman has...been convicted of a criminal offence”.

That is written into the Act. Let me refer the Minister also to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, a more recent piece of legislation. He may like to know that schedule 1, which relates to the Policing Board, says that:

The Secretary of State may remove a person from office as an independent or political member of the Board if satisfied that...he has been convicted of a criminal offence in Northern Ireland”.

The word “criminal” appears in that Act. Those are recent pieces of legislation in Northern Ireland in which the word “criminal” is included. That is what I am asking about.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I have no wish to cause a row where a row need not exist. Essentially, the hon. Lady will be aware that the legislation that we support has exactly the same meaning as her amendment. I am happy to reflect on the matter with my officials and to write to the hon. Lady. I would rather do that because as the hon. Lady will understand, in Committee, the wording of legislation is carefully thought-out by parliamentary draftsmen to have specific meanings. I believe that the meaning of the legislation is exactly the same as it would be if we added the word “criminal”. I would rather reflect on the matter than accept the amendment for the simple reason that there may be different circumstances.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I am grateful to the Minister for assuring me that, once again, he will reflect upon the inclusion of the word “criminal” in front of the word “offence” in clause 8(5). It just seems a simple, obvious request for clarification in the Bill to make it consistent with earlier pieces of Northern Ireland legislation. The Bill is poorly drafted; that is the problem. I would like the word “criminal” included.

The more important issue—and here I will have an argument with the Minister—is his refusal to accept the amendments that make reference to the chief electoral officer, including amendment No. 21, which says:

“The Secretary of State must dismiss the Chief Electoral Officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment.”

Alternatively, amendment No. 22 says:

The Secretary of State must dismiss the Chief Electoral Officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence and been sentenced to a term of imprisonment whether suspended or not.”

The Minister took issue with the amendments on the grounds that they could relate to a previous conviction held by the chief electoral officer. I am sure that it is not necessary to draw the Minister’s attention to this point, but clause 8(5)(c) gives the Secretary of State the power to dismiss the chief electoral officer if he is satisfied that

“a bankruptcy order has been made against him, or his estate has been sequestrated, or he has made a composition or arrangement with, or granted a trust deed for, his creditors”.

Does it say that that must have happened during the term of his office as chief electoral officer? No, it does not. The Bill does not refer to a criminal conviction. However, it does refer to a bankruptcy order, sequestration or a composition arrangement with creditors.

I humbly—though in ill temper—suggest to the Minister that it is much more serious for a chief electoral officer to have been found guilty of a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. That should be in the Bill, and the Minister’s excuse for refusing to include it is woeful, taken in the context of the Bill’s provisions for dismissal on grounds of bankruptcy, whether past or current. The Bill does not set a time  scale. I am sorry to detain the Committee but I refuse to withdraw the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 15.

Division number 1 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 8

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 15 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

Is it the hon. Lady’s intention to press amendments Nos. 21 and 22 to a Division?

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

I would be persuaded, if the Minister would care to intervene to indicate that he is prepared to reflect on making the Bill more—

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

Order. The debate is concluded. The decision to press the amendments to a Division is in the hon. Lady’s hands.

Amendment proposed: No. 21, in clause 8, page 8, line 4, at end insert—

‘(5A) The Secretary of State must dismiss the Chief Electoral Officer if satisfied that he has been convicted of a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment.'.—[Lady Hermon.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 15.

Division number 2 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 8

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 15 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.