Clause 23 - Extension of powers to make secondary legislation about elections etc

Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 16th July 2013.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The clause is a technical one, increasing the flexibility and technical scope of the Secretary of State’s order-making powers under the 1998 Act. I will give an example of why that needs to be done. Should we want to bring in a pilot on electronic counting in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State at the moment would not technically have the powers to bring that in. This measure would extend the powers to do so under section 34 of the 1998 Act. I hope the Committee will agree that technical measure.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am conscious that a colleague from Northern Ireland has tabled amendments to clause 23. I think the amendments from the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long) were intended as probing amendments to seek assurance. Can the Minister assure us that the pilots permitted on different methods of registration would not include any differential in the voting age in relation to the register?

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

May the record show that the hon. Member for Belfast East is in Westminster Hall discussing a Bill at the moment? I appreciate my comment is somewhat an abuse of my position here, but I think it is important that the record show that.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I thank the hon. Member for Ealing North for advertising that point. Some of us would have liked to be in Westminster Hall as well, because the bill of rights is an important part of the Good Friday agreement and long overdue. I am taking the opportunity to ask the Minister because the question has been raised. I have separately tabled a new clause to try to get the Assembly to be allowed the power to lower the voting age for Assembly and local government elections. However, I certainly would not want the Assembly to have the power to lower the voting age in some places on a pilot basis and not in others. The franchise would have to remain equal in all constituencies.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 11:15 am, 16th July 2013

I must address that straight away. The clause is for the Secretary of State to have the power for a pilot. It would have absolutely nothing to do with voting age.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 23 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.