Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague).
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you give a ruling on a matter concerning the Bill that we are about to discuss? A similar matter also appeared in the Scottish and Welsh referendum Bills. Clause 1 relates to a question on Government proposals to be put in a referendum. As yet, we have no such proposals, as they are to be included in the White Paper. Is it appropriate that we should debate legislation on proposals before we know what those proposals are?
Presumably, the hon. Gentleman is attempting to defend his party's amendment.
That will come later.
I think that I know precisely what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I remind him that the debate is perfectly in order; otherwise, we would not be continuing with it.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.Since the abolition of the Greater London council 11 years ago, London has been the only western capital without any form of democratically elected citywide government. For 11 years, the people of London have had to put up with an eccentric administrative patchwork made up of secretive Cabinet committees, ad hoc arrangements and a plague of quangos. No one was responsible, so no one was to blame. No one was ever to blame. "Who governs London?", the people asked, "Who is in charge?"—and answer came there none. No one represented London. The Minister in the previous Government supposedly representing London actually represented a rural Suffolk constituency. The whole set-up was amateurish—and it showed. London, with its customary inventiveness, did its best to compensate. Public, private and voluntary sectors came together in a variety of partnerships. They published strategies and launched initiatives, but there is a limit to what can be done by busy people with other responsibilities.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I wanted to pick up his rather sneering reference to amateurishness and his implication that there is something wrong with local government in London. How does he square that with a recently published survey in which international business men who were asked which was the best city to visit, and do business in, voted for London way above all other cities? How does the Minister explain that, if London lacks the government for which he is about to argue?
Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman was not listening. He was keen to intervene, but not so keen to listen. My point is that the people of London—the private sector and the business community—all try to do their best despite the amateurish government framework. We know that the business community is committed to London and to our proposals. If the right hon. Gentleman reflected on the matter, he would realise that the Government speak for business in Britain, and his party is increasingly seen as an anti-business party.Londoners were not convinced. They saw the result of years of strategic neglect: no one to speak up for London nationally and internationally, decaying infrastructure, traffic chaos, worsening air quality, unacceptable levels of crime and a growing division between the rich and poor. They saw what was wrong and demanded the opportunity to put things right. That is why they gave such massive support to the Labour party in the general election, delivering in London the highest swing to Labour in the entire country. That is why we have also received overwhelming public support for the proposals published in our Green Paper
I am sure that the Minister will agree that a whole series of factors could be attributed to the differential swing, including the fact that, in London, there was a large differential swing against the Labour party in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for one of his customary interventions in debates on London. I look forward to many more. I remind him, as one of the few survivors representing his party in London, that the swing was an overwhelming and decisive one, which took Labour into a large part of the capital city that had not previously been represented by Labour Members. Areas such as Wimbledon, Romford and Finchley now all benefit from Labour representation—and that is very good indeed for London.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I have given way twice. I ask the hon. Gentleman to linger a little. I will give way to him in due course.Londoners saw what was wrong and demanded the opportunity to put things right. That is why we received overwhelming public support for the proposals published in our Green Paper, and that is why I believe that Londoners will endorse our proposals in a referendum on 7 May. It is not only the residents of London who are calling out for a mayor and an assembly for the capital. The business community has put its considerable weight behind our proposals. It is not surprising because we share the same goals: a desire for soundly based and steady economic growth, involving and benefiting the whole community; improved living standards; and a better quality of life for all. That cannot be done in a political vacuum. There is a need for real leadership and proper accountability. The business community recognises that if London is to continue to be a leading world city, it needs a champion—someone with the authority to speak up on its behalf at home and abroad. There is much that such a champion needs to do. London needs to compete with other world cities—such as New York, Tokyo and Paris—for its economic survival. It needs to compete for investment, for visitors, for prestige. If anyone thinks that a London Olympic bid would stand a chance of success without strong civic leadership driving it forward, they have only to look at the history of the past 11 years.
The hon. Gentleman rightly spoke about the importance of greater accountability to the people of London. How will that be achieved, as accountability to most people means accountability for money spent? There is no clear proposal for the assembly's tax, revenue or impost-raising powers—or, rather, for the budget to be raised by the mayor and approved by the assembly. Without that vital clarification, how on earth can accountability be achieved?
The hon. Gentleman questions accountability. I have always believed that it resulted from the democratic process, in which people stand for election because they believe that they have a contribution to make in terms of political and financial objectives. The people will ultimately judge their performance. That is the model which we are proposing. The Greater London authority will have powers concerning substantial sums of revenue that are currently discharged by other bodies—either central Government or other groupings. There will be a responsibility for finance, and democratic accountability will ensure that that finance is well used and prudently spent.Only an elected city leader will have the necessary mandate to take on the kind of role required to ensure that London can advocate its case internationally and against increasing competition from other world cities. Only an elected city leader will have the necessary mandate to bring all of London together in support.
The Minister knows that this is one of the most controversial areas of the Government's proposals and that the leader in very nearly every European capital city is chosen from its assembly, not elected separately. Does he accept that there are very strong arguments—even if he might have been persuaded not to agree with them—that a directly elected mayor is a more dangerous political animal and less democratic than one chosen by a democratic assembly, as in this Parliament?
No, I do not. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman suggests that an indirect election is more democratic than a direct election. I have been studying very carefully patterns in other countries, including other European countries. One of the visits that I made was to talk to the mayor of Cologne, with whom I discussed why his city has decided to change its procedure from one of indirect election to direct election. If the hon. Gentleman studies trends throughout the world, he will see that that trend is growing because of concern about the line of direct accountability. London is one of the cities that will demonstrate the advantages of direct election.
I have answered the hon. Gentleman's question; he does not like the answer.
As there is a huge debate about the question of an elected mayor, is not there a case for a separate question in the referendum, so that people can vote on an elected authority for London, which will be strongly supported by all, and on a directly elected mayor who is less accountable if he or she is not answerable to an assembly?
As my hon. Friend has probably anticipated, I intend to cover that subject later in my speech. I hope that he will bear with me, because I will deal thoroughly with it later.It is not just in the international arena that there is a role for the new authority. We need to improve the competitiveness of local businesses—whether small, medium or large—on which the London economy depends, and we need to tackle poverty and deprivation. Alongside the success stories, London has some of the highest unemployment and most deprived communities in Britain, cheek by jowl with some of the richest areas in Europe. We need a new authority able to reach out to all London's communities and all London's diverse cultural and ethnic groups to help all participate in London's increasingly competitive economy. That is the basis for our proposal for a new Greater London authority and that is why the new authority will have a key role to play in ensuring that transport is improved and congestion tackled; in helping to regenerate the rundown parts of our city; in fighting crime; in promoting partnership of relevant interests to tackle these problems; and in making London a better place for Londoners. We said in our manifesto:
Within just three months of taking office, we published a Green Paper setting out for consultation our proposals for a new Greater London authority. That consultation has generated more than 1,200 responses from all parts of the capital. All the responses are being read, and the views of Londoners and London organisations are being taken into account in working out our detailed proposals. We are studying the detail, but already it is clear that the consultation responses strongly support our proposals."Londonwide responsibility for its own government is urgently required. We will make it happen."
I thank the Minister for giving way; he has been generous with his time. He confidently asserted that the people and businesses of London want both an elected mayor and an elected assembly. If he is so confident of that, why will he not ask them separate questions?
The hon. Gentleman obviously was not listening when I replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) a moment ago. I said that I would cover the issue later in my speech and the hon. Gentleman might have had the courtesy to wait until I did so. I will cover it in detail and will give the hon. Gentleman an answer—not the one that he is looking for, but the one that he needs to hear.The Bill is the next stage in keeping our promise to the people of London by giving them the chance to restore democratic citywide government to the capital and to have their say in a referendum on 7 May. I hope and believe that there will be an overwhelming endorsement of the Government's proposal. The Bill is about providing for a referendum on proposals for a Greater London authority. It is not about the substance of the plans—they will be set out in a White Paper which we will publish in the spring. If the people vote yes to our proposals, legislation will be introduced next Session.
I understand that consultation on the referendum is primarily a matter for Londoners. I do not represent a London seat, but I represent an area policed by the Metropolitan police. The Minister is consulting Londoners, but I hope that he will also listen to those of us from outside London on policing. May we have an assurance that he will not try to bring my constituency and others into London at some stage in the future, because we would oppose that?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have no proposals to amend the boundaries of London and that, if he has responded to the consultation, his views will be taken into account in our consideration of all the responses.Before I deal with the referendum, I wish to restate briefly the key features of the authority. We promised in our manifesto that we would create a new Greater London authority, comprising a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly, who together will be responsible for key strategic issues that can best be tackled on a Londonwide basis. We will keep that promise. We believe that that structure will ensure strong and accountable leadership for London. The mayor will provide firm leadership and set the strategic direction for London—the mayor will be able to get things done. At home and abroad, the mayor will represent London's interests and aspirations. However, checks and balances are important. The assembly is essential to provide a proper framework of accountability and to scrutinise the mayor's plans and strategies and their delivery. This is not a package from which we can pick and choose. A mayor alone, without an assembly, would wield too much power. An assembly alone, without a mayor, would not give London the focus and leadership that it so desperately needs.
The Minister may be right about the incompatibility of a mayor without an assembly, but it is equally possible that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) may be right. This is a matter of political debate which will be decided either by elections or by a referendum, but the people will not get an opportunity to decide unless there are two separate questions.
I made a mistake in giving way to the hon. Gentleman, who clearly failed to listen to my responses to his hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North. If he bears with me, I will reach that subject.
Does the Minister agree that the Government's action in holding a referendum distinguishes us clearly from the action of the previous Government, who abolished the Greater London council without asking the people of London for their views?
My hon. Friend makes a valid point.Together, the mayor and assembly are the best deal for London. Unlike the half-considered—indeed half-baked—alternatives offered up by some, it will work. To those who argue for two, three or more questions—some would like to set Londoners a regular exam paper full of questions—I say this: as a responsible Government, we can put to the people of London only a proposition that will work. Some of the ideas that the Opposition are putting forward simply would not work. We are not impressed by gimmickry or by political posturing. Designing a new form of government is a serious business—it is not a lucky dip or a pick-and-mix. A mayor without an assembly would be a concept seen nowhere in the world, and for good reason. Where would the checks and balances lie? Who would consider and review the mayor's plans? Who would monitor progress and scrutinise the activities of the mayor? According to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), it should be a committee drawn from the leaders of the 32 London boroughs. Let me just remind him what London's newspaper, the Evening Standard, had to say about that proposition:
the 32 borough leaders"It is implausible that"
Of course, anyone with any practical experience of the processes of government would know exactly why. Every borough council leader would quite understandably use his or her influence to seek advantage for his or her borough. That is their rightful, current role. Only an Opposition as hopelessly confused and out of touch with reality as the present one could suggest such a formula for calling the mayor to account, confusing as it does the local interest of each borough with the wider interest of London as a whole. This is, of course, the same party which used to claim that there was no need for citywide government and that the 32 London boroughs could provide an appropriate framework for the government of London. That was the Conservatives' argument until 1 May. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. We will have no truck with such ill-thought-out proposals."could … provide an effective balance to the mayoralty."
The Minister is talking about having a strong mayor, fighting for London, yet he wants immediately to cripple him with an assembly that will not let him move. It is a recipe for conflict: between the boroughs and the assembly; the boroughs and the mayor; the assembly and the mayor; and all three and the Government. Nothing will happen.
The hon. Gentleman spoke for the previous Government before the general election, and he was wrong: he advocated the solution that I have just described, in which there would be no citywide authority, and opposed our proposals for such an authority. He should reflect on the fact that the people of London overwhelmingly rejected his party's view.If the hon. Gentleman believes that the presence of an assembly will inhibit a strong mayor, let him visit cities throughout the world that enjoy the benefit of a framework of government with a mayor and an assembly. Let him go to New York, to see how that city has tackled the crime problem; to Barcelona, to see how that city has regenerated its fortunes; to any of the cities where effective mayors are working in an accountable framework with assemblies. He will see that his argument is complete nonsense.
Given that the proposed question is very much a like-it-or-lump-it question, does the Minister agree that there is a danger that it will fail to enthuse and engage the electorate in London in a genuine debate, and that, as a consequence, the turnout will be too low?
If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he is even more out of touch than the official Opposition party. Is he unaware of the extraordinary public interest in our proposals since they were published and of the amount of attention that is being given to who will be the first mayor of London? Can he, or any other Opposition Member, recall an occasion when a local government election, probably two years away, aroused so much interest that people were already queuing up to stand?
I have already given way to the hon. Gentlemen and their questions were inappropriate and ill thought out. I intend to make a bit more progress.We intend to put a clear and simple proposition to the people of London, based on proposals that we can recommend to them with confidence, and to give them the chance to endorse or reject it—yes or no—in a referendum. Let me remind all those Conservative Members who are trying to generate a synthetic protest under the banner of democracy that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) said, when the Tory Government took away from the people of London in 1986 the right to elect their own citywide government, there was no referendum: no question at all. The people of London were given no choice. It is sheer cant for Conservative Members to complain at the nature of the choice being offered to the people of London. Had their party won the 1997 general election, there would not have been two questions, three questions or four questions: there would not have been a single question. They would have denied the people of London any question at all, and it is the grossest hypocrisy on their part to complain when the new Labour Government honour their manifesto pledge to give the people of London a clear choice on proposals for a new Greater London authority, comprising a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly.
The Minister keeps talking about a directly elected mayor and a directly elected assembly. Why does not the question to be posed in the referendum, as set out in the schedule to the Bill, say that specifically? Why does it leave out the word "directly"?
The question is one on which we have taken considerable advice, and we have tried to ensure that it is framed so as to be as comprehensible as possible to the widest range of Londoners. As I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, there can be confusion with the framing of questions, and if the electorate are not clear there will not be a satisfactory outcome.Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of the question that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) suggested was appropriate. He suggested that there should be two questions, although his party now seems, judging by its amendment, to want three or more. A couple of weeks ago, he said on the radio:
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that that will produce a clear result, he is living in a different city, on a different planet. We have sought to frame the question simply and clearly to ensure that there is no ambiguity and confusion. That is what we are proposing and if the hon. Gentleman reflects on the question in the schedule, he will realise that that is what we have achieved. As with the referendums in Scotland and Wales, this Bill is relatively simple in legislative terms and I shall take a few moments to explain its provisions in more detail. Clause 1 provides for a referendum to be held on 7 May 1998, or at a later date if so appointed by Order in Council, and for the question that is to be voted on—the form of which is set out in the schedule. The provision for changing the date of the vote is there only for use in the event of unavoidable outside circumstances forcing a postponement. We recognise the advantage of the two happening on the same day. Through combining the referendum with local elections, we will deliver savings of between £2 million and £3 million to the public purse. Clause 2 defines who will be entitled to vote in the referendum. It will be those eligible to vote in local government elections in any London borough and those entitled to vote in ward elections in the City of London by virtue of residency. It is reasonable that the people who live in London should be those who will determine the future government of their city. Clause 3 provides for the appointment and functions of a chief counting officer for Greater London and of counting officers for each borough and the City of London. Clause 4 sets out regulations governing the conduct of the poll. It provides for the poll to be combined with the local elections and for provision to be made by Order in Council, following affirmative resolution of both Houses, as to the conduct of the referendum and the combination of the polls. Clause 5 enables the Secretary of State, with the consent of the Treasury, to pay grants to London boroughs and the City of London in respect of expenditure incurred in connection with the referendum. Clause 6 excludes legal proceedings to question the results of the referendum as certified by the chief counting officer or a counting officer. Similar provision was made in previous referendum legislation. It is designed to prevent frivolous challenges and legal obstructionism. Parts II and III of the Bill deal with expenditure and paving provisions. It is intended that there should be fast progress towards the creation of the new authority. The Bill therefore provides for initial work to be done on the electoral areas of the authority and for expenditure primarily on obtaining and preparing accommodation for the new authority. Those provisions will not be used until an affirmative vote has been achieved in the referendum, and significant expenditure will be incurred only after the Second Reading of the substantive Bill establishing the authority. Clause 7 confers new functions on the Local Government Commission requiring it, at the direction of the Secretary of State, to prepare a report recommending electoral divisions into which Greater London should be divided for elections to the new authority. Clauses 8 to 10 set out the framework within which the commission must operate. It enables the Secretary of State to give the commission directions on how it should carry out its functions under this part of the Bill. Clause 11 provides for payment to be made to the commission in respect of its functions under this part. Clause 12 provides for expenditure to be made in connection with the referendum and preparation for the authority. Finally, the schedule to the Bill sets out the form of the question on which London will vote. As I have stressed, in drafting the question we have taken expert advice, including focus group research. We believe that the question is as clear and fair as possible."There should be a simple first question: do you want a London-wide government elected by Londoners, yes or no? And there should be a simple second question: do you want that in a parliamentary style where they elect their leader or do you want directly to elect separately a mayor and an assembly?"
I am obliged to the Minister for giving way. He referred to part II of the Bill and the electoral commission. What the Bill does not mention is the method of election. How will the commission know on which basis it is drawing its conclusions?
As the hon. Gentleman will see from the relevant clause, the Secretary of State has powers to give direction to the boundary commission on the way in which it should approach its task. Those powers would not be used—I stress that—until there had been an affirmative vote in the referendum, by which stage the Government will have published their White Paper setting out their direct proposals. We will make clear our proposals for the election method and the constituencies. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, we consulted very openly on that. The Green Paper set out a range of options and possibilities. We have had a lot of responses—varied responses, as I am sure he will understand—and we are analysing them. Until we have completed the analysis and reached firm conclusions, it would be inappropriate to respond further to his question.
Can the Minister therefore confirm that first past the post remains an option?
Yes. No decision has been reached on the form of election to be adopted. As I said, we have consulted and we are considering the responses. A decision will be reached and our conclusions set out in a White Paper to be published in March in good time, before the referendum in which the people of London will be asked to express their view on our proposals.The Prime Minister pledged to reform our constitution and to clean up and modernise British politics, and we are moving fast. Since the general election, we have delivered referendums on devolution to Scotland and Wales. We have announced our attention to incorporate the European convention on human rights, and we will create regional development agencies to bring new economic life to our regions. The referendum with which the Bill is concerned will be an historic opportunity for Londoners to take control of their destiny, to right the wrongs of 1986 and to erase the insult done to the people of London by a Government who cared little for the capital, disregarded the wishes of its people and left it for 11 long years without leadership and without a voice. I commend the Bill to the House.
I beg to move, To leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
It is a great pleasure to follow the Minister, who was very briefly my Member of Parliament in Fulham until the electors intervened. He has moved to Greenwich, where in his election address he made the same promises of devotion to its electors as he did in Fulham. He takes great pleasure in campaigning for the millennium dome for Greenwich, so perhaps the electors of Fulham should be thankful for his move. The great irony of the Government's approach to the legislation is that there is much in the principle of what is proposed that Conservative Members can support. We can support the principle of a directly elected mayor. We can support the principle of such a mayor not only acting as a voice for London but having a role in, for example, transport policy. We can support the principle of a referendum, because it is essential to know what the people of London want. Any system of local government must have the support of the public. The fatal flaw concerns the fact that we are debating not the Second Reading of the Greater London authority Bill, although many of the Minister's introductory remarks were concerned with that, but the referendum Bill. The Government say that they want to know the views of London and that that is the purpose of this legislation, yet, when it comes to it, they are not prepared to allow the public to express a view on any question where the public may disagree with their position. They can express an opinion about the need for a mayor, but cannot express a separate opinion about the need for an assembly. I will come to that argument in a moment, but it is precisely the same as that advanced by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)"this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill because it fails to provide for Londoners to be consulted on proposals for an Assembly and for a directly elected Mayor separately."
In view of his remarks, may I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman apologises on behalf of his party to the people of London for denying them democratic government of their city for the past decade?
I do not apologise for that. There was overwhelming public support for the abolition of the Greater London council. Labour Members need to decide whether they support the Greater London authority, as set out in the Green Paper, or restoration of the GLC. I am not sure whether the Minister for Sport has been fired but he is currently residing on the Back Benches.
I have come to listen to the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I should be certified.
I think that I heard the hon. Gentleman say that he was being certified.Londoners are being asked to express a view before the Bill setting up the Greater London authority has been published, debated or scrutinised, let alone passed by Parliament. The Labour party once contended that such pre-legislative referendums were the wrong way of doing things. The Secretary of State for Wales once said that the trouble with pre-legislation referendums is that there are so many questions that one cannot answer. He was right. Without the completed legislation, we do not know exactly what is proposed. The public do not know what they are supposed to be judging. The devil is in the detail and, without that detail, the public are unsighted and can be deceived. London will be left in an entirely unsatisfactory position. The public will be asked what they think of the idea of a mayor and a directly elected assembly, but they will not know what powers either will have as laid down by Parliament, which is the only body that can decide them. At this stage, we do not even have a White Paper, merely a Green Paper which contains a series of principles and asks a lengthy set of questions.
I am happy to give way to the Labour party's candidate for the mayor of London.
I am certainly not a candidate. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he will join the Government in recommending to the people of London that they should support the referendum? Yes or no?
We have set out our position exactly in our amendment, and I am sorry that the hon. Lady has not read it—if she did, she would understand our position. It is very sad news to hear that the hon. Lady does not intend to stand as the Labour candidate for mayor because we would be greatly in favour of her candidature.
No. I will not give way again.Let us consider the principles as set down by the Government. Doubtless Londoners will be reassured to know that the proposed Greater London authority will be strategic, democratic, inclusive, effective, small, audible, consensual, efficient and influential. That wish list leaves out only motherhood and apple pie. Doubtless, those were exactly the kind of good intentions that paved the way for the old Greater London council. The House will want to know the answers to questions that go to the heart of the new authority, but it is being asked to approve a referendum based on the principles. Even someone who has been following the plans as closely as the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) cannot tell us what the legislation will specify about a range of issues. She cannot tell us because the Government cannot tell us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) has already made clear, the Government cannot tell us what method will be used for the election of the mayor. [Interruption.] If I put the question, perhaps the Minister will be more ready with the answer. Will that election be made according to who is first past the post? Will it be judged on the second ballot system or the alternative vote system? We do not know, but all those methods are trailed in the Green Paper.
Given that the right hon. Gentleman appears to be unhappy about the proposition that there should be a vote on the principle before the full detail is covered in legislation, can he tell the House whether he voted with his Government in favour of the paving Bill to abolish the GLC before the detailed, substantive legislation was published?
I probably did and I have absolutely no regrets.The Government must answer the questions about the legislation that they are introducing. They claim that they want as much agreement and support as possible, but once anyone takes any steps towards their position, they retreat to the old familiar party politics of the Labour party which we know so well. The Government cannot tell us what method will be used to elect the assembly. They cannot even tell us whether it will consist of single-seat constituencies, multi-seat constituencies or even a single, London/wide constituency. They do not know. Once again, we must ask whether those elections will be decided according to the first-past-the-post system or the list system. The Green Paper states:
We do not know the answer. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) raised an important point about the cost of the new Greater London authority, but, once again, the Government could not say how it will be paid for. Speculation has centred on paragraph 4.21 and the idea that new taxes will be imposed. Again, the Government cannot tell us what those new taxes will be. By any standards, we are faced with a long list of unanswered questions about the legislation—the Government have admitted as such by publishing a Green Paper with 61 unanswered questions about it."electors vote not for an individual candidate but for a party which provides a list of candidates which are ranked in the order the party wishes".
It is called consultation.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman obviously has great difficulty in understanding that the Government should have consulted on their propositions before holding the referendum. The specific Act of Parliament is the only conclusive means of providing the necessary answers, but we will not have it, let alone the White Paper, before the referendum in May. The Minister said as much. There is no way that that Act will be ready then.
What about the White Paper?
I should remind the Minister that the White Paper refers to the Government's proposals. I also remind him that we still work within a system according to which Parliament decides, not the Government—he might explain that to the Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning.The answer to the referendum could be affected directly by the answers that are eventually decided by Parliament, and it is clear that one question could lead to another. One such example is the proposal relating to the policing of London. The Government intend to set up a new police authority for the Metropolitan police. Everyone agrees that that is a profound change. The Home Secretary has been police authority since 1829 and, by definition, the system has lasted through a number of Labour Governments. In the new proposed police authority, elected members will be in the majority, but they will not be the elected members of London's borough councils; they will be elected and selected from the new Greater London assembly. I suspect that before the public are expected to express a view on that, many people will want to know how local those elected representatives will be. If they were elected to the police authority according to a list system, they would simply be the choice of their respective parties. Many people might feel that no local link was provided under that new system. Many people may believe that members of an assembly elected according to a direct list or something like it would not have direct local links with the public. Presumably that link should be required. Given the importance that people attach to the Metropolitan police, and with the full facts before them, many people may vote against an assembly.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that matters are even worse than he has described since according to the Green Paper, elected members of the Greater London authority will serve on that proposed police authority, and my constituents, who would not be within the Greater London authority, would not have an input? Does he agree that that is worrying?
Yes. It is all very well for the Minister to laugh, but it is a matter of great importance to anyone who lives in London and is policed by the Metropolitan police.The police authority for the Metropolitan police has lasted since 1829 and has been approved by every Labour Government of the century, bar this one, so there must be something to be said for it. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that the new elected members who will be in the majority on that new police authority will be drawn from the new Greater London authority.
No. I will not give way.My first objection to the Bill is that referendums should he held when the electorate are in the best possible position to judge.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I have just said that I will not give way again.Referendums should be held when people can view all the pros and cons, when the arguments in favour and against have been rigorously tested and when Parliament has had the opportunity to scrutinise the legislation. We know at least some of the intentions, but we do not know what the legislation will say when it is on the statute book: under any sensible referendum system, it is only at that stage that the public should be asked for their views. The second objection is that, even by the Government's own standards, the Bill does not deserve support because it puts together two questions. On the ballot paper, there will be one and only one question about whether the public support an authority
That goes not only to the heart of the Bill, but to the heart of the Government's approach. The Government say that they want to know Londoners' views on how they should be governed, but, when it comes to it, the Government are not prepared to put those views to the test. The Minister, in his best handbag-swinging style, said that there is no alternative—that it would be inappropriate to put questions of that sort—but no one outside the Labour party believes that those questions cannot be asked. The Minister seems to be arguing that the mayor and the assembly are an inseparable package, like the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister without Portfolio. The trouble is that almost nobody outside the Government agrees with that proposition. The Minister quoted the only newspaper that has come out on his side on this issue—the Evening Standard. He did not quote the shoal of newspapers that have come out against him. He did not quote The Times, which, under the headline "Double Talk", said:"made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly".
He did not quote The Guardian, which can hardly be accused of being a Conservative-leaning paper—although I suppose anyone who is against the Government is accused of being Conservative-leaning. The Guardian asked why, if the Government are so sure of their case, they cannot put it to the people. Why can they not argue the case for a directly elected assembly if it is as self-evident as they appear to believe?"Two distinct issues require two different questions".
The right hon. Gentleman mentions The Guardian; can he confirm that the following words appear in the same editorial?
"Mr Raynsford dismisses the Conservative suggestion that the mayor could answer to the current 33 London boroughs as a 'recipe for disaster'. Any mayor could simply buy off the boroughs by chucking goodies their way, bringing US-style pork-barrel politics to the capital. The minister is right".
That is the most extraordinary quotation, even by the Minister's standards, because whose words are followed by a dash and the words:
The Minister has just shot himself in the foot. The Guardian makes the point that he is confident of his case, but is unable and unwilling to put it to the public. The newspaper, which is on his side, is saying as a friend—if the Minister is capable of accepting that anyone outside the Labour party can be a friend—that he should put his case to the public and let the public decide. To make an intervention like that, while relying on my not having the full quotation with me, brings the Minister pretty near the slippery methods of the used-car salesman. Everyone knows that there are other options. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) supports at least one other option—actually, I think that he supports a series of options. Conservative Members favour a directly elected major, but we would have an assembly made up of London borough leaders—any mayor will have to work with the boroughs, so that must make sense. We reject the argument that such an arrangement will lead to conflict—indeed, we believe that the Government's plans have conflict built in at every stage, as well as layer after layer of local government. Let us recall what the Government propose. They propose a directly elected mayor, a directly elected assembly, a regional development agency for London, a Government office for London and eventually 32 borough councils. That is not the end of it: under a Bill prepared by the Government that is to be introduced in another place as a private Member's Bill, there are to be permissive powers for directly elected executive borough mayors, so Hammersmith and Fulham—an area the Minister and I both know well—could have a directly elected mayor of its own. One does not have to be a paid-up member of the Conservative party, or even the Liberal Democrats, to believe that such a structure is incredibly overlayered. If there is inbuilt conflict, it lies in such a system. There are indications that the Government are sensitive about the idea of a directly elected assembly, because they have changed the order in which mayor and assembly appear on the ballot paper by moving the elected assembly from first to second mention. I noted the Minister's remarks about the close attention paid to that matter. Above all, under the Government plans there is a certainty of conflict between the directly elected assembly and the already elected borough councils. It will not take long for the assembly to tire of having a purely advisory and questioning role and it takes no great skill at forecasting to know what the next step will be: the members of the assembly will want greater powers and their justification will be that they are elected. I doubt very much, however, whether those powers will come from the Government—I remember from my days in government that Whitehall is notoriously jealous of its empire. It is far more likely that those powers will come from the boroughs, so, step by step, we will get nearer to the concept of the old Greater London council. London faces the fundamental question of whether it wants to put its future increasingly in the hands of an intermediate regional assembly, or to strengthen the borough council system that is unquestionably and undoubtedly closest to the public. We should be aiming, not for a new elected assembly, but for a mayor working with the boroughs, which have local experience and a direct connection with their electors. What is so striking about the debate is the Government's lack of confidence in their own arguments. They talk about reaching agreement and consensus—at least outside the House—but they are not interested in agreement and consensus. This is a take-it-or-leave-it referendum. The Government do not want debate; they simply want their own plans to be rubber-stamped. We believe that the people of London should first have the information to make a decision in the referendum and then be given the opportunity to judge for themselves whether London needs both a mayor and a directly elected assembly. As it stands, the Bill does not give them that choice, and that is why we will oppose it."but he should make that argument in a campaign."
I support the Bill, which represents the second stage in the renewal of our constitution that the Government are putting into effect. Stage one was the referendums for Scotland and Wales; stage two opens the door to a Greater London authority, which will right the wrong done by the Conservative party in 1986. That party now supports the idea of a mayor, but seeks to deny the need for an assembly. That is no more than a fig leaf to hide the party's conversion and its admission that it was wrong before.Most of the focus so far has been on the precise wording of the referendum question. I want to focus on part II, which deals with the electoral areas into which London should be divided for the election of assembly members. London is already divided into 74 constituencies, 32 boroughs, 10 European constituencies and eight postal areas. It is envisaged that the assembly should have between 24 and 32 members. Some will argue that as there are 32 boroughs and up to 32 assembly members the obvious answer is to elect one per borough. Indeed, the Conservative party seems to be moving towards that notion. It would, however, be a recipe for conflict. As the consultation paper says, it could lead to a focus on local rather than strategic issues. In other words, it could lead to the pork barrel politics mentioned by The Guardian, in which the mayor buys the support of assembly members by handing out favours to their boroughs. It could also lead to a conflict of legitimacy between borough leaders and assembly members if they are of different parties—or to duplication if they are of the same party. The next possibility is to divide London into its 10 Euro-constituencies and to elect three, or thereabouts, from each. It is fair to say, however, that few Londoners have any idea in which European constituency they live. Even political parties that need to work on the Euro-constituency basis face an uphill task in creating any kind of esprit de corps among constituencies thrown together in these rather amorphous conglomerates. Londoners feel that they do not correspond to any natural boundaries. One of the great mercies of the decision to fight the next European elections on a proportional representation system lies in the fact that the boundary commissioners will no longer have to adjudicate in interminable boundary review inquiries. The next possibility—in descending order—is the postal area system. Postal areas have the merit of corresponding much more closely to the way Londoners describe where they live. If London were divided into five sectors or zones—north-east, north-west, south-east, south-west and central—that elected five members each, that would yield a fairly compact assembly of 25 members, and it would have the enormous advantage that they represent areas with which Londoners already identify. The objection might be that such sectors are too large to generate any accountability between the representative and the represented, but in truth any sense of representation has only ever existed at two levels: people go to see their local councillor or their local Member of Parliament. They have never queued up in huge numbers to see their county councillor or their GLC councillor; any more than they queue up—except perhaps in farming constituencies—to see their European Member of Parliament. These zones would be entirely compatible with electing an assembly on a list system, with each party proposing five candidates and getting one elected for every 20 per cent. of the vote. This is essentially the system that will be used for the European elections in 1999, but it will not have the drawbacks associated with some types of proportional representation—lots of small parties and no party with a majority—because small parties will not be elected under the system. Someone would need a fifth of the votes—or at least more than a sixth—to be sure of winning a seat. There would effectively be a threshold of 17 per cent. It would however still be quite possible for one party to win a majority in London—
The hon. Gentleman is talking as if he still wrote for The Guardian, giving us a clear exposition of the whys and wherefores, the pros and cons. Surely they all need to be given to Londoners to vote on. Otherwise the hon. Gentleman's remarks merely serve to confirm the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler). Londoners must be given the chance to see what they are voting for; the details must not be simply tacked on to the popular idea of electing a mayor.
The hon. Gentleman, in turn, talks as though he were still leader of Wandsworth council. But he is missing the point. There is no point in giving the people of London an unrealistic alternative that will not work.This will be the first time in our history when people have been asked to vote for an executive post. What is different about a vote for a mayor—or a president—is that it is a decisive vote. We can have a hung Parliament or a hung council; we cannot have a hung president or a hung mayor—at least not in the electoral sense. The point is that one individual has to win, so one party has to form an administration. In any case, the role of the assembly is not to deliver a majority for the mayor, as the Green Paper puts it. The mayor already has the powers needed to run an administration. The main roles of the assembly will be to provide checks and balances, expertise and scrutiny, and to throw out a corrupt mayor if there ever is one. That is why we need both a mayor and an assembly. An assembly without a mayor, as the Liberal Democrats advocate, is a recipe for inertia. A mayor without an assembly, for which the Conservatives argue, is a recipe for sleaze. We need the combination that the Bill offers.
The mistaken belief is beginning to emerge that the Conservative party does not believe in an assembly. We favour an assembly of borough leaders, not a directly elected assembly. That is quite different from the claim that we do not want an assembly at all.
A meeting of borough leaders does not amount to an elected assembly.Finally, we need to ensure that the referendum campaign is fought fairly. The borough of Wandsworth, of which the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir P. Beresford) was once leader, is already spending a large amount of council tax payers' money to produce glossy brochures promoting the Opposition's policy. I accept that Wandsworth is entitled to its view, but neither that borough nor anyone else must be allowed to spend a large amount of money promoting their views in the campaign at the expense of council tax payers.
I begin with an apology. Admirers of the Government are continually impressed by the Government's finesse, and the subject of tonight's debate has been tabled on the same night as the Lord Mayor's banquet. Some people have suggested to me that that was prompted by a conspiracy. Generous soul that I am, I assumed that it was more likely to be due to that alternative theory which I cannot utter, since we are still a long way from the watershed and this is a family programme. I do not blame the Government, but they have set me something of a dilemma in that I owe an obligation to my constituents in both regards. I therefore ask for the House's forgiveness if I disappear some time after my speech and read later about how the debate ended.A great deal of newsprint has been expended on the attitude of the City corporation to the proposals before us. I can say with confidence that the City corporation will work with any new Greater London authority, just as it worked with the GLC in the past. Some have said—my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) has just done so—that tonight's debate is simply about one question or two. I think that there are some other questions as well, although clearly this is the central one. The Greater London authority of the Bill's title comprises both the elected assembly and the separately elected mayor—although I note that in clause 1(1) they are recounted in that order, not in the order bestowed on them in the schedule specifying the form of the ballot paper. Incidentally, that is an interesting disarrangement. Remarkably little exegesis was afforded in the Green Paper to the provenance of the mayor, who in an executive capacity is an innovation in our local government constitutional arrangements, so perhaps his or her shallow roots, even in Labour party internal discussion about that before the election, are to be bolstered up by being regarded, not as a free-standing innovation per se, but as a partial element of a Greater London authority, which, at least, the Labour party has asked for throughout the past decade. That umbrella phrase, however, is also the Government's rationale for the single question, on the ground that one cannot vote for the parts separately if they severally combine to compose the Greater London authority that the referendum asks us to approve. Because of the second rationale, the Government might reasonably have done a better job of explaining in the Green Paper why mayor and assembly must go hand in hand, like Jack and Jill, Crosse and Blackwell or Marks and Spencer—the latter are especially politically apposite, for in death they were not divided and Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer lie side by side in Highgate cemetery. In a perfect world—although I realise that, especially at this moment, we do not live in one—the White Paper would have been available to inform tonight's debate, as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said in his point of order before the debate. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield said, the problem with the Green Paper is that many of its 61 questions were contingent on one another. Asking what the relationship should be on specific issues between mayor and assembly or between the authority and the regional development agency is often an empty question unless one constructs the entire scenario to reflect who will be responsible for what. Incidentally, the regional development agency looks like robbing the authority, in the main, of one of the three pillars that were originally postulated to support the logic of an authority. My unease about these often relatively random questions was exacerbated by the Parkinsonian enthusiasm in the Green Paper for adding further random agenda to the assembly's tasks. I refer to Professor C. Northcote, not to Michael Parkinson—as I read the examples of extra possible topics for the assembly's inquiries, I had a far-off sense of Professor Parkinson's law that
and sensed that the assembly must be found things to do. Initially, therefore, I am left with no clearer idea why the Siamese twins of the present somewhat imprecise conception must necessarily remain bound together. In our original Queen's Speech debate on the constitution on 16 May 1997, I said that the Labour party had done very little detailed preparation, but I surmised that, as Sir Alec Douglas-Home once said in response to a question about VAT, a lot of clever chaps in the civil service were now thinking about it. The Minister—I hope that I do not offend against a confidential exchange between us—assured me in a note afterwards that they were. My regret is that the product of that thinking has not been more precise on the assembly and whether it will follow present constituency and borough boundaries or take another form—the point which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield addressed. To proceed to the text of the ballot paper without clarifying that would mystify, not demystify. It is possible to conduct a perfectly sensible debate between Government and Opposition on the nature of the countervailing body to the mayor, but it is difficult to know whether the Government are justified in their authority make-up if we do not know what detailed form their assembly will take. I illustrate my concern with two local examples. The present study mounted by Westminster city council, "World Squares for All", which was showing in Whitehall last week, envisages that implementation will involve transferring traffic from the very heart of London to elsewhere in central London, including necessarily large parts of my constituency. The Government might sensibly argue that "World Squares for All" is a strategic issue, properly to be determined by the Greater London authority, but my constituents would be deeply troubled if they were to have no direct representation in the assembly to reflect their reaction to the consequences. Similarly, there is current misgiving—not purely in my constituency but throughout London—about local decisions taken centrally, such as those taken by the London fire and civil defence authority. There would be very similar anxieties if my constituents felt that they would no longer have direct representation in debate about those decisions and at a level no broader than their local authority. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield said, imprecision also surrounds how all this will be paid for. I acknowledge the sense of not specifying how it will be paid for until we know how the responsibilities will be carved up—in the Green Paper there is a reference to function—but that emphasises that the referendum cart is being put in front of the Greater London authority horse. In Ernie Bevin's great phrase,"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion",
but I doubt that even he would have linked a referendum to it. The Minister spoke of 1,200 responses to the Green Paper and may feel that that justifies the reference to a great debate which the Green Paper's final paragraph hoped would take place up to 24 October, but my experience of a residents' annual general meeting in Bayswater last Thursday and my expectation of another in Belgravia this Wednesday has been that, at the level of voters—individual Londoners—the atmosphere of the moment is the same as the Pont cartoon in "Punch" early in the last war, in which three intensely placid drinkers in an English pub are listening to a Lord Haw Haw debate being broadcast, and to the words:"If you open that Pandora's Box you never know what Trojan `orses will jump out",
I said that the Bill prompted other questions. When I woke to hear the result of the Welsh referendum, I wondered whether the Bill that we had passed in the House had allowed for a recount. The 7,000 majority divided by 40 parliamentary seats would have produced an average of 175 per constituency, and I suspect that a returning officer would have granted a recount in such a parliamentary seat. I have, of course, read clause 6 of this Bill, but it seems not to cover the issue of a recount. Lest the Minister believes that question to be academic, I remind him of the election in which Bill Buckley stood against Mayor Lindsay in New York City—a city which the Minister earlier cited in support of his argument. On national television on the eve of the poll, Bill Buckley was asked what his reaction would be in the unlikely event of his being elected the following day, and he said that he would ask for a recount. There is a touch of the same potential nightmare in the imprecision surrounding the Government's proposals for London."In England the entire population has been thrown into panic."
Mr. Deputy Speaker, thank you very much for calling me and allowing me the opportunity finally to make my maiden speech.I should like, as is the tradition of the House, to pay tribute to my predecessors, for, like many newly arrived Members of the House, I have not one but two predecessors, one of whom, Mr. Greenway, represented most of what is now Ealing, North. Mr. Greenway was an extremely capable and active constituency Member, who made a considerable impression on us in Ealing, North. He was extremely fond of this building and is a frequent—almost daily—visitor to it still, and I believe that the fact that he is always greeted with a smile by old and new friends shows the extent of the amity that he engendered during his time in the House. In Ealing, North we were also represented by the present right hon. Member for North—West Hampshire (Sir G. Young)—an extremely hard act to follow. The right hon. Gentleman is still revered—that would not be too strong a word—in parts of my constituency. I am somewhat tired of constantly being told how I compare to the right hon. Gentleman. I am told that he never missed a constituency engagement, and although I swear to constituents that I will haunt the classrooms, church halls and clubs of Ealing, North, that does not satisfy them. I am constantly told that the right hon. Gentleman presented cups and shields to every sporting group in Pitshanger, and I promise silverware by the truckload. But still they are not happy, no matter how hard I try. Last week, somebody said, "You may do your best, Mr. Pound, but the hon. Member for North-West Hampshire is extremely tall, and one can always see him at functions." I will take second place to no person in my respect for the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire. I admit that he is extremely tall while I am not. Indeed, he towers above me both physically and, it must be said, in the affections of the people of Pitshanger. Before the two gentlemen that I mentioned, we were fortunate to have Bill Molloy as our Member of Parliament in Ealing, North. Bill—or, as he now insists on being addressed, the right hon. Lord Molloy of Ealing and Greater London, to those of us who are his friends—now sits in the other place but is still a resident of Greenford. He never misses an opportunity to contact his local Member of Parliament—on an hourly basis—and I am grateful for his constant advice and encouragement. I did not respond favourably, however, to the advice for me to resign and have a by-election to allow him to return. Bill Molloy was once described by no less a person than Anthony Crosland as the best speaker in the House and anyone who has spoken after Bill Molloy will know how true that is. Yesterday, at the Greenford Royal British Legion I had the unfortunate task of following Bill Molloy; I would not wish that on anyone. I realise that it is a convention of the House to introduce one's constituency to hon. Members. I am at a disadvantage because I must admit that there is no such place as Ealing, North. I do not mean that it is some sort of north-west suburban Brigadoon that appears only every 200 or 300 years when the traffic jams at the Target roundabout and the Hanger lane gyratory system are in cosmic alignment, and when the fumes on the A40 part to reveal a Shangri-la on the Himalayan slopes that we Ealingonians call Horsenden hill. Ealing, North is a mixture of hamlets, towns, villages and communities, bound together by many things—but most of all by the boundary commissioner. It is a proud and glorious mosaic and a wonderful place to live because of the strength of those communities, which cement the mosaic in place. We are a multicultural constituency, and we glory in it. We have a large Irish population; a large and growing Asian population; and the third largest Polish community in the world after Warsaw and Chicago, if only in the number of Poles living in urban conurbations. The Polish people gave us heroic support between 1939 and 1945 and many of those Polish heroes were based at RAF Northolt in the constituency of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). Ealing, North is as proud today of their contribution as the country was then. It must be said that, although Ealing, North has a number of buildings, few of them are really great. We have the world headquarters of Glaxo Wellcome, which is a beacon, as the expression goes. We also have the Wharncliffe viaduct, which was built in 1844 with considerable prescience by Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the express purpose of linking Labour constituencies in west London, Reading, Swindon and Bristol. Unfortunately, however, the Wharncliffe viaduct is a few metres south of the constituency. Ealing abbey is a glorious building, but, sadly, it too is on the wrong side of the road. In the absence of great buildings and great places, I searched for great individuals as some great people must at some stage have lived somewhere in Ealing, North. I have searched; my staff have searched; my children have searched. I conclude that, whereas we may not have great individuals in Ealing, North, we have great people. A few names emerged: Gainsborough's daughters—both of them—were buried, after death, in Hanwell. Sadly, they were carried there from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley). Charlie Chaplin and his brother Sidney lived briefly in Hanwell. They did not care much for it and at the earliest opportunity returned to Bermondsey. "There must have been someone," I thought, then I found that Vincent Van Gogh taught in a girls' school in Isleworth in the 1880s, while conducting an alliance with a young lady in Rayners lane. As Vincent made his way from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Keen) to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), he would almost certainly have felt the need to pause for refreshment on his return journey from such an assignation, and where better to pause for a revivifying drink than Greenford? My able researcher examined police records at Greenford police station throughout most of the end of the 19th century. Sadly, according to our records, any number of drunken, bearded impressionists were causing mayhem in Greenford pubs in the 1880s and many of them had parts of their bodily extremities missing. The search was now getting desperate. Research showed that there may be one way in which Ealing, North stands unique among the 33 boroughs: in June 1889, a giant circus elephant collapsed on Castlebar hill—and died. The great pachyderm, with its last few breaths, bravely staggered forward and is, to this day, to be found beneath the road—unfortunately, just over the constituency border in Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush. I suspect that his last thought was to leave Ealing, North. In fiction, we are similarly ill-served. One of the finest books written this century, "Brown on Resolution", by C. S. Forester, which sent generations of us into the Royal Navy—we regretted it immediately afterwards—features a young able seaman, Brown, who was the product of a brief liaison between a naval officer and a between-stairs maid who met on the Great Western railway train at Wharncliffe viaduct. One thing led to another and they paused in Ealing. Before the copulatory instinct grew too strong upon them, they sped towards a hotel in central Ealing. Sadly, they ended up in a hotel in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush. The Nolan sisters attended Cardinal Wiseman high school, which, sadly, is about 3 m outside the constituency boundary. William Perkins, who discovered aniline dyes, may have lived in Greenford. He spent many a night conducting strange chemical experiments. I must say that that habit persists in parts of the constituency to this day, without Perkins' success. Other hon. Members have been pleased, proud and fortunate in being able to introduce the House to league football clubs in their constituencies. We have none in Ealing, North. We have two senior clubs—Viking FC and Hanwell Town FC, who play in black and white, the same colours as—oddly enough—Fulham FC. Immediately to the south of the constituency, we have Brentford—just outside the constituency but ably managed since last week by Micky Adams, who was formerly the manager at Fulham FC. Just to the east, we have Queens Park Rangers, the club where Ray Wilkins learned the craft that is now coming to flower in his present job at Fulham FC. Slightly to the east we have Chelsea, where young Paul Brooker was on the staff. He, of course, has achieved his full skills and abilities at Fulham FC, where he currently plays. It would be wrong, inappropriate and inexcusable for me as the Member for Ealing, North, to refer constantly to a football club that is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Coleman). I will not do that. In no circumstances will I bring references to Fulham into everything that I say in the House from now on. It may be said, however, that those of us born within sight of Craven Cottage may be described as having black and white blood. We in Ealing, North may not have been blessed with great individuals and great buildings, but the poet laureate, John Betjeman, did once pause awhile in Ealing and dash off the odd verse. In 1961, describing parts of Ealing, he wrote:
- "Where smoothly glides the bicycle
- And softly flows the Brent,
- And a gentle gale from Perivale
- Sends up the hayfield scent."
I shall start conventionally by congratulating the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) on his turn. He waited patiently for it, but when it came, it was Ealing studios—I do not know which constituency they are in—brought to the House of Commons.
Ealing studios are in Ealing, Southall.
I was sure that the studios would not be in the area that the hon. Gentleman represents. I do not know what his pedigree is, and in the light of what he said, it is probably inappropriate to ask, but there may be a bit of the Ezra Pound in him, too. If there are others who, like me—I say this with no disrespect—had never heard of the hon. Gentleman before today, we have now all heard of him and from him, and if he goes on like that. we shall certainly look forward to hearing from him again.The hon. Member for Ealing, North may not be as tall as the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the former Secretary of State for Transport, but he is funnier. In politics, there may be many tall people, but sadly, there are far too few funny ones—at least not funny-comic. There are many who are funny in other ways, but that is not a subject for today. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) said that there could be a hung Parliament, a hung council or a hung assembly, but not a hung mayor. To him I say that there could be a balanced Parliament, council or assembly, but there could also be an unbalanced mayor. That is one of the reasons why we should be wary. I now must register a protest, but I make it clear that I intend no disrespect either to the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) or to the hon. Member for Ealing, North. The House will not do its job properly if the third party here, with 15 per cent. of the vote, is not called third. That is your choice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and your colleagues' choice, but it is inappropriate for debate that the three different positions are not presented at the beginning of the debate. That is done in another place, and we should do it, too. If we are modernising our procedures, we had better do that soon. Many people may be asking at the beginning of the debate, "Where is Ken Livingstone?" He is not present, and as he knows as much about this subject as anyone else, we shall want the mystery to be resolved before long. I regret his absence, because the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) has a view shared on both sides of the House that the Government are not right—
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that we do not refer to hon. Members in that way.
That is why, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I immediately referred to the hon. Member for Brent, East in his constituency context. The earlier question was in inverted commas. The hon. Gentleman, like many hon. Members on both sides, is concerned not about the general thrust of the Government's policy, but about some of the detail. I hope that, as the Bill proceeds through its stages, we shall hear all voices. I hope that Labour Members who do not share Front Benchers' views will be allowed to vote accordingly. If that occurs, there is at least a chance of the result beginning to reflect the real views of all hon. Members in the House.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that there are divisions on Labour Benches on this issue. It is well known that divisions exist within his party as to whether there should be a directly elected mayor for London. If his amendment fails, what will he recommend to his hon. Friends regarding the referendum? Will he recommend that they support the Government on the referendum issue?
That is a perfectly proper question.
Order. It is very wrong for an hon. Member to enter the Chamber and pass in front of an hon. Member who is on his feet. I do not expect a response from the hon. Gentleman concerned, but I ask him to remember that ruling in future.
The hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) asks a perfectly proper question, and I shall deal with both parts of it. First, as there is no correct answer to the question of how London should be governed, Labour Members—like other hon. Members—should be free to exercise their differing views. I hope that the hon. Lady supports that principle. I hope that she therefore will not condone any strong-arm tendency aimed at ensuring that all Labour Members vote the same way, regardless of their views, or do not vote if they dissent from the official line.As to the hon. Lady's second point, I confirm unequivocally that we shall recommend a yes vote. Some regional government is better than none, and some regional government elected by the people is better than none. We have no problem with that. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Lady will participate in the debate with an open mind—as do all Liberal Democrats—and will encourage Ministers to listen to responses to the consultation process and adapt their views accordingly. We remain to be convinced on that score. The Liberal Democrats are strong advocates of constitutional reform. We support devolution in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and we believe strongly in regional government for England. As part of that policy, we were committed in our manifesto to an elected strategic authority for London. We opposed the destruction of such an authority before, and we support its re-creation now. We believe that it should be as effective and powerful as possible. Power comes from the people, not from Governments; and the civil servants and the appointees who currently wield that power should hand it back to the people at a regional level. We accept that regional government in England will benefit from a referendum. We believe that it was the settled will of the people of Scotland that they should have devolution, but that is not the case in the regions of England. It would be odd to argue against a referendum in London and then in favour of referendums in Yorkshire or the north-east. We believe that there should be regional government in all the regions of England, but we accept that that is best triggered by referendums. We hope that the Government will not now grow cold on regional government for the other regions just because the Welsh referendum was a close-run thing. Our reasoned amendment—I share the view of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who speaks for the Conservative Opposition on this subject—makes it clear that we think that the Government are approaching the issue in the wrong way. The Minister is aware of my views. We should not ask people to give the Government an unsigned cheque and agree to a referendum on an incomplete proposal. We have seen Labour's manifesto commitment and the first set of draft proposals. However, the Government's own description of their proposals is, a "consultation document". The Government have admitted that. I must put it on the record that even if we had not received the White Paper until the spring, we would have ensured the Bill's speedy progress through the House. We would then at least have known what the referendum was about before we voted on the referendum Bill. That is a regrettable constitutional insult, and I hope that it does not happen again. As to the legislative detail, our reasoned amendment contains some points—the Conservatives made another one—that also raise other questions about the Bill. In large measure, we have no dispute with the Government about the date of the referendum—that is in the Bill. We have no great dispute with the Government about who should be asked the question—that is also in the Bill. However, we have a significant dispute with the Government about the questions that the people of London should be asked; and, to be honest, that is the kernel of the legislation before us. The Government are right to propose regional government for London, but I regret that they are too timid in two respects. First, the Government are timid in not asking Londoners what sort of government they want; and, secondly, they are timid as to the powers that they are willing to give Londoners.
The hon. Gentleman has alluded to regional government in the context of a Greater London authority. This legislative proposal is, in effect, a prototype for what, according to the Liberal scheme of things, might pertain to the rest of the country. Would the Liberal Democrats like to see additional income tax imposed on Londoners? That is what the model suggested by his party for regional government elsewhere in the United Kingdom advocates.
That is a perfectly good question, to which I shall return later. For now, the short answer—I do not wish the hon. Gentleman to think that I am avoiding the issue—is that Liberal Democrats do indeed believe that regional government should have tax-varying powers. However, because regional government would receive the proportion of national income that is currently handed from Whitehall to the regions, it would not add to total income tax, but would simply be a proportion of the total tax that would then be collected regionally. It would be part of the whole, the remainder of which would be collected nationally. There need be no net increase in taxation—in fact, there could be less taxation. However, we believe that there should be tax-varying powers, just as there should be in Wales and Scotland. As a postscript, I note that the Government argue that there should be tax-varying powers in Scotland and also state that income tax is the fairest form of taxation. I shall give the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) a free copy of our full proposals, and invite him to read them.The Liberal Democrats believe that the referendum should comprise at least two questions and that it should confer further powers, particularly regarding post-16 education and national health service regional strategy. It is nonsense to leave NHS planning in London to civil servants once strategic government has been established to run most of the other public services in our capital city. As to the Minister's response to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow), we believe that Londoners can cope with something other than a "lump it or leave it" option. We think that Londoners can manage two questions. The Minister quoted me as using certain phraseology in a broadcast. I assure him that we can reduce our ideas to simple language, and we shall do so in Committee. If the Scots could manage two questions—which they did perfectly well—Londoners can do so also. It is an insult to imply that they cannot and not to allow them to do so as a result. The Minister claimed that we have already engendered a great debate on this subject—with respect, I suggest that 1,200 responses is no great debate. During the election campaign, I received thousands of responses to surveys from my constituents alone. If there has been no great debate on the issue, one of the reasons is that people have had no big political options to debate. If there were a choice as to whether the mayor should be elected directly or indirectly, there would be a real debate and public interest would rise. The Minister described the exercise as a new form of local government election. I ask him: please never say that again. It is not local government, but regional government. We should never forget that. I come now to the Bill's principles and the four key points. The Liberal Democrats offer a simple statement on the principles for regional government. Regional government should produce the appropriate financial and political powers and freedoms at regional level to allow those elected to run this great city of London, and effective accountability to ensure that those powers and freedoms are exercised with responsibility and according to the wishes of Londoners. There is no one theologically correct way of interpreting those principles. It is, therefore, how one applies the principles that counts. Our first point is: let the people choose both whether to have a mayor and whether to have an assembly. They may prefer the Conservative proposal, put forward by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, they may prefer the Government's proposal, or they may prefer ours, but let the people choose. A regional government structure chosen by the people is much more secure than a structure chosen by one party—a party that will certainly be out of office at some stage in the future, however long it may remain in power for the moment. There is nothing to be afraid of. The people will be able to cope with the questions. If the people make the choice, they take the responsibility, and the Government cannot be blamed for getting it wrong. Secondly, I ask Ministers even at this stage not to be timid about the powers to be given to the authority. They should allow post-16 education and power over the health service to be handed to regional government. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield admitted what all those in government know—civil servants like hanging on to power. Those in the NHS and the regional outposts of the Department of Health love hanging on to the power to dish out goodies for the local health service. No one in any party is happy that decisions about the strategy of the NHS below Government level are taken by faceless civil servants who cannot be removed. If the people who take such decisions are elected, we can lobby them and argue with them and if we do not like them, we can sack them. Thirdly, we must have a proportional or fair voting system in London. I was not born believing that there was a particular magic about a particular voting system. London is a cosmopolitan, mixed-race, mixed-language, mixed-community city. As the hon. Member for Ealing, North pointed out, we are a cluster of villages, towns and hamlets—the Kingstons, the Richmonds, the Suttons, the Cheams and the Twickenhams in the south and west and the Barnets, the Hendons and the Clerkenwells in the east and north. There are many, very different places in London. That diversity cannot be properly represented without a fair electoral system. It must be proportional and must allow all shades of opinion to be represented. Proportional representation has been agreed for Scotland, for Wales, for Northern Ireland and for Europe. If we do not have a fair voting system for London, we shall fail the political process. For those who are still sceptical, I am willing to debate separately the merits of different electoral systems for this place and that for local government. Those are different issues. London government is regional government and we must have an appropriate electoral system for this city and this region of ours. I seriously hope that the White Paper, if it appears before the referendum, will propose that we seek agreement across the Floor of the House on the best electoral system. If the Bill becomes an Act, before the next Bill comes forward, we could achieve a similar agreement in London to that which was achieved in Scotland. We therefore propose today that there should be a constitutional or electoral commission for London with representatives from all democratically elected parties in London and others who have an interest—unions, management, business, ethnic minorities and other community groups. We must try to agree on a system. If we agree on a system, it will be secure. If we impose one, it could well be thrown out when the Administration is changed. As a postscript and an example, we are all aware that there will soon be a by-election in Beckenham. The people of Beckenham feel themselves to be partly in Kent, not in London. Liberal Democrats have put forward a proposal that reflects the old counties of London—there is a Kent bit of London, a Surrey bit of London, a Middlesex bit of London, an Essex bit of London and the old central London. That might not be the perfect model, but it might be a good one and we should like to talk to people about it. If our proposal made the people of Beckenham—or anyone else—feel that the authority was more representative of their part of Greater London, it would be worth considering. Fourthly, I ask the Government not to be timid about tax-varying powers. Of course there can be a levy for this, a bit of a charge here and a bit of a charge for that, but the Government should trust people to do what politicians have always done—going to the people and asking to be elected on the basis of specific, costed proposals. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, the proposals must start from the basis that there will be no extra tax. The cake should be divided nationally and regionally, giving the region the responsibility for raising the money that it spends. I remind hon. Members for London seats that London is a net exporter to the rest of the country of locally collected wealth, not a net importer. There is a fair argument, not just in London but in all parts of the country, that a proportion of what we raise we spend for ourselves. Tax-varying powers may well allow people to be more confident in the merits of this particular political process. Later, we shall go into other details of the Bill. We look forward to the Committee stage soon. We should have liked to vote on our reasoned amendment, but if we cannot, we shall support the reasoned amendment tabled by the Conservatives. If we lose, we shall seek to amend the Bill in Committee. If we lose in Committee, we shall, none the less, commend a yes vote in the referendum. However, even if this House rejects proposals for more than one question, I do not believe that those in the other place will be as easily dragooned. They may insist on more than one question on the ballot paper. I encourage them to do so. Paradoxically, they are there to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens. I am not a defender of the current structure, but they often need to do that.
In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, will he make it clear whether he is advocating two questions in the referendum or more? The way in which he has presented the case for the Liberal Democrats' reasoned amendment implies questions on four issues: mayor; assembly; mayor and assembly; and tax-raising powers. Is he advocating all four?
I do not want to delay the House with a long answer. We want two questions, each allowing the answers yes or no. The first is whether there should be directly elected regional government for London. The second is whether, in addition to an assembly, there should be a directly elected mayor. Other matters can be debated in the Bill next year. I hope that the Committee will agree to two questions. If we do not, I sincerely hope that the other place does. If it does, I hope that the Government then at last accept that it is better to trust the people than to trust the Government.
If other parties amend the Government's legislation in the other place, we should turn that amendment over in this place and go to the people with the mandate that we secured on 1 May. I find it absurd to rely on unelected people in the other place to pursue supposedly democratic means. That is the background to much of the debate.The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) mentioned the police, but did not refer to the response to the consultation from the Metropolitan police, which says:
Like most, if not all, agencies, as well as the business community, the police welcome our proposals. I do not understand what the fuss is about. The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) broke down the Welsh vote, saying that it accorded roughly to a majority of 175 in every Welsh constituency. Any number of his former colleagues, who are no longer here, would kill for a majority of 175. He should not be so sniffy. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) waited and waited to make his maiden speech. Despite the cajoling, it was well worth waiting for. I am sure that we shall hear considerably more from him. I do not like the sanctimonious approach and pomposity of minority parties which, having been trounced in the general election, not least in London, try to preach to us about democracy. We said clearly in the manifesto that we would proceed to a referendum on the elected mayor and the assembly—"The Metropolitan Police Service welcomes the prospect of a Mayor, an elected assembly for London and the consequent formation of a properly constituted police authority."
Not in the manifesto.
Yes we did.
Indeed, we did. We put our proposals to the people of London on 1 May and secured record support in London for our troubles. Now we are told by the Conservatives, "We want a mayor, but no assembly. We got only 1 million votes compared to Labour's almost 2 million, but that does not matter six months on. That is democratic." We are told by the Liberal Democrats, "We want an assembly, but not a mayor. We got only 600,000 votes compared to Labour's almost 2 million in London, but that does not matter six months on."It is cant and hypocrisy for the Opposition to talk about democracy. We have had silly little asides from the south-west London colony of Opposition Members about arrogance. The arrogance is for Opposition Members to try to turn over the mandate we secured barely six months ago, which is of substance and matters.
I want to put one matter on the record. I have a copy of the Labour manifesto in front of me. It did, indeed, commit Labour to a referendum and it proposed a directly elected mayor and an assembly, but it said nothing about how many questions would be asked—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It said nothing about how many questions would be asked, so that point was never addressed.
In all the subsequent discussions throughout the campaign, especially in London, we said clearly that the mayor and the assembly were a single package. The proposals were not a pick-and-mix, a portfolio or ones that people could take some of and not the rest. Far from the proposals being timid, they are radical and previously unheard of in this country, as my hon. Friends have said. Putting the package—not the detail—to the people on I May and saying that we would hold a referendum on it, far from being insulting or timid, gives the people of London a voice, far more than would be the case under the Opposition's proposals.The Leader of the Opposition is acting like a lemming on Europe. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield proved that he was willing to sacrifice his lemmings—what remains of the London Conservative Members—by objecting to our proposals. The proposals were in the manifesto and were clearly attached to a referendum. Everyone knows the extent of the London vote. The two issues are not distinct and were always put together as a package. The White Paper will be published and there will be greater discussion and debate on the detail between now and the referendum in May. I hope that, as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, the Conservatives will engage fully in the debate on the detail and the relationship between the assorted bodies in London when the Bill has been passed. The legislation must be seen in the context of the mandate that we secured on 1 May. The proposals are supported—there are, of course, minority positions—by the Association of London Government. I accept that the association does not unanimously support the Government's proposals on the specific questions, but it supports the broad sweep. The proposals are also welcomed by the police and the business community in London.
The hon. Gentleman cannot say that there is broad agreement except on the number of questions. Half the borough leaders want two questions and the majority of the people of London want two questions. What is the hon. Gentleman frightened of? Is he frightened of giving the people of London a choice? The people of London will have no choice and he is treating them as if he is a dictator in a banana republic.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman enjoyed that intervention. I will not give way to him again if that is the best he can do.I was referring to the Association of London Government response, which says:
It is right that the ALG should reflect those views. Happily, the majority on the ALG did not accept those views and, later tonight, the majority in this House will not accept those views."The minority parties … favour different models for … governance … and would wish the ballot paper to contain separate questions on the Mayor and the Assembly."
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Opposition's obsession about whether there should be one or two questions simply reflects their unease with the fact that the vast majority of Londoners support our proposals? They do not want to admit that.
My hon. Friend is entirely right. It also seems that, in some quarters, there is a little difficulty with coming to terms with the results in London last May.Aside from the point raised about the number of questions, many of the points made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey were appropriate. They were, however, appropriate not to a debate on this Bill, but to discussions once the White Paper is out. I have some concerns, not least about the architecture of London governance after the Greater London assembly and the mayor are in place, about including people and about a strategic scrutiny role for the assembly. Once we move away from questions about how many questions to the future of London's governance, we can discuss, together with appropriate bodies in London, the interlocking relationship between the boroughs, the Greater London assembly, the mayor and central Government. We must try to get real transparency and clarity in those relationships. I do not see the creation of an elected mayor and a Greater London assembly as a recipe for conflict, and most of the points made on that have been clichés. People may believe that if they say them often enough, they will gain some substance and meaning. Similarly, we are told that a mayor will open things up to corruption. Why should that be the case any more than it is the case with the leader of a council in whom so much is vested? It does not follow. We are told—these views are offered as truths—that a mayor and an authority together are a recipe for conflict and corruption. That does not figure. Sooner rather than later, however, there must be a real understanding of the relationship between central Government and local government in London, and of how the GLA and the mayor will fit in between. Some of those who have expressed concern about the matter may have a point. If there is conflict, it will not be enough for the mayor to say, "I am directly elected, I have 5 million votes behind me and I outweigh the Greater London assembly and the London boroughs." That would not be appropriate, any more than it is appropriate for incompetent chief executives to hide behind elected councillors or for local councillors to use their democratic mandate as an excuse for failures, shortcomings and irresponsibility. Although the democratic mandate affords Members of Parliament, councillors and, eventually, the London mayor rights and responsibilities, it does not make them fireproof and it does not make them anything other than democratically elected people who will be held to account by the people. Too many people hide behind the notion of a democratic mandate to hide their shortcomings and wrong-doings. If we do not get the architecture right, we may be in difficulties, but I believe that it will emerge as the process evolves. It is the responsibility of all London Members, together with the London boroughs, central Government, the mayor and the new assembly to work out the relationships. No matter whether one has separate questions on the mayor and the assembly or a combined question, those relationships cannot be dealt with when discussing referendum legislation. By definition, they will have to evolve and it is important that discussions begin sooner rather than later. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North said, London Members celebrate the city's rich diversity. When the referendum has been won and we are discussing the detailed mechanisms in respect of the GLA and the mayor, it will be the responsibility of all political parties to make regional London government as inclusive and representative of that diversity as possible. Gender split, ethnic representation and the like are matters for responsible political parties, but we will do ourselves no favours if a 23-member, 30-member or 60-member assembly is dominated by white, middle-class people such as myself—grey men in grey suits. It must reflect the wide diversity in London. I have other concerns that I will share quite openly. The mayor of London should not be simply a tourist attraction—a mayor for the west end and never mind the rest of London. Nor should the assembly be purely and simply a talking shop for the west end or for what was once inner London. I have been on far too many London Labour party committees—and in the past two or three years the London Planning Advisory Committee—shouting and screaming that the area I represent may be ex-Middlesex, but it is now part of Greater London. Outer London and suburban London should have as much of a voice as inner London in the assembly and in electing the mayor.
Is not the hon. Gentleman making a very good argument for a constituency-based assembly?
No. The hon. Gentleman has either misheard or misconstrued my remarks. One of the forms of proportional representation may address my concern. I am not saying that Harrow desperately needs its own separate member of the assembly or that the mayor must come from Harrow, in order for Harrow, outer London and suburban London to have a voice.After three years on the London Planning Advisory Committee, I have come to the view—which, to some extent, is shared by Conservative and Liberal colleagues on that body—that London means London. It does not stop at Hammersmith, Westminster or Newham, and areas such as my constituency are not that nasty little bit before the green belt and the M25. Harrow and the other outer London boroughs deserve a voice within the assembly, and it is for the House—working with the London boroughs, the mayor and the assembly—to ensure that they have more say than has been the case in the quagmire of quangoland that we have inhabited since 1986. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey for mentioning that the Further Education Funding Council is now regionally organised and that planning and strategic considerations are addressed on a regional basis. If, for whatever reason, it is not possible for the mayor and the GLA to take over that function—and the same applies to London's health service—at the very least Londoners should be afforded an exciting and innovative scrutiny role in respect of health and further education. However, the assembly should not be toothless; it should have some clout, and we can talk about that after March and before May. The role of the FEFC clearly matters to Londoners, not least in terms of the regeneration work of the regional development agency, which will be transferred to the GLA, and economic regeneration more generally. It is daft that there is no Londonwide control of those issues. There is an equal case for strategic scrutiny in terms of London's health service, which also requires consideration. None of those concerns, however, detracts from the Bill, which is long overdue and seeks to get in motion the whole process of working towards a referendum for the mayor and the assembly. The Conservatives missed the boat in Wales and Scotland, but—to mix metaphors—they can be in the front carriage once the referendum is out the way. By all means, as you will anyway, campaign in the referendum against the one question, but once it is out of the way—
Order. Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. He has used the term, "you" several times, but I shall not be contesting or opposing anything.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am grateful for your clarification.Once the referendum has determined the will of the people of Greater London, I hope that all parties will work together—within the context of our clear mandate on 1 May to provide a democratically elected, directly elected mayor and a Greater London assembly—to reach consensus on the most appropriate strategic governance for London. In the long term, the people of London will be grateful for that and will damn those who put party purposes before the preferences and future of the people of London.
As the first Conservative to speak following the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), may I associate myself and my colleagues with the tributes to that speech? The hon. Gentleman made an entertaining, witty speech, full of humility for his constituency. I have two comments. First, Ealing, North and its new Member have gained in stature as a result of his speech. Secondly, referring to his quotation from John Betjeman, I find Ealing, North today a more attractive place than it was yesteryear, if only because I suffer from hay fever very badly and am therefore reassured that I will no longer smell the scent of the hay if I visit that constituency.The House will appreciate the hon. Gentleman's tribute to his three predecessors, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) and to the former Members for Ealing, North, Mr. Harry Greenway and Lord Molloy. The fact that I was in the House when Lord Molloy represented Ealing, North is a sign of my advancing years. Obviously, I should like to mention what I consider to be valid views for consideration in the debate about the Bill. First, I subscribe to the view that there should be two separate questions in the referendum. It may be that, implicitly, the Labour manifesto put the two issues together, but it certainly did not do so explicitly. Secondly, I should have thought that the Government were great enough to be prepared to listen to people. As I understand it, it was not the Government's original intention to put two separate questions on the Scottish issue, but they decided to do so between the election and the referendum. Therefore, I hope that they will listen to the people of London and reconsider the matter. After all, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) said, widespread support for the two questions ranges from Conservative London boroughs to the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). One could not find a wider political spectrum. Incidentally, my local borough, which is run by a coalition of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, believes that there should be two questions. I also understand that the London trade union representatives agree, as does The Times, which I remember as The London Times. So, from the carthorse to the thunderer, a great political spectrum supports a two-question referendum. I shall return to that point in respect of another matter at the conclusion of my speech. A directly elected Greater London authority and a directly elected mayor is a recipe for division and dissension. It need not be, but it almost certainly will be. The reason is very simple. If anybody were directly elected as mayor, they would feel that they had a status which gave them importance and influence. Although they would seek to work with a Greater London authority, the London boroughs or, indeed, with a Government office for London, the fact remains that they would feel that they had a special relationship with the people of London, and would use it to put forward the manifesto on which they were elected. In addition, since an elected mayor of London would be unique in our country, it would further the importance of the office. I accept that such a problem could be overcome by Greater London authority members—or whatever they will be called—electing the mayor. That would be the better way to go about it. After all, that is exactly what every local authority does at the moment. Successfully elected councillors proceed each year to elect a mayor. Such a process would be much more in tune with the precept and practice of local government. What I shall say next will certainly not be popular on the Government Benches, but I feel duty bound to say it. London, as we all agree, is a huge and unique city. Thirty-two London boroughs each represent–1 think—a minimum of 150,000 people and, at the most, more than 300,000. My borough of Barnet serves a population of more than 300,000. We must therefore consider whether there should be special arrangements for our metropolitan and capital city. When we considered such arrangements 11 years ago, it was found that there was no need for a Greater London council. Indeed, experience and the activities of the Greater London council led the then Government to believe that a directly elected Greater London authority was not necessary. The main reason was that London boroughs embraced most—but not all—of the powers and responsibilities of local government. Incidentally, from Labour Members' remarks, the attitude that comes over to Conservative Members is, "We are the masters now; we have won the election and so we can do what we want." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am afraid that it does come over like that. If I remember rightly, the proposal to abolish the GLC was in the Conservative party manifesto for the 1983 election. If I also remember rightly, the Conservatives won a huge majority in the subsequent election. There were certainly many more Conservative Members than Labour Members representing London.
Following the election in 1983, was there a referendum so that Londoners could have a say about the abolition of the GLC? I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman could recall a referendum taking place.
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there was not a referendum. I am not arguing that there should necessarily be a referendum before setting up the Greater London authority. There was not a referendum before setting up the GLC and, as he said, there was not one before abolishing it. It is his Government who decided, for understandable reasons—I do not quarrel with them—that there should be a referendum. I accept that they are carrying out their party manifesto pledge, but I am arguing that there was no need to pledge a referendum ahead of introducing a Bill.The most important point is that we should know exactly what is to be set up, how it is to be set up and what it will cost before we ask Londoners to vote in a referendum. I ask the Minister for London and Construction to consider that. He may well respond that there will be a White Paper in March, a few weeks ahead of the referendum on 7 May. I say to that, "Well, there is many a spill betwixt White Paper and Bill." It would be far better if Parliament had the chance to look into the devil of the detail first. Then, when we know exactly what we are to have, we could put the question to Londoners in a referendum. Not to go about the matter in that way is offering Londoners a menu without the prices. I believe that there is no need for a Greater London authority or a GLC mark II, simply because the boroughs have the resources and capacity in most functions to decide policy—and, as a result. they are able to bring government nearer to the people of London. Where a strategic authority is necessary to deal with certain planning matters, such strategic decisions ought to be taken by the Government, because so many such decisions affect not only Londoners but many people outside London and, indeed, in the south-east as a whole. As has been pointed out, the Metropolitan police area goes outside the Greater London boundaries. The London Underground system on certain lines goes well beyond the Greater London boundaries. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of commuters come from outside the Greater London boundaries—from Northampton in the north, well beyond Southend in the east, as far south as Brighton and certainly as far west as Reading, if not beyond. So many matters that affect Londoners and London demand consideration far beyond the Greater London area. The former Greater London council was a recipe for dispute and dissension. I give one example of that: the docklands. Nothing was done in the docklands, despite five London boroughs being involved in its replanning. It was difficult enough to get all five boroughs to agree. They very rarely did, but even if they did, they did not agree with what the GLC wanted to do. A special agency was formed finally, which has been much more successful in developing that part of our great city. However carefully the powers of a GLA or an elected mayor are defined, empire building will follow as sure as night follows day. That happened with the GLC and it will most certainly happen with any Greater London authority. There will be plenty of scope for arguing not only with the boroughs but with the Government. Let us consider what will happen if the Greater London authority is set up. I use as a basis the Minister's speech in July and the Green Paper. For a start, the members themselves and their expenses will give rise to costs. That is certain and nobody will quibble about it. However, in addition, huge costs will arise in employing the staff needed to carry out the scrutiny of the budget, the strategy, and the appointments made by the mayor—as was mentioned by the Minister for London and Construction and in the Green Paper. Costs will also arise from the committees that will be set up, which will resemble giant Select Committees with powers to call for people and papers and to examine London issues. Those committees will produce reports and strategic reviews and will have the power to summon the relevant London organisations before them. The costs that arise will be proper, but significant. London Members of Parliament should be careful about the exact nature of the proposals if we are to recommend them to our constituents. The Greater London authority could clash with Ministers and their responsibilities and also with the powers of House of Commons Select Committees. That issue should be carefully considered in Committee. We have been reminded that it is 11 years since the abolition of the GLC and seven years since the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority. I cannot speak on the latter, as I represent an outer London constituency, but my perception of the opinion of the majority of my constituents is that they have felt no significant disadvantage from the lack of the GLC. Feeling may be different in the old London county council area, but my constituents were in favour of the abolition of the GLC and do not hanker for a replacement authority.
How does the hon. Gentleman known?
I said that that was my perception. We have heard many perceptions and judgments from Labour Members and surely I should be allowed to describe mine. My constituents may vote yes in a referendum, depending on what is asked and how many questions are put, but they will be more likely to vote yes if they do not know the full implications of what they are voting for. I therefore come back to my central point which is that it is in the interests of democracy that the people of London know exactly what they can expect and what they will have to pay before they vote in the referendum.I believe that there will be dissension and disappointment if a Greater London authority is set up. For example, let us take the issue of town and country planning. When we had the GLC, planning applications were made to the local planning authority—the London borough. That authority said yes or no to the application. The more significant planning applications were sent to the GLC if the local authority said yes. After some months' delay, the GLC said yes or no. The process was pointless if it said yes, because the borough had already said yes. If the GLC said no, the applicant could appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment. It was pointless for the GLC to consider planning matters. I can understand, but would not agree with, the argument that the Greater London authority should be the recipient of all planning applications for London. That would be more logical because if the authority turned down a planning application, the applicant could appeal to the Secretary of State. However, the arrangement under the GLC regime wasted time and caused more bureaucracy and confusion. It also illustrates the problem that a Greater London authority would have with the Government under a similar system.
Why should London be different from elsewhere in the country, where the county is the planning authority for the structure plan and the district councils are responsible for the local plans?
London should be different because London is different. In London, the local planning authority is the London borough. I am not an expert on all local authorities outside London, but most local authorities in the counties are smaller, with smaller populations, and do not have the facilities that the big counties have. In London, the 32 London boroughs already have important responsibilities—for example, for education—that local district councils do not have.The role of the mayor will also give rise to problems. I understand that it is proposed that he or she will set the Greater London authority budget. What size will that budget be? It has also been proposed that he or she should devise strategies and action plans, but he or she would do better to co-ordinate the London boroughs instead. I also do not understand how the mayor and the Greater London authority will fit in with the proposed London development agency, because it is proposed that the agency should be separate from the authority. I wish to raise four more detailed points covering various aspects of the Bill. They can be more properly discussed in Committee, but I wish to give the Minister the opportunity to consider them now, because they are of more than pedantic importance. The first concerns clause 2. Resident European Union nationals will, I understand, for the first time, be able to vote in the local elections next May. Will they therefore be able to vote in the referendum? Secondly, on clause 3, will the result of the referendum be announced on a ward-by-ward basis or a borough-by-borough basis, or will it be announced only as a result without any breakdowns? Thirdly, on clause 4, will there be two ballot boxes in each polling station—one for the London borough elections and the other for the referendum—or will all the ballot papers be put in one box? [Interruption.] That may seem like a pedantic point, but it is important for the time of the announcement of the result. Fourthly, if all the papers are to be put into one box, how will they be counted and checked? Those are important questions to people interested in the issue and to those who will be responsible for administering the referendum. Fourthly, and finally, the Minister was good enough to allow me to intervene in his speech, on the question of the referendum. I advocate two separate questions, but—whether we have two or one—the word "directly" should be inserted before "elected mayor" and between "separately" and "elected assembly" in the question proposed in the schedule to the Bill. Under the form of words for the ballot paper proposed by the Bill—if there is to be one question—it will be possible to vote yes if one wants a directly elected London authority but not a directly elected mayor. The ballot, according to the schedule, says that the authority will be
Following from the election for an assembly, the ballot question could be such as to allow the assembly—not the electorate—to choose the mayor. That would change the Government's present intention dramatically. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I apologise for raising intricate questions at this stage, but I believe that they are of such importance that Ministers need to be aware of them before the Committee stage."made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly".
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. It is a great honour to be elected to represent and serve the people of Wimbledon. Wimbledon, like London—of which it forms an integral part—has an international reputation and a strong sense of identity and civic pride. It is also my home town. I was born in Wimbledon, I live in Wimbledon and I went to school in Wimbledon, and it is a great privilege to be elected to serve the community of which I am a part.It is with particular pride that I address the House as the Labour Member for Wimbledon. Indeed, I am only the second Labour Member of Parliament in the history of my home town. My predecessor, Mr. Arthur Palmer, was first elected to this House in the Labour landslide victory of 1945. When Arthur Palmer made his maiden speech, the Government faced a great challenge in rebuilding our nation in the aftermath of war. Once again, my party has the task of rebuilding this nation, and restoring belief in public services and in government for the many, and not the few. I am pleased that the Government have also moved with such urgency to rebuild this city and, as a first step, to restore a Greater London authority. The achievements of the Labour Government to which my predecessor Arthur Palmer was elected—providing security for all in the post-war era—will be a continuing inspiration for the new and reforming Government. In Wimbledon—just as Arthur Palmer did—I aim to represent and serve all my constituents, as the Government will govern in the interests of the nation as a whole. Arthur Palmer said that a Member of Parliament is not a spokesperson for one party or faction within a community, but a servant of all his constituents. In keeping with the traditions of the House, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Charles Goodson-Wickes. He made his maiden speech on the valuable contribution of voluntary organisations to community life in Wimbledon, and I whole-heartedly share that view. I also wish to pay tribute to the work of Cyril Black, a long-standing Member of Parliament and friend and representative of Wimbledon. Cyril Black realised, as I do, that a Member of Parliament has an important civic role in the community. He spoke always in the interests of the people of Wimbledon, nurturing in the process our sense of community, identity and civic pride which is still a prominent feature of the town today. I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman), whose work as leader of Merton council in many ways paved the ground for my success by demonstrating that the values of modern Labour could resonate with people in formerly Conservative areas such as Wimbledon to the point where they can give us their trust. Wimbledon is justly proud of its sense of history and tradition. The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) mentioned Highgate cemetery, where Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer are buried. I am glad to say that, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), we have some fine alumni from Wimbledon, including the author Robert Graves, who was born in Wimbledon, and William Wilberforce, who lived there and fought for the abolition of the slave trade. It was also home to William Morris, and the Merton Abbey mills are still a feature of Wimbledon today. Today, Wimbledon is home to the internationally famous All England club, but I wish to remind the House that we also have a successful Premiership football team. If we were able to return the team to a ground within the constituency, we might even lay claim, with our tennis and football, to being the sports capital of London. Wimbledon also sports a great deal of religious and cultural diversity, and this reflects the diversity of our life as part of the city of London. Wimbledon is home to the papal envoy and has a strong Roman Catholic contingent. There are more than 30 churches of all denominations, and we are blessed with a synagogue and two mosques. This religious diversity reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity of Wimbledon and I am proud to represent that diversity in the House. I speak for everyone in the constituency, regardless of religion, creed or race. In the arts, Wimbledon's reputation has been further enhanced by the well-known Wimbledon theatre, but also—and importantly—by the unique achievements of the Polka international children's theatre. Finally, many community and voluntary organisations help to develop and sustain valuable community partnerships in the town, and Merton council has taken a leading role in setting up such partnerships. The Abbey partnership policing initiative has made the streets safer and reduced the fear of crime. Working in partnership with magistrates, the probation service, the local police and the council, the initiative has become a flagship project which has been visited by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary as well as his predecessor. Those local partnerships allow me to work towards delivering my promise to the people of Wimbledon—and help the new Government deliver their promises. However, we cannot achieve this alone; we can achieve it only by working, for example, in partnership with local schools and the council. I repeat my promise to the people of Wimbledon; the new deal for Britain will mean a fair deal for Wimbledon. In all the ways I have outlined, Wimbledon contributes to the diversity, energy and huge resourcefulness of London. I am proud to have the opportunity to give voice to all that Wimbledon has to offer our city and our nation in these respects. A Greater London assembly and mayor will strengthen the strong bond that Wimbledon already has with London and will give its people the chance to meet many challenges that we cannot tackle by local partnerships alone. The assembly promises an integrated transport strategy that will ease the lives of the 17,000 commuters who travel to London from Wimbledon every day. It will provide a framework for planning the traffic flows and urban developments that so deeply affect the lives of people in our town. It will create a pathway to sustainable economic and environmental development that will impact directly on my constituents' quality of life. For all those reasons, I welcome the Government's initiative to establish a strategic authority for London, with the consent of the people of London. On 1 May, people in my constituency delivered one of the largest swings in the country, to give Wimbledon a voice. I am confident that in May next year Wimbledon will vote as resoundingly for an assembly and mayor, so that London, of which we in Wimbledon feel so much a part, from which we have so much to learn, to which we have so much to contribute, and from membership of which we have so much to gain, may once more have a voice. I welcome the Government's proposals to give the people of Wimbledon the opportunity to vote for the assembly and the mayor.
I am most grateful to have this opportunity to address the House for the first time. I want first to congratulate the hon. Members for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) and for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) on their maiden speeches. We look forward to many similar performances and may have to indulge the occasional rally from the hon. Member for Wimbledon.Having heard two maiden speeches from Members elected on 1 May, hon. Members might consider that I am acting with unseemly haste in making mine. In my defence, the long gap between my election and the return of the House after the long summer recess has given me a somewhat uncharacteristic impatience. Having been variously described in the by-election campaign as a Dickensian mill owner, a scaled-up version of a garden gnome, a bearded non-entity, Forrest Gump and the missing link, I feel that I am under no illusions as to what Westminster politics is all about. I am immensely proud to represent the people of Uxbridge, but my feelings are mixed with sadness. I am sure that hon. Members of all parties will want to join me in paying tribute to my predecessor, the late Sir Michael Shersby. He was a most respected Member of Parliament. He surprised the pundits 25 years ago by winning a by-election against the prevailing political tide. From that moment on, until his untimely death in May, he served all his constituents in a faultless manner. Sir Michael was immensely respected in Uxbridge and known for his sense of devotion and fairness. He was well thought of by hon. Members of all parties. On the day of his death there was a tangible sense of loss throughout the Uxbridge constituency. I had the privilege of serving him as constituency chairman and election agent on 1 May, and as I embark on my career here I miss his kind guiding hand and words of wisdom. The House, Uxbridge, and the country that he loved so much, are the poorer today. I share the great pride in my constituency that Sir Michael always had. For me, as for him, it is and always has been home. Yesterday, as I stood at the war memorial in Uxbridge listening to the last post being sounded by a lone Royal Air Force bugler, I was once more reminded of the close links between our town and the RAF. Next year is the 80th anniversary of the establishment of RAF Uxbridge. Much of the Battle of Britain was conducted from the bunker at RAF Uxbridge, and there Sir Winston Churchill first spoke of "the few". RAF Uxbridge is home to the Central Band and the Queen's Colour Squadron of the RAF Regiment, both units being renowned around the world. The service men and women are an integral part of the local economy. This year is the bicentenary of the formation of the Uxbridge Yeomanry. I am pleased that it is once more back in town as the Middlesex Yeomanry. The Uxbridge Yeomanry was often called on for escort duty on royal journeys. In 1834, it escorted the sovereign on part of his journey between Windsor and Moor Park. Having successfully completed the first half of the duty, the Yeomen were liberally entertained while awaiting the return leg. In high spirits, they set off, got lost, and took the king into a ploughed field. I can assure the House that today the Yeomanry is a professional body of men and women. The constituency is of course made up of more than Uxbridge town. It is a collection of communities: Ickenham, Cowley, Hillingdon, Colham, Yiewsley and West Drayton. Once villages, they retain today a great deal of their individual characters; but as London's boundaries have advanced, the distinctions have become slightly less well marked. Although essentially in suburbia, or metroland, many of us still consider that we live in Middlesex, rather than west London, but we are of course in Greater London, and Uxbridge football club currently holds the London Football Association challenge cup. Labour Members will no doubt be pleased to know that I am a Reds supporter. We are a forward-looking area. We have the immensely successful and world-renowned Brunel university and science park in the constituency, as well as many fine schools. All but one of the secondary schools are grant maintained, and I believe that they are living proof of the success of the GM system. The environment is precious to us and over the years many people have chosen to live in the constituency because of its open spaces and the sense of being in neither country nor city. We have several nature reserves. Muntjac deer graze within half a mile of Uxbridge town centre, and we have important colonies of both great crested newts and glow-worms, and much interesting bird life. Hon. Members will no doubt discover with time that wildlife and conservation hold a special interest for me, and I hope that they will also find in me as stout a defender of the green belt as my predecessor was. I apologise to the House for indulging myself in extolling the constituency's merits, especially as I appreciate the fact that many hon. Members had the pleasure of visiting the constituency back in those balmy days in July. I thank them all for their great interest. I want to thank the Prime Minister, in particular, for sparing some of his valuable time to visit both Uxbridge and Yiewsley. For many of us, his personal appearance was a great morale boost. Speaking personally, I can honestly say that his visit was the icing on the cake and made the summer all the sweeter. I am a little worried, however, that other constituencies might feel somewhat jealous if we in Uxbridge alone have this great honour, so I strongly urge the Prime Minister to visit Beckenham and Winchester, so as not to be seen to have treated Uxbridge with undue favouritism. London's importance and significance are beyond question. That is why Conservative Members recognise the need for London to have its own voice. We think that that should be through a directly elected mayor, who would be responsible for cross-London issues, such as transport, traffic and environmental matters. The mayor could work with all the London borough council leaders, using their collective experience in formulating Londonwide policy; they would have the experience and knowledge of what would work on the ground and could act as an advisory board to the mayor. The problem with the Bill is that it lumps together the election of a mayor with that of an assembly, denying Londoners the chance to vote in favour of one without the other. The issues should be properly debated. It is legitimate to support various different permutations regarding the future of London government. If democratic legitimacy is to be conferred on the future government structure, a two-question referendum is the proper way forward. The Government recognised that need for two separate questions in the devolution referendum in Scotland. If they saw the need for two questions in Scotland, why not give the people of London that choice? Creating an assembly and a mayor offers the prospect of institutionalised conflict between the two, as well as clashes with the boroughs. The one question proposed in the Bill will prevent that view from being advanced without rejecting the entire package that is on offer. The Bill does not allow a choice to be made between either a mayor or an assembly, or having both. The Green Paper proposes an entirely new structure for the government of London. The Bill as it stands offers Londoners an all-or-nothing choice. It is only right, therefore, that two questions should be put on the ballot paper. That would give Londoners a real choice over their future. Surely it is not too much to ask.
It is a great pleasure to speak after the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). As he said, many of us—I imagine almost all the Labour Members here—had the pleasure of visiting what is now his constituency during the by-election campaign in July. I have a particular pleasure in congratulating him on his maiden speech because I also represent a constituency where many people feel that they are a part of Middlesex, and also which is at the end of the Piccadilly line although I am at the other end. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his speech. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), who gave a characteristically witty maiden speech, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) on a thoughtful and intelligent maiden speech.The manifesto on which the Labour party won the election on 1 May included an ambitious programme of democratic and constitutional reform. As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) said, this is the next stage of a long and comprehensive programme of change—a programme that is designed to modernise our democracy and to rebuild a sense of faith and trust in the political process, to challenge the secrecy and lack of accountability that have for too long characterised British democracy. That is why we are committed to devolution, to incorporating the European convention on human rights into British law, to freedom of information, to study electoral reform and to reform the Houses of Parliament. Where we are proposing measures of great constitutional significance, we are proposing to put those measures to the people in a referendum. As has been said, we have had the referendums in Scotland and Wales. We shall have a referendum on proposals for voting reform for the election of the House and today we are discussing the proposed referendum for the Greater London assembly and mayor. Like most hon. Members who have spoken, I have particular pleasure in supporting the Bill because I am a Londoner. I was born and bred in outer London, in the constituency that I have the privilege to represent; I have also lived and served as an elected Labour councillor in inner London. From both perspectives, I see the strong case for the change that the Government propose to introduce. One of my earliest political memories is of the campaign against the abolition of the Greater London council. It has been instructive in preparing for this speech to look at the Second Reading debate 13 years ago and contrast the actions of the then Conservative Government—like our Government, they had a large majority—with those of the present Government. Today, we have had more than 1,000 responses to a Government Green Paper—responses which are overwhelmingly positive about what is being proposed. In 1984, there were 800 responses, of which 95 per cent. were hostile to what was being proposed by the then Conservative Government. In 1984, we had a Government with a three-figure majority relying solely on the fact that they had a manifesto commitment to put through the changes that they wanted to make in Greater London. Today, we have a Government with a three-figure majority who are proposing to put their manifesto pledge to the people in a referendum next May. If we are to believe the opinion polls, we have a Government whose proposals for Greater London are supported by 80 per cent. of Londoners. The 1984 proposals were rejected by 74 per cent. in the opinion polls at the time. The shadow Defence Secretary, who has been mentioned in the debate—the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young)—was then a Minister at the Department of the Environment. On 4 December 1984, he said:
We scarcely had a disastrous election result on 1 May. I welcome the presence in the Chamber of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who spoke on the same subject and sounded a note of caution when he said:"the rash commitments that Labour Members have made about exhuming the dinosaurs and putting them on a life support machine will be a source of grave embarrassment to them and to their party because people will have seen that those bodies were irrelevant, unnecessary and extravagant and a party that pledges to bring them back will have disastrous election results."—[Official Report, 4 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 291.]
the then Conservative Government—"I suspect that the Government"—
The spectre that is rising today, so ably predicted by the hon. Gentleman 13 years ago, is the spectre of the desire of the overwhelming majority of the people of London to have a democratic voice for our capital city. I welcome the fact that the Conservative party is slowly coming round to our point of view on this issue. The party is now in favour of the mayor, but not of the assembly. It is halfway there. I welcome the conversion on the proposal for a mayor. Unlike the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I think that a directly elected mayor is an exciting democratic innovation. We can have someone who will be an ambassador and a champion for the people of Greater London, providing real leadership for our capital city and making a difference to people's lives in London. I want a mayor who can get things done and who will have real power, but that mayor has to be accountable—accountable to a strategic assembly. That is why the Government's proposals have to be treated as a package and why the Opposition are wrong to propose a mayor alone and to propose that we have two separate referendum questions. Conservative policy is shifting even on the matter of referendums, however, in the direction of the Government Benches. In June, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), who was then speaking from the Conservative Front Bench, advocated a total of four referendum questions. Today, we hear that the Conservative party is in favour of two questions. Perhaps by Christmas they will have accepted the Government's approach—that a single question should be put to the people of London. I recognise from the contribution of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey that there are those who are genuinely concerned and who are putting a genuine case for two questions. In response I must ask, "Why those two questions?" We have already seen confusion on the Liberal Democrat Benches today. The original amendment, which has not been selected, advocated three referendum questions. The Liberal Democrats now advocate two. A number of important issues need to be addressed. The Government have issued a Green Paper that has 61 different questions for consultation. We can separate out many issues, such as the question of revenue-raising powers, which the hon. Gentleman, among others, mentioned, the question about policing raised by other Opposition Members and questions about the electoral system—both for the mayor and the assembly. Many different questions could be addressed in a referendum. The very nature of the manifesto commitment that we put to the people, including the people of Greater London, was of a package with a mayor and an assembly working together. If there is not a mayor, the assembly will be very different. By definition, the sort of package outlined in the Green Paper rests on the idea that there is a separation of powers between a mayor and an assembly. The nature of the mayor and of the assembly on which we have consulted the people and organisations of Greater London is one in which the two exist side by side. In a previous debate in June, Labour Members were accused of manifesto-itis. I do not think that it is manifesto-itis for us to contend that the best way of implementing the commitment that we gave the people of London on 1 May is to have a single question. We will have a referendum on the principle of what the Government propose, and Parliament will have the opportunity after that to deliberate on the detail. That is the best way forward."with their very big majority, may succeed in laying the body politic of the Greater London Council to rest, but I fear that its spectre will rise to haunt us."—[Official Report, 10 December 1984; Vol. 69. c. 857.]
The hon. Gentleman puts a perfectly reasonable case, and I accept his good faith. I hope that he accepts that the argument—put differently by different parties—for having two questions on the central issue of structure is that the proposal in the Labour manifesto concerned the structure. The structure includes the novelty of a directly elected mayor. Matters such as tax-varying powers can be dealt with when we examine the Bill next year. Those views are put in equally good faith and I am sure that he accepts that there is an equally valid argument for them and for having two questions rather than one.
I respect that, but the Liberal Democrat reasoned amendment suggested that three areas could be the subject for questions. The hon. Gentleman has, in good faith, argued that revenue-raising powers for the assembly are a major question that could be put to the people in a referendum. We must strike a balance. In Britain, the referendum is a constitutional novelty: it is not a device used often and we are still feeling our way. It is better to have had a proper debate in the run-up to the general election, which is what started the Green Paper process, continuing through to the publication of the White Paper in the spring. We shall then have a vote on the principle of what the Government seek, and assuming a yes vote, we can then have a full and proper deliberative discussion in this House and in the other place on the legislation.I warmly welcome the new approach outlined in the Green Paper to the governance of our capital city. It is based on the principles of partnership, participation and building consensus. If the Greater London authority is to succeed, it must seek to involve and consult all the interests that make up our great capital city. In the consultation process, the importance of the voice of business and industry in London being heard loud and clear was frequently raised, building on the excellent work of organisations such as London First and the London Pride partnership. Finally, but most important, it is vital that the assembly and the mayor enjoy democratic legitimacy. They must be a genuine democratic voice for the people of London. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London could tell us in her reply, in so far as she can, about the broad responses of individuals and organisations to questions about electoral issues and, in particular, how the mayor and assembly will be elected. There is widespread concern in all parties on that. On this, I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. It is crucial that both the mayor and the assembly enjoy democratic credibility. That means that the mayor must have the clear support of a majority of those voting. The best way to achieve that is the alternative vote system. That must mean an assembly based on fair voting principles. We cannot have an assembly dominated by any one party, even my own. I hope and trust that the Government will listen to the concerns of people of all parties and none, and will adopt a system that will deliver the democratic and reasonable outcomes that I mentioned. Democratic reform lies at the heart of the new politics that the new Government are seeking to promote. The manifesto promise of the Labour party to the people of London was clear and unequivocal. I welcome the Bill because it takes a major stride towards fulfilling that manifesto pledge and restoring a democratic voice to the people of London. For that reason, I commend it to the House.
It is difficult to do justice to the important theme that is fundamental to this debate after a maiden speech of such eloquence as that of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) and after the memorable maiden speeches of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). I hope that the hon. Member for Wimbledon will not regard it as invidious if I do not follow his remarks but concentrate on those of my two geographic parliamentary neighbours.I was delighted that the hon. Member for Ealing, North mentioned the gallant Poles, many of whom reside in his constituency, who fought at RAF Northolt and helped to win the battle of Britain. It is appropriate that he should have commemorated them on Remembrance day eve, as it was appropriate for my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge to remind us that the headquarters of 11 Group RAF Uxbridge, which was commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Park, was at the heart of the Battle of Britain. The continuing service that the Royal Air Force provides our country, and the contribution that it makes to the borough of Hillingdon—where we both have the honour of serving as Members of Parliament—is treasured by all the people of Hillingdon. Hon. Members will have been struck by the sturdy and admirable qualities of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, which made him such a worthy winner of the by-election: his commitment to local people, the love of his country and his warm appreciation, which we all shared, of his fine predecessor, Sir Michael Shersby, who so sadly died almost immediately after the general election in which my hon. Friend played such a crucial part as his constituency chairman and agent. I found it surprising that the Minister did not mention two issues that, for my outer London constituents at least, are at the forefront of their local concerns: public transport and the environment, about which my constituents and those of my hon. Friend for Uxbridge care most profoundly. Perhaps it was understandable that the Minister did not mention public transport. On the doorstep, Labour canvassers said that come 2 May, were we to have a Labour Government, the London Underground system would be put right, there would soon be a directly elected London assembly and mayor responsible for it and the delays, constant fare rises above the level of inflation and inadequacies of the system would be addressed. We wait and see. All that I and my constituents know is that fares are to rise by well above the rate of inflation in the new year, the Government have announced no concrete plans to improve the London Underground transport system, and there are no concrete proposals about exactly how the mayor and the directly elected assembly are going to work hand in glove with the new investors in the system, if there are any, or with the Department of Transport, if it is to have a residual oversight role. On the environment, there is a constant battle throughout London to preserve the few open spaces and patches of green belt that remain. In my constituency, as in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, there has been a malign campaign by the socialist local authority—I say socialist advisedly, because that is how it behaves—to build social housing in areas that are utterly inappropriate for residential development and against the wishes of, I would say, 99.9 per cent. of local residents. The Greater London assembly, if it is elected, is to have responsibility for structure plans that will set the overall pattern within which the development of Greater London is to take place, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) made clear so admirably, it is uncertain how planning issues will be resolved. We know from the consultation document that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions will have ultimate appellate powers, but will the Greater London assembly arrogate to itself functions beyond structure plans? Will it, too, want to supervise and second-guess the judgments of the boroughs? Will the playing fields, public open spaces and the few patches of green belt that remain be better preserved under the Greater London assembly than they are today or not? That is what my constituents want to know, and they have their doubts because they remember what life was like under the GLC.
If the hon. Gentleman looks at Hansard tomorrow, he will see that I referred to transport and the environment. I would not want him to think that I did not refer to those issues. I assure him that the Government are utterly committed to protecting green spaces, particularly in the urban area where they are so precious. We are also committed to improving the public transport system to ensure that there is a better service for the people of London.
I am grateful to the Minister. Perhaps those references were so cursory that they passed me by, or perhaps I was inattentive. I will take heart particularly if his Department will, as a consequence of his expression of good will, postpone the planning inquiry into the proposed Field End road recreation ground development from 6 to 9 January to a date more convenient to my constituents in March. I should be grateful if the Minister could consider that.The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Twigg) referred to a speech of mine on the Local Government Bill, which abolished the GLC. I hate to quote my own speeches, but it is important to do so because, then, I urged my party to be utterly democratic in its approach. I urge it to be just the same today. If the referendum so decides that there should be a directly elected assembly, I would wish our party whole-heartedly to embrace it. On Third Reading of the Local Government Bill, I voted against my Government because I thought that there was a need for some streamlined overall, elected, strategic authority for London. I asked:
the Conservative party—"why should this party"—
There should be a directly elected, strategic assembly for London. I do not believe that delegated representatives of the London boroughs are the right people to fulfil that overall strategic function in support of the mayor. Why do I think that? For party political reasons, I believe that the Conservative party should be embracing whole-heartedly every opportunity to field candidates against the Government. It is by winning elections at every level—and by demonstrating, after we have won a few, that Conservative candidates are the ones to be trusted to look after their constituents' interests, not to waste people's money, and to work harmoniously at every level—that the Conservative party will win back support. It is by a proven track record of democratic success that we will steadily gain to the point whereby the party restores itself and regains power at national level. One must recognise that borough leaders or senior members of borough councils are extremely busy individuals. Their time is fully occupied meeting their responsibilities on behalf of their borough electorates. I do not believe that they would have the time to go to Westminster guildhall or wherever the new assembly may be located. They should be doing their own job for their constituents in their own boroughs. One should also remember that they are part-time councillors with professions of their own; they have other things to do rather than spend their whole time in traffic jams or on the tube travelling to London assembly meetings. I speak personally when I say that we should support a directly elected assembly. How should that assembly be constituted? I suggest that it should be based on 32 or 33 seats, including the City of London—32 is one of the numbers postulated in the consultation paper, and there are 32 London boroughs. I would have one representative per borough because a territorial connection is at the heart of our democracy in this country. On a strategic authority we need to have representatives who will fight for the interests of their local electorates. That is what truly counts. The Minister spoke about accountability. Elected representatives are brought to account if constituents know who their representatives are and recognise that those representatives are fighting for the things that they, the voters, care about. The trouble is that what the Government propose is all part of their greater scheme for constitutional change. The mayoralty is not the normal British kind of mayor; the example cited by the Minister was that of New York. The consultation document poses the question,"be afraid of democracy and of the ballot box?"—[Official Report, 28 March 1985; Vol. 76, c. 751.]
According to that document, the mayor must be modern. I am not quite sure what it means—perhaps that the person should be without flummery and trappings. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) and I know, however, that the mayor of the City of London does a first-rate job as a traditional mayor. He travels the world on behalf of the City and corporation of London and he is invaluable in reinforcing its role as the financial centre of the world. My fear for the mayoralty of Greater London is that it will be a platform for a big ego rather than the kind of office to which a public servant who is more dedicated to the traditions of municipal service might aspire. There must be a careful balance between the need to create an image for London as a whole—which will promote it as a centre of investment and enterprise—and excessive posturing, publicity seeking and personal photo opportunities, and so on. According to the slimmed-down consultation document, the mayor should "make things happen". The GLC made things happen and it spent an awful lot of money on all sorts of weird activities that were way outside its remit as a London assembly. It encouraged many kinds of third-world activities. Unless the powers of the mayoralty are closely drawn, that kind of extravagance could happen again. That is why I believe that it is important that the mayor should be kept under control by a directly elected assembly, elected by a system which our people comprehend and with which they are familiar. Instead, in all likelihood, the Government are proposing, if the Local Government Commission does the work of which the Liberals would approve, a system much more akin to the model for the European Parliament. It is all part of the exercise to change the fundamental governance of our country in line with European practices. That would thereby diminish the traditional authority of Parliament and the elected Government of the United Kingdom. As the Liberal spokesman, the hon Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) has said, the idea of an assembly and a mayor is a prototype, part of the greater design for regional government for England. We Londoners would be used as guinea pigs in an expensive experiment in constitutional change of a dangerous sort. I turn to the question of timing—in politics, timing is all, and it is significant to analyse why the Labour Government want to hold the referendum on the same day as the local government elections. I suspect that the first reason is that they wish to maximise turnout. In a referendum of such significance as this one, there ought to be a qualifying majority, just as there is in normal referendums involving constitutional change. It was, of course, on the matter of a qualifying majority that the referendums for devolution in Scotland and in Wales failed in the late 1970s, at the end of the Callaghan Government: the turnout did not meet the qualifying figure. After what happened in Wales, where only 25 per cent. of the electorate voted for a devolved Assembly, it is little wonder that the Labour Government do not want a qualifying majority for the London referendum. We are to have a referendum campaign that is coterminous with the local election campaign in London. Local elections are of the greatest importance to Londoners, in that they happen only once every four years. In other parts of the country subject to district councils, a third of the council is turned over every year and there are various other systems; but in London those elections happen every four years. Londoners—certainly my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge—want good, responsible governance at local level. That is what really interests them, which is why on not a single doorstep during the election campaign did any elector complain to me that there was no Greater London authority in existence, or that Greater London lacked a mayor. What they did complain about was the scandalous waste and extravagance of the socialist borough council and the way it was running roughshod over local people's opinions and building over green belt land. In short, what the Government are proposing in this shoddy Bill is the biggest municipal blank cheque in history. It should not be approved."What would the Mayor and Assembly do?"
I congratulate the hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) for having given me the opportunity to acquaint myself with large areas of his constituency during the wettest July since 1853. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) on making a speech that demonstrated his commitment to his constituency—the scale of our victory there showed the strength of support for our policies in London, as in Britain as a whole.I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), who played an absolute blinder of a maiden speech. It showed the warped humour and affection for his constituency that we associate with him. My name is a gift to punsters—I wish I had a pound for every time there was a newspaper headline saying "The Buck Stops Here" or "The Buck Starts Here"—but my hon. Friend is in a class of his own. It is alleged that pinned to a noticeboard in his office there is a news cutting carrying the words "Blair Rattled by Pound's Strength". That might not have been true yesterday, but I am sure it is today. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill, which represents a massive extension of democracy in London. I am staggered by the hypocrisy of some Conservative Members who have argued against the referendum, saying that the nature of the question means that it is a challenge to democracy, when in 1986 the wishes of Londoners were brushed aside so casually. I look forward with great excitement to the campaign for a yes vote in May. We will give Londoners what they want: a voice for the capital, dynamic leadership and effective scrutiny of the decisions and policies that affect us. It will be the different, but complementary, roles of the mayor and the Greater London authority that will deliver those aims; and it is because those roles are so complementary that it is necessary that we put a single, simple question to Londoners. I derive a certain personal pleasure from speaking in the debate, because it was Dame Shirley Porter's Westminster council that led the campaign for the abolition of the Greater London council. I now represent part of Westminster and am able to give a voice to those who opposed the abolition of the GLC then and who now want the return of a single London authority. I disagree with Conservative Members who say that such an authority has not been an issue, because, again and again, when on the doorstep during the election campaign and since, I have found that the lack of a voice for London is a recurrent theme. People feel that London has been the poorer for the past 11 years for being without an authority. Far greater satisfaction comes in knowing what the mayor and the Greater London authority together will achieve for London, for the story of contemporary London is truly a tale of two cities. The story of both cities must be heard if we are to get the full picture—that is a mixed metaphor, but I am sure that hon. Members will forgive me. The first London is on a roll: last week, we were voted the best city for business for the eighth year running; London is setting the trends in art and culture; and our property and housing markets are booming—land in central London currently fetches up to £3 million an acre and the housing market is dominated by international investors attracted by the business climate. This London attracts the envy, and sometimes the annoyance, of other parts of Britain. London's success is something we should be proud of and I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Twigg) in that respect. We want to attract tourism as well as top-quality business and industry, and central to the mayor's role will be the championing of London. Yet London's success masks and sometimes aggravates the problems of the second city. The property values I have just mentioned add up to a crisis in affordable housing, especially in central London. Because of London's position as a capital city, our local authorities shoulder a disproportionate share of both the practical and the financial responsibility for the care of asylum seekers. As the London Research Centre's excellent strategy document "The Capital Divided" demonstrated a few months ago, we have pockets of the most acute deprivation to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the problem of unemployment in the capital; in my constituency, there are estates and pockets where the rate of unemployment, especially among members of ethnic minorities, far exceeds 50 per cent. We have a complex needs profile because we have high levels of mobility. We have many single people, which can lead to problems of support. We have great ethnic diversity and, although we should celebrate that diversity, there is no question but that it adds to the pressures on the city by increasing the complexity and costs of service delivery in every field—from health care, to further education, to policing. Without a single voice for London, we cannot tackle those problems effectively. The solutions to the problems of the second city of London must be Londonwide and arrived at democratically. They must ensure that commercial success and social cohesion go hand in hand. That view is expressed in the prospectus for London published by London Pride, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate referred and which demonstrates that business interests recognise the importance of social cohesion to the creation of economic success. I pay tribute to the work of the Association of London Government, which represents many London constituencies. It is a measure of the maturity of modern London politics that its wide geographical differences and diversity of politics have so often been synthesised in a way that allows the ALG to speak convincingly for London. The ALG should not, however, be London's sole voice. It is quite properly concerned with local government, and its representatives from the boroughs must champion, first and foremost, the interests of those boroughs. It is quite right that the representatives of each local authority should vigorously lobby for their own corner, but the new London mayor and the new authority must speak for the whole of London and be free from local concerns. I therefore strongly believe that the new authority should not consist of an elected representative for each borough. The danger is that such representatives would inevitably champion their own corners at London's expense. When it comes to promoting London commercially, or to regeneration, social cohesion or transport policy, we need a pan-London focus. Representatives must stand above the interests of particular boroughs; hence I agree completely with my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) that it would be wrong to elect people on a borough basis. I have a request to the Minister: we must not allow a yes vote to be the end of extending local democracy, however excellent the latter may be. Many organisations such as the London Voluntary Service Council and London Youth Matters have come up with imaginative ideas for building on local democracy in London. If there is a democratic deficit in London—and there is—that deficit is even greater among young people and black and ethnic minority communities. Perhaps the GLC's most creditable achievement was that it connected with groups of people who were usually outside the traditional processes of government. Even the GLC's fiercest critics would recognise that, in its last years, through its grant giving and its arts and culture policies, it managed to connect with people's imaginations and to draw in people who would not ordinarily even vote. The new mayor and the new GLA must bring that achievement up to date for the 21st century. As the London Youth Matters journal says, the mayor and authority
The priorities of the mayor and the GLA will probably mirror the concerns of young people. A great deal of work will be done on the environment, on sustainable development, on promoting the arts and culture and on policing. We shall have an excellent opportunity to engage with young people in the black and ethnic minority communities—people who are usually left outside the traditional political process, albeit at our peril. The London Voluntary Service Council has published proposals for a civic forum to increase participation by Londoners in their own government. Certainly, there are dangers in creating ever more tiers of organisation, but a great many good ideas are present in the proposal for a civic forum, which I commend to the Minister for more debate after the White Paper comes out. There is, for instance, the idea of holding a regular and open question time for the mayor and of holding meetings in rotation across London. I am not so sure about the proposal to copy the mayor of Barcelona, who stays with families around the city now and then. That might turn into too much of a good thing: first prize in the raffle would be a night with the mayor, second prize would be two nights with the mayor. Be that as it may, such ideas, although not appropriate for legislation, have a great deal to commend them. They also give the lie to Conservative Members who have poured scorn on the scale of the consultation exercise. Most of the 1,200 responses came from representative organisations that had themselves consulted their members or member groups and which have stimulated an exciting debate, whose fruits we are only just beginning to see in London. As a central London representative, I am conscious of the fact that many people who will want to vote in the referendum will be excluded because they are not on the electoral register. My constituency, possibly along with that of the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), must contain the lowest number of eligible voters on any register in London. It is difficult to ensure that everyone is on the register; it is up to local authorities to make sure that they are. I hope that the Minister will do everything in his power to urge registration officers during the next couple of months, while lists are being prepared for next spring, and to sign up everyone—particularly single people living in houses in multiple occupation. They are often the hardest to reach, but it is important that they take part in the referendum too. They want to vote in this exciting extension of democracy. They will vote yes in the referendum. That is what the people of London want and deserve."should establish strong, clear and recognised channels for consulting stakeholders, experts and service users, including the youth sector".
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), who is no longer in the Chamber, represents a constituency that I, too, have visited. I wonder whether anyone in the Chamber has not visited it, in fact. He said in his maiden speech today that he was a bearded nonentity. That is certainly not true. Within seconds of his starting his maiden speech, many of his hon. Friends had come into the Chamber to support him. He is lucky to be able to wear a beard; I understand that beards are frowned on in the Labour party these days—although I can spot one on the Labour Back Benches this evening.I also congratulate the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) on an excellent maiden speech. Wimbledon is near my constituency; I know the Polka theatre well. Indeed, I could recommend a number of places in Wimbledon which he did not mention, although he may know of them. I particularly enjoy Zorba's, and the best tea house in south-west London, if not the whole of London, is Samuel Johnson's. The hon. Member for Wimbledon had an easier job of describing his constituency and its contents than did the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound). I welcome the progress made so far by the Government on the Bill. I also welcome the admission by the official Opposition that, years after they abolished London's elected authority, they have finally recognised that London needs strong government. I should also welcome an apology from the Conservatives for what they did. The first half of the question on the proposed ballot paper concerns the elected mayor. Although it has been mentioned frequently, it is worth mentioning again. The proposal has the support of the Government and of the official Opposition. However, I do not believe that it has been extensively tried and tested. The Minister mentioned Cologne; he might have mentioned Rome, but after mentioning those two cities he might run out of working examples. The truth is that the idea is an American import, like zero tolerance, and may not work terribly well here either. The concept of an elected mayor is alien to our culture. It may be an exciting democratic innovation, as the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) said, but that is exactly why the proposal deserves a second question on the ballot paper. The mayor may be tyrannical and overrule the elected assembly. Alternatively, the mayor may be weak and there may be no strong government in London. An issue that has not been addressed in depth is the possibility that the mayor will be of a different political persuasion from the majority of representatives to the assembly. In that case, what will happen to strong government in London? The Labour party appears to recognise that possibility in its general election manifesto, which says that both the
That is all very well, but if they are both speaking up and they say different things, what will happen? If one adds the roles and responsibilities of a development agency in London, an even more confused picture is painted. I should welcome feedback on how that anomaly will be tackled. On the second half of the question, I strongly support the proposal for an elected assembly if it means genuine regional government; that is the key point. It is not true, as a Conservative Member said, that we want to break up the United Kingdom. Regional government is not about breaking up the UK but about giving people throughout the country more say in their business. As I am sure hon. Members know, Liberal Democrats prefer the single transferable vote system because we believe that it will bring the greatest representation from a wide range of communities to London government. The Minister asked whether we wanted a third question on the ballot paper, to which the answer has been given that we do not. Nevertheless, we are worried about whether the elected authority will have teeth—whether it will have tax-raising or tax-varying powers which will enable it to be something other than a talking shop. Liberal Democrat Members have serious doubts about mayors. I am afraid that we have serious doubts about the Government's commitment to genuine regional government with the powers to back it up, and we have serious concerns about the appropriateness of debating the Bill without a White Paper before us. For that reason, we shall support our reasoned amendment."strategic authority and a mayor … will speak up for the needs of the city and plan its future".
I was pleased to hear the maiden speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) and for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale), and by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), none of whom, sadly, is now in the Chamber. I was going to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon that Wimbledon football club is very happy indeed in Croydon, in Selhurst park; long may that continue. Further to the comments by the hon. Member for Uxbridge about the by-election victory, one lesson that the Labour party learnt from that campaign was not to pick a by-election candidate with the name of Slaughter. I believe that the Minister without Portfolio will muse over that piece of advice.We face a new future with a new Government, with a new confidence. The problem confronting our capital is that London has no strategic authority, no champion, no voice in the global community to lead it in a way that such a great city deserves. That means that we have no holistic view of our transport, planning, economic and environmental needs, and that position should not be sustained if we want to keep our place in the world pecking order. After 18 years of Conservative government, the legacy in London is there for all to see: social exclusion, homelessness, poverty, rising crime and an emergent underclass, which are, largely, symptomatic of a Government who had a laissez-faire view on social and economic matters, and a transport system grinding towards an inevitable halt. In Paris, the catastrophe of car emissions has led to draconian measures and crisis management. We do not want our Government to adopt such measures in London. That is one reason why a strategic authority is crucial in our capital city. We have heard that the economy is doing well, but the economy has no real direction. The business community, and the economic community more generally, welcome our proposals. In the general election, the new Government were given an unprecedented mandate for change, and nowhere more so than in London. A primary reason is that Londoners were promised not only the Government's fresh policies, but a Greater London authority and a mayor to champion London in the global community. We already have a mandate for change, therefore, and in many respects people may be asking, "If you have this tremendous mandate for change, for a mayor and for a Greater London authority, why bother having a referendum at all?" That is a very good question. The answer is that democracy is at the heart of the new Government, at the heart of the Labour party.
But if one does not give the electorate of London a choice, is not that phoney democracy?
It is a bit rich to hear comments about democracy from the beleaguered ranks of the rump of the former Conservatives in London: a political anachronism, a handful of people who cannot make up their minds among themselves, talking about democracy 10 years after the only choice that Londoners were given was no choice—abolition. It is ridiculous.
And the answer is?
The answer is that we advanced the proposition of a mayor and a Greater London authority to the people of London—that is in our manifesto and that is our mandate—and we said that we would conduct a referendum, and we will.
Will the hon. Gentleman continue on this subject for a moment? A referendum that takes place before Parliament has legislated for an assembly and a mayor in London is essentially advisory to the Government and cannot be binding on Parliament—that is in the nature of our constitution. Would it not be more democratic, in the terms that the hon. Gentleman proposes, to hold the referendum after debate and the passage of legislation through the House, so that the Government's set of proposals, if approved by the House, is then presented for the democratic mandate of the public to which the hon. Gentleman refers? Why hold the referendum now?
The hon. Gentleman knows that 61 questions are out for consultation. We are an open Government who listen to people's views, but we are not prepared to pick to pieces the strategic element of our proposal, which we are duty bound to put to the people of London, in the absurd way that is suggested. The academic points that are being suggested by the handful of rabble on the Conservative Benches are ridiculous.The abolition of the Greater London council was not only the abolition of an administrative structure without consulting the people, but a negation of democracy—a slap in the face for the people of London. The people of London have retaliated and said that they want change and new government, and that is what we are delivering. We are returning to them to advise them of what we are considering, and we are keeping some of our options open, because we are sensitive to the people who elected us—unlike the previous Administration. Our great city comprises 33 boroughs, each with a unique identity. I had the great privilege and pleasure of leading the council of Croydon, the biggest of the boroughs, and being part of the leaders' committee of the Association of London Government, which has been referred to with such blessing by Conservative Members. The Conservatives propose that the leaders' committee be the assembly that governs London as the tier beneath the mayor. That is a silly suggestion. The leaders have enough to do in running their authorities. It is clear from the leaders' views, as reflected in the views of the Association of London Government, that they value strategic direction and want more rather than less power, which would be exerted holistically for the good of the capital, rather than the fragmented mish-mash supported by the Opposition, whose numbers seem to be falling every moment. It is not just local authorities and the people of London who want a strategic authority; so does the business community. The Confederation of British Industry in London looks forward with glee to the idea of a Greater London authority, a mayor and a London development agency.
It is good of the hon. Gentleman to give way twice. I am a former member of the leaders' committee of the Association of London Government, and I am not clear whether the hon. Gentleman is saying that the members of that committee felt incapable of acting as scrutineers for a mayor giving strategic direction. It would be for the mayor rather than the assembly to give strategic direction, and for the assembly, as executive body, to act as scrutineer. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the borough leaders—he was once such a leader—are incapable of acting as scrutineers of the strategic direction coming from the mayor?
I have a number of points to make in response to that intervention. First, borough leaders are not elected to do that; they have their own constituencies to look after. The key point is that the Government take the strategic development of our great capital seriously and would want members of the authority to work full time with the mayor, not just as a counterbalance, but to define London's destiny. It is not enough to have a group of people who spend their time doing other things as well.When I was leader of Croydon council—London's biggest council—I was also running a business. The suggestion that someone can lead an authority and also take on the governance of London is symptomatic of the fact that the Opposition do not take the governance of London seriously.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's courtesy to the House. Does he propose that each and every member of the strategic authority should be full time?
That question remains open. My personal view is that members should be given an opportunity to devote more time to their duties than the leader of an average council does. As with many such matters, we are in a process of consultation and I have expressed my personal view.As I was saying, a number of us from the London group spent an enjoyable evening with leading members of the CBI in London, who were at great pains to express their joy at the prospect of a Greater London authority, a mayor and a London development agency. They want the strategic development of a transport infrastructure, so that businesses and economic development do not grind to a halt, as they inevitably will unless we intervene. They look forward to a new deal for business, focusing on manufacturing development, and to the opportunities of new markets and new technologies. They want to combine a partnership approach to the new economy in a new world with the idea of combating social exclusion through economic development. Any visionary business community realises that it is not simply a matter of individual segments of the economy working randomly while the social community disintegrates. London's wider community needs to be planned, so that London can be a place to live and work. That is a key to the underlying transport problem. People live in one place and work in another, and there is no overview of the capital's long-term sustainable environmental development. Environmental sustainability is another great key for the Government. We seek to achieve a 20 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2010 and, given the amount of carbon dioxide generated by London—more per person than elsewhere—it is the principal player in the country. Unless we take a wider view of that problem, individual boroughs will have different policies, and we shall be unable to proceed coherently. The City of London is happy about the change in Government as we have introduced a more rational interest rate policy and are taking a new direction towards economic and monetary union. The City now has a chance to hold on to its eminence in world markets rather than seeing all its jobs go to Frankfurt as a result of the Euro-scepticism expressed by certain members of the rather small Conservative party. Opposition to the proposal is symptomatic of what we have seen since May: Canute conservatism—resisting inevitable change rather than embracing positive progress. It is very sad to see. The Opposition cannot see the wood for the trees. They regard London as the sum of its ingredient parts rather than as a large body that needs to be managed holistically. They see the future as the activity of an invisible hand, which will bring about spontaneously some great social and economic result that will inevitably be in London's best interests. Demonstrably, that is false and facile, and the people of London know it. It comes as no surprise to learn that 82 per cent. of Londoners who were recently polled support the idea of an assembly with a mayor as a composite proposition. The positive consultation on which we have embarked echoes that proposition, which is why we are proceeding in this way. The Conservatives have changed their view on the London issue. First, they were against all our proposals; then they wanted some sort of mayor; now they say that they want an assembly but that it should consist of ALG leaders. They are gradually moving forward, which is a slight improvement on their normal position: that the best policy is to do nothing, assuming that nothing will change in the rest of the world. Change occurs constantly and we need positive proposals rather than Canute conservatism. The proposition of a mayor without the accountability provided by a wider authority cannot be seriously entertained, because there would be neither balance of power nor a democratic mandate. The system proposed by the Opposition would lead to fraud and corruption, as has happened in parts of the United States. Opposition Members ask why the referendum will not contain more questions, which is ironic, given that originally they wanted no questions at all. They did not want a referendum because they did not want change. No one asked about the abolition of the GLC. Opposition Members also said that you cannot vote for a principle unless we have every detail before voting, because that would be a recipe for confusion and inaction. They then said that the police authority cannot be changed on the ground that it has not been changed since 1829. That is extremely convincing—probably your best argument.
Does my hon. Friend recall that, when the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) was Home Secretary, he proposed that there should be a police authority for London, but he was rapidly replaced by—I cannot remember his constituency—Michael Howard?
Order. The hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) has twice used the word "your", which is not the correct language for this House. The hon. Gentleman who has just intervened, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), must remember the names of constituencies. We do not use names of that kind in this House.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your guidance on the use of the word "your".As regards the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), I did not recall that. It is an illuminating story about the way in which the former Government used to behave, and is another reason why only three Conservative Members are present. [Interruption.] Indeed, a gang of three. I take seriously the points made by the Opposition, and am dealing with them one by one. As there are only a few more arguments to deal with, I shall not take longer than three hours. It was suggested that there would be inevitable conflict between the local authorities and the Greater London authority. The Government have a holistic vision for London and support the principle of subsidiarity. The ideas of democracy and decentralisation are dear to the hearts of the Government. That is why we want regional development agencies and devolution. It would be wrong to argue otherwise. There will be no conflict; there will be a happy partnership for progressive change. One of the arguments advanced by Liberal Democrat Members was that there should be two questions in the referendum. I understand the arguments for two questions, but we are presenting a package to the people of London. We heard arguments about health and education. One of my hon. Friends suggested that strategic scrutiny and advocacy were to be welcomed. The overall package for the Greater London authority already embraces the economy, transport, the environment, planning, police and fire services, and is a great step forward in the strategic management of London. Clearly, we are committed to a streamlined, efficient and strategically geared authority. We see a great future for our great city in a new world. I am proud to support the Bill, and look forward to the referendum with glee.
It has been a pleasure to listen to the debate, not least because it gave me the opportunity to listen to the maiden speeches of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound)—who entertained the House extraordinarily well and gave us all the hope that, although we have had to wait several months to hear his maiden speech, we will not have to wait long before hearing further speeches from him—and of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). I know that he will be a worthy representative of the constituents of Uxbridge, as was his predecessor, who was much respected in the House.I regret that I was unable to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale). I shall make a point of listening to him on future occasions, as will other hon. Members. I do not represent a London constituency, but I wish to speak in the debate because the Bill raises two important issues that have implications that go beyond London. First, hon. Members have referred to the Bill as the precursor to the implementation of regional government in London, as part of a pattern of regional government around England. Many Conservative and other Opposition Members will see that as an unhappy precedent for other parts of England, and, therefore, as one which should be examined with great care during its passage through Parliament and in the discussion of the proposals that will flow from it. The second and related aspect is the implications of the Bill for local government. I declare an interest in that respect: I am the vice-president of the Local Government Association. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) rightly made an important distinction by way of a rebuke to the Minister for London and Construction who was wont to speak of the implementation of regional government as local government. It is not local government; it is regional government. There are those who support regional government for itself. Some of us see in regional government the tendency—I suspect that it is an inevitable tendency—to exercise the powers presently held by central Government. That will probably be the lesser part of the activity of regional government over time. The greater part of its activity will be to draw powers up from subsidiary bodies in local government, and to reduce the strength of local government. For my own purposes, which I hope to commend to the House, I have examined the Bill and the proposals that it contains or to which it will lead in respect of three tests. First, will it strengthen local government? Secondly, will it result in better government? Thirdly, will it improve the effectiveness and value for money of government? There are two proposals: the proposal for an elected mayor, and the proposal for an assembly. Let us apply the three tests to the proposal for an elected mayor. Will it strengthen local government? I freely confess that I was in a minority among Conservative candidates before the election, in that I publicly supported the principle of an elected mayor and wrote on that subject before the election. I welcome the fact that my Front-Bench colleagues supported the concept of an elected mayor after the election. It never seemed to me likely or desirable that an elected mayor would come first in London, and then elsewhere. It always seemed more likely that an elected mayor would come in other parts of the country, in more manageable circumstances, in a unitary authority rather than in London, with its many and complex problems, where, unfortunately, the concept of an elected mayor may be tested to destruction. I support the concept for reasons that I shall explain later, but I am worried that using London as a testbed may prove to be an unfortunate choice. There is a tension in relation to an elected mayor and the strength of local government. Back in 1991, an elected mayor was one of the options that the Conservative Administration tested, and it met with no support in local government. Yet there are clear needs in local government that an elected mayor would meet. There is a regrettable lack of public participation in local government elections; there is a lack of public awareness of the importance of the decisions and spending undertaken by local government; there is a lack of political impact within their communities on the part of many elected councillors. In a modern media environment, in which we must all live, happily or unhappily, the need for leadership and personalities with impact is part of the process of securing public acceptance of the Government, their purposes and direction. We must recognise that an elected mayor can play a role in providing such impetus, direction and impact of personality. There are concerns in local government that elected mayors, and the proposal for London in particular, will tend to draw powers away from more locally elected representatives. That may be so. A mayor on a Londonwide basis will tend to diminish the authority of the London boroughs. That is unlike the potential impact of directly elected mayors in other smaller unitary authorities around the country, who might reinforce the strength of local government. If the proposal will not strengthen local government in London, will the direct election of a mayor lead to better government in London? On that question, we can reach a more positive view. I will not elaborate, as that has been widely agreed across the House during the debate, except by Liberal Democrat Members. A directly elected mayor would give leadership, offer strategic vision, provide energy and impetus and draw national policies towards a more London-oriented view. London is different from other regions in that there is a complex interplay, especially on transport and other policies, between the priorities for London and for the nation as a whole. On the third criterion of effectiveness and value for money, the election of a mayor is a low-cost and high-impact option compared with other means of providing a voice for London and strategic direction. It is possible, and I hope that it will be the case, that the mayor of London will be supported by a small executive body working with and through existing bodies, rather than through a bureaucracy of his or her own making. According to the test that I postulate, an elected mayor gets two yeses and one question mark. What about a separately elected assembly? I have no doubt that such an assembly would weaken the powers of London boroughs. I believe that it would take powers from them and, therefore, by extension, make government more distant from those whom it is meant to serve. It is the nature of the beast that members of such a body who have no alternative responsibilities, other loyalties or pressures on their time—some hon. Members have said that that is not desirable—will seek to aggrandise their powers in the separately elected authority by creating more work, which is presently undertaken by the London boroughs.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why he believes that if the London assembly were given the powers of the Government office for London or of quangos, it would inevitably—as he has stressed on several occasions—take powers away from local government?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that very important point. We should begin by examining the powers that will be given formally to a separately elected assembly. At the outset, they may appear to be the powers of central Government rather than those of local government or the London boroughs, but I believe that the assembly will be constrained in several ways. Central Government will find it extremely inconvenient if a separately elected assembly seeks to second guess, depart from or contradict central Government policies. Therefore, over time, central Government will pressure that body to spend less time second guessing central Government policies and more time seeking to implement its strategic direction through the powers of other subsidiary bodies. I fear that such an assembly will ultimately seek and receive the power from central Government to issue directions to bodies within London.I suspect that the first and most serious of those areas of activity will involve the relationship between the regional development agency and the planning system in London. I shall not elaborate on that point now, but I believe that that will be affected. A separately elected assembly will add a further tier of government—it will reflect the regional ambitions of Ministers through which they seek to justify their devolution plans elsewhere. In seeking to expand their role, assembly members will second guess the mayor. The danger is that that will create the grotesque over-government of London. That brings us to the question of what we should have instead of a separately elected assembly. I must depart from the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and the Minister. It seems extraordinary to assert that the leaders of the London boroughs are incapable of coming together and doing other than arguing solely for their local interests. It is extraordinary to claim that they are incapable of acting as the scrutineers of strategic activity and direction given by an executive mayor. I believe that we should look to the London boroughs or their representatives—the leaders or other people within those boroughs—to provide the essential checks and balances on the activities of the directly elected mayor. That should occur not simply for reasons of propriety or so that committee appointments are made in accordance with Nolan rules, but in order to meet the needs of many parts of London. I make no claim to represent any part of London, but I was born in that area that was kindly called "Essex London" earlier in the debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge discovered during the by-election campaign, those who live in boroughs such as Hillingdon and Havering—whence I came—do not necessarily consider themselves part of an homogenous London. Hon. Members have referred time and again to the communities of London, the diversity of London, the differing interests of London and the culture and geography of London. It is vital that the representatives of that diversity should be at the core of scrutinising the activities of the directly elected mayor.
My hon. Friend has generously allowed me to have a second bite of the cherry. He and I are at one in recognising the fact that particular borough interests should be represented on the assembly so that the views of constituents in those areas are put across and so that the mayor pursues policies that suit those interests. However, would it not be better if the representatives were elected directly by the borough electorates so that the voters may choose the people who are best able to represent them on a Londonwide forum? Even if the representatives fulfil that function indirectly, we must remember that they were elected originally to represent a particular ward at borough level, which is a different level of responsibility and may require different qualities.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, which allows me to understand his case better. I agree that representatives on an assembly that scrutinises the activities of a directly elected mayor should be drawn from the London boroughs, for precisely the reasons that my hon. Friend has given. However, I believe that there is positive merit in representatives having direct responsibility for implementing policies within boroughs and having other pressures on their time. As I explained earlier, I am afraid that the assembly may draw unto itself more activities simply to justify its existence.I shall move towards a conclusion, as I do not want to delay others who wish to contribute to the debate. The assembly does not pass any of the three tests that I have suggested, including cost effectiveness. According to the Government's estimates, it will cost £20 million simply to establish the body, let alone meet its future expenditure requirements. Therefore, as we must draw differing conclusions about the two proposals that lie at the heart of the legislation, I believe that the people of London should be able to reach different views about the merits of a separately elected assembly compared with a directly elected mayor. It seems wholly wrong to encapsulate the two issues in one question: if people have differing views, they should be able to express them. I think that the Government should be abashed at their transparent fear that the people will opt for a mayor and against an assembly. I must refer to another serious flaw in the legislation, which—at the risk of repeating myself—I raised by way of intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies). As with the devolution legislation for Scotland, on which I made my maiden speech, the Bill seeks to treat a referendum that will be held before legislation is passed in this place as if it took place after the passage of legislation. There is a long constitutional tradition in this country that the role of referendums is to approve constitutional changes after the two Houses of Parliament have decided on the measures. When referendums were held in the past—I think particularly of the 1975 referendum—it was made clear that if the relevant legislation had not been passed, the results were advisory and not binding on Parliament. Yet Labour Members referred to the referendum today as though it was mandatory—as though a mandate would be exercised on Parliament. I repeat the point that I made on 21 May in the House: it is a constitutional aberration to treat a referendum in that way. If the Government wish to be advised of the views of the people of London on their policy, I have no problem with their holding a referendum, but I object to their treating that referendum as binding on Parliament. London is a unique city. References to forms of government in other countries are probably misplaced, because London is unique in many ways. People have often sought to translate the circumstances of other cities to those of London and have found that it is not possible, because London is much bigger or because it has more complex problems. London is a city of many communities. The borough councils are close to those communities. If a mayor is needed to give London impetus and direction, he should be given the support and the scrutiny of the London boroughs in an assembly derived from the councillors of those boroughs rather than in a separately elected body, distanced from the London boroughs. The deficiencies of the Bill are clear. I urge hon. Members to support the Conservatives' reasoned amendment.
We have heard three excellent maiden speeches this evening. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) said that he was particularly interested in wildlife and conservation. I look forward to hearing him speak on that subject. He will welcome the fact that, as the consultation document points out, one of the key roles of the new authority will be ensuring sustainability for London in the 21st century. I welcome him as a fellow business man. I am pleased to see him swell the ranks on both sides of hon. Members with such backgrounds.My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) also made an excellent maiden speech. It was extremely humorous and greatly enjoyed on both sides. He certainly placed his constituency on the map in a way that no other Member has managed. The third maiden speech was from my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale). I am a constituent of his. It gave me great pleasure to see the results in Mitcham and Morden and in Wimbledon. I thank him for his kind words about my previous role as leader of Merton council. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies), who is not now in the Chamber, that Sam Hammam of Wimbledon football club tells me that he has great interest in returning to the borough. Many hon. Members will know that my first allegiance is to Norwich City football club, but, for most of the past six years, I have been dealing with how to bring Wimbledon football club back to the borough. I am glad that my hon. Friend is taking on that additional role. I look forward to seeing them play back in the borough shortly. Although I am a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, I live only 600 yd from my Putney constituency. I mention that because those Conservative Members who are previous leaders of Wandsworth council seem to have done the chicken run to leave Wandsworth as quickly as possible. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) has moved a significant distance. The hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir P. Beresford) previously represented Croydon, Central, but I think that he felt that the heat was getting a bit much, so he moved even further away. The current leader of Wandsworth council tried to move to Beckenham recently, applying to be the Conservative candidate. Wandsworth is no longer flavour of the month, or even the decade, as it was under previous Administrations. Mr. Lister did not make the final list and is not the candidate. Obviously he was seeking to leave Wandsworth before defeat in next May's election. Mr. Lister has put forward 11 questions that he believes should be included in the referendum. The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) suggested that the Greater London authority and the concept of a directly elected mayor were part of Parkinson's law. Parkinson's law has already struck in Wandsworth, with the 11 questions. Mr. Lister says:
I suggest that it would be a trail blazed too far. Hon. Members may like to know what the 11 proposals to be put to a referendum are. The first is that there should be a directly elected mayor. The second is that there should be a directly elected Greater London assembly. The third is that there should be an assembly of the 32 borough leaders. The fourth is that tax-raising power should be given to the mayor and the GLA. The fifth is that the budget should be set by the London boroughs. The sixth is that there should be proportional representation on a Londonwide list. The seventh is that there should be local candidates voted in locally. We have got to only number seven. There are still four to come. I was wondering why the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) intervened in the debate, but he may be interested in the remaining questions, because they relate to options on the boundaries of the Greater London authority. The first option is to adopt the old Greater London council boundary. The second is to use the Metropolitan police boundary. The third suggestion is to use the M25 as a boundary. The fourth, which takes us to number 11 in the list of questions, is to use the boundary of Serplan—the south-east regional planning committee. I wondered whether that was an attempt to extend the boundary so far that there might be a chance of somebody voting Conservative. So many people in London vote Labour that the boundary would have to stretch as far as South Cambridgeshire for anyone to vote Conservative."It may be a trail-blazing referendum to include so many separate questions."
They would even lose that.
Indeed.The great explosion of interest in referendums has not applied to the workings of local councils. Wandsworth has undertaken many interesting policies, but the people of Wandsworth or Putney have not been polled, other than on a four-yearly basis, on their views on the cuts. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) was concerned that the Bill should not result in an unsigned cheque being given. The White Paper will be available next March, giving the people of London full information on which to base their views. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) was concerned about a perceived attitude among Labour Members that we are the masters now. We are talking about a manifesto pledge that was subject to considerable debate and many statements during the general election campaign. We put our proposals for a Greater London authority made up of a directly elected mayor and a directly elected assembly to the people of London during the election campaign. I am in favour of the combination of mayor and assembly. I have spoken elsewhere about Seattle in the state of Washington in the United States of America. It has done excellent work on sustainability, in which it leads the world. Seattle and King county together contain 7 million people, which is equivalent to the size of London. There we have an excellent directly elected mayor, Norm Rice, who has been mayor for over a decade. Jim Street was the leader of the assembly between 1979 and 1993—some 14 years. The leader is elected by members of the assembly in the same way as council leaders are elected in the London boroughs. I commend that system as a concept. It is important to have a balance between a leader elected by the membership of the assembly and the directly elected mayor. Such a system of checks and balances works; I have seen it working in Seattle, one of the most prosperous and fastest-expanding but civilised cities on this earth. I very much commend the system to the House as a way forward. I was particularly impressed by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) who seemed to break ranks with the Opposition in terms of coming out in favour of a directly elected assembly and a directly elected mayor. He believed that that was the only way in which to make things happen, but he was concerned that the directly elected mayor would be there only for photo opportunities. I was proud to be on the streets of London on Saturday with my four-year-old son Oliver, whose birthday it was. I have often attended the Lord Mayor's show and this year, it was again a marvellous spectacle for all Londoners. It may be a photo opportunity, but it is great to see the ceremonial attached to that ancient office. I look forward to the first Lord Mayor's show of the whole of London in 2000 and I look forward to taking my children to it. I assume that it will be in April or May 2000. We shall have a show that is not just a photo opportunity, but a celebration by the people of London of their future and what they have voted for. They will be able to see what they lost in 1986 and have now got back. I talked about the London borough of Wandsworth and the document it produced. I am interested by the positions that Wandsworth takes, which often seem to be contradictory. Two major issues face my constituents, both of which are related to the Greater London authority. The first is air traffic noise and the second is the national health service. My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London was kind enough to reply to me in an Adjournment debate on aircraft noise last Monday and she gave me some assurances. In that debate, I pointed out the terrible suffering of the people of Putney and the need for responsibility for aircraft noise to come under the directly elected mayor and assembly rather than under national Government. That is very much wanted by the people of my area. Interestingly, the leader of Wandsworth council states clearly:
On noise, the leader of the council says:"However, the existing framework copes well in the limited areas where co-ordination is needed. Many issues (e.g. noise and air quality) are not peculiar to London, and it is sufficient for national arrangements and powers to apply."
I very much support the Association of London Government, but I do not think that it is involved with aircraft noise. The leader of the council continues:"it is difficult to identify what added value could conceivably be supplied by a GLA. The powers are mainly national ones applied locally by the boroughs. Any London co-ordination is already handled by the ALG".
That is not acceptable to the people of Putney and Wandsworth. They want to see those matters decided regionally and not nationally. I strongly disagree with the leader of Wandsworth council and my view has significant support in my constituency. At the moment, national health service planning in London is rather like Serplan as it goes up to Cambridgeshire at one end and to the English channel at the other, with the North Thames and South Thames regional health authorities. There is no London health executive. I feel that most keenly in terms of fighting for the future of Queen Mary's university hospital. My predecessor, David Mellor, claims that I am doing nothing of the sort. I assert strongly to the House that I am fighting with every bone in my body to ensure that the hospital stays open and has a full range of services. The leader of Wandsworth council, having backed the need for the hospital to remain open and to have full services, nevertheless feels that health should not be dealt with at Greater London authority level. He says:"The main London-wide issue, aircraft noise, is handled through the land-use planning framework, as currently exemplified by the public enquiry on the proposed Terminal 5 at Heathrow."
That is a disgrace. What is needed is for the Greater London authority to take an interest in health. We should move away from the extraordinary situation whereby health policy is made over a huge area stretching from Cambridgeshire to the English channel. I very much look forward to the White Paper in spring 1998 which will give us a blueprint for the Greater London authority. There are two areas about which I am particularly concerned. I am pleased that we now have a business board for London. It has been a pity that the voice of the business community has been muted or indistinct. The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of British Industry London region and London First are coming together in a business board. It is very much the way forward to have a single voice that can put views to the new strategic London authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) talked about the London Voluntary Service Council's proposals for a civic forum. Something similar has already been agreed to go alongside the Scottish Parliament and I hope that we can have such a forum in London. I am proud of what I have been able to do over the past two and a half years in putting together the London Agenda 21 Forum. It works on the basis of a stakeholder forum and it ensures that all voices are listened to in London—that black and ethnic minorities, young people, the voluntary sector, women and all the various communities of London have a say in the future of London. Such a forum will be important in advising the Greater London authority, both in terms of the directly elected assembly and the directly elected mayor. It is right to go for only one question in the referendum. That is made clear in our manifesto, the basis on which we fought the general election. I look forward to the Wandsworth 11 questions being brought down to only one question in Wandsworth and to two questions in London. Who will rule Wandsworth for the next four years? I look forward to there being a Labour council there. I also look forward to our having an elected strategic authority in the form of a directly elected assembly and a directly elected mayor."However, I do not believe health is a desirable function for any GLA, either at the strategic or operational level."
We have been fortunate today to hear a number of distinguished maiden speeches. I heard the speech by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound). It was an amusing contribution and he spoke with great clarity. I am very much looking forward to the next time that we have an opportunity to hear him because we can then intervene and have a really good go at him.Unfortunately, I was unable to hear the two other maiden speeches because of a constituency commitment, but I look forward to reading them in tomorrow's Hansard. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman), who made a number of proposals with regard to the mayor. In particular, he suggested Seattle as a likely model. After all, Seattle is the suicide capital of the United States and I can think of no better model for the referendum than a city where many people earnestly wish to cast off this mortal coil. Having heard the hon. Member for Putney speak a number of times, it is clear that he really must rid himself of his obsession with Eddie Lister, the leader of Wandsworth council. Over the years, the hon. Gentleman has taken a significant number of biffings from Eddie Lister, and no doubt he will face more over the next few years. However, we should like to hear his views on other matters than his dislike of Eddie Lister. It has to be said that Mr. Lister's suggestions, which offer the electorate considerable choice, result from the fact that the Government are providing no choice at all. A number of Labour Members have chided the Conservatives for changing their views about the election of a London mayor. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and I made a significant contribution to that and I make no apology for that. We listened to our local councils, London boroughs and, above all, we listened to the people of London to find out what they wanted. The Government may elaborately dig an elephant trap for the Conservative party, but we have no obligation to fall into it and repeatedly impale ourselves on the sharp sticks waiting there. [Interruption.] The Minister makes a sedentary intervention, but I explained the position to him in a television studio not so long ago. [Interruption.] The Minister and I move in exalted circles. It is important that a referendum should ask two questions because the first real mayor in the United Kingdom with substantial powers, other than ceremonial powers, will be in London. It is an important innovation, so we should be able to give the people of London a choice. After all, most people understand what a strategic authority is about and have no problems in coming to terms with it. We should be able to ask the people of London, "Do you want this innovation or would you prefer a traditional model? Would you prefer to have the traditional model alongside this innovation?" Let me take my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire to task in a small way for saying that referendums are not mandatory on Parliament. That may be the constitutional position, but the hard truth is that votes get results, and results give a mandate. Hon. Members who are elected to Parliament would be extremely foolish to ignore what the people of London say. If referendums are to have a regular place within our constitution and we are to work in the same way as a Swiss canton, we should embrace the concept of referendums. However, there is no point in having a referendum simply to rubber stamp the Government's actions and asking questions such as, "Do you want a General Pinochet elected for another seven years?" or "Do you want a London mayor?" or "Do you want an elected assembly for London?" There has to be a real choice. As has been pointed out by hon. Members on both sides of the House, it is perfectly possible to vote yes in the referendum for a London mayor and a London assembly or for a London mayor or simply for a strategic authority. The Liberal Democrats have made it absolutely clear that they will support a yes campaign in the referendum, even if they have to vote for a London mayor. A mayor has enormous potential within local and regional government. Clearly, the London mayor will not be the last mayor within the constitutional framework. However, there is a difference. I would have anticipated—and so would my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire—that the first mayor would represent one of our larger city conurbations such as Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds, where the mayor would have significant powers. The mayor for London will have significant powers of persuasion and considerable authority, but he will not have the same powers as the mayor of a metropolitan borough. He will have the opportunity to speak up for the needs of London and to co-ordinate strategic services across the city. However, the real function of a mayor should be to speak for, co-ordinate and control the two sectors of government in London that have real power—central Government and the London boroughs. Since the abolition of the Greater London council, the London boroughs have carried enormous clout in terms of the delivery of services. We have to recognise that there is a function for local government in London. I represent an Essex constituency on the fringe of London, but part of my constituency is served by the Metropolitan police. My electorate will have no voice in respect of the policing of the part of my constituency that is served by the Met. Previously, if I was unhappy with the Essex police, I could consult the chief constable, and if I was not happy with the chief constable, I could talk to the police authority. In respect of the part of my constituency served by the Met, I could speak to the Commissioner, and if I was not satisfied I could consult the Home Secretary. However, my constituents who live in the area served by the Met will feel disfranchised and so will I. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) pointed out most persuasively, one needs only to look at a map of the United Kingdom—the airlines and the road network—to recognise that our transport system is centred around London. I should say to the hon. Member for Putney that I do not support the idea that the London authority should be responsible for monitoring aircraft noise, in that the majority of flights in the stacking procedure for Heathrow airport fly over my constituency. I would be very resentful if a London authority were to determine aircraft noise, because much of the aircraft noise is suffered by my constituents in Essex, and not the constituents of the hon. Member for Putney. We have to recognise that there is a touch of nostalgia or a naivety in speeches from Labour Members. In one breath they charge us with the disappearance of the Greater London council and present the Greater London authority as some kind of retaliation. Unless I have misread the consultation document, there does not seem to be any intention to bring back the Greater London council. Therefore, in many ways, Labour Members are endorsing the decision to abolish it. If they thought that the GLC did such a great job, they would bring it back. Clearly, they do not. An excellent paper by Tony Travers describes a time in the 19th century when people wrote that London did not exist. As in the 19th century, we have a number of diverse communities across London. There are 33 distinct communities. Labour Members talked about a tale of two cities. The truth is that, in the Greater London area, we have a tale of 33 communities. That is why London boroughs' leaders should play such an important part in consultation and decision on how London should be governed. It is wrong to suggest that members of a Greater London authority should not be elected on a borough basis. People should be responsive and accountable to their communities. If they are not, they end up on a list, being the property of the political parties. No longer would people stand up for the individual communities that make up London. We would have people who curry favour to ensure that they feature higher and higher on their party's list. Communities have a right to ensure that London is looked at as a whole. It is very insulting to borough leaders and the people of London to think that one part of London will not pay attention to the others. If a list system exists, the nightmare that Labour Members described will come about. There will be enormous concentration on Westminster, the City and the west end to the detriment of people in outer boroughs. The primary function of a Greater London authority is to be a check on the mayor. I, however, believe that it will start to grow in one specific area: in its powers to scrutinise, call witnesses and hold inquiries. It is from those inquiries that it will gradually receive its mandate. Increasingly, it will find itself the main executor of Government diktats. I return to the central question whether we should have two questions on the referendum; whether the referendum is to be used as a rubber stamp. In his very thoughtful introduction to the debate, the Minister for London and Construction promised us many things. He promised us that we would get an explanation of why it was not possible to have a mayor without a strategic authority. Other than saying boldly that that would not work, nothing came out. It is clear to me that he might have a system that is better than what the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives offer, but he does not have—even so early in what undoubtedly will be a distinguished ministerial career—an absolute monopoly on truth. The point of political debate is that the public should have an opportunity to make a choice. It could be that the Minister is right. It could be that the Opposition are right. None the less, the people have a right to choose. Otherwise, we are left with the rather sad thought that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) suggested, the referendum is really about trying to get a turnout for an election in which the Government suspect they might not be as popular as they currently are. If we are to have a proper debate, it should have a conclusion. Members of the public have a right to choose. We have listened to Labour Members talking about 82 per cent. of people being in favour of a mayor and a strategic authority. They have seen opinion polls, done their own private polling and listened to focus groups. If they are so sure, why do not they put the matter to the ultimate test? If they believe that their arguments are so solid, why do they not seek an endorsement from the population of London? A party that pays so much attention to opinion polls and focus groups must also pay attention to a referendum. No political party has anything to lose by giving the people a decent choice in a referendum. The only people who will ultimately lose are the mayor and the members of the strategic authority who will not have any legitimacy because the referendum was confused.
I am grateful to be called to speak in a debate that will give the people of London a say in the future government of their city. I wish first to pay tribute to several hon. Members who have made maiden speeches this evening. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) made an amusing speech about his constituency. I share with other hon. Members a knowledge of his constituency gained from recent visits, but I am probably the only hon. Member who can say that he has frequently visited and knows intimately almost every constituency in London, as I did in a previous life. I can recommend greasy spoons across the capital and perhaps in a later life I will write an Egon Ronay guide to those august establishments.I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) who gave a rallying cry for his constituency and made an eloquent speech on behalf of the people whom he represents. What can I say about my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound)? I feel some sympathy for hon. Members with constituencies adjacent to Ealing, North because they must have great difficulty avoiding the rush of people attempting to leave it. I know that my hon. Friend has a fondness for his constituency that allows him to use the acute sense of humour that he displayed this evening. As someone who was involved in local government in London for more than a decade, I feel both relief and pride that tonight we will give a democratic voice back to London. When we discuss a Londonwide authority, the discussion inevitably leads to comments about the Greater London council. The criticisms of the GLC have been blown out of proportion and I do not share them. They were mainly cited by those who supported the abolition of the GLC against the best interests of the people of London. However, it cannot be denied that Londoners are more angry today about the lack of an elected Londonwide authority than they ever were with the GLC, for all its faults. All large corporations are open to criticism, and the GLC—and any local authority in London or elsewhere for that matter—is no exception. None of the criticisms of the GLC justified its abolition. Londoners understand the problems of living in London and the need for a democratic voice across London. That is why we are today debating the reintroduction of a strategic authority. Londoners understand the problems and have a good idea how to solve them. I can speak with some authority about the problems of the transport system, having worked for more than a decade in the London transport sector. Much has been made of the need for an integrated transport system in London. Indeed, there are many theories about the definition of an integrated transport policy. To me, it means the transport of people from their point of embarkation to their point of destination, using a variety of transport systems and with the transition from one system to another as seamless as possible. We therefore need to take a strategic approach to London's transport, and we need a Londonwide authority to do that on behalf of the people of London.
Drawing on his extensive experience of the transport system, does my hon. Friend agree that it is a massive indictment—it makes the case for a London authority—that in excess of 50,000 minicabs are plying their trade in this city without any form of regulation? That is precisely the role in which an authority for London could be engaged in dealing with the problems of our transport system.
I agree with my hon. Friend, who gives me an opportunity to pass on my wisdom on this issue. The suggestion that we need 33 licensing authorities across London is patently barmy. We need legislation to tackle the problems in the private hire industry across London. I have strong views on the issue, which I hope to be able to voice in the House in future.The traffic congestion across London is another example of the lack of a strategic authority and approach. The piecemeal approach of local traffic management schemes across London is not working. One authority may have an obsession with speed humps—I am thinking of my own local authority. Another uses pinch points and closes roads left, right and centre—I am thinking of Islington here. There is no strategic approach or uniformity in dealing with traffic congestion and no serious attempt is being made to tackle the growth in the use of cars to travel from the suburbs into the centre of London. That issue can be addressed only by a strategic, Londonwide approach. The majority of people who travel from my constituency for employment travel to central London or around the south circular road, which condemns them to hours and hours of traffic congestion. The transport system is subject to constant breakdowns, delays and cancellations, and buses cannot be relied on because of traffic congestion.
Is it not astonishing that the amount of time wasted daily by traffic congestion on the M25 and the M3 is equivalent to 300 years' working time? I am not sure whether I believe that statistic, but would my hon. Friend care to comment on it?
My hon. Friend did not mention the condition in which people arrive at work after hours of driving on motorways and congested roads into the centre of London. One wonders why this issue has not been debated with enthusiasm in previous years—perhaps the emphasis on the car has dominated the debate on traffic congestion and public transport.Air quality is another important issue for which a strategic approach across London is needed. I am a former chairman of the environment committee of Greenwich council and I played a part in the Londonwide network on air quality to tackle this issue. The problem is underlined by the growth in the number of young people in my local community who are suffering from asthma which is exacerbated by the poor quality of air, the main cause of which are the cars using the arterial routes which dissect the borough of Greenwich, and mainly my constituency. Public health is another area where we need a strategic approach across London. We must address that matter in the White Paper in March next year and promote public health on a Londonwide basis. Homelessness and housing are also important. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North referred to trying to navigate the rocks of the quangos in London. In economic development alone, the Green Paper lists no fewer than 17 governmental organisations, 16 private sector organisations, six education and training sector organisations, and 11 others. I will not bore hon. Members by reading them all out, as they can see for themselves the plethora of quangos and bodies that have been set up to try to tackle the democratic deficit in London and to provide services. For every £1 spent by a democratically elected authority, £60 is spent by an unaccountable quango. A strategic authority will provide some accountability in that area of public life. Strategic planning across London for people with disabilities is an essential issue. London desperately needs a strategic approach to transport, planning, education and employment to improve the quality of life for disabled people. The people of London have no one with a clear responsibility for London services to whom they can turn to express their views. The Bill will fill the gaping chasm that exists in accountability for London's public services and give the people of London a democratic voice. It will supply the deficit created by an act of political spite by the then Tory Government when they abolished the Greater London council, purely because they knew that the GLC would have remained under Labour control had they dared to face the electorate in 1986. That was illustrated by the results of the Inner London education authority elections following the demise of the GLC: Labour swept the board across the London boroughs. The Tories' detestation of local government did not stop there: without a mandate from the electorate or any reference to the people of London, they went ahead in 1987 to abolish the ILEA.
The issue was indeed put to the electorate, because there were four by-elections at the end of the GLC, in which four GLC members stood down and risked the majority party's overall control. The London electorate returned them with resounding majorities, solely on the principle of opposition to the abolition of the GLC in 1986.
I could not agree more.The parents of children in London schools had their own referendum on the future of the ILEA and more than 90 per cent. of those who voted—more than 50 per cent. of those eligible to vote—were in favour of retaining it. We will take no lectures from Conservative Members about accountability in a referendum or consultation with the people of London. Following the devolution in Scotland and Wales, the people of London have every right to expect to be next. I am sure that on 7 May next year they will have their say and vote resoundingly in favour of restoring a democratic strategic authority—a right which was taken from them in a most undemocratic way by the previous Government. As we pledged in the general election campaign, the Government will restore a democratic voice for everyone in London.
I add my congratulations to those who made maiden speeches: the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) and, especially, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), whose speech, according to his own description of what previously emanated from that constituency, will soon be regarded as forgettable.I am grateful to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), who is an Essex Member, and to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), for contributing to a debate on London government. The Scots would be even more grateful to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, given that they have no Conservative representation at all. However, it was good to see the official Opposition fielding contributors to this debate, in the absence of many London Members who one would have thought should be here to participate. We heard one or two ironies from Opposition Members. One was the jibe that the Evening Standard was the only paper in London to support the Government's proposals for a strategic authority—I thought that the Evening Standard was the only paper in London to be sold at regional level, so its support is an endorsement of the Government's proposals for a strategic authority. It was also somewhat ironic and almost Pythonesque to hear to the official Opposition's jibing at the Greater London council—it was almost reminiscent of "Monty Python's Life of Brian"—and saying, "Well, what did the GLC ever do for us?" I am grateful to hon. Friends who have clearly outlined the number of services provided by the GLC to improve the quality of life in the capital and maintain a strategic fabric for the city—something that has been absent for these past 11 years. I was an employee of the GLC, as a member of the London fire brigade, for 23 years, and I am still an out-of-trade member of the Fire Brigades Union, of which I was an elected official. I was equally disappointed that not one member of the official Opposition was present last week when the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) secured an Adjournment debate on the financial crisis facing the London fire service today as a legacy of the previous Government's approach to the service. The discussion was carried on by Liberal Democrat and Labour Members. There has been a democratic deficit in the capital. I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill offers an opportunity to deal with London in a way that it has not been dealt with before, which offers it new politics for the capital and, indeed, a new start for this great city.
In the light of the argument that my hon. Friend is pursuing, will he comment on the official Opposition's failure to respond to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms Hodge), who is no longer present, as to how they would vote in the referendum if their amendment were unsuccessful? We had a clear answer from the Liberal Democrats that if their line of argument were unsuccessful they would support a yes vote. We did not get a similar answer when that question was put to the Conservatives.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question, which reinforces the point that I was making—the referendum and the directly elected mayor and assembly will provide an opportunity for us to reinvigorate and reinforce democracy. Contrary to the jibes that we have heard from the official Opposition that this measure is about weakening our democracy, Labour Members believe that it will improve and strengthen it in the way that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire requested.The official Opposition have been asked a clear question. Despite the fact that their amendment will fall, they have not yet said whether they will support the prospect of strategic government for London. Obviously, that is simply a result of the embarrassment that they feel about the act of political spite that their colleagues carried out in 1986.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in the United States of America—a country notorious for the low turnout at elections and which has an extensive system of elected mayorse—lections for mayors invariably generate turnouts in excess of 50 per cent., which is far higher than turnouts in British local elections? Does that not also reinforce my hon. Friend's argument that the election of a mayor for London is a means of renewing democracy in this country?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that fact to my attention. I was not aware that that was the experience in the United States of America. Labour Members are certainly trying to reinvigorate our democracy by bringing new ideas and politics to the public's attention. We believe that having the referendum on the same day as people elect the 32 London local authorities will lead to an increase in the turnout, which cannot but be good for the future of London.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to ensure that all Londoners are on the electoral roll? That is not currently the case. In the borough of Enfield, we have already held three consultations on the London strategic authority Green Paper, with an enormous positive response. Before entering the House, I was deputy leader in Barnet. I disagree with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman). There was not universal approval by any means in Barnet for the abolition of the Greater London council, and there would certainly be enthusiasm for it now. I wonder whether the situation is much the same in my hon. Friend's neck of the London woods.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It is clear that the attitude of the previous Government to local government was to reduce the resources offered to local government for providing decent services. Electoral registration has been one of the casualties over the years. If local authorities had been given the necessary resources to do the job, areas of deficit, where people are not on the electoral roll for whatever reason, could have been addressed by more vigorous campaigns to ensure that people recognise that in a democratic society, it is their duty to participate by turning out at the polls and voting whenever an election is called. That is why the prospect of a referendum on 7 May next year is a reinforcing act.
After 1986, London became quangoland. It is always argued that what the Conservatives wanted to create would be more efficient. In fact, it has been most inefficient and very expensive. I hope that you will comment on that.
Order. The hon. Gentleman again used the word "you". I would be grateful if he would remember that that is not the terminology of the Chamber.
I apologise to you, Sir.
I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful question. The matter of quangos has been effectively addressed in the debate. The case has been strongly made that democracy was weakened by the initiation of so many quangos to take the place of the GLC and the Inner London education authority. To return London to democratic control and government will address the deficit and improve the situation.
My hon. Friend mentioned resources. Does he agree that, while there may be no second question on taxation, when we come to the main Bill we must tackle the crucial issue of the resourcing of the strategic authority to ensure that the powers to be exercised by the mayor and assembly can be exercised effectively through adequate resourcing? Will my hon. Friend join me in urging the Minister to consider issues such as virement between budgets in the authority and the potential for restoring business rates to London, or at least to a return to some formula which creates equity for London in terms of taxation and distribution across the country? The Minister should also consider change over time so that the authority will be adequately resourced.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing those matters to the attention of the House. I recognise his expertise in the field. I am sure that those matters will be addressed.My last point concerns the home for the elected mayor and strategic authority. I suggest that east London would be an appropriate venue.
What about Ealing, North?
The case for Ealing, North has been effectively made but we would be flying in the face of history were we to do something about Ealing, North now.The Anglo-French summit that took place at Canary Wharf last week clearly signalled the symbolism that the Government attach to the east end. I have spoken of the need to reinforce our democracy, and one should remember that the east end has traditionally been the poor relation of the capital; its flirtation with the extremists of the right resulted from that neglect and the poverty and unemployment that it has suffered. The centre of gravity of the capital has been moving eastward in the past 15 years, and it will continue to do so. There is no more fitting place to be home to the new strategic authority and the elected mayor than east London.
I congratulate the three hon. Members who made their maiden speeches.The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) paid generous tribute to his predecessor, Charles Goodson-Wickes, a good friend of mine, whom we miss very much in the House. I am envious of the fact that the hon. Gentleman is able to represent his home constituency. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) made the most entertaining maiden speech that I have ever heard. I note from his interests as listed in "The Times Guide to the House of Commons", May 1997 edition, that he is a collector of comics, so perhaps that humour should come as no surprise. He, too, paid generous tribute to Harry Greenway, who is held in much affection in the House. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that he is not as tall as my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), but he most definitely made his mark with his speech. Speaking of my right hon. Friend, I noted that the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) intervened on the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) and urged him to support the licensing of minicabs. I hope that both hon. Members will be present when my right hon. Friend introduces his private Member's Bill later in the Session to propose such a measure. I hope that they also note that that is a Conservative party proposal. We had an excellent maiden speech from my good and hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). In common with everyone else in the House, I, too, tramped the streets of Uxbridge. Unlike the majority of those in the Chamber, but in common with my hon. Friend, I hope that the Prime Minister takes it upon himself to maintain his tradition of attending every by-election by visiting Beckenham and Winchester. As my hon. Friend's Whip, I have some idea of the emotions he went through when, on 1 May, he found himself electing his candidate, his good friend Michael Shersby, and when, just three months later, he found himself standing in his place. It must have been a traumatic experience, but he has come through it with flying colours and we welcome him to the House. We are debating a Bill which provides for a referendum on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. That is it. The future of London will be wrapped up in a single 24-word question, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) has rightly said, is arguably defective. London is a city which hon. Members are proud to represent and it does not deserve this. One of the Conservative party's proudest achievements in government was to see Londoners turn their city into one of the world's greatest cities. That success has become apparent not just since May. [Interruption.] The Deputy Prime Minister may jeer, but the first sentence of his manifesto refers to London as the greatest city.
The Conservative Government abolished London's council.
I shall come to that in a minute.That success has been achieved not just since May; it is a success story of the past two decades—a Conservative success story. London is now one of the world's leading financial centres. Its theatres, cinemas, museums and art galleries and its venues for opera—we hope—and for dance and music are internationally acclaimed. Its universities are world class. The latest survey reveals that it maintains its leading position as the best city in Europe in which to locate a business. Those hon. Members who spoke about the need to consider our transport systems should note that the same poll contained a supplementary question about transport, and business men voted London the easiest European city to travel around. We may think that it is bad, but the others are even worse. However, we share the Government's view that the time has come to reform and modernise our capital's system of government—to build on the tremendous success story and prosperity achieved during the Conservatives' time in government. Labour Members have criticised us for changing our minds on this proposal. That is rich coming from the Labour party, which has changed its mind on every fundamental issue of the past two decades and a fair few since the general election. Let us hear no criticism from the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Twigg): as president of the National Union of Students, he advocated resistance to tuition fees, but he seems to have gone strangely silent on the subject. [Interruption.] We will be watching him. Many hon. Members have argued that it was a mistake to abolish the Greater London council in 1986, but I am not one of those people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) rightly pointed out, to apologise presupposes that we want to return to the GLC. In paragraph 1.09 of the Green Paper, the Government state:
so the Labour party does not want it back. That leaves only the Liberals and I am not sure that they want it back either. Who is urging the House to advocate a return to the GLC?"This is not an exercise in bringing back the Greater London Council",
An apology is required because the Conservative party was given the opportunity, by all parties on the GLC, by Londoners and by many London organisations, to reform the GLC instead of abolishing it. However, in a pig-headed way and showing a cowardly lack of interest in London, Conservative Members marched through the Division Lobbies to obey the diktat of the then Prime Minister. That is what the hon. Gentleman should apologise for.
I do not lament the departure of the old GLC any more than the hon. Gentleman's own party does and I will not apologise for the abolition of what was a dinosaur running out of control.We recognise that things have moved on since that time. I accept that 10 years is a long time in politics—the world has become a global village and we need a mayor to stride around the village square. However, Labour Members have to realise what the proposed authority will not do. Many hon. Members have referred to elected mayors in the United States and to the powers of the mayor of New York, but it is an illusion to believe that the success of the mayor of New York can be drawn down as an analogy with what is proposed for London. If Labour Members believe that our mayor will be able to solve problems in the same way as the mayor of New York has done, they have another think coming. The mayor of New York's great success was his crackdown on crime. That was achieved by the introduction of a law banning squeegee merchants who were funding juvenile crime and the imposition of a sales tax to put extra policemen on the beat, who were then targeted at the worst areas. No such powers will be available to the mayor of London or to the assembly and it is illusory to think that they will. The hon. Member for Eltham brought the debate down to the level of road humps—the authority would decide which borough had road humps—and other hon. Members wanted the authority to deal with health and education, but that will not happen either. The Bill will give London's 5 million voters the chance to vote in a referendum on the plans for a Greater London authority. The authority has two parts: first, a directly elected mayor and, secondly, a directly elected assembly. Two options, two proposals, two choices—so why are the Government introducing a Bill that offers only one question? Londoners now find themselves in an impossible position; the future government of their city is at stake, yet the Government continue to ignore the variety and depth of their cosmopolitan views. London is a city of villages—varied, colourful and, at times, awkward. It has the energy of New York, without the downside. It has many opinions and Londoners want their say. Two choices demand two questions. It is democratic, it is necessary and it is right. That is why the Conservatives are fighting for a two-question referendum—so that the people of London can be given the fullest possible opportunity to have their say about the sort of London government that they want. I have been canvassing in my constituency and in the rest of London. I accept that there is wide support for a voice for London, but hardly anyone agrees with the detail of the Government's proposals. Indeed, most speeches this evening have disagreed with the detail.
Yes, they have. The hon. Member for Ealing, North wanted the GLC back, even though the Green Paper was against that. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) wanted health and education to be run by the proposed authority. I could list many more examples.By all means let us have a mayor for London; on that our parties can agree. He or she will be an ambassador for the city, a strong voice for its people, a champion of Londoners promoting London on the national and international stage. The mayor could push the capital's case on issues ranging from inward investment to regeneration funding, and could bid for the World cup or the Olympic games. It is obvious to all of us who live and work in London that the capital's environmental problems are challenging. Together, we produce more than 12 million tonnes of rubbish and use more than 20 million tonnes of fuel a year. From rubbish to graffiti to recycling, the influence that a mayor would bring to bear on overseeing a new environmental strategy would be enormous. The last thing that London—or the mayor—needs, however, is a directly elected assembly—the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley). The assembly will generate an anti-borough culture; the boroughs are deeply concerned about its scope for interference in their activities. In the Green Paper there are no fewer than 15 diminutions of the boroughs' powers, and in part II of the Bill the Government seek authority to obtain advice on the assembly's electoral arrangements. The relevant clause does not specify the method of election, although the Minister dealt with that earlier today. In his letter to The Times, the Minister argued that he intends to avoid the problem of assemblymen fighting for their own patches rather than the wider interests of London—
I will not give way at this point.Not even Scotland and Wales are breaking their constituency links in this manner. By maintaining that the assembly must think strategically and not take local views into account, the Minister is saying, in effect, "Vote us in; we need your votes, and then we don't want to hear from you."
The purpose of my letter to The Times was to point out the deficiencies of the Conservative party's proposal that the mayor should not have a directly elected assembly to keep him or her accountable, but should instead have a committee made up of all 32 London borough leaders. I was pointing out, as did another correspondent in that newspaper the same day—someone expert in the American system—that The Times was wrong and that there was no American city that did not have an assembly to keep its mayor accountable. I also pointed out that the 32 borough leaders could not do so because they would be fighting for their own interests.
Then the Minister let the cat out of the bag—he could not contain himself—and went even further. He said that he wanted the authority to think strategically—
Fair enough; but he also said that he did not want the assemblymen to fight for their own patch. If so, I repeat: the Minister simply wants people's votes, but thereafter he does not want to hear any more from them.I think that the Coulsdon bypass for Croydon is important, but no one in the assembly would fight for it. Who is to fight for it then—a Member of Parliament, a councillor? If so, what is the point of the authority?
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I am short of time.We will have a load of assemblymen with no local knowledge and no constituency links; their only job will be to hang around and veto the mayor or his appointees. The assembly will become a hotbed of intrigue and gossip, and the only way for assemblymen to draw attention to their dull careers will be to say no to the mayor. The temptation will be irresistible. It will lead to clash and conflict, gridlock and indecision. Vetoes will be overridden. The headlines will be endless. Neither the mayor nor the boroughs need to work with another layer of bureaucracy when London is already so well served by its present elected representatives. In addition to the Government office for London and the London development agency, we shall have 32 unitary boroughs, the Corporation of London, 74 Members of Parliament and 10 Members of the European Parliament. Labour Members spoke with affection of the old Greater London council, an organisation of which many hon. Members need no reminding. A unique band of Labour Members held office in it, and I am sure that the House and the people of London will welcome their explanation why it cost more than £2 billion a year to run with so little output and why it spent £8,000 on the campaign to curb police powers, £30,000 on the Camden policing the police group and £38,000 on the campaign against the Police Bill. Perhaps we should ask the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), now Under-Secretary of State for Health. He should know; he was chairman of the Greater London council police committee at the time. Or we might ask his neighbour, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), noticeable by his absence tonight, who is campaigning against his party's proposals. We could even ask the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), the Minister for Sport, a man who, after the Greater London council's abolition, mysteriously found the GLC's silver in his attic at home. He was the last chairman of the Greater London council. We do not want a return to those old days; we must avoid it at all costs. The Conservative party wants an indirectly elected assembly, made up of a representative of each of the 32 London boroughs and the Corporation of London. Whichever way one looks at them, our proposals for that assembly of borough leaders constitute an arguable case. The Guardian, not traditionally a Conservative newspaper, said:
those with alternative views—"to deny them"—
Borough leaders are the men and women who have day-to-day contact with boroughs and wards, working with chief executives to solve local problems. To have them form the new assembly would be to build a bridge between the boroughs and the mayor. It will provide a vital link with the electors and ensure that those with all-important local knowledge will he at the heart of decision making. It will remove the inevitable conflict between the authority and the boroughs on planning, transport and much else. It will provide effective scrutiny, tempered with responsibility. The Minister today—as he has in the past—criticised our proposal for an assembly made up of 32 borough leaders and the Corporation of London as an inadequate alternative to the assembly. However, he totally failed to explain why 32 elected assemblymen would be better equipped to contain the excesses of a mayor than the 32 borough leaders. It does not show much confidence in local government or in his party. The majority of borough leaders are Labour councillors, and not one speech today mentioned their work—I am not surprised, looking at them."any expression on the ballot seems peculiar. After all, the whole point of a referendum is to allow all the people their say."
The Prime Minister insists that we are in a giving age, so why does not he give the people of London a two-question referendum? Anything less would be a deliberate and calculated slap in the face of democracy. Two simple, straightforward questions that would reveal the true views of Londoners about their future—that is all it would take. [Interruption.] Labour Members are complaining about the length of my speech. I remind them that the agreement is that the Minister wants only 10 minutes in which to reply, so I have two minutes to go.Two simple, straightforward questions that would reveal the true views of Londoners about their future—that is all it would take. London's future is too important to the Opposition for us to fight for anything less. Two questions would show that the Government have nothing to hide about reforming the capital's government. With the Liberal Democrats supporting us, the Government could point to all-party consensus on the issue. That would show that the Government had confidence in the electorate's ability to assess the merits of each proposal before them, and that the Government really wanted to listen to Londoners' views. One question on a referendum simply shows that the Government do not really want to know—that they have something to hide. Are they afraid to dig a little deeper? Are they just not interested in finding out what Londoners think about those reforms? The Minister probably knows how many Londoners think that Labour's way is not the best way to reform London's government. The Conservative party wants two questions on London's future—two choice for two futures. Those who live in the world's greatest capital city deserve nothing less. I urge the House to support our amendment.
As other hon. Members have said, we have been privileged to listen to three maiden speeches today. The speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) was notable for both its wit and its entertainment value. While bewailing the historic lack of great people, buildings and events in his constituency, he happily heralded a better future for his constituents with a strategic authority of the kind proposed by the Government. His speech was hailed as being witty in the extreme, while the speeches by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) and the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) win tonight's comedy cup.For Opposition Members to argue that we are failing to offer the people of London a genuine choice in our desire to restore to them a democratic voice, when the Conservative party summarily abolished democratic citywide government in London without previously consulting the people of London, is risible in the extreme. Since then, Londoners have been at one in demanding the return of their democratic voice. This Government were elected on a manifesto promise to bring back democratic government to our capital. With the approval of the people of London, that is what we shall undoubtedly do. I welcomed the positive contributions from both sides of the House to a debate in June on the government of London. This evening's debate seems to have broken down into a clear commitment by the Labour party to the restoration of a democratic voice for London, while Opposition Members have displayed no clear vision, constantly referring to history and misrepresenting our ideas by suggesting erroneously that we wish to create a GLC mark II. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) and the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) spoke today, as they did in June, from an interested and informed position, and asked specific questions. I understand that the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster is probably enjoying the dessert or savoury at the Lord Mayor's banquet. He asked what provision there would be if it were necessary to have a recount in the referendum. There will be provision by Orders in Council, should that necessity arise. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet asked several specific questions, particularly on the rights of European Union nationals to vote in the referendum. They will indeed have that right. The result will be announced borough by borough, and then the total will be announced. Counting officers will determine the number of boxes and the number of people required to count the votes. I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman believes that there could be any confusion about the voting procedure when the ballot paper says:
"Separately" is the operative word. Since July, we have received more than 1,000 responses from all parts of London, representing business, local government, trade unions, community groups and others. Many responses have come from individual Londoners who want a say in their city's future. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Twigg) referred to electoral reform. We are still attempting to assess the responses on that point. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) asked for this debate to be conducted with an open mind, but he ended up—as far as I could understand—discounting his own reasoned amendment. He therefore seemed to be asking less for an open mind than for empty minds. Of the responses that we have managed to analyse, only 10 per cent. have put in a request for an additional question. However, the responses are still being considered and analysed. It is clear that the people of London do not want simply to re-create the old GLC, the abolition of which made Londoners particularly determined to have their democratic voice restored. [Interruption.]" mayor and a separately elected assembly".
Order. There are many conversations going on in the Chamber. Hon. Members should be listening to the Minister.
Our proposal is that we should learn from the experience in other world cities, draw on the best that is on offer and look carefully at what London needs.The hon. Member for Northolt, in his reasoned response, although he does not agree with our proposals, asked why my hon. Friend—
There is no Member for Northolt. Northolt is in the constituency of one of my hon. Friends. I presume that the hon. Lady is referring to the Member for Ruislip-Northwood. If she concentrated more on the debate, and read less and gabbled less, she might get such points of detail right.
Order. The hon. Lady is in perfect good order.
I thank the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) for demonstrating that he is always one of the most courteous hon. Members. He said that my hon. Friend the Minister for London and Construction had not mentioned a strategic transport authority. My hon. Friend certainly did so. He referred to the need for a strategic transport authority, a need reiterated from direct practical experience by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford). My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) emphasised the point in a telling intervention.If a start is to be made, London needs the strategic leadership that can be provided only by a mayor who is directly elected by, and speaks for, the people, and who is capable of bringing all of London together. It also needs an assembly capable of scrutinising, questioning and holding the mayor to democratic account, creating a proper balance of accountability, but also capable of advising the mayor and contributing ideas and expertise in regular dialogue. The two proposals are inseparable. Neither on its own would provide the mix of leadership and accountability that London needs. That was stressed in almost all the contributions of Labour Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) described the proposed referendum question as realistic. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) highlighted our manifesto commitment to a strategic authority and a directly elected major. In a maiden speech that was generous and graceful in the tribute that was paid to his predecessors, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) underlined the multicultural nature of his constituency, and emphasised the need for a strategic transport authority. The third maiden speech that we were privileged to hear was that of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), who paid a moving tribute to his predecessor. In his cogent and informed speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate highlighted the democratic element inherent in our manifesto commitment. My hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) welcomed our manifesto commitment, as we welcome her call for voter registration to be encouraged, particularly among young voters. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) had serious doubts about our proposals, yet he, too, looked forward to our White Paper, which we have given a clear commitment to publish next year. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) spoke of the mandate for change vested in the Government and the clear commitment in our manifesto to a new deal for London, with a strategic authority and directly elected mayor. I referred earlier to the contribution of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, who seemed to fear our proposals, which he thought would suck away power from local authorities. That was a somewhat remarkable contribution in view of the fact that, over 18 long years, the former Conservative Government introduced 60 separate Bills that took powers away from London government. I regret that I cannot name all the Labour Members who made a clear, passionate commitment to what we propose and what we intend to see delivered.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 167, Noes 342.
Division No. 85]
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Gale, Roger|
|Amess, David||Garnier, Edward|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Gibb, Nick|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Gill, Christopher|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Gillan, Mrs Cheryl|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Baldry, Tony||Gorrie, Donald|
|Ballard, Mrs Jackie||Green, Damian|
|Bercow, John||Greenway, John|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Grieve, Dominic|
|Blunt, Crispin||Gummer, Rt Hon John|
|Body, Sir Richard||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie|
|Boswell, Tim||Hammond, Philip|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Hancock, Mike|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Harvey, Nick|
|Brake, Tom||Hawkins, Nick|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Hayes, John|
|Brazier, Julian||Heald, Oliver|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Burns, Simon||Horam, John|
|Burstow, Paul||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Butterfill, John||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE|