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Volume 301: debated on Monday 24 November 1997

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Amendment moved [19 November]: No. 15, page 1, line 9, leave out 'an elected assembly' and insert

'an assembly of leaders of London boroughs'.—[Mr. Ottaway.]

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendmenty: No. 16, page 1, line 10, leave out 'separately' and insert 'directly'.

No. 17, in schedule, page 6, line 4, leave out 'an' and insert 'a directly'.

No. 28, in schedule, page 6, line 4, leave out 'a separately elected assembly' and insert
'an assembly of leaders of London boroughs'.

Conservative Members wish to associate themselves with the comments by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

The amendment would ensure that, in the referendum, we were voting for an assembly of borough leaders rather than for the directly elected assembly proposed by the Government. Our objections to the directly elected assembly are many, the first being that there would be no formal links between the boroughs and the authority. The Minister for London and Construction has several times said that there would be no such links. Those of us who remember the old Greater London council know that an anti-borough culture persisted throughout the life of that organisation, but it worked both ways—the boroughs were hostile to the GLC, too. None of us felt that that was conducive to the effective operation of local government.

Our second objection to a directly elected assembly is the resentment that the idea is currently creating among the boroughs. It is clear from the briefest scrutiny of the Green Paper that there will be an erosion of the boroughs' powers.

Having read the Green Paper, I calculate that there are no fewer than 15 points where the boroughs' powers will be eroded, despite the denials made before the election— and, indeed, since. There are, in fact, four main areas where those powers will be eroded—planning, transport, waste management and finance. Individually, they may be small items, but collectively, they add up to significant dangers for the boroughs, and represent an opportunity for two large secretariats to be established—one for the mayor and one for the assembly.

The Minister shakes his head, but if we have the sort of intrusion into the boroughs' powers outlined in the Green Paper, either we shall have a highly intelligent load of assemblymen who are capable of doing everything on their own without any secretarial back-up— if that is the case, we shall see pigs flying down Whitehall—or there will have to be a large secretariat.

Our third objection is that the proposals will result in rather oddball jobs for the assemblymen. These assemblymen will have no borough links, and that will mean nothing but trouble. Their only job will be to hang around city hall and veto the mayor. The only way that they can get into the headlines will be to cause trouble. After a while, they will realise that if they go on saying yes to the mayor, their insignificant lives will continue to be insignificant; but if they say no, on will go the television lights, out will come the notepaper and pads, and pencils will grind away. If the assemblymen have no borough links, the assembly will be nothing more than a talking shop, and it will lead to conflict, deadlock and indecision.

Let there be no doubt; the Conservatives want an assembly. It is wrong to suggest that our proposed assembly of borough leaders is not an assembly. We accept that if there is to be a mayor, it is essential to hold him to account. We believe that that will be best done through an assembly of borough leaders. We do not want a Greater London council mark II, or a slimmed-down version. We want an assembly of people with local knowledge at the heart of decision making—people who understand local issues and can represent them in London's authority. They work with their chief executive every day, solve borough problems, and deal with matters that affect people at a local level.

The great advantage is that an assembly of borough leaders would form a bridge between the mayor and the boroughs. A directly elected assembly would be a barrier between the mayor and the boroughs. That is at the heart of our objection.

An assembly of borough leaders would be more skilled, would have more talent, would be cheaper, would avoid the bureaucratic costs and secretariats that I have described, and, above all, would avoid the anti-borough culture that concerns us. It would strengthen links with the local community.

The Minister has given us a clue that he does not agree with our proposals. The leader in The Times on 30 July said
"Political power must be placed with the Mayor. The functions of the Greater London Authority should be two-fold: an open forum for the proper accountability of the chief executive and a facilitator of co-operation between the Mayor and the boroughs. That would be best achieved through an indirectly elected entity consisting of the 32 borough council leaders and the Corporation of London. This arrangement would ensure the unique mandate of the mayor and provide a direct link"—
a direct link—
"between the two most significant aspects of London's administration."
I could not put it better myself.

The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said on an earlier amendment that we have had one or two lines from the Minister and his colleagues, but there has been no explanation why our proposal is not right. The majority of London councils are controlled by the Labour party. The Minister may not trust them to do a good job, but that situation will not continue for ever. Come the local elections next May, there will probably be a significant change in the composition of our proposed assembly. The Minister must convince the House why our proposal is not better than his.

Not surprisingly, the Minister could not resist responding to the editor of The Times. He said:
"In these circumstances we are absolutely convinced that the mayor must be held to account. This can be best done by an elected body with specific powers to scrutinise what the mayor proposes and does."
There again are the words "can be best done", without any explanation. Explaining why he does not think that our proposals will work and why the editor of The Times— and the editor of The Daily Telegraph, for that matter— is wrong, the Minister goes on
"Each leader would, quite rightly, see his or her first loyalty as fighting for his or her own patch rather than the wider interests of London as a whole."
That sums it up. The Minister cannot stand the thought of someone fighting for his or her own patch. It also confirms our long-held suspicion. Although the Minister said on Second Reading that he had an open mind on the electoral system to be used, he has already decided on one. First past the post would allow people to fight for their own patch.

The Minister is, in effect, saying that he wants to sever the constituency links so that people think strategically. He has, however, created a hurdle for himself, because no one will be able to fight for his or her own patch. Labour is not going that far, even in Scotland or Wales.

4.30 pm

What message does the Government's proposal send to voters? The Green Paper makes it clear that the proposed London transport authority will have a hands-on role with regard to roads. I come back to an example I gave the Minister on Second Reading. I believe that the Coulsdon bypass is important. I have written to the Minister for Transport in London, and she has replied. She told me, through her noble Friend the Minister for Roads, that I was one of about 150 people who had written in a similar vein. In fact, so many people have written that we are having a job lot meeting in a few days' time, when we can make our points together. I am fighting for that bypass on behalf of my constituents. In future, that job will be handed to the LTA. Who will fight for that road?

I shall not be able to fight for the road, because I shall not be a member of the LTA. Local councillors will not be able to fight for it because they will have no link with the LTA. The assemblymen on the LTA will not be able to fight for the road, because they will not be allowed to fight for their own patch. The lobbying will be done by public relations firms, which means that it is the people with the most money who will win.

In that case, there will be no lobbying for the Coulsdon bypass. What is the point of an authority such as that proposed in the Bill? The Minister is saying to prospective assembly members, "Once you have been voted in, we do not want to hear from you, because there will be no fighting for your own patch and local views will not be welcome."

There is no doubt that our proposals for an assembly have considerable merit. They also have some support inside the London Labour party. One of the joys of being in opposition is the brown envelope that suddenly turns up. I have here an extract from a report of a meeting of the Greater London Labour party executive, which says:
"For the London executive, the discussion has been going on for a couple of years, for others, less. But we keep coming up with the wrong answer: No to a directly elected mayor. It appears that Londoners are a little dim. Ask them two separate questions ('Do you want an elected assembly?' and 'Do you want a directly elected mayor?') and they come over all faint. According to our leaders"—
I can only assume that that means Ministers—
"if we ask two questions we are likely to end up with a mayor but no assembly."
That is no surprise, but this is the first news we have had that it is the view of the Greater London Labour party executive.

The Minister may say that it is not. The report continues

"The Chair Jim Fitzpatrick MP manipulated the meeting shamelessly to avoid even indicative votes."
That is the way in which the Labour party has been considering the proposals. We know that there is deep-rooted support for a London assembly, and I urge the Committee to support the amendments.

I want to stick to the detail of amendments Nos. 16 and 17.

I believe that they have merit, in that they will clarify to the electorate and make certain in statute a phraseology that will be appropriate for the purpose of establishing a directly elected mayor and a directly elected assembly in separate elections. The manner of election could not then be altered by the White Paper, or by the Government changing their mind after the passage of the Bill.

We have heard from the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) his strong desire for an indirectly elected mayor drawn from the ranks of the assemblymen. If, as amendment No. 16 seeks, a directly elected mayor were written into the phraseology of the Bill, that could not happen.

There is a strong body of opinion within the Labour movement in London, particularly in municipal circles, for the mayoralty to be indirectly elected and drawn from the ranks of the assemblymen. In that way, the assembly would have much more control over who would be appointed to the job. He or she would be in essence one of them, sharing the same culture and the same roots in local government within the Labour movement in London.

It is also exceedingly important that the electorate should know that the assemblymen would be directly elected. In that respect, I take a slightly different view from my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), but not as regards objectives.

Like my hon. Friend and others on the Opposition Front Bench, I believe passionately in the importance of ensuring that borough opinion is represented on the assembly in the most effective manner possible. After all, Londoners identify with their boroughs. Traditionally, they draw most of their services from and elect their councillors for their boroughs, and, to a greater or lesser extent, there is a geographical, social and economic identity within a borough boundary.

In promoting the Bill, the Labour party seeks to move away from the traditional roots that are of the essence of our local democracy in London. We are led to believe that there may not even be constituencies, or, if there are, that they will be very large and not in any sense conterminous with the boroughs. They will be based on the prospective European Parliament constituencies within London, which encompass much greater areas.

I would argue that the assemblymen will require different personal qualities from those necessary for a borough leader. Assemblymen will be scrutineers. They will not need the talent, aptitude and background of executive action—the qualities necessary for an effective borough leader. The better they do their job on the assembly at the Middlesex Guildhall or wherever, the more time they will spend scrutinising the mayor's budget and challenging and testing his programmes, his policies and his projects for London.

It would be better if the assemblymen were directly responsible to the electors in their boroughs in exercising that scrutineering function. Furthermore, it would be much more appropriate if their term of office exactly coincided with that of the mayor—which could not happen if they were indirectly elected. In fact, halfway through the term of a particular borough representative on the London assembly, a borough leader could find himself out of office by virtue of a local borough election.

In respect of continuity and from a practical perspective, borough leaders are exceedingly busy people. Their primary duty is managing a very complicated municipal operation on behalf of their electors. Most of them also have other careers. They are not full-time, paid politicians, as are many right hon. and hon. Members, and certainly Members of the European Parliament. The additional burden of travelling large distances across London to attend assembly meetings will not always be either easy or possible to fit in with the borough leaders' primary responsibility to their borough councils and electors.

If borough leaders fulfil poorly their responsibilities as scrutineers of and checks on the executive power of the mayor, their borough electors should be able to replace them or place some sanction on them. If they are merely indirectly representative of their boroughs—borough leaders seconded from their primary purpose of fulfilling a role on the assembly—and fulfil the role badly, it will be much harder for their electors to exercise any sanction on them, especially if they fulfil their primary responsibility of running their own borough well.

I whole-heartedly support my hon. Friends' strong determination to make absolutely sure that the voice of the boroughs is heard because that is what matters to Londoners. The concerns of my electors in west London and people in Hillingdon are utterly different from those in the City or the east end.

Under the electoral arrangements proposed by the Opposition, there is no way of ensuring that local interests are represented directly on the assembly and have an effect on the policies being promulgated and enacted by the mayor. There is much greater likelihood of ensuring that local interests are represented if there is a directly elected assembly—especially if the representatives on the assembly come from the borough. I would suggest one directly elected representative for each borough.

That said, I support the aims of my hon. Friends' amendments. I also hope that the Government realise that specifically inserting the words "directly elected mayor" and "directly elected assembly" would ensure that there was no possibility of jiggery-pokery after the Bill is passed.

The Liberal Democrats will not be supporting amendment No. 15, for many of the reasons that the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) has just described. He made a very powerful set of arguments for not supporting the idea of London borough leaders attempting to hold to account a directly elected mayor, as the Conservative party favours. I shall expand on that slightly.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) argued strongly for a role for borough leaders, and we on the Liberal Democrat Benches would not disagree. One of the concerns that we will have, especially in the detailed consideration of the Bill that will bring the authority into its final shape, will be the relationship between the boroughs and the new authority. The danger is that, if that relationship is not clear in the referendum, the credibility of the Government's advocacy of a mayor and an authority could be undermined.

We want to ensure that we have a regional authority which gives strategic direction and a clear strategic lead in London. We want that authority to work full time on behalf of Londoners, dealing with matters that are not about hoovering up powers from local government but about taking powers away from the House and Whitehall.

One of the lessons that we should be drawing from the experiences of the Greater London council is that, all too often, there were turf wars between the GLC and London borough councils about who had responsibility for taking matters forward. The hon. Member for Croydon, South highlighted some areas where that tension could recur under the proposed arrangements.

The solution is not simply borough leaders holding an elected mayor to account. It is the Liberal Democrats' view that that is a recipe for blurred accountability. A question mark would hang over such an indirectly elected assembly about its mandate from the people of London to stand up to a directly elected mayor. Such a directly elected mayor could legitimately question the authority of such an indirectly elected body.

We have seen how inadequate the joint boards of representatives from each London borough—which were set up in 1986 when the GLC was abolished—have been as a means of holding services across London to account. Creating a larger joint board of London borough leaders as a way of holding an elected mayor to account is inappropriate.

For those reasons, we do not support the amendments. However, we believe very strongly that they represent a view which needs to be reflected in debate on the referendum. I hope that Ministers will reflect on the points that have been made. Those made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South have some support in London, although we would argue that they do not have adequate support.

Let the people decide, and be able to express their view. The Minister should explain in more detail his reasons for advocating his position. Let us have a chance to campaign and advocate our position. It should not be for this place to decide the structure of government in London: it should be for the people of London to decide.

4.45 pm

I support amendment No. 15, for two reasons.

The Government are setting some precedents about the way in which they are proposing to establish regional government. The Minister was rightly rebuked by the Liberal Democrats on Second Reading for construing the Bill as a strengthening of local democracy. It is in practice no such thing, but the establishment of a regional tier of bureaucracy.

If that regional tier is established in the way the Government propose, with no direct relationship with the boroughs, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) eloquently explained, emphasis on the supposed strategic overview will simply lend distance to the body, as distinct from the day-to-day concerns of boroughs, which are often the most important aspect of the scrutiny, and must be applied to the directly elected mayor.

It is clear that many aspects need to be applied to the scrutiny of the executive actions of the directly elected mayor in appointments, and so on. At the heart of that scrutiny is that done on behalf of the boroughs and the interests of many London communities. If such interests are not—by means of the amendment—represented directly on the authority, there will be tension between the authority and the boroughs, most likely represented by the borough leaders.

It is far preferable that we legislate now for a constitution that puts those principal tensions, interests and concerns together in an authority, where they can be properly resolved, than leave them to be determined in a non-constitutional manner, perhaps through disputes such as those between the GLC and London boroughs, to which the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) referred. It is better to bring such tensions inside the authority and ensure that the boroughs' interests will be positively represented.

Last week, the Opposition argued that the people of London should be given an opportunity to vote on whether they wanted a directly elected assembly. That was the proposition that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) put to the House. The amendments before us reveal that argument as humbug, because they would rule out the possibility of a directly elected assembly. Opposition Members should think more carefully about their intentions, instead of tabling amendments that show that they can only oppose, and have no coherent view of their own.

The amendments would give Londoners the opportunity to vote not whether they are in favour of a mayor plus a directly elected assembly, but whether they want a mayor plus an assembly made up of the leaders of the 32 London boroughs. We have made it clear that that is not an option for the Greater London authority. We promised an elected assembly in our manifesto, and that is what we shall deliver.

The leaders of the London boroughs do an excellent job in representing the interests of their areas. That is their rightful role and one which we expect them to play in relation to the GLA. An effective borough leader will be in regular contact with the GLA, and an effective mayor will be in regular contact with London borough leaders.

However, the GLA should not be governed by local interests. It must be able to take a strategic overview, for the benefit of London as a whole. That will not mean riding roughshod over borough interests, but it will mean weighing up different positions and reaching conclusions to the benefit of the whole of London. Only a mayor, working with a directly elected assembly, can do that job.

The assembly will have a vital role to play in the new GLA. It will monitor the activities of the mayor and work with the mayor to devise strategies for London's development. We propose that the assembly should be able to choose Londonwide issues and investigate them, producing reports and recommendations. Those are significant jobs.

Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that certain issues are of especial importance to particular boroughs? For example, my local borough, Hillingdon, has the greatest expanse of green belt and open space in the whole of London. I believe that it is therefore necessary that someone who is directly elected, or who represents Hillingdon—as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) would argue—should be on the assembly to ensure that the important local perspective is brought to bear on the mayor's policies. A regional government might have quite different interests.

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that individual London boroughs have different interests, and it is right and proper that they should present those interests. As I have said, I expect that borough leaders will be active in meeting the mayor and putting their case. I also expect the mayor to be in regular contact with the borough leaders.

However, the hon. Gentleman himself made the forceful point that borough leaders have a job to do already. They are part-timers, many with other jobs, and have much to do looking after their boroughs' interests. It is not realistic to suggest that they can perform in addition all the functions that will be required of the assembly, including monitoring mayoral activities, participating in the decision-making process, and sitting on investigative and scrutiny committees. It beggars belief that the borough leaders would be able to do justice to those jobs. The hon. Gentleman himself made that point, as did the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow).

We have made the case for a package involving a Greater London authority made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly, composed of members elected to do a specific job. The amendments would create a lopsided authority, which would be unable to deliver what the people of London expect. I invite the hon. Member for Croydon, South to withdraw them. If he does not, I invite my hon. Friends and the Liberal Democrats to vote against the amendments.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that, after we have the elections currently planned for May 2000, we could end up with an independent mayor, a Conservative assembly and a Labour Government. If the Minister honestly believes that, in that situation, regular contact with the boroughs will take the place of monitoring, working with and making recommendations to the mayor, he has a naive view of how politics works. That will be a recipe for conflict and disaster.

The Minister shakes his head, but he only has to look at the conflict and disaster between a Labour Government and a Labour Greater London council, let alone ones of different complexions. He made the point, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), that the borough leaders would be too busy. My hon. Friend expressed genuine views—

In that case, both the Minister and my hon. Friend have to explain why the borough leaders want to be on the assembly. I challenge the Minister to show me a borough leader who does not want to be on the assembly, and then I will believe him.

The hon. Gentleman may go and ask the leader of the borough in the area that I represent. Councillor Len Duvall has no aspirations to be a member of the assembly by virtue of being the leader of a borough.

I am sure that we could find someone on Greenwich council who would like to do the job.

That is because councillors have little confidence that local interests of their borough will be safeguarded by a regional government for London. They believe that the members of the assembly will be remote from the concerns that are uppermost in the minds of the people of their boroughs.

My hon. Friend is right. Borough leaders are very interested in our proposals. If the Minister thinks that borough leaders are not interested, he is in for a busy year.

The hon. Gentleman has challenged me, and I can tell him that the Association of London Government, which represents the views of the London borough leaders, has actively supported the Government's proposals.

Can the Minister then explain why the majority of London boroughs want two questions? We have the support of at least half, probably more, of the London boroughs.

I shall read him the list. We have the support of Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Hackney, Harrow, Havering, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Bexley and Westminster. That is not yet a complete list, because more London boroughs have yet to be counted. For the Minister to say that the ALG supports the Government's view is inaccurate, and I have the evidence that it does not.

The London boroughs are deeply concerned by the proposals, and they want more involvement than the Government propose. I invite the House to support the amendments.

Question put, That the amendment be made—

The Committee divided: Ayes 116, Noes 297.

Division No. 92]

[4.57 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Browning, Mrs Angela
Amess, DavidBruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Arbuthnot, JamesBums, Simon
Beresford, Sir PaulCash, William
Blunt, CrispinChapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, TimChope, Christopher
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaClappison, James
Brady, GrahamClark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Brazier, JulianClarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyMalins, Humfrey
Cormack, Sir PatrickMaples, John
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Duncan, AlanMawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Duncan Smith, IainMay, Mrs Theresa
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterMoss, Malcolm
Evans, NigelNicholls, Patrick
Fabricant, MichaelOttaway, Richard
Fallon, MichaelPage, Richard
Flight, HowardPaice, James
Forth, Rt Hon EricPaterson, Owen
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanPickles, Eric
Fraser, ChristopherPrior, David
Garnier, EdwardRandall, John
Gibb, NickRedwood, Rt Hon John
Gill, ChristopherRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Gillan, Mrs CherylRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir AlastairRuffley, David
Gray, JamesSt Aubyn, Nick
Green, DamianSayeed, Jonathan
Greenway, JohnShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Grieve, DominicShepherd, Richard
Hague, Rt Hon WilliamSoames, Nicholas
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Hammond, PhilipStreeter, Gary
Hawkins, NickSwayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Hayes, JohnTapsell, Sir Peter
Heald, OliverTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon DavidTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Horam, JohnTaylor, Sir Teddy
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelTredinnick, David
Hunter, AndrewTrend, Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Tyrie, Andrew
Johnson Smith,Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Key, RobertWaterson, Nigel
Kirkbride, Miss JulieWhitney, Sir Raymond
Lansley, AndrewWhittingdale, John
Leigh, EdwardWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Letwin, OliverWilkinson, John
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Willetts, David
Lidington, DavidWilshire, David
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Loughton, TimYeo, Tim
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David

Tellers for the Ayes:

McLoughlin, Patrick

Mr. James Cran and

Madel, Sir David

Mr. Stephen Day.


Abbott, Ms DianeBoateng, Paul
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Ainger, NickBradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Brake, Tom
Alexander, DouglasBrinton, Mrs Helen
Allen, GrahamBrown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Buck, Ms Karen
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Burden, Richard
Armstrong, Ms HilaryBurgon, Colin
Atkins, CharlotteBurstow, Paul
Austin, JohnButler, Mrs Christine
Ballard, Mrs JackieByers, Stephen
Banks, TonyCampbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Barnes, HarryCampbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Barron, KevinCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Bayley, HughCampbell-Savours, Dale
Beard, NigelCann, Jamie
Begg, Miss AnneCaplin, Ivor
Beith, Rt Hon A JCasale, Roger
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCawsey, Ian
Bennett, Andrew FChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Benton, JoeChaytor, David
Bermingham, GeraldClapham, Michael

Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Hoon, Geoffrey
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hope, Phil
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Hopkins, Kelvin
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Clelland, DavidHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clwyd, AnnHoyle, Lindsay
Coaker, VernonHughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Coleman, IainHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Colman, TonyHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Connarty, MichaelHumble, Mrs Joan
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hurst, Alan
Cooper, YvetteHutton, John
Corbett, RobinIllsley, Eric
Cousins, JimJackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Cox, TomJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Crausby, DavidJamieson, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Jenkins, Brian
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Cunliffe, LawrenceJohnson, Miss Melanie
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)

(Welwyn Hatfield)

Dafis, CynogJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dalyell, TamJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairJones, Ms Jenny
Darvill, Keith

(Wolverh'ton SW)

Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davidson, IanKeeble, Ms Sally
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Dean, Mrs JanetKeen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Denham, JohnKelly, Ms Ruth
Dismore, AndrewKemp, Fraser
Dobbin, JimKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankKidney, David
Donohoe, Brian HKilfoyle, Peter
Doran, FrankKirkwood, Archy
Dowd, JimLadyman, Dr Stephen
Drew, DavidLaxton, Bob
Drown, Ms JuliaLepper, David
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLeslie, Christopher
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Levitt, Tom
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Efford, CliveLiddell, Mrs Helen
Ellman, Mrs LouiseLinton, Martin
Ennis, JeffLivingstone, Ken
Fatchett, DerekLock, David
Field, Rt Hon FrankMcAllion, John
Fitzpatrick, JimMcAvoy, Thomas
Fitzsimons, LornaMcCabe, Steve
Flint, CarolineMcFall, John
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMclsaac, Shona
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)Mackinlay, Andrew
Galloway, GeorgeMcNulty, Tony
Gardiner, BarryMacShane, Denis
Gerrard, NeilMactaggart, Fiona
Gibson, Dr IanMcWalter, Tony
Godsiff, RogerMahon, Mrs Alice
Golding, Mrs LlinMandelson, Peter
Gordon, Mrs EileenMarek, Dr John
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Grocott, BruceMarshall-Andrews, Robert
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Martlew, Eric
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Maxton, John
Hanson, DavidMeale, Alan
Harman, Rt Hon Ms HarrietMerron, Gillian
Heal, Mrs SylviaMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Healey, JohnMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Milbum, Alan
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Miller, Andrew
Hepburn, StephenMoonie, Dr Lewis
Heppell, JohnMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Hesford, StephenMountford, Kali
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMullin, Chris
Hill, KeithMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)

Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Soley, Clive
Norris, DanSouthworth, Ms Helen
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Spellar, John
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Olner, BillStevenson, George
Osborne, Ms SandraStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Palmer, Dr NickStinchcombe, Paul
Pearson, IanStoate, Dr Howard
Pendry, TomStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Perham, Ms LindaStringer, Graham
Pickthall, ColinStuart, Ms Gisela
Pike, Peter LStunell, Andrew
Plaskitt, JamesSutcliffe, Gerry
Pollard, KerryTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pond, Chris
Pound, StephenTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Powell, Sir RaymondTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Timms, Stephen
Primarolo, DawnTipping, Paddy
Prosser, GwynTodd, Mark
Purchase, KenTouhig, Don
Quin, Ms JoyceTrickett, Jon
Quinn, LawrieTruswell, Paul
Rapson, SydTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Raynsford, NickTurner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Rendel, DavidTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)Tyler, Paul
Roche, Mrs BarbaraVis, Dr Rudi
Rogers, AllanWallace, James
Rooker, JeffWalley, Ms Joan
Rooney, TerryWard, Ms Claire
Rowlands, TedWareing, Robert N
Roy, FrankWatts, David
Ruddock, Ms JoanWebb, Steve
Russell, Bob (Colchester)White, Brian
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Whitehead, Dr Alan
Ryan, Ms JoanWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Salter, Martin

(Swansea W)

Sanders, AdrianWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Savidge, MalcolmWillis, Phil
Sawford, PhilWills, Michael
Sedgemore, BrianWinnick, David
Shaw, JonathanWise, Audrey
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWood, Mike
Singh, MarshaWray, James
Skinner, DennisWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Wyatt, Derek
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)

Tellers for the Noes:

Smith, John (Glamorgan)

Mr. Greg Pope and

Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)

Mr. Clive Betts.

Question accordingly negatived.

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

The debate so far has been unsatisfactory because the Government have refused to move on any of their propositions and, in particular, on allowing two questions in the referendum. Outside the Government, there are very few people who support having only one question.

The Minister often accuses me of never quoting the London Evening Standard. I am happy to break that record by quoting this evening's edition, which contains an article with the unpromising—for the Minister— headline:
"Blair faces revolt over London mayor".
The article states
"Tony Blair today faced a grassroots revolt from his party activists over the Government's plans for a 'Voice of London' directly-elected mayor and assembly to run the capital.
Mr. Blair was hit by criticism of his one-question referendum next May. Many Labour branches and trade unions urge a rethink to allow at least two questions to establish if Londoners want both an assembly and a figurehead mayor brought in from outside its ranks … The submissions made to the Government about its plans also include a demand—from Mr. Raynsford's own Greenwich constituency local government committee—for the new assembly to be given tax-raising powers. Another from Ms Jackson's Hampstead and Highgate expresses 'considerable unease about the … role of the mayor' and calls for separate questions."
There is a consensus that there are two issues. [Interruption.] I can establish it in even greater detail if the House wishes. Should we have a directly elected mayor and should we have a directly elected assembly? The Conservative party's view is clear. We support a directly elected mayor, but we do not favour a directly elected assembly, and therefore want two questions in the referendum. In that, we are supported by a host of newspapers which, for some reason, the Minister never wishes me to quote against him, such as The Times and The Daily Telegraph.

The Liberal Democrats take a different view on the policy but we are at one in wanting more than one question. Some Labour Back Benchers also take a different view on the policy. It is significant that in this debate we have heard only one Back-Bench speech from a Labour Member. Even with the Minister's renowned optimism in claiming support, he could not claim that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) was exactly coming out in support of his line.

In an earlier debate, the hon. Member for Brent, East told us that he
"went to what was called a consultation meeting of the Greater London Labour party"
at which
"Nine out of the 10 speeches opposed the principle of a separately elected mayor".
The hon. Gentleman continued:
"If we are prepared to trust Londoners, we would have a debate in which Ministers could marshall their arguments and we could challenge them. If Ministers could persuade Londoners, Ministers would get their way, but they do not trust Londoners, which is why they will not be given a choice. Londoners will be told, 'Take it or leave it.'"
He added
"we should not deny Londoners the chance to decide what system of government they want. I am deeply ashamed of the way my party has proceeded tonight, because it is an offence to Londoners and an insult to their intelligence."—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 403.]
Even with the Minister's sunny disposition, he may find it a wee bit difficult to claim that that was a declaration of undying support for his cause.

5.15 pm

Even more significantly, there are others who support the Government's proposals—though not many, to judge from tonight's speeches. The Guardian came out in favour of them. However, in a now famous—or should it be infamous—omission, the Minister did not quote its statement that while it certainly was in favour of what he was saying he should make the argument in a campaign. The point is that not only opponents but supporters of the Government's position want two questions.

The matter reveals an amazing lack of confidence. In its manifesto, the Labour party said that the purpose of its referendum was to confirm public demand. How can public demand be confirmed if the public are not allowed to express their view? The Government hope that support for a mayor will pull through the more unpopular idea of an elected assembly. Whether I am right or wrong, I believe that that proposition should be put to the test. It is the Government who have decided to hold the referendum, so they should follow the logic of their decision and allow two questions. Let London and Londoners decide, because that is the way that they wish to do it. As it stands, clause 1 is unsatisfactory and I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

First, Sir Alan, I apologise for not using your new title when I spoke last Wednesday. Your elevation had temporarily escaped me.

Like the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), we believe that clause 1 should be deleted. That would allow the Bill to proceed, but we could perfectly properly go back to the matter on Report to get a first clause in proper form. We hope that the House will shortly vote to delete the clause, but I wish to amplify the reasons that I gave last week and expand on the references made by the Conservative spokesman.

Last Wednesday, under some pressure from the Opposition, the Minister conceded—for which we were grateful—that the responses to the consultation should be made available. Diligent as ever, my team went and knocked on the door of the library in Marsham street at the appointed hour of 1 pm on Friday afternoon. They were admitted and, in the four hours available to them before the library closed, they went through the responses. As a result, the world now knows the weight of the Labour party opposition to the Government's submission. I have photocopies of the relevant documents which gave rise to today's story in the Evening Standard.

It is clear from the first published analysis of the replies to the Government's consultative Green Paper on London Government that the Government's views and those of many London Labour Members of Parliament are poles apart. There is now clear evidence of widespread Labour opposition to a directly elected mayor, as well as support for a referendum with more than one question.

As we heard last Wednesday, the Government have not listened to the views of their Back Benchers, the Opposition or people outside. Perhaps the extent to which those views are in the public domain will mean that they will be taken seriously into account. I hope that they will, because if Labour Back Benchers are unhappy, they should be in a position to influence the Government.

The Minister is suggesting either that Labour Back Benchers are not unhappy or that they are in no position to influence the Government. I would put money on the latter.

I wish to cite the evidence which, to me, is unambiguous. I will start with the Minister's own constituency. The Greenwich Labour party local government committee wrote on 18 October 1997

"Our Committee discussed the consultation paper … Votes were taken on a number of issues which arose during the discussion, and I was asked to pass to you our views on these issues."
Interestingly, the letter was not addressed to the Minister, but to "The London Debate"—a cover-all title. It may have been embarrassing for the committee to write to its constituency Member of Parliament on this issue.

The third item on the agenda of the Greenwich committee was:
"The assembly should have tax-raising powers".
The first item was
"The principle of 'equal opportunities' should be paramount in the new structure, and this should in particular apply to candidates for mayor and for the assembly."
No one is arguing about that. The second item was
"There should be a limit on the time any one person should hold the office of mayor."
There is no great dispute about that.

The Greenwich local government committee argued specifically for tax-varying powers and suggested that the authority should have some responsibility for health in London—a suggestion which the Government have studiously ignored. My party would wish to go further than the Greenwich committee.

The Islington, South and Finsbury constituency Labour party—the constituency of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—asked for:
"Strategic overview of health provision, and community care and long-term care"—
something for which my party has long argued. It added:
"The Mayor/Chair/Leader should be elected from amongst its membership."
It cannot be clearer than that. The constituency party also felt that the GLA
"should have the power to precept."
I shall return to that matter.

The London Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform produced a well-argued letter, saying:

"Strong feelings of disquiet were expressed that Londoners have not been consulted at all about whether they want a directly, and separately, elected Mayor for London.
A directly elected Mayor, and separately from the assembly that s/he will represent, makes it highly likely that there will differences in the policy that they want to enact … We should be very wary of introducing such a system here."
The letter argues that Londoners have not had an opportunity to indicate how they want the devolved powers to be implemented:
"Even with a longer consultation period the Green Paper does not ask for input regarding the mayor and whether a separate election is desirable".
The Belsize and Adelaide branch of the Hampstead and Highgate Labour party—the constituency of the Minister for Transport in London, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson)—produced a relatively long submission, which said:
"We appreciate that a referendum on whether to have a London Authority with a directly elected mayor was promised in the election manifesto. It would therefore be wrong to go back on this.
However, our own discussions have shown that many of those who support a Greater London Authority do not wish to go so far outside the British tradition as to support the idea of a directly elected mayor—which does have some dangers of landing us—
this is reminiscent of the speech by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) the other day—
"with inexperienced and unsuitable mayors promoted by skilled advertising campaigns."
What a surprise. The submission continued:
"This outcome is not exactly unknown in America!"
It went on to make the case for a two-question referendum.

The Brent Labour party—which covers not only the constituency of the hon. Member for Brent, East, but that of the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng)—said:
"We further believe that if the implementation of the government's proposals is to ensure democracy, accountability and probity then the Mayor should be part of the Assembly and must carry a majority in the Assembly on the same principle as the Leader of a local council or indeed the Prime Minister in Parliament."
The submission which followed the famous meeting of the Greater London Labour party regional council—about which we heard the other day—confirmed the report given to us by the hon. Member for Brent, East.
"The discussion was wide-ranging and not directed systematically to the questions in the Green Paper. The indicative votes taken at the end rejected the concept of a directly elected mayor."
It omits to state that the majority was nine to one against.

That is not correct. I was there all day and there were no votes.

The submission deals with the consultation conference on 12 October 1997, and refers to

"Workshop 1—The Mayor and Assembly."
The submission says that there were "indicative votes."[Interruption.] I was not at the conference, Sir Alan, but a conference without a vote seems a bit funny. If a vote was taken, I believe that the majority was nine to one. The Labour party can sort out whether there was a vote, but the conclusion was that there was overwhelming support for a full-time post. However, it says clearly that the
"indicative votes taken at the end rejected the concept of a directly elected Mayor."
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) will no doubt say that this is fiction. If so, that gives even more cause for concern, as it would seem that the Labour party cannot even record its own meetings accurately. Incidentally, the London regional conference is a rare event these days—the previous conference was held in 1995.

The London Labour Mayors' Association, founded in 1920, is an august body, and there are a lot of London Labour mayors these days. The association was explicit:
"The Government's proposal for an elected Mayor with executive powers is not considered acceptable because
It would lead to the setting-up of two bureaucracies—one to serve the Mayor and one to serve the GLA. It would lead to public clashes on policies between the Mayor and the GLA and its Leader. It could lead to the installation of a too-powerful political figure. It would create an ambiguity with the present Lord Mayor of London".
Lesser bodies have also contributed. The Cambridge and Coombe Labour party is a branch of the Richmond Park constituency Labour party—not the strongest Labour party in London. It said:
"We have reservations about the idea of a directly elected Mayor, as this is not in keeping with British political traditions. However, we note that a Mayor elected by the Assembly, or by the boroughs, is not given as an option."
Well, what a surprise.

The Kingston and Surbiton constituency Labour party—again, not the biggest Labour party, but it is none-the-less relevant—asked, first, for a vote on tax-raising powers and, secondly, for a
"strong executive but answerable to and controlled ultimately by the assembly."
The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), who is in the Chamber, always clearly expresses the views of his local members and voters. His constituency Labour party said:
"Most members present thought that the assembly and the mayor should not be separately elected. One member thought the mayor should be elected from those elected to the assembly."
The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) argued strongly the other day for a directly elected mayor. That is not what the Shaftesbury branch of Battersea Labour party believes. It is the only branch that submitted a response: no other branch bothered.

It may be tacit consent, or there may not be much interest in the proposals. If we go by the silent majority, we are all in trouble. The Shaftesbury branch's submission is explicit. It says:

"We are against a directly-elected Mayor. Instead, the Major should be an elected member of the elected assembly and should be chosen by that assembly."
5.30 pm

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham), who is a new representative, addressed the constituency party meeting, but I do not know what views she expressed. Someone was tasked—to use the new word—with giving the constituency party's comments and views in writing. The letter said:
"The mayor should not be elected separately. The mayor should not be separate from the Assembly. This would avoid conflict between the mayor and the Assembly. The mayor should be a member of the assembly, elected as a member of the assembly and elected as mayor by the assembly. The power should be vested in the Assembly not in the mayor."
It is all pretty clear.

I will make one last local party contribution and then throw a few wind-up bonus balls into the equation. I have saved a good one till last. It is a submission from my own borough—the Alleyn ward Labour party in the new Dulwich and West Norwood constituency, which is the seat of the now famous Minister for Public Health. The letter says:
"We have some doubts about the proposal for a separately elected mayor"—
not many doubts, but some doubts—
"It is not clear that the process of candidate selection by political parties, and election campaign, is suitable to produce one person with the right range of executive and strategic skills. It may be preferable to give powers to the Assembly to appoint a Leader and Chief Executive."
If I had begun the debate having not already been persuaded of the demerits of this proposal, the evidence would be weighing up against me, and I would feel under some pressure.

I can clarify the position of the Greater London Labour party executive, because we have the minutes of the meeting. The House will be interested to know that the chair of the Greater London Labour party, Jim Fitzpatrick

"bowed to pressure from delegates and agreed that workshops could submit resolutions to the closing plenary if they had strong views."
The minutes go on to say that
"when the workshop chair allowed an indicative vote on the question of a separately elected mayor",
they voted eight to one in favour.
"Some delegates passed resolutions to the chair but she declined to put them to the vote and when we got to the final plenary, Jim Fitzpatrick refused to put the views of the workshops to the vote on the grounds that they were not in the form of resolutions."

Well, well, well. I do not imagine that Nye Bevan or Herbert Morrison would have been pleased: they would not have been happy people. I knew that there was a danger in taking minutes, and an even greater danger in leaving them on the photocopier. They show that people are not happy.

There is an important point. Political parties in London work the constituencies. The evidence is now clear that all three political parties in London, and their members who have expressed views, are united.

I look forward to hearing about them. There is a strong ground-floor view in local and regional Labour parties, that we should not have the system that the Government propose, and it is shared by a Member of the European Parliament. Even if the Government do not believe that is the overwhelming view, they should at least accept that there may be another argument and that another question could be included. The Government could campaign against it: they could go into battle. The Labour party could be a pluralist party and allow the Tooting, Battersea, Hampstead and Highgate, Greenwich and Dulwich and West Norwood branches to argue their case, and the mass ranks of the Government could argue theirs. Let there be a debate; let there be an argument. Let pluralism survive. At the moment, the Government seem to be practising top-down politics 10 Downing street knows best; the non-democratic tendency.

I do not mind terribly which decision the voters make, as long as they have a choice. I would happily and warmly endorse the result. We will argue our case, and as democrats we will abide by the result. But please let us have a debate not just in the House. The Government obtained a majority of seats, although they were not supported by a majority of the electorate.

They got a majority in London by 0.5 per cent., but it is not only London Members who vote on these matters, as we shall see when we have a Division. If the Government relied only on hon. Members from relevant parts of the country, they would often have been in trouble in the past. All hon. Members vote. The Government did not obtain a majority of the popular vote at the last election they did not get a majority of those who voted, let alone those who did not vote. Let us not artificially distort the result.

The Member of the European Parliament for Central London is Stan Newens, a long-standing and experienced voice of the Labour party. He fully supports the need for a strategic authority, but says:
"I am fully in favour of an elected authority which chooses its own Mayor, but I do not agree with a directly elected Mayor which may well lead to division between the Mayor's office and the majority of Members of the Authority."
His views are significant, because he is elected by more votes than any hon. Member here as Members of the European Parliament represent larger electorates.

Wider and further away from grass roots activists are the submissions of the Southern and Eastern Regional Council of the Trades Union Congress, which makes the same point. It says in its letter:
"We have argued that, for reasons of democracy, accountability and effective government, the Mayor should be the leader of the majority group in the Assembly and therefore, he/she should not be separately elected."
Clause 1 will, in effect, confirm the Government's objective of a separately elected mayor and a separately elected assembly. We shall debate later what should be on the ballot paper. Before the Government steamroller their view through, they should take account of the views of non-political organisations, such as the London Voluntary Service Council, and of their political friends and allies.

If we want the Greater London authority to have authority, and if we want the form of London government that most Londoners want, we should listen to the submissions from both sides. I accept that the Minister will cite submissions that put another view from those that I have cited, but we should allow both cases to be put. I hope that either the House will vote to delete the clause so that it can be rewritten or, if Labour Members are not brave enough to do that, they will abstain.

The hon. Gentleman cannot abstain, because he is a Parliamentary Private Secretary, so he is tied by the apron strings. As his electorate know, he is unable to do anything without losing office. Other Labour Members—I call them Labour friends and colleagues— have democratic roots. I hope that they will be really brave and that if they do not vote that the clause should not stand part they will at least sit on their backsides and abstain. That way the Government and the House will realise that the Bill before us has not yet got the question and the proposal right for the Londonwide government that we all want and hope will happen soon.

I shall try to be brief, but since the House of Commons has had to face the constitutional monstrosity of a pre-legislative referendum Bill of this type and since clause 1 is at the heart of that proposed legislation, I urge hon. Members to think carefully about whether, because of Labour Members' mute behaviour, we may have no Report stage and no chance to reconsider what is at the heart of this legislation—as I have said many times, the House of Commons is being asked to approve the biggest municipal blank cheque in history.

As the Minister confirmed, the electors of London will have only six weeks in which to consider the final draft proposals—the White Paper. They will not have a debate on the Bill before they are called to vote in the referendum on 7 May. At best, they will have about six weeks, which will anyway be taken up with campaigns for the borough elections, which will consume most of the attention and the energies of the party activists—those are the elections which are of primary interest to the people of London.

That we should be laying down a format for a referendum before we have seen the White Paper or even debated it, and before we know the contents of the Bill, is wholly inappropriate. We do not know the voting system. We do not know whether it will be first past the post, although I think we can confidently say that it is excluded because the Government are hellbent on adopting alien and strange electoral systems that our electors comprehend very little. We do not know what the constituency basis will be, but we are pretty certain that it will not be a borough basis. That was made absolutely plain by our last debate on the subject. It will probably be a regional or Euro-constituency basis and there may even be Londonwide lists.

Our electors will have little control over the candidates that emerge from the top of those lists with a chance of election. Our electors will have no idea about the tax-raising powers. Some generalised outlines will probably be vouchsafed in the White Paper, but, without adequate scrutiny in this place and the chance of a proper debate on the legislation to enact those revenue-raising powers, the people of London will have no chance properly to make up their minds. I am sure that they will do it on the basis of folk memory—quite rightly so. Their folk memory is that the Greater London council arrogated to itself more and more powers and responsibilities and an increasingly large burden fell on the ratepayers of London as a consequence. Fortunately, I am certain that mat is the precedent that they will recall—once bitten, twice shy. Nevertheless, they should have more than six weeks of rushed consideration in the middle of a borough election campaign to consider the implications of the funding of this Greater London authority before they are called on to cast their vote on it in a referendum.

I doubt whether the electors will have any chance significantly to assess the system for the selection of the mayoral candidates. Will they be selected by Londonwide primaries or by party caucuses? Will particularly charismatic or rich individuals be in prime place? How will the funding be organised? Will they be able to bankroll their own campaigns? How will the television time be allocated? All those questions are germane. Will there be cash limits for the parties if there are party labels on the candidates, as we presume?

All those things needed to be spelled out in greater detail in the debate on clause 1. They should have been challenged, candidly, and examined more critically by Labour Members. We heard why they were not from the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who has more experience of Londonwide government than probably any other Labour Member. He is subject to the gagging order, although he does not take any notice of it. He is subject to the order relating to voting to which I referred late in the debate last Wednesday and that order has significant implications for the independence of hon. Members.

To be candid, this is a disreputable legislative exercise to which Labour Members are knowingly party. They are doing Londoners as a whole the greatest disservice. Before such a monumental change in the governance of London is instituted, before giving legislative powers to put such a referendum in place, we should know exactly what Londoners will be likely to have to vote for. Furthermore, they are entitled to two questions because they are a discriminating electorate. They may want the mayor and not the assembly, or vice versa. This is a virtually fraudulent exercise in so-called constitutional democracy and it has been exposed as such. It needs to be further exposed in debate on Report and, if we cannot do so, I hope that down the corridor their lordships can

5.45 pm

I shall be brief. The chronology which we are pursuing in these affairs relating to London is a debate last June, consultation which ended on 24 October, the referendum Bill which we are discussing, the White Paper which the Minister promised us for the week of 23 March, the referendum itself in May and, if the vote is in the affirmative, the Greater London Authority Bill thereafter and the elections in 2000. That chronology makes matters difficult for the Opposition and for Londoners, but it also makes matters a little difficult for the Government.

In our debate on 19 November, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) dissected the Second Reading speeches on the referendum questions in support of the Minister by Back Benchers. In particular, he examined their speeches on behalf of the principle of the Bill. I think that I could neutrally claim that he did not think much of them. No Labour Member other than the hon. Member for Brent, East spoke when we discussed the referendum questions last Wednesday night, so we, let alone the hon. Gentleman, are in no position to dissect them. Perhaps, given their performance on Second Reading, they were prudent to maintain their silence.

The Minister was a little cheeky, given their silence, to argue that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) was using selective quotations, since by definition he was unable to quote them at all. Consequently, we are left only with the Minister as the voice for why the combined Greater London authority proposal is the right solution. Last Wednesday, he said:
"We shall make sure that the package that we put to Londoners is one that works".—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 416.]
Given the immense leap in the dark that we are making, I admired his confidence, but it is reasonable for us to ask him to be a little more forthcoming on why he has that confidence. His principal rationale to date has been the manifesto and the election result, but no manifesto and no election result can by themselves protect a Government— and thus Londoners—from folly. His justification that the Government are carrying out their manifesto pledges is itself not proof against the Government deciding, as they follow the curious reverse chronology that I outlined, that they made a mistake and were wrong in their original thinking.

The Minister owes the Committee a rather fuller account of why the Government have such particular confidence that this formulation is the right one.

This has been a curious exercise in fantasy politics. Opposition Members have devoted the major part of their speeches to fantasising about what the Labour party might believe. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) spent most of his speech speculating on the Labour party's views. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) spent some time in textual analysis and speculation about what might have happened at meetings of the London Labour party. All that leads me to the view that perhaps it is expected that other Conservative Members will not resist the temptation to cross to this side of the Chamber to find out more about how the Labour party organises its affairs. I assure them that, when they come, they will receive a warm welcome and be given a full explanation on how we operate.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield also has a certain fantasy about the press. Concerned that in its editorial, the Evening Standard had given the Government full support for our proposals and the question that we intend to put to the people of London in a referendum, he had to have recourse to a news article today under the headline "Blair faces revolt over London mayor". Unfortunately, he mentioned that immediately after his amendment had been put to the vote and defeated by a majority of 187, with no Labour Members voting against. So much for the revolt that he expects. 1 assure him that there is no revolt.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, in an interesting speech, managed to dredge through a large number of submissions in response to the consultation—some 1,200—and I congratulate him and his researchers on their great industry. He managed to find a handful expressing a degree of difference from the Government's point of view. I put it to him in the most charitable way that, if one involves oneself in a consultation exercise and asks 61 questions, as the Government have, giving people an opportunity to comment on all those questions, it is hardly surprising if some come back with a view that differs from that of the Government. We welcome that and expect differences of opinion. That is what consultation is about. I do not find it in the least strange.

I welcome the Minister's pluralistic attitude. In a spirit of pluralism, will he give an undertaking to the Committee that, for all the remaining votes on the Bill, there will be no sanctions against any Labour Member who votes against his or her Front Benchers? Will he confirm that the majority of Labour submissions were against a directly elected mayor?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that disciplinary matters are the responsibility of the Whip, but there is no question of taking measures against any Labour Members, because they are solid in support of the Government's view. If the hon. Gentleman consults Hansard, he will see that, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), Labour Members voted solidly with the Government in Committee last week and all Labour Members supported the Government on Second Reading. That is a measure of the support for the Government from Labour Back Benchers.

I would not dare say who it was, but I can tell the Minister, and the Committee for its amusement, and for the sake of truth, that at least one Labour Member, having voted in the Government Lobby, asked me what they had just voted for and said, "Oh, my God, I haven't voted for that, have I?"

The hon. Gentleman should try a little harder. I regard that comment in the same way as I regard his earlier claim that the Labour party did not have the support of the majority of Londoners in the election. We secured a majority of electors in London at the last election and the hon. Gentleman was wrong to imply that we did not have that support.

Does the Minister remember the searing attack made on him by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who said specifically that the only reason he would not vote against the Government that night was that, if he did so, he was likely to be debarred from further candidature for the Labour party. Is that wrong?

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East remains an active member of the Labour party, unlike the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), whose existence in the Conservative party appears to have been terminated by the leader of his party. We shall take no lessons from the Conservative party on the exercise of proper disciplinary procedures.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey had difficulty finding evidence to support his case.

No, I shall not give way for the moment. I am dealing with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, who managed to find 10 submissions among the 1,867 from Labour party wards in London that expressed a different view from that of the Government. Ten out of 1,867 does not strike me as a problem. It may be significant in the hon. Gentleman's terms, but it is a small percentage. In Committee last week, we were discussing percentages of 0.01. That is the order of magnitude that we are discussing.

I have not added up the number of Labour party wards, but I am happy to take the Minister's word. I put the same question to him: does he deny that, of those who submitted responses, a majority opposed the Government?

The considerable majority of people who responded to the consultation supported the Government's proposals. I shall return to the issue of Labour branches in a moment.

I want to deal specifically with two allegations by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey about responses from my constituency Labour party in Greenwich and from the Belsize and Adelaide branch in the constituency of the Minister for Transport in London, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson). The impression that the hon. Gentleman gave was not accurate. The hon. Gentleman gave the impression that the Greenwich Labour party did not support the Government's proposals. That is wrong. The Greenwich Labour party made it clear that it did support the proposals. It made a series of detailed comments on matters to do with equal opportunities, the length of term of a mayor, the financial arrangements for the authority, the authority's remit, its role in relation to strategic open space in London and the number of assembly members. They were all detailed and useful comments. It was a consultation exercise.

I have just referred to the paper that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey has before him. He will confirm that it does not support his case for two questions in a referendum. Indeed, it makes no reference to that.

The Belsize and Adelaide branch of the Hampstead and Highgate Labour party made it clear in its response that it did not wish to go back on a manifesto pledge. The hon. Gentleman should congratulate it on rightly attaching much importance to supporting manifesto pledges. He was extremely selective in his quotations. I remind him that the one notable omission from his quotations was the view of the borough that he represents. Let me quote from the response of the London borough of Southwark, as the hon. Gentleman clearly wishes to heed the views of local communities. It says:
"The proposals for an elected Mayor for London and an elected assembly are supported."
That is the view of the hon. Gentleman's authority and it would be good if he would fall in line with it.

The Bill is not about providing for an expensive legislative opinion poll on a multitude of different questions. It is not about recklessly offering a range of alternatives in the clear knowledge that some of them would be completely unworkable. It is about letting the people of London have their say on whether they agree with what the Government propose. Our proposal is new—a directly elected mayor working with an elected assembly is a new concept. It will be exciting and innovative. Inevitably, there are constitutional conservatives from all parties who seek to argue against it, claiming that it is too radical or not how things used to be in the past. That is always the case when one tries to institute change, but I hope that, between now and next May, when the referendum is held, we can win many of those people over and convince them to vote yes on our proposal. I am sure that, when they see our final proposals in March, they will change their minds.

Some—perhaps the type frightened by change or with an interest in the status quo—may continue to oppose, but it is absolutely clear that they do not speak for London. In a recent opinion poll, 82 per cent. of Londoners supported our plans and the business community gave them overwhelming support. Last week, the London chamber of commerce published findings showing that our proposals have the support of 86 per cent. of the capital's business leaders. Our proposals are right and they are popular, and the Government are proceeding with plans to put them into effect.

We are unconvinced by arguments for more than one question. The Government think that the referendum should present a clear, single, comprehensible proposition to the people of London. The referendum should be capable of delivering an unambiguous mandate. Despite the time that was available to proponents of multiple questions, additional questions that have so far been proposed have been numerous and contradictory. There has been no single, agreed second question that would allow people to represent their views and be satisfied that they would know the outcome of their vote. No one has been able to produce that. None of the proposals that have been advanced so far would provide a clear mandate, and all of them reflect nothing more than the political priorities of those who concocted them.

6 pm

A single question on a well-thought-out package is the only fair and honest option. Everyone's vote will count in exactly the way that people intend it to count. Voters will be able to study detailed proposals in the White Paper, make a considered judgment about the whole package on offer and cast their vote. They will know exactly what they are voting for and what they will get. If they do not like it, they can vote no. That is the Government's proposition. It is correct and fair and I urge the Committee to support the clause.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 291, Noes 154.

Division No. 93]

[6 pm


Abbott, Ms DianeCampbell-Savours, Dale
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Cann, Jamie
Ainger, NickCaplin, Ivor
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Casale, Roger
Alexander, DouglasCawsey, Ian
Allen, GrahamChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Chaytor, David
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Armstrong, Ms HilaryClark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, CharlotteClark, Paul (Gillingham)
Austin, JohnClarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Banks, TonyClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Barnes, HarryClelland, David
Barron, KevinClwyd, Ann
Bayley, HughCoaker, Vernon
Beard, NigelColeman, Iain
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretColman, Tony
Begg, Miss AnneConnarty, Michael
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bennett, Andrew FCooper, Yvette
Benton, JoeCousins, Jim
Bermingham, GeraldCox, Tom
Best, HaroldCrausby, David
Boateng, PaulCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Cunliffe, Lawrence
Brinton, Mrs HelenCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Dalyell, Tarn
Buck, Ms KarenDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Burden, RichardDarvill, Keith
Burgon, ColinDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Butler, Mrs ChristineDavidson, Ian
Byers, StephenDavis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Dawson, Hilton
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Dean, Mrs Janet
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Denham, John

Dismore, AndrewKemp, Fraser
Dobbin, JimKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankKidney, David
Donohoe, Brian HKilfoyle, Peter
Doran, FrankKing, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Dowd, JimLadyman, Dr Stephen
Drew, DavidLaxton, Bob
Drown, Ms JuliaLepper, David
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLeslie, Christopher
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Levitt, Tom
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Edwards, HuwLiddell, Mrs Helen
Efford, CliveLinton, Martin
Ellman, Mrs LouiseLivingstone, Ken
Ennis, JeffLock, David
Field, Rt Hon FrankMcAllion, John
Fitzpatrick, JimMcAvoy, Thomas
Fitzsimons, LornaMcCabe, Steve
Flint, CarolineMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMcCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Macdonald, Calum
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)McFall, John
Galloway, GeorgeMclsaac, Shona
Gardiner, BarryMcKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Gerard, NeilMackinlay, Andrew
Gibson, Dr IanMcNulty, Tony
Godsiff, RogerMacShane, Denis
Golding, Mrs LlinMactaggart, Fiona
Gordon, Mrs EileenMcWalter, Tony
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Mahon, Mrs Alice
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mandelson, Peter
Grocott, BruceMarek, Dr John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Hanson, DavidMartlew, Eric
Heal, Mrs SylviaMaxton, John
Healey, JohnMeale, Alan
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Merron, Gillian
Hepburn, StephenMichael, Alun
Heppell, JohnMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Hesford, StephenMilbum, Alan
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMiller, Andrew
Hill, KeithMoonie, Dr Lewis
Hinchliffe, DavidMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Hodge, Ms MargaretMorley, Elliot
Hoey, KateMountford, Kali
Home Robertson, JohnMudie, George
Hoon, GeoffreyMullin, Chris
Hope, PhilMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hopkins, KelvinMurphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Naysmith, Dr Doug
Hoyle, LindsayNorris, Dan
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Humble, Mrs JoanOlner, Bill
Hurst, AlanOsborne, Ms Sandra
Hutton, JohnPalmer, Dr Nick
Illsley, EricPearson, Ian
Ingram, AdamPendry, Tom
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)Perham, Ms Linda
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Pickthall, Colin
Jamieson, DavidPike, Peter L
Jenkins, BrianPlaskitt, James
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Pollard, Kerry
Johnson, Miss MelaniePond, Chris

(Welwyn Hatfield)

Pound, Stephen
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Ms JennyPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)

(Wolverh'ton SW)

Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Prosser, Gwyn
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Purchase, Ken
Keeble, Ms SallyQuin, Ms Joyce
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Quinn, Lawrie
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)Rapson, Syd
Kelly, Ms RuthRaynsford, Nick

Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Sutcliffe, Gerry
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs BarbaraTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Rogers, AllanTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Rooker, JeffThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rooney, TerryTimms, Stephen
Rowlands, TedTipping, Paddy
Roy, FrankTodd, Mark
Ruddock, Ms JoanTouhig, Don
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Trickett, Jon
Ryan, Ms JoanTruswell, Paul
Salter, MartinTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Savidge, MalcolmTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sawford, PhilTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Sedgemore, BrianTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Shaw, JonathanWalley, Ms Joan
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWard, Ms Claire
Singh, MarshaWareing, Robert N
Skinner, DennisWatts, David
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)White, Brian
Smith, Miss GeraldineWhitehead, Dr Alan

(Morecambe & Lunesdale)

Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Wills, Michael
Soley, CliveWinnick, David
Southworth, Ms HelenWise, Audrey
Spellar, JohnWood, Mike
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWray, James
Stevenson, GeorgeWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Stinchcombe, PaulWyatt, Derek
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stringer, Graham

Mr. Clive Betts and

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Mr. Greg Pope.


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Duncan, Alan
Amess, DavidDuncan Smith, Iain
Arbuthnot, JamesEmery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Evans, Nigel
Ballard, Mrs JackieFaber, David
Beith, Rt Hon A JFabricant, Michael
Beresford, Sir PaulFallon, Michael
Blunt, CrispinFlight, Howard
Body, Sir RichardForth, Rt Hon Eric
Boswell, TimFoster, Don (Bath)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Brady, GrahamFraser, Christopher
Brake, TomGale, Roger
Brazier, JulianGarnier, Edward
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGibb, Nick
Browning, Mrs AngelaGill, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Gorrie, Donald
Burnett, JohnGray, James
Bums, SimonGreen, Damian
Burstow, PaulGreenway, John
Butterfill, JohnGrieve, Dominic
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Cash, WilliamHammond, Philip
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Chidgey, DavidHeald, Oliver
Chope, ChristopherHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Clappison, JamesHeathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Horam, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Cormack, Sir PatrickHunter, Andrew
Cotter, BrianJack, Rt Hon Michael
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Jackson, Robert (Wantage)

Jenkin, BernardRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Johnson Smith,St Aubyn, Nick
Rt Hon Sir GeoffreySanders, Adrian
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Sayeed, Jonathan
Key, RobertShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Shepherd, Richard
Kirkbride, Miss JulieSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Kirkwood, ArchySoames, Nicholas
Laing, Mrs EleanorSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Lansley, AndrewSteen, Anthony
Leigh, EdwardStreeter, Gary
Letwin, OliverStunell, Andrew
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Swayne, Desmond
Lidington, DavidSyms, Robert
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Tapsell, Sir Peter
Loughton, TimTaylor, lan (Esher & Walton)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasTaylor, John M (Solihull)
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
MacKay, AndrewTaylor, Sir Teddy
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidThompson, William
McLoughlin, PatrickTownend, John
Madel, Sir DavidTredinnick, David
Malins, HumfreyTrend, Michael
Maples, JohnTyler, Paul
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisTyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianWallace, James
May, Mrs TheresaWalter, Robert
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Waterson, Nigel
Moore, MichaelWebb, Steve
Moss, MalcolmWhitney, Sir Raymond
Nicholls, PatrickWhittingdale, John
Öpik, LembitWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Ottaway, RichardWilkinson, John
Page, RichardWilletts, David
Paice, JamesWillis, Phil
Paterson, OwenWilshire, David
Pickles, EricWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Prior, DavidWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Randall, JohnYeo, Tim
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Rendel, David
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)

Tellers for the Noes:

Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)

Mr. Stephen Day and

Ruffley, David

Mr. James Cran.

Question accordingly agreed to

Clause I ordered to stand part of the Bill.