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Greater London Authority

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the reasons for the Government's intention not to provide a choice between options in the referendum on the government of London. [17813]

The Government are providing Londoners with a clear choice about the future government of their city. The Government were elected on a manifesto commitment that, following a referendum to confirm popular demand, they would establish a new Greater London Authority comprising an assembly and a mayor, each directly elected.In accordance with that commitment, we will present the detail of our proposals to the people of London in a White Paper to be published in March next year. Londoners will then be given the opportunity to vote in a referendum on whether or not they consent to us implementing these proposals. In the event that they vote yes, the Government intend that legislation should be introduced next session to implement the White Paper proposals.The Government are unconvinced by arguments for more than one question. The Mayor and the Assembly are not separable within the context of the Government's proposals. An authority without a directly elected Mayor would be a very different type of organisation. We do not believe that such an organisation would be capable of giving London the leadership it needs. A Mayor without an elected Assembly to hold him or her to account would be too powerful and unaccountable. Neither proposal would be in keeping with the clear manifesto commitment on which the Government were elected. It would not be responsible government to put unworkable options to the people of London.The Government believe that the referendum should present clear and comprehensible proposition to the people of London. The result of the referendum should be capable of delivering an unambiguous mandate. Despite the time available to proponents of more than one question, no single alternative second question has been devised which meets the concerns of all parties. Additional questions so far proposed have been numerous and contradictory. None would provide a clear mandate.The Government believe a single question on a well thought out package is the only fair and honest option. 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.'