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Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1997

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Order for Third Reading read.

I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

3.47 pm

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Government were elected on a clear manifesto commitment that, following a referendum to confirm popular demand, they would establish a new deal for London: a Greater London authority made up of a directly elected mayor and an elected assembly. We made that commitment because we believe that London deserves better—better than having its democratic institutions summarily abolished, better than the shabby mish-mash of unaccountable quangos and committees that were set up by the previous Government in place of a democratic citywide authority, better than to be left with no effective, democratically accountable voice for 11 years.

We share with the people of London a desire to put things right and to give them back a democratic voice that will provide strategic leadership—something that the people of London should never have been denied. However, we see no benefit in simply looking back and trying to create what once was. What we propose will be different from the sort of institution that might have been appropriate to the London of the 1880s or the 1960s— that is inevitable.

We are proposing a new democratic settlement for London, one capable of taking our capital into the next millennium. That is why we believe that London needs a mayor, directly elected by and personally accountable to its people. We believe that such a figure would reinvigorate local democracy, and provide strong leadership across the capital.

We believe that London also needs an elected assembly, to question and scrutinise the mayor, holding him or her to account; to advise on London's needs and priorities; and to scrutinise the use of public funds across the capital.

Together, the mayor and the assembly will make up a new Greater London authority, which will be capable of commanding the support and respect of the whole of London.

What we are proposing is innovative, and I recognise that change and innovation are unsettling to some. I warned on Monday of the constitutional conservatives in all parties who may seek to oppose our proposals because they find them challenging—perhaps they are scared of change, or perhaps they want simply to preserve the status quo.

We have heard a lot of cant from the Opposition about the need for two questions, and not for the first time. We have explained our position patiently and repeatedly, on Second Reading, in Committee and yesterday in answer to a parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow). If necessary, I shall do so again now. I am sure that, yet again, our opponents will pretend not to listen.

We made it clear in the manifesto that we would offer the people of London proposals for a mayor and an assembly, both directly elected. We promised that we would offer our proposals to the people of London in a referendum, to seek their consent to what we proposed. We did not promise pick and mix. We did not promise it in the manifesto, and we are not promising it now.

To make matters easier to understand, I shall set out the reasons why I believe that our approach is right. A referendum is all about getting a clear mandate for change. It is not an opinion poll. There are at least five permutations on the subject of mayor and assembly: first, the proposition that there might be a mayor plus an assembly, both separately elected; secondly, the suggestion that there might be a mayor alone; thirdly, the proposition that there might be an assembly alone, without a mayor; fourthly, that there might be a mayor, together with an assembly made up of borough leaders; and fifthly, that there might be a mayor elected from among the members of the assembly.

The Minister is proceeding carefully, and we are grateful for that. However, I challenge him on his five options. I am not aware that anyone has proposed the option that he describes as an assembly without a mayor. No one has proposed that there should not be a leader of the assembly, who would be called a mayor. An assembly without a separate mayor has been proposed, but no one is proposing that London should not have a leader.

The hon. Gentleman is obviously unaware of what is going on in his own party, many of whose submissions specifically called for an assembly, but not for a mayor. That is precisely my point. If he wishes to argue that point, he may do so, but he is arguing against the evidence. There is a range of options and a range of different formulations. He is compounding the problem by identifying the number of different possible permutations of different options.

No doubt there are Liberal Democrats who would have no leader at all, and others who would have leaders elected on a job-share basis. No doubt there are others who would have leaders elected for a short term, and replaced—rotating leadership. I have no doubt about the ingenuity of the Liberal Democrat party in terms of constitutional devices. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us what his colleagues favour.

The Minister is being mischievous. He knows perfectly well that no one is suggesting that there should be an assembly without a mayor as part of the assembly, and opposing a separately elected mayor. That reduces his list of five questions to four. From all the reading that I have done, no one to my knowledge has submitted a proposal for any of the other fanciful and fantastic suggestions that he made. Perhaps they come from his own fevered mind.

Experience of the representatives of the hon. Gentleman's party over many years bears out the truth of what I am telling him. There have been specific submissions saying that there should be an assembly, but no mayor. That has been the subject of several submissions made to the Government, and it would be wrong to deny that point of view, if one is trying to encompass every possible point of view, as the hon. Gentleman clearly is.

How can all those options be reflected in two questions? They cannot; there is no possible second question. There is a variety of possible additional questions—second, third, fourth and fifth. The leader of Wandsworth council has proposed seven or perhaps 11 questions. There are many different additional options, but there is no single alternative second question.

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile those comments with what he said on Monday? He stated:

"The Government are pragmatic and not dogmatic about the matter. We said that we believe that a single question is correct and proper, but we consulted and listened to people's views."—[Official Report, 24 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 682.]
The Minister has now ruled out such consultation.

The hon. Gentleman was obviously not listening on Monday, and he is not listening now. I repeat, for his benefit, that we are not being dogmatic. We are approaching the issue in an extremely pragmatic and sensible way. No formulation can provide a single second option that encompasses the range of different possibilities for which hon. Members have argued.

The Conservative party advocated a framework that included two questions: first, should there be a mayor; and, secondly, should there be an assembly? Those questions clearly did not satisfy the Liberal Democrats, who wanted the formulation to include another question: should there be a mayor elected as a member of the assembly? That framework also does not satisfy the Conservatives' subsequent position that the mayor should work within an assembly comprising borough leaders. The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), through his question, illustrates precisely the point that I made on Monday—to which he did not listen then—and which I repeat now. I see that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) is becoming impatient, so I shall give way.

The Minister made his comments in response to an intervention from me. I suggested that there was no formulation of two questions that he would accept. On Monday, the Minister said that I was wrong, but he has now confirmed that I was correct.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested on Monday that the Government are implacably opposed to two questions. We are not: we are being pragmatic. I told him—I advise him to think about this—that we would be interested to see any formulation that covers those eventualities. The right hon. Gentleman did not advance such a proposal on Monday, and no such formulation appears on today's Order Paper. That reveals the hypocrisy of his position. He claims to support the case for two questions, but he cannot formulate a single alternative question because he knows that there is no simple, single second question.

The hon. Gentleman should not use extravagant language if he does not have the means of following it through. He knows perfectly well that two simple questions can be asked: they are the propositions that the hon. Gentleman and the Government have advanced. That is what a referendum should be about. I shall take the hon. Gentleman through that argument in my speech.

The right hon. Gentleman has promised to provide his formulation of a second question, and I look forward to seeing it. When I do, I shall give it my considered response. However, the House will note his inability to provide any formulation when challenged, other than to refer to the Government's proposed question, which presents the option of a mayor and an assembly. The Government believe that that integral package presents the best form of government for London. That is the proposal that we believe is right to put to the people of London.

The hon. Gentleman is being misleading—or he is misleading himself. He has put forward two propositions: that London should have a directly elected mayor and a directly elected assembly. We contend that those two propositions should be voted on separately.

The right hon. Gentleman is clearly still not listening. The Government propose that the future government of London should take the form of a directly elected mayor working with a directly elected assembly, to provide the necessary mixture of leadership and accountability. As I have argued many times in the past few weeks, there is no case, in our view, for a mayor without an assembly. It would give too much power to an individual and would not create a proper framework of accountability. The right hon. Gentleman knows that only too well, because his party has now backed away from the position that it used to adopt—it supported a mayor but not an assembly. The Conservative party now says that it recognises that there has to be an assembly, and proposes one in the form of a group of 32 borough leaders.

I also put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is monstrous hypocrisy to suggest that there is a case for two questions in the Bill when, in the most recent exercise in party democracy within the Conservative party, the proposition put to its membership was not: "Do you want the Leader of the Opposition?" and "Do you want his policy proposals?" It was: "Do you want the package all together?" When the Conservatives had the chance, they did not ask two questions; they asked one. It ill behoves them to challenge the Government now.

The Minister is being courteous in giving way, but I fear that he simply does not understand the point. There are two questions. If the electorate of London were to say that there should not be a directly elected assembly, that would not preclude an indirectly appointed assembly to support the mayor. If the electorate of London were to take the view of the Liberal Democrats and say that there should not be a directly elected mayor, that would not preclude the possibility of a mayor, a leader of the assembly. The options are covered in the two questions.

The hon. Gentleman has just made my point. There would be no clarity. He could draw certain inferences from the outcome of two such votes, but they would be his inferences. They would not be the same inferences as those drawn by others. There would be no clarity or mandate. There would be confusion. That is the classic comment on the Conservative party.

Am I right in drawing the inference that, by having only one question, the Government would prefer the possibility of no authority at all rather than that of a mayor or an elected assembly, which would be the possibility if there were two questions?

As I have pointed out before, the Government are putting a package to the people of London. If the people of London do not want it, that is their choice and we shall respect that. We believe that it is right that they should have a say, but we also believe it right that we should put before them only propositions that are workable. It would be irresponsible to put forward options that were not workable, simply to please one particular faction that argued a particular case. Our proposal is serious: to give the people of London the ultimate choice. I should have thought that most people who believed in democracy would consider that right.

I shall now deal with the other reasons why we favour our formulation of the question. As I said, some permutations would be unworkable, and that would be utterly wrong. We have already put 61 questions to the people of London. Hundreds of individuals and organisations representing tens of thousands of Londoners have responded positively. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) will be aware, their considered responses run to thousands of pages. No doubt he and his researchers have read every one. Londoners have had their say on our draft proposals. It is now the task of the Government to consider those responses and to come forward with a comprehensive proposal, which we pledged to do in a White Paper.

Londoners will choose. On 7 May, they will be able to vote yes or no to a clear proposition worked up in the light of consultation responses. If they prefer another option, they can and should vote no. That is a clear choice, not a half-hearted muddle.

I have explained our position to the House. I have identified the clear tests that we applied when considering the question that should be asked. The referendum must be clear and straightforward. Complex multiple-choice questions are not an option. The referendum must be capable of providing a clear mandate on detailed proposals. It is no good casting the question in such a way that it is unclear what London wants or what Londoners will get. It must not offer unworkable solutions to the people of London. That would be dishonest and irresponsible. We are not being dogmatic. We do not believe that there is an arguable case for more than one question. Opposition Members have had weeks to identify a clear second question, and they have failed to produce one.

The Minister has argued from the Dispatch Box that an elected mayor alone would be unacceptable and, arguably, unworkable. Will he clarify the fact that, although there can be many arguments against a directly elected assembly, Ministers would not argue that a directly elected assembly would be unworkable—we have one here and we shall have one in Scotland and Wales? That must at least be a workable proposition.

I readily accept that the argument against a directly elected assembly on its own is not that it would be unworkable, but that we do not think that it would give the leadership necessary to London now or in the foreseeable future. We believe that a mayor and assembly together would give the right mixture of leadership and accountability to provide the strategic guidance that London needs. That is why we oppose the directly elected assembly on its own. There are other formulations that we regard as unworkable, including a mayor on his or her own and some other options.

As I have already said, Opposition Members have had weeks to identify a clear second question and have failed to produce one. The suspicion must be that, in arguing for a second question when no single formulation has been provided, Opposition Members are simply playing games. They are not serious about offering Londoners a choice. It is all delay and bluster.

In time, no doubt, the people of London will judge the Opposition for the stance that they have taken. The people of London are deadly serious in their desire for new democratic government for their city. The people of London gave their verdict in the general election on 1 May on the Conservative party and its failure to respond to the expressed views of Londoners for a new strategic authority. I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) in her place, but she will be aware that, in the by-election last week, there was no ringing endorsement for her party from the people of Beckenham. There has been a swing to Labour since May, when Labour won 57 out of 74 seats in London.

We will not be put off by those who raise false fears or by those who pretend support but really want to offer only more of the same. We take heart from support offered by those who count—the people of London. The most recent and authoritative opinion poll, carried out by the Evening Standard and London Weekend Television, showed that 82 per cent. of Londoners supported the Government's plans. The same is true of the business community. Two weeks ago, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry published findings suggesting that our proposals have the support of 86 per cent. of the capital's business leaders—an overwhelming endorsement of what we are proposing.

Over the past week and a half, we have had an extended debate on the detail and principle of the Bill. It all took place on the Floor of the House, and much of it was beside the point. We promised a referendum on our proposals and that is what we shall deliver. We promised the referendum because we believe that how we are governed is not just a matter for politicians in this place, but something in which we all have a stake as citizens. The case of the Greater London authority is a matter of profound interest to the people of London.

Democratic citywide government in London was summarily abolished in 1986. There was no consultation and no referendum. There was not one question or two questions; there was no question. Democratic citywide government was simply taken away from the people of London. We believe that it is right that Londoners should now be asked to give their consent to what we propose to establish again—democratic citywide government for London.

We shall publish clear and comprehensive proposals in the White Paper in March, and the people of London will have the opportunity to grant or withhold their consent in a referendum in May. We are confident that they will answer with a resounding yes.

4.8 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"this House declines to give a Third Reading to the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill because, while it looks ahead to the establishment of both a directly-elected Assembly and a directly-elected Mayor for London, it fails to provide the citizens of London with the opportunity to express their views separately on those two proposals."

It is worth saying that this is the first time for almost 10 years that a reasoned amendment has been selected for debate and vote on the Third Reading of a Government Bill. It is right that the amendment has been selected, because it goes to the heart of the debate that took place during the hours in Committee.

The Bill sets down two separate propositions>: one for a directly elected assembly, and the other for a directly elected mayor. We believe that those two different propositions should be accompanied by two different questions in the referendum. The Liberal Democrats take a similar view. The Minister omitted to mention the fact that many Labour supporters also want that. Nevertheless, the Government have insisted that London will be allowed one question, and one question alone.

That issue was a continual theme of the Committee's deliberations. One of the most significant features of the Committee stage, which lasted for more than 12 hours, was that no Labour Back Bencher took part, with one exception: the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). During 12 hours of debate, precisely one Labour Back Bencher contributed. Let us take in what the hon. Gentleman had to say about having two questions.

Our consistent position has been that we support a directly elected mayor, but do not support a directly elected assembly. The hon. Gentleman, whom the Minister bracketed as a constitutional conservative—it is probably the first time that he has been bracketed as such—approaches the issue from a different direction, as he is opposed to a directly elected mayor. The view we have in common with him and with the Liberal Democrats is that there are two distinct issues, and that the two propositions can be separated.

I advise the Minister to study the hon. Gentleman's words. On 19 November, he said:
"We are not getting a single voice for London—we are getting two competing voices, locked into an institutionalised conflict."
They are not my words, but those of the hon. Member for Brent, East. He listened to the arguments of his hon. Friends on Second Reading, and read them all again in Hansard. It is a pity that I have to remind the Minister of what has gone on in the debate. The hon. Gentleman characterised his hon. Friends' arguments as "pretty weedy": those were his exact words. Who am I to argue with his description of his hon. Friends?

The hon. Gentleman also revealed that many people in the Greater London Labour party are unhappy with the Government's proposals, usually because they want an assembly but not a separately elected mayor. The hon. Gentleman did the House a great service by recalling a meeting to discuss the position that he had attended. He said:
"I went to what was called a consultation meeting of the Greater London Labour party, at which we discussed the proposal that appears in the Liberal Democrats' amendment. The Greater London Labour party assembled in conference and split into working groups to discuss whether we should have a separately elected mayor. The most crowded working group was the one that discussed the relationship between the mayor and the assembly. Nine out of the 10 speeches opposed the principle of a separately elected mayor, but we were told, 'You have got to have it because it was in the manifesto.'"
In the full conference, the hon. Member for Brent, East was denied a vote, about which he protested.

The hon. Gentleman was the only Labour Back Bencher who spoke in the 12 hours of Committee debate. He said to the Minister:
"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 London and an insult to their intelligence."—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 400–403.]
That was the only speech from a Labour Back Bencher in Committee. The hon. Member for Brent, East speaks with all the authority of being the newest member of the Labour national executive.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now tell the House what majority the Government enjoyed when the issues were put to the vote?

The point that the Minister is struggling to make is that the Government have a strong position in the House. I think that we know that. The Minister's intervention is revealing, and typifies everything he has said during our debates. His view is, "Don't bother us with the arguments, and don't bother us with the detail. We've got a majority, and we are going to push the Bill through." He is expressing that view not only to Conservative Members, but to Labour Members. He is saying, "We have got the majority and we are going to do what we want." He may have lobby fodder behind him; I remind him of how the hon. Member for Brent, East described his hon. Friends.

I challenge anyone who has listened to our debates to come to the conclusion that the Government have in any way won the debate. Their replies have been a mixture of the pathetic and the hysterical, with the hysterical quite often coming from the Minister.

Would not an impartial, objective observer of the proceedings of the past few days come to the conclusion that the total lack of vocal support for the Bill from Labour Members shows that they dare not be associated with what will probably be a disaster for the people of London?

The lack of support is very odd. I shall give way to the Whip if he wants to intervene. If he does not, I suggest that he pipes down and does not make remarks from a sedentary position, which is against the rules of the House. If he wishes me to give way, I shall gladly do so—although, from experience, I know that he does not normally have anything very sensible to say.

The hon. Member for Brent, East understates the case for a two-question referendum. The institutionalised conflict between the directly elected assembly and the directly elected mayor is not our only concern. We are also concerned about the inevitable conflict between the directly elected assembly and directly elected borough councillors. One result of the Bill is that the assembly will, step by step, claim more power from the boroughs. That is already a real concern in the boroughs, and it is not confined simply to Conservative councillors.

There may not be as many as we should like, but the Minister should wait until next May.

Assembly members will claim that they are elected, and that they therefore have the right to power. I do not believe that it is remotely possible that an assembly that is elected to carry out strategic thinking, checking and little else will be happy and satisfied with that role. I can think of no elected assembly that would be happy with such a role.

Step by step and year by year, the assemblymen will seek further powers. It is clear from the Second Reading speeches of some Labour Members that they would like a return to something similar to the Greater London council. They think that it is a great pity that it was abolished, and would like it returned.

If more powers go to the elected assembly, as I predict they will, they will not come from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Like any other Department, it will be reluctant to the point of refusal to give up powers. The powers will come from the boroughs.

Hon. Members should remember the exact structure for London that they are being asked to approve in Bills that, regrettably, are coming before the House at different times. There will be a directly elected mayor, a directly elected assembly, a regional development agency appointed by the Department, a Government office for London, 32 borough councils, and, under another Bill that will probably be introduced in the House of Lords—the so-called local democracy innovations Bill—there is the prospect of directly elected borough mayors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

I do not know whether that noise could be characterised as cheering. I am not sure whether the Whip was clearing his throat or asking leave to go. If he wants to go, he may by all means do so. The local democracy innovations Bill will contain a proposal—not referred to during the debate—for directly elected borough mayors in addition to the mayor for London.

The Government are proposing layer after layer of administration and bureaucracy—a mixture of local government, central Government and appointed quango. The Minister chances his arm deploring quangos. The regional development agency will be the biggest quango ever to be appointed in this country.

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be unaware that the regional development agency will be accountable and answerable to the strategic authority. It will not be a quango; it will be part of the democratic structure.

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be confusing roles. He is supposed to be delivering a speech. The Conservatives know only too well about appointed bodies, because they created so many quangos, joint boards and unelected bodies during their period in office—bodies that we are replacing with democratic accountability.

I think that the answer was no. The Minister knows that it will not be an elected or democratic body. He also knows that he is in all kinds of trouble in different parts of the country on the issue.

The one action that Londoners could take would be to vote against one of the layers, but they are being offered no choice on that. The Minister says that it is difficult to ask two questions. I have listened to every variation of his replies to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and me on that. I find his arguments extraordinary, even after hearing them three times. Sometimes they have changed, or they have been peppered with vague assurances that were then withdrawn.

We should ask two questions on the basis of the Government's two propositions to ascertain the support for a directly elected mayor and for a directly elected assembly. The Minister says that that is no good, because the Government might be beaten. His objection is that he might lose the referendum. Indeed, the Government may be beaten. We may end up with a mayor, but no directly elected assembly. Conceivably—although I think it doubtful—it could be vice versa. The risk of being beaten is implicit in a referendum. There is not a great deal of point in a referendum unless there is some risk of being beaten.

With this referendum, future action can clearly be guided by the vote. As we have pointed out, this is a pre-legislative referendum. No Bill will be ready when the referendum is held. No Bill will have been drafted when the referendum is held. If the people of London voted against a directly elected assembly, the Government would have an opportunity to think again about the legislation.

There is a formidable coalition behind a two-question referendum. The Conservative party backs it, the Liberal Democrats back it, and more than half the London boroughs have backed it in the different votes that they have had. As I have pointed out, many Labour Members back it as well.

It is true that very few house-trained Labour Members who sit obediently behind the Minister back two questions, but other more independent spirits back the prospect. The tragedy is—I am grateful to the hon. Member for Brent, East for explaining it—that Labour Members are prevented from voting against the proposal. According to the hon. Gentleman's account, doing so would be an offence against Labour party standing orders, and they would be debarred from being Labour party candidates in future.

Those are not my words. The Minister may become indignant about them, but they are the words of the hon. Member for Brent, East. We do not expect a great deal of Labour support in the Lobby, for the very reason he set out.

Outside the House, there is little doubt about how the public feel. The vast majority of the press support two questions.

You know—newspapers; the things that one reads each morning, such as The Times. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not read such things. It is probably safer for him not to do so, but merely take instructions straight from his bleeper without being confused by facts.

Although the Minister admitted that The Times, The Daily Telegraph and a range of other newspapers are not with him, he asked, "What about the Evening Standard?" We told him about hostile news stories, but he said: "No, no. Not the news stories—the editorials." Max Hastings, the editor of the Evening Standard, whom I respect a great deal—we used to report together in Northern Ireland a long time ago—must be delighted with the authority that the Minister has given him.

I wonder how far the Minister follows the editor of the Evening Standard, and whether, on Friday when the House votes on the Bill on fox hunting, he will be standing four square behind him and the Evening Standard leaders, which are consistently opposed to what the Minister and most Labour Members appear to support.

I shall cite the one newspaper that the Minister has so far prayed in aid, albeit in a deeply misleading way—The Guardian. We all remember the quotation that he gave and the bit that he left out. The Guardian—there is no accounting for taste—thinks that the Minister's policy is correct. It also says that the policy should be put to the test.

The point that The Guardian made in the little bit of the sentence that unfortunately and unhappily the Minister did not read out—I am sure that it was a complete oversight on his part—was that, even if he is correct, he should make his argument in a campaign.

The Guardian actually said:
"the Government's package deal allows no room for those who want a mayor but no assembly … or those who want an assembly but no mayor …We subscribe to neither view. But to deny them any expression on the ballot seems peculiar. After all, the whole point of a referendum is to allow all the people their say."
That has been our case throughout.

The Government are wrong, and their actions betray a fantastic lack of confidence in their case. The Government's Green Paper asked the public no fewer than 61 different questions about their proposals—not 10 or 20 questions, but 61. The only issue that those questions did not raise is whether the public want two separate questions in the referendum. That issue is not raised, for the good reason that the Government know that they would be defeated on it. Our amendment would give the people of London a real choice and the opportunity to decide, and I commend it to the House.

4.30 pm

This debate, coming as it does so shortly after the Committee stage, is like the third reading of marriage banns in church, when that still happened. Two votes or not two votes—that is the question. Two voices for London, or not two voices for London—that is the issue.

The Liberal Democrats have made their position clear. We support a referendum on whether London should have its own government, and we will vote for that. We support the idea that the referendum should be on 7 May next year, on the same day as the local elections, and we have voted for that. We support the idea of a Greater London authority that is secure and long-standing and that delivers strategic services across the metropolitan area, and we shall vote for that. However, as the Minister for London and Construction and the Opposition spokesman know, after that, views on what is only a limited Bill begin to diverge.

The Government believe that there should be one question. The rest of us say there should be more than one. Should there be an assembly? Most people say yes, although the Tories say no with a qualification. Should the mayor be part of the assembly? Our party says yes and many Labour Members say yes, but the Conservatives—who are paradoxically in agreement with the Government—say no.

Should the mayor be separate from the assembly? The Government say yes, but most of their supporters appear to say no, the Conservatives say no, we say no and so do many others. Only a very few people argue—and even then with qualifications—that we should have a mayor but not an elected assembly. However, that is the position of those on the Conservative Front Bench.

The Minister may think that those permutations mean that we need five questions. I shall show him shortly, and from a source that he may find a little surprising, that two questions are a possible option.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) tabled a reasoned amendment on Second Reading, and we voted for it because it was selected by Madam Speaker. We voted for it not because we were against the Bill, but because we wanted the Bill to be right. The Clerks tell me—I obviously asked the same question as the right hon. Gentleman—that it is unusual, but "Erskine May" allows it, to have a reasoned amendment on Third Reading. The argument for that is stronger because we have not had a Report stage. I expect that there will be a vote on that, and my hon. Friends and I will vote for the reasoned amendment, making it clear that we still do not think that the Bill is right.

Interestingly, two things have emerged between the vote on the first reasoned amendment and that on the second, which will take place tonight. First—the Minister admitted as much on Monday and confirmed it at the Dispatch Box today—the Government are not implacably, dogmatically or theologically opposed to the idea of more than one question. It is a matter of pragmatism.

I hope that, after the other place has debated the Bill and it comes back to us, even if those who say, as I do, that there should be more than one question, do not win the day, the Government will reconsider the question put by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman), which suggested a slight technical change that would bring about a significant improvement in the one question. If we are to ask about direct elections both for the mayor and for the assembly, for the sake of clarity it should be expressly that which appears on the ballot paper. I have seen and heard no reason for objecting to that.

We are encouraged that we are entering on the Bill's third stage in the House, and shall move towards its next stage in the other place, with at least the possibility of more than one question remaining open.

The second interesting revelation on Monday was the fact that the Government do not see the new body as regional government. I had always understood that they did—that they saw the new London body as potentially the first of a series of regional government bodies throughout England.

Of course there are separate issues involving the regional development authority. My hon. Friends and I strongly believe that that authority or agency, when it is set up, should be accountable to the Greater London authority.

It will be. We share the Government's view about that. Clearly it would be illogical to have the new body free-standing rather than answerable.

However, I ask the Government to think again about whether the only logical region that we have around the metropolis for the foreseeable future should be that currently defined by the Greater London boundary.

Of course in politics there is no perfection. Of course in some senses parts of London continue beyond the edge. The Surrey borders around Spelthorne provide an obvious example, and the Kent borders stretching down to Gravesham and Dartford another. However, in reality the region has become fairly well established as that within the immediate Greater London boundary.

One of the things that troubled my hon. Friends and me was the fact that, on Monday, the Government did not accept even small and seemingly incontestably good amendments. I shall cite only one example which, as it happens, was moved by the Conservatives. It seems to me undeniable that, when Scotland and Wales have had referendums with voting taking place between 7 am and 10 pm—the conventional period for voting in general elections—London should have the same.

When we are doing something as important as setting up a citywide authority, or the first regional government in England, we should allow people to vote for that extended period. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) put the obvious point that many people in London go out for various reasons well before 7 o'clock in the morning, and some are not back until very late. I can testify to that. I have seen people rushing in to polling stations at 10 to 10, or even 5 to 10, at night, having just returned from work and had a quick meal at home.

There will always be technical problems, but where there is a will there is a way. Why should the option be between having local elections with two hours more for voting and a referendum with two hours less? It strikes me that it would be to the benefit of everybody for local elections to have two hours more and the referendum not to have two hours less. I was sad that the Government did not accept that idea on Monday, because they did not seem to have any strong reason not to. I hope that they will be less dogmatic in another place.

As a result of the Government's position, we have had no Report stage. As I pointed out to Madam Speaker on Monday, no provision had been made for one. The Leader of the House had simply assumed that there would be none. Thank goodness that Madam Speaker was there to defend the interests of the House and to say that there may always be a Report stage—that even the present Government cannot assume that there will not be one.

On Monday an opinion was expressed on both sides of the House—or rather, to tell the truth, it was expressed more on the Opposition side than on the Government side. That was that, in the submissions that we have now been able to read—I must admit that I have not read every word of those; I have had better things to do—many voices have been raised against the Government's proposal.

I must be honest and say that I have not read the submissions in their totality, so I do not have an answer across the balance. However, I did what I said on Monday I would do. For the record, I read the submissions from self-identifying Labour sources—local Labour parties, Labour constituency parties, Labour borough or branch parties, Labour members, and Labour regional organisations.

I stand to be challenged—noticeably, the Minister did not challenge me on Monday—but, of the 30 Labour responses, 10 appeared to be or were expressly in support of the Government's proposals, four were very cautious about the idea of a directly elected mayor but did not expressly say that they were opposed, and 16, which is a majority of 30 by any definition, were expressly, explicitly, succinctly and in some cases fiercely against. From the available evidence—the best is the written evidence submitted to the Government's response— the majority of Labour submissions were against the Government's proposals.

We have all been digging around—or not digging around—to discover the history of the now famous meeting of the Greater London Labour party chaired by the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick). For a meeting that was presumably closed to non-members, we are all doing pretty well. I have the most explicit version yet of what happened, and will put it on the record, as it answers the Minister's difficult question.

This month, the Labournet—I always thought that technology was dangerous—which is the Labour news disseminated via the internet, contains two reports of that famous meeting. One is by Dorothy Macedo and the other by Leonora Lloyd, who are both members of the Greater London Labour party executive. Those reports are entirely available, and I intend to quote them, but I promise that I will not do so selectively in any way that distorts them.

Dorothy Macedo writes:
"The original discussion document, A Voice for London, was part of the Road to the Manifesto exercise in 1996. The Greater London Labour party …executive debated the matter in detail in June 1996 and voted that the mayor of the new Authority should be the leader of the majority party, not a separately elected person with executive powers.
In July 1997 the Government issued the green paper, New Leadership for London. The GLLP convened a consultation conference on 12th October to discuss the options. It was a delegate conference but on arriving we learnt that it was not planned to take any votes"—
that in itself might merit the observation, new Labour, no votes—
"At the opening session, GLLP chair Jim Fitzpatrick MP bowed to pressure from delegates and agreed that workshops could submit resolutions to the closing plenary if they had strong views.
There were four workshops: the mayor and assembly, electoral issues, functions of the authority, and financial arrangements.
I attended the workshop on the mayor and assembly"—
clearly the popular one—
"which was chaired by GLLP vice-chair Val Stansfield. The prepared list of issues for the workshop did not include the question of whether we actually wanted an executive mayor."
Well, there is a surprise.
"Speaker after speaker explained the democratic and practical objections to an executive mayor. Ken Livingstone pressed for the referendum which will ask voters if they want a new Greater London authority to also include the questions whether voters want such a mayor and whether the assembly should have tax-varying powers."
In an amusing byway, the report continues:
"Not everyone felt cross about being denied a vote: a member of the GMB delegation protested that they could not vote as they had not been mandated. But the closing date for submissions is 24th October, so if the GMB has not decided its attitude yet, it makes you wonder when they intend to do it.
And when the workshop chair allowed an indicative vote on the question of a separately elected mayor, the GMB representatives were among the eight (out of the 80 plus present) to vote 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."

Leonora Lloyd does not simply provide a critique: she comes up with the answer. She says:
"The recent GLLP 'conference' to discuss the proposed Greater London Authority …and mayor was not allowed to take any votes, only 'soundings'. This was the first conference held by the GLLP for two years."
There is a strong comment coming up, which I do not endorse; I am merely reading it:
"The chair Jim Fitzpatrick MP manipulated the meeting shamelessly to avoid even indicative votes. But it was clear that the London labour movement is still opposed to a directly elected Mayor and wants a bigger and more powerful authority than the one proposed.
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 questions …and they come over all faint. According to our leaders if we ask two questions we are likely to end up with a mayor but no assembly."

I left out the parenthesis, which sets out two questions. They are not our questions or the Conservative questions, but they seem a good starting point. The first is:
"Do you want an elected assembly?";
the second is:
"Do you want a directly elected Mayor?"
If the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, I and others do not rise to the challenge put to us, and we do not produce a better set of two questions, then those, from a member of the Minister's own party, are perfectly respectable.

The questions are not far from being simply a breaking into two halves of the question in the schedule. The Minister seemed to find that difficult, but it seems extremely easy to me.

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's narrative, but he might recall that that is exactly what we have been advocating over the past two or three days. He says that it is not what we advocated, but I have our words before me, and it seems to me that it is precisely so.

It is not word for word, but I do not want to quibble. My point is that there is a simple proposal from Labour party members in London, and if we cannot supply, or Ministers cannot accept, an answer from here, Londoners will understand that there are two issues at stake: do they want an elected assembly, and do they want a mayor? Those are easy concepts. We can add the word "separately" in the ballot paper, as Ministers have done. There need be only two questions.

Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that that makes impossible the permutation suggested in Committee by his party, asking people whether they want the mayor to be elected as a member of the assembly?

I accept that we suggested that, because I wanted to be absolutely explicit, but the Minister himself said that one need not put everything—how many members, what voting system and so on—in the question. The two propositions I cited do not do that. It is pretty obvious that someone will lead an assembly once it is elected.

The Minister may have been to an assembly in her party, but I have never been to one in mine, at which someone has not been in charge. This place has someone in charge, as does the other place. The reality is that someone will be in charge. If there is only one person in charge—whether called the leader or the mayor—that person is the boss. That is the system in Paris, in Barcelona and in every other major European city apart from Rome.

I shall abridge the last part of my narrative. The workshop that considered the proposals for mayor voted indicatively 10 to one against direct elections—not because of a lack of belief in democracy.

The Opposition parties are portraying the Greater London Labour party's consultative conference on our proposals for an elected mayor and assembly somewhat inconsistently. It is claimed that an overwhelming majority at the conference were against the proposals, but the hon. Gentleman can take my word for it that only 16 respondents out of more than 300 people there were against the proposals. The reason why there were so few supportive Labour party comments was that we had explained the legislation, and most people who turned up at the consultative conference felt at ease with the Government's proposals.

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to that interpretation, but I am aware of just two sets of statistics. The people who "voted" at this non-voting conference appeared to be against the Government proposals by a majority of nine or 10 to one; and a majority of those who sent representative submissions to the Government's review also appeared to be against. It is of course true that many Members of all parties have not spoken on the issue.

I am not arguing that the Government are necessarily wrong. I am not trying to win the argument. I am simply saying that we need two questions, so that the people can decide. The hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town must at least accept that the electorate have some interest in this matter and a right to vote on it.

My party has said that there should be an electoral convention—an idea that was defeated the other evening. It need not be done by statute; we can go away and try to sort out an electoral system by agreement. What is good enough for Scotland may be good enough for London, too. It is above all vital that the proposals in their final form should allow for a properly elected democratic body for London.

The Minister for Transport in London has been honourable enough to accept that there must be a system of fairness for all voters. There must also be natural constituencies and genuine voter choice. I am encouraged to learn that the Home Secretary, in last night's debate on the European elections, accepted the argument for some voter choice in the European context. That makes it impossible to argue against the idea for London.

Finally, I want to pray in aid some remarks by the Electoral Reform Society, a body which admittedly holds its own view. Its arguments are nevertheless good and succinct. It wants the alternative vote system for the mayoral election. Some people call that the single transferable vote, but let us not bother with semantics at this stage.
"The alternative vote avoids the problems of both first-past-the-post and the second ballot system by allowing voters to number candidates in order of preference. There is no need for tactical voting. The vast majority of Londoners would have no problems in casting a preferential vote."
We agree with the society's recommendation for the election of the mayor.

If the assembly is to be elected separately, the Electoral Reform Society—it happens to be based in my constituency but its remit obviously goes wider than that—suggests:
"The single transferable vote is the ideal system for use in multi-member districts. It enables the electorate to cast preferential votes and the result is typically highly proportional, in terms of party votes as well increasing representation for women and ethnic minorities. Of all the systems usually considered for use in the United Kingdom STV provides the greatest degree of voter choice. For these reasons, the Society recommends that the single transferable vote in multi-member districts be used to elect the London Assembly."
The society ends by saying:
"It is important that a system is used for electing the assembly which allows for all opinions to be fairly represented. Any system which tends to lead to domination by a single party would be wholly unacceptable for electing the assembly. Using a system which produces proportional representation of the people helps to meet the democratic, inclusive, consensual and representative criteria."

I put it to the House that there are other ways of arriving at natural constituencies that reflect the natural communities we all represent—different communities, in all senses. The hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town clearly represents the east end and does so proudly, and others of us represent other parts of the city. It is possible to take the Kent parts, the Surrey parts, the Essex parts, the Middlesex parts and the old inner-London parts, and so find five or six natural communities.

Outside the Chamber, I shall seek to persuade colleagues on both sides of the House that we might be able to do that to good effect. If we do, we might be able to persuade people to feel included. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) plans to speak later on that subject.

I hope that the result of our deliberations is that—even if it takes some time to feed through—we shall have improved the process of deciding what the assembly should be and, as a result, improved the assembly. If London is to be a really great city, it will be great because it is a democratic city—one in which everyone feels included in the democratic process. Then we shall be a model not only of commercial, financial and cultural success, but of democratic success. That is a prize worth striving for, and I do not believe our striving thus far has been in vain.

4.56 pm

I am delighted to speak in the debate. Having listened to and read through the debate in Committee, I remain convinced that the Bill will give Londoners what they want and that the argument for an integrated and balanced package of mayor and assembly is absolutely right.

We have heard many speeches about the issue of the questions. I am baffled because despite Opposition Members' claims to be united on the subject of the two questions that they want asked, at least four questions have been put forward by Opposition Members this afternoon. In addition, I understand that the opposition debate in London has now moved on to consider incorporating the question of whether a directly elected mayor should be scrutinised by a board comprising the 32 boroughs. That means a minimum of three questions on that issue alone.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) seemed to imply that the media were focusing on the issue of whether there should be two questions. Frankly, as one who has been following closely the debate in the London media, I cannot remember seeing more than—

It would have been easier for the hon. Lady to follow and contribute to the debate if she had attended the Committee stage.

I attended the Committee for at least part of the debate and I read it all in Hansard, so that is not entirely fair.

I was speaking about the alleged media fixation on the number of questions. I do not recollect having noticed a great deal of media concern on that issue—in fact, what comes through most clearly in media discussion of London government is the absolute importance of coherence and effectiveness. That is right and proper and coincides with the Government's position—a balanced package consisting of mayor and assembly.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) spoke about the debate within the Labour party. I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) that the overwhelming view within the Labour party is one of support for the policies on which we campaigned during the general election and which we sold to voters on the doorstep. It is specious to try to build an opposition from 16 representations. Yes, there was a debate in the Labour party—which is right and proper, especially in the case of a new, important constitutional development. In the circumstances, I would have been horrified if a debate had not taken place. Of course some people are uncommitted, and I am happy with that, but the overwhelming view in the party is support for the proposal.

The clear message that has emerged is that Londoners want a London authority. There is no great buzzing debate out there about how its different components should interact, but people want it to work and want it to be effective.

In Committee, the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), who shares with me representation of the borough of Westminster, mocked me—I hope kindly—for claiming an over-enthusiasm among Londoners for this debate. He said that the issue was never raised by any of his constituents south of the Westway and that I was claiming that it was the number one issue on the doorstep. Although it would be unfair to claim that on the No. 31 bus they talk of little else, it is nonsense to say that the need for a London authority is not an issue of concern and interest to Londoners.

Earlier in the year I carried out a survey, in which we sent a questionnaire to 10,000 members of the electorate with whom we had not had previous contact, asking them about their local priorities. To my mixed delight and horror, 1,000 of them replied. The horror was because I then had to write 1,000 personal replies.

The single overwhelming priority, apart from very specific and local matters—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) gesticulates.

Do you find it a little peculiar that you got the same number of responses in your constituency as the Minister got—

Order. The hon. Gentleman should know better. He should not talk about my constituency. He means the hon. Lady's constituency.

I am so sorry—the hon. Lady's constituency. Is the hon. Lady surprised that she received nearly the same number of responses from her constituency as the Minister for London and Construction received from the whole of London? Does she think there is something wrong with the consultation exercise that the Government did?

I am not in the slightest bit surprised. The response rate was extremely good, although I have not prepared statistical notes on the subject. I am not sure what aspersions the hon. Gentleman is casting on the consultation process, but I think that we have been getting a good solid response on the subject, both in the Government's consultation process and in my local consultation process.

The single most important issue raised by constituents was that of the London environment, including transport and all the issues relating to the quality of the environment. Unbidden—given that they were sent a fairly straightforward tick-box questionnaire—people wrote screeds and screeds on the subject. A consistent theme emerged—that London's environment and transport are undermined by the lack of a coherent London government that is able to speak up for London. People feel that London has been the loser on every front, from its economy to its arts, its transport, its environment and its economic regeneration, because not one organisation has a democratic mandate to speak for Londoners. London's voice is lost in the bewildering plethora of quangos and Government agencies that claim to speak for it.

Conservative Members are as wrong to claim that there is public indifference on the subject as they are wrong to claim that the one subject that excites people is the number of questions. Give people a specific opportunity to comment on the subject, as I did and as the Government have done, and people will respond very positively and welcome the proposal.

As several of my colleagues have said, we have to thank the Greater London council for some of that positive response. I do not want the Greater London council recreated. Ten years on, life has changed.[Interruption.]I mean that. We cannot go back. Some of the functions that have been devolved to boroughs have been satisfactorily taken on and absorbed by the boroughs.

However, the GLC was absolutely right to reach out to communities that had been abandoned by central Government, then run by the Conservative party. It excited people; it engaged in a new sort of politics. It talked to the black and minority ethnic communities of London, to young Londoners and to people with disabilities. It addressed issues involving women and domestic violence. Those issues were not touched by the institutions of Government and, rightly, were not a primary concern of individual boroughs.

I hope and believe that some of those characteristics— not functions—of the GLC, such as its sassiness, its unconventional nature, its inclusiveness and its outward-looking approach, will characterise both the new authority and the mayor. A Government office for London with an electoral mandate is not good enough: we want more than just a managerial approach, although good management is important. We need more if we are to promote our city internationally, to fight for our share of resources among the world's capitals and, very important, as I said on Second Reading, to fight for London's fair share of resources with the national Government—an issue which continues to concern me and many of my colleagues.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield said that he feared the inexorable growth of the ambitions of the Greater London assembly. That is specious nonsense. The functions proposed for the London authority are ambitious. We are talking about economic regeneration and strategic planning in an enormously divided community that faces a great many challenges. We want to look at the arts, at grants, at the management of transport and the environment—all those issues come before we start to look at the devolved boards, the development agency and the fire and civil defence authority. That is more than enough for an assembly to do.

We have spent a great deal of time on the potential conflict between the assembly and the mayor. That argument seems to have been Opposition Members' only attempt at an intellectual justification for opposing one or other of the Government's proposals according to their political taste. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) also touched on that issue in Committee. He upbraided me for an alleged inconsistency in my promotion of the government for London—the assembly and the mayor—because I referred to a single voice. I am prepared to concede his point on linguistic grounds, but the point is not that the mayor and the authority should speak on the same issues in exactly the same tone—precisely the opposite is true. There should be a creative tension between the two: the assembly will scrutinise the mayor's work and the mayor will provide dynamic leadership. The combination of those two will make the system work.

The mayor and the assembly will provide a voice that is different from the current voice. The board of the 32 boroughs that Opposition Members propose would have at least 32 voices. It is clear that on a number of crucial issues the representatives of Barking, of Westminster, of Kensington and of Barnet have different agendas—and it is completely right that they should. That is why we have local authorities which fight their own corner, and why central and outer London often have different agendas. That is why we need something different from a borough-based representation in a pan-London authority.

The mayor and the assembly will have different but complementary and balancing roles. They will both speak with democratic legitimacy. If necessary, we should allow differences of opinion and allow the debate to be played out in public as that is right and healthy. They must speak for London as a whole, not its component parts.

Opposition Members have made heroic but futile efforts to oppose the legislation while still attempting, for their political purposes, to give Londoners what they want. I am delighted that the Labour Government have moved quickly to give Londoners what they want and I commend the Bill to the House.

5.8 pm

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), but she is wrong in many respects, and in one important respect in particular: she says that we oppose the proposals. We do not oppose the proposals. We have tabled a constructive reasoned amendment. That is unusual on Third Reading, and has not happened for several years, but there is a clear determination among Conservative Members not to deny the people of London a say.

The hon. Lady seemed a little confused about the fact that I was amazed by the returns that she had had. She sent out 10,000 forms and received 1,000 back. That is no criticism of the hon. Lady; a 10 per cent. return is terrific. However, a substantive point needs to be made.

I see the Minister for London and Construction wincing in his seat. Had he been as successful as the hon. Lady, he would have received not a paltry 1,200 returns, but more than 700,000. No doubt there are those in the Prime Minister's office at this moment who will look through Hansard and say that the hon. Lady must receive rapid promotion.

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the representations made to the Government were representative of organisations, so the 1,000-plus forms received by the Government speak for tens of thousands of Londoners in voluntary, community and residents organisations and other representative capacities?

I do not want to do anything to prevent the hon. Lady's rapid promotion, but I must point out that the representations that the Minister received were from individuals as well. Anybody could write in. The Government did not invite only big organisations. They said, "Let's have a voice from London. Anyone who is bored on the No. 11 bus can write in," but not many people did. That is the important point that the hon. Lady must understand.

The way in which these debates have been conducted places a heavy burden on another place. Only there will there be a possibility of allowing London a voice. The Government have shown an unwillingness to listen to or address the argument. Opposition was dismissed. We heard such cutting put-downs as, "You are missing the point," and, "If you are making a point, you have failed to make it," and, "We are not listening to that."

In this Chamber, Disraeli and Gladstone have stood. Churchill made great speeches.

The hon. Lady is probably right. In those days there was a tradition in the House of addressing the debate. Now there is a tradition in the House of using the Government's majority to push legislation through. It is either, "We don't want to listen," or it is straightforward vulgar abuse.

There was not going to be a Report stage. Everything was pre-organised. Instructions went down from on high to the Minister not to take any amendments, because the Government did not want to be troubled with a Report stage. In place of argument, we have either had a chorus of, "We're the masters now," or a trip down memory lane and recollections of the Greater London council.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) referred to the maximum attendance of Labour Back Benchers. There are seven Members present who are not members of the payroll vote. For most of our deliberations, the Opposition have outnumbered Labour Members. I understand that a call has gone out to try to fill the Chamber.

The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) spoke about the terracotta army. There are people in the parliamentary Labour party with a voice. I have been approached by London Members who have grave reservations about the single question in the referendum, and who support the calls of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for two questions, but who are not prepared to vote against the Government's proposals because of the changes in the rules of the parliamentary Labour party which mean that, were they to speak up for what their constituents want, they would be debarred from standing for Parliament again as a member of the Labour party.

During the trips down memory lane, we heard how wonderful the GLC was. The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North was the first Back Bencher to suggest that the GLC was less than perfect. The recollections might be justified if there was to be a return of the GLC, but clearly there is not.

There is an unwillingness even to argue the case for a mayor, in conjunction with a strategic authority. Unless we get the opportunity in another place to present those two questions, the Government will win the argument by default, because they do not need to address these important questions.

On Second Reading, the Minister for London and Construction promised that we would find out why it was essential that there should be a mayor, in conjunction with a strategic authority. The first time that we got any idea why those arrangements were so important was at 6.35 pm on Monday, when the Minister said that there were four reasons why it was important to have a strategic authority alongside a directly elected mayor. I shall paraphrase what the hon. Gentleman said.

The first reason is that that is in the Green Paper. The second reason is that there is no simple second question that can be asked. The Minister said that again today. The third mighty reason, which perhaps Disraeli might not have received from the Dispatch Box, is that the suggestion is unworkable. The fourth reason is that we need a clear question. Those four reasons could be put into one: "We will not have it, because we don't want to have it." That is not an answer. The Minister may not have realised it at the time, because the sad death had not yet been announced, but that could have been the memorial lecture for Dr. Hastings Banda. It was a non-answer.

Elsewhere, we were told that the mayor would be too powerful. That is the only real answer that we have received. The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North said that it is immensely important that there should be creative tension between a directly elected assembly and a directly elected mayor. Apart from the statements that the Government do not want it, that the mayor would be too powerful, and that we need creative tension, no arguments have been articulated in the Chamber. It is the duty of another place to ensure that the arguments are put together.

The Conservative party believes that there should be two questions, as do the Liberal Democrats and the London Labour party. The intervention of the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) was a brave attempt to smooth over the cracks, but it was a little like the late Emperor Hirohito saying at the end of the war that events had not entirely gone to his satisfaction.

Anyone who reads the papers or surfs the net knows that the London Labour party wants two questions. Anyone who heard the contributions of the hon. Member for Brent, East knows that the Labour party in London wants two questions. The only people who seek to deny them that are those on the Government Front Bench.

If there is to be a strategic authority, a clear case must be made for it. With the exception of the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North, Labour Members reached no real consensus as to what the authority should be. The majority of contributions on Second Reading favoured a return to the GLC. Almost every Labour Back Bencher described the Greater London council as a marvellous body that delivered many benefits to Londoners. I agree with those Ministers who said that that was nonsense. With a lump in their throats, Labour Members described the new authority as GLC mark 2—a variation of "The Empire Strikes Back"; a revenge for the 11 years when London was denied such a body.

However, Ministers have been keen to stress that there will be no return of that evil empire and that we have nothing to fear. They claim that the strategic authority will be quite different from the GLC. Yet the Green Paper remains vague—perhaps such documents should be vague—as to the form that the authority will take. One thing is certain: its power will come not from Government but from the boroughs. The strategic authority will be the dumping ground for problems in London.

Labour Members already claim that the Greater London authority will deal with all sorts of matters. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) made the ridiculous suggestion that the authority should consider the problem of aircraft noise—in spite of the fact that most aircraft have left the Greater London area within 90 seconds of take-off. Before the recess, the Minister for Transport in London said that the authority would consider the finances of London Underground—despite the fact that that issue will be resolved long before the body comes into being.

We had a clear example this morning of how the authority will be used as a dumping ground when the Minister for the Environment appeared before the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. He spoke in a most courteous manner and was asked by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake)—who is in the Chamber and will no doubt seek to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker—a straightforward question about what part the Greater London authority would play in addressing the problem of air pollution. The Minister said that the Greater London authority would be the "ideal" body to monitor that problem.

There was further discussion about the strategic authority, and it was suggested that, if the traffic situation in the inner city worsened, London could embrace the same traffic restrictions as were introduced recently in Paris, whereby cars with certain number plates were restricted from entering the city on a particular day. To be fair, the Minister pointed out that London boroughs already have the power to impose those restrictions under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984—which was amended subsequently to deal with a problem that occurred in the constituency of the Minister for London and Construction.

We can put to one side the issue of the desirability of closing London's roads to traffic, but we must acknowledge that the closure of roads in Paris affected a far smaller area than would occur in London—even then, 11,000 policemen were deployed to enforce the restrictions in Paris. It would clearly be ridiculous to close Romford, Upminster, Barnet, Uxbridge or the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway). Such restrictions could be considered in Westminster, Camden, Islington or Lambeth. However, as the London boroughs may already impose those restrictions, it would be absurd for the strategic authority to take that power and concentrate it in a few areas.

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that it would be better if Westminster banned particular cars on a Wednesday and Camden banned them on a Thursday? That would be the consequence of devolving that strategic matter to individual boroughs.

It would be absurd to close Camden— although it might have been sensible to do something like that in Greenwich. In the debate about a strategic authority versus a mayor, we must appreciate that a mayor would be in the best position to liaise with the various London boroughs—and, more important, with the Government. We cannot simply cut off central London without recognising that that will have an enormous effect on the rest of the country.

It is possible to restrict traffic in Greenwich without causing knock-on effects throughout the country— although, given some lines of communication, even that might prove difficult. However, it would be impossible to cut off traffic in the inner-London area, in those boroughs to which I have referred, without causing enormous knock-on effects. A strategic authority would contribute nothing to solving that problem: it would simply take powers from individual boroughs.

We acknowledge that London needs a mayor—the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North gave many reasons in support of that proposition—but no proper case has been made in favour of a strategic authority. Perhaps such a case could be made, but Labour Members have declined to argue for it in this Chamber. That is why we have put down a reasoned amendment this evening: we believe that the people of London deserve some kind of choice.

The Minister for London and Construction made a very interesting speech. He said on Monday—and he repeated it today—that the Government are not dogmatic about the single-vote issue. I welcome that attitude; it is an important matter. The Minister said that, if two questions can be formulated, the Government will consider them. The argument about whether we should have a mayor or a strategic authority is a matter of public and political debate. According to normal conventions in this country, when the politicians argue, the people decide. By offering a single question in the referendum, the people will not have the opportunity to decide.

The other place has a strong duty to examine the matter most carefully. It must reflect the will and the consensus that exists across the parties about determining a second question. If the people are denied a second question, the referendum process will become meaningless.

5.27 pm

I was present for much of the Second Reading debate and I witnessed, or subsequently read, the proceedings in Committee. Opposition Members made some useful and positive contributions regarding several of the issues before us. However, with the greatest respect, I have to say that the speech by the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) does not belong in that category. I do not know where most of his comments came from; I did not understand his speech at all.

I raised three key points on Second Reading—to which some Opposition Members responded productively and positively in Committee—regarding the scrutiny functions of the GLA, the inclusivity of the mayor in the assembly and the relationship between the two, and what I called on Second Reading the architecture of governance in London. I make no apologies for starting with that issue. It has not been addressed in the House—although the Committee sought to consider the matter.

There is a fundamental flaw in much of the approach from the Opposition parties in their reasoned amendments: their belief that more than one proposal is on the table, and that more than one proposal for London was in our manifesto. There was not. There was one. It was, as the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir. N. Fowler) called it, a proposal for a system of government. That is exactly what was in our manifesto, and it will be tested in the full light of more fleshed-out details when the White Paper is issued next March.

We cannot issue a White Paper that says perhaps this, perhaps that, perhaps the other; one that fully takes into account the three, four or five permutations and all their subsequent administrative consequences, as outlined by my hon. Friend the Minister, and then say to people, "Here is a whole list of things on which to vote in the May referendum." We are offering an interlocking system of governance for London. As my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) said, it includes the relationship between the boroughs, the GLA, the mayor and central Government.

As I said on Second Reading, there is a job to be done by all London Members, and by everyone in the Chamber who is concerned for the governance of London, in working out how the four key elements interlock. If the White Paper starts to address that in March, the argument in the reasoned amendments—that our proposal is flawed because we are offering two proposals rolled into one, when we should be offering two proposals and two questions—falls. We are offering one interlocking, overarching view of the map, if one likes, of governance for London.

As an ex-leader of a Labour group, I say to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar that we shall fight tooth and nail in Harrow, with colleagues, if the assembly wants an inch of powers that properly and rightly belong at borough level. That would be the concerted view and voice of every single Labour council leader in London, whether in power or opposition. It is not a mea culpa or some Pauline conversion. My hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North was entirely right that, 11 years on, lessons have been learned, and what is now with the boroughs by and large stays with them. This is, perhaps, offensive to some Opposition Members, but it is subsidiarity writ large. At that end much of it is tied up.

A consequence of the autocratic abolition of the GLC is that, in terms of that end of London government, it has probably sorted things out, and many of the powers that should be at borough level are there and should stay there. All that we are doing is putting in place the second and crucial element—democratisation, instead of all the strategic powers and services in quangos.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the Green Paper has no fewer than 10 points under which powers will be taken away from the boroughs and given to the authority?

That is entirely a matter for debate. Equally, any number of the 61 questions can, by implication, give further powers back to the boroughs. "You pay your money and take your choice." That is the whole purpose of a consultation paper. Whatever happens on Third Reading or in another place—not necessarily in terms of electoral convention or the other matters suggested by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)—it behoves everyone in the House to take the White Paper very seriously so that we, collectively, can come up with a proper form of strategic governance for London.

Do I take it then that the hon. Gentleman's bold declaration to fight tooth and nail for borough power lasted exactly five minutes, until my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) pointed out that powers will be lost? What is happening? Why does not the hon. Gentleman stand up for his borough?

When the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar intervened during my speech on Second Reading, I said:

"I hope that the hon. Gentleman enjoyed that intervention. I will not give way to him again if that is the best that he can do."— [Official Report, 10 November 1997; Vol. 300, c. 617.]
I repeat that now. I thought that I responded to the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) in a very reasoned fashion. What the hon. Gentleman just said was entirely unnecessary.

When I first rose to speak, I almost felt like declaring myself as Tony McNulty, the Member for Harrow, East, vocal wing of the terracotta army. The notion that somehow all London's Members of Parliament are scurrying away and dare not be associated with the proposal is abject nonsense. We can all play—I wish that all sides would refrain from it—the silly little game that says because only three Liberal Democrats are in the Chamber, they cannot be taking this seriously, or because only three Back Benchers from London are in the Chamber, they cannot be taking this seriously. That is childish, wholly unnecessary and adds nothing to the debate.

In the short time available, I shall concentrate on the points that I raised on Second Reading. Some of them at least were developed by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, and that is to his credit. One of the key issues was inclusivity. The hon. Gentleman laid out far better than I did, especially on the second day of consideration in Committee, how we need to get to grips with whatever electoral arrangements we get for the mayor and the assembly. We have to get to grips with a system that reflects as far as possible the rich and varied communities that we have in London. However, there are two small points on which I take issue with the hon. Gentleman.

First, although most borough boundaries might be artificial, Harrow's is not. Harrow is the oldest borough boundary in London, going way back to before the last reorganisation of local government. Secondly, I can see the hon. Gentleman—because he has tagged this often enough throughout the debate's inception—formulating boundary maps in his head when he talks about a little bit of Kent, a little bit of Surrey, and everything else, perhaps being natural communities. With the best will in the world, Middlesex is not. It runs from Twickenham to Tottenham and all stops in between, and quite how that unfolds I am not sure.

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments. He is also making perfectly measured points.

My understanding has always been that Middlesex, which was a huge county—the whole of the county was lost in Greater London—most easily divides into north Middlesex and west Middlesex. We can debate the boundary, but most people describe the county as one or the other. If we use Middlesex as a whole and then look at what we do with it, we might make some progress.

That is a fair point, as were the other points that the hon. Gentleman made. It is principally the responsibility of parties, rather than the Government, to reflect some equity balance in the diversity of London in terms of gender and ethnicity.

As a caution to the House, I shall repeat the point about the mayor and the assembly that I made on Second Reading. I do not want a mayor for the west end. I do not want a mayor who is essentially an elaborate figurehead and may as well work for the London tourist board. That brings me back to what I said about the relationship between the mayor, the assembly and the boroughs. Neither do I want—we have had to put up with this for so long in outer London in terms of London Labour politics—a mayor and assembly that will focus almost exclusively inwards, perhaps in what was the old Inner London education authority area, or the old Inner London area. I am not by any means making a subversive plea for borough assemblymen, but if the assembly is to be inclusive, it must be inclusive in terms of the strategic needs, desires and wants of inner and outer London. It must reflect the needs and concerns of east London, inner and outer, versus west London; and north versus south. It must celebrate at the strategic level the richness and specific concerns that we have at the different levels.

It is absolutely right to have only one question. If, in terms of relationships and the electoral system, we get something that reflects the diversity and inclusivity that I have spoken about, and if we define—this is more a role for the White Paper in March—the strategic functions of the assembly—if there are to be any, as I hope that there are—the House will have done London a really good turn and a real favour by giving us back democratic government.

It is entirely wrong for hon. Members, whether Labour or Conservative, to talk about this being an American model that will not work. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) went through the speech made on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North. He referred selectively to aspects that he chose to mention and he did the same with me. I said that the mayor and the assembly would not be a recipe for conflict and that the mayor, vested with powers relating to the assembly, would not necessarily be a recipe for corruption. I said that, just because people say that, it does not make it true. All that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East did in his speech was to say, simply, that my view was wrong, and that it was wrong because it was wrong, and because of the American model.

We are fundamentally not offering an American model. We are offering a brand new model for London. It is not enough to say, like the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), that a mayor is alien to our culture. That is not a substantive enough analysis.

On Second Reading we were told, principally by the Liberal Democrats, that we were scared to put this proposal forward. They asked us for a bit of radicalism. I say now as I said then, this is the radical option. This is so radical and so new that I believe that it will excite the people of London into a higher turnout at the referendum.

With the indulgence of the boroughs and the House, if we get our act together and the relationships right—I accept that that is the key—there will be exciting times ahead for the governance of London. I hope that both sides of the House, especially Opposition Members, will take note of what was said by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. When he has lost all his arguments in this place and a question appears on a ballot paper, the hon Gentleman has committed his party to voting yes. That is in the interests of London. Like my colleagues, I commend the Bill to the House.

5.41 pm

I apologise for the fact that I shall be unable to remain in the Chamber for the winding-up speeches from the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) as I have a meeting elsewhere. However, I shall take care to read those speeches tomorrow.

I shall not respond to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) in the terms in which he patronised my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles).

Perhaps I should do so then. I shall just say that I thought that the objective on Third Reading, especially when there was a reasoned amendment, was to speak to that amendment and to respond to the debates that took place in Committee. I do not believe that it is the place to rehearse the arguments presented on Second Reading. I shall address myself to what was said in Committee and to the reasoned amendment.

The starting point from which I approached the amendments in Committee was that we were being asked to pursue a pre-legislative referendum. The aim of such a referendum, as the Minister has agreed on more than one occasion, is not to bind the House of Commons but to provide advice. Although the advice is not binding on the House, the Government see themselves as, in some sense, bound by it. There is a perverse element to a pre-legislative referendum that offers advice to the Government about how they should proceed with their policy while, at the same time, the Government—this is the essential point—are seeking not to provide the electorate of London with an opportunity to advise them. They are saying, "Here it is. Take it or leave it." In what will become the oft-repeated words of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), they are simply saying, "Let us marshall the terracotta army, muttering that it is in the manifesto, and march it all through." The electorate of London have to accept that, whether they like it or not.

What we have learned from the research of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is that that will be true for the Labour party in London, whether it likes it or not. The Labour party is emulating Henry Ford and saying, "You can have any car you like as long as it is black. You can have any form of democracy you want in London, as long as it is the democracy that the Labour party wants, not what the people of London are willing to vote for." That is the heart of the problem.

We are being asked to support an unamended Bill. There were ample opportunities in Committee for the Government to amend the Bill in order to serve the purpose for which a pre-legislative referendum should be designed—that is, to provide maximum opportunity for those being consulted to express their views on the choices available. They should be offered not the minimum number of options, but the maximum number of options and that comes down to two questions.

I was interested in the issue of responses to consultation. The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) stumbled happily into commending to us a 10 per cent. response rate where the Minister managed to achieve a magnificent 0.02 per cent. response rate—he is happy with that. It is one tenth of the response rate achieved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) when he was Secretary of State for the Environment and was consulting about London.

It is interesting that, at that time, as the Minister made clear in Committee, there were some people who wanted a strategic authority for London. There is no dispute about that because there have always been some people who want that. The Labour party was consistent in its desire to retain the Greater London council and then, after its abolition, to recreate it in some amended form.

On Second Reading, the Minister for Transport in London told us that, although the analysis had not been completed at that time, 10 per cent. of the respondents to the consultation document wanted a different question. There were 61 questions in the consultation document, but not one of them said, "How would you like to be consulted about the governance of London?" They were not asked about the form of the question, but 10 per cent. ignored the 61 questions they were asked and offered a different view. The view that they were expressing is that which was expressed, rightly, in Committee and which has been supported by argument, which is that the people of London should be allowed to have more than one question.

It behoves us to wonder what the Government are frightened of. I think that, far from it being workable only if there is an integrated or holistic package—or whatever adjective one chooses to use—it is possible to have a different structure of government for London. It is possible to have a directly elected mayor and to have an assembly that is drawn from the boroughs. That is at the heart of the argument that has been presented by Opposition Members on more than one occasion, most eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). In Committee, he made it clear more than once—it has been reflected in our debates but, unhappily, not in the manner in which the Government are proceeding—that London is a city of many communities and that it is of the essence that we should seek a structure of government that reflects that.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the issue of the assembly of the boroughs would be the third question?

I am happy to deal with that. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey made clear, and as I attempted to explain to the Minister during an intervention, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) said, it is possible that, within the structure of two questions, people could say whether they want a directly elected mayor and whether they want a directly elected assembly. It is clear that, if people choose to have representatives from the boroughs, by extension, they are looking for an indirectly elected assembly.

Ministers are afraid that such a package would be rejected. They fear that, if they separated the two propositions by asking two questions, they would not get the answer that they seek. It seems to me that the desire of Ministers to have their own way transcends their desire to do what is best for London, and that is much to be regretted.

I shall mention one or two subjects that came up in Committee that have reflected ill on the Government's argument, or lack of argument, in support of the Bill. Ministers should reflect further on how they approach certain issues, particularly the representation of the boroughs in the assembly. The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North referred to creative tension. The principal creative tension at the heart of the governance of London is the tension that will naturally arise in so large a city—in a sense, it is a number of cities—between the localities and the city as a whole. It is all very well for the hon. Lady to talk about creative tension between the assembly and the mayor, but that is an irrelevance. Creative tension in London will come from the mesh that will entwine the strategic overview of the mayor and the authority with the creativity expressed by localities. If we put the creative tension outside the authority, we shall ignore the essential question of how to proceed with the governance of London.

The hon. Member for Harrow, East said that additional powers have been devolved to, and will be retained by, the boroughs. It is illogical for him to talk about the benefits of subsidiarity, given these proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South mentioned 10 powers, but there may be more. It did not take me more than a minute or two to discover that some of the powers of the boroughs will not necessarily be taken away. I shall give just one example, which will resonate with my hon. Friends and with people outside the House.

The Government have not said precisely what is proposed for planning and land use: that is the problem. One of the options in the consultation paper is that the authority would be responsible for a structure plan, and would have the power to ensure that local authorities reflected that strategic plan in their own planning documents. I am sure that the Minister will say that the power of development control has not shifted out of the hands of the London boroughs, but in fact the balance of power in relation to land use and development control in London as a whole will shift dramatically from the boroughs to a higher-level body that will be able to force boroughs to exercise their development control powers in a particular direction.

Rather than mind-read the consultation paper, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take my tuppence worth. For the past three years, I have been a member of the London planning advisory committee, which issues strategic advice that boroughs have to take into account when developing their structure plans. There is no reason why, once that committee is subsumed by the Greater London authority, that system should not continue to prevail. I would not advocate a separate Greater London development plan with statutory force as a structure plan for London. I offer the hon. Gentleman that comment by way of information.

The analogy used in the consultation document is that of a county council, and the way in which it exercises structure plan responsibility for its districts. The Minister may correct me, but I think that that has a more direct impact on the boroughs' subsequent development plans than the recommendations of the London planning advisory committee.

The Minister was at pains to remind me that we are discussing a consultation document. That brings me back to one of the principal issues. The timing of the consultation process that will lead to decisions has gone wrong. We are told that the White Paper will be presented shortly before the referendum in the spring.

A draft Bill will not be presented. At the same time, the boroughs will have to make decisions, and campaigns will have to be fought. It is undesirable for the question of the governance of London to be wrapped up in those political considerations. Labour Members have been at pains to say that there are differences between a strategic overview and borough considerations, yet they are perfectly happy that borough considerations and strategic questions about the longer-term governance of London should be pushed into one campaign. They do not want them to be separated for reasons of convenience, and because they want to pursue their manifesto commitments and to save £2 million to £3 million. Democracy has a higher price than that.

The proposals should be published and should be consulted on separately. We should know the views of the people of London, and not necessarily on a partisan basis. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South said, there is a degree of cross-party agreement on some of the issues, such as the proposal for a directly elected mayor.

Order. The Minister should not be telling the hon. Gentleman what to do now. He should wait until he winds up the debate.

The Minister should know, because I referred to this on Second Reading, that, before the election, I published a pamphlet showing that I was in favour of directly elected mayors. I have not changed my view on that subject.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the manifesto of the Conservative party in London—I accept that he was not a London candidate—specifically opposed the Labour party's proposal for an elected mayor?

The Minister is right to remind me that I was not a London candidate. However, I read that document, and, as I recall, it was opposed to the Labour party's proposals for an elected mayor and an authority. The Minister is at pains to say that this is an integrated package. At that time, it was reasonable for us to place emphasis on the question whether the Labour party wanted to recreate an authority, such as the Greater London council. Our proposal is not the same as the Labour party's proposal, so the Conservative party's view is perfectly reasonable.

The debate in Committee showed the undesirability of the wholesale discretion that the Bill gives the Secretary of State to determine the electoral format for the assembly. The Minister uses the term "citywide", because it is inconvenient for him to recognise the reality. This authority may be the first of a number of regional authorities. Should it be established, it will no doubt be represented as a precedent for regional government. Constitutionally, it is highly undesirable for the electoral system for a regional assembly to be constructed on the basis of such a precedent, because it enables the Local Government Commission to operate under the direction and at the discretion of Ministers, without reference to the House.

A number of issues were raised in Committee. At their core is the question whether the electorate of London should be given the opportunity, which is clearly available, to respond to two questions. I support the reasoned amendment.

5.58 pm

I want first to address the misrepresentation of the position of the Greater London Labour party by Conservative Members. As has been reported, we have had within the Greater London Labour party a full debate on the Green Paper and Labour's proposals for an elected mayor and an elected assembly. We have more than 65,000 party members in Greater London, nine of the 10 Members of the European Parliament, 57 of the 74 Members of Parliament and the majority of London boroughs, so it would be a huge surprise if there was not a variety of views. Conservative Members have, however, focused on a few individuals who have challenged the proposals in the Green Paper.

The consultative conference that I chaired on 12 October has been mentioned frequently by Conservative Members. I am not sure whether I am expected to be flattered or offended by the remark, often quoted by Conservative Members, that I manipulated the conference. I am happy to claim that I chaired the conference effectively—certainly to the satisfaction of the vast majority of those who attended. There were more than 300 delegates, including many Labour Members. The results of that consultation—

I should hate the House to be misled and to be left with the impression that Conservative Members are saying that the hon. Gentleman manipulated the meeting. It was a member of the Greater London Labour party executive who used the word "manipulated".

I said that claims that I manipulated the meeting were quoted by Conservative Members. That is not my recollection of the conference, and it is not the recollection of many who were there.

The results of the consultative conference were discussed by the executive of the Greater London Labour party, which wholly supported the way forward being proposed by the Government—that is, an elected mayor balanced by an elected assembly. I repeat that the number of Labour submissions in opposition to the proposals was only 16 out of the thousands of submissions by councillors, the hundreds of submissions by Labour party branches and the 74 submissions from constituencies. In those terms, 16 is a minuscule number. Clearly, there is overwhelming support within the Greater London Labour party for the proposals.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) said, a directly elected mayor and a directly elected assembly are what we promised at the general election. Londoners obviously support that, as demonstrated by our success within the region. They can demonstrate that support again next May, by voting yes overwhelmingly in the referendum.

I now repeat the suggestion that I made in the closing stages of the Second Reading debate on 10 November. I suggest that once we have agreed that we shall have an elected mayor and an elected assembly, we shall need to look for a home for both. I suggest that for several reasons, east London would be wholly appropriate.

First, it is clear to anyone living in the capital that the centre of gravity has been moving east for years; the docklands area demonstrates that. Secondly, the Thames gateway is the gateway to Europe, and placing the centre of local government there would acknowledge that fact. Thirdly, it would be a gesture to the excluded communities of east London for them to be the home for new London politics. It would also symbolise the regeneration of the area, not only after the closure of the docks, but after the South Quay bombing. For too long, the east end has been the home of poverty, deprivation and unemployment, as demonstrated by the flirtation with the far right.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the east end would be a good place to locate the building for the mayor and the assembly. Does he agree with the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) about the powers that would be exercised by the strategic authority in that building? Would he fight tooth and nail to ensure that no powers were taken away from the boroughs?

I have never been a local authority representative, but I am sure that local authorities will be more than able to defend their corner when the new strategic authority is created.

Siting the home of the new centre of regional government in the east end would be wholly consistent with the Government's objective of demonstrating that this is a new beginning. The Prime Minister clearly demonstrated that, by siting the Anglo-French conference at Canary Wharf. This is about new Britain, about new London and about a new start for our capital city. I shall submit my proposal to the Minister in due course. I commend the Bill to the House.

Order. A number of Back Benchers still wish to speak. As hon. Members know, there will be winding-up speeches, so brief speeches, such as the one by the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick), would be helpful.

6.4 pm

Ministers must be a little wistful about imposing a gagging order on their Back-Bench colleagues in Committee. We might not otherwise have had such prolix contributions on Third Reading. Ministers would normally expect by now to be home in their Departments for tea. They must be getting a little sad as they realise that tea trolley time has gone and that the bone china cups have rattled down the corridor while the debate here has dragged on.

The contributions from Labour Members today have been most revealing. First, the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) spoke of dynamic tension between the mayor and the elected assembly as if that was meritorious. The Minister argued most forcefully and convincingly that the governance of London needed leadership from the mayor. If, however, the mayor is locked in almost permanent conflict with an argumentative and difficult assembly, the proposal does not bode well for Londoners.

Secondly, we had the contribution by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty). He stated clearly that he thought that local authorities, such as his own in Harrow, would fight tooth and nail to preserve every inch of their power against the overweening ambitions—that was the implication of what he said—of the assembly. Once the assembly is elected—this is the force of the argument put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler)—those ambitions will grow. If the assembly members want to demonstrate their effectiveness, they will arrogate to themselves more and more power. That bodes ill for the governance of London and makes any objective commentator wonder whether proposals of such far-reaching consequence should be considered for such a short period by the people of London.

The White Paper is to be produced on 23 March 1998 or thereabouts. The date of the referendum will be 7 May. Easter will come in the middle of April, and there will be the school holidays, the May day bank holiday and the Easter recess. There will be very little opportunity for even this House to give the White Paper proper consideration, let alone the people of London, who will be up to their ears in the arguments about the governance of their own boroughs, which is more important for them than the governance of London.

Before we grant the total power that the Bill will entail, there could well be a change of heart by the Government—perhaps between the publication of the White Paper and the enactment of the Bill that will give force to the proposals. The constituency branches of the Labour party seem very worried that the traditional system of a leader being chosen from their number will be done away with. That is a potential source of pressure on the Government, which could lead to changes between the publication of the White Paper and the Bill.

We would be most unwise to give a carte blanche single question to the electorate, without a paramount and totally plain explanation from the Government of how the assembly will be elected, how the mayor will be elected and how those two separate elections will be funded. That is particularly important for the election of the mayor. There is a real risk that his election could be bankrolled by a company. It is not beyond our imagination to see the immense potential for the corruption of the electoral process if strict safeguards on expenditure are not written into the White Paper and, more important, enacted in the legislation.

That is why the Opposition are right to insist on two questions. Having two questions would not invalidate the Government's proposals for an authority with the twin components of mayor and assembly; it would provide a means of validating the merits of each. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister, in a telling conclusion to his speech, said that they could envisage the assembly working perfectly well without a directly elected mayor, as a normal democratic institution, drawing its leader from its ranks.

If democracy in London is to be better served rather than prejudiced by the proposals, it is crucial that the boroughs have their voice. I apologise for being a little parochial, but the following example makes my point. Mr. Evans, the local MEP for my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), has just said that he is wholly against the fifth terminal for Heathrow and against the abolition of duty free sales at the airport and on airlines for European flights. Those proposals would gravely damage employment in Hillingdon. Without a directly elected representative—or an indirectly elected one in the form of the leader of a borough, as Conservative Front-Bench Members have argued—particular local interests will not be served on the assembly.

Transport is a potential area of competence for the assembly and the mayor. Air transport and the related infrastructure of rail connections, high-speed links and roads are crucial issues for my borough. Our concerns must be effectively articulated in the new assembly. The chances are that they will not be unless we have a representative for Hillingdon. That representative would also have to stand up for the green belt, because there must be a balance between the transport imperatives that are crucial for the economy of our borough, for west London and for the country, and the environmental interests of local residents, which are already imperilled by the ever-increasing demands of Labour authorities to build on open space, and occasionally on green-belt land, as we have seen in Hillingdon.

The electors of London will need to know that the new authority will safeguard local interests better than the current system. If it will not, they would serve their local interests and the interests of London by rejecting the Government's proposals.

6.15 pm

I speak not as the Lobby fodder that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) referred to, but as the Member of Parliament for a London constituency—Enfield, North. I speak on behalf of the people of Enfield, North, who voted for our manifesto in considerable numbers. I have consulted them formally and informally about the proposals on many occasions. I am pleased to report that the proposals for a directly elected mayor and assembly in one package have overwhelming support.

There are good reasons to rehearse the arguments put on Second Reading. The Conservatives seem to oppose a democratic voice for London. When they abolished the Greater London council, they made no attempt to reform it. There have been no proposals in the 11 years since then to redress the balance and do something about the democratic deficit in London. They are aware of the tremendous support for the Government's proposals in London, so they find themselves in difficulty. Instead of opposing the proposals wholesale, which I believe to be their true position, they argue about the assembly.

Londoners want and need a democratic voice for the capital, elected by the people to speak up for us and battle on our behalf for inward investment for jobs and for public money to tackle the division between rich and poor, to defend and promote the interests of Londoners and to ensure that London remains a world-class capital.

The capital currently has no voice. We suffer from a lack of co-ordination, which is more than evident on transport issues. We suffer from a lack of strategic planning, which is evident in the King's Cross development. We suffer from a lack of openness, accountability and democracy, which is evident in the situation with the Metropolitan police. The Labour Government inherited a mess from the previous Conservative Government. We have had 18 years of experiments and change, including complete disasters such as the poll tax. That has weakened local services and demoralised many local councillors.

No wonder talented people shy away from standing for election to their local council. No wonder 80 per cent. of councillors are over 45, one third are retired and only one in four are women. No wonder only 31 per cent. of the electorate bothered to vote in the 1994 local elections. We need democratic renewal. We want change for local government that will bring better public services and stronger local democracy.

It is not healthy for everything to be run from Whitehall. That places too much power in the hands of too few people. The new millennium demands a new approach. Nowhere is that more true than in London. The capital has 12 per cent. of the United Kingdom's population. Its gross domestic product is greater than that of Singapore, Thailand or Hong Kong. Its economy is bigger than those of many European countries, including Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg. It accounts for 19 per cent. of United Kingdom GDP. More than 40 per cent. of the United Kingdom's businesses and financial services are located in London. In the rest of the UK, 4.1 million workers depend on producing goods and services that are sold in London.

Of course, with all that, we have our problems. Of the country's most deprived wards, 14 per cent. are in London. At the local elections for London in 1994, more than one in six people in London were in receipt of income support. London has the highest level of serious crime and one of the highest rates of reported drug misuse in the country. Infant mortality rates in deprived inner London are twice as high as those in some outer boroughs. We need a Greater London authority and an elected mayor. This is an idea whose time has come.

Towns and cities compete today in a way that they did not a generation ago. In Britain, Manchester competes with London for millennium cash. In Europe, Liverpool competes with cities in Spain and Germany. In the global economy, we compete with every other country to attract investment and production.

I am trying to work out the relevance of the geography lesson to the referendum. Perhaps the hon. Lady can enlighten me.

All the points are extremely relevant. The hon. Gentleman's Conservative Government never addressed any of the issues.

In this world of competitive localities, we need a strong voice for London; someone to promote the area and fight on our behalf for the investment and public resources that we need. It is probably true that nobody really knows the town clerk and that few know the leader of their local council—although I am sure that there are some notable exceptions. An elected mayor would have a high public profile and more political weight. A mayor would be better able to provide the community leadership that London needs.

We cannot leave our local authorities, the police or the public sector to act alone. To reduce crime and pollution and to make our economy grow, we need an elected authority for London; we need a mayor. We need a powerful voice. The democratic deficit must be addressed. The people of London support the package that the Government are putting forward. On 7 May, there will be a massive yes vote for the proposals. We look forward to that.

6.21 pm

I welcome the concession which I believe the Minister made when he said that he had no objection in principle to more than one question on the ballot paper. That is interesting and makes it even more important that, in the other place, the issue of questions on the ballot paper is considered closely. Perhaps we can now engage in a sensible dialogue. Perhaps the Government have listened to the views of 16 of the 30 local Labour parties in London—the ones who responded to the Government's Green Paper—and the majority of Trades Union Congress councils in London.

For each step forward, we take a step backward. We have taken a step backward on whether the authority constitutes regional government for London. As a matter of urgency, the Government must clarify whether they are talking about regional, citywide or local government.

What electoral system would we favour for the government of London? I do not have time to go into detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) described certain general principles such as fairness and natural constituencies. I would certainly like there to be natural constituencies. Perhaps one in my neck of the woods would comprise all the south-west London constituencies. I say that not just because most of them are represented by Liberal Democrats. I used to be a councillor in Hackney. Another natural constituency would include Hackney, Islington and neighbouring constituencies in that inner-city area. The Liberal Democrats support five or six variable-size, multi-member constituencies. There might be a need to top that up with some additional members, to ensure overall proportionality. If the two general principles apply, government for London will receive the backing of Londoners.

Such legitimacy is needed, but I am afraid that our debates have not provided it. I cannot accept that Labour Members have given the Bill a vote of confidence. They have taken a vow of silence. The omerta that we are witnessing among Government Back Benchers has everything to do with baseball bat-wielding Whips and nothing to do with acquiescence and agreement with the Government's proposals, especially for a London mayor.

Yes, even cattle prods.

It is not too late for the Government to listen to Londoners' views and swallow their pride, in taking on board a second question. The Government's pride is at stake. I hope that they will grasp the opportunity to introduce a second question.

6.25 pm

On 23 March, the Government will publish their proposals for the reform of London government, which will leave us just six short weeks in which to consider them. We accept that there is a case for reform, but the striking feature of the previous three days' debates has been the misplaced, cosy nostalgia among Labour Members—and to a degree among Liberal Democrats—for that bureaucratic, blundering, inefficient organisation known as the Greater London council.

Labour Members have described the GLC as a kind of genial godfather, doing good deeds throughout its life for the benefit of Londoners. Their memories are short. London is a young city. The average age of its people is less than the national average. Eleven years on, memories have started to fade.

We make no apology for having abolished the GLC. We believe that that abolition has strengthened London's local government. Few want to return to the days of the GLC. The few who do sit on the Government Benches— but they have not understood their orders. They have not read the Green Paper, which makes it clear that the proposed body is not a return to the GLC. It is not a return, because, in their hearts, members of the Labour party agree with us that the GLC had to go.

The Minister shakes his head. I shall take it from that that he wanted the GLC to remain. If he really meant it, he would be reviving the GLC in this Parliament—but he is not.

The world has moved on since 1986, and we accept the case for a mayor for London—a voice for Londoners, someone to represent them in central Government and to speak for London on the international stage. However, given what we have seen of the Government's plans so far, it is important to recognise that the job will be more about influence than about executive power. That is right for what will be a strategic authority.

A second striking feature of the debates has been the Government Back Benchers' wish lists of powers that they hope the new mayor will have. Labour Back Benchers have called for the mayor to have all the old powers of the GLC, plus the powers to run all London's transport, health and education services single-handedly.

The hon. Gentleman was not present for most of the debates on Second Reading and in Committee. If he had been, he would have heard such calls. [Interruption.]

The mayor will not have such powers, and it is an illusion to think so. If for a moment we thought that London's mayor would have such powers, our views on the assembly, whose job it will be to hold him to account, might be very different.

It is of great concern to the Opposition that, under the terms of the question in the schedule, the die has been cast on the nature of the assembly. The proposed structure of the directly elected assembly is flawed, and our amendments have consistently made that point. The Bill is not just about a ballot on the future of London: it deals with the electoral arrangements for the assembly.

Tellingly, in the Minister's letter to the editor of The Times, he made it clear that an assemblyman would not be expected to fight for his or her own patch. He said that with such pride and confidence that it rang alarm bells in all of us who are concerned about the democratic process. When I challenged him to admit that that meant that he would sever the constituency link and have an assembly elected by proportional representation, he replied that that would not necessarily be the case. He is nodding to confirm that.

Thus, the situation gets worse. We may have people elected from constituencies, but they will not be allowed to fight for their patches. We know that independent thought by Labour Back Benchers is banned in the House, but it seems that the disease is spreading. Independent thought will not be allowed in any other house. We might have thought that the thought police did not have much work left to do, but they will have to tighten their grip.

The Government's opinions, as expressed in our debates on the Bill, have been deeply insulting to London's local government. We have proposed that the members of the assembly should be the borough leaders. That is a reasonable proposal, which we have put forward without frills. In that way, the thinking for London would come from the bottom up and not from the top down. The assembly would be a bridge between the mayor and the boroughs.

All the Minister can say in reply is that that would not be an adequate alternative. Frankly, I thought that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) did a better job of justifying what it subsequently turned out he does not believe—

I will come back to the hon. Gentleman's contribution in a moment, but he gave a better explanation than we heard from the Minister.

The Green Paper is riddled with proposals for the authority to implement Government strategy. There is no suggestion that the assembly will implement borough strategy or thinking. There is no suggestion that the boroughs will have anything more than an informal and occasional consultative role. There is no suggestion that the views of Londoners will be paramount in the assembly's thinking. The boroughs' role in the authority will be minimal.

I thought that the hon. Member for Harrow, East made an interesting speech, but he should realise that Harrow council's power will be diminished. He will have a lot of fighting to do to live up to his words tonight. It will cost him personal credibility in his party, and we will watch him and hold him to account for his words.

The Bill will not be published before the referendum. We are also concerned that the Government will not even publish the White Paper until 10 months after the election. Why have the Scottish and Welsh White Papers been published within three months of the election? Why will the Welsh Bill be published within seven months? If the government of Wales can be reorganised in seven months, why cannot the Government draw up a draft Bill for a strategic authority in 10 months?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has forgotten that we have published a Green Paper to consult people, and we are allowing time for their responses to be considered.

Sixty-one questions—that is one heck of a consultation document. Is the Minister saying that the proposals in his manifesto were not thought out before the election? How can a Bill be drafted for the future government of a whole country, such as Wales, in less time than it takes to produce a draft Bill for a strategic authority?

The Government will not even give an undertaking not to change the White Paper proposals in the Bill. They are saying to London, "We are not publishing the White Paper until just a few weeks before the referendum. We will give you hardly any time to digest it and ponder its consequences. We, the Labour party, will fight the referendum on the slogan, 'A Voice for London', and you may or may not get what you voted for." That is new Labour's version of "Blind Date", and this is the "Blind Date" Bill. People can choose, but they do not know what they will get. Londoners deserve better.

We want two questions, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said. We want Londoners to say yes or no to a mayor and yes or no to a directly elected assembly as currently proposed. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) pointed out that a single take-it-or-leave-it question is inadequate.

One of the more amusing aspects of the Chancellor's statement yesterday was how many times his spin doctors had inserted the buzz word "fairness". He repeated it several times, but the Minister tonight—I listened carefully, because I thought I might be able to make the point—did not use the word once in his speech. He knows how unfair his proposals are. Above all, they are an insult to the enthusiasm that Londoners have displayed for reform of some kind.

The Minister has repeatedly made the point—somewhat smugly—that it is the votes that count. He knows that he has lost the argument on two questions in our debates, but he has enough Lobby fodder behind him to carry the day.

Does the Minister really have support for his policies? He emphatically argued that more than 50 per cent. of Londoners had voted for the Labour party manifesto proposals for London, until we pointed out that he did not get 50 per cent. of the vote. The majority of Londoners did not support his proposals.

I challenged the Minister to say that the 1.6 million Labour voters of May would turn out next May. His head, which normally bobs around genially, froze solid, because he was not sure that they would.

The Minister then claimed that the Association of London Government supports his proposals. We checked our records, and found that that is not true, either. At least half of London's boroughs want a two-question referendum.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the ALG has supported the Government's position, and that that is the evidence that the ALG has submitted? Perhaps he has not read it and if not, I suggest that he does.

I repeat what I said. At least half the boroughs represented on the ALG want a two-question referendum. That is the truth of the matter. The Minister does not have the support of the London boroughs for his opposition to a two-question referendum, which is the basis for our reasoned amendment.

I have a copy, as has my hon. Friend the Minister, of the ALG's submission. It clearly states that the ALG welcomes the directly elected mayor and assembly for London. In the minutes— we seem to be keen on minutes tonight—the Labour group on the ALG, which is some 23 boroughs out of the 32, is recorded as totally in favour. It is also clearly minuted that the Conservatives, obviously whipped, are in favour only of the mayor, and the Liberal Democrats, obviously whipped, are in favour only of the assembly. That is the truth.

After that short speech, I will go through the list of the London boroughs that are in favour of a two-question referendum. I shall do it slowly, in case the hon. Gentleman wishes to write the names down and go round to Old Queen street and check them. The boroughs are Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Hackney, Harrow—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman does not like what he is hearing. The list continues with Havering, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Bexley and Westminster.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that no thought is allowed in London other than the Labour party's? Is he saying that the only voice from the Association of London Government allowed to be heard is that of the Labour party? That is a fine cry for democracy from Lewisham. If that is all there is to say, Lewisham deserves him.

When the Minister discovered that he had lost both arguments, he said that London's Labour party supported his proposals. Today we heard the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) quoting at length from the report of the London Labour meeting. He presented what he read as the latest revelation, but in fact it was the report that I quoted from on Monday.

We checked out the report on that famous meeting, and we found that people voted against the proposals by a ratio of 8:1, despite the efforts of the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) to prevent such a vote from being taken. He was trying to rewrite history.

I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the reports are a gross exaggeration. The only figure quoted is something like 8:1, but there were more than 300 delegates at the meeting. The vast majority of the people at that consultative seminar were wholly in agreement with the Government's policy, and the formal submission put forward by the Labour party in London was fully in support of the proposals.

How would the hon. Gentleman know, when he did not allow a vote to find out what the members present thought? He will have to discuss the matter with the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).[Interruption.]He was there. The hon. Member for Harrow, East was there, too, and so was the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman)—and here are the minutes. They say that London Labour rejected the mayor. The Minister cannot get away from the fact that he cannot even claim the support of his own party.

That catalogue of disaster would have deterred most Ministers and made them think again, but there was no remorse from those men and women. They plough on, regardless of public opinion, of the grass roots of their own party, of the views of the London boroughs, and of those of London itself. They do not deserve the support of the House, and I urge my hon. Friends to support the amendment.

6.41 pm

There can rarely have been a Third Reading so dominated by the Labour party. I do not refer exclusively to the contributions by my hon. Friends. My hon. Friends the Members for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) and for Enfield, North (Ms Ryan) all spoke with passion and conviction, and with information gleaned from listening to what the people of London are saying to them about the Government's proposals for a Greater London authority.

We were also privileged to hear paraded through the Chamber the unnamed thousands who make up the Greater London Labour party. They were paraded, in the main, by Members representing the Conservative party, and they joined us by means of representations made by those hon. Gentlemen. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) even brought them in via the internet. That seemed to me to show just how open the Labour party is. It publishes on the internet, available for all who wish to see it, the way in which debate is conducted within our party.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) began by saying that he and his party had held a consistent position on a government for London. I must point out that the position was consistent until 2 May. Before then, the Conservative party had campaigned assiduously and virulently against the idea of restoring a democratic voice for London, but after 2 May we saw it begin to make a move in our direction.

The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suffer from a desperate lack of argument and conviction. Again, the Labour party was strongly represented in the bulk of his speech, which was devoted to re-quoting what my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said on Second Reading.

The right hon. Gentleman was not alone in dubbing my right hon. and hon. Friends "Lobby fodder". It was an insult levelled at my hon. Friends by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) as well.[Interruption.] I am delighted to hear the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield say, "Shame." Indeed it is shameful that the trust placed in my hon. Friends by the electorate in London should be so described.

In truth, in describing my hon. Friends as Lobby fodder, the right hon. Gentleman offers an insult not to them, but rather to the people of London who exercise their franchise in every election, be it local or general, with both information and conviction, in the realisation that the decisions they make are important.

Will the Minister confirm, therefore, that what the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said was correct—that, if anyone on the Labour Benches voted against the Bill, he or she would be debarred from further candidature within the Labour party?

I am delighted to be able to tell the right hon. Gentleman that that is totally incorrect. However, my point in raising the matter was to observe how the mighty are fallen, in that, in a debate that he believes to be important about the restoration of government for London, the right hon. Gentleman is reduced to quoting my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East.[Interruption.] There is another example of Conservative Members who are incapable of listening to the answers to the questions they pose.

As I began by saying, nothing can be further from the truth. My point, however, is that the right hon. Gentleman has no arguments to present for himself.[Interruption.] He says that I must be joking—but I assure him that, if I tell a joke, I invariably get a laugh; I do not need to come at it from such a sideways angle.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey repeated the points that he made in Committee. We have no argument with the concerns that he expressed. We, too, wish the process to be both fair and, as I said when he spoke to his amendments in Committee, inclusive.

We do not agree with the hon. Gentleman or with the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) that what we propose is regional government. We see it as a citywide government. However, we are very much in tune with the hon. Gentleman's perspective that London is infinite in its variety. That point was tellingly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North in an especially interesting contribution.

We see the GLA—the mayor and the assembly, if that is the will of the people of London—as inclusive, outward-reaching and outward-looking, and as wishing to acknowledge London as a city of an infinite variety of peoples and of interests, which is constantly expanding.

That is the way in which London must maintain its primacy as a great capital city. Its greatest treasure is indeed the people of London, who, despite what Conservative Members say, have a wider perspective of what constitutes London than just their own borough or interest.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) made a point that was also made in a different form by the hon. Member for Croydon, South. He argued that there had been no Labour Members present. The hon. Member for Croydon, South said that Labour Members had been forced to take a vow of silence.

However, the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar then said that Labour Members had taken us down memory lane, pining for the Greater London council. Where did those mysterious voices come from that the hon. Gentleman heard? Perhaps they were indeed Disraeli, Gladstone and Churchill; they may have been trying to tell him something.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East made the precise point—

Would the Minister care to comment on a sedentary intervention made by the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), to the effect that a vow of silence had been taken?

I understood that that remark about the vow of silence was made by the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend, the Member for Croydon, South.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar is hearing voices again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East defined in precise detail what we perceive as the way forward for the government of London. We are not concerned with some arcane argument. We want a democratic voice to be restored to London, but we want a new, modern form of local government—it is practical, it will achieve results and, as I have said, it will be inclusive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town gave the clinching argument in the face of attempts by Opposition Members throughout the debate to imply that there is a great schism between the Labour party in this House and the Greater London Labour party over the Government's proposals, when he stated that, out of 65,000 members in London, 1,867 branches, 57 Members of Parliament and a majority of London boroughs, only 16 voices oppose the Government's proposals.

In another informed, intelligent and interesting contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North pointed out that we are attempting to redress the democratic deficiency that has burdened London since the Conservative party took away its democratic rights when in government.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South referred to a vow of silence, or that was my understanding, which he implied had been imposed on myself and my hon. Friends. He reiterated that there were constant calls from the supposedly silent voices for ever greater powers to be given to the Greater London authority. Opposition Members' contributions have been somewhat schizophrenic, but I am grateful for the detailed scrutiny that they afforded the Bill in Committee. I am also grateful for the strong endorsement given to the detail of our proposals at that stage.

Londoners want a strategic authority for this capital. They wanted one in 1986, and they want one now. They know that London needs democratic, citywide leadership, capable of tackling our decaying infrastructure and worsening air quality, taking on the task of regenerating the capital and tackling the growing division between rich and poor—a point made by more than one of my hon. Friends. Londoners know that, without that, we will have a continuation of the ad hoc and the absent, the mantra of the past 11 years—no one in charge, no one to blame.

This Government believe that London should be competing with the best in the world—a leader among world cities—and to do that, it needs leadership of its own. That is why we made our manifesto commitment and published extensive consultation proposals in July, and why so many individuals and organisations responded—hundreds of individuals and organisations, representing tens of thousands of Londoners. That is why people are already discussing who might represent London in elections to the authority some two years hence.

Simply publishing our consultation proposals has revitalised London politics. It has brought forth new optimism and a sense of possibility. People are now discussing how to deal with London's problems, how to meet the challenges we face and how they can work with the new authority and make a real difference. What a change from the pointless confrontation and powerless talking shops that predominated less than a year ago. That is a testament to the enthusiasm of all Londoners for what we are proposing.

Despite the best—a debatable choice of word—efforts of Opposition Members to suggest otherwise, this is neither a complex nor a controversial piece of legislation. We promised a referendum on our proposals for a new Greater London authority, to give the people of London the opportunity to vote yes or no to the creation of a new authority. That is what the Government promised, and what the Bill provides for.

I apologise to the hon. Lady and to the House for not making this point during the debate, but I was in a Select Committee. If the referendum is to be so consistent a part of our constitutional machinery from now on, does she not think that it would be prudent to have wider discussion of what should be the consistent features of a referendum, not least because those are variable in the Bill?

The right hon. Gentleman need never apologise to me. We are not discussing the possibility of the referendum becoming an implicit, intrinsic form of government for the future. He poses a hypothetical question. It is an interesting question, and I wish that I had more time to attempt to answer it.

However, it is particularly clear that we are debating the question that will be posed in a referendum. This is a specific Bill, for a referendum with a specific purpose. However hard Opposition Members have tried, they have significantly failed to present an alternative to the question or to the proposals that we have made in an attempt to restore a democratic voice to London and to Londoners.

I wish that the hon. Lady would deal with this question. Even at this late stage of the discussion, can she give the House some guidelines as to whether the Government will impose limits on expenditure in any campaign for the London referendum, or is the sky the limit as far as bankrolling the election is concerned?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I have misunderstood his question, but we have made it abundantly clear that the cost of the referendum will be £3 million. Is he concerned about another area?

The question is whether the no campaign, if one emerges, or the yes campaign, could spend any amount of money in securing the result they desire—a majority vote.

We have made it abundantly clear that there will be no Government money for either a no or a yes campaign. We have not proposed putting a limit on the funding, but in the light of our concerns about expenditure for other campaigns, the hon. Gentleman has made a valid point, and I see no reason why we should not consider it.

Will the hon. Lady deal with the point to which she almost alluded? What is the Government's objection to the two questions, as formulated by her colleague and put to the Greater London Labour party—a separate question for an elected mayor, and one for an elected assembly?

As my hon. Friend the Minister for London and Construction made abundantly clear in a different context, the two questions proposed would not of themselves produce the form of government that we made a clear manifesto commitment to introduce to London.

One could indeed have the question, "Do you want a directly elected mayor?" and the question, "Do you want a directly elected assembly?" It would be entirely open to the electorate to vote yes or no to either or both. Our standpoint and what our manifesto made abundantly clear is that we are committed to a form of governance for London that comprises a mayor and an assembly.

The hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members have gone round and round in circles trying to find a form of words. As my hon. Friend the Minister for London and Construction said, the two questions could become three, the three could become six, the six nine, ad infinitum. As my hon. Friend said, it would be grossly irresponsible for a Government to propose a form of questioning that was not clear and concise, and that could not deliver a practical form of government.

We understand the position of those who advocate more than one question; but they cannot come up with a question that is clear, unambiguous and capable of arriving at a clear mandate and not resulting in unworkable options. We offer a clear proposition to the people of London, based on fully worked-out proposals in a White Paper.

The people of London will have a clear, unambiguous choice. If they vote yes, we will introduce legislation to implement our proposals. If they vote no, we will know that they do not want what we propose. It is as simple, open, clear and concise as that.

I hope that, despite the entreaties of Opposition Members, the other place will give the Bill a swift passage. That will be needed to enable us to proceed with the referendum as planned. As I said at the beginning of my speech, Londoners have already waited far too long—11 long years. We hope that the other place will not take any steps that will make them have to wait any longer. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 176, Noes 324.

Division No. 99]

[7 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Burstow, Paul
Allan, RichardButterfill, John
Amess, DavidCable, Dr Vincent
Arbuthnot, JamesCampbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyCash, William
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, NormanChope, Christopher
Baldry, TonyClappison, James
Ballard, Mrs JackieClark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Beith, Rt Hon A JClarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, JohnClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Beresford, Sir PaulCollins, Tim
Blunt, CrispinCormack, Sir Patrick
Body, Sir RichardCotter, Brian
Boswell, TimDavey, Edward (Kingston)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaDavis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Brady, GrahamDorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Brake, TomDuncan, Alan
Brand, Dr PeterEmery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Brazier, JulianEvans, Nigel
Breed, ColinFaber, David
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterFabricant, Michael
Browning, Mrs AngelaFallon, Michael
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Fearn, Ronnie
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Flight, Howard
Burnett, JohnForth, Rt Hon Eric

Foster, Don (Bath)Moss, Malcolm
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanNicholls, Patrick
Fox, Dr LiamNorman, Archie
Fraser, ChristopherOttaway, Richard
Gale, RogerPage, Richard
Gibb, NickPaice, James
Gill, ChristopherPaterson, Owen
Gillan, Mrs CherylPickles, Eric
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir AlastairPrior, David
Gorrie, DonaldRandall, John
Greenway, JohnRedwood, Rt Hon John
Grieve, DominicRendel, David
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Hague, Rt Hon WilliamRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieRowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Hammond, PhilipRuffley, David
Hancock, MikeRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Harris, Dr EvanSt Aubyn, Nick
Harvey, NickSanders, Adrian
Hawkins, NickSayeed, Jonathan
Heald, OliverShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Heath, Rt Hon Sir EdwardShepherd, Richard
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon DavidSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasSmith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Horam, JohnSoames, Nicholas
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Spicer, Sir Michael
Hunter, AndrewSpring, Richard
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Steen, Anthony
Jenkin, BernardStreeter, Gary
Johnson Smith,Stunell, Andrew
Rt Hon Sir GeoffreySwayne, Desmond
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Syms, Robert
Keetch, PaulTapsell, Sir Peter
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Key, RobertTaylor, John M (Solihull)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Taylor, Sir Teddy
Kirkbride, Miss JulieTonge, Dr Jenny
Laing, Mrs EleanorTredinnick, David
Lait, Mrs JacquiTyler, Paul
Lansley, AndrewTyrie, Andrew
Leigh, EdwardWallace, James
Letwin, OliverWalter, Robert
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Wardle, Charles
Lidington, DavidWaterson, Nigel
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Webb, Steve
Loughton, TimWells, Bowen
Luff, PeterWhitney, Sir Raymond
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasWhittingdale, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
McIntosh, Miss AnneWilkinson, John
MacKay, AndrewWilletts, David
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidWillis, Phil
McLoughlin, PatrickWilshire, David
Madel, Sir DavidWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Major, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Malins, HumfreyYeo, Tim
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa

Tellers for the Ayes:

Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)

Mr. James Cran and Mr. Stephen Day.

Moore, Michael


Abbott, Ms DianeAustin, John
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Barnes, Harry
Ainger, NickBarron, Kevin
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Battle, John
Alexander, DouglasBayley, Hugh
Allen, GrahamBeard, Nigel
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Begg, Miss Anne
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Bennett, Andrew F
Armstrong, Ms HilaryBenton, Joe
Ashton, JoeBermingham, Gerald
Atherton, Ms CandyBerry, Roger

Best, HaroldEfford, Clive
Betts, CliveEllman, Mrs Louise
Blackman, LizEnnis, Jeff
Blizzard, BobField, Rt Hon Frank
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidFitzpatrick, Jim
Boateng, PaulFitzsimons, Lorna
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Flint, Caroline
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Follett, Barbara
Brinton, Mrs HelenFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Browne, DesmondGalbraith, Sam
Buck, Ms KarenGalloway, George
Burden, RichardGapes, Mike
Burgon, ColinGardiner, Barry
Butler, Mrs ChristineGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
Byers, StephenGerrard, Neil
Caborn, RichardGibson, Dr Ian
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Godman, Norman A
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Godsiff, Roger
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell-Savours, DaleGordon, Mrs Eileen
Canavan, DennisGrant, Bernie
Cann, JamieGriffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Caplin, IvorGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Casale, RogerGrocott, Bruce
Cawsey, IanGrogan, John
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Gunnell, John
Chaytor, DavidHain, Peter
Chisholm, MalcolmHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Church, Ms JudithHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clapham, MichaelHanson, David
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clark, Dr LyndaHealey, John

(Edinburgh Pentlands)

Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hepburn, Stephen
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Heppell, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hesford, Stephen
Clwyd, AnnHill, Keith
Coaker, VernonHinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ms AnnHome Robertson, John
Coleman, IainHoon, Geoffrey
Colman, TonyHope, Phil
Connarty, MichaelHopkins, Kelvin
Corbyn, JeremyHowarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corston, Ms JeanHoyle, Lindsay
Cousins, JimHughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cox, TomHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cranston, RossHumble, Mrs Joan
Crausby, DavidHurst, Alan
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Hutton, John
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Iddon, Dr Brian
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland)Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairJamieson, David
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Jenkins, Brian
Davidson, IanJohnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dawson, HiltonJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dean, Mrs JanetJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Denham, John
Dismore, AndrewJones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dobbin, JimJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankKeeble, Ms Sally
Donohoe, Brian HKeen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Doran, FrankKeen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dowd, JimKelly, Ms Ruth
Drew, DavidKemp, Fraser
Drown, Ms JuliaKidney, David
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethKilfoyle, Peter
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Edwards, HuwKingham, Ms Tess

Kumar, Dr AshokQuinn, Lawrie
Lawrence, Ms JackieRapson, Syd
Laxton, BobRaynsford, Nick
Lepper, DavidReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Leslie, ChristopherRobertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Livingstone, KenRoche, Mrs Barbara
Lock, DavidRooker, Jeff
Love, AndrewRooney, Terry
McAllion, JohnRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAvoy, ThomasRowlands, Ted
McCabe, SteveRoy, Frank
McCafferty, Ms ChrisRuddock, Ms Joan
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McDonagh, SiobhainRyan, Ms Joan
Macdonald, CalumSalter, Martin
McFall, JohnSavidge, Malcolm
McIsaac, ShonaSawford, Phil
McKenna, Mrs RosemarySedgemore, Brian
Mackinlay, AndrewShaw, Jonathan
McNulty, TonySheerman, Barry
MacShane, DenisSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mactaggart, FionaSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWalter, TonySingh, Marsha
McWilliam, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Mahon, Mrs AliceSmith, Angela (Basildon)
Mallaber, JudySmith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marek, Dr JohnSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Marshall-Andrews, RobertSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martlew, EricSoley, Clive
Maxton, JohnSouthworth, Ms Helen
Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelSpellar, John
Meale, AlanSquire, Ms Rachel
Merron, GillianStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Michael, AlunSteinberg, Gerry
Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)Stevenson, George
Milburn, AlanStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Miller, AndrewStinchcombe, Paul
Moffatt, LauraStoate, Dr Howard
Moonie, Dr LewisStott, Roger
Moran, Ms MargaretStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)Stringer, Graham
Morley, ElliotStuart, Ms Gisela
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mountford, KaliTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mudie, George
Mullin, ChrisTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Temple-Morris, Peter
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)Timms, Stephen
Naysmith, Dr DougTipping, Paddy
Norris, DanTodd, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Touhig, Don
O'Hara, EddieTrickett, Jon
Olner, BillTruswell, Paul
Organ, Mrs DianaTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Osborne, Ms SandraTurner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Pearson, IanTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Pendry, TomTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Perham, Ms LindaTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Pickthall, ColinVaz, Keith
Pike, Peter LVis, Dr Rudi
Plaskitt, JamesWalley, Ms Joan
Pollard, KerryWatts, David
Pond, ChrisWhite, Brian
Pope, GregWhitehead, Dr Alan
Powell, Sir RaymondWicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Primarolo, DawnWinnick, David
Prosser, GwynWise, Audrey
Quin, Ms JoyceWood, Mike

Worthington, TonyWyatt, Derek
Wray, James

Tellers for the Noes:

Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Mr. David Clelland and Mr. Jon Owen Jones.

Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.