Skip to main content

Finance (London)

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

5. What discussions the Government office for London has had with the (a) London Development Agency and (b) Greater London authority on finances. (188688)

Officials from the Government office for London have had discussions with the GLA and LDA on a range of financial issues, reflecting their responsibility for administering the Government’s block grants to those organisations.

Following the Deloitte report commissioned by the London assembly last summer, which revealed inadequate justification or accountability for much LDA spending on the initiative of the Mayor or his advisers, what steps has the Minister taken to ensure sufficient statutory safeguards to prevent misuse of public funds?

The hon. Gentleman will know that in 2005 the LDA took steps to strengthen its project management, delivery arrangements and scrutiny. He will also know that the LDA is accountable to the Mayor, and I hope that he will know that the London assembly is responsible for scrutiny. The Government office for London is responsible for administering the block grants to the GLA, but the checks and balances in relation to action by the Mayor clearly belong to the London assembly, and the LDA is accountable to the Mayor.

Is it not time for a full and transparent register of the interests of the Mayor’s advisers, so that we can put an end to the scandal by which large sums of LDA money are transferred to groups or bodies with which it later transpires those advisers have some business connection?

The hon. Gentleman will know that on 15 February, Lee Jasper, to whom I presume he is referring, asked the Mayor to refer any allegations to the police, and was suspended by the Mayor. The hon. Gentleman will also know that five days later on 20 February the police stated that they would not be investigating, and no criminal allegations were reported. He is fully aware of that situation.

If on 1 May, nine weeks from now, London council tax payers form a view that the London Development Agency has not been properly managed, that money has been badly spent, that the audit trail is incomplete, and that there is no proper political accountability for the past four years, who should they hold to account? Is there not only one answer to that: the current Mayor of London?

The hon. Gentleman is correct that the best form of accountability is through democracy, and people will have the chance to vote on 1 May. It is interesting that when Michael Portillo was recently asked who he would vote for in the mayoral election, Ken or Boris, he said, “More choices, please”, so he will not be backing Boris. He also said that it would perhaps be rather good for the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) to lose the next election. He has experience of losing—

Speaking of endorsements for the London Mayor, the Secretary of State will know that the Prime Minister is refusing to endorse Ken Livingstone, and refers simply to the Labour administration at City Hall. It appears that the two have not met in public for some months now. Are the Government supporting Ken Livingstone for Mayor, or are they simply embarrassed by the fact that he is mired in sleaze and maladministration?

Order. We are going rather wide of the question. I will try Mr. Neill to see whether he can stay in order.

I will do my best, Mr. Speaker.

I am always happy to look the Secretary of State straight in the eye. I ask her to reflect on the fact that her suggestion that the issue is nothing to do with the Government really does not stack up, as they created the institutions in question. When they did so, they claimed that the Greater London authority would be a beacon of transparency and accountability. Would she like to explain what kind of beacon it is, and what kind of transparency it has, given that the Mayor’s adviser failed to register the fact that he is chairman of an organisation seeking a grant from the body that employs him, and given that the Mayor’s adviser sent an e-mail to an officer telling them to lay off an organisation that happens to be run by one of his associates? If that is transparency, will the Secretary of State not reflect on whether her beacon needs a new battery?

I ask the hon. Gentleman to raise his sights a little, although I would never accuse him of digging in the gutter. The GLA has the power to summon the Mayor and the LDA. It has the power to call for the disclosure of documents. It also has a new power for confirmatory hearings. The matter is serious. Do the Opposition really believe in decentralisation, devolution and scrutiny at the local level, which is what they talk about, or are they now saying that the issue is a matter for Government from the centre, not for the GLA? Just to make it clear, I will place on record that I think that Ken Livingstone has been an excellent Mayor for London. If we look at policy, there is congestion charging, better public transport, the Olympics and the regeneration of the city. It is an excellent record.