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House of Commons Hansard
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Regional Select Committee (London)
05 November 2009
Volume 498

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That Ms Karen Buck, Jeremy Corbyn, Clive Efford, Siobhain McDonagh and Mr Andy Slaughter be members of the London Regional Select Committee.—(Mary Creagh.)

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I wish to raise some objections to this motion. The House first considered the matter back in June, and at the time there was a wide-ranging debate involving Members from all parties. Many MPs expressed concerns about the creation of the London Regional Select Committee and the impact that it might have on London’s devolved settlement, which is of course so very important to Londoners. Many Members were surprised that, having debated the issue in Parliament, it apparently disappeared from view for so many months. We kept an eye out to see what progress Ministers would make, and the Leader of the House was at the Dispatch Box to tell the Members in the Chamber on the day that we debated it how important she felt it would be in addressing what she called an “accountability gap” in London issues. Yet here we are, almost six months later, after no real progress and, all of a sudden the motion is brought before the House with no chance to debate it further.

So I want to take some time this evening once again to talk about the concerns that Opposition Members had. We were worried that the London Regional Select Committee would cost money. It is money that we as taxpayers should be saving or putting into supporting some of the many small businesses throughout London that are struggling to survive—particularly those that have been hit by the withdrawal of transitional relief in this year’s rate bills, and those that are concerned about rises in next year’s bills.

We also believe that there are better, more cost-effective alternatives to the Committee. One suggestion that I made to the Leader of the House, and which she never thoroughly addressed, was the possibility of creating London questions. London is one of a number of United Kingdom regions that have devolved government. Wales has its Wales questions and Scotland has its Scotland questions, but here in London we cannot have London questions. A London question session would be an opportunity for all London MPs to ask questions, whereas a London Regional Select Committee would be necessarily a much smaller group of London MPs, excluding other Members who would no doubt wish to be part of it. When we raised the issue back in June, the Government gave us no assurances that the Members on the Committee would even be London Members representing London communities, which I am sure you can imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was a real concern for us.

There is no evidence that existing Select Committees do not look at London issues. If we look at the work that they have done over the past several years, we find that they have absolutely looked at London issues. The Select Committee on Transport has produced a report on the London congestion charge and the performance of London Underground; the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has produced excellent and interesting reports on the London Olympics; the Select Committee on Education and Skills, when it existed, produced a report on skills in London; and I am sure that many Members will remember that only this year the Select Committee on Home Affairs produced a report on counter-terrorism and community relations in the aftermath of the London bombings. Select Committees have every ability to conduct positive and useful inquiries.

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I have listened to the hon. Lady with a great deal of interest, but what is she afraid of? She has called for the opportunity to ask questions on London, but she does not want the opportunity to cross-examine people who provide essential services to the people whom we represent. Surely that would be far more effective than a question-and-answer session.

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The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. However, surely that is the role of the London Assembly. He seems to have forgotten its existence, yet it was his Government who brought in the devolution settlement. If there are concerns about the accountability of the London Mayor, we should be strengthening the ability of the London Assembly to hold him to account. Instead, the Government have come up with an entirely spurious way of doing it—

Debate adjourned (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Debate to be resumed on Monday 9 November.