Local Authorities (Conduct of Referendums) (England) Regulations 2012
City of Wakefield (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Bristol (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Bradford (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Manchester (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Sheffield (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Nottingham (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Leeds (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Birmingham (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Liverpool (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
City of Coventry (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012
Motion to Refer to Grand Committee
My Lords, we are being asked to approve en bloc 11 Motions relating to individual cities in the United Kingdom and to agree that they should be sent to Grand Committee. I will certainly not go into the merits of directly elected mayors. Although I am opposed to them, obviously I acknowledge that they were introduced under the previous Government. Surely the fact that it is the Leader who is proposing that the orders should go to Grand Committee—that is relatively unusual; it would normally come from the departmental Minister—is an acknowledgement of what I believe to be the case: namely, that this is a fairly significant constitutional change affecting the way in which our country is run. Eleven major cities are to hold referenda on the future structure of their local government. That alone ought to justify my request that the usual channels consider whether it is proper that this should be debated in Grand Committee or whether constitutional issues of this sort should be debated on the Floor of the House.
Individually, the orders may not be of tremendous interest to all noble Lords across the House; but collectively, all the cities represent a big proportion of the population of the country. In terms of public expenditure at this time, I would imagine that if I knocked on 100 doors in the West Midlands, where I live, and asked people whether it was a good idea to spend a fair bit of money on a referendum on the structure of their local government, the answer would probably be a universal no. We should air these issues on the Floor of the House and not in Grand Committee, and I appeal to the noble Lord to reconsider this. I am not asking noble Lords to vote on it, but perhaps the noble Lord would reconsider it in the spirit of Christmas that we keep referring to. Could he just once say yes to me?
My Lords, why are the Government so keen on all these referendums on the comparatively minor matter of who becomes the mayor in these cities while they refuse a referendum on the far greater issue of whether we stay in the clutches of the corrupt octopus in Brussels or leave them?
My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, it is entirely in keeping with normal practice that I as Leader of the House should move these Motions. Secondly, I would not have put them on the Order Paper unless they had been agreed with the usual channels with their wholehearted support. Thirdly—this is perhaps a point for the whole House to remember—although these Motions are debated in the Grand Committee, they come back to the House for agreement and they do not come into law until that time.
As for the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in the spirit of Christmas, it is always good to hear him. I hope he has a very quiet and restful time over the next two or three weeks, and if he wishes to have an even longer restful and quiet time, I am sure that would be appreciated by most of us, particularly those who work on European business.