I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.
I am disappointed that the Bill has had to return to the House. Let me make one point crystal clear: the amendments carried in another place are wrecking amendments. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have revealed their true colours. They are embarrassed to admit their open opposition to the Government's plans for a new Greater London authority comprising a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly, because they know that this measure is hugely popular with the people of London.
Instead, they have done their utmost to wreck the Bill and delay the referendum. Most disreputably, they have depended on the votes of hereditary peers—who have never had to face an election—to carry amendments that threaten to delay or disrupt the Government's plans to restore democratic citywide government to the people of London.
I entirely accept that any hereditary peer can stand and vote in local government elections. However, they cannot stand in an election for national Government, and have not done so. They owe their positions in the other place not to any electoral process, but to heredity.
The hon. Gentleman reinforces my point. The fact that hereditary peers sit in the other place is solely because of an accident of birth—in some cases, a rather disreputable accident of birth. They may be able to stand in other elections, but their place in Parliament—and their entitlement to pass amendments that wreck the Government's manifesto pledges—owes nothing to the process of election.
I am sure that the Minister does not want to mislead the House, so he will have looked at the voting lists from the upper House. The majority of people voting are not hereditary peers, but life peers, including many Labour Front Benchers who were put there by the Prime Minister. Is the hon. Gentleman authorised to attack those people so disgracefully?
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that question, as I can now give him the precise voting figures in the two relevant Divisions. That will make my point, and he may regret making that intervention.
On 13 January, in the Division on the first amendment, 128 peers were content with the amendment, of whom 63 were life peers and 65 were hereditary peers. Of those not content—in other words, those who supported the Government—there were 122, of whom 101 were life peers and 21 were hereditary peers. Therefore, excluding the hereditary peers, the Government would have had a majority of 38, and the Bill would not have been amended.
The hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) makes the point for me, and, if he wants, I shall give him the voting figures from the second Division. On 29 January, when a second wrecking amendment was made on Report, 111 peers voted content, of whom 52 were life peers and 59 were hereditary peers. The not contents—those who supported the Government line—totalled 104, of whom 90 were life peers and only 14 were hereditary peers.
Again, if the vote had been decided by those people who were there as a result of something other than the right of heredity, there would have been no question of the outcome—the Government's position would have been supported. The Opposition triumphed only through the votes of the hereditary peers, and the Liberal Democrats in particular should be ashamed of relying on hereditary, unelected peers.
I am delighted to answer the right hon. Gentleman's point; it will enable me to remind him of the strange antics that occurred in the other place after the first vote.
The Conservative Chief Whip looked embarrassed that the Opposition had won, and expressed concern that they had won a Division that they did not intend to win. The Conservative party had to camouflage that, and pretended, most extraordinarily, that the victory was entirely owing to the Government's failure to muster all their supporters. Has anyone ever heard a more fatuous story? The Conservative party won the vote that it did not intend to win and then blamed the other side. What ridiculous nonsense—it says much about the Opposition.
The Minister skirts around the issue wonderfully, but will he now answer the question? Is it not the case that his side did not turn up? He should get on with the debate rather than make all these rather pathetic excuses for the fact that the Government lost.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows only too well, 101 life peers voted for the Government and only 63 voted for the Opposition, which shows that the Government had a true majority among those people who were there other than through heredity. He says that I linger on this issue, but he should be talking to the hon. Member for South Dorset, who raised the issue—I was simply answering his question. The fact that the Opposition find it embarrassing to hear us answering their questions shows how confused they are.
I am amazed tonight, as I have been over the past few weeks, that the Government think that that is a strong point. If they were a radical Government, they would have done something about hereditary peers in their first Queen's Speech, and not have dilly-dallied for so long.
Moreover, some of us resent the idea that Prime Ministers send people to legislate as much as we resent the idea that people should legislate because of their birth. The Bill is about whether decisions should be made by elected representatives or by 10 Downing street. Liberal Democrats would rather the decisions were made in the House of Commons than in 10 Downing street. The life peers were put in the other place by 10 Downing street, not by the elected representatives of the people.
I will be happy, Mr. Lord, to return to the amendments, but I cannot fail to note the way in which the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) enjoys so much the result of the votes in the other place in which his party depended on the hereditary peers to carry amendments it supported—particularly when he himself told this House that he did not agree with one of those propositions. His own party in the other place took a different view—that is typical of the Liberal Democrats. They do not know what they are saying.
I remind the hon. Gentleman what he said on 19 November:
The Liberal Democrats take a different view from that of the Conservative party. We are not arguing that it is possible to produce the Bill before we have the referendum".—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 383.]
His counterpart in the other place had an entirely different point of view in the debate in the other House.
I have dealt with that sufficiently, and I shall continue with the matters that you, Mr. Lord, would like me to focus on. Inevitably, the first amendment passed in the other place would delay the referendum. It would simply not be possible to draft a Bill—a massive undertaking—for publication at least eight weeks in advance of the referendum, scheduled for 7 May. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey agreed with that two months ago. He has probably forgotten that, such is the strange way in which the Liberal Democrats operate.
We are committed to setting out the Government's proposals in clear terms. We will do that in the White Paper, as we have always said. We will make this available to the people of London, but we could not prepare a full Bill covering every aspect in advance of 7 May. Delaying the referendum would add £2 million to £3 million to the cost, as we would no longer be able to make savings by combining the referendum with the local elections on 7 May. That would be a needless waste of public money. If Opposition Members vote in support of the amendment, they must recognise that they are revealing that they are spendthrift with public money, and are prepared to contemplate wasting £2 million to £3 million.
The other side of the coin is that the Government are proposing to create a Greater London authority and a mayor; a system that they will wish to last for some considerable time—decades, perhaps 100 years. Surely a little more time to produce a draft Bill so that the people of London know what they are voting for is far more rational and a better use of public money than the Government's rushed proposals.
The hon. Gentleman obviously does not know the timetable and the consultation that the Government have been through. We published our proposals in our manifesto less than a year ago. We then published a Green Paper in July which was circulated widely, and we published a summary version to ensure the widest possible availability of information about our proposals. I have spoken at a huge number of meetings involving organisations all around London. We have canvassed the views of Londoners and listened carefully to their responses. We are now framing proposals which will be made available to the people of London in a White Paper. That White Paper—
No: I am answering the hon. Gentleman's question. If he bears with me, he will hear the answer.
The White Paper will set out in clear language the Government's proposals—all the details. A summary version will be made available and circulated to every household in London. By that means, we will provide in clear English an explanation of the Government's proposals to help the people of London to reach an informed judgment. If the hon. Gentleman really believes that presenting a Bill—written, of necessity, in legal language—will help the process, I have to tell him that he is living on another planet.
Under the previous Government, the Labour party was delighted when, on occasion, draft Bills were published. The thinking behind that was to provide not the broad outline, but the details. Having lived under the GLC—whatever its political complexion—as a member of a borough council, I can say that it was important to be able to examine the details. The details will be the key to the relationship between the GLA, the mayor and the boroughs.
I have given a clear undertaking to the hon. Gentleman and to the House on many occasions that we will publish the full details in a White Paper written in clear English.
Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of the kind of language which is, of necessity, used in legislation of this type. I quote from the London Government Act 1963, which brought into being the GLC and the structure of the London boroughs. Clause 4 states:
Subject to any provision to the contrary effect made by, or by any instrument made under, this Act or any other Act passed during the same session as this Act (and in particular any provision conferring functions on the Greater London Council), and without prejudice to any express provision so made, the provisions of this section (being provisions designed to confer on the councils of London boroughs as respects their boroughs and on the Common Council as respects the City the functions exercisable by the councils of county boroughs as respects their boroughs or by the existing London county council as respects the metropolitan boroughs or, as the case may be, the City) shall have effect as from 1st April 1965 as respects any enactment (hereafter in this section referred to as an 'existing enactment') contained in any public general Act passed before this Act or in any other such Act passed during the same session as this Act.
That was simply one clause. I honestly challenge the hon. Gentleman to tell me how publication of such material is likely to improve the debate about points of principle which will be clearly set out in the White Paper.
I recognise the complexity, and I did so when I was a borough councillor—although, in my profession, I can count to 32 and not much further, because I run out of teeth to count on. The local authorities are deadly concerned about this, and will be employing lawyers to look at and translate the measure to give them the ifs, ands and buts. They will have an influence on the voting public. Their opinion will be listened to, so the Bill would be of use to them.
The hon. Gentleman, as always, is wrong. He entirely fails to understand that the Government have consulted in detail about this issue. We have prepared a consultation paper, and we have consulted widely among the people of London. We are committed to publishing a White Paper and to circulating to every household in London a summary version outlining all the details in the Government's proposals. It is truly ludicrous of the hon. Gentleman to cast any doubt on the Government's commitment to consult and to provide information to the people of London. We have made it clear that we are committed to informing people—that is part of our programme.
A requirement to publish a Bill before the referendum would mean unnecessary complications, and would delay the referendum. It would add to the costs of the referendum, and would do little to assist Londoners in assessing the substance of our proposals. In pressing the amendment, the Opposition are seeking to deny the people of London the opportunity to vote on their future.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the amendment is that it is not even consistent with the other amendment carried in the other place. The other amendment proposes to establish a two-question referendum, and would transform the referendum from being a test of assent to a given proposition into a very different consultative exercise on different options. If a Bill had to be published setting out the separate options—as implied by the second amendment—that would add to the complexity of the Bill and the time required to draft it.
The amendments pull in completely opposite directions. One supposedly seeks greater certainty about what is on offer; the other deliberately introduces uncertainty by seeking to test opinion on different options. Together, they are designed to destroy a clearly set out commitment by the Government in our manifesto to implement proposals for a directly elected authority for London, which should comprise two separately elected elements—a mayor and an assembly—and to test that proposition with the people of London.
The hon. Gentleman questions our commitment to testing the opinion of Londoners. We have said clearly that we will test the opinion of Londoners, and we will do so in the most sensible and cost-effective way, at a time when the people of London are already going to the polls. In that way, there will be no need to organise a separate referendum on another occasion at the extra cost of £2 million to £3 million. The hon. Gentleman obviously cannot recognise the need for economy and the common sense of holding a referendum on the same date as the borough council elections.
No. I have given way already to the hon. Gentleman, and I am about to conclude. The amendments seek to undermine and destroy a clear Government manifesto commitment. They are wrecking amendments, and I have no hesitation in urging the House to reverse them.
The Minister has spoken for some time on the amendment. I do not object to that, because it is an important subject. He made much of the position of the House of Lords, the unelected hereditary peers and their impertinence in intervening in the debate. I notice that Labour Members were not quite so free with their condemnation when the House of Lords defeated Mr. Murdoch on the issue of his press empire and competition. According to others in the press, some Labour Members may take advantage of that amendment at a later stage.
I would be delighted to name them, but the Labour Whip is probably better placed to do so.
The Minister must accept that a second chamber will, from time to time, say no, and will allow the Government the opportunity to think again. That is not a constitutional challenge, but the entirely legitimate role of a second chamber. The trouble with the Government is that they are not prepared to consider any arguments used against them, even when they are clearly in the wrong. That was clear from the passage of the Bill through the House, let alone its progress in the other place.
In the case of the amendment, there is no reason why anyone should talk of constitutional threats. The Government lost by 118 votes to 122 votes at 3.45 in the afternoon. They could have won, but they failed to get their vote out. They did not get the support of their side. For example, where was Lord Hattersley, who had only recently been made a working peer? I could hazard a guess.
I am told by those who know in the other place that 52 Labour peers failed to vote, including three Ministers. If that is so, the Minister should ask the forgiveness of the House. The real problem, which the Minister touched on, was that the Government expected the Liberal Democrats to support them. [Interruption.] Well, expectations are free, but—to give the Minister his due—there was some substance in that expectation.
When the issue at the heart of the amendment—the need to publish the Bill before the referendum—was debated in Committee in the House, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that he was opposed to it. He said:
The Liberal Democrats take a different view from that of the Conservative party. We are not arguing that it is possible to produce the Bill before we have the referendum".—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 383.]
However, when the issue was discussed by the Lords, the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Baroness Hamwee, said that, ideally, the referendum would take place after a Bill had passed through both Houses of Parliament. She said that she did not intend to argue for that to happen, but she proposed an amendment that would have meant that the Bill would have at least been published before the referendum. It was in that state of total indecision that the Liberal Democrats bravely decided to abstain. The result was that the Government lost the vote. That is the true history of the proceedings.
The significance of the Government's defeat goes wider. Although it has not been announced, representatives of the Liberal Democrats and Ministers of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions form a small committee on local government. The plot gets thicker.
Thus, on Thursday 15 January, the second meeting of that committee took place. I understand that it was attended, from the Liberal Democrats, by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and by the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan), who had chosen that dark room in which to lie down and take the tablets—as he was once famously directed to do by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke).
On the other side of the table was the Minister for London and Construction, supported by three civil servants. Unsurprisingly, the Minister was miffed. He pointed out that, in the Commons, the Liberal Democrats had not supported an amendment seeking the publication of a Bill before the referendum, but that in the Lords they had abstained on the issue, leading to the Government's defeat. The defence offered to that charge by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey was that the Liberal Democrats had not expected the amendment to be passed, and that was why they had abstained. They got it wrong.
Far from the success of the amendment being a constitutional issue of real importance, it was nothing of the sort. It was a Government cock-up. They were let down by their Liberal Democrat allies, and nothing could be less surprising. The Liberal Democrats are in danger of giving indecision a bad name.
Even more curious is their role in opposition. Periodically, they burst from cover proclaiming that they are the real Opposition, normally on the basis of the number of written questions that they have tabled. Most hon. Members would not regard that as the acid test. We now find that the Liberal Democrats are in cosy discussions with the Government all the time. In his relationship with the Government, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, far from being the Lloyd George of the first world war, is more like the Marshal Main of the second world war.
Lady Hamwee had more sense than the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. That may not be difficult, but it is worthy of some attention, because she was right when she said that, ideally, a referendum should take place after a Bill covering the substantive proposals had been thoroughly scrutinised by both Houses of Parliament. I am sure that the Minister himself will confirm that that is precisely the case that we have made throughout.
The Government have chosen to hold a referendum. That is their choice. It follows that the referendum should be held only when the electorate are in the best position to judge. It should be held when the people know exactly what they will get. Therefore, it should be held after the legislation has been debated and decided on by Parliament. If we are to have referendums, that is how the Conservatives believe they should be approached.
The Government cannot even claim that the referendum is a permanent part of their approach to local government. They have decided on a referendum for London, but they have not done so for the so-called executive mayors of whom the Government have made so much in the past few days. There will be no referendum for executive mayors if they are proposed in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool or any other town or borough, because the legislation does not allow for it.
Where do the provisions that the Government have been making so much of, such as executive mayors and cabinets, come from? Ironically, they do not come from the Government. It is not Government legislation, but a private Member's Bill, introduced by one of his Lordships in the House of Lords. That is the Bill that the Government are relying on, and they trumpet that it is going to be a revolutionary change to local government. They say that provisions for a referendum would unacceptably increase the size of the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman was rather churlish about the Bill being proposed in the other place by Lord Hunt. Does he accept that it was reasonable for a Government interested in encouraging democratic innovation in local government to build on the recommendations of the all-party group chaired by Lord Hunt, which received the support of all parties in the upper House, and to accept the Bill that he drafted based on the recommendations as a sensible basis for continuing? Is that not a good and sensible way for any Government interested in reform to proceed?
No, I would not accept that. Something as profound—that is not my view but that of the Minister—as the proposals to reform local government should be in a Government Bill. The Government should take it through. It should go through Committee and have proper scrutiny.
Perhaps the Minister for Transport in London will tell us what that proper scrutiny will be. With a private Member's Bill coming from the Lords, it is anything but clear what scrutiny there will be. We are dealing with profound changes. There will be executive mayors in boroughs, cabinets and inner cabinets. There is no provision for a referendum. I want the hon. Lady to give some idea what scrutiny the House of Commons will be able to give that legislation. We are not prepared to nod it through on a Friday afternoon, if that is what the Minister for London and Construction thinks.
Ideally, a referendum should follow the passing of legislation. It is only then that Parliament will have decided on the position. A White Paper is no more than a statement of intent. Much of the devil will be in the Bill's detail. I stress that the amendment that the Lords passed did not ask for the legislation to be passed before a referendum took place. All it asked for was for the Bill to be published. It is a very modest proposition, but one that would have value for the public.
The Government have promised a White Paper, but we do not know how much detail it will include. The Green Paper is little more than a series of generalisations, together with no fewer than 62 questions to the public. We do not know whether all those questions will be answered in the White Paper.
Will we have enough information on the proposed electoral system? What will be the position on constituencies? What will be the exact functions of the new assembly and mayor? Will the police authority for the Metropolitan police have a majority of elected members from the new Greater London Authority? What will be the exact pay of the mayor and assembly members? Should assembly members be paid at all?
Those issues will doubtless be dealt with generally, and in some cases particularly, in the White Paper but anyone with experience of dealing with legislation in this House knows that there is a vast difference between a White Paper and a published Bill in which one can see all the details.
I want to help the hon. Gentleman. Rather than having him continue to ask such questions at considerable length, I remind him of our earlier debates, in which I gave clear undertakings that we will publish a full White Paper setting out in detail the Government's conclusions on the issues that he raised.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a great discourtesy to the House for the Minister to keep referring to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) as "the hon. Member"? The Minister has been here long enough. Surely he could learn the distinction between honourable and right honourable.
I regret that, in the course of my intervention, I failed to observe the normal courtesy. It was in no way disrespectful to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), but a result of my wish to concentrate on the key point that I was making.
The Government have already given clear undertakings that the White Paper will set out in detail and in plain English all the key issues about structures, powers, the method of election and the operation of the Greater London authority that the people of London will need to know about to reach a judgment. Is that not a sensible way to proceed?
No. It is better than the Green Paper, but the devil is in the detail. One must see the Bill. Everyone understands that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] It is a pity. I know that it is terribly unfashionable for Ministers to want to be held to account, but that is the only way that we can hold people to account. It is the only way for proper scrutiny to take place so that the public can make a judgment.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way for the third time, which will be the last time that I seek to intervene. If he believes that the path he outlines is the essential way forward, why did his Government, when it abolished the Greater London council, not publish any Bill in advance of abolition or allow any opportunity for the people of London to express their view through a referendum?
We have had this debate, and answered that point, before. We told the Minister about our manifesto commitment, the White Paper and the paving Bill. We also told him how it was evident to everyone apart from him and the Minister for Transport in London that, not only was there public resentment about the fact that the GLC was not working, but that the other metropolitan authorities were also not working.
The Minister must remember that the other authorities, such as mine in the west midlands, were abolished at the same time. As a constituency Member, I had precisely two letters of complaint about the abolition of the West Midlands county council, both from people who worked for it
We will doubtless be given generalised answers to some of our questions in the White Paper, but anyone with any interest in the matter wants to see the detail, the exact provisions, of what the Government propose. At present, the House and the public do not know what the provisions will be. Even would-be contenders for the job of mayor, such as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), do not know.
I do not want to be critical of the hon. Lady. We are very anxious that she should be Labour's candidate for mayor. We will give her all the help we can in that respect. If she can take with her the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), we would have the dream ticket. The point I put is that the White Paper will not provide the answers.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is especially important to see the text of a Bill that has constitutional implications? Constitution-making is a legal process. To see intentions in the White Paper is one thing, but to see the structure within which conflicts are to be resolved in legal terms is doubly important in constitution-making.
Absolutely. My hon. Friend, with his experience, is correct.
The amendment was a thoroughly sensible change for the House of Lords to make. If the Government had wanted to defeat it, they should have mobilised their voting strength. It cuts no ice now to complain about constitutional challenges. That is absurd, and it is recognised as absurd. The second chamber should not simply rubber-stamp without alteration every piece of legislation that comes from this House.
There is a case of real substance in the amendment. If there is to be a referendum, the public are entitled to the maximum amount of detailed information on which to make up their minds. So far, all that we have been offered is a Green Paper that asks 61 questions. We have now been given the promise of a White Paper that will give some generalised replies; but the acid test must be the published Bill itself.
The Government have decreed that the referendum will take place before the legislation comes to the House. We disagree with that as a matter of principle, but the very least that the Government can do is to publish the Bill in good time for the referendum, so that the public know what the position is and can decide.
We have heard a wide-ranging speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who has demolished the Government's case. I believe that Labour peers stayed away deliberately. I can understand Lord Hattersley not getting to the Division Lobby by 3.45 of an afternoon, but the other 51 ought to have been there. Of course, it suited the Government very well that they should not be, and it suited their Liberal collaborators as well, inasmuch as those parties wish to discredit the other place and find some rationale for their programme to abolish hereditary peerages.
The peers have done their job well. I shall seek to explain why. First, unlike the Minister for London and Construction, I believe that the additional cost of holding the referendum at a more appropriate time, after publication of the Bill, would be money extremely well spent because the electors of London would have time to judge the legislative proposals. If the recommendation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield were heeded, the Bill would have been passed by Parliament before the referendum, and the voters would know exactly what they would have to pay for. They would not be required to endorse a blank cheque, as they are under the Government's proposals. We are all well aware that a White Paper is binding on no one. The chances are that, when the Bill emerges from both Houses of Parliament, it will be very different in content and prescription from what the White Paper originally suggested.
The Government claim that they will save the people of London £2 million in May, but the people of London could be saved hundreds of millions of pounds if they were allowed to make a proper, informed judgment on the legislative proposals enacted by Parliament.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to my hon. Friend for interrupting his speech. I have just been to the Vote Office to get a copy of the consultation document on local democracy and community leadership in England, which I understand was published a few days ago. Copies were probably sent to our colleagues in London. Unfortunately, there are no copies of the document in the Vote Office now. The Vote Office has asked the Department responsible to rush copies over, but they have not arrived. Is it in order for the House to debate a matter to which a document is highly relevant when the document is not available and the Department has failed to produce it?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We accept your ruling, but can it be stated explicitly so that Ministers understand that the document has not been made available to hon. Members. I had to get in touch with the Deputy Prime Minister's office to get a copy. That is no way to treat the House of Commons. [Interruption.] If Ministers wish to display the arrogance that the Minister for Transport in London is displaying now, that is fine, but documents relevant to a debate on local government should be available.
The Government's proposals to ignore the Lords amendment put the people of London in double jeopardy. The campaign over the referendum will draw people's attention away from the key issue in London—how boroughs are governed. In the Evening Standard tonight there is an article about a social services inspectorate report. The headline is "New storm over abuse of children in care". It relates to Hillingdon borough council, a Labour-controlled council. It is clearly in dereliction of its duty to the children in care in that borough. The referendum campaign will be conducted during the borough election campaign. The electors of my borough will wish to focus on such local issues without distractions. The same will be the case in Hackney, where similar problems pertain, and in other boroughs where Labour has been in control.
The people of London will not have any time between 23 March, when the White Paper is to be published, and 7 May. As the Minister is well aware, that is the May holiday period. Many people will be away. It is just not right that proposals of such significance for London's future and potentially so costly to people should be so cursorily examined. If Parliament could go into the real details, as my right hon. Friend suggests, through the legislative procedures of both Houses, we could find out what the people of London would have to pay for. The White Paper may, for example, say in general terms how the Government hope that the Greater London authority will be financed, but the sums to be raised and the financial prescriptions will have to be laid out in the financial schedules of the legislation.
The Minister for Transport in London has an intense personal interest in these matters. One would have thought that the hon. Lady, who is such a keen potential candidate for mayor, would seek to have those matters brought before Londoners—but no. As with so many of the Government's proposals, the proposals are long on generality and short on detail, long on rhetoric and very short on practicalities. The people of London deserve better.
The voting system is of intense importance. My constituents live in Hillingdon, an outer London borough with particular problems associated with the green belt and London airport, and it is essential that there should be an electoral system that represents their local interests. Should the assembly be formed, there should be a borough representative on it. That may not be what transpires. I am sure that my constituents would vote for an assembly only if they knew and could be guaranteed that a form of representation would exist which secured their local interests in that authority.
All we know from the leaks from Peter Kellner in the Evening Standard and so on is that it is likely that there will be 14 elected members for all of London, and another 11 on a list. We can be no more certain of that, even if it is confirmed in the White Paper, unless it is also confirmed in a Bill passed by Parliament.
I am sure that the Minister for London and Construction would have kept the commitment to the House if the Government had simply published one copy of the White Paper, even if they then did not bother to send it to anyone else. Tonight's behaviour is typical of the Government. They have said that they have produced a Green Paper, but it is not available to all hon. Members, and is probably not even available to Labour Members, who have not sought to intervene in the debate. Surely we should get a commitment from the Government to make sure that the information is available.
It is only right that the House should be reminded that I gave a clear undertaking earlier in the debate—and I am sorry if the hon. Member for South Dorset, (Mr. Bruce) did not hear—that we would not just be publishing a White Paper, but circulating a summary version of it to every household in London.
I am glad of that important clarification, although it does not resolve the issue at the heart of the debate. I welcome the Minister's confirmation of his previous announcement, however.
My hon. Friend has referred to the electoral arrangements. I wonder whether he has noticed that the White Paper will almost certainly be published before the point at which, under the Bill, the Local Government Commission provides advice on those arrangements, whereas, necessarily, the Bill, when published, will have to implement that advice from the Local Government Commission. There is a difference of substance between the White Paper and the Bill on the question of the electoral arrangements.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) for raising that extremely important point. It may seem a detail to the Minister, who is chatting away to the prospective mayoral candidate from Hampstead and Highgate, but my hon. Friend has raised a matter of crucial importance. It demonstrates the way in which democracy is being defrauded in London.
The Minister said that the Government's proposal to overturn their lordships amendment was good for democracy and for common sense. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire has demolished the democracy argument, and I cannot see how it makes sense to press ahead with a referendum to confirm the proposals for a Greater London authority without the genuine endorsement of the electorate of London for those proposals.
Surely the Government want their proposals to endure and do not want them to be subsequently changed by successor Governments. Surely the Minister does not want a Greater London council abolition mark II to be inflicted on the Greater London authority. I imagine not. He would be much more likely to get the proposals right if the people of London were able to make a fully informed judgment of their validity.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire has mentioned the electoral system, which is germane to the argument. All we know about it—and again our source is Mr. Kellner, who has a good entree into Labour circles—is that there will be different systems for the mayoralty and for the assembly. We need this to be confirmed in legislation because, if the people of London are only to be offered one question, they will need to understand whether the assembly will have authority based upon an electoral system with which they agree for the election of both political personalities. They do not just want to be offered some conjectural or hypothetical proposition in a White Paper, which is subject to subsequent change. They want to know about the electoral system that the Government intend to propose. It is a matter of intense significance to the people of London, as is the question of the constituencies.
Without being too parochial, it is important to know in legislation the actual pattern of the constituencies. Will Hillingdon be one constituency with Harrow, Ealing or Hounslow, all of which are different, distinct communities, with different interests? The answer is of immense importance. It is no good for a White Paper just to say that there will be large constituencies combining five parliamentary constituencies or something of that kind, and for the boundary commissioners to be given the job of creating those constituencies. The people of London need to know much more precisely what geographical area their assemblymen will represent. Those are matters of intense interest.
The Government may say that the timing is inappropriate, but that is manifest nonsense, as are all their other arguments. The Government could still introduce the necessary Bill in the Queen's Speech for the next Session and allow it to be published, as the amendment suggests, eight weeks before a referendum. It could be perfectly possible to publish the White Paper on 23 March, giving the spring and the summer for a full consultation process and a debate on the White Paper in the House, followed by the publication of the Bill. It would be perfectly possible to do that in good time for a referendum in the autumn or thereabouts.
I do not accept any of the arguments that the Government have put to us and to the people of London. The people of London are being defrauded of their democratic entitlement to know exactly what are the legislative proposals that they will be called on to endorse in a referendum. It is all very well for the Government to use this issue as another means of mocking the democratic validity and judgment of the other place. In this particular case, their lordships House has done the people of London a signal service and it is thoroughly improper for the Government to pretend otherwise.
The Minister for London and Construction was remarkably partisan when he attempted to persuade the House to reject the amendment from another place. That was a pity, especially as it contrasted strikingly with the even-handed approach of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler). The Minister was partisan and somewhat petulant in his rejection of, and his constant interventions on, the reasonable and strongly democratic arguments made from the Conservative Benches.
We are debating something that is fundamental to London, to democracy and to the constitution. I should have thought that, given the history of London democracy and control, the Minister, of all people, with his concerns, would have wanted to foster at least some areas of consensus. There are areas of consensus—for example, regarding the mayor. Nevertheless, in my view, the hon. Gentleman went out of his way to present his objections to the Lords amendment in a particularly partisan and petulant way. I regret that. He would have had the House more on his side if he had been much more even-handed and fair in his approach to our arguments.
Has my hon. Friend noticed that Conservative Members keep being called to speak and that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are having difficulty in finding any Labour Member to support the Government's arguments? Is it not strange to see a Government Whip, the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), sitting among those silent Labour Members, ensuring that they do not intervene? Perhaps that tells us what Back Benchers really think of democracy and what their Ministers are trying to get up to.
Order. Far too many remarks are being bandied about the Chamber from both sides. I plead with Members now to listen in silence to the hon. Gentleman who is on his feet.
Both the charges that have been levelled against us are bogus. The Minister has been in the House long enough to know that "wrecking amendment" is a specific term, normally used of an amendment that is intended to get a Bill abandoned or sidetracked. It is not a question of inserting into a Bill a provision about the timetabling another Bill. Lords amendment No. 1 is in no sense a wrecking amendment. It would not even wreck the timetable of the Government's proposals or the critical path along which they must pass.
As the Minister knows, we could hold a referendum later in the year. It need not be held on 7 May; it could be held in June, July or August.
From a sedentary position, the Minister says that it costs money. But let us establish that the amendment is in no sense a wrecking amendment, and that the Minister's remarks were extravagant and went over the top. It is not meant in any sense to be a wrecking amendment. We do not mean to wreck the Bill; we merely mean, in a more democratic and more sensible way, to give the people of London the opportunity to express their views about a very important matter which could determine the government of London for years, indeed decades, to come.
If the Minister is going to use the argument that it would save money to hold a referendum on the day of the London borough elections on 7 May, may I point out that he could equally save money by not holding a referendum? The Government have chosen to hold a referendum, and it is better to get the details into the public domain, so that the people of London can make an informed choice in the referendum.
My hon. Friend is quite right.
The second argument that the Minister used was that the amendment would cost money. It is amazing for the Labour party to level at the Conservatives the charge that we are spendthrift—that was the word used. It is suggested that we are needlessly wasting Government money. In fact, about £2 million to £3 million is involved.
Why are the Government holding the referendum on 7 May? They are doing so because they wish to conceal the spending record of Labour councils in London. [Laughter.] Absolutely. In the current financial year, the average Labour council is spending at a rate 61 per cent. higher than the average Conservative council. I am citing figures for the whole country. The position in London, where we have these vastly expensive, practically bankrupt councils, must be even worse.
By accusing others of wanting to spend an extra £2 million to £3 million, the Government are trying to conceal the fact that Labour councils are recklessly spending millions and millions of pounds of council tax payer's and taxpayer's money. This is a subject for debate. My hon. Friend who spoke last, my hon. Friend the Member for—
My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) made the point that the people of London, in their boroughs, need to focus on the real issues; and the real issues are the comparative spending levels of Conservative councils and Labour councils.
I am sorry to say that the Liberals are in the same boat. The average Liberal council costs 44 per cent. more than a Conservative council. That shows the extent to which the Liberals are tarred with the same brush. That is the real issue that Londoners should be allowed to debate and focus on, not the ridiculous amount of £2 million to £3 million to hold a referendum on a separate date, when we could focus on the real issues.
However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir P. Beresford) said in one or two interventions, the real issue is that the Government are showing their lack of trust in parliamentarians and the people of London. There is a difference between a White Paper and a Bill. Hon. Members of long standing have seen the difference between a White Paper and a Bill. I do not make a partisan point here. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do.''] As a parliamentarian, I have often regretted the difference between a White Paper that has been brought to the House and a subsequent Bill. It is a fact of life, and we can no more trust the Government then we could any previous Government, Labour or Conservative, not to amend the detail of a Bill following a perfectly faithful representation in the House of what is in the White Paper.
The Minister tries to have it both ways by saying that the White Paper will have all the detail, but if it has all the details, he can publish the Bill. If it has all the details, there is no problem in publishing a Bill in due course. So he is really—
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will allow me to make this point. On Friday 30 January, the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Dafis) had published a great deal of information about the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill that he was introducing to the House. The Bill was not published until almost the day before it was debated, and we noticed that all the road traffic targets had been taken out.
I entirely agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The problem is that the Government are ignoring the very sensible and experienced views of Parliament in this respect. All Governments have changed Bills, sometimes as a consequence of genuine representations, and in some cases because they have got it wrong in a White Paper and wish to make amendments when the Bill is published. Quite apart from that, many details come up in the course of drafting legislation suitable for the House of Commons, which necessitate changes in the detail of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield is right about that. Prudence is wise in that respect. It is a pity, from the viewpoint, once again, of parliamentary rectitude and common sense, that we are taking this path.
If I may say so, as a London Member, who represents a constituency on the very edge of London, in Bromley, I have a particular concern—[Laughter.] I do not know what the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) is laughing about. [HON. MEMBERS: "But we do."] I am not surprised about that.
I wish that Orpington was not a part of London. Many of my constituents wish that we were still part of Kent. Perhaps there should be a third question in the referendum, in addition to the two that we are advocating, so that some of us could request to secede from London as we have it now. That would be very popular among my constituents.
In Orpington, being part of the borough of Bromley, which is obviously at the edge of London, we have specific anxieties about this approach, which we would wish to have aired. Many details that appear to be unsettled as yet—issues that worry councillors and other constituents in my area—would be resolved by the full publication of a Bill.
Take transport. The mayor will apparently be able to take action to implement Londonwide strategies, including transport policy. The role of the assembly will be to scrutinise the activities of other publicly funded London organisations, presumably including transport organisations. We should not forget the London development agency. That curious body is the third leg of that strange stool.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a particular difficulty in that the White Paper will be published in the week beginning 23 March but the Government's White Paper on integrated transport policy is not expected until late May or early June? The London Chamber of Commerce told us today that transport is the most important issue for business, yet the transport White Paper will be followed by the Bill and then the referendum.
The fact is that policy is evolving in many areas, including transport and health. A recent White Paper on health in London set out new proposals for allocating health expenditure in the capital. Those proposals must be stitched in with the Government's other proposals for London government. We must think more carefully about transport and health issues.
It is not simply that we have been promised an integrated transport policy in the near future, or that the London development agency, the mayor and the assembly have an interest in these matters, but the Government also have an interest.
Take, for example, the recent events concerning the channel tunnel rail link. I do not criticise the Government for what has happened; they followed their policy and they are now allowing various parties to come forward within 30 days to offer alternative proposals that may allow the project to succeed. I hope that it will succeed. Railtrack has produced an alternative proposal, which was canvassed widely in the press recently, whereby the project will be changed so that the link ends at the boundaries of London and proceeds on the old track. I am wholly hostile to that proposal, which misses the point of the original idea of a separate channel tunnel rail link.
I shall certainly apprehend your reasonable comments most carefully, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not pursue that point, but I believe that the Government should consider it carefully.
The three bodies proposed by the Government's legislation as well as the Government have responsibilities in this area. Policy is evolving in many fields, and health and transport have been mentioned. I think that it is right for the Government to give the House and the Opposition parties an opportunity to say what they think. The people of London should also have an idea of what the total package will be at the end of the day. At present, the policy is being revealed in dribs and drabs—in some cases via a White Paper, in others via a statement and, in this case, via a Bill before Parliament. That is extremely unsatisfactory. I hope that the Government will consider the matter more carefully and allow the amendment to stand.
While listening to the opening of the debate earlier this evening, I was rather struck by the mock rage expressed at what had occurred in the other place on the two amendments. I was reminded of the debate in this place during early stages of the Bill when the Minister at the Dispatch Box challenged the Liberal Democrats and the Opposition to come up with a two-question referendum that worked. As that has happened, it is hardly surprising that the legislation should return to this place.
It is hardly our fault if we rise to the challenge offered by the Minister and deliver on it in another place. We are here tonight because of that challenge. We would not need to be here if the Minister had allowed a similar amendment when the Bill was last before the House. The Liberal Democrats will take no criticism from the Minister about the importance of the role of the House of Lords. It is important that the points that we raised in the House are pursued and debated in another place.
It has been interesting to watch and listen to the debate. Until now, Opposition Members have bobbed up and down as though they had pins on their seats, and Government Members have appeared to be "Blutacked" to their seats. I look forward to hearing from Government Back Benchers whether they have questions for the Government on how the Greater London authority will work in practice. [Interruption.] As Labour Members remain stuck to their seat, they are willing to make only sedentary comments. Having wound them up, I shall now progress to other matters that may not make them any happier.
In a few months, the people of London will be asked to decide on the future of government in our city. Most Londoners want a citywide authority to tackle the challenges facing any world city. However, the debate about how the new government will work has barely begun. So far, it has been hijacked by debate about the personalities involved—even tonight, we have heard about the personalities who may be candidates in the election for mayor. Londoners face the prospect of two more years of debate about who governs London rather than how London will be governed—style over substance. However, the substance matters, and the Government must start to provide some answers to important questions.
The Liberal Democrats have sought at every stage of the Bill's passage to push the Government on two fronts. First, we want the Government to be more explicit about how their model of two in one—mayor and assembly in one authority—will work. Secondly, we have asked the Government to be more open about the final shape of London government. The Government should listen and let the people decide.
The Liberal Democrat position has been set out clearly: we oppose having a directly elected mayor. However, we have never sought to halt the passage of the Bill or to wreck it. We want to see a referendum accompanied by genuine debate about what form of government is right for the capital. We do not believe that power should be concentrated in the hands of one person: we prefer a cabinet model with an executive that is drawn from, and accountable to, the assembly.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be taking a little time to come to the point of the amendment. Does he support the view expressed by the hon. Member
for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) on 19 November? He said:
We are not arguing that it is possible to produce the Bill before we have the referendum".—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 383.]
Does the hon. Gentleman support the view expressed by Baroness Hamwee in another place? She suggested that the Bill
should be published at least six weeks before the date of the referendum".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 January 1998; Vol. 584, c. 941.]
The hon. Gentleman owes it to the House to explain his position.
I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention. I hope that he will at least acknowledge that the subjects I am addressing are germane to the debate about London government—a characteristic that was lacking in other contributions. My remarks will address his question directly, and I shall turn to them in my own good time.
I was about to say that the Lords amendment before the House is one of two that were debated. One was moved by my colleague Baroness Hamwee and the other was moved by Lord Bowness. As a result of the laxity of Labour Whips in another place, the second amendment was passed. Baroness Hamwee's amendment was intended to probe the Government's willingness to be more open about their proposals and how they would work.
During the debate—I have read the transcript, as I am sure the Minister has—the Minister replying to the debate on the amendment moved by Baroness Hamwee offered an assurance that there would be time to debate the White Paper in both Houses before the referendum. On that basis, my colleague withdrew the amendment. That is a perfectly reasonable position to adopt in Committee in the other place. It often happens in Committee in this place. It is hardly the fault of Liberal Democrats here or in the other place that Labour Whips in the other place were unable to get their act together and put seven more Labour peers through the Lobby to defeat the Conservatives.
In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) did not press his amendment and was assured by the Minister that the White Paper would be published in the week beginning 23 March, which would have allowed six or seven weeks for public debate before the referendum. We wanted a little longer than that, but we decided that the additional two weeks for which we were campaigning was not a large enough issue to prevent us from supporting the Government and we did not press amendments.
Neither the offer of a debate nor the commitment to publish the White Paper six weeks before the referendum is as much as we would like. However, they are improvements and that is why we reject the Lords amendment and shall vote against it. Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have sought to improve it and to encourage debate about the future governance of London. We are not trying to wreck the Bill. The Lords amendment would require the Government to publish the detailed Bill in advance of the referendum. That would have the consequences that Ministers have suggested, and that is why we do not support it.
The Government should practise what they preach. Some hon. Members seem to have been unable to obtain from the Vote Office the consultation paper that was issued on Monday by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. It is entitled "Modernising Local Government" and contains many fine words about the value and importance of consultation in shaping policy. When Labour embarked on its road to the manifesto process, its paper "A Voice for London" stated:
we aren't saying, 'This is it. Take it or leave it.' We have our ideas. But we recognise other people have good ideas too. It's really important that we get things right—that we come up with a London-wide authority that really works and really makes things better.
I agree, and that is why we want Londoners to be able to make an informed decision on 7 May. Electoral arrangements for the mayor and the assembly, which hon. Members have mentioned, their role and functions, where the GLA's powers will come from—will they be hoovered up from local government or drawn rather like teeth from Whitehall?—are important issues. In addition, we want to find out, and many people outside want to understand, how gridlock will be avoided.
Funding is an increasingly important issue. In an otherwise uncritical paper which was published by the Association of London Government last week, entitled "A Tale of Two Cities, the government of New York: Lessons for London", the authors Tony Travers and Gerry Stokes wrote—
I defer to the hon. Gentleman. That is the only occasion on which I will defer to him.
The authors of that document state:
The greatest doubts about the proposals for London remain around its fiscal and financial capacity. The Mayor of London will have much more than the Mayor of New York to look to higher levels of government for funding. The relationship between the Albany—capital of the state—and New York is not always comfortable. The proposed new arrangements for London may prove even more difficult for Whitehall given that the funding regime may give the Mayor little option but to look to central government for increased resources, backed by the votes of some 5 million Londoners.
Those are the words of independent assessors who generally support the Government's proposals. The disease that local government has at the moment—lack of financial independence—will afflict the GLA and without that independence everything else becomes secondary. That is why we say that London's budget must be for Londoners. The GLA must be as free as possible from interference.
On 26 November, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said:
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."—[Official Report, 26 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 990.]
That is a perfectly reasonable position, but it does not bear comparison with the action of Liberal Democrats in the other place. If they had supported that position—
The hon. Gentleman should make his own speech rather than seeking to contribute by way of an intervention. His question to me was answered when I replied earlier to an intervention by the Minister. If the hon. Gentleman does not accept that, perhaps he will take the opportunity to read and reflect on my speech in Hansard. If he does that, he will be happy to accept that I have dealt with the point and demonstrated that the debate in the other place on the amendment that was moved by my noble Friend the Baroness Hamwee enabled the issue to be discussed.
We secured an assurance from the Minister in the other place that there would be an opportunity for both Houses to debate the White Paper before the referendum. We sought that assurance, and when we received it we withdrew our amendment. It is hardly our fault if Labour Whips in the other place could not get their act together to deliver an additional seven votes to defeat the Conservatives. No amount of protest will dispose of that.
In that case, I shall refer the hon. Gentleman to the fact that my noble Friend made it absolutely clear that we did not wish to delay the referendum, but that the Government were seeking to provide a second-best solution. It is there in black and white, and it will completely reassure the hon. Gentleman.
Labour Members can obtain copies of the Lords Hansard. The hon. Member for Harrow, East has a copy with him and he will know that my response to his intervention was correct.
The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. My point was not about Baroness Hamwee's amendment but about the subsequent one. Logically, and in keeping with what the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said in this place, you would have voted against that. I do not want to hear any silly little noises about us getting our act together. Your logical and reasonable position—
I look forward to the hon. Gentleman expounding on that issue when he makes a speech later.
At the heart of the two amendments, one of which we shall not support, is the extent to which the Government are willing to be candid with the people of London about their detailed proposals. That is why we want the referendum in the form that is proposed by the Bill. We do not accept that a detailed Bill needs to be published, but we want to be sure that there is more than adequate time for the White Paper to be debated.
Progress so far on the debate about the GLA is rather like a candlelit dinner, at which there is a warm glow but not enough light for the diners to see what they are eating. Most Londoners feel positive about the proposal. They desire a new form of government for London but much unseen detail will prove harder for Londoners to swallow. Throughout the Bill's passage, Liberal Democrats have adopted a constructive approach. We have no doubt that London needs a strategic authority that is capable of leading the capital. The Government's aim should be to establish that new authority with as broad a base as possible. We think that that broad-based support is best achieved by an open debate about the precise form of government that Londoners—
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's comments on the Liberal Democrat position. Am I right to think that you believe that it is impossible to publish the Bill before a referendum on 7 May but that your—
I am falling into error, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will endeavour not to do so again.
Am I right in thinking that the Liberal Democrats believe that it is impossible to have publication of the Bill before the 7 May referendum, but that they took the view in the other place that to have the White Paper and the Bill together would be preferable? If the referendum were to take place on a later date, that would be possible.
If the referendum were to take place on a later date, that might prove possible, but we are committed to the idea that the referendum should take place on 7 May. Our position has been that the White Paper is enough. That is what we are proposing and it is what we supported when the Bill was considered in the House earlier. That is the position that we will stick to tonight.
We believe that the onus is on the Government to secure broad-based support. The best way to do that is through a full debate, not just in this place but in London as a whole. That is why the earlier the White Paper can be published, the better. The opportunity for a debate on the White Paper before the referendum is vital. I hope that we will hear some words of assurance from the Minister that the House will have an opportunity to debate the White Paper before the referendum. That is crucial.
If we do not have that debate, the people of London will not be as well informed as they could be, and hon. Members will feel let down by the Government. They have made much of consultation, especially recently with the publication of their consultation document.
We will be supporting the Government in voting against the Lords amendment and we will be supporting the amendment that was passed in the other place in respect of the two-vote referendum. With your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey will talk about that later.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. It is ironic that the Minister, although not his hon. Friends, should decry the intervention of the House of Lords in seeking to amend the Bill. We are told that he does that in the cause of democracy. As I understand it, in this place democracy is served not simply by voting, but by debate followed by a vote. Now that the Bill has returned to this House and it is our responsibility to debate the amendments, the Minister—he presented his case—is unsupported in debate by any arguments from his hon. Friends. It is only democratic if, when we vote, we do so on the basis of a debate. A debate entails the presentation of arguments on both sides. I hope that I will be pleasantly surprised by the presentation of arguments in support of the Minister. If not, one will be forced to wonder whether such arguments exist.
We do not want to debate the merits or otherwise of the other place having an opportunity to amend the Bill. However, with this amendment they have asked us to look again at a particular issue. It is clear that some of the best arguments in favour of the amendment would stand up to good examination, which takes us beyond the consideration that took place in Committee. There is merit in thinking again in this House and responding positively to the way in which the Lords have amended the Bill.
Labour Members might wonder why a Member representing South Cambridgeshire should take such an interest in Greater London matters. They will know that I did so during our earlier consideration of the Bill. I do so because many of my constituents work in London.
Also, I believe that there is some precedent in the way in which we deal with these matters in London—in the establishment of a tier of regional government—and the way in which the Government might choose to dispose of the issues relating to regional government elsewhere in the country. I would be loth to allow the Government to proceed in a certain way in relation to London and then do the same in relation to other regions when we might discover that the consultative procedures were not as democratic or open as they might be.
Many people in my constituency attach great importance to the governance of London. They believe that the way in which our capital city is governed should be important to hon. Members throughout the country. The same is true—I will not prolong this thought—of the debates on Scotland and Wales. In those debates, the participation of hon. Members from outside Scotland and Wales has been distinguished and important. It is the responsibility of all hon. Members to care about the constitution of this country. That is certainly true when we venture down the path of referendums.
The first best solution, which is not now available, would be to have a referendum only after the Bill has been debated in this place. The electorate of London would then be able to examine the Bill, as amended and debated in the House. We all know that amendments can be accepted during debates. I know from my experience on the Committee considering the National Minimum Wage Bill that amendments can be made. During the past week in that Committee, the Government found that the Bill was wrong-headed. They had to do a U-turn and amend it.
We seek another U-turn from the Government. They have done it before, and some of their U-turns have been embarrassing. It would not be a great embarrassment to the Minister if he were to change his mind. I suspect that he might secure some approval, not just in the House but in the media of London, if he were to say that there is an opportunity for publication of the Bill before the referendum. The media would think that a good thing.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) made clear, the purpose of the amendment is not to wreck the Bill. It is straightforward. It would mean one of two things. First, in pursuance of their intention to have a referendum on 7 May, the Government would have to publish the Bill in the week beginning 9 March—if my calculation is correct. I am sure that, when the Minister for Transport in London replies to the debate, she will say that it is impossible for Ministers to publish the Bill in that week. Although they may know all the details of the White Paper and be proceeding down the path towards publication, she will probably say that to translate those provisions into the detailed drafting necessary for the construction of legislation is too lengthy a process.
I understand that. I have been a member of a Bill team in a Government Department, and I remember the process by which one submits instructions to counsel, and the debate between officials and parliamentary counsel. However, the Minister should not take too much comfort from that thought, because it illustrates one of the most important points. The process of iteration between the Government, as they explain their intentions, and parliamentary counsel, as they try to implement those intentions, is precisely the point at which contradictions, difficulties, conflicts of interest, and questions about how those problems are to be legally resolved, are exposed.
Sometimes, in the exposure of those conflicts and questions, some of the most important aspects of drafting and of the subsequent legislation are uncovered. To proceed on the basis that the White Paper and statement of intentions are sufficient is palpably wrong. I imagine that, in time, as happens with constitution-making legislation generally, instructions to parliamentary counsel on the Bill's structure will expose exactly the questions and details that the White Paper has not dealt with.
My hon. Friend has been helpful. He has been a member of a Bill team, which is an interesting experience. Has he ever known a Bill to remain unchanged from the beginning of such a procedure to the end?
In my personal experience, a Bill has never remained unchanged. It would be stretching a point to say that the principles of a Bill changed completely from those that were set out in the original instructions to counsel, but, in many of their details, Bills were changed.
Ministers have an advantage over us in that they have read the White Paper, but, when we read it and find out how many of the 61 questions it answers, we shall probably find out most of the principles that the Government wish subsequently to put into the legislation. However, most of the debate will take place not on those principles, but on their detailed application.
I leap ahead slightly to something that I was going to say later. For example, the resolution of conflict between the mayor and the assembly is precisely the issue on which legislation will have to be specific. We have made that point in other debates on the Bill. When we make a constitution, it is not sufficient to say, "People will work together in partnership." I am sure that the word "partnership" will appear regularly in the White Paper. It will be clear that the Government's intention is that the elected mayor will propose policies and nominations for appointments, and set out the way in which London's strategy is to proceed. It will say that that will be the subject of scrutiny by the assembly and, where the mayor and assembly disagree, that all will be resolved in a spirit of partnership.
Let us be clear: it does not always work like that. If it did, legislation and the constitution would probably be of little purpose. The purpose of the constitution, like the purpose of politics often, is to resolve conflicts. That is why we have Standing Orders and a structure to our debates. The same will be true in relation to the authority as represented by its two component parts: the mayor and the assembly. When they are in conflict, how will those conflicts be resolved? That will not be in the White Paper. I will gladly give way to the Minister if he can give me a categorical assurance that the White Paper will tell us the manner in which, in all circumstances, conflicts of principle, issue or interest between the mayor and assembly will be resolved. The White Paper will not do that. We will not find out how those conflicts will be resolved until we have the legislation.
The amendment could have one of two effects. One is that Ministers would have to publish the Bill before 7 May. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) told us that it was not possible to publish the Bill before 7 May. For the sake of argument, let us assume that he is right. What does that mean? It means—I hope that the Liberal Democrats will agree with us—that, for the Bill to be published before the referendum, that referendum has to take place at a later stage.
In an earlier debate, the hon. Members for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) were wrong. Both said that to hold the referendum after 7 May would delay the implementation of the policy. There is no reason why that should be true. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) was clear about the matter. It is possible to publish the White Paper in March and the legislation in the summer, to have a referendum in September and to present the Bill to the House in November. There is no reason why the timetable for the implementation of the Government's manifesto commitment should not proceed to its finality as planned.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend made that point, because I had planned on asking the Minister that very question. The Minister might like to intervene now or to reply later to that point. Why—except in contemplation of a date later than 7 May—does the Bill explicitly provide that a later date may be prescribed?
Like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know only too well that Ministers will always take powers that they have no intention of exercising. Undoubtedly, that provision in clause 1 will be one of those instances. Although the provision is clearly stated in the Bill, hon. Members are being told not only that Ministers have no intention of holding the referendum on a later date but that the House should not even contemplate the possibility of doing so. If the Bill contains the provision, it is perfectly valid for the House to take advantage of it, and to pass an amendment making it clear that we contemplate circumstances in which that power will be used to hold the referendum at a later date.
The Government's key excuse for not pursuing the course described by my hon. Friend is the need to save money. Those of us who lived in a London borough under the Greater London council will remember some terrible and horrendously expensive conflicts—primarily because of legal fees—between the GLC and the boroughs. My hon. Friend has already mentioned conflict between the mayor and the assembly, but there is an even greater likelihood of very expensive debate and conflict between the authority and lower levels of government. If the legislation were introduced so that it could be examined and debated before the referendum, there would be an opportunity not only for it to be straightened out but for the people of London to see the potential expense and themselves to send the Government back to rethink it.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which helpfully brings me to my next point. I shall not dwell on the point that he has made, because hon. Members from London constituencies, by reference to their own and neighbouring boroughs, may more readily be willing to do so.
The basic question is: why are Ministers resisting Lords amendment No. 1? One reason is that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington said, they devoutly wish that the referendum should be held on the same day as local government elections. Consequently, Ministers would be able to obscure the record of Labour-controlled local authorities. They could present jam tomorrow—a strategic vision and all will be well—for London, obscuring the absence of good value for money in Labour-controlled London local government. It is an old trick. If things do not work out today, make an even more grandiose promise for the future. That is how the Labour Government are approaching the referendum.
Ministers talk about the £2 million that would be lost by holding the referendum on a different day. The Bill's explanatory and financial memorandum states that the referendum will cost £5 million if it is held on a day other than 7 May, and £3 million if it is held on 7 May.
I shall mention, for one last time in this debate, the Standing Committee considering the National Minimum Wage Bill—which has taken up a lot of my time, although we have learned a thing or two. Only yesterday, £2 million of public expenditure—for publicity on the minimum wage—was described as very little money. The Government recommended the sum of £2 million and said that it was nothing; the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond) described it as a trivial sum.
Curiously, yesterday in Committee, £2 million was described as a trivial sum and was of no importance to Labour Members; today, it is a sum that we should not exceed in establishing sound democracy.
I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that £2 million spent in establishing a potentially enormously expensive body pales into insignificance compared with possible future sums.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We do not have to speculate about that. Ministers tell us that £2 million is to be saved. As we shall debate later, from Ministers' point of view, it is certain that, if there is to be an authority, it has to include an assembly.
The explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill states that the cost involved in the establishment of the authority is £20 million, let alone any additional public expenditure that may be required subsequently. It would be interesting if Ministers told us what proportion of that £20 million was attributable to the cost of establishing the office of the mayor, as distinct from the cost of establishing the assembly.
Ministers will correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that the greater part of that £20 million will be attributable to the cost of establishing the assembly rather than the office of the mayor. If that is so, the electors of London might be on to a good thing by virtue of the amendment. It is not for me to judge, but if the electors of London were, by virtue of subsequent debates, able to choose not to have an assembly, although they had a mayor, and were to do so in the context of a referendum that took place at a later stage, because this amendment required that to happen, and if they saw the conflicts that might arise, and, instead of a directly elected assembly, had a nominated assembly from the boroughs that was better able appropriately to scrutinise the mayor and so on, it might be altogether cheaper than having a separately elected assembly. The greater part of the £20 million might thus be saved by the spending of an extra £2 million on the election itself.
I think that my hon. Friend is being sucked into the argument used by the Minister to defend not having an election later than May because it would cost £2 million extra. Surely he knows that, in the consultation paper on local democracy, which we have not yet seen, but have read about in the newspapers, the Minister for Local Government and Housing is pressing to have elections not once every four years but every year. Page 15 of the Green Paper—
I freely acknowledge that the amendment would probably mean that the referendum would take place not on 7 May but later in the year at additional expense—but what price democracy? In other circumstances, which we are not debating now, Ministers would be willing to accept that the cost of democracy often rests on the need to pay for elections. There is nothing remarkable about that.
If it is resolved that it is necessary to consult the electorate of London, it is not unreasonable that we should first determine the most appropriate, legitimate and effective way to engage in that consultation, and then pay for it. It is wrong to say that we will first decide the cheapest way to consult the electors of London and do it that way, even though it might be less effective and less democratic. I am surprised that, so soon after taking office, Ministers should have pursued quite such a democracy-constraining approach—I put it no more strongly than that.
We need to emphasise the differences between a Bill and a White Paper. The implication of the Minister's opening remarks was, in effect, that all would be revealed in the White Paper and that we did not need to see the Bill because the difference was essentially a matter of legalism. I assume that the Minister thinks that, although the public are competent to read the White Paper—indeed, the Minister may assume that the great majority of people will read the summary of the White Paper that is to be delivered through their letter box—they are somehow not competent to read the Bill itself and extract something from it. None the less, we shall leave that on one side.
There is a big difference between a Bill and a White Paper. I shall give only one example, but it is an important one—the issue of electoral arrangements. I am sensitive to the issue, as one who was born and lived in "Essex" London. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) talks about "Kent" London and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) could tell us about "Middlesex" London. There is a deep sensitivity that goes to the heart of the Bill about the extent to which the authority, and particularly the assembly, will be able to represent the different parts of London. Hon. Members on both sides have acknowledged that London is not an homogenous entity, but a set of villages that come together to make one great city.
The electoral arrangements are key. If the electoral arrangements for the assembly do not take account of this issue, the voters in the referendum will ask whether there should be an elected assembly. We shall debate later whether they should have two questions. The fact that they should know the electoral arrangements hangs on the amendment. If the referendum is delayed—not the final Bill or its implementation, but the referendum—there will be scope for the Local Government Commission, under part II of the Bill, to present its advice to the Government during the spring and early summer, in time for it to be reflected in the eventual Bill. That would make it an important basis on which judgments could be made in the referendum.
In the absence of such advice, the White Paper will not fulfil the Minister's intention of setting the issues out and ensuring that we all know what the system will look like.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we could have the same problems as we had for Scotland? The White Paper for Scotland promised that enterprise would be a devolved issue. In the Bill, it turns out that it will be dealt with primarily by the Department of Trade and Industry. The White Paper for Scotland suggested that Scottish Ministers would be able to represent the United Kingdom in Europe, putting forward the Scottish viewpoint. The Bill says that they will merely assist Ministers in European representation, which is a far less strong provision. Does my hon. Friend agree that only when we see the Bill will we have chapter and verse?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. In the London context, the separation of powers and the relationship between superior and other bodies—between the boroughs, the assembly and the authority—will be very significant. To reiterate the point that I made when intervening on my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington, no power will be more significant than that over transport policy, which is critical for those in London and those who live beyond the confines of Greater London.
Not until we see the White Paper on the integrated transport policy—I am sure that the Minister for Transport in London could tell us more about that—will we know the context in which the relative powers of the boroughs, the assembly and central Government, including the continuing role of the regional office of government, will be clearly delineated.
The White Paper, which is to be published in the week beginning 23 March, may well leave some questions unanswered on transport. The Government will tell us that we shall find out more when the White Paper on integrated transport is published. That will not arrive before 7 May. When the voters of London have to make their decision, questions will still be unanswered on the issue that may be central to their perception of what the mayor has to achieve. This is a question not just of powers, but of how those powers will be used. If Ministers can tell us that we will see all the details on transport policy for London in the White Paper in the week beginning 23 March, we would be very happy to hear it. However, I feel confident that Ministers will not be able to do so.
The amendment's effect could be positive; it is not a wrecking amendment. It is perfectly possible for the Government to achieve their intentions through a better procedure. Consultation with Londoners would be better, knowledge gained by the electorate before they take part in the referendum would be more complete, and the House would be better able to be advised by the referendum if we proceeded down the path predicated in the amendment.
I was unsure about whether I wanted to speak in this debate, but something that I heard earlier made me extremely angry and want to make a brief speech.
The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who has left the Chamber, no doubt to put himself out of his misery, said that democracy had been defrauded. Baroness Thatcher defrauded democracy when she abolished the Greater London council simply because she wanted to get rid of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).
Order. Will the hon. Lady please have a seat? It is not a matter of what she is going to do but of what she must do: speak to the amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your instruction. I wish that you had been present earlier to instruct other hon. Members.
If Baroness Thatcher had consulted "Considerations on Representative Government" by John Stuart Mill, she would have read:
In a really equal democracy, every or any section will be represented not disproportionately, proportionately".
She could have dealt with the Greater London council had she introduced proportional representation.
The Government have promised us a White Paper, which is supported by all Government Departments. I have heard that said many times in the Chamber. We have also been told that an explanatory leaflet will be sent to every household. We even have some sort of proportional representation—although not the sort of which I would approve. Nevertheless, we are getting there.
No, I will not, because I am just about to finish my speech.
London is deteriorating while we all sit around arguing about how many angels one can fit on the head of a pin. It is time that we got on with it, had the referendum and restored proper government to London.
Inadvertently, I have slipped up twice by referring to people other than your good self, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as "you"—although not while you were in the Chair. I shall endeavour not to do so again.
It is interesting to follow a Liberal Democrat, because the point that I was trying to develop earlier concerned their quite illogical behaviour in another place. I fully accept the point about Baroness Hamwee. She tabled a little probing amendment to see whether, given the timetable that we were dealing with, it was possible to have the Bill published then. That is fine. She duly probed, and then withdrew. The fact that the Liberals did not then support the Government's position in getting the referendum for 7 May—something that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and others have talked about ad nauseam in this place—defies belief.
That charge was not answered in any way, shape or form by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey or by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow). The only logical position for the Liberals to take on the amendment in the upper House would have been to support the Government, given that they have said, rightly, that the referendum should take place on 7 May. I am pleased to hear that they will support the Government tonight in defeating the Lords amendment but, as ever with Liberal Democrats, that is probably too little, too late to reconcile themselves.
By way of a slight digression, I must tell the House that—I am pretty sure that I have the time and date right—I almost voted in the Division in which the Government were defeated in the House of Lords. I was near where the green carpet becomes red, and I could not find the place I was looking for; it was some Committee Room or other. I got stuck down a narrow little corridor, wondered why it was so narrow, and discovered that it was the Lords Lobby.
Then the bell went off, and some kindly employee of the upper House locked the door in front of me. I was panic-stricken, rushed to the other end and just got out of what I now know to be the Lobby in which the Opposition were voting. I think, but cannot swear to the fact, that that was the very occasion on which the Government were defeated.
My friends in the Whips Office have subsequently told me that rather than panicking, I should have stayed there. Had I done so, the entire vote would have been void and perhaps we would not be here discussing the Lords amendment now. We live and learn.
The hon. Gentleman could have been more discreet had he been there during the second vote when the Government were defeated. As he will be aware, some of his colleagues were with us on that occasion and he could have slipped through unnoticed. He would have been entirely welcome.
That was an entirely unnecessary and nasty point, which introduces partisan politics into the House when we are trying not to be partisan. Dreadful.
I have listened to Opposition Members, and although we may joke about how touching it is to see people representing Dorset and Cambridgeshire taking an interest, I entirely accept that what happens to the governance of the capital city is a matter for all English Members of Parliament, if not for all United Kingdom Members. In saying that, I shall probably offend people from Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, so I apologise in advance, but the capital city of the United Kingdom is London. Yes, we can have fun with the idea of those Members contributing, but everyone can and should have his or her say.
I am astonished to hear about the mystical properties that are now attributed to a Bill, as though a Bill were entirely immutable and cast in stone—HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the gist of what Opposition Members have been saying. Apparently White Papers can be changed completely, willy-nilly, but Bills are cast in stone.
That is not the case. [Interruption.] With respect to the sedentary gestures by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), she has not been here for much of the debate.
I have been here for the whole debate, except the first three minutes, and I have heard almost every word of it. I should not have been making gestures from a sedentary position; I should have asked the hon. Gentleman to give way so that I could point out to him that the contrary of what he is saying is the case. A White Paper remains as it is published for ever more, but a Bill is a document that starts a process in the House whereby it is subject to scrutiny. As was said earlier this evening, almost no Bill has ever remained unchanged.
That is a pretty way of putting it, but it entirely confirms my point, rather than the contrary. If the hon. Lady has been here after all, I apologise. I do not know how I could have missed her when she is dressed in such colours, but while I have been here, I do not remember seeing her. Perhaps that is because she has been sitting nice and quietly, unlike some of her colleagues.
We are committed to holding the referendum and to publishing the White Paper in March, as was said on Second and Third Reading. It is the responsibility of every single Member of Parliament and every party to ensure that, in those ensuing six weeks, there is the fullest and most detailed debate.
The principal Opposition party may well have some difficulty with pre-legislative referendums, and that is entirely fair and reasonable, but it should not try to hide with smoke and mirrors the fact that the amendment is essentially a wrecking amendment. Baroness Hamwee and others in the other place deserve an ever-so-slight slap on the wrist for not going through the Lobby when the amendment was made.
It was interesting and not, I suspect, atypical, that the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who is a north-west London colleague to whom I speak often, should have discerned a conspiracy to make the demise of the House of Lords a reality. He suggested that, somehow, we managed to leave my noble Friend Lord Hattersley at lunch and others busy in various places, and deliberately contrived to lose the vote, merely to reinforce our argument for reform of the upper Chamber.
Nothing could be further from the truth. To begin with, our argument is democratic and needs no strengthening. As and when the relevant legislation is passed, the Lords will have had their day. The point was completely irrelevant.
Another conspiracy theory was advanced, although I am afraid that I have forgotten who advanced it. It was suggested that the rush to hold the referendum on 7 May was intended to hide the disgraceful performance of London Labour councils.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the need for every Member of Parliament, in the six weeks between the publication of the White Paper and the date of the referendum, to explain that document fully to his electorate. Surely we shall not have time in that period to expose all the problems that we have in our respective boroughs with Labour councils. If we concentrate on the White Paper and the referendum, how will we be able to concentrate on the local elections?
Many thanks, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was developing my point within the context of a point made specifically on the amendment, concerning whether the referendum should be held on 7 May or delayed to allow for the publication of a Bill. That is entirely within the terms of the amendment.
I say to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), and to every other hon. Member, that, if party organisations in London find themselves overtaxed by campaigning both on the Greater London assembly and mayor and on the borough elections, perhaps they should not be fighting either campaign in the first place. With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, who is an even newer Member than I am—there are not many of whom that can be said—his argument is absolute nonsense.
Now that we finally have the Liberals on side—it was nice of them to make up their mind in the end—I hope that the amendment will be soundly defeated. It is a wrecking amendment: I fully accept Conservative Members' aversion—this year—to pre-legislative referendums, but they should not try to dress it up. We know why your colleagues in the upper House mistakenly won the vote, and we shall be doing them a great favour by defeating it tonight. Perhaps, in the spirit of getting your colleagues in the other place out of a deep hole—
In the spirit, I should have said, of getting their colleagues in the other place out of the extremely deep and embarrassing hole into which they put themselves by winning the vote, I urge all Opposition Members to join us in the Lobby tonight. Then, perhaps, we can get on with what I think that we will all agree are more substantive amendments: Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3, on the two questions.
The amendment should be defeated. It is a nasty little wrecking amendment and its supporters should be ashamed of themselves.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) on having spoken. Labour Members have been absent from this debate, as they were absent for most of the remaining stages of the Bill in November. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) referred to the various elements of London. I make it clear that I speak for London London.
On the morrow of the amendment that we are debating tonight, the Prime Minister—alluding to the hereditary peers' vote—said not once but twice that the House of Lords was seeking to stop people voting in the referendum "on 8 May". I stress 8 May, which, being the day after the day originally selected—and thus no longer the day of the local government elections—suggested that the Government were already on the way to conceding the amendment.
On 13 January in the Lords, the Minister for Roads referred to this as a wrecking amendment. The Minister in this House did the same this evening. The hon. Member for Harrow, East has just done the same. If this is a wrecking amendment, I have to say that the Bill is a very frail craft. I had an aunt once. The brother of somebody who worked for her went into the Navy. On inquiry, it turned out that he was serving in HMS Abominable. My aunt constructed an entire class of warships; HMS Intolerable, HMS Impossible, HMS Unspeakable. If this is a wrecking amendment, the Bill is patently HMS Insubstantial.
The Minister seemed to take mild offence that his Bill had been scathed during its passage. The great Claud Cockburn went to see his tutor at the end of his time at Oxford. His tutor said, "Up to now, Cockburn, your life has been punctuated by examinations, but from here on out you have a clear run through to the grave." I have to tell the Minister that Bills are subjected to examinations, and his has been. He will recall that, in the debate on the government of London last June, I referred to the great Sam Rayburn's remark that the three wisest words in the English language were "wait a minute". I said it in the context of the concept of a mayor, which my party subsequently espoused. I say in passing that I make no complaint about that.
The mayor is a continental and American model. For this country, our approach should be pragmatic and empiricist, against the philosophies which apply elsewhere. I am delighted to hear that the Government are supporting Lord Hunt's Bill, which is itself pragmatic and empiricist in terms of those experiments. The principle applies to the debate on the Bill before we finally pass it.
Local government goes back a long way in the history of my constituency. There have been Lord Mayors of London for at least eight centuries. The franchise was so generous in Westminster in the 18th century that, when the Reform Bill was passed in 1832, the electorate actually fell. I realise that new Labour regards these as the events of pre-history—happily defined once as a cross between Sir Rider Haggard's "She" and Sir Leonard Woolley's "Ur", but the past does illumine the future and it is highly important that we should so regard it.
I had no idea of the drama played out at the Lords Committee, described for us by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), but I have some familiarity with the way in which the Liberal Democrats vote. When I was a pairing Whip, they once voted for a Bill at Second Reading and against on Third Reading, which gave me some rather nasty moments. My right hon. Friend referred to indecision. Clearly, the events in the Lords were played out on the battlements of Elsinore, and it sounds as though this debate is being played out there, too.
I am familiar also with Governments being defeated in the Lords. I was the Whip on the Education (No. 2) Bill 1980—the first Lords defeat suffered by my noble friend Lady Thatcher's Administration. It was a remarkable event because Christopher Price—the then Labour Member for Lewisham, West—persuaded Rab Butler to lead the opposition to the Bill. He remained convinced throughout the episode, and thereafter, that Rab had throughout believed him to be a Conservative Member of Parliament.
On 13 January, the Government clearly had confidence that all was well. Only one person spoke on behalf of the Government and that was the Minister. Had anybody else been brought in, there would have been ample time to drum up the remaining seven votes by which the Government failed to win.
On the substance of the argument, in the Lords the Minister said
The requirement to publish a Bill before the referendum would mean unnecessary complication and delay.
People have waited far too long happily to tolerate further delay."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 January 1998; Vol. 584, c. 944.]
The Government have not shown much previous evidence of hurrying in the context of this legislation. The Scottish and Welsh Bills made much faster progress. The Minister will recall the exchanges that he and I had about the clever chaps working away on the Bill, because we had not heard much about it before, but all that was evidence that time did not much matter to the Government in the early stages.
The Minister said in the House—I have not yet found the column reference, which is a discourtesy on my part—that the Bill was hugely popular with the people. In the Paviours Arms in my constituency, they talk of nothing else. The possibility of delay, even to the Prime Minister's chosen date of 8 May, excites them passionately.
I have never fully understood the Government's enthusiasm to run the risk of holding the referendum—here I am touching on the speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty)—alongside the local government elections, and I am certain that the suggestions made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield at the start of the debate are unfounded. It has always seemed to me unduly disrespectful to candidates in the local government elections in April to run a referendum debate in tandem—it certainly did not happen in the cases of the Scottish or Welsh Bills—especially given that the Government are anxious, as the other documents that they published this week made clear, to raise the profile of, and public confidence in, local government at large.
As for the £2 million to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire referred, I once asked Alan Lennox-Boyd, a little over 40 years ago, why he had taken a particular decision on Cyprus two years later than necessary. He replied that two years was but a hiccup in history. I do not suggest for a moment that £2 million is a bagatelle, but the government of this great city has a weight and importance far greater than £2 million, and that should not be a decisive factor in determining the timetable if waiting a minute, to go back to Speaker Sam Rayburn, can produce a better and more thoughtful result.
There are many reasons for rejecting the amendment. Primarily, it is a delaying tactic. That is obviously the primary political reason for its having been supported and passed in the other place. It is therefore ironic that Conservative Members should use supposedly democratic grounds for supporting it in this House this evening.
The argument does not hold water. The views that Labour Members have advanced for some time for an assembly and a mayor have been well aired. They were aired in the run-up to the general election and at the election proper. They were aired in general terms in the Green Paper on the governance of London. In my borough of Havering, I joined my hon. Friends the Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer) and for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) at a public meeting, which was well advertised locally, when our proposals were put to members of the public and discussed. The purpose of the meeting was also to encourage debate and contributions to the consultation process.
The debates in this House and in the other place have been well reported and debated throughout London in the run-up to the election in May. If hon. Members look in the Evening Standard and other newspapers, they will see that those issues are debated almost every day. The firm undertaking given by my hon. Friend the Minister to publish a White Paper setting out his proposals in full at least six weeks before the referendum is more than sufficient. Londoners will have all the information they require to reach an informed decision on 7 May.
The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) said that it was inappropriate to use the same day for the referendum and the local elections. I put the opposite view. It is appropriate because, on that day, Londoners' attention will be focused on the division between the powers of the London boroughs and the distinct strategic functions that the Greater London assembly will have when it is set up. That is appropriate for the debate on local democracy, regionally and locally. Londoners want a strategic authority. They want a voice for London and democratic accountability. They want the Government to deliver our manifesto commitment of a referendum in May.
The amendment would inevitably mean delay because of the time it would take the parliamentary draftsman to prepare complicated multi-clause, multi-schedule legislation. Contrary to what Conservative Members have said, a White Paper would be more appropriate than a draft Bill, which would almost certainly require amendment through the legislative process. It follows that the amendment should be rejected.
My constituents in Epping Forest are not residents of London, so I suppose that I am speaking for Essex London, as has been suggested. They are, however, much affected by what happens in London, because the prosperity of my constituency depends greatly on the prosperity of the City of London, where many of them work. They are proud to be in Essex, but their concerns about London are my concerns. That is why I am pleased to have an opportunity to take part in a discussion that so seriously affects London.
My constituents wonder what the proposed new tier of government will do for them. The Minister for Transport in London has been very patient in recent months in listening to my many pleas to her about the future of London Underground. I would not dream of doing that this evening, as it would be out of order. My constituents wonder how this great piece of legislation will in any way improve their lives. I am sure that the constituents of my hon. Friends feel the same, no matter what is discussed in the local hostelry of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke).
The Government have a habit of breaking promises about referendums. We have had assurances from Ministers that the referendum on London would be taken after the Bill on the matter was published. I am sure that it is a complete coincidence, but I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Scotland has suddenly appeared on the Government Front Bench. It seems that, every time I speak, I make some point about Scotland and he is normally here. I am amazed that he is here when we are discussing London, when I am about to make a point about Scotland.
It may be that Ministers have asked him to explain to them why the referendums for Scotland and Wales had to be held on a different day from local election day but the London referendum must be held on the same day.
I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent point; that may be so. I hoped that the Secretary of State for Scotland had appeared because he saw my name on the annunciator and thought that there must be something concerning Scotland going on in the Chamber.
The Prime Minister gave an undertaking last year that the referendums on Scotland and Wales would take place after Bills were published on the government of Scotland and Wales. Now we find another, similar U-turn. Ministers have said that the Bill will be published first and then later we discover—the Minister is shaking his head.
We have never given any such undertaking. The Government have always said emphatically that we would publish a White Paper before the referendum, but there was never any question that a Bill would be published before the referendum.
I take the Minister's point, but it does not lessen the argument. To ask the voters to vote in a referendum on a matter of importance without the full facts of the matter before them is no less bad now in the case of London than it was in the case of Scotland and Wales.
My hon. Friend has made a fair point. Those of us who have been in the House many years know that it is rare that an Act of Parliament is exactly the same as the Bill first introduced into the House. It is even more rare that a White Paper is reflected in a Bill. The longer I am here, the more I think—to adapt an adage—that White Papers seem like bikinis: what they reveal may be interesting, but what they conceal is vital.
I thank my hon. Friend for that brilliantly illustrated point. It is certainly true. [Interruption.] Labour Members disagree. My hon. Friend's point about bikinis is certainly true. They cannot possibly disagree with it. My hon. Friend's point about the difference between White Papers and Bills is also true.
On scrutinising the Scotland Bill and the Government of Wales Bill, we are discovering that there are differences between the implications of the White Paper and what the Bill says. I do not for one moment dispute the Government's right to make certain detailed changes between publishing a White Paper and publishing a Bill. The point is that the people are being asked to vote not on the Bill which will come before the House and the information contained in it, not on the points which will become law, but on the White Paper, which is merely an expression of intention.
We all know what is paved with good intentions. That is certainly what happened in the case of the Bills on Scotland and Wales before the referendums. It is exactly what is happening now.
What is wrong with giving the electorate more information on which to make up their minds how they will vote in a referendum? What are the Government trying to keep back? If one is trying to improve the democratic process and make democracy more relevant to people, is it not important to give them all the information they need before they exercise their democratic right to vote?
I note that Baroness Hayman said in another place that a Bill was a highly complex piece of legislation. She said that a Bill would be drafted in a highly technical style. Her implication was that what she called the ordinary voters of London would have a chance of understanding a White Paper, but that they would not understand a Bill. Well, I have news for the Government, many of the ordinary voters of London are lawyers, and they understand Bills.[Interruption.] Labour Members cannot possibly disagree with that assertion.
My hon. Friend's constituents and mine are perfectly capable of assessing the intricacies of technical Bills, but, even more importantly, the commentators, whose job it is to convey such things to the public, will be able to assess the intricacies of the Bill. They will be able to tell the public just where the Bill differs in key material effects from those good intentions to which my hon. Friend referred which are contained in the White Paper.
There is a third group to consider, to which I referred in an earlier intervention. All those standing at the borough council elections, which will be held at the same time, will generally have received advice on the Bill, if it is published by then, and will understand it with the assistance of the lawyers who are provided by local authorities. They will be deeply concerned, because they will be directly affected by the new authority.
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Such points all add to the argument that can only lead to us assume that there is something that the Government have to hide from the potential voters of London. If they have nothing to hide, why do they not simple publish the Bill?
We all know how long it takes to put a Bill together—my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) explained it eloquently. If the Secretary of State for Scotland can put together his extremely complex Scotland Bill in a short time, why cannot the Government also publish the relevant Bill for the proposed London authority? They could have done so in a shorter time than it took to publish the Scotland Bill, because it is bound to be shorter and less complex than that legislation.
Also at stake is the very principle of having a referendum in the first place. I believe that a pre-legislative referendum is even more dangerous than a post-legislative referendum, because the former goes even further in negating the responsibility of Parliament. In fact, it represents a further negation of the sovereignty of this place.
I am surprised to learn that I have made any point that has not been made before, given that this has been a long debate tonight.
I accept that, very occasionally, there is a case for having a referendum as part of our legislative process on a point of huge constitutional importance, but I submit that this is not such an occasion. It merely shows that the Government do not have the courage of their convictions. They want to have a referendum without giving the people who are to vote all the information that they need to make an informed choice about how to vote because, as we have seen so often with this new Government, they are more concerned—almost entirely concerned—with the public relations aspects of their actions and with their image. They have hardly dared to take a step without consulting the focus groups and opinion polls. Now we find that, again and again, they cannot act without consulting through a referendum of some kind. However, it is not a valuable referendum; it will not give people a true choice, because they will not have the information on which to make that true choice.
We have heard very little about who will vote in the referendum, with or without the information that they would have if there were a Bill before them. My constituents will not have the chance to vote, and neither will constituents of most hon. Members in the Chamber who live in other parts of the United Kingdom. The boundaries will be narrow, yet people who are not citizens of the United Kingdom will have an opportunity to vote, because, in London, many people who are householders and have the chance to vote in London local elections are not even citizens of the United Kingdom.
Once again, as they did with Scotland and Wales, the Government are taking a step that affects not a narrow part of our society, not a small number of people in the United Kingdom. They are taking a step which, because it affects our great capital city, affects everyone in the United Kingdom; yet the only people who will have a chance to vote are those who have a right to vote in London. It is not fair. It is the wrong way to conduct business. The referendum—
Is it not the case that, if the referendum is held on 7 May, nothing can happen until the legislation has passed through the House? So the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) completely misled the House in suggesting that, if the referendum were not held on 7 May, the whole process would be delayed. Does my hon. Friend agree that the process of delay lies in the hands of the Government—
Order. I am sorry; I was distracted for a moment. I thought that the hon. Gentleman mentioned someone misleading the House. No one would do that. Would that be the case?
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was about to conclude. I agree with the point that my hon. Friend has once again so eloquently made. Because the basis of the referendum is so weak, its result will hardly be worth paying attention to. It is not fair to ask people to go to the polls and take a decision when they do not have the full facts. The referendum will not bring increased democracy to people; it will be an abuse of the democratic process because it distorts that democratic process for the sake of the image of the present Government.
We have had an especially interesting debate tonight. The Secretary of State for Scotland, who has graced us—honoured us—with his presence, has looked in, and smirks at the suggestion.
It has been suggested by a number of Labour Members, mainly in interventions, and by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) in a speech, that Lords amendment No. 1 is a wrecking amendment. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) said, if it is a wrecking amendment, it is a very insubstantial one. The definition of a wrecking amendment is an amendment that would make the Bill ineffective if it were accepted. This amendment does not make the Bill ineffective; it merely adds a little bit of democracy to the process. It is spurious to claim that it is a wrecking amendment.
We are addressing the principle of open government. We are not asking the Government to do anything extraordinary or unusual or anything that would cause them embarrassment—although I suppose that passing the amendment might have that effect. We are asking the Government to be fair to the people of London. Our request is not unreasonable: we are seeking clarity so that the people may exercise their judgment in a manner consistent with open government—something that Labour Members lecture us is a matter of principle.
If the Bill is passed unamended, we shall be seeking the approval of the people of Greater London for a Government proposal that has little form or substance. They will be invited to vote for an idea, not a proposal. It is highly unsatisfactory to seek the views of the public in a referendum without offering the details of what is proposed. There is a case—although it is not covered by the amendment—for arguing that the Bill should be enacted before the referendum is held so that the people of London may see beforehand what the House has decided.
If a Member of Parliament were to walk into a car showroom to buy the latest model and the salesman said, "I'm sorry, we don't have a car in stock, but here is a glossy brochure that gives a detailed description of the car," he would be right to be wary. The interpretation of the wording, the photography and the presentation of the document reflect the perspective of those who want to sell the goods. Wise people would want to see the car before they bought it. They would want to view it from their own perspective; they would not want to be bamboozled by glitz and media presentation.
That is the nub of the argument tonight. The Government claim that Londoners need to see only a White Paper—the equivalent of the car showroom brochure—before making up their minds in a referendum. The Government cannot promise what final version of events will appear in the Bill. Nevertheless, they ask us to trust them.
Would my hon. Friend be prepared to buy such a car on the basis of the prospectus if he were dealing with a reputable dealer? In this case, the dealer is thoroughly disreputable.
My hon. Friend makes my point for me. I would certainly buy a used car from him, but I cannot say the same for some Labour Members.
The Government claim that there are no devils in the detail. However, their argument is flawed. The Government have said repeatedly that they will play a neutral role in the referendum campaign. As they produced the policy, the Government are incapable of being neutral. That is understandable. The Government want everybody to say yes, and they will produce only publicity and material that sets out the positive side and the benefits of their arguments. It is only logical, and the temptation to do that will be irresistible.
In the latter part of last year, the London desk in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions produced a document about the London referendum publicity campaign. That campaign will have a pretty glitzy run—what is more, the taxpayers will pay for it all. The document says that, before March 1998, we shall see the logo for the London vote. An internet site and a helpline will then be established. Stands will be set up in shopping centres and then, glory be, there will be a referendum bus. All of that will happen before the White Paper is published, let alone any other details. Lord only knows what Government supporters will say as they trundle around.
Following the launch on 23 March, we shall have the White Paper and a White Paper leaflet. Most revealing of all is the advertising to back up the White Paper. This is the first that the House has heard about an advertising campaign. In Committee, the Minister said that a leaflet would be published. He continued:
We will also ensure that every household in London receives a neutral and factual summary of the White Paper, setting out the proposals on which they will be asked to vote, as well as other initiatives, to ensure that everyone knows what the issues are … There will be no public funding for either a yes campaign or a no campaign."—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c.378–9.]
That flies in the face of the memo.
The Minister shakes his head. Page 3 of the memo states:
We are currently in the process of appointing an advertising agency.
That was in December. The memo continues:
The campaign will have a value of about £750k over the two financial years.
The most revealing part is what follows:
This spend is part of the total cost of the referendum of no more than £3m.
There we have it, and it is getting perilously close to dubious practice. There was no mention of this matter when the Bill went through this House. Every impression was given that the £3 million that was covered by the financial effects of the Bill was the cost of running a referendum, and it was said that, if it was not held on 7 May, it would cost £5 million. Now we discover that £750,000 of that £3 million is to be spent on an advertising campaign. The Minister has said that the extra £2 million for delaying the referendum could not be afforded, but £750,000 is going on an advertising campaign which is effectively a state-funded yes campaign.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his last remark. The Government have made it quite clear that we have a responsibility to make available factual and neutral information about the White Paper and the referendum. There is no question of any Government money for a yes campaign, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his scurrilous allegation.
If there were to be a neutral campaign, the Minister would stick to the words that he used in Committee on 19 November, when he said that there would be a single leaflet. A £750,000 advertising campaign does not draw attention to but backs up the White Paper. It is impossible for that to be a neutral campaign. It seems to be a flagrant breach of the Minister's undertaking that no public funds will be used, because such funds are clearly being used. They are being provided under the terms of the Bill and the money is being spent without any hon. Member being aware of the proposal until now.
This is a disclosure of a massive state-funded yes campaign. There is no kidding: the campaign will focus on improving the turnout. It supports the Government's proposals and it is the nearest that there can be to a state-managed hijack of public funds.
Two minutes ago I repeated a clear undertaking that there would be no public money to support a yes campaign and I asked the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his scurrilous allegation that there would be one. He did not do that and he has exacerbated the problem by repeating his allegation. That is a gross discourtesy to the House and shows the scurrilous way in which the hon. Gentleman is operating. He is failing to withdraw when he has been revealed as peddling untruths.
The first time that the House knew that £750,000 was to be spent on an advertising campaign in support of the Government's proposals was when I revealed it this evening. The Minister may say that he said "other measures" in Committee. He was covering up a blatant abuse concerning the use of public funding.
My hon. Friend makes a most important point that has transformed the debate. Lam sure it has been a revelation to Londoners and the country. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government could easily have obviated this expenditure by doing the honest thing and publishing the Bill, which contains the genuine proposals? That would be better than having to produce blurb to try to put flesh on the skeleton proposals in the White Paper.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we are urging the House to support the Lord's amendment.
The Government say that their publicity campaign is to be neutral and that it will focus on ensuring that people are aware of the Government's proposals and of their right to vote on them. That is not the point. The point is that this is their gloss on the Government's proposals. The Government are saying that the proposals are a good thing and the money is supporting their argument that they are a good thing. In truth, one cannot write a proposal and put it forward in a neutral way. There we have it. The Government are spending £750,000 on an advertising campaign in support of the glossy brochures—there is no chance to look at the car one is buying.
It is just such an approach that leads us to believe that, in the interests of fairness, justice and democracy, the detailed proposals for London set out in the Bill should be made available to the Government.
The most spurious argument of all is that of delay. The Government may say that to publish the Bill—
Only recently we have seen the narrow vote on the Welsh assembly, which took place on the basis of a White Paper and is now being seen as spurious. The assembly will not be in Cardiff where it was supposed to be. Surely we want to see what is really going to happen, not what the gloss is.
My hon. Friend illustrates the fact that the devil is in the detail. We want to see the detail before we ask Londoners to vote on the matter.
As I have said, the most spurious argument of all is that of delay. The Government may say that to publish the Bill will delay the referendum. That is only part of the case. The only consequence of publishing the Bill in advance of the referendum is that the referendum will not be held on the same day as the London borough elections.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) said during her excellent speech, the Scotland Bill had its First Reading five months after the publication of the White Paper. For Wales, the interval was four and a half months. With the publication of the London White Paper on 23 March, a draft Bill could, under the same time scale as for Scotland—the longer of the two intervals—be published in mid-August 1998 with a referendum in October. If the referendum resulted in a yes for the Government's proposals, the Bill would feature in the Queen's speech in November. There is no difficulty in that proposal. There is no reason why it cannot be delivered, and the Government must recognise that that is the fairer way of doing things.
In Scotland and Wales there may arguably have been a case for saying that there was no time. That excuse is not available in London. However, reasonableness and fairness do not come into the making of this decision. The only argument that the Minister is left with is that it will cost £2 million. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said in his excellent speech, that is peanuts. In terms of the departmental budget, it adds up to 30 minutes expenditure over a year. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster said, that is a small price to pay for the long-term interests of democracy in London.
We all know that the reason for the referendum on 7 May—this is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam)—is to obscure the appalling record of Labour councils that are up for re-election in the London borough elections on the same day. So ghastly has been Labour's track record over the years, and so appalling has been its performance in London, that the Government want to cover it up.
We have only to look at the disgrace of the schools in Hackney, the broken pledges to Edgware general hospital, the building on green-field sites across London and the waste, inefficiency and incompetence of Labour councils from one side of the capital to the other. In a futile attempt to cover that up, the Government have gone for the ultimate smokescreen—a referendum on the same day. They did not do it in Scotland or in Wales, and they do not have to do it in London. We say that in these matters the devil is in the detail. It is in the fine print that the real answers to the many questions can be found. On past evidence, we are right to ask for the details to be spelled out.
In a letter to the editor of The Times in October, the Minister for London and Construction said that he did not support the idea of a borough leader representing a geographical part of London, who
would see his or her first loyalty as fighting for his or her own patch rather than the wider interests of London as a whole.
There it is: a clear, unequivocal statement setting out his position as a matter of principle. Anyone who read The Times would be clear what that meant. They would say, "This guy is thinking strategically. Very interesting. I must judge him on that proposal." Just imagine how
that person will feel when he discovers that, in truth, the Minister has already abandoned that principle, that he is now considering an electoral system where members are elected by geographical constituency—
The Minister says, "Wind up." I am afraid to say that he has much to hear yet, which he is not going to like.
Just imagine how the person reading the Minister's letter to The Times.will feel when he discovers that, in truth, the Minister has already abandoned that principle and that he is now considering an electoral system whereby members are elected by geographical constituency, with a top-up list, as we have in Scotland. I know what that person would say: "I am appalled. I have been misled. How can I trust this man?" That is what is happening.
That is why we want all the details of the measure spelt out before Londoners make a judgment. It is no good trusting Ministers: they change their minds about everything.
Before the election, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to extend the scope of personal equity plans and tax-exempt special savings accounts. After the election, he announced that they would be abolished. Labour said that it would introduce cold weather payments. The Minister with responsibility for pensions has rejected that.
I do not seek to quarrel with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but this concerns the credibility of Ministers, who are inviting us to accept a pledge that they will not change the details of the White Paper before the Bill is published. We have heard from other hon. Members how the Government have changed their White Paper proposals on Scotland and on Wales. I am illustrating matters affecting the Minister for Transport in London, which go on in London in the transport sphere, which will be a part of the Greater London authority, and which will feature in the White Paper. I am showing how Ministers change their mind from one day to the next. That is the point that I seek to demonstrate. May I continue on that basis?
Does my hon. Friend agree that this should be his concern and that of the House? The Scotland White Paper pledged, for example, that enterprise would be a devolved issue; in fact, it will still be dealt with by the Department of Trade and Industry. Similarly, the Scottish White Paper said European representation would be a matter for Scottish Ministers, who would be able to go to Brussels and argue the case for the United Kingdom and Scotland; in fact, that is not offered in the Bill. It has to be a question of what is actually in the Bill.
My hon. Friend makes exactly the point that I was trying to make.
A matter that certainly will be dealt with by the Greater London authority is health in London. In the general election campaign, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) issued a leaflet saying:
You Can Still Save Edgware General If You Vote Labour on May 1st".
Labour Members will probably recognise the leaflet and the photograph of the current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who was then the shadow Secretary of State for Health.
The leaflet continues:
The handshake which brings hope for the future of Edgware General Hospital.
Under that, it says:
who I presume is Barry Gardiner, although we do not see him around much; I do not know whether he was elected—
is determined to restore the accident and emergency department at Edgware with Chris's help.
But the honeymoon did not last very long.
Only three weeks later, the Barnet Advertiser—the free newspaper of the year—issued a special edition, with the headline "The Great Betrayal" of the Labour party. It continues:
Labour win votes by pledging to review A and E closure, then do an immediate U-turn and consign Edgware General to history".
The article states:
Three weeks ago Labour captured two of Barnet's Parliamentary seats on the back of a cast-iron"—
|Division No. 164]||[10.7 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Buck, Ms Karen|
|Ainger, Nick||Burden, Richard|
|Allan, Richard||Burgon, Colin|
|Allen, Graham||Burnett, John|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Burstow, Paul|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Butler, Mrs Christine|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Byers, Stephen|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Cable, Dr Vincent|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Caborn, Richard|
|Austin, John||Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)|
|Baker, Norman||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Ballard, Mrs Jackie||Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)|
|Barnes, Harry||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Barron, Kevin||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Bayley, Hugh||Canavan, Dennis|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Caplin, Ivor|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Casale, Roger|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Caton, Martin|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Cawsey, Ian|
|Benton, Joe||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Chaytor, David|
|Berry, Roger||Chidgey, David|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Blizzard, Bob||Clapham, Michael|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Clark, Dr Lynda|
|Borrow, David||(Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Breed, Colin||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Clelland, David|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Clwyd, Ann|
|Coaker, Vernon||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Coleman, Iain||Heppell, John|
|Colman, Tony||Hesford, Stephen|
|Connarty, Michael||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hill, Keith|
|Cooper, Yvette||Hinchliffe, David|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hoey, Kate|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Home Robertson, John|
|Cotter, Brian||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Crausby, David||Hope, Phil|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Cummings, John||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Darvill, Keith||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Davidson, Ian||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Hurst, Alan|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Hutton, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Ingram, Adam|
|Dawson, Hilton||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Dewar, Rt Hon Donald||Jamieson, David|
|Dismore, Andrew||Jenkins, Brian|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Johnson, Miss Melanie|
|Doran, Frank||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Dowd, Jim||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Drew, David||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Drown, Ms Julia||Jones, Ms Jenny|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||(Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Edwards, Huw||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Efford, Clive||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Ennis, Jeff||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Etherington, Bill||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Keetch, Paul|
|Fisher, Mark||Kemp, Fraser|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)|
|Fitzsimons, Lorna||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Flynn, Paul||Khabra, Piara S|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Galloway, George||Kingham, Ms Tess|
|Gapes, Mike||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Gardiner, Barry||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Laxton, Bob|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||Lepper, David|
|Gerrard, Neil||Leslie, Christopher|
|Godsiff, Roger||Levitt, Tom|
|Goggins, Paul||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Linton, Martin|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Livsey, Richard|
|Gorrie, Donald||Lock, David|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Love, Andrew|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||McAllion, John|
|Grogan, John||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Gunnell, John||McCabe, Steve|
|Hain, Peter||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||Macdonald, Calum|
|Hancock, Mike||McFall, John|
|Hanson, David||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Harris, Dr Evan||McIsaac, Shona|
|Harvey, Nick||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||McLeish, Henry|
|Healey, John||McNulty, Tony|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|McWilliam, John||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marek, Dr John||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Maxton, John||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Snape, Peter|
|Michael, Alun||Soley, Clive|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Spellar, John|
|Miller, Andrew||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Mitchell, Austin||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Moffatt, Laura||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Moore, Michael||Stevenson, George|
|Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Stott, Roger|
|Morley, Elliot||Stringer, Graham|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Mountford, Kali||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Mudie, George||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Norris, Dan||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|O'Hara, Eddie||Timms, Stephen|
|Olner, Bill||Tipping, Paddy|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Touhig, Don|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Trickett, Jon|
|Pearson, Ian||Truswell, Paul|
|Pickthall, Colin||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Pike, Peter L||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Plaskitt, James||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Pollard, Kerry||Tyler, Paul|
|Pond, Chris||Vaz, Keith|
|Pound, Stephen||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Wallace, James|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Watts, David|
|Prescott, Rt Hon John||Webb, Steve|
|Primarolo, Dawn||White, Brian|
|Purchase, Ken||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Rammell, Bill||(Swansea W)|
|Rapson, Syd||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Rendel, David||Willis, Phil|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)||Wills, Michael|
|Rooney, Terry||Wilson, Brian|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Winnick, David|
|Rowlands, Ted||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Roy, Frank||Wood, Mike|
|Ruane, Chris||Woolas, Phil|
|Ruddock, Ms Joan||Worthington, Tony|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Wray, James|
|Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Salter, Martin||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Sanders, Adrian||Wyatt, Derek|
|Sawford, Phil||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sheerman, Barry||Mr. Robert Ainsworth and Mr. Clive Betts.|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Amess, David||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Arbuthnot, James||Lansley, Andrew|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Leigh, Edward|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Letwin, Oliver|
|Beggs, Roy||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Bercow, John||Loughton, Tim|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Luff, Peter|
|Blunt, Crispin||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Body, Sir Richard||Madel, Sir David|
|Boswell, Tim||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Malins, Humfrey|
|Brazier, Julian||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Moss, Malcolm|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Norman, Archie|
|Cash, William||Ottaway, Richard|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Page, Richard|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Paterson, Owen|
|Chope, Christopher||Prior, David|
|Clappison, James||Randall, John|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Collins, Tim||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Ruffley, David|
|Cran, James||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Shepherd, Richard|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Soames, Nicholas|
|Evans, Nigel||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Faber, David||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Fabricant, Michael||Steen, Anthony|
|Fallon, Michael||Swayne, Desmond|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Syms, Robert|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Gale, Roger||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Garnier, Edward||Townend, John|
|Gill, Christopher||Tredinnick, David|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Viggers, Peter|
|Gray, James||Walter, Robert|
|Green, Damian||Wardle, Charles|
|Greenway, John||Wells, Bowen|
|Grieve, Dominic||Whittingdale, John|
|Hammond, Philip||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Hawkins, Nick||Wilkinson, John|
|Hayes, John||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Heald, Oliver||Yeo, Tim|
|Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Hunter, Andrew||Mr. Stephen Day and Mr. Nigel Waterson.|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Division No. 165]||[10.21 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Austin, John|
|Ainger, Nick||Baker, Norman|
|Allan, Richard||Ballard, Mrs Jackie|
|Allen, Graham||Barnes, Harry|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Barron, Kevin|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Bayley, Hugh|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Begg, Miss Anne|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Drew, David|
|Benton, Joe||Drown, Ms Julia|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Berry, Roger||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Efford, Clive|
|Blizzard, Bob||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Ennis, Jeff|
|Borrow, David||Etherington, Bill|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Breed, Colin||Fisher, Mark|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Fitzsimons, Lorna|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Flynn, Paul|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Burden, Richard||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Burgon, Colin||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Burnett, John||Galloway, George|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Gapes, Mike|
|Byers, Stephen||Gardiner, Barry|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Caborn, Richard||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Gerrard, Neil|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Godsiff, Roger|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Goggins, Paul|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Campbelt-Savours, Dale||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gorrie, Donald|
|Caplin, Ivor||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Casale, Roger||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Caton, Martin||Grogan, John|
|Cawsey, Ian||Gunnell, John|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Hain, Peter|
|Chaytor, David||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Chidgey, David||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Clapham, Michael||Hancock, Mike|
|Clark, Dr Lynda||Hanson, David|
|(Edinburgh Pentlands)||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Harvey, Nick|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Healey, John|
|Clelland, David||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Clwyd, Ann||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Coaker, Vernon||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Cohen, Harry||Heppell, John|
|Coleman, Iain||Hesford, Stephen|
|Colman, Tony||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Connarty, Michael||Hill, Keith|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cooper, Yvette||Hoey, Kate|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Home Robertson, John|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Cotter, Brian||Hope, Phil|
|Crausby, David||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cummings, John||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Darvill, Keith||Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Davidson, Ian||Hurst, Alan|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Hutton, John|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)||Ingram, Adam|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Dawson, Hilton||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||Jamieson, David|
|Dewar, Rt Hon Donald||Jenkins, Brian|
|Dismore, Andrew||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Johnson, Miss Melanie|
|Donohoe, Brian H||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Doran, Frank||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Dowd, Jim||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Jones, Ms Jenny||O'Hara, Eddie|
|(Wolverh'ton SW)||Olner, Bill|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Öpik, Lembit|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Pearson, Ian|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Pickthall, Colin|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Pike, Peter L|
|Keetch, Paul||Plaskitt, James|
|Kemp, Fraser||Pollard, Kerry|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)||Pond, Chris|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Pope, Greg|
|Khabra, Piara S||Pound, Stephen|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Kingham, Ms Tess||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Laxton, Bob||Purchase, Ken|
|Lepper, David||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Leslie, Christopher||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Levitt, Tom||Rammell, Bill|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Rapson, Syd|
|Linton, Martin||Raynsford, Nick|
|Livsey, Richard||Rendel, David|
|Lock, David||Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)|
|Love, Andrew||Rooker, Jeff|
|McAllion, John||Rooney, Terry|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McCabe, Steve||Rowlands, Ted|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Roy, Frank|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Ruane, Chris|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Macdonald, Calum||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|McFall, John||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|McIsaac, Shona||Salter, Martin|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Sanders, Adrian|
|McLeish, Henry||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McNamara, Kevin||Sawford, Phil|
|McNulty, Tony||Sheerman, Barry|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McWilliam, John||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marek, Dr John||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Maxton, John||Snape, Peter|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Soley, Clive|
|Meale, Alan||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Michael, Alun||Spellar, John|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Miller, Andrew||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Mitchell, Austin||Stevenson, George|
|Moffatt, Laura||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Moore, Michael||Stott, Roger|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Stringer, Graham|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Morley, Elliot||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||(Dewsbury)|
|Mountford, Kali||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Mudie, George||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Mullin, Chris||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)||Timms, Stephen|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Tipping, Paddy|
|Norris, Dan||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Touhig, Don|
|Trickett, Jon||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Truswell, Paul||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)||Willis, Phil|
|Twigg, Derek (Halton)||Wills, Michael|
|Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)||Wilson, Brian|
|Tyler, Paul||Winnick, David|
|Vaz, Keith||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Vis, Dr Rudi||Wood, Mike|
|Wallace, James||Woolas, Phil|
|Wareing, Robert N||Wray, James|
|Watts, David||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Webb, Steve||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|White, Brian||Wyatt, Derek|
|Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Wicks, Malcolm||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan(Swansea W)||Mr. Robert Ainsworth and Mr. Cllve Betts.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Amess, David||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Lansley, Andrew|
|Arbuthnot, James||Leigh, Edward|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Letwin, Oliver|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Beggs, Roy||Loughton, Tim|
|Bercow, John||Luff, Peter|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Blunt, Crispin||Madel, Sir David|
|Body, Sir Richard||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Boswell, Tim||Malins, Humfrey|
|Brazier, Julian||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Moss, Malcolm|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Norman, Archie|
|Cash, William||Ottaway, Richard|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Page, Richard|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Paterson, Owen|
|Chope, Christopher||Prior, David|
|Clappison, James||Randall, John|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Collins, Tim||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Cran, James||Ruffley, David|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Shepherd, Richard|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Evans, Nigel||Soames, Nicholas|
|Faber, David||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Fabricant, Michael||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Fallon, Michael||Steen, Anthony|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Swayne, Desmond|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Syms, Robert|
|Gale, Roger||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Garnier, Edward||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Gill, Christopher||Townend, John|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Tredinnick, David|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Gray, James||Viggers, Peter|
|Green, Damian||Walter, Robert|
|Greenway, John||Wardle, Charles|
|Grieve, Dominic||Wells, Bowen|
|Hammond, Philip||Whittingdale, John|
|Hawkins, Nick||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Hayes, John||Wilkinson, John|
|Heald, Oliver||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David||Yeo, Tim|
|Horam, John||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Mr. Stephen Day and Mr. Nigel Waterson.|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
When the Bill was last debated, I said that the Government were pragmatic about the two questions; unlike the Opposition, we would be prepared to listen. Indeed, I invited the Opposition to come up with a viable second question. However, I specified some essential tests that any second question would have to pass.
First, if we are to have a second question on the grounds that it extends democratic choice, it needs to do just that. It needs to accommodate the various permutations and preferences raised during our debates. The amendment made in another place patently fails to do that. Rather than clarifying the choices, it opens up a series of ambiguities. The electorate will not know what they are voting for.
How does the staunch Tory who wishes to vote specifically for his party's preferred option—an assembly made up of borough leaders—do so when faced with the two questions? He cannot. He can only vote for an assembly without knowing how it might be constituted. This is from the party that argued throughout the previous debate that clarity was essential—that people should be aware of every fine detail of the arrangements. Of course when it comes to this Lords amendment, the Conservatives use totally different logic.
I am grateful to the Minister, who thinks that he will be bored. The Government have produced the Green Paper and the consultation paper, and if the amendment is passed the referendum will not take place. We do not know, however, what the Government will propose in the White Paper. How can we ask detailed questions when we do not even know what the Government propose?
It is a little depressing to realise that the hon. Gentleman—who was in the Chamber for most, if not all, of the debate on the previous amendment—obviously has not listened to a single word. We have made it clear that the Government will publish a White Paper, setting out the full details of the Government's decisions in respect of the Greater London authority, and that will be at least six weeks before the referendum. In addition, a summary leaflet will be distributed to every household in London. I accept that the hon. Gentleman, who represents a constituency somewhere in the west country, will not get a copy through his postbox because he does not happen to live in London—except during the week.
Well, I hope that the hon. Gentleman gets one through his postbox. He will then see the basis of the Government's proposals.
No, I wish to make progress. The hon. Gentleman has intervened on many occasions but has cast little light on the debate. We should proceed.
Equally, how does the earnest Liberal Democrat express her preference for a mayor elected from the assembly? She cannot. She can only vote for or against a mayor, without knowing how the mayor will be elected. Again, that is clear evidence that the Opposition have failed to come up with a second question that clarifies the issues.
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he would want a Liberal Democrat to have the opportunity to vote for an assembly without a mayor. That cannot be done on the formulation he proposed. That reveals the total failure of the Opposition to come up with a viable second question.
With your leave, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall deal with this point at greater length later.
The Minister's argument is flawed in two respects. First, the Bill, as amended by our amendment, specifically says that the Government propose one question, "Do you want an elected assembly, elected by Londoners?" and another, "Do you want an elected mayor, elected by Londoners?" Secondly, the Minister knows that his one-question proposition does not allow somebody who wants only a mayor or only an assembly to express that view either. The argument that he applies to us applies equally to him.
I accept that. I have never pretended that we have a duty to put before the electorate the Liberal Democrats' basically unsound proposals. We are not obliged to put their views to the electorate.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to keep calm and I shall give way to him in a moment.
We have always said that we would put before the electorate the Government's proposition, which we put to the electorate at last May's election and which was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of London. The Liberal Democrats would love to be in government and they could then put their proposition, but they are not and they should therefore accept that they are not in a position to do so.
I am not so arrogant as to suggest that the Government put our proposition to the electorate; I suggest that they put a choice to the electorate. Why do not the Government allow the electorate to decide, rather than insist on determining the question?
That is exactly what the Government are doing. We are putting the proposition that we put to the electorate last May. The electorate voted for the Labour party, which had made it clear that it proposed a Greater London authority comprising a mayor and an assembly. We said that we would consult the people of London before legislating. That was our pledge and that is what we are doing, in marked contrast with the Conservative party, which consulted no one when it abolished the GLC. There was no referendum or test of opinion, and it is pure humbug on the Conservatives' part now to talk about referendums, votes and tests of opinion.
My second test was that the referendum must be capable of delivering a decisive expression of public opinion. Those two questions do not guarantee that. If I, as a proponent of the Government's package of a mayor and an assembly together, voted yes on both questions, only to find that a mayor alone had been approved in the referendum, I would be appalled. My vote would have contributed to an outcome that I did not want. We have repeatedly emphasised that the mayor's powers must be balanced by the accountability provided by the assembly. Without that framework of accountability, too much power would be concentrated in one person's hands, yet, under the amendment made in another place, I would be denied the option of a vote for the combination of mayor and assembly, which forms the basis of the Government's proposal.
It is pretty rich for the Opposition to devise a couple of questions that would deny the people of London an opportunity to say yes or no to the proposal contained in the Government's election manifesto, which was supported by the overwhelming majority of Londoners. That is the sheer hypocrisy of the Opposition parties.
The Minister knows that the majority of Londoners did not vote Labour at the election. We discussed that last time and the Minister must withdraw that claim. If his case is to be credible, he must persuade the electorate to vote "yes, yes". They then get exactly what he wants and will have answered both parts of the question in the affirmative. He simply does not have confidence in his own case.
On the contrary. We have just heard from the hon. Gentleman the typical Liberal Democrat ploy of trying to get their own way, and denying the people of London the opportunity to vote on the Government's proposition. That was endorsed by 49.5 per cent. of the electorate of London last May—a rather larger proportion than that which voted for the Liberal Democrats.
The two questions drafted by the Opposition risk peoples' votes carrying the day for a package with which they do not agree. That is good neither for clarity nor for democratic choice.
Thirdly, the Government should not be in the business of putting forward unworkable propositions in which they do not believe and which they would not implement, but that is precisely what those two questions risk. What would the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) do if he were faced by a vote in favour of a mayor without an assembly? What would the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) do if he were faced with a vote for an assembly without a mayor? Would they implement models of government to which they were diametrically opposed? I doubt it. I have explained that the amendments do not meet the key tests set out in our earlier deliberations.
This is curious, because the Minister seems to suggest that the Government will not respond to an advisory referendum. Surely the point of having a referendum is to render the Government advice on the view of the electorate of London, but the Government are saying that they do not want to be given such advice and that, if they get the wrong advice, they will not follow it.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman, who has a reputation for being thoughtful in some respects, should have entirely missed the point. He talks about the Government seeking advice. The Government are seeking not advice but the view of the electorate on a specific proposition. We are seeking clarity. In the last debate, he was all in favour of clarity. He now peddles the argument for ambiguity. The point that I have already made to him, and which he appears incapable of understanding, is that, if the questions as now phrased were put to the electorate, people would be voting for propositions the outcome of which they could not know.
There are several permutations that could lead to the result that people least want as a result of voting in the way that they thought would accord with their views. That is the problem. The Conservative who does not want an assembly but wants a mayor could vote yes for a mayor and yes for an assembly, which seems to be roughly the Conservative party position, and end up having voted for the assembly, because that is a separate vote, but not getting the mayor because the majority were against one. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) does not seem able to understand the problem that there would be no clarity. There would be confusion and uncertainty.
I have explained that the amendments do not meet the key tests set in our earlier deliberations. The Opposition have failed utterly to come up with two questions that meet the requirements that we set, and they have equally failed to refute the Government's case for a single question. We must therefore ask why the amendments were pressed in the first place. As with the previous amendment, the answer can be only that they are determined to wreck our clear manifesto commitment to rostore democratic citywide government in London.
As I said earlier, the Opposition parties dare not do so openly, because they know that our proposals command the support of the overwhelming majority of Londoners. They have resorted to the subterfuge of wrecking amendments. That is not an honourable or creditable approach. It is, of course, all too typical of the Conservatives, who have twisted and turned on the issue over the past year. Twelve months ago, they were saying that there was no need for a new authority for London.
The people of London gave their verdict overwhelmingly on that proposition on 1 May last year. I invite the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) to consider that point: does he agree with the outcome of the general election on 1 May, and will he respect it?
The hon. Gentleman ignores the point that I have made many times already. It was a manifesto commitment that we would hold a referendum to confirm the support of the people of London for our proposition. I hope that even he would not suggest that we should break manifesto pledges.
Twelve months ago, the Conservatives did not want an assembly or authority for London. The people rejected their view. Now, realising that they are profoundly unpopular, they have started to change their position. They now say that they think that there is a case for a mayor. They cannot bring themselves to agree with the concept of a strategic authority and are therefore going for a halfway house of support for a mayor but rejection of an assembly. It is difficult to understand how any political party could get itself into such a ludicrous position until one recalls that it is not the product of rational analysis but of the Tories being told by their spin doctors to change their policy without having thought through the issues.
Perhaps the more interesting question is not how the Conservative party got itself into this mess, but why the Liberal Democrats should have been so keen to join them in opposing the Government's proposals. In their case, it is once again, as with the Conservatives, not the product of any sensible or rational analysis. Indeed, it was notable that, in the other place, those Liberal Democrat peers who had given serious thought to the governance of London—I think especially of the distinguished former director of the London School of Economics, Lord Dahrendorf—did not support their party's wrecking amendments. Lord Dahrendorf was explicit in saying that he supported
the Government's Bill without any ifs and buts."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15 December 1997; Vol. 584, c. 428.]
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, to whom I will happily give way, should perhaps consider that the person in his party perhaps best qualified from experience to comment on the governance of London explicitly repudiated his party's position in the other place.
It is true that three of our colleagues supported the Government in the other place.
Three of the Government's colleagues supported us—two former London Members of Parliament and one other Member. Does the Minister accept that it is as valid to regard the opinion of his dissenters as it is to regard the opinion of ours?
If any of the dissenters on the Labour Benches had had as distinguished a career in analysis of the governance of London as Lord Dahrendorf, I would have treated their opinions with respect. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that he was wrong once again. He often is. It was not three but four Liberal Democrat peers who voted for the Government, one of whom happened to be their Deputy Chief Whip. I have to put it to the hon. Gentleman that his party, as usual, did not know what it was doing.
The truth is that the Liberal Democrats in London are in the pocket of their local councillors, who have not the vision to see any possible alternative system of government to the conventional town hall model. A rather distinguished senior figure in the Liberal Democrat party, who was one of many others who did not vote because they could not bring themselves to vote for their party's absurd position, commented that the fault line in the Liberal Democrat party was now between the councillors and the others. That was very evident in the debates in the other House.
The two Opposition parties are united in an unholy alliance of conservatism to try to wreck the Government's radical reform proposals. The electorate will no doubt have a good chance to reflect on that on 7 May.
As my noble Friend Baroness Hayman made clear in another place, there are legitimate differences of opinion about the best form of government for London. It is perfectly acceptable that such differences exist, and I am happy to debate the issues, but the Government are not obliged to put those differences to the people of London in a referendum. We do not have to offer a vote on the Conservative position, the Liberal Democrat councillors' position or indeed any other variation.
We will seek the consent of Londoners to our considered proposal for an authority made up of an elected mayor and an assembly. We have consulted the people of London already on that and worked up detailed proposals. We have published those proposals in a White Paper well in advance of the referendum. That is the package that we believe to be the best form of government for London. That is what we promised to deliver in our manifesto. If Londoners do not agree with our proposals, they are free to vote no.
Our proposal for a single question in the referendum will allow a decisive expression of public opinion on a clear proposition. People will know exactly what they are voting for, and what they will get. If there is a yes vote, the people of London know that the Government will act, and how they will act. Londoners have waited far too long for their chance to decide on their city's future; they should not have to endure further confusion and delay now. I urge the House to reverse the Lords amendment.
That is probably one of the weakest arguments that I have heard even the Minister make on these issues. We have debated them before. The distinctive feature is that his replies get worse rather than better. When he begins to attack us for being the prisoners of spin doctors, he is really scraping the barrel for an argument. To suggest that the amendment is a wrecking one is a ludicrous proposition; it has the support of a number of people representing a range of opinion.
When the Minister discussed the previous amendment, he made a great deal about the House of Lords, its rights and the hereditary peerage. He did not mention those issues again in his speech on this amendment, for the good reason that, when it came to a decision on the amendment in the other place, the Labour party managed to garner only 104 votes in the Division, which it lost. Presumably Lord Hattersley was either still out at lunch or preparing for dinner, and other Ministers were unavailable to the Whip. On that occasion, three Labour peers voted with the Conservative party, including Lord Jenkins of Putney and Lord Stallard. Lord Jenkins and Jock Stallard are not exactly pillars of the Conservative party.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why a distinguished former leader of the Greater London council, Lord Plummer, voted with the Government on that occasion?
Lord Plummer doubtless voted with the Government, but, although I hate to make the Minister leave his fantasy world, I must remind him that the Opposition won that vote. His party was able to produce only 104 votes. A coalition of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour peers managed to win the vote, for good reasons; no one can seriously doubt the strong arguments invoked.
This is an important debate and I hope that the Government will not move the closure before the Minister for Transport in London, who is meant to responding to the debate, has the opportunity to do so. It shows an unappealing lack of confidence in her that the closure was moved before she had the opportunity to say a word. Presumably there was a risk that she would deter people from voting in her Lobby. The decision to move the closure was extremely discourteous to Labour's chosen candidate for mayor of London. We have already made it clear that the Conservative party backs her candidature. We imagine that she will soon stand down from office to take up that challenge.
The amendment refers to an issue that has remained crucial throughout the debate on the Bill. The Government have been urged not only by the House of Lords but by a range of other people to make provision for not one but two questions to be asked at the referendum. The public should be asked whether they support the proposal for a directly elected mayor and, separately, whether they would support the establishment of new elected assembly for London.
The Conservative party has made it clear that it supports the proposal for a directly elected mayor but opposes that for a new assembly. We are not alone in that view, because the Liberal Democrats support us, as do members of the Labour party. The most significant speech from a Labour Back Bencher in the entire debate in the House was that of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), when he roundly attacked the Government's proposals. On that occasion, Labour Back Benchers were allowed to speak, and it is significant that,
since the hon. Gentleman's speech, they have been banned from doing so. The hon. Gentleman said
We are not getting a single voice for London—we are getting two competing voices, locked into an institutionalised conflict"—[Official Report, 19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 400.]
His argument was that the crucial body was the directly elected assembly. Given his position on the GLC, that comes as no surprise.
The hon. Member for Brent, East revealed that many people in the Greater London Labour party were unhappy with the Government's proposals, usually because they wanted an assembly but did not want a mayor. He was scathing about the whole consultation process. He said:
If we were prepared to trust Londoners, we would have a debate in which Ministers could marshal their arguments and we could challenge them. If Ministers could persuade Londoners, Ministers would get their way, but they do not trust Londoners, which is why they will not be given a choice. Londoners will be told, 'Take it or leave it.' That is insulting to Londoners. We have just had a referendum in Scotland and we allowed the people to have two votes to decide about tax policy, but Londoners can have only one option … 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 Londoners and an insult to their intelligence."—[Official Report,19 November 1997; Vol. 301, c. 403.]
That was the opinion of the hon. Member for Brent, East. Whatever other criticisms one can make of him, he has taken some interest in the affairs of London and local government during the past few years.
By any standards, no one can seriously claim that the idea of two questions was dreamed up in the House of Lords. It has been at the heart of the debate on the London referendum throughout. A large part of the press has supported the two-question proposal. The Times said:
These are two different issues. They require two separate questions and answers".
If the Government has its way, Londoners will be asked to consider one single proposition in which they must either accept or reject both a mayor and an elected assembly. The electorate will not be allowed to choose between them.
Referring to the Prime Minister, The Times said:
He imposed that view on a reluctant party. He should not do so again.The Guardian expressed a similar opinion.
There are two separate propositions. It is possible to argue for a mayor, to be a voice for London and to carry out other functions, without accepting the case for a new assembly. That is especially so, in the light of the effect of the proposals in the Bill combined with the effect of the proposals in other legislation currently before the House—in particular, the Regional Development Agencies Bill and a House of Lords private Member's Bill, the Local Government (Experimental Arrangements) Bill. That shows that we are heading for an incredible, multi-layered bureaucratic administration for London.
I should have thought that many hon. Members on the Labour Benches—if there were many hon. Members on the Labour Benches; remarkably, not only do they not speak now, but they do not even turn up to listen to the debate—
I think that common observation will illustrate that the Conservatives are better represented in the Chamber than are the massed ranks of the Labour party, who are, presumably, even now in the Tea Room.
Let us consider what the structure of local government in London will be if we continue on the lines that the Government propose. First, we shall have a directly elected mayor, with powers yet to be specified by the Government. Secondly, we shall have a directly elected assembly, also with powers yet to be specified by the Government. Thirdly, we shall have a regional development agency, appointed by the Secretary of State, but with powers that will impinge on all of London. Thirdly, we shall have the Government office for London, which, on past performance, will be extraordinarily reluctant to give up any power or influence.
Fourthly, the Local Government (Experimental Arrangements) Bill will allow boroughs to apply to have their own executive mayor. I gather that the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is already working on that model. If all these plans go ahead, residents of Hammersmith and Fulham, of which I am one, will live under a London mayor and a borough executive mayor, and there will also be powers for a small cabinet around the borough mayor.
Finally, at long last, in this new bureaucratic system for London, we get to the borough councilors—the people who are directly accountable to the public they serve. They are at the end of the queue. Their power will be reduced—there is no other sensible explanation of what is happening. It is simply not possible to argue that the power and influence of borough councillors can remain the same given the vast superstructure that has been erected above them.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. It is interesting to note that he is clearly unsympathetic to the proposals for democratic reform in local government advanced by Lord Hunt through legislation in another place. I am rather surprised that the Opposition do not support that measure.
I simply ask the right hon. Gentleman to recognise that he was incorrect in claiming that the development agency for London would be appointed by the Secretary of State. We have made it clear that there will be a direct line of democratic accountability from that agency to the mayor and the assembly of London. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will correct the impression that he has given.
Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman responds, I remind the House that this is rather a narrow amendment. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to speak to it.
I accept that warning, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point is that we are debating whether there should be a separate vote for a mayorf and a separate vote for an assembly. A crucial argument in allowing a vote on an assembly is that the Government will insert new layers of local government into the system. In other words, it is crucial to understand that, as well as the directly elected assembly, other layers will be inserted by different legislation. I shall not labour the point. However, it was not clear from the Minister's remarks who will appoint the development agency.
The mayor will appoint the development agency for London, but we are correct in saying that it will be an entirely appointed body. There is no question of its being elected democratically—in other words, it will be a major quango. [Interruption.] Let us not have any arguments from a sedentary position. The Minister is provoking my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans).
The Secretary of State appoints the members of other regional development agencies, but, in the case of London, the mayor will make the appointments. There is no question but that the members will be appointees and that the body will be a quango.
One does not have to be a paid-up Conservative Member to see that the system being proposed is out of control. Even those who advocated the idea of a London mayor must now wonder about the enormous machine that is being constructed. The House of Lords was entirely correct to pass the amendment. It will enable the public to decide whether they want to remove at least one layer of administration and bureaucracy that the Government are inserting.
The Opposition have no argument about the mayor: we support the concept of a mayor. However, for all the reasons that I have stated, we oppose the idea of a directly elected assembly. If an assembly is required as a checking measure, we propose that it should comprise borough leaders—it could even include executive mayors, if power has passed to them by that stage. The Minister challenges me on that point. We seek an assurance—which is one of the reasons why I was so sad not to hear the winding-up speech of the Minister for Transport in London—[Interruption.] The Minister must have a glimmer of understanding that we are working in a democratic assembly and that hon. Members have an absolute and utter right to put their points of view. It is not enough for the Minister to say, "We achieved a big majority at the last election, and this is our will." We do not accept that, and the sooner the Minister gets used to that, the better it will be for him.
Rather than expressing mock indignation, the right hon. Gentleman should speak to his hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) about honouring undertakings about the length of winding-up speeches. If those undertakings had been honoured, my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London would have had time to speak.
The Minister is totally erroneous and he is certainly out of order. It is a great pity that he does not calm down and listen to the arguments. [Interruption.] Perhaps I may be allowed to continue.
If we go down the Government's proposed road, there will be exactly the kind of institutionalised conflict that the hon. Member for Brent, East forecast. There will be conflict between the mayor and the assembly, and between the elected assembly and the elected borough councils. It will lead to a transfer of power from the boroughs to the centre. It is fanciful, ludicrous, to believe that elected assembly members will be content simply to carry out strategic thinking and checking. I can think of no elected assembly that would be happy with such a role. Step by step and year by year, the members of the assembly will seek further powers.
It was entirely clear from Labour speeches on Second Reading that Labour Members want a return to the Greater London council. They consider it a great pity that the GLC was abolished and they would like to see it return. That is their honest view, although it is not a view which the Government would dare to express. The powers that go to the assembly are unlikely to come from the Government and Whitehall, because, if history is any guide, they will fight like tigers to preserve their own. The powers that eventually go to the assembly will be those of the boroughs.
The Minister challenged me and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to table clear amendments that gave the public and the House a choice. We think that we have already tabled such amendments and I am glad that the Liberal Democrats have come round to our way of thinking on the matter.
The amendments are exactly the same. The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip would realise that if he knew anything about these matters, which I doubt.
The amendments are clear and I think that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and I can agree on that. Above all, they give the people of London a vital choice and the House should support that. We have consistently argued for two questions. The other place was right to pass the amendment, and I urge the House to support it.
The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) looked forward to the day when Hammersmith and Fulham had directly elected mayors. Even if, with our support, he does not win the battle for a referendum with two questions, he may soon get two referendums, each with one question. People may be asked, "Do you want a directly elected mayor and an assembly for London?" and, "Do you want a directly elected mayor and an assembly for Hammersmith?" There is a consolation prize ahead of the right hon. Gentleman.
I shall not get that because there are no powers for such a referendum. That is precisely my point. There are no powers for a referendum anywhere but in London. That is why I want an assurance from the Government that the House will be given the opportunity to debate the private Member's Bill in the other place that is being promoted by Lord Hunt.
The right hon. Gentleman is correct. At the moment, there are no such referendum powers. I share his view that there should be such powers and that there should be a debate. My colleagues and I share the scepticism about some elements of Lord Hunt's Bill.
I was reflecting on what the debate on the Lords amendment would be called if it were a novel.
Order. It would help progress enormously if we did not have interruptions from a sedentary position, from Ministers or anybody else.
Particularly if they are so misinformed as to think that "Much Ado About Nothing" is a novel.
The title I gave it was "The great abolition justifies the great endorsement". The Government's argument seems to be that, because the Tories were wicked—which they were—in abolishing the GLC without asking anybody, which is what happened, they are now justified in saying, "This is our proposal and this is the only show in town."
The Liberal Democrats want the Bill to become law as the House of Lords has now amended it. On a Liberal Democrat amendment, supported by Conservatives, three Labour peers—I hope that the Government will concede, on reflection, that they are not insubstantial Labour peers, as they included two eminent former Members of this House and one other—and independent peers, including a former Speaker of the House, the other place amended the Bill to provide that the referendum should have two questions, not one. The amendment also provides that the schedule should have two clear questions, not one simple question.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, in the vote in the other place, the Government were supported by the distinguished former leader of the GLC—Lord Plummer, a Conservative peer—Viscount Falkland, the Liberal Democrat deputy chief whip in the Lords, three more Liberal Democrats and some of the most distinguished Cross-Benchers, including Lord Carnarvon who chairs the all-party London group? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that that is a pretty clear sign that there was substantial support for the Government's position from the Liberal Democrat Benches, the Conservative Benches and the Cross Benches.
The Minister fails to understand an important point. The Government should allow people to express their opinion. We did. The Minister corrected me earlier, and I accept that four of our colleagues voted with the Government. If the Government had not steamrollered their view through their party, their regional conference and their local parties, ignoring grassroots opinion, and if the Minister had allowed the hon. Members for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and all the others to vote as they wished, he would have found that many of his hon. Friends would have voted with the Liberal Democrats.
Given that, for the first time in the history of Parliament, we now have the rule that, if one votes against the Government, one risks deselection with no reselection, and there is no right to object to the Government's policy, of course most people follow the party line. It is that, or no job. In the other place, thank God, some people were more independent. I support the idea that there should have been a freedom to vote. There should have been freedom in this place and the other place. If my hon. Friends here had wanted to vote differently, I hope that we should have allowed them to do so.
I also believe that the voters of London should have a free choice and not be dragooned into one lobby with only one choice, imposed by one minority Government.
I began to wonder whether we were evaluating whether an earl was worth more than a viscount or a baron and whether, if they happened to have been Members of Parliament, that added a few points to their credentials. I believe that, even in the other place, each vote counts as one. On two occasions a couple of weeks ago, according to the calculations by the Whips in that place, we won. My understanding is that that is the way in which this place works. It may be simple. It may be simpler even than the Government's original proposal, but, if it has been all right for this country for a few hundred years, I reckon that it may be all right for a few hundred more.
In response to the intervention by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), I should like to make it clear that I specifically said that Lord Dahrendorf spoke; I did not say that he voted. I would not wish to be misrepresented. Lord Dahrendorf, who is a distinguished former director of the London school of economics and who has studied the issue in great depth, reached an informed view as to the right basis for government and said that he fully supported the Government's position. That is the point that I made and I hope that that is accepted.
This is in danger of becoming a seminar on decision making in the House of Lords. There was a heated debate among my colleagues in both Houses. The result is that several colleagues—Lord Taverne for example—share the view not only that there should be a directly elected mayor, but that there should be two questions and that people should be allowed to make the choice, whatever we, the legislators, think.
As I said in an intervention, it was rich of the Government to claim that, because the amendment was passed by an unelected hereditary second Chamber, it should not be listened to. I have been here 15 years this month. On several occasions, the other place has either succeeded or nearly succeeded in preventing this place from getting away with things that it should not have got away with.
The other place may not be perfect and I do not like the way in which it is composed, but it is an important safeguard. It is composed as it is because past and present Governments have not changed it. The Government could have changed it, but they have not. It does not lie in their mouths to complain.
How we govern our capital city is a big and important issue. It is right that it should have a lot of attention because this country needs a capital city that works best. It is exciting that we are going to get London government back. My colleagues and I thoroughly share that view.
We welcome a Government who want to roseore government to London. We have said that unequivocally. We think that the Government started from the right position: they wanted to rostore democratic government in London. However, there is no theology about that and we are here because we think that they have the wrong proposal. We are entitled to say that, the Tories are entitled to their view, and others are, too. Worse, having fixed on a view, the Government have not been listening or adapting their view—formed originally by a relatively small number of people—in the light of the public's opinion.
In many respects, we think that the Government have been far too timid in not giving the proposed London government tax-varying powers and in not allowing it any control over strategic health matters. Therefore, in many respects, it is not a bold and radical proposal. Only one thing appears to be a huge totem pole of machismo and conviction for the Government: we have to have both a directly elected mayor and an assembly, whether people like it or not. The Government appear to be wedded to that proposal.
The Green Paper asked 62 questions to elicit opinions. The one question that most people wanted to answer was not even asked. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was in the manifesto."] I shall not have a great debate on the manifesto. There was a pledge in the manifesto, but that does not mean that the manifesto either expressly stated that there would not be two questions—I have a copy of the manifesto here, and it did not even imply that—or that the Government should not respond if there were a well of opinion in London favouring two questions.
We are in for a hard time if we have a Government who will never, even in the light of circumstances or of public opinion, alter a single word implied in their manifesto. The curse of undemocratic Governments is to be wedded to a manifesto, without engaging the brain. It is important not only to apply policies and principles but to listen to what the people are saying and, whenever possible, to give them the maximum choice.