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With this we shall take amendments (a) to (d) and (f) to promoters new clause 1, amendments Nos. 33 and 35, promoters amendments Nos. 1 to 4, amendment No. 47, promoters amendment No. 5 and amendments (b) to (d) thereto, amendment No. 52, promoters amendments Nos. 6 to 8, promoters amendment No. 149 and amendments (a), (b) and (d) to (l) thereto, amendments Nos. 60, 68, 69, 71, 74, 75, 77 to 79, 81 to 84, promoters amendments Nos. 10 and 11, promoters amendment No. 12 and amendment (a) thereto, amendments Nos. 90, 92, 95, promoters amendment No. 13, amendments Nos. 97 to 99, 101, 102, promoters amendments Nos. 15 to 17, promoters amendment No. 18 and amendment (a) thereto, promoters amendments Nos. 19 and 20, amendment No. 125, promoters amendment No. 21, amendment No. 126, promoters amendments Nos. 22 and 25, amendments Nos. 131, 133 and 143, and promoters amendments Nos. 26 to 30.
With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to comment on the promoters amendments in the group that you have heroically read out. In the debate on the revival motion on
"amendments will be introduced to remove the proposed voting entitlement based on the rateable value of premises and replace it with a scheme that relates voting entitlement to the number of people who work on the premises."—[Hansard, 15 November 2001; Vol. 374, c. 1034.]
The new clause and the promoters amendments that we are now considering implement that undertaking.
May I make a little progress? I want to get out of the station before I stop at the first red light. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.
To secure the changes needed to relate the right to appoint to work force numbers, it has been necessary to make a number of changes to the Bill. However, many are consequential, and I shall focus on the amendments that are central to the changes. I should then like to touch on some of the amendments that John McDonnell has tabled.
Could the right hon. Gentleman advise us why these amendments were not available to us during the debate on the carry-over? Why was there such a flurry last week? Amendments were tabled and withdrawn within two hours of the deadline, offering little opportunity for consideration by those who may wish to amend the amendments. The City of London corporation has had four years to produce the Bill.
When I spoke in November, I said that amendments would be tabled to change the basis, and it should have come as no surprise to the hon. Gentleman that such amendments have indeed been tabled. He should welcome them, because the changes that have been made by the corporation take a giant stride towards the case that he has been making for many years. I hope that he will not be churlish about the changes to the Bill. He has that churlish look on his face, so I shall move straight on.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is definitely not looking churlish at the moment, and I commend him for the good humour that he is now displaying.
New clause 1 would perform the same function as clause 6. It would exclude Crown bodies, such as Government Departments, from the Bill by providing that they should not be treated as qualifying bodies. No right to appoint would therefore arise. The change is needed because the existing clause relates the exclusion of the Crown to property that is recorded as such on the local non-domestic rating list. The use of the rating list was appropriate when the right to appoint was linked to rateable values. With the disappearance of that link, reference to the local non-domestic rating list is no longer apt. Amendment No. 19 is consequential, and removes clause 6.
I am not sure whether they have any property that qualifies. I think that there is an amendment about the European Union, and having made inquiries, I am not sure that it has a building that would qualify. We will make diligent inquiries to see whether foreign Governments own accommodation in the City.
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who is sponsoring the Bill, is not aware that this legislation, if carried, would enable foreign Governments who have property in the United Kingdom to exercise a vote through various bodies. They would own property and they would employ staff.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that comment.
Amendment No. 1 would remove the definitions of "hereditament" and "non-domestic rating list".
I should like to make a little more progress.
With the change from rateable values to size of work forces as the parameter by which the extent of the right to appoint arises, those definitions are no longer needed.
Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 would change the way in which "occupation" is defined to take account of the removal of any reference to "hereditaments". The term "premises", which is a standard legislative term, is substituted, as "hereditament" is used in rating legislation but not more generally. Entitlements to appoint are no longer ascertained by reference to rateable values, so a rating term is inappropriate.
Amendment No. 5 would insert "workforce" as a principal definition in the Bill by relocating the definition currently set out in clause 4(2). That relocation is appropriate as a matter of drafting, given the adoption of the work force criterion to generate the right to appoint in place of rateable values.
Promoters amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 make changes to clause 2(2) consequent on the removal of references to rateable values and hereditaments. The practical effect of the subsection is unaltered. Promoters amendment No. 149, originally tabled as No. 9, is central to the changes now being proposed. It would add a new section, 6(1)(c), to section 6 of the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1957, which deals with electoral qualifications, and provides for the entitlement of a qualifying body to appoint any individual to be decided on the basis of the size of the work force.
New subsection (1A) sets out the extent of the entitlement. For a work force of up to five, one person may be appointed. Each additional five members of the work force will generate an entitlement of one additional appointment, up to work forces of 50. In the case of work forces over 50, the entitlement is tapered. The work force must increase by a further 50 before an entitlement to make an additional appointment arises.
The taper was selected to avoid dominance by larger firms, and to achieve a total electorate that would not produce a larger component of business voters than the Bill does now. In fact the projected figure declines by about 1,500, giving a total City electorate of approximately 38,500.
Paragraph 9 of the statement given us by the promoters states:
"Residents are currently concentrated in four wards in the City. The wider reforms"— which we are discussing—
"provide that the residential vote will continue to dominate in those wards."
Can the right hon. Gentleman, either now or later this evening, tell us what estimates have been made of the ratios involved in the four wards?
I do not carry such important statistics in my head, but I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman receives them. The key point is that the boundaries are being changed so that the domination of the residential vote can be retained in the four wards, thus leaving the balance unchanged.
I raised the issue of boundary changes in my point of order, because one of the corporation's commitments was that they would be implemented. That commitment was given three years ago to Committee members who are present now, but no attempt has been made to protect residents. Is that not an act of bad faith on the corporation's part?
I do not accept that criticism. I understand that the boundary changes are going through, although they are not included in the Bill.
Under proposed subsection (1B), the entitlement of any qualifying body to make appointments would be confined to situations in which the full five, or 50, increase in the size of the work force was satisfied. Remainders are ignored. A work force of nine, for instance, would generate an entitlement to one appointment, because the full step of five additional members of the work force above the one appointment generated by a work force of up to five had not been satisfied.
The quantitative assessment of the outturn in terms of the number of business voters has been a substantial obstacle to the adoption of a work force-based entitlement. Only through the results of a comprehensive land use survey in which the corporation has been engaged over the past four years—a process involving personal visits both to individual City businesses and to correspondents—has the development of the scheme now envisaged being possible. The survey will need to be updated on a continuing basis through the development of an occupiers' database. That represents a substantial ongoing commitment on the corporation's part.
The promoters still think that rateable values would have provided the most readily available and easily validated basis for the entitlement to appoint. I note that the Government's recent White Paper, "Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services", anticipates the use of rateable values for the voting mechanism for business improvement districts. The promoters have, however, sought to respond to the continuing objections of the Bill's opponents in Parliament to a property-based system.
The City of London Labour party petitioned against the Bill when it was introduced. I hope that I will not offend my hon. Friend Mr. Field if I read a short passage from the evidence given to the Select Committee by Mr. Christopher Haines, chairman of the City of London Labour party, to which the corporation responded by tabling the new clause and amendments. He said:
"We have commended to the Corporation an alternate proposal, that votes should relate to the number of staff employed by bodies within the City, a system we refer to as a payroll vote. We do not by that mean that it is based on the amount of the payroll but rather that the company would qualify for a number of votes depending on how many people it employed within the City, not the total throughout the country. We believe that this would more closely reflect the democratic position of this country as a whole and we understand those traditions are that votes are based on people, not on buildings and not on taxes".
Mr. Haines went on to point out that such changes should be part of continuing reforms, and that changing the present Bill to achieve the system he proposed would result in substantial amendment. Members will have observed the number of amendments tabled by the promoters. I can tell them that they have been discussed with the officers of the City of London Labour party, who have responded constructively.
The new scheme maintains—albeit on a different basis—arrangements for the appointment of individuals. I want to say something about that in the context of amendment No. 149. Members should realise that we are not talking about nomination or appointment to the City's governing body. The individuals appointed will become part of the electorate who, with the existing business voters, will be able to participate in the City's ward elections. Using the jargon, one could say that they would form part of the electoral college comprising all the City's voters, who will decide by secret ballot who will represent them on the City's governing body.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington asserts that there should be no element of appointment or nomination. The link between those who pay for local services and the entitlement to vote in local elections has long been recognised. It is axiomatic that people liable for council tax in any local authority area will have a residence there, and will thus be able to vote for their local council.
I accept that since the advent of the national non-domestic rate, there has been no such link between payment for local services and the local authority for businesses. The City's position, however, is different. Businesses in the City are uniquely subject to local rating powers. When the national non-domestic rate was being developed, officials at what was then the Department of the Environment calculated that without the local business rate arrangements, City residents would face yearly tax demands of £9,000 each.
These local business rate powers are not limited to businesses that currently have voting rights; they apply to all City businesses. The Bill as redrafted, however, does not simply give businesses that pay the right to a vote. It links the new entitlement to their work forces, and provides for appointments to reflect the composition of those work forces.
I recognise that this represents a fundamental shift from votes for property to an arrangement based on the numbers who work in that property, but there is a whole body of electoral law applying to the normal democratic process. There are many questions relating to part-time workers, the number of registered electors, how we will be able to verify the information and whether these will be British citizens who would be entitled to vote in other elections. Amendment No. 149 shifts the goalposts without setting out the mechanisms. That is what concerns me on the democratic deficit side.
That is a criticism that the Bill's opponents made when it was in its previous form. There are very good reasons for not setting out in detail the issues to which the hon. Gentleman refers. We are talking about a legal minefield. I believe that some 50 per cent. of legal actions, in the case of industrial ballots, relate to the operation of the law. I think it much better to set out the broad principle that the electorate should reflect the composition of the work force and leave the rest to the good sense of businesses, rather than embarking on a marathon of complex legislation that will end up before the courts. That was in the Bill before, and is unchanged by the shift to which I referred.
May I pick up the point made by Phil Sawford? I hope that the question raised by Andrew Mackinlay will be answered, if not this evening, then at some point in the near future when we have the statistics to hand.
There is no doubt that the local councillors who will be elected in four largely residential wards will be elected by residents. Whatever formula is used, there is no question of residents' positions being usurped by a block business vote. There is a protection for local residents.
I should like to make a little more progress.
The further consideration, which all those who have an interest in making the system work acknowledge, is that it should be simple to operate. Some of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington and his colleagues anticipate elections about elections by a system of proportional representation through electoral colleges or ballots, which involve such complexity that they would be guaranteed to ensure that the new system was still-born. That may indeed have been the intended consequence.
Amendment No. 10 deals with the situation where premises cross ward boundaries. In such cases the premises will be treated as being located in the ward in which the greater proportion of the premises is located. That achieves the same result as formerly provided for by clause 3(5).
Amendment Nos. 11, 17 and 20 simply change "hereditament" to "premises", to reflect the fact that the scheme is no longer based on rateable values. As I have said, "premises" is a standard legislative term.
Amendment No. 12 reproduces paragraph 13 of part 2 of schedule l to the present Bill. There are no changes in drafting and the purpose remains the same: to prevent the possibility of "double counting" or an entitlement to appoint individuals arising twice in respect of the same premises.
Amendments Nos. 13, 16 and 27 deal with a consequential drafting change to refer the reader to the 1957 Act rather than the current Bill and to take account of the other amendments to clause 3.
Amendment No. 15 takes account of the incorporation of the definition of "work force" in clause 2. As the term is to be defined as part of clause 2(1), there is no need for it to be repeated at clause 4(2).
Amendment No. 18 is a consequential drafting change to reflect the change from "hereditament" to "premises". It substitutes "premises" for "hereditament" and reorders the concluding words of clause 5(5).
Amendment No. 25 removes schedule l entirely. The schedule sets out the entitlement to appoint voters relative to the rateable values of premises. With the change to a work force-based system, it becomes redundant.
The remaining amendments—Nos. 21, 26, 27, 29 and 30—are consequential, but I should refer to amendment No. 28, which concerns the repeals schedule. It may not be clear to the House that this is a repeal and not, I hasten to add, a reintroduction of a £l0 rateable value threshold. With the change to work force size as the criterion for the number of appointments, the references to specific rateable values which were necessary as part of the scheme set out in schedule l become redundant.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could enlighten us. Are places of worship treated as properties? Is there a distinction between Church of England properties, which arguably may be Crown properties, and others? He has referred to Crown properties; no doubt he can answer that point. What would be the position of other denominations that are not part of the established Church?
I understand that Churches are either unincorporated or incorporated bodies and that those who work within premises owned by Churches would be eligible, although some of the amendments tabled by Labour Members would exclude them.
Perhaps I can deal with any other points if there is time at the end.
I should like to deal with the other amendments that have been selected with the promoters amendments in this group.
Amendment (a) leaves out reference to bodies other than Government Departments exercising Crown functions under Acts of Parliament from the proposed exception. It is not immediately apparent what bodies are being referred to by the amendment, but presumably they would be Crown bodies other than Government Departments exercising functions under provisions other than Acts of Parliament—perhaps royal charters or the royal prerogative.
Putting aside that ambiguity, it is not clear why those particular species of Crown bodies should be outside the exception proposed. If there were any such bodies in the City, and the promoters do not know of any, they would achieve a privileged status as against other Crown bodies exercising Crown functions. That would be illogical and I advise the House to reject the amendment.
Amendment (b) points in the reverse direction and extends the exception by excluding Government- appointed bodies from the Bill's provisions. "Government-appointed" is not defined, but presumably the amendment refers to quangos. The promoters have received no representations from such bodies that their work forces should be excluded, and on the principle of inclusivity, on which the definition of "qualifying body" is based, the promoters would be reluctant to take that course. The effects would certainly be capricious. To take an example at random, there would be no obvious reason to exclude the Advisory Committee for Disabled People in Employment and Training, a quango, if it opened a City office, so I invite the House to reject amendment (b).
Amendment (c) extends the exclusion from the Bill's provisions to any institution of the European Union. There are no such institutions known to the promoters in the City, and none proposed, which is no doubt why no representations have been made in respect of them. Even if such institutions were present in the City, it would not necessarily follow that their work forces should be excluded. Be that as it may, I advise the House, in the well-worn phrase, that the amendment is unnecessary. I invite the House to reject it.
Amendment (d) raises the interesting proposition that the Secretary of State should be put in charge of deciding who should be able to appoint people by giving him the power to decide which bodies will be "qualifying bodies". That does not seem an attractive or even—dare I say it?—democratic proposal. It may be said to turn the City into an oversized quango; if so, it would be inconsistent with amendment (b), so I ask the House to reject that.
Amendment (f) seeks to exclude from amendment (b) the London Development Agency. I have already commented on that amendment but perhaps I should add that apart from the dangers of inequality of treatment to which I have referred, it appears to overlook the fact that, unlike regional development agencies elsewhere, where members are appointed by the Secretary of State, the members of the London Development Agency are appointed by the Mayor under the Greater London Authority Act 1999.
The other amendments cover familiar territory: the requirements for electoral colleges, for ballots and for proportional representation. A variety of amendments would render the Bill bureaucratic and unworkable. Some exclude voluntary organisations and even trade unions. The amendments have been debated extensively on other occasions and I do not propose to weary the House by repeating the arguments against them.
I say in passing that we were promised amendments when the carry-over debate occurred in November, but we had no sight of any amendments until Wednesday of last week. Then, one hour and a half before the closing deadline for any amendments to the amendments to be tabled, those amendments, among them the key amendments, were withdrawn and replaced. That is inappropriate behaviour when it comes to democratic and open government.
It did not. However, it smacks of either incompetence or conspiracy.
The amendments fall into three blocks. First, new clause 1 excludes Government Departments and agencies and various other bodies from participation in City corporation government. It could be seen as a tidying-up measure, but it is sinister in its implications and extremely important. That is why we need to spend some time on it tonight.
The second block is the promoters amendments, which are a charlatan attempt by the City corporation to deceive the House and naive Members that a compromise is on offer. It supposedly liberates the workers of the City corporation and provides them with an unfettered right to democratic participation in the processes of the City corporation elections. I wish to demonstrate that that is far from the case. It is a cynical manoeuvre to con the innocent, to exploit the feeble minded by sleight of hand and to ride yet again on the backs of the workers who work in the City of London area. Bizarrely, linked to that block is a series of amendments that installs within the operation of the City of London corporation a block vote on the backs of the workers of the City of London area, which is exercisable by individual company bosses. We have seen it before.
I am listening with great attention to my hon. Friend's speech, which is remarkably succinct, given the gravity of the proposal before us. He referred to the feeble-minded. Can he give the House an assurance that, in referring to the feeble-minded, he was not referring to any of the occupants of the Treasury Bench?
How could I? [Interruption.] I will rephrase that. I can give that assurance; how could I refer to occupants of the Treasury Bench in that way?
The third block is made up of amendments tabled by myself and comrades, such as my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn and others. We propose a genuine compromise of reform; the opportunity of a real partnership approach to the City of London corporation and its governance; and a stakeholder system of democracy for the City area. Many, if not all, the amendments have been discussed previously, but this is a new Parliament and we have new Members addressing a unique problem. Much of what has been said in the past is relevant today, but we will seek to ensure that we are succinct in the debate.
New clause 1 sets out to ensure that
"A government department or other body exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act shall not be treated as a qualifying body within the meaning of this Act."
It replaces the exclusion section contained in the previous legislation, which was based upon the exclusion of Government Departments or those that exercise Crown functions and hold rateable value within the City of London corporation. The clause is an attempt to prevent Government Departments and all agencies carrying out or exercising functions of the Crown from participating in the governance of the City corporation in a way that other bodies will be entitled to under the Bill; that is, by nominating a qualifying voter.
I oppose the new clause, and I will set out my reasons why. My amendments try to limit the damage of the new clause. They also seek to extend the geographical impact and clarity of the new clause. I want to democratise its implementation by giving Government Departments and other agencies the right to a vote. However, I accept that, in many ways, Mr. Speaker, in his selection of amendments, has grouped together the thread of democracy within the amendments to see whether we can have a principled vote this evening on the issue of workers democracy.
My amendments seek clarity by updating the new clause in line with the new structure of government for London, and include a reference to the London Development Agency, which came out of legislation passed in the previous Parliament to establish the Greater London Authority and the Mayor for London.
Let me now examine the genesis of the new clause, which began in Committee. In the evidence provided by Tom Simmons, the chief executive, reference was made to the various consultations that took place on the new legislation. The proposal came from the original discussions; I agree with
The genesis of the new clause was not contained in any of the consultations that took place by the City of London corporation with the residents of the corporation area. There was none, and I do not believe that there has been any since then. In the evidence given to the Committee, Mr. McLeod—who was representing the City of London corporation—set out in detail the consultation arrangements that then took place.
After the report went through the court of common council, there followed a period of extensive publicity and consultation. Mr. McLeod said that the proposals had received quite wide media coverage, but that the main thrust of the consultative effort was a publication called City View which, in a sense, was the corporation's own newspaper. Throughout those consultations, there was no reference to any debate on whether there should be a clause excluding Crown property. I certainly cannot find any reference to any discussion to a proposal to exclude the workers of Government Departments from participating in the discussions on the City corporation's government by allowing them to have a vote as part of being a qualifying body.
Mr. McLeod said that 65,000 copies were directly circulated to residents, non-residents, voters on the voting lists and businesses within the City. Again, none of those copies or any future documents contained any reference to such a clause setting out the exclusions. It appears that there was some reference made in the court of common council on reports laid before them.
Again, the clause was never referred to in any of our carry-over debates. There is an extensive list of the debates that have taken place throughout this process. I can find no reference in any of those discussions to this matter being raised. It was never included in any consultation document submitted to the Government. A list of documents and representations were presented to us at an earlier stage by the promoters; none of them includes a reference to the new clause.
The precedent has been set that amendments such as this are tabled without consultation or reference, or at the last minute with little chance to table an alternative amendment.
I want to outline the genesis of the new clause and to try to reach an understanding of why it has been tabled so late. I am perplexed. Reference was made in Committee to setting out the exclusion order that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions was suggesting. That reference was made to a Committee in 1999. It is now 2002; we received the new clause five days, or two parliamentary days, before this debate.
The amendment was not referred to in the special report on the Bill that was presented to the House. If any members of the Committee concerned are present tonight, I would be happy to allow an intervention to allow them to confirm that it was; but it was not. That was reported on
Paragraph 1 of the report explained clearly that the Committee had considered the Bill and found that the measures that it proposed were broadly justified in order to correct anomalies in the existing business franchise. There was no reference to exclusion orders for Government Departments in the report. Clearly, the Committee did not consider that the purpose of the report would be to outline the issues as set out. However, it is interesting that, in one of the discussions in the Committee, there was reference to the new clause being inspired by the DETR, and that officials themselves had called for the amendment to be put before the House in some form.
I shall come on to that matter shortly, because it is covered in the report.
In the Committee, reference was made to the DETR having looked forward to tidying up the exclusion of Government Departments at some stage. I refer my hon. Friend to page 20 of the report of the Committee's consideration of the Bill. This became the issue of the Bank of England. It was argued that the Bank of England, as currently constituted, pays rates and would possibly have a vote. A member of the Committee asked whether the Bank of England paid rates, whether it would have votes and whether there would be a nomination. A witness to the Committee said:
"I am advised that the Bank of England, at the moment, would be entitled to put somebody forward. I am also advised that we have been asked by the DETR to make a change in the Bill to deal with the Crown property. There has actually been a change in the law relating to Crown property as it was when we started out, so we are going to have to make a change to deal with that which would take the Bank of England outside."
It is, therefore, clear where the original exclusion order came from.
At no time during the debate on the Floor of the House was that matter referred to. We are now entering our fourth year of discussions on the Bill, and at no time during that period have we been told that that was the motivation behind the original clause 6. In fact, quite the reverse is the case. We were told nothing about the matter. The Committee may well have considered that it would be important to look at the Crown property issue, as it related to the Bank of England or to any other Government Department or agency located within the City of London corporation. I do not believe, however, that the Committee considered it important to extend the definition of the exclusion of Crown property by such a broad, sweeping amendment as new clause 1. The Committee's consideration of this part of the Bill is notable for its brevity. Its discussion about Crown property being excluded took up two paragraphs, and that was that.
Let me express my worries about the new clause in relation to the old clause. This could be described as the Eddie George exclusion clause, because it is deliberately designed to exclude the Bank of England and other Government bodies. It is an attempt to exclude the very body to which the Government have entrusted large sections of the management of our economy, and a large remit in terms of the pursuit of corruption, financial mismanagement and the lack of probity in financial institutions. This measure excludes Government agencies such as the Bank of England and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions from having any role in the City of London corporation's governance.
I am very interested in what my hon. Friend has been saying in the last few minutes. I am unhappy about the voting proposal being based on the number of employees, although it is, perhaps, a tiny improvement on basing it on rateable value. I see a good argument for having Government employees and the employees of public bodies within the new arrangement as a leavening to ensure that the new body is much more broadly representative of the interests not just of the City of London but of the country as a whole. The City of London plays an important part in our economy, and it is right that there should be some Government involvement, and public employees would make a valuable contribution in that context.
I must explain to my hon. Friend that I am still addressing new clause 1. There are another 30-odd amendments that I want to deal with in as much detail as I can because they are equally important. He is leaping ahead slightly in relation to my amendments (a) to (d) to new clause 1, which deal with some of the matters that he has raised.
I can see why my hon. Friend suggests that my hon. Friend Mr. Hopkins is leaping ahead on that matter, but I do not think that he is, because he is addressing the issue that goes to the heart of what the promoters amendments are about. Does this not reveal the internal contradictions of those amendments, in that they are trying to base a franchise on the number of workers—in which case, surely it is in the interest of every worker to be represented and not be disfranchised because of whom they work for—yet the workers do not get a vote at all because it is still the bosses who will get the vote?
Exactly, but the point that I am trying to make is that this is not a naive new clause. It will divide public sector workers from private sector workers, and act as a figleaf so some bosses can say that they qualify for votes on the basis of their employees, but not if they are public sector employees. That is bizarre.
As my hon. Friend unrolls his remarkably succinct exposition of his objections to the new clause and amendments, I must intervene on the Eddie George exclusion clause. I am confounded and baffled by the institution of our highest paid public servant—a very great man—being excluded in this way. Will my hon. Friend speculate on whether this could be an underhand attack on that great man by the euro-fanatic institutions in the City, because of his recent wise pronouncement on our entry into the euro?
I understand the closer working relationship that my hon. Friend has established with Eddie George over the years, and what she says is partly in line with my argument. This is not so much a conspiracy theory as a conspiracy proposition proven by fact. The new clause is not naive; it is a conspiracy. DETR officials have connived, either innocently or misguidedly, with the City corporation to exclude the Bank of England from having a role in the corporation.
I am following the drift of my hon. Friend's argument. I find it deeply offensive that McDonald's has a vote, but beefeaters do not. Beefeaters attract people to the City, being a proud symbol of the City of London. They also have a view—they are articulate fellows, from my recollection—yet they will be unable to make any contribution to City government as employees, although the person in the burger bar will.
Let me give another example. Arthur Andersen, the accountancy company, will have a vote—indeed, it will have more votes as a result of the proposed system—but the Bank of England will not have any.
I am not a shareholder in Enron, although I hope to have the opportunity to say a few words as I have undertaken a certain amount of public consultation on this matter, as I promised to do in our debate on
That is helpful, because I have obtained from the House of Commons Library a list of the top 100 employing companies in the City of London corporation. I shall not read them all out, but my understanding is that Arthur Andersen and Company is located at 20, Old Bailey, London EC4M 7AN. It is listed here as a firm of accountants—although some would describe them otherwise—with 1,000 employees. I leave it to hon. Members to calculate how many votes that would create.
I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would place on the record how many employees of Arthur Andersen and others are located within the area. Under the proposal that he may support if he does not support my amendments—although I shall be surprised if he does not do that—Andersen would, I think, gain one vote for the first five employees, 10 for the next lot up to 50, then one for every 50 after that. That could mean that Andersen would run the City of London corporation—indeed, it may well be doing so already.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Fortuitously, my hon. Friend has brought with him a list of the 100 top employers in the City, and as that is the electoral franchise that we are debating, would it be appropriate for him to read the names of those 100 companies into the record?
I am tempted to do that, but instead I shall try to ensure that a copy of the list is laid before Members as soon as possible. I requested the list from the Library, and it was supplied by the corporation of London's economic development unit, which I thank for that information.
What interests me is that the Bank of England, which is located in Threadneedle street, has 3,000 employees—so if it were given the right to vote rather than being excluded, it would be a significant voter for the City of London corporation.
Let me read out a few names. I dare not even mention Barings bank, although it is located in the City. [Hon. Members: "Go on."] I shall not press the matter, but I would be grateful if one of my hon. Friends could find someone to photocopy the list.
Let me go back to my argument on new clause 1, and why I think that it is an attempt to exclude the Bank of England. If the Bank of England had any sort of access to the governance of the City of London corporation, it would have a responsibility, or feel a sense of duty, to reach a more thorough understanding of the corporation's finances and management, and would investigate them.
The new clause excludes the Bank of England from any role in examining the City of London's "City cash". That is the name of an account held by the City of London corporation, but the accounts are neither published nor audited by the district auditor. If the Bank of England were not excluded by this incredibly damaging new clause, surely Eddie George would want to bring to light the mysteries of the City cash.
I raised the subject of the petition from Mr. Malcolm Matson in a point of order, because it was he who, in his excellent Fabian pamphlet of a few years ago, outlined the noxious basis on which the City is funded by the secret City cash. That is why we want Government Departments and the Bank of England involved in the governance of the City of London. We want to expose those secret sums, which, unlike any other local government funds or budgets, are not under the scrutiny of the district auditor.
I received a letter on that subject from a Mr. Streeter, who pointed out the origins of the City cash, and explained why the new clause had been drafted to ensure that the Bank of England and others were excluded from participation.
I shall give a small example. Some of the revenue income from the City cash—£1.2 million—is expended on feasting, and £250,000 was spent on a boardroom for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The new clause was tabled to ensure that the Bank of England and others have no role.
Is my hon. Friend raising a matter of privilege on the Floor of the House? Is the City corporation wining and dining Members of Parliament to influence their votes? Surely not.
I am tempted not to respond every time, but, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows, one of the ceremonial roles of the corporation of London, on behalf of the City—indeed, on behalf of the nation—is to stage dinners for state visits. Obviously those are expensive, but there is no doubt that they are also extremely useful in exporting the United Kingdom as an entity to the countries that the state visitors come from.
Those dinners are not restricted to a small clique of individuals. In my capacity as a local MP I have attended two state dinners in the seven months since my election, and it was clear that many hundreds of people from all walks of life are invited—across the political divide, and from the business community throughout the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the City of London performs a good ambassadorial role in that way.
Perhaps I should declare an interest, because a couple of years ago I went to a dinner. I think that it was for the judges, although I have not been invited back because I did not wear the right clothes. My hon. Friend may rest assured that that did not influence my approach—
I agree, Madam Deputy Speaker. Like me, you have probably never been invited—or perhaps you have.
Let me explain the role of the Bank of England. Would it have much authority or influence if the amendment to exclude it were rejected? I have outlined the top 100 companies, and the Bank of England, with 3,000 employees would have, according to my calculation—although I am open to correction—about 69 votes.
That may not sound a considerable number elsewhere, but in the City of London it is. Judith Mayhew was elected chair of policy and resources in December 1998 with 27 votes, so we can see how 69 votes would be important in influencing the direction that the City of London corporation would take.
Let us compare the old clause with the new. If the new clause were adopted, it would exclude a whole range of bodies, but if it were rejected it would allow a range of expertise—the Bank of England's economists, investigators and accountants—to set about the City of London corporation's creative accountants' abilities and abuse of power.
Another body that the new clause would exclude is the Crown Prosecution Service, which is also located in the City of London. I do not have the list in front of me but from memory, the CPS has about 600 employees in its City of London offices, and I calculate that it would therefore qualify for about 16 votes. Why does the City of London corporation want to prevent the Crown Prosecution Service from having a role in its governance?
The role would be only to nominate voters for elections to the City corporation. It would not necessarily mean serving on the body, only nomination. I am deeply suspicious—
As it happens, I have a copy of the list of the top 100 employers in the City in front of me, and it is true that the Crown Prosecution Service employs 600 people. Under the terms of the new clause that my hon. Friend is debating so ably, the CPS would not have a voice, yet sleazy institutions such as Arthur Andersen and all types of foreign-owned companies would.
That is why I am deeply suspicious of the new clause. I am deeply suspicious of any organisation that seeks to promote a wide-ranging amendment to exclude from any dealings that it has with the outside world the very organisations that have the expertise to root out fraud and corruption, criminal activities, financial mismanagement and economic incompetence. I would have thought that any organisation would welcome the participation of those Government agencies.
My hon. Friend referred to the special report from the Committee, on which I served. The report says:
"the electoral system within the City of London is flawed in a manner and to an extent which could not be addressed within the powers of the Bill presented."
Does he think that the amendments make the Bill any better? He referred to the numbers of votes that the Bank of England and the CPS would have. We learned in Committee of three wards with no electors at all, so 69 votes could represent a bigger swing than I had in Kettering.
I would not like to delve into the politics of Kettering, apart from commending the voters' good sense in electing my hon. Friend.
The Committee was not alerted to the fact that excluding such bodies means that expertise within the City of London boundaries would be excluded from participation in the good governance of the City of London corporation.
In his list of the bodies involved in enforcement, my hon. Friend missed out the judges in the Old Bailey and the other law courts in the City. The courts are very important institutions, and we all know how many City spivs have ended up in front of a judge at the Old Bailey. Does my hon. Friend agree that judges should also have a part to play?
My hon. Friend and I clearly have differing views of judges and their ability. I am not sure whether the City of London corporation would benefit from the involvement of Old Bailey judges.
Could my hon. Friend or the Minister throw any light on this point? I see that the Bill's promoter is not in the Chamber. [Interruption.] Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
I have read and re-read the new clause, which says:
"A government department or other body exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act shall not be treated as a qualifying body".
It appears that most of those employers, albeit private companies, have had conferred on them by an Act duties and responsibilities that they are fulfilling on behalf of the Crown. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can help, because that is nonsense; the new clause is sloppily drafted. A lot of people who think that they will get a vote will not if new clause 1 is accepted.
My hon. Friend is about 20 pages ahead of me. I will come to that point in due course. This is a poor draft. The previous draft had some relevance because it was based on rateable value. Because the redrafting has been left to the last minute, it is very poor, and I would sack the parliamentary agents responsible.
There is a contrast between the City of London corporation excluding certain bodies yet being desperately keen to extend to others a massive number of votes. It is a disgrace. We have mentioned some of those who will gain if the new clause is accepted. There is a lack of balance. Certain bodies that could root out fraud and corruption would be excluded while others, including Arthur Andersen and Barings, which have been associated with unacceptable practices, would be given additional votes. I am staggered that firms would be extended wider voting rights or could maintain existing voting rights while bodies that are legally respected and supported in many ways by the Government and both sides of the House for their probity would be excluded.
That is interesting. The import of the report was that it would be excluded. That makes the draft even worse. Are we saying that the Bank of England is not a
"body exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act"?
The Bank of England is formally constituted; it exercises functions under the Bank of England Act 1998. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to confuse the House because that is inaccurate, although he may not be doing so deliberately. I ask him, because he has introduced such an element of confusion into the debate, to withdraw the Bill, seek legal advice and publish it. I say that with the greatest respect because we all hold him in deep affection—[Interruption.] All right, affection. Our confidence in him as an interpreter of legislation has been undermined by that statement. I am amazed that he should tell me that the Bank of England is not a
"body exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act".
I am happy to seek legal opinion on that statement, to be paid for by the City of London corporation.
At some stage, I hope that my hon. Friend will reflect on the verification of the numbers ascribed to each of the major employers in the City of London. It is difficult to know where those numbers were conjured up from. The Labour party has had its own experience of verification of the block vote being an important aspect of democratic accountability. We are in danger of seeing the reintroduction of the block vote, in this case for the City of London.
I invite my hon. Friend to expand on that point at a later date, because it is an invaluable contribution to the debate.
Under the old clause, exclusion was based on property or rateable value—the hereditament—as against the qualifying body status based on the definition of a body corporate or an unincorporated body other than a partnership. Is the new clause superfluous? I am unsure whether a Department can be defined as a body corporate or an unincorporated body. Perhaps the right hon. Member for North–West Hampshire will clarify that point. It may be relevant and required if we are seeking to bar from qualifying body status all those bodies and agencies that exercise functions on behalf of the Crown but that are not Departments. There is a breadth in the new clause. In passing, I wish that we could amend the legislation by referring to Government functions rather than Crown functions, which are a Bagehotian fiction.
The complexity that exists today in defining the scope of Crown exclusions, which has never existed in the past, arises from the reform, over several decades, of how Government perform their functions. The complexity, which has ensnared the new clause, is based on the devolution of Government functions to agencies and other bodies, including private companies. That is the point that my hon. Friend Andrew Mackinlay raised. Government is no longer so simple that we can draft a new clause that is all-encompassing yet at the same time restrictive.
I have a very simple approach to words—I read what they say. The new clause refers to
"exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act".
Some four years ago, along with other right hon. and hon. Members, I voted through the Bank of England Act 1998. It conferred specific responsibilities on the Bank of England in relation to interest rates and inflation. I cannot see how that can be separated from the new clause.
May I refresh my hon. Friend's memory? I think that we voted against the measure.
The new clause would exclude any body from exercising functions allocated by the Crown under legislation. The delivery of Government functions is complex and I shall offer some examples that might be caught by the provision.
Before my hon. Friend gives those examples, may I ask him to speculate on the case of people who work for London Underground? The legislation on London Underground is incredibly complex and is something of a moveable feast, depending on whether the public-private partnership goes ahead, whether the company should be transferred to Transport for London or whether it retains its current status— in effect as a Government function. Will London Underground workers move in and out of the franchise?
That is a good point. It relates to one of my two examples—the other is Railtrack. The case of London Underground is more complex because of the nature of the public-private partnership that the Government want to impose on the people of London.
British Rail was established by statute and exercised its functions on behalf of the Government and would thus be caught by the provision. Railtrack is a private company but it exercises functions on behalf of the Government, so is it caught? What is Railtrack now that the Secretary of State has taken control of the company? Is it a public body or a private body? Is it caught by the provision or is it excluded?
The clause is a minefield because it is so badly drafted. Let us consider London Underground where there is that interesting moveable feast. If the PPP is established and takes over sections of the underground, the companies participating in the PPP constitute bodies corporate exercising functions on behalf of the Government under legislation and could thus argue that they are caught by the provision. However, some parts of those companies will exercise other functions—as is normal in private companies—so how much of the company will be caught by the provision?
Will workers engaged in the PPP work of a company be excluded while workers who serve other interests in the same company escape the provision and thus be counted in the allocation of votes for the City of London corporation? The complexities of that exclusion call for significant amendment.
I do not want my hon. Friend to lose his thread but does he agree that the exclusions are even more glaring and byzantine when we consider who is included? The biggest single employer in the City of London is Merrill Lynch—a US-owned company. Lloyd's of London is also included. That company was a very cesspit of corruption in the '80s. The starving widows and orphans of former Lloyd's names can tell the tale, although I do not want to get into a discussion of what happened at Lloyd's in the '80s.
Another organisation that would be included under the new clause is Bloomberg, so a financial institution owned by the mayor of New York would have more say in the governance of the City than our own Eddie George who is as British as roast beef.
The issue is well rehearsed. We are disputing those exclusions. Labour Members consider that there are established bodies—corporate or unincorporated—that exercise Government functions and have thus been excluded. There is an element of confusion among Opposition Members. May I suggest that the way forward would be for the Bill's promoters to produce a legal opinion that can be tested by the House and by independent legal advice? The amendment has put us in a quagmire of confusion.
In relation to London Underground, there is a problem arising from the removal of the word "hereditament" and the reinsertion of the word "premises". We are probably on common ground if we say that a tube tunnel is not a hereditament but it is certainly a premises. Will tube drivers be included for part of the time—while they are in tunnels—because they would be working in premises in the City?
That is a novel concept.
I have another serious example. A number of my constituents pass my way only once a year—they are travellers. They operate as a business. Will they qualify under the provision on a particular day if they are in a particular area? It is bizarre.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the reason that many foreign firms are in the City is precisely because the City is such a successful international financial centre? Many of those firms own British companies; for example, Merrill Lynch bought Mercury Asset Management—a well-known British firm. Such firms are in the City because of its success and because of the contribution that it makes to the UK economy. We are lucky to have so many of them in this country.
The hon. Gentleman has fallen into the same trap that caught many Members when we first considered the Bill in 1998. I do not blame him for that. There is conflation between the City of London corporation and the City. One is a group of masonic diners; the other is a group of organisations and companies that earn much of the wealth of this country in a particular field of activity. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can make that distinction in future. We are debating not the future of the City and its financial institutions, but the governance of the City of London area which is not properly exercised because it is not representative.
Just as it would be crass to suggest that the City of London and the corporation are intertwined and are one and the same—an argument that no Conservative Member would make—so it is unfair to suggest that the corporation has no part to play. Some of the corporation's leading lights play a large role on the international stage. They travel worldwide; for example, Judith Mayhew, who is head of policy and resources, spends much of her time abroad. The Lord Mayor has an enormously busy diary, representing the City of London and the corporation abroad where he tries to get as much business as possible. Indeed, several of the common council men—
I understand the point that Mr. Field was making. Most of us have much respect for individual members of the corporation, especially progressive members such as Judith Mayhew. Indeed, a couple of years ago, in this place, I invited her to join the Labour party because of the progressive work that she was doing at the corporation. Unfortunately, she cannot constrain the freemason backwoodsmen who currently populate most of the City of London corporation. That is why we need definite reform.
Will my hon. Friend confirm what I believe to be the case from the intervention made by Mr. Field that the City corporation is the only the local government body anywhere in Europe that has direct business representation on it and proposes to extend the franchise to business? No other successful or unsuccessful city in the world has that kind of curious relationship with a limited number of financial institutions.
I confirm that that is true, but it would have been incredibly helpful and reassuring if the City corporation had accepted an amendment that my hon. Friend tabled previously, under which there would have been a declaration of interest involving the membership of freemasonry lodges by City corporation members.
With reference to an earlier point, it is significant that, when an hon. Member has to cast his mind about for a singularly intelligent and forward- thinking member of the City government, the first name that comes to mind is that of a woman who was born in the antipodes. The fact is that 99 per cent. of the City corporation's role is as a freemasons' diner.
I want to finish my last point on new clause 1 before moving on to the amendments that I have tabled. I want to put on the record very clearly the fact that we need wider instruction, debate and legal advice on the matter because new clause 1 would muddy the waters about what is excluded and what is not excluded. It does not relate to modern government.
I shall briefly explain the history of the problem. In earlier times, Crown property was excluded because it was owned by Departments, and Departments were the only bodies that exercised Crown functions. Before the second world war, several boards were established, which confused matters, so the definition of Crown exclusion was extended to those boards. After the second world war, the waters were muddied even further by the introduction of nationalised industries, so Crown exclusion was extended to them. But that has all changed now.
Under the Thatcher Government, privatisation, devolution, the establishment of agencies, the proliferation of quangos and the development of semi-autonomous bodies, the definition of Crown exclusion had not kept pace with government. That is the problem with new clause 1. In the 1980s, that delegation of functions was so vast that a proper debate on Crown exclusion needed to take place, and I am afraid that the Bill has been hoist on that petard. New clause 1 is confused and does not relate to the modern world of the delivery of government.
No doubt my hon. Friend will recall the continuous line of cases in which it was decided that the national health service is a Crown body, so all the NHS workers in the City would be excluded, but those who work in private hospitals presumably would not. Is that equitable?
I am trying to make exactly that point, and it is exactly the problem that I am trying to redress in my amendments. I should like now to move on to the amendments that I have tabled.
To illustrate that point, the workers at Moorfields eye hospital—all 900 of whom are hard- working and devoted City workers—would not have a say, but employees, such as stock jobbers and those of foreign-owned banks would.
Exactly. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Some hon. Members wish to denigrate public sector workers and to exclude them from the calculation yet again.
Unfortunately, that hospital is on the list supplied to us by the City of London corporation, and I can provide the hon. Gentleman with a copy of that list in due course.
This point was made a few minutes ago, and I have wanted to intervene since then, so I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Mr. Field seemed to suggest that, because the Mayor of London does good ambassadorial work for the City of London elsewhere, we should accept an essentially undemocratic form of governance in the City of London. All over the world in democratic countries, mayors are generally elected by democratic, universal suffrage. Why should the City of London be an exception?
May I ask my hon. Friend to clarify the assertion that was made by Mr. Field—that the reason why the staff at Moorfields eye hospital would not be entitled to vote is that they are not part of the City of London? If my hon. Friend looks at the list of firms and institutions that operate in the City, he will be able to confirm that Moorfields eye hospital is, in fact, listed as operating in the City and employing 900 staff within its remit.
"As requested, a list of the largest 100 companies in the City of London, by employment, supplied by the Corporation of London economic development unit".
There is a reference to using the document with care because the number of employees has not been updated. It may be a mistake by the corporation, which is hardly surprising given its accountancy techniques.
New clause 1 needs to be rewritten and redrafted. My amendments would do that, and I want to explain the meat of them. I accept that, even if my amendments are accepted, the new clause will result in a field day for the lawyers of the many bodies that exercise Government functions in some form, but which are not governmental bodies themselves. Challenges will be made.
A class of bodies exists that has a status that is something between governmental and non-governmental organisations. I suggest a nomenclature of semi- autonomous bodies—SABs. Amendment (a) would deal with that group of organisations and it would delete from new clause 1 the words
"or other body exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act".
That means that only Government Departments would be excluded from the right to be described as qualifying bodies, and thus nominate voters in City of London corporation elections.
The amendment is a compromise. If a Government Department is located in the City, that Department and its workers should have every right to a say in key issues affecting the working environment. However, they are excluded under the new clause. Why should those Department employees be so excluded? It demonstrates yet again a form of discrimination against the public sector and public sector workers. Why do some Conservative Members continue to amend legislation in such an anti-public sector fashion? Amendments (a) to (e) would redress that wrong.
They are included as residents, but they would not be included within the franchise as workers. The bulk of people who work in the public sector within the City corporation boundaries would be excluded.
It would be fantastical were any worker elected as Lord Mayor under the current arrangements. We have yet to see an example of a worker leading the City of London corporation.
I want to follow the point made by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire. If, as he says, the nurses to whom he referred have a vote as residents—although I think that he is wrong—they would also have a vote, albeit indirect, as workers. In effect, they would have two votes. What kind of democracy is that?
My hon. Friend observed in his lucid and concise speech that there has been no example of a worker becoming Lord Mayor. Is there an example of someone becoming Lord Mayor who was not a freemason?
Indeed—or a millionaire. It is difficult to determine because of the refusal by City of London members to accept the introduction of a declaration of freemasonry.
I agree that there should be a similar registration for Opus Dei.
I asked why Government Department employees should be excluded from the franchise. If this is a radical and reforming Bill, as has been proposed in other places, to extend the franchise on the basis of the number of workers, why are public sector workers discriminated against? Amendments (a) to (e) would at least introduce increased inclusivity, and less exclusivity.
I accept that amendment (e) has not been called, but amendments (a) to (d) have. Even without amendment (e), there is an argument in favour of amendment (a). If a Department is located in the City, it should have every right to participate in the governance of the area, but the new clause would bar Ministers and permanent secretaries from participating and voting for members of the City of London corporation. So it keeps Stephen Byers and Gordon Brown out of the corporation's governance. I do not however want to comment on that.
Amendment (a) would soften the harshness of the dictum of the new clause and would allow all those bodies—public, private and public-private partnerships—to participate in the governance of the City corporation area in which they are located and have a work force, even though they may be carrying out some functions of the Crown bestowed on them in legislation by the House. Not to accept amendment (a) would be an affront to the House. Parliament has passed legislation to confer functions on a body and has expressed its confidence in it. I would expect no new clause or subsequent amendment to undermine the confidence that the House has in such a body.
Without the amendment, the new clause signals that although we have faith in a body to do what is in some cases our dirty work, we do not have sufficient faith in it to participate in the governance of the area in which it is located. However, we do have sufficient confidence in private companies that we have not entrusted with public duties and functions. In some instances, we would have to distinguish between private companies that operate under legislation and private companies that do not, and we will discriminate against those in which we have expressed confidence by bestowing contracts on them.
There is another anomaly to consider. Does the new clause bar the many private companies that we have entrusted to carry out the statutory functions of the district auditor from participating in the governance of the City corporation? A number of accountancy bodies in the list of the top 100 companies operate and bid for contracts as district auditors in local government. They would be caught by the exclusions in the new clause because they exercise functions as bodies corporate on the basis of legislation and of the powers conferred on them. The new clause is tantamount to saying that we have confidence in companies that operate as district auditors in local government, but that they cannot participate in the governance of the City corporation.
It is a bizarre commentary on the new clause that the very people who have exposed corruption in local government would be caught by its terms and refused a role in the governance of the City corporation. Perhaps it is a fear—again, I relate this to the City cash—that if such bodies participate in the governance of the City of London they would expose some of those issues to daylight as a result of functions exercised on behalf of the Crown.
The amendments, which I, too, have tabled, are an attempt at least to improve the new clause. However, I would prefer to go further and delete it entirely. If all employees and organisations were included there would be no need to have a distinction and the lawyers would not have a field day. On reflection, does my hon. Friend think that we have gone far enough?
My hon. Friend makes an important point about legal challenges. The City includes the Temple, and barristers sometimes work for the Government—effectively exercising a government function in defending the Government in cases of judicial review—and sometimes for the other side. How would my hon. Friend's analysis accommodate the position of a barrister defending the Government in a judicial review who was suddenly asked to prosecute a judicial review concerning the interpretation of this very legislation?
My view is that the lawyers affected would be those who participate in challenges to the enactment of the Bill. They would be denied the human right of participation in the governance of their area on the basis of a spurious clause that tries to exclude them from engaging in a practice in which they pursue their living. I find that extraordinary.
I turn now to amendment (b), in my name. In case amendment (a) is too sweeping and would allow too great an extension to bodies linked to central Government, I have offered the House another amendment. It would limit and better define the impact of new clause 1, but maintain some flexibility. I request now, Madam Deputy Speaker, that when we come to vote, the amendments be voted on separately because they present alternatives to one another. However, I realise that if those votes are allowed, they will not take place until after we have discussed the next group of amendments.
Amendment (b) would insert the words "government appointed" into the new clause, so that it would read:
"A government department or other government appointed body exercising on behalf of the Crown functions conferred by or under any Act shall not be treated as a qualifying body within the meaning of this Act."
The aim is to limit the range of the new clause. I tabled the amendment in a spirit of compromise and clarity. It would enable the new clause to exclude Government Departments and bodies whose boards were directly Government-appointed. It is an attack on cronyism in line with the attacks on the Government by the Leader of the Opposition. I agree that there is an important part of the Bill that we need to consider, and I think that we will reject the concept of boards packed with Government- appointed cronies participating in the governance of the City corporation. It will be tempting to Members of all parties.
I see what my hon. Friend is trying to do but I am not sure that his amendment would achieve that, since it does not say "directly appointed". My concern is that the new clause could exclude those who are vicariously appointed, and that would apply to NHS workers. There is no doubt that NHS boards are appointed by the Government and the boards appoint their staff, but those staff could be excluded.
I have listened with care to my hon. Friend's succinct and carefully marshalled arguments, and the whole House is united in its admiration for the spirit of compromise in which he has tabled the amendments. Does he agree, however, that given the gaping holes already emerging in the Bill, it is not too late for the promoters to withdraw and redraft it?
I hope that as a result of the debate, if my amendments are carried, we will have a better Bill, but it will not be a good Bill. It should be withdrawn, and legal advice should be sought about some of the comments made by Conservative Members, because they are now in dispute. I urge all Officers of the House to examine the Bill with regard to the point made by Mr. Matson, the petitioner. The Bill is complex and it is so different from the original draft that it should go back to Committee for examination.
I served on the Committee that considered the Bill over five or six days. We were informed from the outset that we could work only within the parameters of the Bill presented to us. The special report says that
"the Committee could only consider the Bill on its own merits, and . . . the wider reforms discussed could not be a matter for its formal consideration or jurisdiction".
The matters that we are discussing this evening—my hon. Friend's serious concerns—were never subject to scrutiny. This is a completely different Bill. My hon. Friend suggested earlier that it should begin its passage again because the very first amendment, new clause 1, deals with matters that were never considered in Committee.
I agree wholeheartedly. Although clause 6 of the original Bill, which includes the exclusion of Crown property, was considered in Committee, we are not now excluding Crown property; we are excluding people. We are excluding Government Departments and their employees—individuals. If this were a Government Bill, individuals would be able to claim that it was a hybrid Bill; it would go through the procedure that is now prescribed for private Bills, as we have just determined, and the Government would be forced to announce changes at the earliest opportunity. The changes that we are discussing were never announced.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's analysis, but does he accept the point made by our hon. Friend Phil Sawford—that the excluded are not only those who are workers in parts of the institutions operating in the City, but those who currently have rights as residents in the City? They have locus standi to object, and they objected to the Bill when it was first presented. Unless they have the right to—
That was indeed a long intervention.
Let me be clear: there are now issues in relation to which the clause is the key to the whole Bill. The clause becomes essential to the future of the Bill, which is why I spent some time on it, but there are 30 amendments of equal import that we need to discuss tonight. The Bill is falling apart before us, which makes a reference back to Committee critical. That is no jest—the Bill needs proper examination. We are falling into the trap of making poor legislation.
The amendment tackles the issue of appointed boards. I accept that there is a problem of allowing Government- appointed boards to have a role in the City corporation; therefore the amendment is designed to ensure that those who, because of their direct Government patronage, owe allegiance to central Government are not allowed to participate in the governance of the City corporation, or exert an influence as a result of that patronage on the City corporation in its elections. Amendment (b) limits the exclusion order in new clause 1 by deliberately not encompassing those bodies that exercise Government or statutory functions, but are not directly appointed by the Government.
Would a state school fall within the remit of new clause 1? If my amendment were accepted, it would not, because the board of governors is not directly appointed by the Government. However, under new clause 1 alone, it would be, because it carries out a function under legislation. The new clause must be re-examined, and my amendments enable us to consider how to ensure that the Bill will work. I do not want schools or health bodies that can participate in the good governance of the City corporation to be excluded. They should be represented.
I am sure that within the City corporation are many arts or charitable bodies that undertake Government functions.
My hon. Friend knows that I am deeply unhappy about the undemocratic nature of the proposals. However, if the other bodies that he has just mentioned were included, it would bring a little pluralist competition and balance to the arrangements. From time to time, countervailing voices might be heard, instead of only the commercial voice of business.
That is true. Ameliorating the effects of the clause would enable that variety of voices to be heard.
Many long-established charitable bodies now carry out Government functions: for example, the London Community Foundation now administers the children's fund, which was established by statute, throughout London. Unless my amendments, especially amendment (b), are accepted, such bodies, whose boards are not directly appointed and are therefore independent, but which carry out Government functions, would be excluded.
Will my hon. Friend explore the argument about arts bodies? At the Barbican are all sorts of bodies that receive central Government funding: for example, the Royal Shakespeare Company receives substantial sums from the Government through various arts bodies. How does he envisage their being affected by either new clause 1 or his amendments, bearing in mind the direct and indirect relationships we have been discussing?
My amendments give the option to ensure that such bodies—I do not believe that the Barbican is so caught because it is exercising a function under the City corporation and is funded in that way, so I do not think that it is exercising a Government function—address the general issue of providing more flexibility.
Amendment (d) has been alluded to by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire, the promoter, and I believe that it provides the maximum flexibility. However, it is necessary to have confidence in government to endorse it.
I left the Chamber recently to clarify the position of the Temple and the Inns of Court with the Library. I note that the Temple church and the master's house are held in common. Otherwise, each inn has its own hall. Can my hon. Friend throw any light on whether they are enfranchised under the proposed legislation? More importantly, does each set of chambers have a vote? To me, as a layman, we are talking in that context about a business, but probably that is not the correct status. Perhaps there is a legitimate interest, but what are the limits? If my hon. Friend cannot throw light on these questions, I hope that the issues will be flagged up by Mr. Field, when he has a go.
It would be invaluable—I shall give way to an intervention on this matter for an undertaking—if the impact of the Bill were to be modelled for us. In other words, it would be invaluable if we were given exemplifications of what would be excluded and what would not. It was the Committee's role to examine the model and ascertain whether it worked. However, the Bill has been so dramatically changed that the model has not been presented to anyone. The situation is rather like that of the person who understood the origins of the Schleswig-Holstein question. Lunacy is beginning to enter into the debate.
Amendment (d) would provide the maximum flexibility but it requires confidence in government. It would allow the Secretary of State to determine what is "a qualifying body". Why is that important? The amendment would overcome some of the issues that have been raised so far. The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire suggested that the amendment was an iniquitous measure that would give power to the Secretary of State to intervene. I believe that it would introduce flexibility and accountability.
The amendment would provide that a body—a Government Department or anyone exercising the functions—would not be treated as a qualifying body
"unless it has been declared by the Secretary of State to be a qualifying body".
In other words, a Secretary of State could designate a school or hospital outside the exclusion. In that way, the Secretary of State would have the power to ensure that responsible bodies were not excluded. That would enable him or her to exercise such discretion when they saw fit. It would also provide accountability to the House. In this context, it would be the first stage of accountability to the House.
I strongly support my hon. Friend's most recent point about the Secretary of State's involvement. I would reinforce it by saying that the amendment at least brings government into the picture, to an extent. Without such involvement, the new arrangements would create a City of London that would be rather like Monaco or San Marino, or some such semi-independent state surrounded by a major country. The degree of independence would be unacceptable in a unitary democratic state of the sort in which we live.
The point behind such flexibility is that it acknowledges that governance changes over time. As agencies change and are established in the exercise of government functions, the Secretary of State would be able to identify whether they could be appropriately excluded from new clause 1. In that way, we would gain flexibility. For example, the involvement of the Bank of England in the governance of the City of London may well be worth while for a limited period to enable its finances to be sorted out, but after that, not; the Secretary of State could therefore designate it as not excluded by the court.
Initially, I was taken by amendment (d). However, suppose in a far-off scenario that the Labour party is no longer in control and an extremely centralising Conservative party is in office. Could not the Secretary of State declare his own Department a qualifying body, and would that not lead to the danger of central Government being directly involved in local government?
That is exactly why I said that the amendment needs a leap of faith from the Government. The Secretary of State could designate his Department, or numerous Departments, as outside the exclusion order so that they could participate.
The Secretary of State may wish to put certain matters on the agenda of the City of London corporation, including corporate governance and financial reform, so he would want to determine that certain Departments and Government agencies are not excluded and are qualifying bodies. That would give any Secretary of State the opportunity to influence the governance of the corporation and move it towards a reform agenda; virtually every other power that has been exercised to encourage the corporation to reform has failed. The amendment therefore provides an opportunity to introduce good governance in the corporation.
It is true that certain pressures could be applied, but that would be done openly through the electoral process, rather than through secret meetings and behind-the-scenes pressures, which Governments and Secretaries of State have applied in the past. To take the example of the City cash, a Secretary of State could designate Departments to influence the corporation's governance and introduce reforms. There are immense opportunities for any legislation to be hindered, delayed or even defeated by either House of Parliament. The Lords, who have often populated the City of London corporation—many of them serve as its aldermen—seek to block the legislation that we are trying to impose on the corporation, so we may well want Secretaries of State to have influence at the grass roots, which would welcome instigated reform, rather than reform from above.
My amendment would allow the Government, via the Secretary of State, to designate a range of Departments, Government agencies and bodies as qualifying bodies, enabling them to nominate voters who in turn can vote for a slate of reforming representatives to tackle any issue on which the corporation backwoodsmen remain intransigent. The amendment is therefore powerful; it may be a tortuous route, but such a power may be useful in future. I urge that it should receive consideration, and not be given up, underestimated, turned away or rejected lightly. It does not propose an abuse of power, but its proper exercise. Even without a big bang confrontation, it may well be best to give the Secretary of State flexible powers to define or designate a qualifying body.
There is considerable uncertainty about the changing structures of the Government and the bodies that they set up, or on which they rely, to deliver the functions that they perform under statute. The amendment would give the Secretary of State discretion and, in doing so, would prevent legal challenges—or at least provide a mechanism to minimise them—to the status of Government-linked bodies in future.
Amendment (c) would insert the words
"or any institution of the European Union" in the Bill. It seeks to prevent any EU institutions having a direct role in the governance of the City of London. That matter was raised in Committee; I refer Members to page 20 of the Committee report for
It could be argued that EU institutions are exercising functions on the Crown's behalf, as conferred by legislation such as the Maastricht treaty et al.
My hon. Friend and I number among those who are concerned about Britain's future in the European Union. Indeed, there is something of a competition between the eurozone and the City of London in pursuing business in the financial world. If we are not careful, EU influence in the City could prove unhelpful to our economy and to the City's future success.
Because of the confusion arising from the move from rateable value to voting on the basis of employees, the legislation could enable EU institutions to set up bodies in the City of London area and thereby exert an influence. I find that amazing.
I do not want to stir up the European debate, but, at various stages, Sir Teddy Taylor has edged towards me in the Tea Room. It is worrying, nevertheless, that there is no such specific exclusion of EU institutions.
My amendment makes explicit what might not be sufficiently clear in new clause 1—that EU institutions are not entitled to participate in the governance of the City of London corporation. It could be argued that the new clause already excludes such participation, but I do not accept that. I do not believe that many such institutions can be regarded as Departments—certainly not of this sovereign Government. Moreover, they exercise not Crown functions but EU functions. My amendment makes the matter explicit by excluding those institutions, and I urge hon. Members to support it.
My amendment would ensure exclusion of their participation in the governance of the City of London corporation. There might be an argument that those receiving EU funds are exercising—albeit tenuously—functions of government conferred on them by previous legislation passed by this House. My amendment makes it explicit that they would not so participate.
The point of the amendments is to focus on people rather than premises. I might be sympathetic to my hon. Friend's views on Europe, but would not the amendment exclude from the franchise British citizens who do a good, honest day's work in the City of London? Although there might be a conflict of interest in that regard, I am not sure that we can justify excluding such people from the vote.
That is a valid issue to raise at this point, but unless my amendments are adopted and we accept the principle of balloting the work force, those workers will be excluded anyway. Amendment (e) would have addressed that issue, but it was not selected and therefore is not open for debate.
The amendments that we are discussing demonstrate the importance of ensuring that the new clause is clear. There is a wide range of arguments in favour of democratising, and to some extent constraining, this power. They go to the heart of the Bill, but the fundamental question in all the amendments is who should be eligible to vote in the governance of the City of London corporation. If, like me, hon. Members believe in universal suffrage, they will support a number of the amendments that I am coming to, which would provide for ballots rather than appointments.
The basis of universal suffrage has always been one person, one vote. If hon. Members believe in universal suffrage, they should support any extension of suffrage beyond the residential and oppose those who seek to build votes on names of workers rather than giving them a ballot. If, in the spirit of compromise, they want a negotiated settlement between all the combatants in the dispute over the City corporation franchise, like me they should be willing to examine as many compromise options as possible. The Bill, if amended as many of us wish it to be, could be a decisive agreement on the future franchise of the City corporation, and would decommission some of the corrupt practices that have gone on.
The compromise that I have repeatedly suggested is based on mutual esteem, as set out in my amendments. It recognises that all the stakeholders in the City corporation should have a say in the democratic structures and procedures of their area. At present, there are limited rights for residents, for some businesses and for a group of elected-for-life aldermen, but there are no rights for the workers of the City, who create the wealth on which the City relies and of which it extols the virtues. In our amendments, we seek to install that right.
New clause 1 unamended would exclude the public sector from participating in the democratic processes of the City corporation, and would prevent that sector from having any effective say. If we are successful in introducing a ballot of workers in the exercise of the franchise based on the numbers of workers employed by each company, unless we amend new clause 1 we will exclude the public sector. That would prevent the people who work in the public sector and provide such valuable services from making a valid contribution to City governance.
If we extend the franchise based on employment, and amend the democratic processes of the City corporation, we will create a divide between public sector employees who, by being employed by bodies excluded under new clause 1, will have no participatory rights, and private sector employees, whose employment will gain them the right to vote, or at least the right to be counted. That cannot be acceptable.
Under clause 4, a qualifying body is entitled to appoint a number of persons and ensure that they reflect the composition of the work force, so the City of London corporation moved some way towards reflecting the work force, although not in a ballot. However, that is not so for public sector workers.
My hon. Friend talked about involving all the stakeholders, and he focused on the residents and the business voters via the workers. I want to put to him a point that I raised in one of the previous debates on the Bill. What about the City's customers? If we are genuinely talking about a stakeholder democracy, surely the customers must have a say as well?
Shareholders of individual companies may have some influence over businesses. I cannot find a mechanism for customers that could be built into this structure, although I deal with the issue of contractors in later amendments.
It is unfortunate that new clause 1 would create a split between the public sector and the private sector, which does not reflect the real work involved in the delivery of public services and services generally in the City of London corporation.
Because a sliding scale of reforms is involved, I suggest that the proposals be voted on separately.
I am sorry to be pedantic. My hon. Friend listed 100 major City institutions and the number of employees—[Hon. Members: "He did not."] Well, he mentioned them, and made copies of the details available to Members.
How do we know that the number of people registered as employees is the genuine number of employed people? What mechanisms will allow us to establish whether these are made-up numbers, genuine numbers or simply bought numbers, in an obscure voting process?
That is a valid point, with which I will deal in due course.
In our last debate, the argument advanced against basing voting rights on the number of workers in a company was that, according to the City corporation, there was no operable way in which the number of employees could be established and registered. Now it has come up with one: it took four years, but we are nearly there. All we need do is establish a registration system based on the number of employees and their entitlement to vote, and one of my amendments deals with that.
I will not refer to voters, because the people I refer to are not exactly voters, although they are part of the franchise. Does my hon. Friend think that they should be treated in the same way as the franchise in the rest of the country in terms of age, nationality, citizenship and so on, or does he believe, as the City seems to, that anyone should be able to vote?
I am trying to arrive at a simple mechanism to allow the voters—the workers in a company, that is—to be properly registered. The Bill as presented by the corporation attempted to reflect the composition of the work force. I have tabled amendments to try to encourage that, and to find a practical way of doing so.
I thank my hon. Friend for trying to clarify the point, and I am sorry to have missed his opening remarks.
Is the proposal based on the ordinary place of work of an individual employed by a company, on that person's permanent place of work, or on the place where the payroll is drawn up? There are people, especially in the public sector, who travel a great deal in the course of their jobs. That probably applies almost as much to those in the private sector. It will be impossible to identify a place of work definitely and to establish that someone is on the payroll unless all names and numbers are made available.
The City corporation's amendments deal with some of my hon. Friend's points, and my amendments aim to construct a further device to give us some security in that regard.
Let me deal with promoters amendments Nos. 1 to 4 and 5, to which I have tabled amendments (b) to (d). The promoters amendments place emphasis on the occupying of premises. We are moving away from the link with hereditaments to qualification based on occupancy. It is proposed that the reference to rates should be deleted, but I should have thought that, if the reference to the 1957 Act remains, some definitions in the Bill should be retained. Let us, however, concentrate on the concept of "occupying". Some of the amendments introduce that concept to emphasise physical presence on the premises. Amendment No. 3 substitutes "premises" for "hereditament", and amendment No. 4 refers to "occupying for relevant purposes"—such purposes being defined in lines 15 to 18 on page 2 of the Bill.
However, the inclusion of "relevant purposes" in this instance is bizarre. It seems to refer to everything from religious worship to prostitution, which could be called a calling or a profession. Which is which?
Hon. Members should not be deceived by the amendment. It does nothing to insist on personal occupation—on someone being in physical occupation as we would normally understand that term. A company can still qualify by occupation through a director, officer, employee or agent of that body, or through a holder of any paid or unpaid office. The amendment to emphasise occupation by personal or physical presence is undermined by including such a wide range of people. It is a misguided approach.
My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point that begs an important question: who does the appointing on behalf of the companies? Presumably, some of the directors on the executive board may in some circumstances be said to be working in the particular building concerned and may be involved in appointing the electors, but a company is its shareholders. They may theoretically occupy the building through the company but in practice never go within 100 miles of it. Who is actually the occupier for that purpose?
That argument was raised earlier. We have the concept of occupying premises and employing workers to qualify the body to gain votes, but those votes may be exercised by an individual. That is the block vote. There is no reference to shareholders being involved in that decision-making process.
Could the provision apply to people who work for a major company, are based overseas but are on the payroll of the head office? Their votes would be taken into account even though they may not have even been in this country for years.
The definition of occupancy is so watered down by the amendments that there is potential for absent landlords to exercise votes in that way. I urge the House to reject the amendments because they are worthless.
To extend that point, is this not similar to the Irish peerage of the 19th century? Peers who never went anywhere near Ireland had their seats in the House of Peers as it then was and were part of the legislature. They had no contact whatever with the area that they supposedly represented, except perhaps for screwing the peasants to get money out of them.
I ask the House to reject amendments Nos. 1 to 5 because they are worthless. The promoters amendment No. 5 introduces the definition of work force. It designates the work force as
"those persons whose principal or only place of work"— my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North raised this point—on a particular day, "the qualifying date", is ordinarily the premises concerned. On that day each year, the employees of a particular company could ordinarily work at that premises. On every other day of the year, they could be employed elsewhere. They could be working anywhere.
In extreme circumstances, could we not find that a company had a very small office with a very small number of people, a large number of workers working remotely at screens, and a large number of representatives overseas and all over the country? On one day, they could all come together in that tiny office to make up the qualifying vote.
That is one of the abuses that has been used so far in the governance of the City corporation: the registration of people at premises at which they do not work except on a particular day. The Committee tried at length to eradicate some of those abuses. On every other day of the year, these people could be employed elsewhere. The company could bus them in on the one day to boost its voting capacity in the City corporation.
Look at some of the exposures of previous years.
The new clause also identifies that the people concerned must be persons who work for that body. The entitlement is based upon the number of employees who work for that body on a particular day. The day before, they could be working for anyone. On the day in question, a company could recruit a massive number of temporary workers to boost its voting entitlement, paying them nothing. They could be part-time workers—
Exactly. On that day, the company could boost its voting entitlement only to lay off those people the next day, having gained significant voting capacity within the City corporation.
My hon. Friend is outlining an important flaw in the proposals. As far as the electorate in the real world is concerned, we have moved away from a formal date for compiling the electoral register. We have moved towards the concept of the rolling register, which means that people can register to vote and participate in local and national democracy as and when they change address. Should we not have something equivalent for the City?
There are fundamental issues at stake here, and there is a large potential for abuse. I understood the City corporation's argument that there might be problems in registering workers at a particular point in time at any particular premises. But what annoys me is that these problems could have been ironed out over the last four years of the debate; we could have set up a system of registration to overcome the problems.
Surely compiling a register on a given day in the City of the number of employees concerned—bearing in mind the huge amount of technology available—cannot be any harder than a trade union compiling a list of its members for when it has to have a ballot for industrial action.
I do not think that it is, and that is why one of my amendments places trade union registration at the heart of the Bill. It is the simplest way of identifying who is working where and who qualifies.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there are at least two possible ways of overcoming this? The first is to have a register that is made up once a year, with a registration officer—from the Electoral Commission, perhaps—who does spot checks from time to time. The second is to have a reasonable occupancy level at a particular office. If an office can accommodate 10 people but 100 are registered there, clearly something is amiss.
There are common-sense ways of dealing with the abuse and fraud that could result from the system, and the new clause would leave the system open to the most appalling abuse. It is not a fantastical scenario either, because it is based upon existing gerrymandering practices in the City corporation.
Surely a way round that point is to look at the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, which laid down a minimum floor space that an individual office worker should have to occupy. If it turned out that a company tried to register more people than its office space allowed, it should be prosecuted for breaching the legislation.
I know that a proposal was drafted at one point—one that I was often induced to support by the City corporation—to use rateable value for calculating employers. That could be a fall-back position for a system in which we enforce standards upon employers and identify gerrymandering. The new clause has the potential for gerrymandering, a time-honoured tradition that the City corporation has sought to stamp out.
The debate is clearly focusing on how we satisfy the need for probity and a proper ethical process in relation to who should have a franchise. Will my hon. Friend consider tabling further amendments to the Bill, not to make the hefty tome that is the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 apply to the City of London corporation but to enable the Electoral Commission to deal with the matter? There is a rich seam of further thoughts for Parliament to consider in relation to whether aspects of that Act could be incorporated into the Bill. The Act has a great many provisions.
Exactly. I hope that the Bill's promoters will realise the errors of some of their amendments. If they do, it will give us the opportunity to pull back the Bill and table such amendments. In my own small way, may I refer my hon. Friend to amendments (b) to (d) on page 127 of the amendment paper, in which I try to address some of the abuses that have been mentioned?
I have to say to my hon. Friend yet again that there was no discussion in Committee of how to verify these matters, or of how the registers would be drawn up. Nor did the petitioners have the opportunity to discuss the matter. On the question of numbers, and in reflecting on another major financial centre, I looked on in horror as it was explained on television that 50,000 people worked in the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. It was with relief that we realised that the actual number was significantly less, but that illustrates how we can judge such numbers by the size of a building and then discover, through a tragedy, that nothing like that number of people is inside.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that, as Chairman of Ways and Means, you have an ongoing discretion in relation to some of the matters relating to this Bill, and that it is open to you to consider at some stage the prudence of this matter continuing in Parliament. I understand that you have, either directly or indirectly, some leverage and discretion in that matter. Bearing it in mind that the Bill started its life and completed its Committee stage before Parliament considered and enacted the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, would I or any other hon. Member be competent to put a representation to you on this question, and would you consider one? Events have overtaken us in the area of electoral law, and you might consider this a matter that should properly have been taken account of in Committee. I am not asking you to consider my submission tonight; I am just asking whether this is something of which you could legitimately take cognisance.
On that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may take it as read that representations will be made on this matter.
My amendments (b), (c) and (d) try to address the prospect of manipulating the count of employee numbers by insisting that the employees who make up a work force are genuine—that is, that they have worked for the company or qualifying body for a period of not less than 12 months. I accept that that does not completely reflect some of the practices operating in the City of London corporation area, because there is a high turnover in certain sectors. Nevertheless, this is a common criterion used to avoid the manipulation of ballots. It is used in legislation elsewhere, and also in the Labour party for the selection of candidates for local councils and for Parliament. Someone has to have been a member of the party for at least 12 months before the start of the selection process.
The amendment will give some security to the process. I accept that for it to operate, there would have to be some form of registration of the employment in question. I repeat that the City of London corporation has argued in the past that that would be impossible, cumbersome and administratively costly, and therefore could not be introduced—yet it is inevitable if the system is to be based on the number of people employed by a particular company on a particular day.
I am dealing now with some of the amendments that I have tabled to the amendments. I have yet to deal with my proposals for reform, so I do not expect a vote to be called.
The registration system is hardly difficult or impossible to construct. It has to carry only three pieces of information: the name of the employee, where he or she is employed, and the company that he or she works for. However, one further piece of information would be required: how long the person has been employed by that employer. That would not be an impossible task for modern systems.
I agree with my hon. Friend, but will he make it clear whether he is talking about the individual's ordinary and permanent place of work, or the place where people are based and from which they could be sent to work elsewhere? In the big consulting companies that we have talked about, such as Andersen and others, people are not in the office very often, because they are always being sent off somewhere else. Would those people have a vote or not?
I believe that we must insist upon there being deemed to be one sole base from which people work. That is in the spirit both of the legislation and of our amendments. Again, if continuing amendment is needed to ensure that the system works, the legislation could be amended, or we could amend the code of conduct that will be published to ensure that registration takes place properly.
I offer amendment (c), which says that the people concerned should be members of a trade union, as a way of overcoming the problem of registration. In principle, I believe that all workers should be members of a trade union; I am a member of Unison, and many other Members are members of other unions. The amendment would serve as an incentive for employers to promote trade union membership, and for employees to join a trade union.
The important thing, however, is that amendment (c) would also offer a readily available method of registering the numbers employed at a particular workplace on a particular day. I accept that trade union membership records are not infallible, but they are a useful form of information about who is employed by a firm, where and for how long. They are now recognised in statute in connection with industrial action and ballots, so there are systems already in place, based on trade union membership, which could assist us in the registration process.
The TUC and the individual trade unions operating in the City—it is usually the MSF, or Amicus, or whatever it is called now—would be only too pleased to assist in developing a reliable registration scheme for use by the City corporation. That would produce a valuable partnership between unions and employers operating in or based in the City.
Amendment (d) sets out the need to recognise that not all employees are directly employed. People are often contracted to supply services to particular bodies. The reason for tabling the amendment was that it would insert the words
"or who are contracted to supply services to that body".
That would reflect part of the debate that took place in the previous Parliament. My hon. Friend Mr. Skinner took part in it, although he is not in his place now; I know that he has been unwell. My hon. Friend Mr. Dismore also spoke, and chastised me for my failure to pay any regard to workers who were not directly employed by a City-based firm but were contractors. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that was described as the "white van man" argument.
Let me put the record straight.
The "white van man" argument is part of it, but more important is IR 35 man or woman. I do not wish to pursue the arguments about IR 35 now. However, those contractors, who are self-employed but effectively still work for these companies, are a clear example of people who would not be caught within the present definition put forward by the City but ought to be included in the franchise.
Under my amendment, they would be included. It would cover the full range of people who are currently employed on a contract basis to supply services. I understand and appreciate the concern that has been expressed. The issue is complex but it could be overcome.
With respect to a code of practice on registration at some future date, we would argue that, as in the other clauses, the principal employment would be the relevant one. We based that on the majority of time employed on a particular contract.
This is a difficult area, and it is difficult to cater for the full range of activities and employment in the City. The amendment seeks to reflect the modern reality of work and trade in the City area. Many workers are not directly employed; they often work for themselves or are under contract to a company that could be described as a qualifying body. Many may be contractors, but their contract status is often with one or two firms at most. They operate virtually like direct employees, so under the amendment they would be covered by the Bill.
If there is to be an allocation of votes in the City based on employment, this type of employment and employee should be recognised. Not to do so would be to fail to relate to the modern experience of employment in the City.
I turn now to my amendment No. 52 and promoters amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8. I shall discuss the amendments together as they relate specifically to occupancy. I find clause 2(2) virtually incomprehensible. Even taking into account amendment No. 6, I take it to mean that although definitions of occupancy in clause 2(1) have the emphasis correctly on personal and physical presence, those caveats are virtually meaningless for unincorporated bodies. That is why amendment No. 52 seeks to delete subsection (2). Under the subsection, it does not seem to matter whether the owner or the tenant is in occupation. Amendment No. 52 would delete the subsection as it is contrary to everything that has gone before and the emphasis on connection to place or occupancy by physical presence.
Amendment No. 7 would insert "doing" after "to be" in line 20. It would, if amendment No. 52 is accepted, become superfluous. Amendment No. 8, would also be superfluous if amendment No. 52 is accepted.
Amendment No. 149, which is the promoters' main amendment, was outlined by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire. It would amend section 6 of the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1957 dealing with qualification of voters at ward elections. My understanding is that there are three categories of voters—the owner-tenant, the resident and now the new voters, the qualifying bodies occupying premises. However, under amendment No. 149, the qualifying bodies will gain votes based upon their occupation and employment.
What does my hon. Friend mean by an owner-tenant? Is that the owner of the freehold, the owner of the leasehold or the tenant of a sub-lessee or a head-lessee? Who gets a vote?
In my understanding, ownership or tenancy would qualify.
Qualifying bodies are the key to amendment No. 149. Does occupation of those qualifying bodies actually mean—