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London

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:06 pm on 28th April 2004.

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Photo of Lord Sheppard of Didgemere Lord Sheppard of Didgemere Conservative 5:06 pm, 28th April 2004

My Lords, we have had a high-quality debate and we shall improve London's productivity by finishing ahead of the two hours—provided I do not talk for too long.

I cannot resist making a couple of points. I want to repeat and make clear that I believe that the governance should be as close to the electorate as possible. Sometimes that will be community groups; at others it will be boroughs; and sometimes it will be pan-London/the GLA. Rarely, however, other than on strategic issues, should it be the national government. If I came across as anti-borough, that was not intended; there was probably some confusion. I believe that central government should step back and that we should have a proper debate on how to organise government within London. That debate should be with the boroughs, the GLA and so forth.

Having told all speakers that they should not get into party politics, they did much better than Members of the other place. But everyone got into it anyway. I am tempted to ask whether a progressive tax on the individual is fair when there are high living costs in London. Living in London, one is automatically more highly taxed, but I will not get into that.

On Crossrail, the Government should realise that the business community is angry about the issue. We have gone through the feelings of despair and so forth and we are now angry. I can name—not here but outside the debate—at least two inward investors we lost last week in East London because they did not believe the Government were serious about transport.

As regards the Government Office for London, people think that being a businessman I should be analytical and logical. I can be accused of a lot of things, but never of being analytical or logical. Therefore, I am a strange combination of brain and heart—perhaps I should say brain and soul, but I am not sure I have reached that high level. I try.

In many instances, we must get the issues nearer to the electorate. They feel very frustrated, like those in the business community. About 350 people are involved, but it is no criticism of them. They are excellent people and, goodness knows, we could do with them in other areas of the Civil Service and so forth. However, we should get implementation right into the heart of London.

I am in danger of wrecking the productivity of the debate, so I shall conclude. I thank all noble Lords who have participated in an excellent and varied debate and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.