Local Government Reform: Greater London — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:13 am on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:13 am, 17th October 2018

Perhaps I should have stuck to history, which may be a slightly safer subject for me to talk about. My hon. Friend may think that it should have been called the Essex Olympics, but I am not sure that that would have had the same international cut-through as the London Olympics. It was a significant event, not just for London—and Essex, where it took place in the traditional Essex town of Stratford—but for our entire nation.

Those Olympics, which were thanks in no small part to the late, great Baroness Jowell and the Mayor of London at the time, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, showed how the GLA and London can be at their best. Another previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, introduced the congestion charge, which was extremely well implemented and significantly reduced traffic levels in the city. The Oyster card is also hugely popular, which the GLA and the Mayor were responsible for.

My hon. Friend said that today should be the start of the debate about the future shape of mayoralty and local government in London. He will understand that starting the debate for change will be hard; it will be a long road and probably require primary legislation. Most importantly of all, it will require consensus. From the Government’s point of view, we hope any changes would come from a ground-up movement rather than a central diktat from Whitehall. That plays very well with my hon. Friend’s desire for his constituents to have more control of their lives.

We must not forget that the Conservative party is the party of English devolution. We did not create the Mayor of London but we have successfully created six Metro Mayors, who were elected in May 2017. Since that date, a Mayor of Sheffield has been elected and, subject to the consent of the House, next Monday we will finalise the creation of a Mayor north of the Tyne, in Newcastle. Those elections have brought the biggest single transfer of power from Whitehall back to the people of England since the first world war. As Conservatives, we should celebrate that and be deeply proud of it. All those mayoral devolution deals have been about transferring power.