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Mr. Love: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brooke: Yes. The hon. Gentleman has been extremely patient; he might have drawn my attention to the fact that I had completed the paragraph.

Mr. Love: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I did not intervene to show that he was not showing favour to his parliamentary neighbour. May I confirm that hon. Members always enjoy his contributions, so we will be listening carefully through to the end?

You have laid out for us the basis of the--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that he should be addressing the right hon. Gentleman, not the Chair.

Mr. Love: I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The right hon. Gentleman has laid out for us the basis of the new franchise, which will concentrate control in the hands of business, but the City of London authority is a local government authority. It provides a considerable

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number of services to those who live in the City. If the franchise is to be changed in such a way, is not there an argument that the authority should no longer be part of local government, as it has been in the past?

Mr. Brooke: The hon. Gentleman takes me into a semantic jungle that I am ill-equipped to traverse, but in any Bill applying to the City of London--when he has seen as many Bills as I have, he will begin to learn the phrase--there is always a separate, particular and specific reference to the City of London, because it is not a local authority like any other. That is a statutory observation, not simply something born of Lord Herbert's decision in the royal commission.

The standard local government qualifications governing aspects such as nationality will apply to all electors. In other words, the voting rights will be the same as for local government elections. The system proposed acknowledges that the rating list is a convenient source, and that the size of premises bears some relationship to what the occupier pays in rates for the premises and also to the number of people likely to be working there.

Clause 4 deals with the procedures by which--

Mr. Peter Bradley: Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify one issue? If the building is vacant and no one is working there, but the landlord is paying rates, will he still be entitled to the same franchise as someone who is trading from a building?

Mr. Brooke: No. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been hanging on my every word, but there must have been a moment in which he missed a sentence of mine. I have specifically said that an empty building would not have representation.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): I delayed until the last possible moment before intervening.

I have two specific questions. First, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, as a matter of law, in the Bill as drafted, it is entirely up to what the Bill describes as the qualifying body to decide how to allocate its votes? For example, it could raffle them. Secondly, will he confirm that there is nothing to prevent someone being nominated by a qualifying body, even if he works for the City of London--the corporation--or has some commercial interest linked to it?

Mr. Brooke: The hon. Gentleman is quite correct in respect of his first question, although anyone who engaged in a raffle would have to pay attention, not only to the laws relating to raffles, but to those relating to criminal proceedings in British elections. That would be a slightly hazardous way of choosing a candidate.

I may have to respond later, under advisement, to the hon. Gentleman's second point. I am not conscious of a restraint in respect of the individual, although I think that he should be an employee. Even on that I am not certain, so I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman. I am grateful to him for raising the question.

Clause 4 deals with the procedures by which the individuals appointed to vote will be entered on the ward lists. The town clerk, who is responsible for administration of electoral matters, will undertake inquiries to identify the

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qualifying bodies and will request details from them about their appointments. The individuals concerned will then be entered on the ward lists.

Clauses 5 and 6 and schedule 2 deal with amendments and repeals and a saving for elections to be held under the current system before the new ward lists become operational. Some aspects of the reforms are not dealt with in the Bill. That is because they are being provided for through the City's legislative powers, about which the right hon. Member for Chesterfield asked me earlier. The corporation will deploy those powers to provide for four-year terms of election, consistent with the arrangements in London boroughs. The date of ward elections will be aligned with the election season for the boroughs; elections in the City currently take place in December.

The corporation will examine the ways in which turnout may be enhanced by means of practical voting arrangements, including the location of polling stations. That, too, was a worry for the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. The corporation has already said that it will publish a code of practice on the appointment of individuals to vote by qualifying bodies, and work on that is in hand. In the corporation's view, it is appropriate for the allocation of appointments to reflect the nature of the organisation and its work force, including its gender mix. I hope that will reassure the hon. Gentleman.

I should refer specifically to the position of residents. A number of Labour Members have already given me ample opportunities to do so. Under the existing system, some wards in the City are predominantly residential. The corporation recognises, and has always recognised, that the interests of residents should be maintained in the new system; therefore, the system has been designed to ensure that wards that are predominantly residential in character remain so. Likewise, the corporation will review the distribution of voting capacity in each ward, with the aim of ensuring the maintenance of a reasonable balance between the size of wards and their electorate.

Mr. Benn: May I take up the right hon. Gentleman's point about the interests of the business community in the City? Can he assure us that every shareholder in businesses there will have an opportunity to vote, and to determine who should vote on his or her behalf? One shareholder, one vote: that is the one principle that I want the right hon. Gentleman to establish.

Mr. Brooke: I am delighted to learn that the right hon. Gentleman still espouses the principle of one man, one vote. I understand that the Labour party no longer espouses that principle in internal elections in certain parts of the country.

I have already said that the decision on who will vote will be made by the businesses concerned. As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the element of the business that is in the City may be only a small part of a much larger business. Although 118 of the 500 largest companies in the European Union have their headquarters in the City, there are many small businesses there as well, and I feel that a shareholder system would be unwieldy.

Considerable efforts have been made to involve, and seek the views of, City residents, and the corporation has no evidence to suggest that there is a significant amount

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of dissatisfaction with what is being proposed. Let me add that the proposals are not intended, or expected, to have any effects on services provided from funds outside the local government finance system, such as the provision for open spaces for which the City is responsible.

Mr. McDonnell: The corporation has asserted that there is no substantial opposition to the proposals. In fact, petitions have been received opposing the Bill; but, in any event, has the City organised a ballot of residents? If so, have the results been published? Has there been any consultation of the electorate of Greater London overall?

Mr. Brooke: I enjoy the hon. Gentleman's interventions, but I think that the idea of involving the whole of Greater London in the decision is a bit rich. As for the question of consultation, the corporation publishes a magazine called City Review, which is widely distributed and which I am sure the hon. Gentleman has seen. It is published every two months, and for the past 18 months or so every issue has contained references to the Bill, and invitations to readers to write in. It has produced a booklet, which I have here. People have written, and there has been an opportunity for discussions with residents. Any resident who was not aware of what was going on must be living a somewhat hermit-like life.

Mr. McDonnell: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brooke: I do not want people to forget what I was saying before the hon. Gentleman intervened. I have been pretty generous to him. Let me finish what I was saying about open spaces.

Open spaces such as Epping forest are subject to statutory protection through legislation promoted by the corporation itself, which demands that they be maintained and conserved to a high standard. That legislation is unaffected by the Bill, and the corporation has no intention of changing it.

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