Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. McDonnell: I assure my hon. Friend that I have had one meeting with the City of London Corporation, at which an offer of an amendment was made. I subsequently declined that offer--or, rather, did not respond to it.

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) talked about the particular electoral college of which he is aware. However, the one that we have all seen most recently is in the United States, and it has produced an appalling travesty of democracy. I hope that my hon. Friend's proposals will not reflect in any way the electoral college procedures and systems that operate in the United States, albeit with a different breakdown.

Mr. McDonnell: I accept that there is a similarity in the concept of an electoral college. The Bill is into its third year and I have sought to amend it for two and a half years. The principal element of introducing a full democratic vote based on one person, one vote has clearly been rejected at earlier stages. In addition, when we tried to introduce the concept of one person, one vote based on a residential vote plus the vote of the workers themselves, that was rejected. This is my humble and simple attempt--no, I mean my humble but complex attempt--to try to reach a form of compromise.

The attempt is to seek amendments--I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will enjoy this statement--allowing all the stakeholders in the City of London Corporation to be actively engaged in, and have rights and responsibilities to engage in, the political processes in the area covered by the corporation.

Mr. Skinner: I knew it. My hon. Friend has fallen for all this jargon. Stakeholders? Come on. What is the next phrase? New deal?

6.45 pm

Mr. McDonnell: Given the lateral thinking in which we have had to engage when constructing the amendments, I have tried to suggest that the Bill should be entitled the "New City of London (Ward Elections) Bill".

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): New city, new Labour.

Mr. McDonnell: Exactly. By following the philosophical trend that has been developed under new

11 Jan 2001 : Column 1327

Labour to ensure that, in accordance with the Will Hutton approach, all stakeholders participate in arrangements for their areas, I have devised a compromise proposal.

Mr. Skinner: There are other words that should now be used, apart from "stakeholders". Has my hon. Friend turned his attention to words such as "clients", "customers" and "products"? It is not only stakeholders. This new language is about different things altogether. If my hon. Friend wants to move away from ordinary, run-of-the-mill, one-person-one-vote arrangements, he must think in terms not only of stakeholders, but of clients, customers, products, inputs and outputs. Has he turned his mind to such terms?

Mr. McDonnell: It is that form of synergy that I am seeking to address.

Mr. Dismore: I am a little concerned that the amendments do not address those concerns. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) made a good point. We are considering a proposal for an electoral college that, as I understand it, includes businesses, residents and employees. Where are customers represented? We are told time and again that the City is the powerhouse of the economy and has customers throughout the world, and not only locally. Are not those customers represented in some of the City's work? The college does not seem to provide for such representation.

Mr. McDonnell: It is true that the recipients of City services are not provided for. I tabled an amendment to ensure that any business voter who was elected to represent a business was chosen on the basis of a vote by shareholders or by members of the organisation in question. Unfortunately, that amendment was not selected for consideration. To overcome that, I have tried to ensure that the definition of the business college and the employees' electoral college ranges across the many organisations that provide such a variety of services in the area, as well as those who create the wealth--the workers themselves. I have sought to reflect all the different trades and professions and have proposed the best compromise that I can offer. Hon. Members will know that I always seek to ensure such compromise.

Mr. Dismore: I am sorry to keep intervening on my hon. Friend, but I am concerned about his remarks. As I understand it, in order to vote, employees must work for somebody who holds a City property, the value of which is above a certain rateable level. Many people in the City will not be in such a position, including those who travel about delivering things or who work from market stalls. Would such people be excluded from the provisions? I cannot imagine a market stall having the required rateable value.

Mr. McDonnell: That is why the proposal is a compromise. It attempts to offer the corporation some movement and does not seek to flood its operations with a work-force vote that will overcome all the vested interests that meet in various masonic lodges within the corporation area. It is a compromise that would introduce a system in which all interests in the area would be represented.

Mr. Corbyn: My hon. Friend obviously listened carefully to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the

11 Jan 2001 : Column 1328

Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) in his intervention, but I am still anxious about whether people who work in Westminster as street vendors, newsagents or street traders, or who do other jobs in that sector, are to be excluded. Will there be an opportunity for further discussion with such people? A right to participate in the peculiar elections that are proposed should apply to everybody who works in the City, irrespective of whether they happen to be employed by a big business.

Mr. McDonnell: I shall not be set up as class traitor of the month. My position is clear. Under my original proposal, the electorate would compromise the residents and workers. Basically, the proposal was formulated on the Petrograd, Soviet model. It was as simple as that, and I do not know why it was rejected. I think that that rejection was unreasonable and that the proposal would have worked. It would have put us in a revolutionary situation in advance of many other cities in the world. However, it was rejected, and this is an attempt at a compromise. I accept that some petty bourgeois elements will not be represented in the electoral college because of their lack of stakeholding in the community, based on rateable value.

Mr. Dismore: I am concerned about what my hon. Friend has just said. I assume from his definition of "employee" that people who are self-employed will also be excluded. There is a great trend in the City for people to work on a self-employed, consulting basis, and they are not included in the definition. Is my hon. Friend attempting to exclude the self-employed as well?

Mr. McDonnell: My view is that the self-employed would come within the business electoral college. They would have a say over the eventual voters in the corporation area. That would give them their conduit into the democratic processes of the corporation. However, I accept that the issue potentially involves social inclusion based on the high level of rateable value set in the Bill. Again, that is a compromise. I have taken the original figure of £200 proposed by the corporation. I am happy for amendments to be tabled on that.

Mr. Dismore: Another group of people would potentially be excluded by the definition of "employee", and that is office holders. For example, police officers employed by the City of London police are holders of the office of constable but are not technically employees. The rateable value of their police station may be more than £200, but although they are City workers they would be excluded. Other office holders employed by the City in mediaeval positions are not technically employees but work in the City. Where do they fit into the picture?

Mr. McDonnell: The Bill refers to office holders in their occupation of individual premises in the City. Assurances were given by the corporation in the previous debates that office holders would be included. Clause 2 on interpretation refers to

we have discussed how hereditament should be pronounced, and I go for the early French version--

11 Jan 2001 : Column 1329

Mr. Dismore: May I get the position entirely clear? As I understand it, that definition relates to business premises, and my hon. Friend just said that office holders would qualify as part of the business college. My question was why they do not qualify as part of the employee college because, to all intents and purposes, they are employees, not businesses. I take his point about self-employed people coming under the business definition, although some of them may question that. I do not see why people in the category that I have mentioned should be classed as businesses rather than employees.

Next Section

IndexHome Page