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John McDonnell: There is nothing to suspend those companies from operating in the City corporation while they are under investigation. Many of the companies that are under investigation have not been suspended from trading. As a result of the report to the French Parliament,
John McDonnell: Let us equate a business that will exercise a democratic vote under the business franchise within its area, which is an influential position, with a Member who serves in the House. If an hon. Member is under investigation, he or she usually withdraws or is suspended. We should follow that example, because the Bill does not deal with individual voters but with businesses that in effect exercise a block vote.
Mr. Davey: If Members are under investigation and appear before the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges, they continue to vote in the House. It is only when they are found guilty and are asked to withdraw that they no longer exercise that right.
John McDonnell: That applies when Members are found guilty under the procedures of the House, but not necessarily in law itself. We should apply similar standards to the exercise of what is, in effect, a massive business block vote.
The charges that have been made against certain companies are so severe that we should consider carefully whether the Bill should be carried over. It will give several companies that are under investigation for money laundering a role in the democratic government of the City.
John McDonnell: My point is different. If those companies are found guilty, they might be brought before the law and fined. However, the proposals in the Bill will not preclude them from exercising a vote in the City of London corporation. My point is that, depending on the severity of the crime, it should be possible to suspend those companies from operating within the City corporation while they are under investigation.
In the House, if a severe charge were made against a Member, the onus would be on that Member to withdraw from exercising a role within the democratic mechanisms of the House while he was under investigation. That has happened on a number of occasions in the past when Members have been investigated for what might be serious criminal activity.
I am happy to go through the list of firms that have been identified in the reportalthough you would not want me to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I shall not. The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire described an early-day motion on that issue as tasteless, but I find tasteless the activities of companies that have received laundered money from Nigeria and that are even, we believe, associated with Osama bin Laden.
The Bill will supposedly be substantially altered by future amendments. However, before we have seen the detail of how it will be altered, we are expected to accept the motion and take a leap in the dark. We are expected to agree to further debate before we have seen the amendments. All that the promoters have provided is yet another statement, and I cannot remember how many such statements they have published. The promoters tell us:
However, we have been asked to accept the motion without the detail of those amendments or any information about them. We are supposed to take a leap in the dark. In fact, we are being asked to make a leap of faith on the basis of the City corporation's track record and the assurances that it has given for previous debates on carry-over. Let us consider them, because the motion must stand in its own right but be viewed against the corporation's track record. In previous statementsit repeats this in the latestthe corporation told us:
Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North): I take issue with my hon. Friend on one matter. I understand the sophistication of his line-by-line, detailed argument, but surely we cannot talk about improvements when an issue is fundamentally rotten and wrong. Rather than arguing over small issues, should we not be arguing that the Bill is an affront to democracy and as such should be thrown out?
John McDonnell: I could not have put it better myself; I agree. However, I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would call me to order if I tried to pursue that general argument, so I let it stand on the record as a good summary of my views.
Jeremy Corbyn: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have heard both the sponsor of the Bill, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), and my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) refer to substantial amendments that are not before the House. Have you or your office had sight of those amendments?
We are being asked to agree to carry over the Bill on the basis of an offer from the promoters on behalf of the City of London corporation. They have said that wonderful amendments will be tabled and that, lo and behold, democracy will reign in the City corporationbased not just on residence or businesses but on a workers' soviet on the entitlement of employees to vote. We need to consider what the corporation has done in the past when giving such assurances.
When considering carry-over motions, amendments and the quality of the Bill, we were told that the reforming measures did not need to be included in the Bill, were not part of the parliamentary process and would be implemented anyway. To convince us that the Bill should be carried over, we were told that the amendments represented an act of good will on the part of the City corporation. I do not any more accept that there is such good will, because if there were, the package of reforming measures would have been implemented already. I would be happy to give way to the right hon. Member for NorthWest Hampshire if he could describe the measures that were promised and those that have been implemented. He is silent because none of the measures has been introduced.
Given that track record, and on the basis of a promise of amendments that have not been published, received by the Deputy Speaker or seen by anyone, how can we take as a beneficent offer the proposal that we support the motion to carry the Bill over? We should call for a report and the reconvening of the Committee rather than allowing a Division at the end of this debate and the motion to be accepted.
The motion should summon the City corporation to ask what happened and why promises to the House, which we received in good faith, were not implemented. If the amendments are substantial, there will, in effect, be a new Bill. Tonight's debate is not about carry-over, but a new Bill. Petitioners should therefore be informed that we will start again with a new Bill and allow petitions; or perhaps we should consider a procedureI am happy to meet the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire halfway on a compromisewhereby the amendments are published and petitioners allowed to petition on them.