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Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): If those companies are found guilty of criminal activities, will not they be dealt with under other legislation and penalised in the appropriate manner?

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,

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many of us believe that they should not have a part in the affairs of the governance of London while under investigation.

Mr. Davey: I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Is he suggesting that if an election takes place while a citizen is under police investigation, that citizen should not be able to vote?

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 Cryer (Hornchurch): Is my hon. Friend saying that, if some companies are found guilty of serious crimes, nothing can be done under the Bill to exclude them from the governance of London?

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 report—although 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.

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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:


It is on that basis that we have been told in the debate that amendments will be tabled for our consideration.

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 statements—it repeats this in the latest—the corporation told us:


When the carry-over was debated in the past, what held sway in many Members' minds—certainly in that of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government—was the view that, although it might be a tawdry rag of a Bill, it would produce some improvements in democracy. The argument was that the Bill should be carried over because it would be getting something from the City corporation, no matter how minor—crumbs from the City corporation table. We were promised in the Select Committee, as set out in paragraph 9 of the statement, a series of improvements that would protect the residents' vote but did not have to be included in the Bill.

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?

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If so, do they substantially alter the basis of the Bill, to the extent that it should be reintroduced rather than be the subject of a carry-over motion?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have had no sight of the amendments.

John McDonnell: I shall return to my earlier point and consider later whether the amendments affect the substantive nature of the Bill. It is important that we return to that matter in this debate.

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 corporation—based 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.

According to paragraph 9 of the promoters' statement on the motion,


was to be introduced. That was promised to us in 1998, but not a single measure or part of the package of supposed reforming measures has been introduced. I would expect my right hon. Friend the Minister to feel somewhat aggrieved that the deal between No. 10 and the City corporation on that package has been reneged on.

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 North–West 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 procedure—I am happy to meet the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire halfway on a compromise—whereby the amendments are published and petitioners allowed to petition on them.

Changing the Bill at this late stage denies the rights of petitioners. If the amendments are fundamental, we should at least allow the right of petition to be reintroduced.

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Again, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consult the City corporation, even during our debate, to see whether we can reach a compromise. New parties and groups of individuals will be affected if, as he says, the amendments change the basis of the franchise from rateable value to a formula that takes account of the number of employees. Bills are declared hybrid if they affect certain individuals or classes of individual, and go through a process similar to that for a private Member's Bill. Once individuals know that they are affected, they are given the right to petition. In a private Bill, we go through the same process; people who are affected should have the right to a say and a direct line of communication to the House


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