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Phil Sawford: The point of the amendments is to focus on people rather than premises. I might be sympathetic to my hon. Friend's views on Europe, but would not the amendment exclude from the franchise British citizens who do a good, honest day's work in the City of London? Although there might be a conflict of interest in that regard, I am not sure that we can justify excluding such people from the vote.
John McDonnell: That is a valid issue to raise at this point, but unless my amendments are adopted and we accept the principle of balloting the work force, those workers will be excluded anyway. Amendment (e) would have addressed that issue, but it was not selected and therefore is not open for debate.
The amendments that we are discussing demonstrate the importance of ensuring that the new clause is clear. There is a wide range of arguments in favour of democratising, and to some extent constraining, this power. They go to the heart of the Bill, but the fundamental question in all the amendments is who should be eligible to vote in the governance of the City of London corporation. If, like me, hon. Members believe in universal suffrage, they will support a number of the amendments that I am coming to, which would provide for ballots rather than appointments.
The basis of universal suffrage has always been one person, one vote. If hon. Members believe in universal suffrage, they should support any extension of suffrage beyond the residential and oppose those who seek to build votes on names of workers rather than giving them a ballot. If, in the spirit of compromise, they want a negotiated settlement between all the combatants in the dispute over the City corporation franchise, like me they should be willing to examine as many compromise options as possible. The Bill, if amended as many of us wish it to be, could be a decisive agreement on the future franchise of the City corporation, and would decommission some of the corrupt practices that have gone on.
New clause 1 unamended would exclude the public sector from participating in the democratic processes of the City corporation, and would prevent that sector from having any effective say. If we are successful in introducing a ballot of workers in the exercise of the franchise based on the numbers of workers employed by each company, unless we amend new clause 1 we will exclude the public sector. That would prevent the people who work in the public sector and provide such valuable services from making a valid contribution to City governance.
If we extend the franchise based on employment, and amend the democratic processes of the City corporation, we will create a divide between public sector employees who, by being employed by bodies excluded under new clause 1, will have no participatory rights, and private sector employees, whose employment will gain them the right to vote, or at least the right to be counted. That cannot be acceptable.
Under clause 4, a qualifying body is entitled to appoint a number of persons and ensure that they reflect the composition of the work force, so the City of London corporation moved some way towards reflecting the work force, although not in a ballot. However, that is not so for public sector workers.
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend talked about involving all the stakeholders, and he focused on the residents and the business voters via the workers. I want to put to him a point that I raised in one of the previous debates on the Bill. What about the City's customers? If we are genuinely talking about a stakeholder democracy, surely the customers must have a say as well?
John McDonnell: Shareholders of individual companies may have some influence over businesses. I cannot find a mechanism for customers that could be built into this structure, although I deal with the issue of contractors in later amendments.
It is unfortunate that new clause 1 would create a split between the public sector and the private sector, which does not reflect the real work involved in the delivery of public services and services generally in the City of London corporation.
Mr. Alan Simpson: I am sorry to be pedantic. My hon. Friend listed 100 major City institutions and the number of employees[Hon. Members: "He did not."] Well, he mentioned them, and made copies of the details available to Members.
How do we know that the number of people registered as employees is the genuine number of employed people? What mechanisms will allow us to establish whether these are made-up numbers, genuine numbers or simply bought numbers, in an obscure voting process?
In our last debate, the argument advanced against basing voting rights on the number of workers in a company was that, according to the City corporation, there was no operable way in which the number of employees could be established and registered. Now it has come up with one: it took four years, but we are nearly there. All we need do is establish a registration system based on the number of employees and their entitlement to vote, and one of my amendments deals with that.
Mr. Dismore: I will not refer to voters, because the people I refer to are not exactly voters, although they are part of the franchise. Does my hon. Friend think that they should be treated in the same way as the franchise in the rest of the country in terms of age, nationality, citizenship and so on, or does he believe, as the City seems to, that anyone should be able to vote?
John McDonnell: I am trying to arrive at a simple mechanism to allow the votersthe workers in a company, that isto be properly registered. The Bill as presented by the corporation attempted to reflect the composition of the work force. I have tabled amendments to try to encourage that, and to find a practical way of doing so.
Is the proposal based on the ordinary place of work of an individual employed by a company, on that person's permanent place of work, or on the place where the payroll is drawn up? There are people, especially in the public sector, who travel a great deal in the course of their jobs. That probably applies almost as much to those in the private sector. It will be impossible to identify a place of work definitely and to establish that someone is on the payroll unless all names and numbers are made available.
Let me deal with promoters amendments Nos. 1 to 4 and 5, to which I have tabled amendments (b) to (d). The promoters amendments place emphasis on the occupying of premises. We are moving away from the link with hereditaments to qualification based on occupancy. It is proposed that the reference to rates should be deleted, but I should have thought that, if the reference to the 1957 Act remains, some definitions in the Bill should be retained. Let us, however, concentrate on the concept of "occupying". Some of the amendments introduce that concept to emphasise physical presence on the premises. Amendment No. 3 substitutes "premises" for "hereditament", and amendment No. 4 refers to "occupying for relevant purposes"such purposes being defined in lines 15 to 18 on page 2 of the Bill.
However, the inclusion of "relevant purposes" in this instance is bizarre. It seems to refer to everything from religious worship to prostitution, which could be called a calling or a profession. Which is which?
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point that begs an important question: who does the appointing on behalf of the companies? Presumably, some of the directors on the executive board may in some circumstances be said to be working in the particular building concerned and may be involved in appointing the electors, but a company is its shareholders. They may theoretically occupy the building through the company but in practice never go within 100 miles of it. Who is actually the occupier for that purpose?