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7.52 pm

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford): I, too, do not intend to detain the House, but it is right that there should be a brief comment from the Government before the completion of Third Reading.

The Bill has been considered in great detail for some three and a half years, as the right hon. Member for North–West Hampshire (Sir George Young), who is its sponsor, has clearly said. There have been protracted discussions in Committee and debates in the Chamber on several occasions. All the points of principle that relate to the Bill have been exhaustively considered, and the House has certainly done justice to its scrutiny function.

The Bill represents a measure of reform to the constitutional arrangements in the City. The Government have welcomed the fact that the City has promoted legislation to face up to the need to put its governance on a more modern footing. We believe that the Bill represents a step in the right direction and that it will make the governance of the City more modern and more in touch with life in the City today. However, the City is doing, and must do, other things to take forward its reform agenda, some of which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field). I hope that the City will wish to pursue that reform agenda.

The City corporation is a unique institution. That reflects the fact that it covers a business district with a relatively small number of residents, so it is not possible for the City to copy the electoral system that applies elsewhere in London and the country. The principle of business representation is uniquely appropriate to the City, but it must be reformed.

The current system allows only sole traders and partners of City-based businesses to vote. The incorporated companies that play an increasing part in the life of the City have no equivalent right. Other anomalies, such as the possibility to vote twice under current arrangements, will be ended by the Bill. If the Bill were

15 Apr 2002 : Column 428

not to proceed, those undesirable practices would be perpetuated. Quite simply, the choice is between reforming the City corporation and maintaining the status quo. In that context, the Government have no doubt whatever that it is right to support reform by supporting the Bill.

The remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) in his numerous points of order at the beginning of these debates are deeply regrettable. He made a series of wholly unfounded and false allegations, imputing motives to the Prime Minister and the Government for which there is no basis whatever and which I unequivocally rebut. The Government's concern is simply to assist the passage of a private Bill, which represents a modest measure of reform that most sensible people recognise as a step in the right direction. The Bill will not necessarily provide a long-term solution because of the further measures to which I have referred, but it is a step in the right direction and it is right that the House should agree to its Third Reading tonight.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 278, Noes 30.

Division No. 210
[7.56 pm


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Amess, David
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Bailey, Adrian
Baldry, Tony
Baron, John
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bellingham, Henry
Benn, Hilary
Bercow, John
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brady, Graham
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bryant, Chris
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Caplin, Ivor
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chaytor, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Charles
(Norwich S)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Collins, Tim
Colman, Tony
Conway, Derek
Cooper, Yvette
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cox, Tom
Cran, James
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curry, Rt Hon David
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Ennis, Jeff
Fabricant, Michael
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Fox, Dr Liam
Francis, Dr Hywel
Francois, Mark
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Edward
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hammond, Philip
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hendry, Charles
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hill, Keith
Hoban, Mark
Hope, Phil
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Hunter, Andrew
Hutton, Rt Hon John
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jowell, Rt Hon Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert
Khabra, Piara S
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Lansley, Andrew
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Linton, Martin
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Luke, Iain
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McKenna, Rosemary
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Mates, Michael
May, Mrs Theresa
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Moss, Malcolm
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Page, Richard
Palmer, Dr Nick
Paterson, Owen
Pearson, Ian
Picking, Anne
Pickles, Eric
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Primarolo, Dawn
Prisk, Mark
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Joan
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Sheridan, Jim
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (Mid–Norfolk)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, Rt Hon John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steen, Anthony
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Touhig, Don
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Ward, Ms Claire
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Whittingdale, John
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. James Arbuthnot and
Mr. George Osborne.


Barnes, Harry
Begg, Miss Anne
Burgon, Colin
Cable, Dr Vincent
Cawsey, Ian
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Cummings, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Flynn, Paul
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hancock, Mike
Hinchliffe, David
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Mackinlay, Andrew
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marris, Rob
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Pike, Peter
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Pugh, Dr John
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Skinner, Dennis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stunell, Andrew
Wareing, Robert N
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Andrew Dismore and
John Cryer.

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Apr 2002 : Column 430

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

15 Apr 2002 : Column 431

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