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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. My reference to education was to higher education which at the moment is a matter for the TECs and so on. I referred to higher education. On education there is no difference between my noble friend and myself.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. However, we need to explore a wealth of detail in terms of the functions and powers of the authority. That exploration is taking place at the moment. My noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton kindly offered me one hour and 40 minutes in which to sum up and to make all clear. If I had two hours and 40 minutes, I should not be able to do that. I would be pre-empting the consultation which is not something I wish to do.

The number of responses to the consultation was disparaged slightly by the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare. I have to say to him that the reason I was looking at my papers when querying the 700 individual responses that I received from organisations was that I was seeking the precise number of Londoners represented by the organisations. I had a quarrel with those who were briefing me who said that it was hundreds of thousands when one added up the membership of the organisations in the responses. I kept to a cautious tens of thousands in what I said in reply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked whether the White Paper would report on the outcome of the consultation exercise. Certainly. At the moment all the responses are in the library of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. I know that they are being examined and that we shall be happy to make them explicit in the White Paper.

There will not be unanimity, however, and that means a need for leadership and decision-making on exactly what the Government propose. It was fascinating in the debate today that the noble Baroness on the Liberal Democrat Benches argued passionately that we were not talking about city government but regional government in London. There is a semantic issue here. I noticed the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, shaking his head at the time because he has responsibility for regional planning in the south east, which is a different region from the one suggested for London. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness,

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said it had nothing to do with regions and that abolishing the GLC was just reorganising local government. He did not know why everyone became so excited about it.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. If she wishes to challenge me, I must remind her that it was in the context of how the abolition had been described. She knows that it was described as the removal of democracy in London and far worse. In fact, will she agree that it was no more of a reorganisation than the imposition of the GLC was a reorganisation which also took away many people's powers?

Lord Graham of Edmonton: By the same party!

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, by the same party. The changeover from the LCC to the GLC was slightly different, I suggest, in form and nature from the abolition of the GLC and any strategic authority for London.

There have been a number of themes running through the debate. One is about the principle of the referendum and the principle of the pre-legislative referendum. It is well established and, as the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, said, we are establishing case law on it. We have already had two such referenda--and I shall follow his nomenclature--since 1st May. What we suggest is putting the detail of what we propose to the people of London to seek their consent before we introduce legislation in this House. As the Government have repeatedly made clear during the debate on the Bill--but I shall say it again for the benefit of those who query it--we shall put a detailed and comprehensive set of proposals to the people of London in a White Paper which will be published ahead of the referendum.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, rightly said that this Bill would be passed before the White Paper is published. That is absolutely right. On the issue of whether there should be one question or two and the nature of that question, that is not out for consultation; that is a definite decision that the Government have made. I shall come to that in a moment.

As to the detail of the many issues that have rightly been raised--I am sure they will be raised again--the responses to the 61 questions in the consultation document will be clear. When the referendum is put to the people of London they will know about the division of powers that is being suggested; they will know about voting systems, an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee; and they will know about how we envisage the assembly and the mayor interacting in order to provide strategic leadership for the people of London.

What is more, we will ensure that a neutral, factual summary of those proposals is put through the letterbox of every household in London. There will be copies on the Internet so the noble Baroness can scan it to see whether anything else can possibly be of embarrassment. We will translate the summary into eight languages as well as having versions in braille, in

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large type and on audio cassette. Everybody will have the opportunity to find out about the structure, functions, budgets and electoral systems of the authority.

Given all that, I do not seriously believe that a Bill, no doubt with many clauses because it will be a complicated piece of legislation written in the language of the parliamentary draftsman, will be any more accessible than a comprehensive and clearly considered White Paper.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Can she answer the question that the White Paper will represent the Government's proposals but will not have been tested by the scrutiny procedures of both Houses of Parliament? That was a point made very forcefully from a number of corners.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, that was a point that was made. It was made also in relation to Scotland and Wales. The opposite course was adopted in proposals for devolution for Scotland and Wales in the past. I am not sure that the clarity that proceeded from the alternative of a post-legislative referendum is one that I would urge. The Government were clear in the proposals that they put into their manifesto that they were seeking consent prior to implementing that legislation on proposals to which they were committed.

Perhaps I can say a few words about the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, in relation to the authority being some sort of "proto-GLC". They were concerned that we will be transferring borough powers to the authority. We take the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, that the authority should be a lean, strategic authority. It should not be an enormous, burgeoning authority. It should not take powers and functions away from other bodies where they are rightly focused. But it should tackle exactly those issues that are best tackled at a city-wide level.

Most people now accept--I am grateful to see the change on the Front Bench opposite since the last time we debated this matter in your Lordships' House--that there is a role for city-wide government in London. There may be an argument as to how the assembly will be constituted and how the mayor should be elected. But the fact that a vacuum exists and that London could benefit in the future through having strategic leadership is one that is now agreed upon.

We are carefully considering the responses to the consultation, many of which address the responsibilities. But the guiding principle made clear in the Green Paper is that the boroughs will retain the vast majority of their functions and responsibility for providing services and that the GLA will set the strategic direction for London--the strategic direction which at the moment it lacks.

Another theme of the debate was the arrangements for the referendum itself. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised the question of voting hours and suggested that they should be extended, as did the noble Lord, Lord Archer. That issue was fully debated in another place. We do not believe that extending the

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hours for the poll from those conventional for a local government election would be in the interests of an efficiently conducted, combined poll. Complex polls, such as London borough elections, with multi-member constituencies, will take a long time to count. Boroughs will not thank us for the extra delay and expense caused by an extension of hours. It will be almost impossible to administer combined polls where one poll closed before the others.

It is important to maximise the number of people who know about the referendum and who are able to participate in it. Those who are unable to attend the polling stations to vote will be able to apply for an absent vote. We will make sure that the facility is well advertised in the pre-referendum publicity campaign so that anyone who is eligible to vote should be able to do so.

Inevitably, much has been said about the wording of the question proposed in the Bill. Many noble Lords expressed a preference for a two-question referendum which, on the surface, is an attractive proposition. It seems to give more choice. I can understand how those coming new to the debate are attracted to that proposition. However, as I explained in my opening speech, the arguments in favour of it are fatally flawed. Perhaps I can take noble Lords through the logic of our position.

We made a commitment in our manifesto to establish a Greater London authority made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly. We also undertook to subject our proposals to a referendum to establish the consent of the people of London to what it was we were proposing. We have always made clear that that was the purpose of the referendum provided for in the Bill. It was not meant to be an opinion poll of Londoners, although every opinion poll carried out shows overwhelming support among the public for what we are proposing.

If multiple options were on offer, it would not be possible to provide the clarity, leadership and direction that we are seeking. The mayor and the assembly represent a package of government; they cannot be separated. A mayor without an assembly or an assembly without a mayor would be very different forms of government for London. Necessarily, they would have different powers and different responsibilities. How could that be represented in a single White Paper or, indeed, a clear factual summary? The need for clear, factual advice for voters has been made absolutely clear. It could not. It would be full to the brim of qualifications and exceptions. People would be confused by what was on offer or the information that they had would be so limited that it would be difficult to make an informed choice. I suggest that it is naive to suggest that it would be otherwise.

Even if it were possible to construct some sort of credible White Paper along the lines I outlined, there are other reasons why two questions seriously do not work. I do not believe that anyone tonight suggested that a mayor on his own, unchecked by any form of assembly, would be a desirable outcome for London. Without an assembly to scrutinise the mayor, to hold him or her to

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account, the danger of unchecked incompetence or even corruption would always be present. Yet the two-question formulation would put that proposition to the people of London. That would be the height of irresponsibility. It is no good saying that such questions could be aired during a campaign on a two-question referendum with the people being left to decide for themselves. The fact is that no responsible government would put a proposition to the people of London which they believed to be unworkable and that could not be implemented. The people of London would rightly ask, "If you knew it was not going to be implemented, why did you offer it to us as a choice in the first place?"

A two-question referendum is not justifiable on democratic grounds. As the Minister for London explained during debate in the other place, the questions look simple enough, but in fact they risk real confusion. They would force Londoners to guess what their vote would actually achieve. Some could vote not knowing whether they would end up with a mayor and assembly, a mayor without an assembly, or an assembly without a mayor. How they vote could well depend on these permutations. They might vote "yes" to both questions because they favour both the mayor and the assembly as a package, only to find out when the results are counted that the voters have said "no" to a mayor and "yes" to an assembly. But an assembly on its own might have been their least favoured option. Had they known that this would be the actual outcome, they might have voted "no" to that question. These questions would force voters to second guess the outcome of the poll.

Of course, all of this assumes that the proponents of more than one question can decide what the second question should be. When the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said that she had some specific proposals, I thought she would give two questions that would give clear and definitive answers. But they were specific proposals about the relationship between the mayor and the assembly.

The proponents cannot actually say what the two questions would be because there are at least five permutations on the subject of the mayor and the assembly alone if we are to give people real choice--and that is the criticism that has been put to the Government today. There is the choice of the mayor plus the assembly, both separately elected--the Government's view. There is the choice of a mayor alone; there is an assembly alone; there is a mayor plus a council of borough leaders; and there is a mayor selected from the assembly itself. Those are five separate choices that would have to be made before we started to talk about the issue of voting systems. Indeed, some might want to say that they wanted neither an assembly nor a mayor--a sixth option.

How can these differing options be reflected in two questions? They cannot be. There simply is not a magic second question. If we ask all the questions, or offer some kind of multiple choice, we would not get a clear answer or a usable mandate.

The Government are not dogmatic about the question they wish to put to the people of London. If a better one is proposed, they are willing to listen. But they do

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believe that the case for two questions has not been made and actually cannot be made. It is a mirage. Any referendum question, when what we are doing is seeking the consent of the people of London to the proposition that the Government believe right for London, must be clear and straightforward. Complex, multiple choice questions which run the risk of giving answers that the Government would not be willing to implement are not the way for a responsible government to go forward.

I was brought up with one definition of "chutzpah". That was the definition of the man who killed his parents and asked the judge for leniency on the basis that he was an orphan. There is another definition of "chutzpah". It is being lectured by the party opposite about not giving enough information on what would replace what we have at the moment and not consulting in enough detail and with enough clarity the people of London as to what form of government they would like when the GLC was abolished without so much as a "by your leave" or a nod to the people of London. I accept that the position of the Liberal Democrats is different on this issue, but I do not think we should take any lectures from the main Opposition party on this matter.

It has been a valuable debate. The Bill marks a step forward in giving Londoners back some responsibility.


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