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Baroness Hayman: I find it fascinating that, after the debate that we have just had about the importance of choice for Londoners, there is the question of how many proposals and different variants of proposals should be put forward. In the first substantive amendment that the Opposition Front Bench puts forward we have one clear, simple question, to which the answer is either yes or no. That embodies the proposal which the Opposition believe to be the best solution for London government. That is precisely what the Government are trying to do, except that we have a different view of what is the best solution for London government. But it is certainly not a multi-option choice question as part of the referendum.
The proposition that we have before us, of course, gives Londoners the opportunity to vote on whether they are in favour of a mayor plus an assembly made up of the leaders of the 32 London boroughs. What it would not do is give the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford, the opportunity to vote for their preferred option, which is no directly elected mayor at all but a directly-elected assembly and a leader taken from within that assembly. The proposition would not allow the Government the opportunity to put forward their view, which, as we have discussed before, is a package of the two. It would merely give the people of London the opportunity to vote on the proposition which is now Conservative policy.
So let us look a little at what that means. The leaders of the London boroughs do an excellent job in representing the interests of their areas. That is their rightful role, and that is the role that we would expect them to play in relation to the GLA. There is no way in which we would wish to exclude the boroughs from working with the GLA: it is essential that they do so if the whole thing is to work smoothly. An effective borough leader would be in regular contact with the GLA.
But the GLA should not be governed by local interests. It must be able to take a strategic overview for the benefit of London as a whole. That does not mean riding roughshod over borough interests, but weighing up different positions and reaching conclusions to the benefit of London. Only a mayor, working with a directly elected assembly, can do that job.
We have set out a strong case to support our package of a GLA made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly, composed of those members elected to do a specific job. These amendments would create a lopsided authority, unable to deliver what London needs.
I have stated the case against an assembly indirectly elected and composed of borough leaders. I believe that, on consideration, the Committee will perhaps share our view that the roles of borough leader and assembly member cannot and should not be combined. The proposal certainly does not go with the spirit of offering choice and the amendments that will be put later to have more than one proposal put to the people of London. I beg the noble Lord to withdraw his amendments.
Lord Bowness: I thank the Minister for her reply. I am delighted that she recognises the Conservative Party to be evolving. At least that proves that we are not destined for annihilation in some way: evolution is a salvation. Some things evolve much quicker than others.
This is not a proposition wrapped up as one question. Indeed, Amendment No. 10, to which I have spoken, together with Amendment No. 4, make it quite clear that we would be putting to the people of London a proposition for a directly elected mayor as one question and a proposition for an assembly comprised of London borough leaders as a second question. I am perhaps anticipating the debate on later amendments when I say that I do not believe that that will produce the consequences that the Minister fears.
I am concerned when I hear the Minister say that the Greater London assembly must not be governed by local interests. If the interests of Greater London and the capital are not the sum total of the interests of the towns and cities that make up Greater London, I do not know what their interests actually are. As I said, it is difficult to find London-wide issues which have the same impact on all the towns and cities within Greater London, one on the other. The relevance of an issue in Barnet is significantly different from its relevance in Bexley, if it has any relevance at all.
It is difficult to say that borough leaders would be unable effectively to do the job of representing their respective towns and cities because of demands on their time when we do not have before us the result of the consultation, the White Paper, still less the legislation, which detail the functions, powers and responsibilities of the Greater London assembly. If we decided in principle that the boroughs and the assembly should be made up of the leaders of the Greater London boroughs and the City of London Corporation, no doubt we would have a view about how the assembly should work and no doubt the legislation would be framed accordingly.
I am also concerned when I hear it said as a criticism that in an assembly the borough leaders would fight over their own parochial matters and would not be concerned with strategic matters. I have no doubt that any body comprising representatives, however appointed or elected, will have what one might call "constituency interests". However, it is unlikely that one particular parochial interest will be sufficient to outweigh the views of all the other London borough leaders who might conclude that they supported a particular proposal for the benefit of the whole of Greater London. There is not one single borough that does not have an interest in the affairs of at least part of Greater London and the neighbouring towns and cities.
As I said when moving the amendment, the London boroughs are not islands. They are all deeply concerned from an economic and social point of view with what goes on around them. It is a mistake to dismiss those who have the responsibility for the interests of the people who reside within the towns and cities that make up Greater London. One should not believe that such people will be unable to take a wider view in the interests of Greater London as a whole. In the majority of instances, I believe that they will be aware of the wider issues. Having said that, one should not condemn them for those particular instances when local constituency interests are important. As I have said, the problems of Greater London are the problems of the towns and cities that make up Greater London and of the people who live within them. One ignores that at one's peril. I cannot overemphasise how much frustration was caused under the previous structure of government in London by those top tier authorities which acted without regard for the interests of the localities which comprise Greater London.
I beg the Minister to appreciate that this is not a party political point. Once the authority is cut off from the roots of its towns and cities, I believe that it will be lost. I hear what the Minister says, but I believe that this is a matter of great importance. It is a matter on which I believe that we might conceivably be making a considerable mistake and I seek the opinion of the House on this amendment.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.