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Lord Bowness: My Lords, the Minister's response is disappointing even if predictable. It is unfortunate that in another place the Minister should have described the amendment as a wrecking amendment. Had they been so minded, the Government could have arranged their timetable and business to have allowed sufficient time to have published a Bill. In moving this amendment, we did not ask for there to be an Act. We were promised a White Paper on 23rd March. I am troubled. I hope that the Minister can make clear during the debate on this amendment whether that date has slipped since there was a reference this afternoon to a White Paper by the end of March.

But what is perhaps more to the point is this. Had many of the points made by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish as regards referenda been heeded, some of these problems would not have arisen. There would have been a clear set of rules and principles about both the procedures and the stage at which proposals were put to the electorate.

I am also concerned that in another place the Minister seemed to be more worried about the nature of the vote in your Lordships' House than answering the real issues which were raised. The more I read the debate and listened to the response to the suggested amendment, the more I was forced to the conclusion that criticisms and suggestions that something should be reconsidered are met with blank refusal. One is led to believe that whoever made the criticism or suggestion, quite irrespective of the make-up of the body or the people making it, it would still have been rejected.

Rejection seems to have been based on what the Minister said in another place; namely,

No, it is not. I believe that it is a presumptuous way to proceed. How can any Government claim that all the detail of a White Paper's proposals will pass through the parliamentary process unscathed? Only a Government who start the process determined to listen to no argument at all can make that statement. How can a Government claiming to want to listen say in advance that their paper will contain everything that people need to know? What about what they want to know as regards

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these proposals? I believe that the Government's approach is unfortunate, but it is not my intention to press the point.

On Question, Motion agreed to.



Page 1, line 11, leave out ("question") and insert ("questions")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because the question asked in the referendum should be in the form set out in the Schedule to the Bill.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 2 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 2A. In moving this Motion, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 3. This is the issue which has been at the heart of the debate on this Bill at all stages in this House and in another place. We have gone from stage to stage into more and more minute detail and analysis of the varying options and the ramifications of the questions that it was suggested were put on the ballot paper.

In trying again to state the Government's position on the referendum question, I should like to step back a little from the detail and come once again to the principles. The flaws in the multiple question formulations proposed by parties opposite, and crystallised in the amendment before us today, have been addressed both here and in another place. I do not propose to dwell on them.

However, I should like to restate the Government's position on the two issues at stake here. The first is the nature of the referendum proposed. It was clear from the earlier remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, that in some ways--the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said this in terms--many people would have preferred to see a post-legislative referendum; failing such a post-legislative referendum, they were seeking a referendum following publication of a Bill. However, this amendment takes us further away from certainty and more into turning the referendum into a consultation exercise as opposed to a test of consent. A pre-legislative test of consent was always what the Government were promising--an opportunity to put to the people of London not only the Government's well thought-out, detailed proposals but also their opinions on how the government of London should be structured. It is important to focus on the issue of consent--the consent to bringing forward legislation to implement the proposals set out in the White Paper.

As well as differences of opinion about whether the referendum should be post-legislative or a much wider, much softer and much more consultative process, there are differences of opinion between the parties about the best form of government for London. It is perfectly understandable and acceptable that such different views exist, but the Government's position has always been that, although such views may exist and although parties are perfectly free to propound them, it is not the Government's duty to put those different views to the people of London in a referendum, raising expectations

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that the Government would then act in ways which the Government firmly believe would not be in the interests of the people of London.

We were elected on a manifesto promise to establish a Greater London authority consisting of a mayor and an assembly, following a referendum--a referendum on those proposals. This Bill was introduced to provide for that additional expression of consent in accordance with a clear manifesto commitment--nothing more and nothing less.

Accusations of arrogance, of high-handedness, are without foundation. If we are guilty of anything, it is of wishing to put a crystal clear proposition to the people of London, and put it in a way that can deliver a clear mandate to the Government. We have been accused of not being willing to trust the people and of not being willing to risk rejection of our proposals. We are willing to risk the rejection of our proposals if that is what the people of London wish. If they consent to the implementation of our proposals, they will vote yes. If they are opposed to our plans, they are free to vote no. What we are not prepared to do is to raise their expectations or to waste public money on holding a referendum on unclear propositions which could not provide a clear mandate--and on propositions that we believe to be fatally flawed. I refer to separating the question on the elected mayor from that on the elected assembly.

It is interesting that the first amendment was posed on the basis of producing more clarity so that people could better understand what they would be voting for. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, referred to the use of the phrase "a wrecking amendment". When introducing the Motion, I said that the Lords amendment would wreck the timetable of the Bill. I think that that is true. I also believe that that amendment, taken in conjunction with this amendment, does wreck the Bill because it would be impossible to produce a draft Bill to be published before the referendum covering the possible outcomes of what was essentially a consultative referendum which might result in very different answers with regard to the form of government that should be introduced.

We need to have clarity in the process. It is not a question of the Government saying to the people of London, "Take it or leave it". The Government are fulfilling their responsibility of offering real choice and the prospect of a real outcome following expression of that choice. Anything else opens up a Pandora's box of confusion: a referendum that would lack clarity and lead to a devalued, unclear and worthless mandate.

The proposals that we shall put to the people of London have not been dreamt up on a whim. They are the result of extensive consultation and careful consideration. In the week commencing 23rd March--that is the same formulation that I have used all the way through our debates in this House--the White Paper will be published. As I have expressed it before, that will put

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the flesh on the bones of the Government's proposals. However, the bones of the Government's proposals are not up for negotiation and I make no bones--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I should say, "I make no apology for that"! We have always said that we would consult on the question of the Greater London authority. We had to make it clear that that authority would comprise two separately elected elements: a mayor to provide the voice and the leadership and an elected assembly to provide the accountability. Together they form one proposition--and that is the proposition that we intend to put to the people of London in a simple yes/no referendum. The detail will be reflected in the White Paper.

In developing and implementing our proposals, we have sought to maximise consultation, democratic participation and inclusion. We have been reaching out to the people of London and they have had their opportunity to have their say on all the questions raised in the Green Paper. Having done that, it is right that the people of London should then be asked to consider that question, and to vote on it on 7th May. They will vote on a single question proposed by the Government. That is the only way to provide them with a clear voice. They will know what their vote will mean. I urge the House not to insist on this amendment.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 2 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 2A.--(Baroness Hayman.)

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