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Lord Whitty: As I indicated during discussion on the previous group of amendments, some of the issues relate to this group of amendments and some to the following group. There are only three issues relating to this group; the function of the authority, the size of the authority
Our view is set out very clearly in the White Paper and, indeed, was clear when the Government initially set out their views on the future of London government. This authority should be small, streamlined and strategic in focus. We do not want there to be a detailed policy-making function in the assembly. Its function is one of scrutiny. We are not creating committees in the normal sense of a local authority or in the manner of the former GLC. We therefore consider that a small authority of 25 members will be sufficient to enable it to perform effectively its scrutiny and investigative role without becoming unwieldy and excessively bureaucratic. Were the assembly to take on the type of executive powers found in other authorities, different arguments would arise.
The question then arises of whether 25 can be sufficiently representative of the population of London. It is clear from all the analyses of voting systems that the smaller number of direct first-past-the-post seats, the less representative is the result. We therefore suggested that, as in Scotland and Wales, whatever the total--and we are proposing 25--there should be a mixture of directly elected seats and a corrective mechanism to ensure that the views across London were represented in the assembly. We therefore suggest 14 and 11 to make up the full 25.
Having taken the decision to create a small, streamlined authority and an authority sufficiently representative of the whole population, we then had to decide where the boundaries would be in the directly elected assembly. That was a matter for the Local Government Commission and not primarily for ministerial decision. The boundaries of the directly elected proportion of the 25-member assembly were therefore chosen on as subjective a basis as possible. That means that they cannot represent every London borough, nor is there a direct relationship between a grouping of London boroughs.
The academic work that has been done indicates that it is possible to achieve a representative reflection in a 25-member assembly. Professor Patrick Dunleavy and Dr Helen Margetts have carried out extensive research on the most appropriate voting system for London's assembly. That research is in the Library here. It shows that with 25 members it is possible to have a broadly proportional outcome.
The argument for having a larger figure is one which states that there should be a larger assembly because it would be undertaking functions more akin to a normal local government structure, which we wish to get away from, or an argument that areas of London that are self-identified in terms of boroughs or existing identities should be directly represented. That would mean there would have to be well above 40 before getting a
The combination of a streamlined assembly and an assembly that represents the balance of opinion across London gives a split of approximately that which we are proposing. A body of 40 would not significantly improve that position, certainly if it was all first past the post. If it was a similar split, it would not give a better representation than the split at 25 and it would be a more unwieldy body performing the central function we have set out which has been endorsed by the people of London.
We therefore resist the proposition that it should be extended to 40 and also the suggestion by the noble Baroness, Lade Carnegy of Lour, that there should be 33 members who would directly represent the boroughs. That has the potential additional disadvantage that a direct representative of the borough would have some of the disadvantages of an indirect representative in that the carve-up would not be strategic but would be on the balance of interest between the boroughs. We want an authority that looks at London as a whole and not primarily through the eyes of representatives of the boroughs. We therefore hope that the amendment will not be pursued.
Lord Tope: I listened with care to what the Minister said. Perhaps I may start by dealing with the points with which I agree. He said that the Government want an authority which is small, streamlined, strategic and focused. I believe that those were his exact words and I agree with that entirely. However, "small" is a relative term--25 is small; 40 may be slightly larger but in my view, it is still small. Therefore, I cannot accept the argument that 40 is too large and 25 is fine. For an assembly representing the whole of Greater London-- 7 million members--40 is small, and rightly so.
My noble friends and I do not pretend that there is any special magic about 40. If the Minister were to say that he cannot accept 40 but he will accept 38 or 42, then I expect that we should graciously accept. I do not want to argue strongly about 40 and no more and no less, but it is indicative of the size which we feel will still be streamlined, will certainly be strategic and, it is hoped, will be focused.
It also needs to be representative, as far as anything can be, of a large diverse population such as that of London. It is extremely important that, as far as possible, all Londoners feel that the assembly fairly represents the mix in London of gender, ethnicity, geographical location and so on.
The Minister said that he did not believe that 40 members elected by a first-past-the-post system could possibly achieve that. I agree entirely. It will come as no surprise to him that we do not propose that they should all be elected by first-past-the-post. As he will know, we shall be proposing that none of them should be elected by first-past-the-post. He is quite right that the next group of amendments are connected with this
Our objection to the previous set of amendments was not in relation to the magic number of 33 but that they should be tied to and come from the boroughs, which happen to number 33. That is the objection with which we have dealt. We believe it should be the larger number if it is to be properly representative and also, if the members are able to carry out the range of duties expected of them. I understand as well as anyone what the assembly is proposed to be. I note that it is not to be a local authority with executive powers and so on. I understand that it is to be a scrutinising body. But I hope that it will be the focus of a lot of interest and attention from a wide range of interest groups in London. Of course they will focus primarily on the mayor, and rightly so. But they will also wish to talk to, lobby, relate to and engage the interest of assembly members.
At this stage, we have no idea at all what administrative support assembly members are to receive. But even with a reasonable level of administrative support, it will be extremely difficult for assembly members to carry out their range of duties conscientiously, across the whole of London, with the wide range of interests involved.
There is no magic number but a greater number, such as 40, would necessarily make the sharing of that burden a little easier. Perhaps the Minister will tell us about the responses to the Government's White Paper which asked specific questions about the proposed size of the assembly, while making it clear that it should be small, strategic and so on. Sadly, I forgot to look up the figures before I came, but I believe I am right to say--and perhaps the Minister will confirm it--that the greater number of responses which referred to the size of the assembly all suggested that it should be larger than 25. I accept that some suggested it should be very much larger, and we do not share that view. However, I suspect that 40 was nearer the number suggested in those responses that referred to size than is 25. I suspect that the Minister will tell us week after week that we are responding to the wishes of Londoners. Therefore, I play that back to him and ask him whether that is the case when dealing with the size of the assembly.
However, as I said earlier, the most important reason is to enable there to be enough assembly members, although not too many, to carry out their duties while remaining strategic and focused and, above all, in order for them to be representative of London's very diverse community.
Lord Renton: This group of amendments contains several quite separate issues which perhaps should have been dealt with separately. However, the matter to which I wish to refer briefly is that covered by Amendment No. 8. That amendment refers to Clause 2(4) which states:
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