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Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I realise the subtlety in the difference between someone choosing to leave and someone being pressured to do so. But in the field of industrial relations, particularly as regards the legislation covering that subject, there is a term called “constructive dismissal". A situation could arise where one says it is only through choice that one leaves, but the pressure could be

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such that the person concerned did not really have a true choice. I understand the subtlety of the situation, but I am not sure that the arrangement would work as perfectly as the noble Lord has suggested.

Lord Tope: My Lords, if we were ever in such a situation I suspect that there would be nothing very subtle about it. I also understand what constructive dismissal means in terms of industrial relations. I have no doubt that if we come to such a situation, all kinds of pressures will be placed on an individual assembly member under the circumstances. However, it will still be the choice of the assembly member. An assembly member elected by whatever means, but in this case through a party list, will not be in the same position as an employee in an employment situation. I do not believe that it is a close analogy.

We are speaking about an individual decision taken by an assembly member from the party list. Should the member take a decision that he or she does not wish to be a member of a particular party, but perhaps wishes to join another, then the effect of that decision is to destroy the proportionality in the assembly which the whole system has been designed to achieve. I cannot imagine it ever happening, but if a Liberal Democrat London member from the list suddenly had an aberration and decided to become a Conservative and joined that party, that would immediately upset the balance between the members. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, it would upset the balance to a much greater extent than would be the case in the Scottish Parliament, because we have only 25 members in total in the assembly. I have not done the arithmetic, but it makes a significant difference to the party balance. In one step it would destroy the purpose of having proportionality, even in this imperfect system.

This is a serious point. I am sorry that some noble Lords, including Members of the Government Front Bench, have misunderstood its purpose. It has nothing to do with party power, democratic centralism, but it is concerned with achieving the Government's objective of giving the Greater London assembly a proportionate membership which reflects the votes of Londoners. I shall not press the amendment on this occasion. I hope, having explained the amendment carefully and clearly, that the Government will reflect further on it. We shall certainly do so. I feel sure that we shall return to it in one way or another at Third Reading. I look forward to the Government's amendment for that purpose. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Date of casual vacancies]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 17:


Page 5, line 27, at end insert--
(“(aa) in the case of any person being returned as mentioned in section 16(10) below, on the date on which he is returned to fill the vacancy in the Assembly constituency;")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24. They are quite straightforward. They attempt to rectify an inconsistency which has been referred to earlier. At the moment, the Bill prevents a person standing as a candidate to fill a vacancy in the office of mayor if he or she is also a candidate to fill a vacancy in an assembly constituency. I

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appreciate that certain noble Lords were against the prohibition as regards an ordinary election, but we have passed that point. If we are in favour of that prohibition concerning an ordinary election, as the Bill now provides, then, on reflection, we consider it not sensible or consistent to prohibit it as regards a by-election.

Therefore the amendments provide for a candidate to stand for both offices. In the unlikely circumstances where a candidate is successful in both elections, it provides for a vacancy to occur within the assembly and for the procedures for a further by-election to be put in hand. That is consistent with the earlier part of the Bill, which has been agreed to. I hope that noble Lords will accept this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 18:


Page 6, line 11, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert (“give public notice of any casual vacancy among the Assembly members, and shall also convey such notice in writing to the Greater London returning officer")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as presently drafted, when a casual vacancy occurs in the assembly, Clause 9(2) requires a proper officer of the authority to issue written notice to the returning officer if the vacancy occurs among London members and a public notice if the vacancy occurs among the constituency members. What the Bill does not require is for the public to receive any notice when a London member's place becomes vacant. This amendment is tabled in order to cure that defect. The Government rejected this simple amendment at Committee stage because the vacancy among London members would be filled by the next person on the party list, so that no by-election would be held.

The Minister said that public notice was not necessary. Even if one were to accept that assumption and agree with the rather startling proposition that it is unnecessary for the electorate to be told who their representatives are, it is also not unnecessary, if a double negative is acceptable. The Minister claimed that public notice will have been given in effect by the publication of the party lists at the time of the preceding ordinary election. That is not a credible argument.

The Bill does not even require that the public should be told that a casual vacancy has occurred. An ordinary non-political member of the public is unlikely to remember the sequence of persons appearing on the party list a week after the election, let alone a couple of years later. Giving the public notice of the name of the new London assembly member will cost next to nothing either in money or effort.

The proper approach to this amendment should be “Why not"? rather than “Why should we?" The public have the right to know the names of their representatives. They should be told in the simplest and most expeditious way without being obliged to go scrabbling through back numbers of local papers. The Labour Party claims to be the party of open government. In this case, let it match its words with deeds not merely by providing open government but by ensuring that the governed know who their governors are. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in this context, “public notice" means effectively the public notice of an election. An

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election is not required as regards filling a vacancy in the list system for the London-wide seats. The names of the candidates for the seats will have been promulgated at the previous election as I said earlier.

It would require a wholly different system of notice to do what the noble Lord wishes. I am sure that, were a vacancy to occur in the 25-member assembly, normal coverage of that fact in the media and in political communications would be made. Therefore, it is unlikely that the electorate in London and those who are paying attention to the activities of the assembly--a higher proportion, we hope, than currently pay attention to local elections--would not notice when there was a change in their representation. It is my belief that the media would draw attention to the change in representation both at the creation of the vacancy and as regards the name of the person to fill it.

I do not think that the terms of the amendment would achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith seeks to do. I believe that an alternative means of public communication is unnecessary in this case.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, it may well be that the reality of the modern world and modern communications would suggest that in fact the media at large would take note of what was happening and would report on the loss of a member and on the appointment of his successor. I certainly would not dissent from that particular series of events. But it seems to me a novel departure for local government in this situation to rely informally on the media to report and record what is in fact a very formal change.

It was with that situation in mind that the amendment was tabled. I am sorry to disagree with the Minister on the subject but I believe that the matter should be properly dealt with and published by the proper authorities. That said, we have had a lot of discussion this evening and we shall consider the matter further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Failure to attend meetings]:

[Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 21:


After Clause 13, insert the following new clause--

MAYOR'S ATTENDANCE AT STATE OF LONDON DEBATE

(“.--(1) Subject to subsection (2), if the Mayor fails to attend a meeting in accordance with section 39 below he shall be disqualified from being the Mayor.
(2) The Mayor's failure to refer to the meeting the subject of section 39 below as a “State of London debate" shall not in the absence of any other failure cause his disqualification.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 140 to 145, two of which--Amendments Nos. 141 and 143--are government amendments.

The amendments are tabled in this way on the Marshalled List--and I am sure that the Government spotted this--because we did not know until late into the day the welcome news that the Government accept our point about the terms to be applied to the “State of London

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debate", as it is referred to in the Bill, and indeed, later, the “People's Question Time". They will have spotted that Amendment No. 21 is a rather artificial amendment which might have allowed us to troop through the Lobbies again before dinner-time, had we needed to press the point.

We had some fun, though on a serious subject, at the last stage. I am glad that the Government have agreed with us. I suspect that neither Minister would much have relished defending the position that they were forced to defend on the last occasion. I shall not say more about that, because I believe that it would be proper for the Minister to speak to the two government amendments. I look forward to hearing what they have to say about Amendments Nos. 141 and 143. I simply say that I note that in Amendment No. 143, allowing someone who may or may not have a connection with the authority, they have produced what I can only term the “Let's have John Humphrys as chair" provision. I beg to move.


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