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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I do not quarrel with the amendments and I understand the drafting

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difficulties that have arisen over this particular provision. I wish merely to protest--and the noble Lord has given me the opportunity to do so--against the change in language which is occurring; for example, "the introductory print of the Bill" and "the introduction version of the Bill". That is not to criticise the Minister. I have come to the fairly clear conclusion that the problems in relation to the government amendments and in knowing precisely what the Government want to say in the Bill are due to a lack of resources of parliamentary counsel and so on devoted to the Bills.

I believe that it is entirely proper and good that there should be introduction versions of Bills to go before committees or groups which may consider them as draft legislation. However, I do not believe that it is right to slide into accepting that the Government present to Parliament as their Bill a version which they then say was merely introductory and which we all know will be amended at a later stage. I hope that the Minister will not take my comments personally because certainly they are not directed personally.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I note the point made by the noble Baroness. I believe that she is drawing rather wider implications from the use of these terms than the Government intend. However, I concur with her in some respects. I shall try to avoid using them in legislation before this House for which I am responsible. With that, I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 53:

    Page 19, line 25, leave out ("any") and insert ("each").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 31 [Power of Secretary of State to require referendum]:

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

Clause 32 [Power to require referendum]:

[Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Time of elections etc.]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 57:

    Page 21, line 17, at end insert (", and

(e) as to the number of electors signing the nomination papers for a candidate for mayor, which shall be not less than 30").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in a sense, this is a probing amendment but it is also an amendment which I hope that the Minister may feel able to accept.

Clause 36 is the point at which the Minister has the power by regulations to set out the way in which the mayor will be required to stand for election. It has various conditions and the whole matter is dealt with by way of regulations. But there is no provision regarding the number of electors who would be required to sign the nomination papers for people standing as candidates for the office of mayor.

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That should be a significant issue. It would be worth having that provision on the face of the Bill, although I am bound to admit that I have grave doubts about my amendment because I am doubtful whether 30 signatures are sufficient. We require an ordinary candidate standing for a local authority ward to have 10 electors on his nomination paper. I used to trail round so that I could have a nomination from every parish that I represented in my county division. Some district councils are represented by single parishes as wards and again they still have 10 signatures on the nomination paper.

The mayor is to stand for the whole district or possibly even the whole of a county or city. It seems to me that perhaps a more reasonable figure might be two signatories from every ward or county council division within a council area. The terminology will vary with types of authority. But names to show that he has wide support across the area of authority would be appropriate. Therefore, it may be that the figure which I have chosen is not appropriate. But I chose that figure because there is nothing about that on the face of the Bill. We are now into the area of what is to be included in regulations. I acknowledge that. But that could be something which is on the face of the Bill and I believe that it is sufficiently important to be there. If we include that, it indicates that the office of mayor is seen to be serious and is acknowledged by the Government that that is a matter which both candidates and electors should take very seriously indeed.

I should have no difficulty with a figure much higher than 30. But this is a probing amendment so that the Government's thinking is out into the open. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my reaction to this amendment was as the noble Lord himself has articulated; that is, to have a higher number and perhaps a given number per ward or electoral division would be a good test. In the discussions on the mailshot to London electors, I thought that if the number of people nominating candidates for mayor were to be higher than the 10 per borough which is proposed, the Government's anxieties about providing publicity for restaurateurs and nightclub owners might have been answered because of the greater difficulty there would have been in obtaining nominations.

But it is an important test for a candidate to show that he or she has support across the area, which is, after all, the rationale for the nominations within a particular ward, if one is standing for a ward.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government do not feel able to support Amendment No. 57. As we said in Committee, we have not yet reached a firm view on whether the nomination requirements for mayoral candidates should differ from those which apply to councillors generally.

We recognise that this is an important issue which affects the political process and that there may be a number of differing views about what the requirement

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should be. Therefore, we shall seek views from all interested parties on those matters before deciding how to proceed. We shall do the same in respect of expenses limits for mayoral candidates and referendum campaigns.

It is normal practice for rules for local government elections to be made by secondary legislation. The regulations which we make following the consultation exercise will be subject to the draft affirmative procedure. Therefore, noble Lords will have another opportunity to debate this issue which, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, is extremely important. It is equally important that we get it right. We believe that the consultation is important. With that assurance, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful for the support from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Again, my gratitude stops there because there is an increasing tendency in legislation to deal with large parts of it as rules in orders. In many ways, that means that we are required to legislate on particular matters with blindfolds over our eyes or at any rate blinkers, because we can look only at what is on the paper before us.

I entirely accept the point about consultation. I am delighted to hear that the Government want to get this right. I could probably tell them now what the answer should be. If they agreed with that, we should have no difficulties at all. But I accept that it is normal practice to regulate on the detail of local elections. We must wait with bated breath.

However, I hoped that I should have flushed out the Government Front Bench and persuaded them to reveal that they have some thoughts on the matter. I have signally failed. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 58:

    After Clause 36, insert the following new clause--


(" . The Secretary of State shall establish a commission which shall within one year of the enactment of this Act report on the introduction of primaries for the selection of candidates for the choice of elected mayor.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am sure that the Government will have thoughts on this matter. The amendment proposes a new clause requiring the Secretary of State to establish a commission to report on the introduction of primaries for the selection of candidates for the position of elected mayor.

We are debating this Bill and elected mayors for local authorities in cities and other areas throughout the country at a time when the term used for the selection for candidates for the mayor of London is very often "a shambles".

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The electoral college which Labour established has sadly--and I am sad about this--left an indelible impression that Labour's selection has been fixed. Sadly, speaking for my own party, it is not newsworthy to select a candidate by one-member, one-vote, by single transferable vote. We undertook the selection in a calm and ordered fashion. But, as I say, that is not a news story.

I believe that the shenanigans have done lasting, long-term harm and the mayors of other cities must not start under the same shadow. The shenanigans have also harmed politics and, in my view, the democratic process. The Government can protest--and they do--about that but quite honestly, the public know a fix when they see it. It is likely--I believe that we shall see it on 4th May--that voters, particularly the party's own members, will express their concern about the process through the way in which they vote, irrespective of who stands.

Until the past few weeks, I should not have advocated anything other than each political party choosing its own candidate in the way in which it sees best. However, in the context of debates about the Bill where we have used the terms "transparency" and "accountability" a great deal, I have been left wondering whether in fact we are going to provide for elected mayors who, on the basis of current experience, will be accountable to the party machine before their local electors.

The primary system in the United States is widely used. I am not suggesting, of course, that one should translate American methods to this country without careful consideration. We are different cultures, but we are both democracies. I understand that the primary system came about when the previous convention system,

    "succumbed to public pressure for greater democratization and dispersion of political power".

That quotation comes from a report from the library of Congress itself. In the United States the different states--not universally, but in most cases--use primaries for choosing candidates for federal state and local nominees. The systems are diverse, although I understand that nearly 35 states and the district of Columbia have closed primaries; that is, with restricted participation. However, one must then consider the restrictions on the selections we have been observing through the newspapers in London. In those states, one has to declare one's allegiance. In 15 states, anyone may choose for which party one wishes to promote a candidate and express one's vote.

I appreciate that my remarks have been directed to the problems we have seen in the Labour Party selection process, but I cannot help but observe that they are not confined to that process. The Conservatives have had their own difficulties, which they overcame a little earlier. But the methods they have used for selecting assembly candidates are ones which I wish we were not witnessing. As I understand it--I daresay the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will correct me if I am wrong--the candidates for the London-wide list have been selected by what one should probably call a college; a relatively small group

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of individuals who are the chairs of the constituency parties. Also, as I understand it, the candidates for Labour's London-wide list for the assembly have emerged--I cannot think of another word for it--from Millbank.

The amendment does not seek to impose a new system but to provide for serious consideration of a new system. That is why I have suggested a commission. I readily acknowledge that I am not the only person to have had the notion of opening up the selection process beyond a narrow band of people, some of whom may have a much greater weight of vote than others. It was only after I tabled the amendment that I remembered that I had read comments to that effect by the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush. I believe that that strengthens my argument that the call is coming from more than one side and from a number of quarters.

While I always feel a little embarrassed about talking of electoral politics from this House, I hope nevertheless that we may provide some kind of impetus for a serious consideration of how the sadly declining reputation of local government and politics in this country may be reversed. We have made no secret of our concerns about the introduction of elected mayors for local authorities, but if we are to have the prospect of elected mayors, no one will be more enthusiastic than my noble friends, my colleagues outside this Chamber and I to make sure that the system is as good as it can possibly be. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I want to add a particular argument to the points raised by my noble friend. I address the concern expressed on a number of occasions from the ministerial Benches about the possibility of frivolous candidates taking part in large elections and causing all sorts of problems. One of the advantages of the primary system is that it tends to eradicate such frivolous candidates because it is an extremely rigorous process.

I have in my hand the revised draft dated 9th January 1999 for the primary and election systems for the year 2001 in the city of Los Angeles. Although it is a large city, similar programmes will take place in all city elections. There are several large cities in our own country apart from London in which elections will take place. One must first declare that one wishes to be a candidate. At that time, one must make a statement of economic interests, which is deposited with the City Ethics Commission. That statement must,

    "itemize investments and interest in real property held by the candidate on the date of declaration of candidacy, and sources of income received during the 12 months prior to the date of filing".

The statement lies on the table and in public. We know that certain candidates are rubbished before they reach the election process because their declarations prove to be as full of holes as a colander.

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At a later stage, when one is to state one's occupational designation on the ballot, it is limited to no more than three words; such as "lawyer", "public attorney", or--

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