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Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman anticipates my very next sentence. As a Minister at the Department of the Environment and subsequently as a Treasury Minister, I had frequent contact with the City, as I did as Transport Secretary. Also as a former London MP, a former borough councillor and indeed a former Greater London council member, I hope that I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman that I am acquainted with local government in the capital. Therefore, when I was asked to sponsor the Bill, I readily agreed.
Sir George Young: I could not disagree more strongly. It is my knowledge of the background to the Bill, dating back to the Herbert commission in the 1960s, which decided that the City of London should remain as a corporation, that gives me renewed conviction to carry on the Bill in the footsteps of Lord Brooke.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster will, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, deal with some constituency aspects relevant to the merits of this revival motion, and will pick up on points made in other hon. Members' contributions towards the conclusion of the debate.
As this is a debate on revival, not a general debate on the Bill's merits, I will not risk your displeasure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by roaming at large over its provisions. I should, however, in addition to the procedural case for revival, like to refer in passing to the features of the Bill that have led the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) to contend, through the early-day motions that he has tabled this Session, that no further parliamentary time should be allocated to it. I should also like to refer to the amendments that will be proposed by the promoters if the revival is agreed by the House, as they may well be relevant to hon. Members' views of the merits of the motion before the House.
Jeremy Corbyn: There is a sense of deja vu about the Bill, dating back to November 1998, because we are now in our fourth year of discussing it. However, in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's considerable local government experience, does he not find it odd that he should be promoting a Bill that reduces the democracy of local government and increases the autocracy of the business vote in local government? Will he tell us what these wonderful amendments are that are about to be brought forward?
Sir George Young: I said a moment ago that I would like to refer to the key amendment. I slept easily in my bed last night, knowing that I was going to propose the revival motion, because I do not find the Bill offensive in the way that the hon. Gentleman alleges it to be.
The proposition that a private Bill might be continued from one Parliament to the next on a revival motion is unexceptional. By way of example, the House currently has before it the Barclays Group Reorganisation Bill, the Greenham and Crookham Commons Bill and the National Australia Group Europe Bill. Those are all private measures, that originated in the last Parliament, fell with the general election and have been revived again this Session. As the cognoscenti among hon. Members will know from "Erskine May", edition 22, page 928, motions have even been made to revive a number of private Bills en bloc. The motion before the House is of a more exclusive nature, but can claim no other distinguishing features.
You may think it right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for me to refer to one procedural aspect that had a significant bearing on the promoter's ability to make progress during the last Parliament and on the enhanced ability to make progress in the current one if the Bill is revived. That is the issue of human rights, to which the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington referred in his point of order, or rather the procedures to be applied to private legislation under the Human Rights Act 1998. That issue took up virtually all of two of the previous three-hour debates allocated to the Bill, the last being on 11 January. A substantial amount of time was also spent on points of order during the other debates. The House agreed the procedures to be applied to private Bills on 2 May and I know that that will be a relief to the hon. Gentleman, who has devoted a good deal of time to the subject during earlier debates.
I note that the Standing Order changes were adopted by the House on 2 May without objection. If the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill is revived, the promoters will of course comply with the procedure that the House agreed.
John McDonnell: On a point of clarity, it is true that, as a result of the labours of Members on the Labour Benches in this Chamber, our procedure has changed. However, the fundamental point remains that the Bill strikes against fundamental human rights, which base democracy on one person, one vote.
With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall draw two remaining aspects to the attention of the House as they are relevant to consideration of the revival motion. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington sponsored two early-day motions. The first, early-day motion 112, proposes that
The Bill plainly does not enjoy the support of all hon. Members. It does, however, enjoy cross-party support and in previous debates the Government's attitude to it has been consistently supportive. The Minister for Local Government may wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I will remind the House of what the hon. Member for Streatham (Keith Hill) said when, as Minister with responsibility for London, he contributed to the last debate on a carry-over motion. He said:
Sir George Young: I have taken the opportunity of reading Hansard accounts of revival motions. On an earlier occasion, the Deputy Speaker was anxious that the debate should not stray beyond that motion and into the merits of the Bill. I do not want to fall foul of the Chair, by dealing in detail with some of the issues in the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman wants to discuss the Bill in detail, the best thing that he can do is to agree to the revival motion so that we can debate at a later stage the issues that excite him.
Jeremy Corbyn: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) has obviously gone way beyond the revival motion in describing the Bill's merits and you have accepted that, so presumably it is in order. It would surely be in order, therefore, for him to reply to the point that I made in my intervention.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have listened carefully to the points that the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) is making in his opening remarks, and he has not yet strayed far enough away from the revival motion to incur my displeasure. Indeed, I agree with the remarks that he has made to date, and I shall listen carefully to the contributions of other hon. Members.