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Andrew Mackinlay: I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could enlighten us. Are places of worship treated as properties? Is there a distinction between Church of England properties, which arguably may be Crown properties, and others? He has referred to Crown properties; no doubt he can answer that point. What would be the position of other denominations that are not part of the established Church?
Sir George Young: I understand that Churches are either unincorporated or incorporated bodies and that those who work within premises owned by Churches would be eligible, although some of the amendments tabled by Labour Members would exclude them.
Amendment (a) leaves out reference to bodies other than Government Departments exercising Crown functions under Acts of Parliament from the proposed exception. It is not immediately apparent what bodies are being referred to by the amendment, but presumably they would be Crown bodies other than Government Departments exercising functions under provisions other than Acts of Parliamentperhaps royal charters or the royal prerogative.
Putting aside that ambiguity, it is not clear why those particular species of Crown bodies should be outside the exception proposed. If there were any such bodies in the City, and the promoters do not know of any, they would achieve a privileged status as against other Crown bodies exercising Crown functions. That would be illogical and I advise the House to reject the amendment.
Amendment (b) points in the reverse direction and extends the exception by excluding Government- appointed bodies from the Bill's provisions. "Government-appointed" is not defined, but presumably the amendment refers to quangos. The promoters have received no representations from such bodies that their work forces should be excluded, and on the principle of inclusivity, on which the definition of "qualifying body" is based, the promoters would be reluctant to take that course. The effects would certainly be capricious. To take an example at random, there would be no obvious reason to exclude the Advisory Committee for Disabled People in Employment and Training, a quango, if it opened a City office, so I invite the House to reject amendment (b).
Amendment (c) extends the exclusion from the Bill's provisions to any institution of the European Union. There are no such institutions known to the promoters in the City, and none proposed, which is no doubt why no representations have been made in respect of them. Even if such institutions were present in the City, it would not necessarily follow that their work forces should be
Amendment (d) raises the interesting proposition that the Secretary of State should be put in charge of deciding who should be able to appoint people by giving him the power to decide which bodies will be "qualifying bodies". That does not seem an attractive or evendare I say it?democratic proposal. It may be said to turn the City into an oversized quango; if so, it would be inconsistent with amendment (b), so I ask the House to reject that.
Amendment (f) seeks to exclude from amendment (b) the London Development Agency. I have already commented on that amendment but perhaps I should add that apart from the dangers of inequality of treatment to which I have referred, it appears to overlook the fact that, unlike regional development agencies elsewhere, where members are appointed by the Secretary of State, the members of the London Development Agency are appointed by the Mayor under the Greater London Authority Act 1999.
The other amendments cover familiar territory: the requirements for electoral colleges, for ballots and for proportional representation. A variety of amendments would render the Bill bureaucratic and unworkable. Some exclude voluntary organisations and even trade unions. The amendments have been debated extensively on other occasions and I do not propose to weary the House by repeating the arguments against them.
John McDonnell: I say in passing that we were promised amendments when the carry-over debate occurred in November, but we had no sight of any amendments until Wednesday of last week. Then, one hour and a half before the closing deadline for any amendments to the amendments to be tabled, those amendments, among them the key amendments, were withdrawn and replaced. That is inappropriate behaviour when it comes to democratic and open government.
The amendments fall into three blocks. First, new clause 1 excludes Government Departments and agencies and various other bodies from participation in City corporation government. It could be seen as a tidying-up measure, but it is sinister in its implications and extremely important. That is why we need to spend some time on it tonight.
The second block is the promoters amendments, which are a charlatan attempt by the City corporation to deceive the House and naive Members that a compromise is on offer. It supposedly liberates the workers of the City corporation and provides them with an unfettered right to democratic participation in the processes of the City
Ms Abbott: I am listening with great attention to my hon. Friend's speech, which is remarkably succinct, given the gravity of the proposal before us. He referred to the feeble-minded. Can he give the House an assurance that, in referring to the feeble-minded, he was not referring to any of the occupants of the Treasury Bench?
The third block is made up of amendments tabled by myself and comrades, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and others. We propose a genuine compromise of reform; the opportunity of a real partnership approach to the City of London corporation and its governance; and a stakeholder system of democracy for the City area. Many, if not all, the amendments have been discussed previously, but this is a new Parliament and we have new Members addressing a unique problem. Much of what has been said in the past is relevant today, but we will seek to ensure that we are succinct in the debate.
I oppose the new clause, and I will set out my reasons why. My amendments try to limit the damage of the new clause. They also seek to extend the geographical impact and clarity of the new clause. I want to democratise its implementation by giving Government Departments and other agencies the right to a vote. However, I accept that, in many ways, Mr. Speaker, in his selection of amendments, has grouped together the thread of democracy within the amendments to see whether we can have a principled vote this evening on the issue of workers democracy.
My amendments seek clarity by updating the new clause in line with the new structure of government for London, and include a reference to the London Development Agency, which came out of legislation passed in the previous Parliament to establish the Greater London Authority and the Mayor for London.
The genesis of the new clause was not contained in any of the consultations that took place by the City of London corporation with the residents of the corporation area. There was none, and I do not believe that there has been any since then. In the evidence given to the Committee, Mr. McLeodwho was representing the City of London corporationset out in detail the consultation arrangements that then took place.