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Mr. Alan Simpson: May I ask my hon. Friend to clarify the assertion that was made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field)that the reason why the staff at Moorfields eye hospital would not be entitled to vote is that they are not part of the City of London? If my hon. Friend looks at the list of firms and institutions that operate in the City, he will be able to confirm that Moorfields eye hospital is, in fact, listed as operating in the City and employing 900 staff within its remit.
John McDonnell: New clause 1 will exclude those Government Departments, agencies or bodies carrying out Government functions. In answer to a query, the House of Commons Library gave me the following response:
New clause 1 needs to be rewritten and redrafted. My amendments would do that, and I want to explain the meat of them. I accept that, even if my amendments are accepted, the new clause will result in a field day for the lawyers of the many bodies that exercise Government functions in some form, but which are not governmental bodies themselves. Challenges will be made.
A class of bodies exists that has a status that is something between governmental and non-governmental organisations. I suggest a nomenclature of semi- autonomous bodiesSABs. Amendment (a) would deal with that group of organisations and it would delete from new clause 1 the words
John McDonnell: They are included as residents, but they would not be included within the franchise as workers. The bulk of people who work in the public sector within the City corporation boundaries would be excluded.
Andrew Mackinlay: Surely it is because none of those 300 workers has any chance of becoming Lord Mayor. That is the rub, whether under the existing arrangements or this monstrosity of a Bill. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) seems to think that it is outrageous that such a person might be entitled to become Lord Mayor.
Mr. Dismore: I want to follow the point made by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire. If, as he says, the nurses to whom he referred have a vote as residentsalthough I think that he is wrongthey would also have a vote, albeit indirect, as workers. In effect, they would have two votes. What kind of democracy is that?
Ms Abbott: My hon. Friend observed in his lucid and concise speech that there has been no example of a worker becoming Lord Mayor. Is there an example of someone becoming Lord Mayor who was not a freemason?
I asked why Government Department employees should be excluded from the franchise. If this is a radical and reforming Bill, as has been proposed in other places, to extend the franchise on the basis of the number of workers, why are public sector workers discriminated against? Amendments (a) to (e) would at least introduce increased inclusivity, and less exclusivity.
I accept that amendment (e) has not been called, but amendments (a) to (d) have. Even without amendment (e), there is an argument in favour of amendment (a). If a Department is located in the City, it should have every right to participate in the governance of the area, but the new clause would bar Ministers and permanent secretaries from participating and voting for members of the City of London corporation. So it keeps Stephen Byers and Gordon Brown out of the corporation's governance. I do not however want to comment on that.
Amendment (a) would soften the harshness of the dictum of the new clause and would allow all those bodiespublic, private and public-private partnershipsto participate in the governance of the City corporation area in which they are located and have a work force, even though they may be carrying out some functions of the Crown bestowed on them in legislation by the House. Not to accept amendment (a) would be an affront to the House. Parliament has passed legislation to confer functions on a body and has expressed its confidence in it. I would expect no new clause or subsequent amendment to undermine the confidence that the House has in such a body.
Without the amendment, the new clause signals that although we have faith in a body to do what is in some cases our dirty work, we do not have sufficient faith in it to participate in the governance of the area in which it is located. However, we do have sufficient confidence in private companies that we have not entrusted with public duties and functions. In some instances, we would have to distinguish between private companies that operate under legislation and private companies that do not, and we will discriminate against those in which we have expressed confidence by bestowing contracts on them.
There is another anomaly to consider. Does the new clause bar the many private companies that we have entrusted to carry out the statutory functions of the district auditor from participating in the governance of the City corporation? A number of accountancy bodies in the list of the top 100 companies operate and bid for contracts as district auditors in local government. They would be caught by the exclusions in the new clause because they exercise functions as bodies corporate on the basis of legislation and of the powers conferred on them. The new clause is tantamount to saying that we have confidence in companies that operate as district auditors in local government, but that they cannot participate in the governance of the City corporation.
Mr. Dismore: I see that Deloitte and Touche is on the list, the auditors in which the excellent Mr. John Magill was a senior partner. He was instrumental in exposing the scandal at Westminster council of Dame Shirley Porter gerrymandering homes for votes.
John McDonnell: It is a bizarre commentary on the new clause that the very people who have exposed corruption in local government would be caught by its terms and refused a role in the governance of the City corporation. Perhaps it is a fearagain, I relate this to the City cashthat if such bodies participate in the governance of the City of London they would expose some of those issues to daylight as a result of functions exercised on behalf of the Crown.
John McDonnell: To be honest, my amendments attempt to make the new clause work, but I am struggling. I agree with my hon. Friend. Without amendment (a), a vista of legal challenges will follow by bodies that are exercising Government functions and are excluded.
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend makes an important point about legal challenges. The City includes the Temple, and barristers sometimes work for the Governmenteffectively exercising a government function in defending the Government in cases of judicial reviewand sometimes for the other side. How would my hon. Friend's analysis accommodate the position of a barrister defending the Government in a judicial review who was suddenly asked to prosecute a judicial review concerning the interpretation of this very legislation?