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Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I just wanted to remind the Minister that, in Committee, she quoted with approval part of the speech that my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf made on Second Reading. She said that he was absolutely right when he said that,
The first point made by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf was to say that the Government must argue for their proposals. What we have heard is the suggestion that, with two questions in the referendum, the Government will have the proper democratic duty of arguing and explaining their proposals very strongly and that the quality of debate will be all the higher for it. In other words, the interests of Londoners in the debate is likely to be greater and there will be the prospect that some of the issues facing a London authority will be discussed, rather than what is happening at present with the debate being distorted by speculation on the personality who is likely to run for the position of mayor. That is most unhealthy.
The second point made by my noble friend was that if the people do not like the Government's proposals the Government will have to think again. The point has been well made in this debate that the referendum is a consultative process. In that respect, perhaps I may answer a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who said that the referendum would be based on the proposals in the manifesto. If the manifesto and the General Election result were all that was necessary, one could say that there was no point in having a referendum. If we are to have a referendum, it is because we want the specific approval of Londoners for the scheme put forward by the Government. If the Government have to argue strongly for their proposals for an assembly and a directly-elected mayor--which, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee pointed out, is a constitutional innovation in that it is rather novel-- I believe that the debate will be all the stronger.
Another important point which has arisen from the debate is that the Minister has said at various stages that the Government are wary of the situation where voters could reject the assembly and opt only for a mayor and that, as they do not support having a mayor only, they would be unable to implement that result. I believe that would be dealt with by the fact that, clearly, they would have to think again. However, I hope that the quality of the arguments will ensure that it will not come to that.
Can the Minister also address the following point? If voters are faced with the package only and do not like one element of it, they will have to vote "no" to the whole package. If they are not happy with the suggestion of a directly elected mayor, they will have no option but to vote against the assembly. That seems to me to be a very sorry situation and is one of the reasons why we on these Benches have consistently supported the restoration of a strategic authority for London. We would prefer a first-best solution, but a second-best solution is better than no London authority.
We are worried that the atmosphere in which this proposal will be debated will rather sour the debate. Frankly, it looks as if the Government are open to the charge of being rather arrogant in imposing only a single package and, indeed, that they may be getting rather defensive about the whole idea of a London authority. The spirit in which this should be presented and debated is that of an exciting step forward in that London will be better governed when it has a London authority. If the Government are coming over as rather stubborn about this--indeed, perhaps rather defensive--and unwilling to argue strongly for the different elements in the package, there is a risk that the nature of the reception that Londoners will give the proposal will be slightly discouraging and we shall end up with less support and enthusiasm for what should be a bold and exciting step forward.
Before the Minister replies, I should add that it is important for us to remember that the amendment is supported by those who actually want a directly elected mayor. Supporting this amendment does not depend on whether you want the outcome of only an assembly or only a mayor; indeed, it is supported by those who simply want the quality of democracy and of debate to
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, we have been through this territory both in another place and in your Lordships' House on several occasions. I shall try to restate the Government's position on the issue of two questions as clearly as I can. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was very clear in her exposition and very frank as regards the history of the two Front Benches opposite finally finding a form of words upon which they could agree in terms of the proposed amendment. The noble Baroness accepted that, in a sense, that masked a very real disagreement between those two Front Benches and certainly in regard to this Front Bench about the best constitutional settlement for London.
There is disagreement on the issue. The Government's position is absolutely clear-cut. It was clearly stated in our manifesto and, indeed, it has been there all along. We believe that there should be a Greater London authority comprising a directly-elected mayor and a separately directly-elected assembly. We have stated that we need the leadership and the legitimacy of a directly-elected mayor and the accountability and the monitoring of a separate, directly-elected assembly. Moreover--and I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, because it represents the difference between us--we believe that those people should be separately elected to that job. In other words, they should not be doing it as a second job to their leadership of the London boroughs. I know that the noble Lord's party believes that there should be an indirectly-elected assembly, in the same way as the noble Baroness's party believes that there should be an indirectly-elected mayor. These are absolutely legitimate political differences for parties to hold.
I have no problem with these arguments being propounded by parties. Indeed that was done during the general election campaign to some extent. The Government's position was clear and has been consistent. I believe that the position of the Liberal Democrats was clear; namely, they have never been in favour of a directly elected mayor. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, has accepted that the Opposition--
Lord Ogmore: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I am sure that most noble Lords know exactly what the noble Baroness means. However, I should be grateful for some clarification. When she uses the words "directly elected", does she mean that both the assembly and the mayor are directly elected by
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord has illustrated the kind of confusions and difficulties we get into when we start opening up different options. The Government's proposition is quite clear; namely, that there should be elections for a mayor. There will be a slate of candidates for the mayoralty. There should be elections for the assembly. There will be names of people and the constituencies they would represent. The voting systems will be set out in the White Paper. As I say, there will be separate elections for the assembly. There will be a disposition of powers between the mayor and the assembly; the inter-relationships will be set out clearly. Those two together will form the Greater London Authority to which we committed ourselves in our manifesto.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. Before she concludes I hope that she can answer the question of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. If the manifesto concludes the matter and the package cannot be divided, why do we want a referendum?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that I have not finished yet. However, he has thrown me slightly. I was trying to express the matter clearly. There are different views as to the most appropriate way forward. Those views can be propounded by different political parties and put to the electorate at a general election. To an extent that was done. The general election of last year gave a clear endorsement to the Government. Perhaps my next point will answer the questions of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The Government also committed themselves to testing the assent of the people of London to a Greater London Authority.
I rather resent the accusations of totalitarianism and not giving the people any choice. We are imposing another layer of assent and public consultation. We saw what happened when the GLC was abolished. One does not need a referendum to change government in London; one can do that by Act of Parliament. However, we stated in the manifesto that we believed it was important to create strategic, city-wide London government and to test whether the people of London agreed with the Government's proposition. We never said that we would also offer them propositions that appealed more to the Liberal Democrats or to the Conservatives.
I wrote down what the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said. He said that in the past we had been reluctant for the will of the people to be clearly expressed. We are trying to allow the will of the people to be clearly expressed. I stress the importance of the word "clearly". I suggest to the House that there would be no clarity in the kind of propositions that have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, or the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. If we detect different degrees of support for different parts of the package, the Government will have to think again. How will the electorate know what
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