HC Deb 25 March 1998 vol 309 cc501-15 3.31 pm
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to made a statement about our proposals for a Greater London authority.

Last July, we published a consultation paper setting out our proposals for an elected, strategic authority for London. More than 1,200 individuals and organisations responded, and we have listened carefully to their views.

Today, we are publishing our detailed proposals for a radical new type of local government. For the first time in the United Kingdom, people will have the opportunity directly to elect their mayor—the mayor of London. Londoners will also be able to elect a small, streamlined, strategic assembly. The new authority will have new powers devolved from central Government. It will work with the boroughs and not duplicate their work.

This is another step in our programme of constitutional reform. We are establishing new devolved assemblies in Scotland and Wales, with the full consent of the people of Scotland and Wales. We are now taking a significant step in the decentralisation of government by establishing these new arrangements in London.

The proposals fulfil our manifesto commitment to restore democratic, citywide government to London. It is almost 12 years since the Greater London council was abolished by the previous Government. There was no consultation then—no Green or White Paper, and certainly no referendum. Public opinion polls at the time showed overwhelming opposition to the abolition of the GLC; indeed, it was sheer arrogance on the part of the Government to abolish it without the consent of Londoners.

However hard people have tried to fill the gap, there is no substitute for democracy: no voluntary committee, no consultants' reports, no Cabinet Committee can substitute for London democracy. London needs leadership with a clear mandate from the people to tackle the problems that have built up over the years, such as traffic congestion, decaying infrastructure, air pollution, crime and social exclusion.

The Labour Government have decided to give Londoners the choice to have a voice. Londoners will vote on our proposals in a referendum on 7 May—if they vote yes, as I believe they will, we shall introduce the necessary legislation.

Many of the world's great cities have thrived on powerful, directly elected mayors—cities such as New York, Toronto, Cologne, Wellington and Rome. Now, for the first time, a local authority in Britain will have a directly elected mayor and a new form of assembly, which will act as a check and balance on the mayor. Uniquely in this country, there will be a separation of powers between them.

I intend to bring arrangements for policing in line with those in the rest of the country. Since the days of Robert Peel, the Metropolitan police have been responsible only to the Home Secretary. The time has come for that to change; we must make the police accountable to Londoners. We are therefore establishing a new police authority. The mayor will appoint 11 assembly members to the board of the new Metropolitan police authority.

The mayor of London will be a powerful figure, with an electorate of more than 5 million voters—more than any other individual politician in the country. They will expect the mayor to deliver real improvements in their quality of life. The mayor will therefore need considerable powers. The mayor will directly control two powerful new organisations responsible for transport and economic development in London, control large resources—currently more than £3 billion—and be a powerful voice for London at home and abroad.

To balance the powers of the mayor, there will be a new type of council and a different role for its members. The new assembly will think and plan strategically for the benefit of all Londoners, examine and test the mayor's policies and performance, and be able to approve or amend the mayor's budget. The assembly will also have a wider role; it will have wide-ranging powers to investigate issues on behalf of Londoners.

We believe that this new form of London government demands a new type of voting system, tailor-made for London. We want the mayor to have a clear mandate. With an electorate of 5.5 million people and a potentially long list of candidates, we must have a system that ensures that the mayor has the backing of the largest possible number of people. The Government believe that the supplementary vote system—known as SV—for the election of the mayor will achieve that. It allows voters to mark their first and second choice of candidate, and will therefore give the mayor a strong mandate to implement his or her manifesto.

The assembly will have a different role, and the way in which it is elected will need to reflect that difference. It needs to ensure a direct link with local constituencies and broad representation of all Londoners. We believe that the system must also enable women and members of ethnic minority groups to be more fairly represented. The assembly will therefore be elected by a system similar to the one being used for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh assembly: the additional member system. That means that 14 of the assembly members will be directly elected from 14 constituencies by a first-past-the-post system, and that 11 others will be drawn from Londonwide lists to reflect the proportion of votes that the parties receive.

The GLA will have eight significant areas of responsibility. It will develop and manage an integrated transport system; create jobs and promote economic regeneration; tackle crime; ensure that Londoners have adequate fire and emergency services; improve London's environment; devise a strategy for land use planning; promote London's arts, sport and tourism; and improve the health and quality of life of Londoners. Each of those has an impact on the others, so it will be essential for the mayor to tackle London's problems in an integrated and sustainable way. A number of important organisations under the mayor's control will assist in that task.

We will create a new London development agency, which will implement the mayor's economic and regeneration strategy. It will have powers to attract new investment, create jobs and tackle the problems of rundown areas. It will also be one of nine similar regional development agencies that we are creating across the English regions. It will be responsible to the mayor and not the Secretary of State. As the first democratically accountable development agency, it will be a trailblazer for the other regional development agencies.

An efficient, integrated, transport system is essential to the capital's health and prosperity. Transport for London will be responsible for the underground, London buses, taxis, most main roads, river transport and the docklands light railway. It will also have a say in how other commuter railways are run. The mayor will appoint the chair and board, set its budget and be responsible for its strategies and performance.

I have already set out our proposals for an accountable police authority. We want to ensure that, in tackling crime, we bring together all those London organisations that have a part to play. Londoners have confirmed that they would expect the mayor to oversee the fire service. The mayor will therefore appoint assembly members and London borough councillors to a new fire and emergency planning authority.

The state of London's environment is an important element in its competitiveness, and is crucial to the quality of life and health of those who live in, work in and visit London. The mayor will have substantial new powers and responsibilities, working with the boroughs and others, to improve air quality, tackle noise and London's growing waste problem and improve Londoners' quality of life in other ways. That will contribute to improving the health of Londoners, and will encourage tourism and inward investment.

Matching economic regeneration, social and environmental needs will require the best use of the resources available. The mayor will be responsible for drawing up strategic planning guidance. Boroughs will continue as local planning authorities, but their development plans will have to conform to the mayor's strategy.

Culture, tourism and media and related leisure services are the second biggest component of London's economy, currently totalling £9 billion. London's culture acts as a magnet to visitors both nationally and internationally. It is essential that the quality and diversity of the capital's cultural achievements should be maintained and improved.

A new forum to be established by the mayor will include existing cross-London cultural and sports organisations. It will play a major part in developing the mayor's strategy. Government funding for tourism in London will be channelled through the mayor.

It will be understood from what I have said that we are creating new and radical institutions to give London the means to solve its problems and maximise its potential. We will also require new ways of working, to ensure that the GLA is genuinely accountable to the community that it is elected to serve.

The GLA will be an open and accessible authority: the assembly will meet regularly and in public; the mayor will have to notify the assembly of all major decisions and give reasons; each month, there will be a question time, when the assembly questions the mayor and senior officials; twice a year, there will be a people's question time, when the mayor and assembly can be questioned in public and by the public. [Interruption.] I do not understand why Conservative Members consider it so important for parliamentarians, but not for the people of London, to be able to question representatives. Every year, the Mayor will deliver a state of London address, which will be debated in an open, public forum.

That is just the starting point. We expect the GLA to develop other imaginative ways in which to consult and to involve people in its decisions.

Our aim is also to simplify the structure of governance in London. A number of organisations will be absorbed wholly or in part into the GLA. That will mean change, but we will work closely with the affected organisations. I would like to reassure staff that transfers will be within the public sector, and will be on existing terms and conditions. We will examine the pension arrangements, with a view to ensuring that the GLA offers broadly comparable arrangements within the public sector.

The financing of the GLA will come from a range of sources. It will inherit existing funding for the services that it provides for Londoners. The grant, council tax, business rates and credit approvals currently amount to about £3.3 billion. The mayor will decide how the money is to be spent. The assembly will approve the mayor's budget, and there will be safeguards to protect service standards.

The greater part of the authority's funds will be spent on transport, economic development, policing and fire services. The mayor and assembly and their small staff will cost about £20 million a year—less than 1 per cent. of the GLA's budget. The Government will also spend up to £20 million in preparation for the GLA, including the provision of its headquarters.

These are exciting and radical proposals, which I am proud to present to the House. They are a significant part of the Government's programme of constitutional reform, and they correct one of the previous Government's most foolish, undemocratic and reckless acts. They secure the role of the boroughs, placing responsibility for taking decisions at the right level. London will have an elected mayor for the first time in British history. Above all, the proposals provide a choice and a voice for London, and return government to the people of London.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we believe that the public of London should have been allowed two separate questions in the May referendum on whether they want a mayor and, separately, on whether they want a directly elected assembly. We greatly regret that the Government did not agree to that, and we regret it even more having seen the White Paper proposals, which profoundly affect the 32 boroughs of London. Although we will say yes in the referendum, because of our support for the mayor, we do not accept many of the proposals in the White Paper. In particular, we do not accept the devaluation of the role of borough councils that is implicit in virtually every page of the White Paper, but was hardly mentioned in the Secretary of State's statement.

Is it not a fact that the Government are proposing layer after layer of administration and bureaucracy for London? There will be a mayor for London, a new assembly for London, a development agency for London, a transport authority for London, and a Government office for London, as well as the prospect of junior executive mayors throughout London. Only then do we get to the borough councils. Is not one of the White Paper's fundamental faults the fact that, although the borough councils are nearest and most directly accountable to the public, their powers are being curtailed? They are being sidelined.

Let me give the example of planning. On page 14 of the White Paper, the right hon. Gentleman sets out his planning plans. He says: The Mayor would set the overall framework for the development of London. The boroughs would continue to deal with small and local planning matters but major developments in the boroughs should fit in with the Mayor's overall scheme. Does he not recognise that many London residents will be greatly concerned if that means that decisions on vital local issues such as the green belt and the development of green-field sites are handed over to a new central authority?

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise also that there will be concern about the new authority's cost and its taxing powers? Is it not the case that it will be able to raise money by top-slicing proceeds from council tax? Will he confirm clearly—it is anything but clear in the White Paper—that the Government are considering giving the new authority the power to impose taxes on cars coming into London and to put new taxes on car parking by offices and shops?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance on the Metropolitan police? The Home Secretary has been the police authority since 1829. It should be emphasised that the Metropolitan police has served the public well over the past 170 years. It has a local policing role, but will the Deputy Prime Minister give an assurance that nothing will be done that could conflict with its role in fighting terrorism or its other national roles?

At the end of his statement, the Deputy Prime Minister talked about returning government to the people of London. How does he square that with the electoral system that he proposes? Does not the first-past-the-post part of proposals mean that 14 assemblymen will have constituencies of more than 500,000 people to serve? How is that close to the people of London? Does not the proportional representation part mean that the remaining assembly members will be on a list system, answering first to their party organisation? How is that close to the people of London?

The Secretary of State referred to the May referendum, but let me remind him that there are also borough elections on that day. I hope that the public will use that opportunity to register a protest against the proposals in the White Paper, which have the undoubted effect of reducing the power of the boroughs, to the disadvantage of the people of London.

Mr. Prescott

When a complaint is made that there will be one question rather than two questions, I say that no question was asked by the Tory Administration when they abolished the Greater London council. It is one question rather than two, because we are proposing a new form of local government. The mayor is an integral part of the assembly system. There are checks and balances. It is a radically different form of local government. That is why we have asked people in London to endorse it. On 7 May, we will see the answer. Nevertheless, the Opposition have done a U-turn and decided to support the proposals. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) draws this distinction: "I support the principle, but I do not like the White Paper." The issue will be decided on 7 May.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to certain bodies and organisations, but the London borough authorities have welcomed the White Paper. There are many matters that they will want to discuss with us and, now that the White Paper has been published, we will be able to have discussions with them. The general principle involved in the discussion and consultation groups might be unusual to the right hon. Gentleman—it is called consultation. In consultation, one gives a reasonable idea of the sort of thing one wants to do. Our proposals have been warmly accepted, and they are embodied in the White Paper. That is why the authorities are able to say that they agree generally with the White Paper and with the new form of London government. We will enter into proper discussions with them on these matters.

We are not changing a great deal of the activities of the borough authorities; the strategic example of that is roads. For example, 95 per cent. of roads are relevant to the activities and traffic management of borough areas. Some 5 per cent. of London's roads carry something like one third of the traffic. Those are the strategic routes which cross borough boundaries, and it makes a lot more sense to have a strategic approach. That is what the GLA is doing with roads and all forms of transport.

The right hon. Gentleman complained about the organisational structure, but we are recommending a bonfire of a number of the quangos that the Conservative Government set up. They did away with the elected representation. As for the financing and the available resources, we have said that the cost is equivalent to about 3p on band D council tax. As with all local authorities, about 80 per cent. of funding comes from central Government, with 20 per cent. raised through council tax, and so on. There is not a great change in the way in which local authorities will be financed, although the scale of the resources in total is considerably different because we are dealing with the capital city.

As for our consideration of raising finance through charges for non-residential parking, we have said that we will deal with that in the White Paper on transport. The principles in the White Paper will apply to all local authorities. London is a different type of local authority, but it is a local authority, and the rules we introduce will apply to all.

With regard to the police authority, I echo the right hon. Gentleman's words on the work of the Metropolitan police. I welcome the fact that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has welcomed the White Paper. He is in a good position to make a judgment on whether the extra powers that we are giving him will strengthen or weaken him in tackling crime. I assume that it is fair for me to say that, if he welcomes the White Paper, it must strengthen his position. That is another mark of the success of the White Paper.

As for the electoral system, we have said that this will be a different form of local government. Fourteen of the assembly members will be elected by direct election, and we have decided that the remaining 11 will be elected from a list system, because we believe that that will give a wide representation of the various groups in London. That principle has been followed in Scotland and Wales, and the House has debated it. We think that it will provide better representation, which is important in getting support for the new London authority. It is my view that on 7 May there will be an overwhelming endorsement of the radical approach to London government taken by the Labour Government, and a total rejection of the carping and U-turns that are the Conservative party's history on London local authorities.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

May I congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister on putting before Londoners an exciting and radical new job opportunity? I wish to raise two small points of concern. Listening to his account, I felt that he has come down against those Londoners who argued that we needed more powers for the assembly and fewer powers for the mayor—a case that has been reflected strongly in opinion polls. On finance, if there are to be no direct tax-raising powers, can we expect that Londoners will be allowed to keep a greater share of the £6 billion more that we pay into the national Treasury than we get back? The worst problems in Britain are here in this city.

Mr. Prescott

The judgment made in the White Paper is to get a proper balance of powers, checks and balances between the assembly and the mayor. I think that it is a proper balance and that we are right to do so, but we shall leave it to the electorate to make that decision. The arguments regarding resources are more on a national level than internal to London. That is a debate which is on-going in the House and, no doubt, my hon. Friend will have a chance to make more of those points in coming days in what I think is a rather nationalist fervour.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

May I thank the Government for being clearly committed to restoring democratic government to London, which is much appreciated, and for the process of Green Paper, White Paper and referendum, which is clearly the proper way to proceed? I also thank the Deputy Prime Minister, as a northerner, for being clearly committed to London, London's causes and London's success.

First, what are the things on which, as a result of consultation, the Government have changed their mind between the Green Paper and the White Paper—not just clarified, but changed their mind?

Secondly, given that, as I understand it, the financial regime for the Greater London authority will allow the Government to fix a spending ceiling and a spending floor, and, therefore, it looks as though the GLA will not have a huge amount of independence if the Government do not wish it, is that not inadequate for a capital city, which deserves and needs to be able to raise and spend its own resources?

Lastly, given the change of electoral system proposed, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it would be better to have a system for both the assembly and the mayor that allows independent candidates to have a chance of making progress, not just party political nominees? In any event, can we have the elections next year and not in 2000?

Mr. Prescott

We have not yet decided exactly when the elections will be, but the House will want to ensure that the London authority is well established before the next general election, and we intend to achieve that. We need to embark on discussions with various people about the date and time, and we hope to make a decision in the summer.

One example of a change from the consultative document is the payment of assembly members, which we thought was an important change to make. In view of many of the things that we have heard in the past few years, that was an important step, and it is proper that it be done in a properly accountable democracy.

The independence of these bodies and the question whether the powers will change are a matter of balance. We are creating a very powerful body and a high-profile one—

Mr. Hughes

But not an independent one.

Mr. Prescott

Well, I do not think that Governments totally control such matters at the end of the day. We are giving powers and resources, and giving these bodies tremendous opportunities to speak on behalf of London. That will provide a powerful pressure, not only to the good of London, but perhaps towards effective change in constitutional and political terms. That is what we are doing here; such matters arise during the coming debates.

I think that we have basically got the right balance in electoral change, and I wait to hear people's responses in the coming months. We shall introduce legislation based on the proposals in the White Paper.

Mr. Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North)

Speaking as a son of the last chairman of the London county council, which was destroyed by the Tories in the 1960s, and remembering also the Greater London council, which was destroyed by the Tories in the 1980s, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend agrees with me not only that this is an important and historic day for those of us who are proud to be Londoners, but that we must urge all Londoners to turn out in their millions to vote yes in the referendum, so that the passion for democracy among Londoners speaks so loud and clearly that the Conservatives will never dare to destroy democracy in London again?

Mr. Prescott

Many hon. Members will remember my hon. Friend's father who, as its chairman, was a powerful and effective influence on the authority of that time. It will be an historic day for Londoners and for the constitution itself, because we are making significant constitutional changes.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) made some kind remarks about my commitment to London; that commitment is to decentralisation of power, whether in Scotland, Wales or the English regions. London is the first step, and I am hopeful that there will be many more, but this is about the decentralisation of power.

A London authority is something which we should welcome; every one of us should take the opportunity to get everybody to turn out. Democracy is about turnout, it is about mandates and it is about endorsement, so we should be encouraging as many people as possible to vote on 7 May.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

Will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that, under these proposals, the status of the City of London, as determined by the conclusions and recommendations of the Herbert commission, will be maintained, subject to changes in the City's franchise, which I understand the Government have approved?

Mr. Prescott

The City corporation is not dealt with in the Bill. It has said that it will undergo specific changes in its democratic processes, internal procedures and voting practices. I hope that that is the case, and the House may be sure that I shall review matters as they progress.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Will the Deputy Prime Minister agree with me that the abolition of the Greater London council was one of the most spiteful and undemocratic acts of the previous Administration, and that Londoners of all parties will welcome the restoration of democracy to London? A great capital city deserves an elected authority.

As for the matter of the police committee, apparently Opposition Members are unaware that, for a long time, the Metropolitan police Commissioner has supported the idea of a police committee for London, because he realises that it can play a constructive role in involving communities in the fight against crime.

Mr. Prescott

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. It was undemocratic and spiteful, as I said in my statement. The Metropolitan police Commissioner has confirmed that view, not only in relation to the White Paper; it was previously his view. He is only confirming what, generally, the rest of the country accepted a long time ago—but in London there was always an exception. I do not believe that that exception was justified. I am glad that the Commissioner does not believe that it is justified. That is one of many changes which will come about as a result of the White Paper.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Who will prevail if there are conflicts between the mayor and assembly on budgetary matters, or the mayor and the boroughs on planning matters?

Mr. Prescott

The procedures in all these matters are to be decided, in the sense that there will be a strategic plan that is determined by the mayor, and if the borough plans conflict with it, he will be able to call the matter in. That is exactly like what happens now. Ultimately, in the case of all planning cases, if there is a conflict it will be for the Secretary of State to call the matter in if he decides that that is right. We are not suggesting that London is any different from any other local authority.

One of the advantages that will come from the Bill is that the London assembly people and the mayor will take a decision about safe taxis and not be subjected to the curious behaviour that we have seen in the House, which has denied passengers that safety.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that some of us have strong and deep reservations about the proposals for a directly elected mayor. Having said that, I pay tribute to the work that has been done over the years by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), who have kept the flame of the prospect of a restoration of democracy alight in London.

One of the tests of the new authority will be that eventually it achieves an unfettered right to raise a level of taxation in London from Londoners to enable it to tackle the problems that we now face. I also urge my right hon. Friend to think seriously about bringing the elections forward to next year, so that we can restore democracy that much more swiftly.

Mr. Prescott

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. Many hon. Members with London constituencies have worked long and hard to bring about proposals of this type. I have had the good fortune to arrive in this job and to be able to introduce the White Paper, but I very much endorse my hon. Friend's remarks about those who, for a long time, have attempted to bring back government to London. Regarding the elections, I assure him that I shall do as much as I possibly can to ensure that we have those elections as soon as possible, so that Londoners can have some influence on decisions that affect them.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

The additional member system of election is alien to this country, and there is no evidence, in any sense or form, that it is more democratic. The representative democracy that we have enjoyed over the years ensures that there is a direct personal connection between a locality and the elected representative.

I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he is seeking, by manipulating the list members of the assembly, to ensure particular representations of ethnic minorities or of women, he could be in breach of the Race Relations Act 1976 in one case and the Sex Discrimination Act 1986 in the other. Is it not also true that local people can have no confidence in the mayor, who will have unprecedented powers over budget and patronage unless the assembly is able to replace or remove the mayor and unless local people can ensure that, in relation to development plans, their specific interests, especially concerning the environment and the green belt, are safeguarded?

Mr. Prescott

Obviously, I fundamentally disagree with most of the hon. Gentleman's comments. We have agreed that the additional vote system should apply to Scotland and Wales. Therefore, we are not creating a precedent, although the system is new to English local government. The point about additional representation will be relevant to the 14 constituencies in which members will be directly elected. That is an important principle.

In a modern democracy, one must take into account the serious under-representation of women and ethnic minority groups. If we want their support for local government, they must have some stake in it. Representation is an important part of that. I am not sure that the directly elected system is not open to persuasion, change and the other pressures that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but we all know the role of party politics in such matters. We have struck the proper balance, so we have presented our proposals to the House.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

May I express my appreciation to my right hon. Friend for his decision to press for the use of the supplementary vote—a system which was invented in my home in Keswick and worked on for more than 12 months in my office in London—for the election of the mayor of the new authority? I believe that it is the system which should finally be used for the election of Members of Parliament. It is a thoroughly democratic system, which I am sure will please the people of London and, ultimately, the wider nation.

Mr. Prescott

I recall that my hon. Friend gave evidence to the Plant committee on that very point. The plans that we have adopted with regard to the mayor are right. It is important that there should be a popular mandate—that as many people as possible agree to support a mayor. This is the best way of ensuring that, which is why we have adopted it.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)

The Deputy Prime Minister made much of checks and balances. Will he correct me if I am wrong in my impression that a developer could submit a plan to the local authority, it could be called in by the mayor, who, on checks and balances, would have the Greater London authority involved in the decision at that level, the development agency would also be involved, and the plan could then be called in by the Secretary of State through the Government office for London?

Mr. Prescott

That is an important point, which was raised by my hon. Friend. I explained that not every planning decision by the borough can be called in by the mayor, but he can have a role in regard to decisions taken in boroughs, which are of strategic significance. He must develop a strategic plan to achieve that and to show where those differences can be established. At the end of the day, it will still be the Secretary of State who will make the planning decision in regard to these matters.

Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town)

May I offer my congratulations to the Deputy Prime Minister on the statement that he has just made, and echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North (Mr. Wicks)? This is indeed a proud day to be a Londoner, whether one has a classic cockney accent like mine or a south London accent like my hon. Friends.

I refer to a matter on which my right hon. Friend did not comment—the siting of the new mayoralty and the elected assembly. I have previously pointed out that, as the centre of gravity of the capital has been moving eastwards for the past 20 years, docklands may be an appropriate home for the new elected assembly.

I recognise that space is still available at county hall, that the City corporation has offered accommodation at the Guildhall and that other premises may be available in the capital. Given the experience of Scotland and the competition between Glasgow and Edinburgh—a decision which I consider has been inappropriately concluded—and the difficulty between Swansea and Cardiff, may I ask the Deputy Prime Minister who will make the decision on where the mayoralty will be sited? Will it be the Government office for London or the mayor, and when is that decision likely to be taken?

Mr. Prescott

That could be a very controversial decision. The Government will make a decision initially so that we can get on with London government, but, after that, the elected authority can make its own decision.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

Will the new London transport board be responsible for planning air transport in London, and particularly for the configuration of airports that serve the London area?

Mr. Prescott

That is a very interesting point. The strategic question of aviation and the siting of airports will affect London and its development. That decision will be considered as part of the national transport plans; we shall say more about it in the White Paper. The mayor will clearly want to be consulted about the matter. For example, he may have an opinion about the expansion of London City airport and the effects on Heathrow, and so on. Such issues will affect London, and the mayor will have an important voice in policy development in that area. However, the mayor will not make the decisions.

Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)

As the former leader of London's largest borough, I add my support to the initiative. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proposal will add value to local boroughs because, instead of floating around in an isolated individualistic manner, there will be an holistic approach to economic development, transport and the environment? Will he confirm that the subsidiarity principle will apply to planning and that individual boroughs will have a unitary development plan set within the wider framework of the evolution of an economically successful and environmentally sustainable capital for Britain?

Mr. Prescott

A grievance expressed by many London authorities is that, with the abolition of the GLC, they have had no influence over those strategic decisions apart from some consultation now and then with a Government Department. We must develop a strategic plan in consultation with the boroughs. The GLA will be a strategic authority and it will have a close relationship with the boroughs, which will have influence on the boards.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Does the Deputy Prime Minister echo my enormous welcome for the political vigour of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), but does he share the concern about the early direction of the hon. Gentleman's campaign for mayor? Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that the official publication "London Facts and Figures 1995" reveals that public spending per head in London in that year was 20 per cent. higher than public spending per head in Scotland? In the light of that, is it altogether wise for the hon. Member for Brent, East to make public spending in Scotland an issue in his campaign in London—particularly given the fact that he might want some expatriate Scots to vote for him?

Mr. Prescott

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. No doubt he and my hon. Friend can meet outside this place and discuss the facts of the case.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a great day for Londoners like me, who were born in London, and for the millions of Londoners who have come from all over the world to live in this great city? Does he recognise that a great advantage of his proposal will be that we shall at last be able to rid this city of the residuary bodies and the quangocracy and begin to have some democratic accountability regarding the governance of Londoners and this city?

Mr. Prescott

Yes, I do. That is right at the heart of what the White Paper is about. Not only Londoners but people all around the country will welcome the introduction of democratic accountability to their capital city. I am Welsh by birth and I represent a Yorkshire constituency, and I am delighted to advance proposals for democratic accountability in London.

Mr. Alan Clark (Kensington and Chelsea)

May I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to enlarge upon an answer that he gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), as I think that his reply may have gone rather further than he intended? What right of appeal will there be to the Secretary of State against decisions of the mayor and, in particular, what rights will be vested in borough councils or other organisations or individuals? While such a right would be very welcome, how does the Deputy Prime Minister square it with his alleged attempts to decentralise power?

Mr. Prescott

I may have made a mistake, although I do not think at this stage that I did. I shall examine the matter carefully and write to the right hon. Gentleman. As I said before, the London authority will develop a strategic plan. It will allow for appeals to the Secretary of State, who will be the final arbiter.

Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the current position of the Conservatives in London? Who represents them? Is it the Tweedledum who has just rubbished the White Paper, the Tweedledee who was dancing around on the bus for the yes campaign the other day or the funny little man from the other place who likes to give £2,000 to people he does not even know? Mr. Prescott: That is an interesting point, but I usually keep out of such controversial issues.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

I am an expatriate Scot. As the assembly and mayor will have some tax-raising powers, who will collect the tax—the boroughs or the mayor and the assembly?

Mr. Prescott

Council tax will be collected by the boroughs.

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. Does he agree that the new London development agency must consider the development of Wembley, our national stadium? It should be fitting and appropriate for a national stadium, and of a standard that one expects of national stadiums throughout the world, especially as we hope to welcome the World cup and the Olympic games to this country in future.

Mr. Prescott

Yes, I very much agree with my hon. Friend, who has made that point often. The planning and development of the national stadium and of the roads and transport that serve it will have considerable implications for London. The development of Wembley stadium is a good example of how accountable strategic planning in London will benefit his constituency.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that the borough of Reigate and Banstead and the constituency of Reigate lie within the Surrey county council area, but are cut in half by the boundary between the Metropolitan police and Surrey police areas? In the interests of accountability, and so that local people are aware of which police force is theirs, will he support the position of all political parties in the borough of Reigate and Banstead and change the boundaries of the Metropolitan police area to those of the Greater London area?

Mr. Prescott

We have no proposals at the moment to change those boundaries, but we recognise that democratic accountability in London applies to people outside the Greater London area. We shall be seeking an agreement about representation on the police authority between authorities that are outside the Greater London area but within the Metropolitan police area.

Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone)

I welcome developments in London, especially the election of a mayor for the city and the increase in democracy in the London area, but will the Secretary of State contrast and compare that with the lack of local government democracy in Northern Ireland? Will he use his influence as Deputy Prime Minister to persuade the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to restore proper, accountable local government in Northern Ireland so that we, as equal citizens of the United Kingdom, can enjoy the same privileges there as Londoners will have in London?

Mr. Prescott

The House listens with concern to the hon. Gentleman's comments. The current discussions, which are led by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, are geared to achieving a normal situation in Northern Ireland, which is an essential prerequisite to proper democratic accountability.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

The Deputy Prime Minister talked about respect for people and for Parliament. Given that much of what he has said appeared on the internet this morning on the BBC's website and others, will he undertake to show less contempt for the Greater London authority than he has apparently shown for Parliament?

Mr. Prescott

Everyone is concerned when documents are leaked. I gave the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) a White Paper a short time before I made my statement—before the time that is considered usual—and that was all that I was involved in. It is proper for such a document to be considered by the Opposition.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I deplore the fact that the information appeared on websites and in the Evening Standard. I played no part in that, and should like to have prevented it. What has happened is most frustrating, because I strongly believe in reporting to the House at the earliest occasion, and shall always try to do so. I am sorry about what has happened and offer my apologies, but I cannot guarantee that it will not happen again. It is demeaning to the House that the statement was reported in the paper before it was made to the House. I shall continue to do whatever I can to stop that.