HC Deb 05 May 1999 vol 330 cc1042-60

`.In this Chapter— transfer programme" has the meaning given by section (Transfers of LRT's property etc to Transport for London)(1) above; the transitional period" has the meaning given by section (Functions during the transition from LRT to TfL)(9) above.'. —[Mr. Dowd.] Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Order for Third Reading read. —[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time. — [Mr. Dowd.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I must remind the House that Madam Speaker has selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

9.8 pm

Mr. Ottaway

1 beg to move, That this House, whilst accepting the principle of a representative body to speak for London, declines to give a Third Reading to the Greater London Authority Bill because it provides for an Authority elected by proportional representation, which will lead to weak government and disproportionate influence of minority parties; because it introduces road user charging which will not solve the problems of congestion or pollution in London; and because it provides wholly unsatisfactory arrangements for the future of London Underground which will not receive the necessary funding or management under the Government's proposed Public Private Partnership, thus burdening Londoners with substantial levels of debt from the outset.

The Conservatives make no apology for having scrapped the Greater London council—it was a bloated, inefficient and expensive organisation. However, we recognise that there is a case for a voice for London. We believe that the borough system has worked well for the past decade and argue that, working with the mayor of London, the boroughs have it within their grasp to become a more effective organisation. That would be to the benefit of the London boroughs and of London as a whole.

The model enshrined in the Bill, however, does not hold much appeal for us. Our arguments that the assembly should comprise an assembly of borough representatives have been rejected and, as a result, we believe that the potential for conflict with the London boroughs is real, and we fear clashes reminiscent of the bad old days of the GLC. We also believe the method of election of both the mayor and the assembly to be flawed. The assembly is almost guaranteed to be hung, and all the inherent weaknesses of proportional representation will be on display.

It is also arguable—in the light of the Government's confessed concerns about the potential rise of extremist parties in London—whether PR is the right method of election for London.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The hon. Gentleman says that he believes that the Greater London Authority is almost bound to be hung. If by that he means that there is bound to be no majority for one party, and if it is the case that Londoners who vote do not by a majority vote for one party, does he not accept that the GLA would be more accurately representing Londoners if it represented them according to the share of the votes that they cast than by the result of a distorted figure that gives a minority a majority?

Mr. Ottaway

Time does not permit a detailed analysis of electoral systems. The hon. Gentleman is going into old territory on proportional representation. The Conservative party thinks that PR gives disproportionate power to minority parties and that that will be to the detriment of the assembly.

Before I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, I was questioning whether PR is the right method of election for London given the Government's professed concern about the potential rise of extremist parties in London. It is safe to say that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a British National party candidate could be elected to the assembly. There is also a lack of checks and balances if the mayor loses the plot. The separation of powers between the executive and the assembly is unique to this country. Without the checks and balances of such democratic systems as exist in the United States, for example, the risk of disaster will always be round the corner.

In the old Greater London council, the leader could be removed. In the House, the Prime Minister can be removed. The leader of any council in the country can be removed. However, in London, even if 5 million people signed a petition calling for the removal of the mayor, with a unanimous resolution of this House and the other place and a flock of psychiatrists in Harley street declaring the mayor to be insane, nothing could be done and he could continue in office if he so wished.

London is to be used as a pilot scheme for extra taxation in the form of road user charging. Given that that is unlikely to have any effect upon congestion; given that most public transport systems in London are already saturated and could not cope if there were an exodus from the car; given that the stated aim of road user charging is to reduce the level of pollution, which it is unlikely to do; and given that ix is a tax by the back door, we believe that London is not the right place to introduce such a scheme, and we oppose it.

Above all, the biggest disaster waiting to happen concerns London underground. The Government are busy negotiating a public-private partnership. They have little idea how it will end up, but they know that they will not have completed negotiations by the time the new authority starts work. The Government have given little indication of the mayor's involvement in the negotiations. They simply intend that when they have finished their negotiations, they will dump the outcome on the people of London, walk away from it and say, "You pay off the debt."

The Government are so panicky that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) may end up as the first mayor of London that they have introduced no fewer than 250 powers to enable the Secretary of State to intervene. The House should be under no illusion but that whoever is elected as the first mayor of London will be very much under the thumb of the Secretary of State. The mayor's room to manoeuvre will be minimal and his chance to introduce his own flair and imagination will be strictly limited. The shape and direction of the authority will be very much at the Government's whim. None of this bears any resemblance to, or has any place in, the Conservative party's vision for London.

Our vision is of a lighter touch, with an assembly of borough leaders working with the mayor, not against him. We have a vision of an underground system maximising the benefits that the private sector can bring, with the motorist being managed, not clobbered. It is a vision of working with the people of London, not against them. It is for these reasons that 1 urge the House to support our reasoned amendment.

9.15 pm
Mr. Darvill

I oppose the amendment and support the Third Reading of the Bill. As a member of the Standing Committee and a comparatively new Member of the House, I found the experience in Committee extremely worth while. It was a good-natured Committee, by and large. More than 100 hours of work on the detail of the Bill certainly added to my knowledge of pan-London issues.

The restoration of strategic Londonwide government, in which I am proud to have played a small part, will be a lasting legacy of the Government. Within two years of the general election and on the basis of my party's firm manifesto commitment, a referendum was held and supported by a large number of Londoners, and a comprehensive Bill produced. That is indeed a tribute to the work of the Government and the House.

The Bill not only has support in the House and Londonwide, through the ballot box and the referendum, but during the course of the Standing Committee I received numerous briefings from business organisations, the Association of London Government and so on, supporting the broad thrust of the Bill. It clearly meets the wide-ranging demands of various groups of Londoners.

Developing strategy for the mayor will be an important part of life in London for the next year or so, as we lead up to the election, and afterwards. It is not a question of working against Londoners, as the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) claimed. The ethos of the Bill is to work with Londoners, the London boroughs and all the participatory organisations set out in the Bill.

Transport will be the principal focus of the GLA and the mayor. It was good to debate the subject at such length today, as that is the aspect of life in London where most difference can be made. The time that we spent debating transport this evening and in Committee was time well spent. Adding democratic power to the police authority is another important step. The powers of the London development agency to regenerate London and the measures relating to the environment and the emergency services are all significant.

I believe that in Committee we spent too long on some clauses and not enough time on others. With due respect to colleagues on the Liberal Benches, having listened to them on many occasions I thought that our time could have been better spent on the more important clauses, rather than listening to the repetition of the same points on others. It is for hon. Members to present their own arguments, but when we are considering a Bill of more than 300 clauses that deals with such important issues as transport and strategic regeneration, we must use our time effectively. On the whole, however, the Committee did its work well.

I am proud to support the Bill and I wish it good speed.

9.19 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes

This is not only a long Bill; its size suggests serious reading. At the start of our debate yesterday, it was already the largest and longest in the living memory of the Officers of the House, comprising 306 clauses and 26 schedules. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) kindly added up the additional contents, which have been added over only the past two days. We calculate that the Bill now comprises 338 clauses and 27 schedules. The only significant problem is that it has not got better; with expansion, it has got worse.

Mr. Gapes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

In a moment.

My hon. Friends and I made our position clear on Second Reading. We have long advocated London having its own democratic government, and we therefore supported introducing a Bill that would allow us to consider that proposal, but we raised five principal objections.

We said that there was far too much central Government power over what was meant to be a handing over of regional government power. That was true, and is still absolutely true. We said that there was no power, which there should have been, to vary the amount of money raised by the Greater London Authority. If we want to give real political power, we have to give real economic power. That was true, and is still true.

We said that the mayor would be too powerful relative to the assembly. That was absolutely true, and is still absolutely true.

The Minister for London and Construction>(Mr. Nick Raynsford)


Mr. Hughes

It is absolutely true. As the Minister and his colleagues kept on telling us, the Bill's structure means that we will have an executive mayor and an assembly that, if it is lucky, will benefit from a bit of consultation about what the mayor is planning to do.

Like many of the people who responded to the Green Paper, we argued strongly that the principal powers should be extended to include duties relating to the health of Londoners and the co-ordination of the provision of higher, or post-secondary, education. Neither has been included in the Bill. We argued that, although the electoral system would be better than the one we had when London last had regional government, the proposed system was not the best. That is as true now as when we started our consideration of the Bill. I have to report that there has been no improvement at all to any of the proposals that were the subject of those five objections.

We were surprised that the Government resisted so many of the specific ways in which we sought to amend the authority's general powers. We argued that a principal purpose of the new authority should be promoting the health of people in Greater London, but they resisted that. We argued that a principal purpose should be the achievement of sustainable development. They resisted that. Saddest of all, when we argued yesterday that a principal purpose of the authority should be the promotion not only of social development but of equal opportunities, they resisted that, too.

We argued that it might be possible for the deputy mayor to be chosen by the assembly, given that the deputy mayor has to come from the assembly. We thought that the Government might accept that reasonable and modest proposal—but no, the deputy mayor has to be appointed by the mayor because the mayor has to keep all the power to herself or himself.

On Second Reading, we also flagged up the fact that we wanted to introduce parish and community councils in London under the umbrella of the Bill. The rest of Britain can have them, but sadly, that was not technically possible because of the Bill's long title. We shall have to come back to that issue.

We have clearly moved forward in some respects and progress has been made. We flagged up the fact that the Government were proposing that, although the elections would be in May next year, the authority would come into existence in April. We persuaded them that that was not terribly logical. There will now be elections for the assembly in May and the authority will come into being in July, which is a welcome change.

We welcome the proposals for consulting more widely with London's representative communities, which we argued about in Committee. We welcome wider consultation with people about the appointment of chief officers of police, which we pressed for in Committee. We greatly welcome the great concessions of yesterday, when the Government accepted our amendments: climate change should appear instead of global warming, and waste minimisation should be added to the list of environmental considerations. Those are small amendments for which we are nevertheless grateful.

It was also accepted all round the House that, for the first election, there should be a minimum threshold, for particular London reasons, for those who are to be elected on the top-up list. However, Liberal Democrat Members made it clear that we reserve our position until we have heard the electoral commission's report on the viability and appropriateness of continuing a threshold thereafter.

Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town)

Given the vandalism of the Conservative Government, who abolished the GLC, and the fact that this Government are re-establishing London government, may I suggest that Liberal Democrats are nitpicking? They accuse us of centralisation, but we are responding to public demand and restoring London government. In respect of economic power, we are creating a regional development agency and the power of the mayor will be balanced by the assembly. Health is a feature, and we are not returning to a GLC. We are restoring London government, and Londoners will elect a Labour mayor.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman has a duty to defend the proposition put forward by his party, given that he is responsible for so much in London Labour party politics.

We take the same general view on this Bill as we take on the Government's constitutional reforms in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government could have been brave, but they are usually timid. They could have real devolution, but they always stop short. They could have given power away from Whitehall, but they always keep Secretaries of State and Prime Ministers in charge of the bodies that are meant to be devolved.

Mr. Gapes

In his discussions with his colleagues, could the hon. Gentleman find time to suggest to his mathematical colleague, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow), that he might wish to calculate the number of repetitive arguments that have been put ad nauseam by the Liberal Democrats at every Committee sitting and in the House?

Mr. Hughes

I seem to remember that the hon. Gentleman came up with some extraordinary views in Committee which suggested that Stalinism still reigns on some of the Labour Benches. We kept to the agreed timetable in Committee. My hon. Friends and I contributed to most debates, unlike most Labour Back Benchers, who were noticeably silent. Sadly, that is a reflection of the state of the parties: we speak our minds, whereas Labour Members are often not allowed to do so.

The Government had opportunities to make progress. They could have agreed to allow the mayor to be recalled—a point made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway)—if he or she no longer had the confidence of Londoners, but they resisted. They could have allowed London government to take account of national policy, but not to be required to be consistent with it. Why have devolution if the devolved body has to do the same as everyone else? However, the Government resisted that. They could have allowed London government to be free of capping, but they resisted it. They could have allowed the current concessionary fare regime, which is the best of the series of regimes, to be the starting point for concessionary fares in the new London government, but instead we shall start with the old regime, which is less good in terms of those who benefit from the concessions.

Although we welcome the opportunity for road charging to be levied both at the workplace and for road users, the Government resisted other transport proposals that were obviously necessary. They resisted permanent hypothecation, which we debated regularly with the Minister for Transport in London. They resisted the proposal by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) for a guaranteed annual increase in funding for London transport in line with the retail price index.

Then, in Committee, we had the blow that none of us expected. We imagined that London Regional Transport would be abolished and handed over to Transport for London, but we discovered that it would not be abolished after all. We discovered that the invitation to tender for the new tube system, which was meant to be issued early this spring, had still not been issued, and that the public-private partnership, which the Government say is not driven by empty ideology, is something to which the Government are so wedded that they will continue with it, despite the fact that it appears to be an empty proposition. Nobody is playing that game. My hon. Friends have offered the Government a better, internationally tried and tested, and acceptable alternative—a public interest company to run London underground. Instead, next July we are to have a London government that will not allow the mayor or the assembly to run the key transport system that everybody thought it would run.

We do not support the Conservative amendment, and we shall oppose it. The Conservatives complain about the fairer electoral system that is proposed, because they believe that it will lead to parties having an influence out of proportion to the number of their candidates who have been elected. The fact is that people will be elected in proportion to the votes cast for them. The Tory party has set itself against the right of the London government to introduce road charging, which we think it should have. The Tory answer to the problem of the future of the tube is to privatise it, which my hon. Friends and I have always opposed. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends who have worked assiduously in Committee for 100 hours, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), who has supported us throughout. For Liberal Democrats, this Bill has been a test of whether the Government would deliver regional government for London. We gave them the benefit of the doubt on Second Reading. Sadly. we have been let down, so we shall not be able to support the Bill on Third Reading tonight.

9.31 pm
Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North)

I welcome the Bill, which will restore democratic accountability to London. I still welcome it, even though we spent until midnight yesterday discussing it, and 100 hours in Committee, not to mention Second Reading. As amended, it is now an immensely detailed document. If the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is to be believed, it is the largest ever Bill. It will fundamentally affect the lives of Londoners by setting out how the mayor and assembly will be elected, the accountability of the mayor, which is most important, and the strategies of the mayor.

The capital's transport strategy is of great importance to Londoners, and has rightly generated huge interest. It has taken up a great deal of time and energy on the Floor of the House and in Committee. It was one of the areas that I focused on in my speech on Second Reading on 14 December. I raised issues of concern to the licensed taxi trade, a large number of whose drivers live in my constituency. I was pleased to introduce a new clause in Committee on charging fees for "the knowledge", so that existing drivers do not have to subsidise applicants for licences. The Government have accepted the case, and hope to introduce a measure in the other place.

The Bill deals with the vital area of planning. There is a clear need for a strategic approach to planning in London. If strategic planning was not needed after the abolition of the Greater London council, why did the London Planning Advisory Committee have to be established?

There is also a clear need for a London overview of environmental issues, such as biodiversity, waste management, air quality and noise. A culture strategy is also important. That comes last on the list, but as far as I am concerned last is not least. As a former chair of the leisure committee on the London borough of Redbridge and as a professional librarian, I strongly hold the view that people spend their quality time on leisure and culture—what they choose to do with their time, rather than what they are obliged to do with it. Under that heading come art and tourism, sport, buildings, treasures, antiquities, broadcasting and other media, museums, galleries and libraries.

I am delighted that the London research centre—the former research library—which was wrenched from its place in County hall when the GLC was spitefully abolished, will return under the umbrella of our splendid new GLA to continue to serve Londoners through their mayor and assembly.

9.34 pm
Mr. Wilkinson

The Bill has been notable for the excellent relations between hon. Members on the Front Benches. That has enabled us to make progress within the timetable, and to try to improve the Bill. Candidly, it has come out of its Committee and Report stages hardly any better. It is undoubtedly longer, and I shall judge it by its effect on my constituents.

I must pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), who has been good humoured, but tenacious throughout; our Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), who was the only non-London member of the Standing Committee; and the Nestor on our Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), to whom we Conservative Achaeans always turn for wise counsel in the difficult task of investing socialist—I must not call it that—new Labour Ilium. The triumvirate—or should I say "tripersonate"?— on the Government Front Bench, the hon. Members for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) and for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), have been attentive and courteous, and we appreciate the way in which they have responded to all our questions.

I asked whether the Bill would benefit my constituents. It will provide a voice for London; but will the mayor's voice be the authoritative voice of Londoners, or will he merely articulate his own concerns? We look to the assembly to modify his opinions, and to provide counsel and input to ensure that local interests are secure. We have our doubts, however. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South said, without borough representation there is a serious likelihood that important local interests will be subordinated to the concerns and preoccupations of the mayoralty, or of London as a whole.

The assembly will be a strange political hermaphrodite. How the two parts will coexist remains to be seen, but I am sure that the directly elected representative for my constituents' borough and the neighbouring borough of Ealing will carry more weight than the more rootless individuals who will have no constituency connection. The jiggery-pokery involved in the imposition of an arbitrary 5 per cent. threshold rather than the arithmetical threshold of about 3.8 per cent. of normal turnout will ensure that probably one representative on the list is not the authentic person who would have been elected under an arithmetical system, and is therefore not the representative in a wholly democratic sense.

As for the qualities desired in the mayor, he will need drive and vision, but, above all, he will need political attributes to be able to take advantage of the wide powers of consultation that the Bill vests in him. I think that we approve of the manner in which the Government have sought to widen the consultation and make it effective, but, if the mayor is to reconcile diverse and potentially conflicting interests involving boroughs, business, race and minorities, industry and the environment, he will need a sense of balance.

Mr. Fitzpatrick

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wilkinson

No, because others wish to speak. Normally, I would give way.

My constituents are apprehensive about planning. The spatial development strategy of the mayoralty will, in essence, take precedence over the unitary development plans of the boroughs, and thus could militate against my constituents' concern to ensure a balance between developmental and residential needs, and recognition of the paramount importance of maintaining the environment and the quality of life in London.

In that context, people will look to the authority to bring about a genuine improvement in London's transport system. They are doubtful whether road user charges could ever work: they are aware that the British motorist already pays the highest taxes in Europe, and that these are just additional taxes. I consider it diabolical that employers should have to pay taxes for the people who come to work on their premises. As for promoting the Bill and taking it to its final stage without meeting the main objective that the Labour party set itself in London-—the creation of a public—private partnership—that is a deficiency of the worst order, of which I am sure the electorate will prove highly critical in the elections next spring for the mayor and members of the assembly.

This will not be a truly democratic institution of the kind to which we are used, particularly because there is no mechanism to hold the mayor to account, and to get rid of him if necessary. We have reservations about the system of election and about the powers and undue influence of the Secretary of State. That said, we are determined that the assembly and the authority, in the person of the mayor who heads it, will be Conservative controlled next spring. That is our objective. We are determined to make the system work. Our constituents may have reservations now, but, with Conservative control, it could potentially do a very good job.

9.40 pm
Mr. McNulty

I say to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) that Solihull was not the only non-London representation on the Committee. The Vale of Glamorgan was there, too, and that should be recognised.

It is not worth rising to the flatulent twaddle of the Liberal Democrats, save to say that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) entirely forgot the one lasting and only significant impression that they made on the Bill. Hon. Members who were on the Committee may remember that, on one occasion, there was a "which" where the "h" had been left off. The Liberal Democrat train spotters noticed it and put the "h" back in. That—I mean it with all sincerity—is the only significant, substantive change that the Liberal Democrats made to the entire Bill.

Nothing in the reasoned amendment—we have to say "reasoned"; I do not know why—that has been tabled by the Conservative party would find any support among Labour Members. It is quite a disappointment, given that we spent so much time lovingly together upstairs in Committee Room 12.

The first point in the reasoned amendment is fine: we would anticipate that from Conservatives. They are against democracy, so they do not want a directly elected chamber of any significance in terms of the assembly. If they were honest, they would admit that they would rather have some blokes-in-suits way of securing the mayoralty, perhaps an hereditary principle or something like that. Nothing else that they suggest in the reasoned amendment is worth supporting. It should simply be dismissed out of hand.

The real reason why I wanted to speak was to say that there were three people in the Committee who did substantive work and should be congratulated by the entire House, not just by Labour Members. As a preface, I say that the Conservatives are to be congratulated on the way in which they dealt with matters of substance in Committee. They had their position. It was bonkers and entirely wrong on most occasions, but they put it in a reasoned and fair way. Their position was full of integrity, rather than the on-going teenage "Call My Bluff' which we had ad nauseam from the three Liberal Democrats, lovingly referred to as Moe, Larry and Curly, the Three Stooges.

The three who made significant contributions are, of course, the Front-Bench team. It is not invidious to point out that, although the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), and my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London played a significant role, the real architect of the piece is my hon. Friend the Minister for London and Construction. He is to be hugely congratulated on his work, which is why that is enough from me; I want to hear from him.

9.43 pm
Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty). He spoke on the Committee as much as any Labour Back Bencher. I join him in his praise for the Minister for London and Construction and his colleagues. It has been a long road. It has been a pleasure to follow that road in the steps of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway).

I go back briefly to the governance of London debate in mid-June 1997. At that stage, the Government did not seem to be clear where they were going. I recall quoting a question to Alec Douglas-Home during the 1964 general election about VAT, to which he replied, "A lot of clever chaps are thinking about it at this moment."

After the debate, the Minister confirmed to me that a lot of clever chaps were beginning to flesh out what the Labour party thought about the governance of London in preparation for the Bill. I am not totally confident that the Government know even now where they are going.

We have come to Third Reading. Like the hon. Member for Harrow, East, I greatly enjoyed the Committee stage. I am sorry that I have not been present more often during Report. Much work has been done by those clever men, hut, as with devolution on the eve of the first elections and as with the House of Lords Bill in the Committee stage—we have not even been allowed to debate the White Paper on the future of the House of Lords—ultimately, we do not have a clear idea that the Government know their direction. The best evidence for that is the gallimaufry and mishmash of new clauses and new schedules with which we have been festooned during the debate.

The Government have relied on the election and the referendum result, which they claim endorsed their proposals. As their political opponent, I am content that they should remain lulled into false security, although, as I re-entered the Chamber a little before 6 o'clock this evening, I felt the susurrus of flapping—not yet the flapping of London Labour Members concerned about their seats, but certainly the flapping of chickens coming home to roost.

To state the position in London terms, I sadly have a sense of the Third Reading of this Titanic of a Bill steaming steadily into the darkness; its engine room, which is the London underground, as invisible as the underground is to the average London pedestrian. The Minister for Transport in London has been temporarily lost overboard, but she is obliged to believe that all is well with the Government's plans for the London underground. As a traveller on the underground, I place more confidence in the permanent way than the third way. I fear that, as time passes, the number of Londoners who believe that all is well with the underground under Labour is beginning to recede. That is how support for a Government haemorrhages. I do not say that with pleasure, for I am a Londoner, but it increases the sense of drama and the feeling that the Government will first visibly retreat in the heart of our capital.

9.46 pm
Mr. Randall

Even if I had the skills of Liberal Democrat Members, unfortunately time does not allow me to indulge in the verbal incontinence that we have heard them demonstrate throughout the Committee proceedings on the Bill. Those hon. Members who were not present in Committee did at least witness a small example of that a few moments ago.

The people of Uxbridge were, at best, lukewarm when they voted in the referendum for London government without knowing the meat on the bones of that concept. Now that there is a little more meat, they will be disappointed to find out exactly what they voted for. However, it would be churlish of me not to say that the Bill contains some good proposals, although it is not the Conservative model, and I fear that it will not fulfil the aspirations that many Londoners have for it. My particular worry is that the outer London suburbs, such as the area that I represent, will pay for the inner boroughs and will end up being neglected by the mayor and assembly.

I accept that, although we shall shortly vote for the reasoned amendment in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends, the mathematics will be against us once again. I am pleased at least to have taken part in this undoubtedly historic moment in London's history. I hope that my doubts will not be realised, because I take pride in this great city of ours. However, I fear that it will take a Conservative mayor and assembly to make sure that the Bill works for the people.

9.47 pm
Mr. Raynsford

The reasoned amendment serves only to highlight the confusion and muddle that characterise the Conservative party's approach to the governance of our capital.

Fifteen years ago, the Conservative party introduced legislation to abolish democratic and strategic government in London, without consultation, without a referendum and without so much as a by-your-leave. They left London for 13 years without a democratic, citywide authority. Two years ago, the Conservatives went into an election arguing that there was no need for any strategic authority for the capital. Following their comprehensive rejection by the people of London, they were forced to think again. Today, we see the result of that extended process of policy reappraisal.

While the rest of London looks forward to the potential and possibilities that the Greater London Authority will bring, the Conservative party has, at long last and after much consideration, got around to a grudging acceptance of the need for a representative body for London, although it still proposes to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill that will set up the new authority.

Of course, the people of London have not chosen to wait for the Conservative party's conclusions. While it has been deliberating, the Government have published a Green Paper and a White Paper and held a referendum in which our policy proposals were overwhelmingly endorsed by majorities in every one of the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. It is those proposals that the Bill will implement.

We intend that there should be a mayor and assembly for London: a mayor to offer strategic leadership across the capital and an assembly to ensure proper scrutiny and accountability. The mayor will be elected with a clear mandate from the people of London—which the supplementary vote may be more capable of delivering than first past the post. The assembly will not—as the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) suggested—be a hung council. Conservative Members seem not yet to have recognised that the mayor and not the assembly will be the executive, and that the mayor will have a clear mandate.

The assembly will be elected by the proportional, additional member system, with a mixture of constituency and list members—reflecting the diverse views of London, and ensuring that the assembly is best placed to perform its role as a body charged not with executive responsibilities, but with questioning, scrutinising and investigating on behalf of the capital's electorate.

The electoral systems have been designed for effective government in London, were clearly stated in our White Paper and were overwhelmingly endorsed in the referendum. Conservative Members' refusal to accept those facts borders on the incredible.

I shall now deal with road user charging, which was also mentioned in the Opposition's reasoned amendment. In doing so, I should briefly provide some background to our proposals.

When Conservative Members left power, they left behind a city suffering from traffic congestion and air pollution—with all the costs to health and the economy that those entail, but without any framework or plan for dealing with them. The position was not sustainable. However—perhaps with the exception of Conservative Members—there has been broad endorsement of our approach, in our integrated transport strategy, to tackling those problems.

We developed our proposals on road user charging and workplace parking charging with the support of a wide range of organisations from the business community—such as London First—and from the wider community, including the Association of London Government. Contrary to the claims of Conservative Members, our proposed measures are not anti-car, but represent a balanced package aimed at reducing congestion and generating investment.

Moreover, the proposals are not—as Conservative Members suggested—being imposed by the Government. The mayor and the London boroughs will have the power to introduce such charges if they choose to do so. That is a proper democratic framework. We have also guaranteed that, for 10 years, every penny so raised will be devoted to investment in transport. Again, therefore, the Opposition's reasoned amendment reflects nothing more than a lack of understanding of the challenges facing London, and the disengagement of the Conservative party from London's new political agenda—which has been symbolised by yet another spectacular U-turn, as Conservative Members try to forget the congestion charging proposals that they themselves made in a Green Paper only three years ago, when they were in power. Conservative Members have given up all principle and consistency and are opportunistically seizing any issue that they think might bring them a little cheap short-term popularity.

When the Government came to power, we inherited a clapped-out underground system, suffering from years of neglect and underinvestment and with no satisfactory arrangements for future investment. It is therefore astonishing to have to listen to carping criticisms from Conservative Members when they are faced with the new and creative approach that we have adopted to bringing much-needed investment back into the underground system. Their carping simply demonstrates the total bankruptcy of their views, their failure to recognise London's new mood, and the new way forward offered by the Government.

I criticise Conservative Members, but I also criticise Liberal Democrat Members. As my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) rightly stressed in his intervention, while the Government are engaged in restoring a vibrant new democratic structure of government for London, the Liberal Democrats are capable only of narrow-minded carping. We have heard a series of whinges from them—such as their belief that the mayor will be too powerful. They simply cannot stomach the idea of an effective mayor who will be able to deliver for the people of London.

The Liberal Democrats claimed that there was no provision for health, but they were wrong. The Bill contains clear provisions allowing the mayor to have full regard to the health of Londoners, and to promote initiatives to improve the health of Londoners.

For decades and generations, the Liberal Democrats have campaigned on electoral reform, but—would you believe it? —when we present them with a proportional electoral system for London, do they say, "Yes, we welcome it"? No, they carp, whinge and criticise. It is typical that they should fail to welcome the proposal.

The fact that the Liberal Democrats will abstain in the vote on Third Reading—sitting on their hands while we are creating a new structure of government for London—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that he would not be supporting either the Conservatives' reasoned amendment or Third Reading, and that is abstention. It is a failure to sit on either side of the fence—which is typical of a party of protest, not of a serious party of government.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The record will show that the Minister is wrong. I said that we would vote against the reasoned amendment for the reasons that I set out in my speech.

Mr. Raynsford

The Liberal Democrats will be voting against the Conservatives' reasoned amendment, but they will not be supporting the Third Reading of the Bill. What a classic comment on their total disengagement from the process of government. They are irrelevant to the future of London.

In contrast with the lame and limp contributions of the Liberal Democrats, we have heard many telling contributions this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) rightly highlighted the historic nature of what we are doing. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) rejoiced in the restoration of democratic electoral systems in London and a democratic citywide authority. The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) demonstrated once again his characteristically courteous approach by thanking us for the courtesy that we extended in Committee; I greatly appreciate that. He made some important points on behalf of his constituents. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) for his kind words. He added his characteristically vibrant approach to the debate and highlighted again the ineffectiveness of the Liberal Democrats.

The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) entertained us with his characteristic humour and erudition throughout the Committee. I thank him for his contribution this evening, although I disagree with his conclusion about where we are going and the prospects for the new London government. He may be in for a surprise as the people of London welcome the creative new structure of government with an elected mayor, which the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), sitting next to him, has advocated in the past. The new structure can offer new hope, new prospects and a better system of government to galvanise our city. I hope that, when it succeeds, the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that he was present and party to an historic reform of government in London.

In a characteristically kind way, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) recognised the good things in the Bill, although he criticised it. He also always saw the brighter things of life in Committee, including the odd bird flying past the window, which caught his attention as an avid bird watcher.

The Bill carries forward our manifesto promise to the people of London, confirmed a year ago this week in the referendum, to create a new authority, providing the right mix of leadership and accountability, with an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly. The Bill will ensure that Londoners once more have a democratic say on vital issues such as transport, the environment and economic development. It provides a framework for new investment in the underground system and for the first time will give the people of this city proper democratic oversight of the running of their police service.

The Bill will comprehensively reform the way in which our capital is governed. That inevitably requires complex and lengthy legislation. I am particularly grateful for the diligence and fortitude of all the hon. Members who have contributed to the detailed scrutiny of the Bill in Committee and on Report. I am grateful for the support and help of all my hon. Friends, but I also thank the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members who have shown enormous diligence in following the Bill through its lengthy proceedings. The Standing Committee sat for more than 100 hours and considered a huge number of amendments—1,400 of them—addressing every aspect of the Bill. Contrary to some suggestions, the majority of the amendments—around nine out of 10—were from the Opposition parties, who managed to table more amendments to this Bill than to any other in recent memory.

The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) has assiduously tried to count the number of clauses. He overlooked the amendments that deleted redundant clauses. Our estimate is that there will be 330 clauses, not 338, but he was right about there being 27 schedules.

I am grateful for the Committee's diligent scrutiny. That, together with the timetabling of progress through all stages, including Report, has ensured that every aspect of the Bill has been tested and examined in the most rigorous detail, enabling the House to make its legislative intent very clear. I am sure that that will be noted when the Bill is examined in the other place.

The Bill will leave the House in good shape, with its underlying principles endorsed. It is a good and historic Bill. Future generations will look back on it as an important milestone in the development of democratic government in London. We are offering a new style of governance for London with a directly elected mayor as part of our programme to modernise local government systems. One year to this day—

It being Ten o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [30 April]: —

The House divided: Ayes 105, Noes 265.

Division No. 167] [10 pm
Amess, David Fraser, Christopher
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Garnier, Edward
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Gibb, Nick
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Baldry, Tony Gray, James
Beggs, Roy Green, Damian
Bercow, John Greenway, John
Boswell, Tim Grieve, Dominic
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Gummer, Rt Hon John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Hague, Rt Hon William
Brady, Graham Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Brazier, Julian Hammond, Philip
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Heald, Oliver
Browning, Mrs Angela Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Horam, John
Burns, Simon Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Butterfill, John Hunter, Andrew
Chapman, Sir Sydney Jack, Rt Hon Michael
(Chipping Barnet) Jenkin, Bernard
Chope, Christopher Key, Robert
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Laing, Mrs Eleanor
(Rushcliffe) Lansley, Andrew
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Leigh, Edward
Collins, Tim Lidington, David
Cran, James Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Curry, Rt Hon David Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Loughton, Tim
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
& Howden) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Duncan, Alan McIntosh, Miss Anne
Duncan Smith, Iain Mackay, Rt Hon Andrew
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Maclean, Rt Hon David
Evans, Nigel McLoughlin, Patrick
Fabricant, Michael Malins, Humfrey
Fallon, Michael Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Flight, Howard Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Forth, Rt Hon Eric May, Mrs Theresa
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Nicholls, Patrick
Ottaway, Richard Townend, John
Page, Richard Trend, Michael
Paterson, Owen Viggers, Peter
Randall, John Walter, Robert
Redwood, Rt Hon John Waterson, Nigel
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Whittingdale, John
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham) Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Sayeed, Jonathan Wilkinson, John
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Wilshire, David
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Soames, Nicholas Woodward, Shaun
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Yeo, Tim
Swayne, Desmond Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Mr. Stephen Day and
Taylor, Sir Teddy Sir David Madel.
Abbott, Ms Diane Cranston, Ross
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Crausby, David
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Allen, Graham Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Dalyell, Tam
Ashton, Joe Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Atkins, Charlotte Darvill, Keith
Austin, John Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Barnes, Harry Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Barron, Kevin Davidson, Ian
Battle, John Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bayley, Hugh Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Beard, Nigel Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Dawson, Hilton
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dean, Mrs Janet
Bennett, Andrew F Denham, John
Bermingham, Gerald Dismore, Andrew
Berry, Roger Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Best, Harold Donohoe, Brian H
Betts, Clive Dowd, Jim
Blackman, Liz Drown, Ms Julia
Blears, Ms Hazel Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blizzard, Bob Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Boateng, Paul Edwards, Huw
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Efford, Clive
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Ennis, Jeff
Brake, Tom Field, Rt Hon Frank
Breed, Colin Fisher, Mark
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Buck, Ms Karen Flint, Caroline
Burden, Richard Flynn, Paul
Burgon, Colin Follett, Barbara
Burstow, Paul Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Butler, Mrs Christine Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Foulkes, George
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gapes, Mike
Campbell—Savours, Dale Gardiner, Barry
Caplin, Ivor George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Casale, Roger Gerrard, Neil
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Gibson, Dr Ian
Chaytor, David Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Godsiff, Roger
Clark, Dr Lynda Goggins, Paul
(Edinburgh Pentlands) Golding, Mrs Llin
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clwyd, Ann Grocott, Bruce
Coaker, Vernon Grogan, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Cohen, Harry Hall Patrick (Bedford)
Colman, Tony Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Corbyn, Jeremy Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Cousins, Jim Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) (Makerfield)
Hepburn, Stephen McDonagh, Siobhain
Heppell, John McDonnell, John
Hesford, Stephen McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Mackinlay, Andrew
Hodge, Ms Margaret McNulty, Tony
Hoey, Kate MacShane, Denis
Hoon, Geoffrey Mactaggart, Fiona
Hope, Phil McWalter, Tony
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Mallabar, Judy
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Hurst, Alan Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hutton, John Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Iddon, Dr Brian Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Illsley, Eric Meale, Alan
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Merron, Gillian
Jamieson, David Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Jenkins, Brian Miller, Andrew
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Mitchell, Austin
Johnson, Miss Melanie Moffatt, Laura
(Welwyn Hatfield) Moran, Ms Margaret
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Morley, Elliot
Jones, Ms Jenny Mountford, Kali
(Wolverh'ton SW) Mullin, Chris
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Keeble, Ms Sally Olner, Bill
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Palmer, Dr Nick
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pearson, Ian
Kelly, Ms Ruth Perham, Ms Linda
Kemp, Fraser Pickthall, Colin
Khabra, Piara S Pike, Peter L
Kilfoyle, Peter Plaskitt, James
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Pollard, Kerry
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Pond, Chris
Kingharn, Ms Tess Pope, Greg
Kumar, Dr Ashok Pound, Stephen
Laxton, Bob Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Levitt, Tom Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Prosser, Gwyn
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Purchase, Ken
Linton, Martin Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Livingstone, Ken Rammell, Bill
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Rapson, Syd
Lock, David Raynsford, Nick
Love, Andrew Roberston, Rt Hon George
McAvoy, Thomas (Hamilton, S)
McCafferty, Ms Chris Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try Nw)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) (Dewsbury)
Rowlands, Ted Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Roy, Frank Temple-Morris, Peter
Ruddock, Joan Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Timms, Stephen
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Tipping, Paddy
Ryan, Ms Joan Todd, Mark
Sanders, Adrian Tonge, Dr Jenny
Savidge, Malcolm Trickett, Jon
Sawford, Phil Tumer, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Sedgemore, Brian Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Sheerman, Barry Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Vis, Dr Rudi
Singh, Marsha Walley, Ms Joan
Skinner, Dennis Ward, Ms Claire
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Miss Geraldine Watts, David
(Morecambe & Lunesdale) White, Brian
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Snape, Peter Wicks, Malcolm
Soley, Clive Wills, Michael
Southworth, Ms Helen Winnick, David
Spellar, John Wise, Audrey
Squire, Ms Rachel Wood, Mike
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Wray, James
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Wright, Anthony D (Dt Yarmouth)
Stoate, Dr Howard Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack Tellers for the Noes:
Stringer, Graham Jane Kennedy and
Sutcliffe, Gerry Mr. Keith Hill.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.