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Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): Will the hon. Gentleman tell me what the answer would be to the question of who runs London when there is both a mayor and an executive authority? Who runs London--the mayor or the executive authority?

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Mr. Raynsford: If the right hon. Gentleman had the patience to wait, he would hear, and if he waits a little longer, he will find the answer fully spelled out in the Green Paper that we will publish in due course.

Mr. Forth: A Green Paper--well!

Mr. Raynsford: The right hon. Gentleman expresses surprise. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that we are pressing ahead quickly with our reforms. Our first priority will be to publish a Green Paper next month setting out the key principles that we intend to follow and seeking Londoners' views on the details. We are committed to restoring democratic, citywide government, but we genuinely want to hear the views of London organisations and Londoners before coming to firm conclusions on how it is best done.

There will therefore be a three-month consultation period, enabling Londoners to tell us what they want, and London organisations to consult their members and provide their considered views. We want to be sure that the new authority commands the respect of the people, meets their aspirations and is a body that they can do business with.

We shall shortly introduce legislation to provide for a referendum to coincide with the borough council elections next May. That will give the people of London a chance to confirm whether they wish us to establish the new authority, which will be fully described in a White Paper before the referendum.

The referendum will also give the new authority the democratic credibility that it needs, and--I ask Conservative Members to listen carefully at this point--will make it more difficult for any future Government of a different political persuasion, if there ever is one, to abolish or alter its responsibilities without taking into account the views of the people of London.

Mr. Forth rose--

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East) rose--

Mr. Raynsford: I shall give way first to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and then to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).

Mr. Forth: I offer, as an initial thought on which the Minister may wish to ponder, the question whether he would envisage building in, as part of the consultative process through the referendum, an option whereby boroughs are asked whether they want to be part of the great new futuristic structure. That strikes me as the ultimate in consulting local communities.

Mr. Raynsford: Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman did not listen carefully to my response to his earlier geographical question. We shall consult the people of London because we see the new body as a London-wide authority. It will not be a duplication of the boroughs. We certainly do not want all the focus to be on the delivery of services by boroughs. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman seems to have difficulty in understanding that idea.

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When we talk about transport and environmental protection, we cannot work on a borough-by-borough basis. Pollution does not respect borough boundaries, and transport does not end at them. We must have a citywide approach, and an authority that considers the needs of the whole city.

I am sure that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman, who is at times an intelligent Member, will appreciate that for the services in question it is not possible to provide opt-outs that would allow individual boroughs to say, "We shall not contribute to the needs of the capital city, although we are part of it." That is a preposterous suggestion.

Mr. Gummer: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford: I said that I would give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East. I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman afterwards.

Mr. Livingstone: Will my hon. Friend explain the form of the question to be put to Londoners? Are they to be offered a "take it or leave it" package, such as, "Do you want a mayor and an authority? Yes or no?" Will they be allowed to choose whether they want a mayor and an authority, or just an authority without a mayor? If we want real democratic legitimacy, Londoners should be able to vote on both parts of the structure separately.

Mr. Raynsford: My hon. Friend raises an interesting question. The detailed question to be put in the referendum will be decided between now and the end of the year, when we come to frame it. There will be plenty of time to discuss the exact wording.

However, I remind my hon. Friend that the Labour party won the election on a clear manifesto commitment to introduce a new strategic body comprising a directly elected mayor and a directly elected authority. We are committed to introducing that manifesto pledge, and we shall ensure that the people of London see us honour it.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) rose--

Mr. Raynsford: I said that I would give way next to the former Secretary of State.

Mr. Gummer: May I take the Minister a little further along with the geographical point? Let us take a borough such as Dartford, whose boundaries with the borough of Bexley are sometimes difficult to distinguish. If Dartford decided that it would like to be part of the strategic authority, would it be allowed that choice? Conversely, if another borough--Bexley, let us say--decided that it did not want to be part of the strategic authority, would it be allowed to make that decision?

The difficulty is that the hon. Gentleman is pre-empting the area of the strategic authority. Perhaps he would like to think again about whether the present map of London as he sees it should be subject to some change at the edges.

Mr. Raynsford: I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, in the most charitable possible way, that he, as a former Secretary of State for the Environment, will know that

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issues involving boundaries and the division of responsibilities between local government organisations cannot be approached lightly, and generate a considerable amount of hot air, which he himself had to deal with in the previous Parliament.

I do not believe that it would be a helpful way in which to carry forward our clear manifesto commitment to give the people of London a strategic authority if we entered a prolonged and probably unproductive debate about precisely what the appropriate boundaries should be.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Conservative party established the Greater London council boundaries some years ago, and that in the intervening period he continued to legislate for London on the basis of those boundaries. They are the definition of London for the moment. I do not preclude the possibility of revisiting them in the future. However, to enter an exercise that is usually arcane, complex and ultimately, as the right hon. Gentleman, on reflection, will recognise, not always very productive, would not be the most appropriate way to proceed now.

Mr. Gummer: Surely that is a very "conservative" view of London. Is this not new Labour, which will change the entire world? Is this not the appropriate moment to ask ourselves whether, in the great surge of newness and novelty, the arcane and old-fashioned boundaries laid down by some past Conservative Government might just possibly be improved?

Mr. Raynsford: The right hon. Gentleman is trying to have it both ways. For one moment, I thought that he was about to say that he was changing his own view. We have seen some interesting examples of that recently. Some of his former colleagues, who campaigned until 1 May on the platform that the Greater London authority plan to which Labour was committed would be an absolute disaster, and would have no benefits for London whatever, have jumped ship extraordinarily rapidly, and announced their candidacy for the post of mayor within days, if not hours, of the electoral verdict on the right hon. Gentleman's party. For a moment, I thought that he, too, was about to declare his commitment to the brave new world that Labour is introducing.

We shall have no hesitation in introducing radical proposals involving a fundamental change in the way in which London is governed, which will give a bright future to local government and create an incentive for innovation. The Minister of State, Departments of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Durham (Ms Armstrong), highlighted only yesterday the extent to which we shall encourage innovation--and where London leads, others may follow in the years ahead.

We have no anxieties at all about the radical nature of our proposals, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not time for him--

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) rose--

Mr. Raynsford: Bear with me; I am answering an intervention from the right hon. Member for Suffolk,

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Coastal (Mr. Gummer), and I indicated that, after that, I would give way to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

I was saying that the former Secretary of State might now think that it was time for him to perform a U-turn and accept that the position that his party adopted before the election--of opposing Londoners' right to their own directly elected authority--was a mistake, and that he, like Mr. Norris and Lord Archer, might conclude that it would probably be a good thing to have a strategic authority and a mayor for London.

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