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Mr. Gummer: My hon. Friend is right, and that was shown by the reversal in the order of things in the Under-Secretary's speech. He started with the solution, and assumed that the problems were resolved by that solution, instead of starting with the problems and asking what solution would bring help. If one starts with the problems of air pollution, one discovers that what is required is a Europewide policy covering motor car emissions, a national policy on air quality and local--and I mean local--policies to deal with local hot spots. A regional policy is not required, because that would provide no extra help and would merely create confusion.

Ms Hodge: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gummer: I beg the hon. Lady's pardon. I promised to give way.

Ms Hodge: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I have listened to him carefully. For a number of years, he was the Minister for London. Sadly, the committee that he chaired and the work that he undertook were in secret. One presumes that, as Minister for London, he had some concept of his responsibilities in that role. What were they, and why is he having such difficulty defining the responsibilities that we want to devolve to the people of London in a democratic forum?

Mr. Gummer: The hon. Lady kindly makes my point. I had responsibility for the Thames way outside the GLC area and right down to the sea. We had the first Thames strategy of any Government. The needs of London demanded a strategic control much wider and further than the old GLC area. We recognised that, for the purposes of the river, we had to consider the interests of London way beyond the old boundaries. The hon. Lady makes my case.

When I was Minister for London, to get the London borough of Camden to come to terms with the London borough of Westminster to provide the same parking arrangements in theatreland, I had to deal with two different boroughs together. That was a small area, and, perfectly reasonably, I did not have to cover the whole of London. When I dealt with transport, I had a Minister

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responsible for transport in London whose remit reached to Margate and up to St. Albans, because that was necessary.

The Government are not devolving to the assembly the strategic roles of the Minister for London and of the committee, which, far from meeting in secret, met with representatives from London and worked things out. The hon. Lady is not suggesting that those strategic powers be devolved to the assembly. She proposes that the assembly should have narrow powers to cover all matters in the London area as defined by the old GLC. The only part of the old GLC that the hon. Gentleman wants to retain is the area over which it ruled. He says that, in every other way, it will be a totally different, never been seen before, utterly new-minted authority. He knows that the old-minted authority was not acceptable to people in London.

The hon. Gentleman must seriously consider how the new authority will work. It cannot deal effectively with transport, air pollution or environmental protection. What additional environmental protection contribution is made by providing a strategic authority that can function only by telling local councils how they should operate? Environmental protection in every other area is handled either nationally or locally, which is a better way. Local circumstances can be very different. The London borough of Hounslow is nothing like the London borough of Brent. It is perfectly reasonable for the environmental problems of the locality to be dealt with locally.

The hon. Gentleman's argument does not hold water, unless he can explain to us where London is for the purposes of his strategic authority, and how he will deal with areas of policy that manifestly reach outside it. I use the example of the Thames. The GLC existed for a long time, but it never managed to have a strategic planning policy for the Thames. Everyone said that we could not do it, but we did. There is a strategic planning authority for the Thames: the boroughs must adhere to clear guidelines.

What will the future assembly do about a strategic policy, given that it will not cover the whole area? Labour Members will no doubt say that there will be partnerships between the boroughs above and below the river. Why will partnerships work in those circumstances and not when it comes to partnerships between the riverine boroughs in London? If partnership can deliver a strategic policy outside London, why not inside London?

The fact is that partnership has delivered a strategy inside London, and it works. It works because the boroughs are not frightened. There is the cross-river partnership of the four great central London boroughs. They work extremely well together, because they know that it is a partnership of equals, and that no one is in the background trying to take over their powers or tell them what to do. Why is Elmbridge prepared to work from outside the old GLC area with the boroughs inside? Because they all know that they can do so on the basis of an equal partnership.

The hon. Gentleman said that partnership was creative, that the Government were in favour of it and would build on it. One of the bits of Mr. Tony Travers's organogram refers to the complications of those necessary partnerships. If the hon. Gentleman means partnership, why must he have a bossy assembly to boss those partnerships around?

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Partnerships are about equality--about sharing and working. It is because of that equality that we in London have delivered, as the hon. Gentleman says, a capital city that outclasses all other capital cities--the hon. Gentleman said that we were at the top of the list--in western Europe and beyond. In fact, the hon. Gentleman has understated the case; Britain now has one of the two world-class capitals. We have achieved that without an assembly and without an elected mayor. One might suggest that one reason why we have achieved that is that the system of governance in London has brought the whole of London together--nobody is bossed about. The business community, voluntary organisations and the democratically elected local boroughs have made the achievement together.

What Government in the world would say, "We have the finest capital there is; we are vying only with one other city in the world, New York; we are doing extraordinarily well; after 18 years of Conservative government, we can say that London is doing better than anywhere else so we must have an assembly--our need is desperate"? That is nonsense. The hon. Gentleman has applied a solution to something that is not a problem. When we did have a problem, it was owing to the over-governance, not under-governance, of London.

Mr. Raynsford: The right hon. Gentleman is praying in aid the business community. Will he answer the following question? If his argument is correct, why has the London Chamber of Commerce confirmed that 75 per cent. of the business community regard the introduction of a strategic, elected authority for London as a good idea? Why does its chief executive go on to make the following point in a letter in today's Financial Times? The letter states:

Mr. Gummer: First, I was praying in aid not the business community, but the facts--the facts as rehearsed by the hon. Gentleman. Secondly, I did not refer to the letter, because it is not true. New York, our biggest competitor, does not have a strategic authority. The mayor of New York does not cover the whole of that great city. It is not true and the hon. Gentleman should not read out to the House letters that would, if taken seriously, mislead it because the statements that they contain are not true. When we have something that is not broken, we should not try to fix it.

Mr. Duncan Smith: Did my right hon. Friend notice that, although the letter listed a number of points, at no point did it say that they were damaging business or the ability to create good business in London?

Mr. Gummer: My hon. Friend is right, but I prefer to keep to the facts, which are that the Labour party admits that London is doing better than anywhere else, and doing so without a strategic authority or a mayor.

If the strategic authority cannot deal with transport and environmental pollution because there is no advantage to be had in doing so, will it do something about housing?

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We were told that homelessness was one reason why London had failed. Therefore, we assumed that the proposal would do something about homelessness. I must press the hon. Gentleman on that point. The Green Paper must state clearly what arrangements there are to be for the strategic authority to deal with homelessness.

I live in the London borough of Ealing. It is interesting that I was evidently not considered to be a suitable candidate as Minister for London even though I live in the London borough of Ealing and have lived in London for almost all my life--I know it quite well. One of the previous problems was that the GLC and the boroughs did not know who was responsible for housing. We now need to know whether homelessness will come within the authority's remit.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the authority would be responsible for strategic planning--no doubt it would cover matters such as waste. Far from finding it difficult to deal with strategic planning such as waste, almost all the London boroughs came together to make a joint capital challenge bid for a strategic waste policy. They could do so together, through partnership--the advantage being that the partnership was not merely between the various London boroughs, but between those boroughs, the voluntary organisations and the business community. That partnership was the better and stronger because it was not threatened by the over-reaching and over-mighty operation of a strategic authority.

The Under-Secretary purposely reversed the order of his speech. He has not presented the problems, because his solutions do not resolve them. He has not described exactly what London will comprise or the area that it will cover. He has not told us how the authority will deal with strategic matters that obviously fall outside the old GLC area or are limited to districts that are smaller than it was. He has not described the divisions between the powers of the mayor and the powers of the executive authority.

Importantly, the hon. Gentleman has not told us who will pay for the authority. He has not told us how much the slimmed authority will cost or how the people of London are to decide whether they want to pay for it. That is why we want to know about the referendum. Its first question must be: "Do you want a mayor?" Its second question must be: "Do you want a strategic authority?" Its third question must be: "Do you want both of them?" The fourth question must be: "Do you want to pay for that?" The parameters of, and taxation arrangements for, that payment must be made clear if people are to answer that question sensibly.

Accountability is not about adhering to a vague proposition, but about whether someone wants to pay for it. All of us will vote yes to something that sounds good and costs nothing. We want to know how much the authority will cost. Until we know that, no Londoner can make a proper decision. Those questions are essential. If the authority is to be democratically accountable, the hon. Gentleman must ask the people of London those questions and trust their answers.

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