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Clause 2

Membership of the Authority and the Assembly

Mr. Simon Hughes: I beg to move amendment No. 16, in clause 2, page 1, line 15, after 'of', insert 'Greater'.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 17, in clause 2, page 2, line 1, after 'the', insert 'Greater'.

Mr. Hughes: Although this will be a relatively short debate, it raises an issue about which people ask a very simple question. If we are setting up under the Greater London Authority Bill the Greater London authority, why do we not call the mayor the Greater London mayor and the assembly the Greater London assembly? That is not just a technical question. The logic behind the debate on clause 1 stand part was that we are creating unique, citywide Greater London government. But, there is an historical legacy of a problem of description and understanding.

I should like to put on the record that I was treated by the Lord Mayor of London to a very nice lunch. He invited members of all parties to the Mansion house following his election. We all happily responded and discussed matters with him.

Over recent years, the City of London has argued very strongly for its continuing existence. Over the past 10 years, I think that it has persuaded virtually all hon. Members that it is effectively a business district, like those in Melbourne, Sydney and the like, and that, although it is an anomalous local authority, it nevertheless ought to continue to exist. I and my hon. Friends accept that.

The City has accepted, however, that it must revamp its structures to create modernised city government. It has this very year presented to Parliament a Bill in orderto do so, which we shall debate another time.

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My hon. Friends and I want the Bill to go further than the City has proposed, although at least it will extend the franchise beyond the 5,000 people who live in the City and are registered to vote.

Just to show how anomalous the situation is--I shall not elaborate--I am entitled to vote in the City because I am still a member of the chambers in the Temple from which I practised as a barrister before I was elected. As a tenant of those chambers, which is outside the City and a separate microcosm of government, I can elect ward councillors who govern the Temple.

Mr. Raynsford: That is absurd.

Mr. Hughes: Indeed. Such an anomaly needs to be considered.

There are greater anomalies, too. Traditionally, although there has been no legal bar to women being promoted to the highest office, it has somehow not happened very often. There are other issues, such as recognising the right to participate of all who work in the City, from the big firms to the small traders--newsagents and so on.

4.45 pm

The City needs to reform its structures, which it has started to do. I pay tribute to the present leader of the City council, Judith Mayhew, and her predecessor, who with their colleagues have started that process.

If one went round the world and asked people about London, the pictures that would come to mind are not images of new Britannia and rule Britannia, but the old images. They include, I am happy to say, Tower bridge, half of which is in my constituency, and the Tower of London, St. Paul's cathedral, and the Lord Mayor of London.

London has two cities. One of the representatives of the other city is present in the Chamber with us--the City of Westminster, where we sit. It has been argued that London should have three cities, and that Southwark, the other great early part of London, should be recognised. I am serious about that, and I hope that before long Southwark will be given city status too.

However, those are local government cities. The Cities of London and of Westminster have lord mayors, whereas the rest of the boroughs, including Southwark at present, have mayors. If the office of Lord Mayor of London is to continue--the City has no reason to change that, and there would be no logic to doing so--there will obviously be confusion from next year between the Lord Mayor of London and the mayor of London.

Around the country, people do not usually know whether someone is a lord mayor or a mayor. The mayors of Southwark are often called lord mayors, but they are not. People do not remember which cities and local authorities have mayors, and which have lord mayors. We know that there is to be an election for a mayor in London. Why do we not call the new postholder the mayor of Greater London? That would avoid confusion with the Lord Mayor of London, who will continue to be elected by the City--by more modern democratic procedures, one hopes. The title that I propose for the new mayor would make it clear that that person spoke on behalf of Greater London.

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As the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) observed, there will be a difference between the mayor of London, under my proposal, and the mayor of Paris, for example. The mayor of Paris is the mayor not of greater Paris, but of the inner part of Paris, whereas the new London mayor will be the mayor of the area covered by the Euro-region, the citywide area, the 33 local authorities of Greater London. It would be no bad thing to change the name, avoid confusion and give the office holder a correct job description.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): As the hon. Gentleman raised the matter of the City Corporation, I did not want to miss the opportunity of passing a message back. One way of avoiding confusion would be to abolish the City Corporation. The proposals for reform promoted by the City Corporation are so feeble that they require extensive redrafting before they will satisfy the House.

Mr. Hughes: The hon. Gentleman properly raises two issues. The first is whether the City of London should be abolished as a local authority area. I have been persuaded that it should stay.

On the second point, I join the hon. Gentleman. I am not satisfied that the proposals represent a reform of the City structures that would make it a democratically elected local authority for a business district. The City has begun that process, but it has been timid, and I want it to be braver. I hope that when the House deals with the matter, we will say that and the City will accept it. We may have a battle to persuade the City to withdraw its proposals and produce others. I share the hon. Gentleman's view, and I hope that we can agree in future.

The logic of the amendments extends to the assembly. The Government rejoice in the fact that some members of the assembly will have constituency interests. The Minister for London and Construction rightly announced today that the Government have accepted the recommendations of the boundary commissioners. Had he announced that the Government had not accepted those recommendations, there would have been trouble. We shall return to the fact that the Bill gives great powers to the Secretary of State, including the power to draw the boundaries. We think that that power should be taken away from Secretaries of State and given to independent boundary commissions. There is a top-up list of members who will represent London as a whole, and the logic is that they represent Greater London, not simply part of London. Therefore, there is a strong case for the name to be changed so that they and the assembly have an accurate job description.

Sir Sydney Chapman: The hon. Gentleman referred to the Lord Mayors of the cities of London and Westminster. We are to create a mayor of London who, he says, should be called the mayor of Greater London. Is it not slightly demeaning that the mayor of this new, quasi-regional authority, representing the greatest city in the world, should have as its head, only a mayor, not a lord mayor?

Mr. Hughes: We are getting into an interesting constitutional corner here. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. In 1999, on the eve of a new millennium, to call people in high office lords all the time is a bit out-dated. We have moved on. I am serious

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about that. We need a less deferential society where the senior citizen, whether elected directly or indirectly, is the mayor. We should get rid of the word lord from the title of Lord Mayor, not just in London but around the country. We have an unusual conjunction. The cities of London and Westminster both have lord mayors, so the obvious way forward is to make this other person the mayor of Greater London.

My last point, which the hon. Gentleman or someone else might have intervened to make, is a technical, "I am cleverer than you", point. It could be argued that, as there is no London assembly, we do not need to call the assembly the Greater London assembly to differentiate it.

The Minister for London and Construction has no doubt been briefed to reply. [Interruption.] I understand that the Minister for Transport in London is to respond. I rejoice at the breadth and variety of the ministerial team, and the Whip, who will never be forgotten.

I should like the Minister to do what I have seen her do once before in the House, which is to stand up, put aside her briefing notes, speak from the heart and use her intellectual powers to respond to the proposition, the case for which is so overwhelming that I hope that she will accept it. I make it quietly, generously and, I hope, persuasively. Let us have a mayor of Greater London and a Greater London assembly, and leave the cities to have their lord mayors for us long as that title remains unreformed.

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