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Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East): The previous speech--although it came from a representative of all the forces of evil and darkness in our society--had a lot of merit. It was consistent and coherent. The Government are importing to Britain an American style of government, with the separation of the legislature and the Executive.

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In America, the President and Vice-President run as a team, and there are real advantages for my party in listening to that argument.

Given the nature of the way in which this place operates, we will not be told tonight that the amendment can be accepted. However, as the Bill is debated here and in another place over the next few months, there is every possibility that my party could be persuaded to see the strong advantages in the Conservative proposals.

In the first place, it would be wholly wrong for someone to run as mayor without saying whom they intend to appoint as deputy. Suppose I were to run as a new Labour candidate, opposed to tax-and-spend and in favour of bombing Iraq--all the normal package. If, having been elected mayor--if that were possible on such a slate--I appointed as my deputy some horrendous old Labour candidate, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), people would feel cheated. At the very least, every party should make clear who the deputy will be.

The deputy's position will be one of power and influence. The Bill implies clearly that the deputy mayor will chair the police authority--although that is not 100 per cent. certain--and that is a major and important public role. No one should have to cast a vote without being absolutely clear whom the mayor intends to appoint as deputy. It would be bizarre if an American President were elected and announced afterwards that he was appointing someone about whom the public were completely in the dark.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): If memory serves me correctly, the hon. Gentleman became leader of the Greater London council without the people of London knowing that he would become the leader.

Mr. Livingstone: If the hon. Gentleman had been around in London at the time, he would know that the Evening Standard made clear what was to happen virtually every day throughout the election campaign. On the day before the election, an entire front page editorial said that, if you vote Labour, you will get Ken Livingstone. Everyone then expressed surprise when that wonderful event came to pass. As far as I recall, the only Londoner who was surprised was Andrew McIntosh.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): The noble Lord.

Mr. Livingstone: Indeed.

Under the present proposal, we could have a bizarre situation. If the mayor were to die in office, or resign, the deputy mayor would take over and, within six months, an election would be held to fill the post permanently. However, if that death occurred 18 months before the general election, a fairly lengthy selection and election process would be followed almost immediately by the normal four-yearly election. Therefore, asking Londoners to vote for a ticket--a mayor and a deputy--knowing that, if the mayor is incapacitated, they will get the deputy, seems to be eminently more sensible.

When the Conservative party announced the proposal, I heard on the radio my party's initial reaction, which was to say that the proposal could not work because the deputy might get more votes than the mayor. Clearly, if two different votes were cast, that could be possible--but that

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is not a sensible approach. There should be one vote and, on the ballot paper, there should be the name of the mayor and the mayor's chosen deputy.

During the American presidential election of 1800, the vice-presidential candidate, Aaron Burr, received the same number of electoral college votes as Thomas Jefferson, and the issue had to be resolved in the House of Representatives. However, we can learn from that experience, and run--as the Americans have done ever since 1800--a joint slate of two names.

As the Bill is considered, we must look at the role of the deputy mayor. That matter will come up in later amendments, but there could be a problem if the mayor nominated the deputy mayor to be a member of the police authority with the understanding that he was to become chair. Unless the mayor can make that appointment, the members of the police authority, not elected by Londoners but appointed by the Home Secretary, could conspire to prevent it from happening. We must ensure that a powerful deputy mayor has a powerful role. There should be a clear understanding, even if it is not put into the Bill, that the deputy mayor should be the chairman of the police committee.

5.15 pm

There would be a danger of members of the assembly keeping their nose clean with the mayor if there was the slightest possibility of their being chosen as deputy. Those of us with long experience in local government will know of many instances in which people have voted loyally for the party line, year after year, never dissenting, and have been rewarded with a year as mayor, with the allowance, drinks cupboard, nice meals and visits that go with the post. That certainly happened in Lambeth in the late 1960s when I was a discordant voice in the Labour party ranks.

The deputy mayor should be directly elected, not appointed from among assembly members. I am in agreement with almost all that has been said in support of the amendment, and I hope that my party will not reject it out of hand. Nothing undermines respect for politicians more than a knee-jerk rejection against an idea simply because it has come from our opponents.

Mr. Simon Hughes: We, too, are grateful to the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) for initiating this debate. Like the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), I will not offer a knee-jerk reaction.

Let me remind the Committee of the history of the proposals so far.

Mr. Pound: Oh, no.

Mr. Hughes: The history will be brief but instructive.

We started with no proposal for a deputy mayor. We, among others, sought to persuade the Government that it was important to have a deputy mayor, not least because the mayor could disappear, through death or other peradventure. We proposed, and still propose, that, because we cannot get what we most want--to have the mayor, as the leader of London politics, elected from the assembly, just as, in a slight variation because of the involvement of the monarch, Parliament allows the Prime Minister to be appointed--the deputy mayor should be chosen from among the assembly.

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After some distillation in the Government machine, a counter-proposal was made to have a deputy mayor appointed by the mayor. That is progress, because we get a deputy, but it has the defect illustrated by the hon. Member for Brent, East: it is a patronage job. On the day after the election, the mayor looks round and decides, possibly without any prior notice to anybody, who will be the deputy. There is no suggestion that the mayor and deputy might reflect the balance of political view of the assembly, no guarantee that a female mayor would have a male deputy, to reflect London's gender balance, and no obligation to reflect London's ethnic mix.

The mayor might choose a best buddy as deputy. Some long-past political favour might be paid off. That is bad news, for the reason given by the hon. Members for Brent, East and for Croydon, South: the deputy is one step away from being the mayor. Who knows how long the mayor might survive, either politically or personally? The mayor might drop dead the day after election.

For however long or short a period, the deputy will have to carry out the functions of mayor, as well as having the important job of deputy while the mayor is still in post. He or she will deputise on a regular basis, and, with a small authority of only 25 members, there will be a lot of work for the mayor's office. It will be an important job, and we should think about how to fill it.

The Liberal Democrats cannot, without further development of the idea, support the proposal that a deputy should simply be elected on a single slate without any qualification. However, I accept that that proposal is a perfectly logical alternative, and the case has been put that a political mayor might have a non-political deputy. The reverse could arguably occur: in a press article some months ago, the Prime Minister said that he would like a business person to be mayor, and, if someone is plucked from the ranks of Labour supporters to fill the candidacy--just as Labour has plucked business people for other jobs--we could have a politician as deputy mayor.

There are flaws in the Conservative argument. To have two people elected on the same slate means a bit of a closed list. When the press spin on the Tory suggestion of electing a deputy at the same time as the mayor was first published, there was a hint that the deputy might not come from the same party as the mayor. There could be a mixed slate of--to pull an example from thin air--Lord Archer as the Tory mayoral candidate and the hon. Member for Brent, East as the candidate for deputy mayor. I do not think that any such deal has been struck, but who knows what might happen later in the campaign. We are not against that.

Mr. Livingstone: I am.

Mr. Hughes: I mean the idea, not the package: I should not want to tie the hon. Member for Brent, East to the idea that that was the dream team for any of us.

The idea of having a mayor and a deputy from different parties, or even of having one or other from no party at all, is rather appealing, and it is one of the prospects opened up by the new authority. It would be better, however, to advance as we propose, even if the Government do not go as far as the hon. Member for Croydon, South has proposed. On the day after the elections, it would be far better for the assembly to choose

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who would provide an appropriate balance to the mayor than to have the choice preordained either by a deal struck before the election or by a secret deal revealed by the mayor after the election with a fanfare of trumpets.

If, for the sake of argument, Labour, which got the largest share of the vote at the last general election, wins the first mayoral election, and if the deputy is chosen from the assembly, which will probably be balanced with no party having an overall majority, it may be in the interests of the government of the whole of London not to have a deputy mayor who is Labour. A Conservative, Liberal Democrat, independent or even Green deputy mayor could help us to make London government look as if it represents all the people. One way in which to do that is not to offer London a government for five years in which the mayor, deputy and everything else will be Labour, but to offer something more pluralist. London is not a one-party state; indeed, no party has a majority since, as I got the Minister to concede some months ago, Labour did not even quite win a majority at the last elections in London. In the words of one of our previous leaders, "We're all minorities now," although some are larger than others.

The Government have been very good about wanting a pluralist, representative assembly for London. It should be representative of gender, age, background and ethnicity. It should feel like and look like a government for London, unlike Westminster, which does not feel like an assembly representative of Britain: although it is getting better, we are not there yet.

In another guise, Sir Alan, you are one of three Deputy Speakers. There is an argument for having more than one deputy mayor, and I ask colleagues to consider that. If we have only one deputy mayor, the job will be subject to the sort of political scurrying that the hon. Member for Brent, East described. The deputy mayor will be one step away from being the mayor. Given that we cannot have what the Liberal Democrats would prefer, which is the mayor being chosen from among the assembly, having two or three deputies would give a better political spread--one from each of the groupings that we would expect to be in the assembly--and the leadership of London would be more pluralistic.

Finally, I hope that the Government will reflect on the benefit of responding to the Conservative proposition, which is supported by the hon. Member for Brent, East, and will consider how we can best get such a mixed ticket. The danger of the current system is that there is no opportunity for a running mate. The mayoral candidate might be driven by the politics of the next 12 to 15 months to declare who will be his or her running mate, as deputy, but would have to presume that the electorate would vote in the proposed running mate, and none of us should presume that. The deputy has to come from the assembly and, although there is a list system and one can make various assumptions about the people at the top of the list, one should not assume that X or Y will be in the assembly. We need to consider all the associated issues.

I join the hon. Member for Brent, East in hoping that the Minister will not reject such a proposition out of hand. Above all, I hope that he will not reiterate the argument, which appears to be based on a misconception about what is proposed, that the deputy mayor might get more votes--I never realised that that happened in America

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in 1800, but I do not remember studying that period in history. My understanding of the proposition was that it would be a package and that we would vote for the two--the two names would appear on the ballot paper together and would therefore have the same number of votes. It is not a question of the deputy getting more than the mayor; it is one package, two people.

I hope that the Minister will be generous and will at least open up the debate. Above all, the Liberal Democrats hope that, at the end of the further consideration, the Government will move 100 per cent. They have moved 50 per cent. of the way by conceding a deputy mayor, but have stopped at allowing him or her to be appointed by the mayor. If they move 100 per cent., so that the assembly chooses the deputy mayor, those whom the wider electorate of London have elected to represent the city will have a say in its leadership. Therefore, the leadership base will not be as narrow as it would be with only a directly elected mayor and the person whom she or he appoints.

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