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Mr. Forth: For the avoidance of doubt--I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not intend to imply this--I hope that he is not suggesting that we should abandon the entire Committee proceedings and legislative process because it is absurd to examine the details of the Bill and discuss possible changes to it. If he is, he appears to be falling into step with his leadership which has exactly that wish and which wants to do away with the legislative process in the House of Commons. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reassure us in this early stage in the Committee's proceedings that he will allow us occasionally to discuss details of the Bill--and maybe even seek to amend it.

5.45 pm

Mr. Pound: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments, and I assure you that that was not my intention, Sir Alan. We have before us a Bill of 277 clauses which deals with some of the most important aspects that will affect our lives as Londoners and those of our descendants. I want to discuss environmental issues such as biodiversity, transportation and housing--

The Chairman: Order. We have before us an amendment about the deputy mayor and nothing else.

Mr. Pound: That is the point that I was making, Sir Alan. I am sorry, I was making it in my clumsy, naive way. There are issues that must be debated. My point is that since about half-past 3 we have spent the time and much energy discussing an issue that is not germane to the heart of the Bill for the reasons that I started to list, but I ran out of steam halfway through and you rightly called me to order, Sir Alan.

I have a great deal of sympathy for people who want to promulgate different views. That is their democratic right and their duty. However, on this issue, we are in grave danger of going down a blind alley in search of a mythical perfection. Such perfection possibly existed only in ancient Athens, and even then in fairly unpropitious social circumstances that we may not want to replicate. We are discussing practicalities, and for us to go into such detail about the deputy mayor seems an inordinate waste of time.

I support the Government's position, not as a toadying Back Bencher, but as someone who has been a councillor in London for 16 years, who has been involved in London politics for the best part of his working life and who seeks a system that works, perhaps not the ideal system, but one that is practical and manageable and which will deliver for this capital city.

Mrs. Lait: I am pleased to be able to support the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon,

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South (Mr. Ottaway) for an elected deputy mayor. I hope that I do not blight the hopes of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) by coming from the side of darkness and saying that I thought he spoke a great deal of sense in his support for the amendment. We have also heard a couple of impassioned contributions about the current system.

Mr. McNulty: You began by referring--

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman has now been here long enough to know the correct forms of address.

Mr. McNulty: I apologise, Sir Alan, not least because you pulled me up on that yesterday.

The hon. Lady began by referring to an elected deputy mayor. Given the points that I made at the beginning of my speech, will she tell me where in the amendment there is a reference to the election of a deputy mayor and the details of that process, because I could not find such a reference?

Mrs. Lait: With the greatest respect, I have to say that the hon. Gentleman wasted the Committee's time by arguing about commas when we are discussing the principle of a directly elected deputy mayor. That measure would be a good way to reinforce the principle that Ministers are trying to support--the separation of the executive from the legislature. That is the sense in which I strongly support our amendment.

I am rather sad that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) let his wings of imagination take flight--the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) endorsed his point--and asked us to envisage hundreds of sub-mayors in the dome. We seek only one directly elected mayor.

I know that we are short of time, so without reiterating any of the points that have been made, I want to make a practical point about the drawback of having a deputy mayor chosen from among the assembly members. The deputy mayor might be chosen from among those members who will be directly elected by the boroughs. One hopes that they will have constituency work of the type that most councillors have to do. They will each be representing more than 300,000 people, so I suspect that they will have a reasonably sized postbag. It will take them time to deal with that correspondence, along with the work that the assembly will be doing.

The other option is to have a deputy mayor chosen from the list. That takes us back to the problem, which I shall not outline at great length--I should be pulled up if I did so--of the two types of elected members and their various powers and responsibilities and to the role of proportional representation in delivering people who are genuinely representative.

One assumes that the London members will not have the same postbags as the others and so will have more time. It is therefore almost a foregone conclusion that the deputy mayor will be chosen from among the London members. Of course, the London members are, against the will of the Opposition, to be chosen by the parties. That means that the deputy mayor will have a great conflict of interest if the assembly is, for some reason, in dispute with the mayor or if the assembly and/or the mayor is in

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dispute with the Government. Whoever is elected as a Labour London member will certainly be chosen by the party and will hence be approved by the Government. I would not wish to have the job of that deputy mayor.

The suggestion that there should be a directly elected deputy mayor gets around all of the problems inherent in having a deputy mayor who is chosen. I do not wish to stand for the assembly, but I would never take on the job of deputy mayor as set out in the Bill.

Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster): We shall of course debate the role of the deputy mayor when clause 41 is considered, but I oppose the amendment because it would affect the balance between the mayor and the assembly. The mayor will have a very powerful role, as set out in the Bill, and a ticket involving a mayor and a deputy would strengthen his powers dramatically. The assembly's role in checking those powers would inevitably be diminished by the amendment. It is important that there is a balance in the elections of the deputy mayor and of the assembly. Our job is to beef up the role of assembly members so that there is not too much power in the hands of the mayor. I urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

Mr. Edward Davey: While listening to the hon. Members for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) and for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), I began to wonder whether they realised why they had been returned to this place. Parliament is meant to be about debate and discussing ideas. The hon. Member for Harrow, East suggested that we should not keep an open mind or think again during our proceedings. That seems to be wholly against the idea of parliamentary democracy. We and the Government should have an open mind. The hon. Gentlemen suggested that that meant being overly consensual. However, the Government state in the Green Paper that they want consensual government for London, so he is a little off message.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North seems to want government by diktat. He does not want us to debate how democracy in London should work. The very essence of the Bill is the setting up of government for London, and the structure of that government is clearly important. I am surprised and rather shocked by the hon. Gentleman.

Two arguments have been put forward by the hon. Members for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) as to why there should be a deputy mayor running on a ticket with the mayor. The hon. Member for Croydon, South suggested that it would enable the position to be given to a business person. However, it does not necessarily follow that a business person would take up the post.

The notion that a business person who stands for elected office is different and not involved in politics has been debated in the London press and in the House, but it is devoid of logic. One reason that business people are not coming forward is that they do not want to get involved in politics. The idea that someone standing for office can be neutral and above politics is arrant nonsense. If a business man wants to become a politician, he should say so openly, not try to hide behind a neutral facade and pretend that he has nothing to do with the dirty business of politics. We should be proud of our profession, not try to sell it down the river by saying that we should have a business person who knows how to run things because we do not. Saying that shows a lack of confidence in our profession.

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The other argument, deployed by the hon. Member for Brent, East, was the heartbeat argument. The argument, which we hear in relation to the constitution of the United States of America, is that the post of Vice-President is important and that the Vice-President should run on a ticket with the President--if the President dies, there needs to be an immediate exchange of power into the hands of another leader of the Executive.

I know that the Greater London authority is an important authority. We support it and believe that it will bring democracy to London, but I am afraid that a parallel with the role of the Vice-President of the United States does not apply. The President of the United States is rather more important than the future mayor of London, not least because he has his finger on the button. In the United States, the immediate transition of power is more necessary, and it makes more sense to have a double ticket in those circumstances.

As the hon. Member for Harrow, East said in one of his more relevant remarks, in other American cities which have a mayor, it is rare for there to be double-ticket elections.

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