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Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): I note that the hon. Gentleman is a recruit to Herbert Morrison's theory, which was that the health service should be within the control of the then London county council. How does he imagine local government could possibly control a national service, and how would that dovetail with surrounding national health service priorities?

Mr. Davey: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to continue my point. I did not realise that I was a recruit to Herbert Morrison's theory. He was a distinguished politician and had the good idea that we should hold public services to account through local government. Ministers say that this is not local government, but citywide government. It is a unique form of government. Liberal Democrats believe that NHS planning should be done regionally and on a strategic basis, and that it should be held to account regionally and strategically. The sort of issues involved in a health

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authority the size of London's would be suitable for this type of body. As the Minister said, it does not replicate local government.

Mr. Gapes: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would be happy to have different provision for medical treatment in different regions of the country? Is the Liberal Democrat policy now to have separatism within the health service and other services?

Mr. Davey: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. If he believes that we have national standards and a uniform service provision in the health service now because it is planned nationally, he has clearly not visited hospitals and health authorities around the country. They have totally different purchasing plans and service levels now. We simply argue that the health service should be democratic, which is why we want to expand the number of assembly members and hold the health service to account. I am more than happy to see different services provided across the country, but the idea that that does not happen now is nonsense.

Mrs. Lait: The hon. Gentleman's proposal for strategic control of the health service existed on a local basis until the end of the 1980s. I am glad to say that we reformed it. Local government representatives sat on family practitioner committees. I happened to chair one such committee at that time, and it was difficult to get a decision out of that forum. Does the hon. Gentleman want a strategic authority that is unable to make decisions about the NHS?

Mr. Davey: Just because a previous form of democracy within the health service did not work does not mean that we cannot make it work. It works effectively in other countries, such as Sweden. The Landsting, which are equivalent to large county councils, hold the health service to account and look after major expenditure raised from taxation. The idea that one cannot make the health service democratic does not bear examination. I agree with the hon. Lady that previous systems were not perfect, but we cannot reform democracy by abolishing it. We seek to improve it.

Democracy in the health service can be introduced at local government level. It is absurd that in the London boroughs, social services are separate from health services and therefore unable to join their budgets to achieve greater efficiency and co-operation. I had an interesting dialogue with the Minister on the subject recently and I know that the Government want to bring those services together. I hope that doing so will not reduce accountability. We welcome the Government's desire to increase that.

The other reason that we want more representatives is to give the assembly more power. We want it to be able to hold the mayor to account more effectively. Our model would give the assembly more power than the model proposed in the Bill. More fundamentally, an increased number of representatives would give the assembly greater representation. Even under our proposals, each member would still represent fewer people than a London Member of Parliament does, but members would clearly be more representative.

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Our proposals are logical and consistent with our proposals for the electoral system, which we will debate later. We favour the single transferable vote system, which requires multi-member constituencies. Such a system is logical if we have more assembly members. Increasing the number of members to 40 would facilitate that.

My arguments so far have been based on our perfect model for the Greater London authority, which would give the assembly more power. However, the argument for having more members still holds under the Government's proposals--the number of functions that the Government propose to give the Greater London authority and how they want to elect it. In terms of representation, an increased number of members will enable the authority to be more representative, which will increase accountability and links with constituents.

We also want members of the authority to be active on the committees. The Government are setting up a number of bodies: Transport for London; the London Development agency; the Metropolitan Police authority; and the London Fire and Emergency Planning authority. There should be enough assembly representatives to ensure that they are held properly to account. The mayor will be held to account for how he runs those bodies.

Mr. Randall: I am a little confused. On the one hand, the hon. Gentleman suggests that there should be no constituency link and, on the other, he says that the increased number of representatives would increase the link with constituencies. Which does he think will benefit the assembly?

7 pm

Mr. Davey: I think that the hon. Gentleman is slightly confused. Whatever body people are elected to, they have a constituency. It may not be a parliamentary constituency or a borough constituency, but they have a constituency. If there were 40 members, and 23 were directly elected from constituencies--as our amendment proposes--the currently proposed boundaries would have to be changed.

Mr. Randall: I am confused, because earlier, when the hon. Gentleman agreed with some of the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), he was worried about the link with the constituency as a place. The suggestion now seems to be that the increase in numbers will be beneficial, as the assembly men will have a link with a geographical location.

Mr. Davey: I am grateful for that clarification, because I clearly misunderstood the hon. Gentleman's previous intervention. The point that I was making earlier was that we did not want the constituencies to be the same as the boroughs. We did not want members of the assembly to speak for the royal borough of Kingston or the borough of Richmond. Unless we are to have a list system for the whole of London, they will have constituencies with which they will have a link. The point that I was making to the hon. Member for Gainsborough was that the constituencies should not be identical to the current boroughs, because that would add to the parochialism.

Mrs. Dunwoody: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, as they would not have a direct constituency link,

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all the new Liberal Democrat members would speak for his party? What does he mean? Who else would they speak for, apart from themselves?

Mr. Davey: I am slightly confused by the hon. Lady's questions. The Liberal Democrats' preferred electoral system is the single transferable vote, which includes multi-member constituencies, so assembly members would have a constituency link and would be standing for a party. We admit that the Government are unlikely to change their mind and opt for a single transferable vote electoral system for the Greater London authority. We shall have to live with the dual system, which has constituencies and party lists. We believe that people will be free to speak for their constituencies, so I do not understand the hon. Lady's point.

Mrs. Dunwoody: I simply want a little clarification, because I am not terribly bright. The hon. Gentleman says that it does not matter if assembly members do not have constituencies, because they will nevertheless speak for their constituencies. There is certainly a problem with the English language here--which is not new, heaven help us. If they are not speaking for their political party or for a particular geographical area, how do they define their constituency representations?

Mr. Davey: Assembly members will speak for their constituents and for their political party. Members from the party lists will not have a geographical constituency, but the directly elected members will, and we have no problem with that. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) was worried that I was being inconsistent. He suggested that I was against parochialism, and was therefore against constituencies, but that does not follow. I was concerned that, under the Conservative amendment, the constituencies would be the same as the boroughs, so there would be competing forces within a borough to represent the area. That would increase parochialism. If the constituencies are different, that is unlikely to happen.

I hope that I have made myself clear to the hon. Lady, but I am more than happy to take another intervention.

Mrs. Dunwoody: The hon. Gentleman is as clear as the Liberal Democrat party ever is.

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