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Mr. Davey: In the hon. Lady's opinion.

The idea of having more members on the assembly fits in with the Government's plans, because it would allow greater representation and increased accountability, and would enable members to be more active on committees. I wonder whether the real reason why the Government have gone for such a small number of members is because they are worried about the tabloids. They are concerned about arguments, such as that made by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), that this proposal would be costly. They want a soundbite: they want to say that this will be a lean machine--a slim, streamlined government.

We argue that it is pretty lean and streamlined at 40 members--which is fewer than most borough councils have--as it is being asked to look after transport for the whole of London and to have a link with the Metropolitan Police authority. We do not think that an assembly of 40 members would be costly and weighed down.

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The Government should reflect on our proposals to give the assembly more members. I hope that they will leave a door open, because as the Greater London authority develops over time--if it follows the model proposed by the Government--in a few years, if the Labour party is re-elected and its creation is doing well, unlike the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), it may want to give it more functions. If it gives the authority more functions, it may want it to have more members. I hope that the Government will not close the door on the idea that the assembly should have more members and should become more powerful.

I shall deal with two other amendments. Amendment No. 24 concerns the Local Government Commission and boundary changes. It is rather odd that any proposal to consider the boundaries will be triggered by the Secretary of State. The boundary commission has long had a rolling programme for parliamentary constituencies and European parliamentary constituencies. Under the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, the commission is required to report not less than every eight years and not more than every 12 years, so it is automatic and is not at the behest of the Secretary of State. We propose that, rather than the Secretary of State being the trigger, it is left to the Local Government Commission to instigate reviews of the GLA boundaries. That would remove some power from the Secretary of State--the Minister will see, as we go through the Bill, that that is a theme of our amendments--and would ensure that there is no suspicion of gerrymandering when the GLA boundaries are reviewed.

I think it is amendment No. 75 in which the Conservatives are proposing that the rules governing the constituency boundaries in the GLA could be varied. The Liberal Democrats have no problem with that. We think that it makes sense to have flexibility.

I hope that the Minister will cover our substantive point. We believe that there should be more assembly members to ensure that the mayor is properly held to account.

Mr. McNulty: The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) referred to amendment No. 75, which is in the next group of amendments. It is a daft idea for the boundary commission, suitably empowered, to review the GLA boundaries within 12 months of every election. He referred to the commission's eight to 12-year rolling programme, but for some peculiar reason he wants the review of GLA boundaries to be carried out 12 months after the election, which is rather silly.

I have to say, with the greatest respect and the best will in the world, that the hon. Gentleman wittered on for more than 20 minutes and said precisely nothing, other than the mantra-like incantation we always get from Liberal Democrats that if they say something often enough it becomes true. He argued that more members equals greater representation. Why? He gave no reason--just that more members equals greater representation. We were told that if we increased the number of assembly members it would give them more power. We were not given the reason why--just that it would, as though Paddy could sprinkle magic dust over them and they would have more power because there would be 40 of them.

Let us talk about realities. Why do the Liberal Democrats want 40 members? It is because some candidates from their party may get elected. In all

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likelihood, under the current proposals, no Liberal Democrats will be elected--absolutely none. Let us be honest.

The Liberal Democrats might just squeeze one of the pompous little clones coming out of Cowley street into a directly elected position if there were an increase from 14 to 23. If tonight's speeches are anything to go by--and we face more of the same for two months in Committee--the Liberal Democrats would be lucky to get one if there were 100 directly elected members. No justification has been offered for 23 as opposed to 14, as in the Bill, or for 17 as opposed to 11 in terms of the list.

Mr. Edward Davey: The hon. Gentleman is to charm what the Deputy Prime Minister is to sophistication. Sometimes, having more elected members enables a Government to be held more to account, and is more representative. Otherwise, it could be argued that this place should have 100 Members: then--following the hon. Gentleman's argument--this place would be no less representative and we would be able to hold the Government effectively to account. There are many cases where having more elected representatives increases democracy and improves accountability.

Mr. McNulty: The hon. Gentleman is hoist on his own petard. I did not hear "sometimes" or "on some occasions" when he was waxing lyrical in his peroration. Now, in response to what I have said, those expressions trickle out. Yes, of course, sometimes more members means greater representation--sometimes. That is not what he said earlier. As for his joke, the hon. Gentleman should give Bob Monkhouse his joke book back. With all good will, I do not treat the Liberal Democrats' proposals seriously at all because they are loaded with self-interest and nothing more.

I say to the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), the Conservative spokesman, that at least his party's proposals are legitimate. We have heard them before; they are not new, they are old hat and they are hackneyed, but at least they are legitimate. I happen to believe that the proposals are not the right way to go, but the hon. Gentleman described his case, extremely well, as complete twaddle, and so are the proposals.

In terms of the strategic governance of London, the Conservative proposals offer no way forward at all. They may be a pro tem measure, following the vandalism of destroying the GLC and putting the London residuary body in place. A plethora of bodies were generated, four of which were on the model proposed by the Conservatives. However, the London planning advisory committee, within a framework, worked, as did the London research centre, the London borough grants committee and--despite the comments of the hon. Member for Croydon, South--the London fire and civil defence authority.

In terms of looking after small portions of the strategic concerns of London, having indirectly appointed members from boroughs has worked--but only as a pro tem measure. We are putting those bodies back together, and adding our proposals on transport and other areas. To suggest that indirectly appointed members from each borough should carry out those functions is a complete nonsense. That does not fit with the thrust of the Bill at all, and should be rejected.

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The hon. Member for Croydon, South has suggested a number of times--although his contributions belie it--that he is the fount of all knowledge when it comes to human nature. I said on Second Reading that the notion that, somehow, all assembly members--directly elected or otherwise--for the 14 constituencies, or the 11 on the list, will be parochialism-free is nonsense. The notion that the member representing Brent and Harrow might just occasionally look after the interests of Brent and Harrow in a strategic sense, or might speak for the people, is fair. However, the undemocratic measure proposed by the amendment would institute and formalise the notion of parochialism.

Within the strategic context of London, there is a distinct north-west London view that is different from a west London view and from a north London view--and is certainly different from anything south of the river. I would expect my assembly member to represent that view, and Brent and Harrow sit together neatly in all sorts of ways. However, the assembly member should represent those views in the context of the strategic whole that is London.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton made one good point--there may have been others; I may be ungenerous. He said that despite all the fears and scaremongering, the Bill does not significantly diminish the power of boroughs as was suggested on Second Reading and during the passage of the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Act 1998. The Bill takes some powers away within a strategic framework, but that is right and proper.

7.15 pm

Within that context--because we are, after all, talking about the composition of the assembly in terms of the number of constituencies--I believe that the model proposed in the Bill is the only appropriate one. The notion of multi-member constituencies and single transferable vote--all that nonsense--does not work, either.

The notion of nominating representatives from boroughs has been mentioned. The point was made that leaders would be too busy, but, to be fair to the hon. Member for Croydon, South, there is no reference to leaders, only to nominated representatives. The notion that they could do the job that full-time members of the GLA will be charged with--that of looking after London's strategic interest--is complete nonsense.

The proposition that, somehow, we should have more members to sprinkle around the committees is also nonsense. Full-time members will be charged with looking after London's strategic vision, and they can probably manage two or three committees. Certainly, that is something that the Liberal Democrats in Harrow could never manage. They were never there--even when they were supposed to be running the place. In the interests of the strategic vision for London, as outlined in the Bill, the only way forward is the 14-11 split in terms of the constituencies, as alluded to earlier by my hon. Friend the Minister for London and Construction.

I wish to make one throwaway point. I would not wish people to think that I am a pedant, but I do not understand why amendment No. 13 has been included in this group as it does not fit in with what the hon. Memberfor Croydon, South said about appointed members.

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The amendment proposes that one borough should equal one constituency. I do not know how that fits in with the group, but it may be a slip-up. I urge the Committee to resist the amendments--they are nonsense.


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