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Mr. Leigh: I have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) was saying about the one and only Liberal who might serve on the GLA, because I had the distinction of being the only sitting member of the GLC ever to lose to a Liberal, thereby ensuring that the Liberals achieved, in the shape of Adrian Slade, their one and only representative ever on the old GLC.

This has been an interesting debate, and has shown up some of the difficulties that the new body will face. I have considerable sympathy for what my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) said. I have served on boroughs and on the GLC, and I am genuinely neutral on the matter. I am an interloper from the rural fields of Lincolnshire--I have no stake at all. Hon. Members might wonder why I am speaking in the debate. In any event, I shall be brief and share my experiences with the Committee.

If representatives were elected on to the new body from boroughs, they would see themselves as being the voice of the borough on the new body, rather than the voice of the people. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South may think that that is fair enough. However, I used to serve on organisations such as the London Boroughs Association, and the problem is that it would not be the leader of the council who would be nominated to serve on the body--he would be far too busy; it would not even be the high-fliers--the chairmen of the committees; it would be the semi-retired, older members--Alderman Pompous or Councillor Hack--who would be put on the new body,

Having served on bodies such as the LBA, I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South that they are irredeemably tedious and are staffed by people who, although they are very worthy, would not set London alight. I am not sure that anyone serving on the new body would be capable of setting London alight, but those people certainly would not. I have some doubts about what my hon. Friend said, but the amendment is perfectly serious and should be debated. My hon. Friend said that there would be tension between the GLA and the boroughs. However, if there were no tension, there would be no point in having the GLA. Tension can be a creative and useful force.

We all know that the old Greater London council did not work very well, although I greatly irritated Lady Thatcher by voting against its abolition at every stage, because I was convinced that nothing would be achieved by that, and I still believe it. Nothing has been achieved politically, because the powers were simply passed down from a body that we sometimes won to bodies in inner London that we never won. A lot of irritation was caused to London people. The party has now, wisely in my view, gone back on the policy of abolishing the GLC. It still does not believe in the GLA, but it accepts the concept of London government in the shape of a mayor.

There will always be tensions; one cannot avoid them. I appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South is trying to do: he wants to create something more sensible and creative that will work in

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the way that the GLC never did. The GLC did not work well because it was always trying to be a strategic body, but that is an amorphous phrase that has little meaning. What is a strategic body? Funnily enough, the GLC worked better in its old days as the London county council, when it was not a strategic body and carried out direct functions involving public housing and other matters. I say that as a Conservative Member, knowing that we never won the LCC.

Mr. Brooke: We did.

Mr. Leigh: My right hon. Friend is a distinguished historian, and I knew that he would interrupt me, but I think that I am right in saying that we never won the LCC after the second world war, although we had a distinguished record in running it sometimes before then.

There will always be problems. My view is that the GLA is probably doomed as a body. It will come into being and work, but the centre of power in London government is now moving remorselessly towards the mayor's office. That is where all the political interest will be and where all the high fliers will want to end up. I fear that the GLA will become a token body, at best a creature of the mayor.

I have adduced all the problems, but what is the solution? It is easy to criticise, but far more difficult to be in the Minister's seat and try to create systems that work. We have had so many models of government for London. I do not know what the solution is, but I have an idea. Perhaps we should not have members of the GLA appointed directly from the boroughs, for the reasons that I have given; perhaps we should not go down the route proposed by the Liberals, which seems to be unduly cumbersome; and perhaps a solution that used to work quite well in the early days of the GLC, before I joined it, is sensible.

The GLC used to have separate members who effectively represented boroughs, rather than individual constituencies, as was the case when I joined. They were not borough members, but they represented areas that were similar or exactly equal to the boroughs, so they had a borough interest. It has been said repeatedly in this debate--and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South rightly chided me on the point--that, whether members represent boroughs, constituencies or wards, they will inevitably take some parochial interest; and perhaps that is no bad thing. If people were elected to the GLA to represent areas corresponding to boroughs, they would be able to balance priorities between parochial and wider London interests.

I want to say a word in defence of members of the old GLC, and people who will now no doubt serve on the new GLA. They have often had a bad name. I served happily on the GLC with my current pair--although we are not allowed to pair now--the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who was a conscientious member of the GLC, although we disagreed politically.

It is true that many members of the GLC were parliamentarian manques and tried to create a little parliament over the river, which may have been rather pathetic in many ways, but people such as Horace Cutler, Desmond Plummer and Richard Brew on my side,

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and many on the other side, were absolutely committed to good governance in London, and I am sure that those who serve on the new GLA will be equally committed.

Mr. Darvill: Once again, the Opposition are flawed in their thinking. We will frequently return to the overarching theme that the GLA will be a strategic authority. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said, I do not consider that an amorphous concept: I think that it is relevant and needed.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) made two major points against the Bill's provisions, in support of the amendment. He complained that powers and duties were to be taken away from local authorities and that there was no obligation on the mayor and assembly to liaise with those authorities. I believe that he was wrong--powers will not be taken away from local authorities. Clause 27 sets out expressly the powers that the GLA will have: it prohibits expenditure on housing, education, social services and health services. No doubt when the Committee discusses the GLA's general powers, more consideration will be given to how local authorities will be affected.

The strategic role of Londonwide non-elected bodies will be taken back under the democratic accountability that was removed by the previous Government when they abolished the GLC. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) listed those bodies clearly a few moments ago.

On liaison, the hon. Member for Croydon, South was again wrong. For example, clause 126 provides that each London borough council will provide local implementation plans for transport strategy. Both implicitly and expressly, that creates the liaison that he complained was not in the Bill.

The amendment suggests a larger, non-elected, nominated body, which would inevitably be parochial and undemocratic because of its constitution. That is basically wrong. I have greater sympathy with the Liberal amendments in the group, but the argument for them has not been clearly made and I think that, on balance, a 25-member assembly will be right. I urge the Committee to reject all the amendments.

Mr. Brooke: The clause 1 stand part debate concerned the main and essential principle of the Bill, and everything that follows clause 1 is essentially detail. We embarked on that detail on the previous group of amendments. I agree with the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) that the best is the enemy of the good, but the fact remains that it is our duty, both down on the Floor of the House and for weeks and weeks Upstairs, to seek to improve the Bill, as we are setting a framework that will govern London well into the next millennium.

A debate on the detail is important, and I hope that the Committee's enthusiasm can be maintained throughout our proceedings, so that we can remain vigilant. We do not think that everything in the Bill is bad--I have already acknowledged that there are good things about it--but, even if we do not aim to make the good best, there is no reason for not seeking to make the good better, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) on initiating this debate.

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As I understand it, the Government's main objection to the amendment is that, if the assembly simply consists of representatives of the boroughs, nimbyism will flourish and a strategic view will not be taken. I am not my brother's keeper, so of course I do not know every single thing that my Member of the European Parliament does, but the only time I ever come across him is when he is taking up domestic matters in the constituency that have nothing to do with Europe. No doubt he spends some time on Europe, but he has no hesitation at all in taking up any domestic, local issue if it will gain him some column inches in the local press. Clearly, in that respect he is not doing his European job per se.

What my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said about the GLC, from his direct experience, reinforces my uneasy feeling that the enthusiasm for concentrating on people who will take only a strategic view will not insulate us from people who will in fact take considerable interest in local matters.


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