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Mrs. Lait: The last time I followed the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) in this place we were discussing commerce. On this occasion, I suggest that the Government Whips might like to take the hon. Gentleman aside to explain that, although we shall vote on the Conservative amendments later, he is perfectly free to discuss them now. However, I would hate to give the hon. Gentleman a lesson on procedure.

Before I speak in support of the Conservative amendments, I have a few words for the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who was rather hopeful that the Leader of the Opposition might be coming around to the hon. Gentleman's point of view regarding electoral reform. However, I have a copy of a speech that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition gave tonight and the hon. Gentleman might appreciate hearing a quote from it. It states:

I am sorry, but I must point out that the hon. Gentleman's hopes have been dashed. I left the House at the last election as a result of the will of the people and was rapidly returned as a result of our first-past-the-post system. That would not have happened if we had operated any form of proportional representation system. Therefore, I have a definite personal interest in maintaining first past the post. I have long envisaged many problems with proportional representation, one of which was mentioned earlier this evening.

I would like the Minister to respond to some specific points. We oppose the idea of the additional member--or London member in the context of the Bill. Given that European Union citizens who are resident in London will be eligible to vote, could one of them stand for election to the London assembly? The Minister is nodding assent, so we can add that to the list of potential representative groups suggested by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. We look forward to seeing European citizens representing Londoners in the assembly.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) spoke about his experiences in the European Parliament. One result of the list system in the European Parliament is that someone very prominent heads the list in order to give some identity to the other faceless characters on the list who have been chosen by the party. When the elections are over, the prominent person disappears and everyone else moves up one place. In that way the real leader of the group in Parliament emerges and Members from the bottom of the list enter Parliament. Unless the Bill is amended, I assume that that could happen in this case.

I do not plan to serve on the Committee that will consider the Bill--that is a source of great sadness to me, but I am not volunteering my services. However, some technical questions must be answered before anyone--particularly the people of London who will have to work with it--can make a sensible judgment about the value of the system. Anyone in Bromley who talks to me about this subject--I must admit that it is not a topic of

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conversation on an hourly or daily basis--cannot comprehend other than voting for the first-past-the-post system. The people of Bromley do not like any form of proportional representation, and I agree with them.

9.45 pm

Mr. Raynsford: This has been an interesting debate, which concluded with a rather sad insight into the point of view of the electors of Bromley, who, according to their representative, are incapable of considering any possible change in the electoral system. I think more highly of the Bromley electorate, which I am sure is interested in possible alternatives to systems that have been tried for years.

I reassure the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) that under this country's local government electoral law it is possible for a European citizen resident in London--residence in London is essential--to vote in local elections and to stand for election to local government. That provision will not change for elections to the Greater London authority.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) opened the debate by expressing a reasonable concern that the new system of government should work. We accept that it is innovative. We are committed to ensuring that it works. She talked about the need for decisive and effective government, and we are determined to achieve that. The mayor will be elected by a system that my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) described as a superior majoritarian system that will guarantee a clear majority and a decisive mandate.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk expressed concern about the departure from constituency representation. However, we are ensuring a strong, but not exclusive, constituency element in the new framework. As she knows, there will be 14 members representing constituencies. There will be other members, but a strong constituency element will remain, which we think is right.

The right hon. Lady argued for first past the post, essentially on two grounds: the ability of the electorate to hire and fire the authority or government and the need for a clear constituency link. I have already established that we shall have a clear constituency link. On hiring and firing, the mayor will be the executive. The supplementary vote system will enable the electorate decisively to reject a mayor whom they do not want to keep in place and, conversely, to elect with a good majority a mayor in whom they have confidence. That will in no way interrupt the process of hiring and firing; it will ensure accountability, which is the right hon. Lady's objective.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) seemed semi-detached on this issue. I fear that during the proceedings we shall discover a suspicion on his part even about having a mayor, which the rest of his party now believes is a good idea. I look forward to hearing his views on that. He expressed concern about having two classes of member: a constituency member and a London-wide member. He obviously is not familiar with the electoral systems in many American cities where some members are elected at large, to use the American term, and others are elected to represent constituencies.

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That is done for good reasons similar to those that we have established here--we want to ensure that there are people who can take a wide view and not simply focus on parochial issues.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman, as I did the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk, that the fact that there is not a majority on the assembly will not in any way hinder its effectiveness because the assembly is not the executive. The mayor is the executive and, by definition, the mayor will always have a majority because he or she will be elected under a majoritarian system.

The amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk would remove the proportional element of the voting system that we have devised for the assembly. The GLA's purpose is to represent and promote the views and interests of all Londoners. It can best do that if the assembly is composed of members whose interests and concerns reflect those of the electorate as a whole. The additional member system that we have adopted will encourage that and allow it to happen.

The first-past-the-post system favoured by Conservative Members could easily leave whole communities or viewpoints unrepresented because they are scattered through London and not concentrated in any one of the new electoral areas that will return directly elected assembly members. The list system will give those people a hope of having a say in London's government, which we believe is right. We cannot accept the Conservative amendments and I invite the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk to withdraw them.

I turn now to the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I fear that he is beginning to take what might be described as an anorak approach to politics. The hon. Gentleman has tabled amendments suggesting different voting systems. It is difficult to be altogether sure what he really wants. Is it AV or AV-plus? Is it STV? Is it open or semi-open lists? Is it the Belgian or the d'Hondt formula? Is it single or multi-member constituencies? By way of contrast to this plethora of interesting and obscure formulas, the Government's position on how to elect the assembly is consistent and clear.

We set out clear proposals in our White Paper for assembly elections to be held under the additional member system, using first past the post for the constituency elections. This is the system adopted for elections in the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. It is the system set out in the White Paper, which was well known to Londoners when they voted in the referendum; and it is the system that we intend to deliver.

Mr. Forth: Before the Minister concludes his remarks, is he going to give me even a minuscule answer to the questions that I asked about unfilled vacancies? Like the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I think that there is a problem in this regard, and the Committee would be grateful for an explanation from the Minister.

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