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Mrs. Lait: I do not want to prolong the debate, but I want to tease out this issue. We are discussing a unique

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institution in which we are separating the executive from the legislature. In a parallel institution, the American presidency--a different institution from the one that I cited last night--there is a delay of two or three months while the new President puts in place the people that he has nominated. I view the role of the mayor, as part of the executive, as similar to that of the American President, so a new mayor would need time to make appointments.

Ms Jackson: I can only ask the hon. Lady to consider the lack of similarity between our proposals and the office of President of the United States. That point was made last night when we were debating another amendment. We are not creating a similar institution, and the powers of the mayor and the assembly are not the same as those of the President of the United States.

4.30 pm

The country does not grind to a halt after an election. The governance of the country is seamless. The day after a general election, there is no apparent change for the people of this country. The same is true in respect of local authorities. The kind of changes to which the hon. Lady is referring--changes of direction and of policy, very often coloured by political perspectives--are the responsibility of the people elected to high office, whether they be the Prime Minister, the leader of a local authority or, in this instance, the mayor, but the day-to-day business does not change.

I entirely understand that the introduction of the changes to which the hon. Lady refers takes time, but there is no necessity for an artificial break between election and the taking on of responsibilities, other than in the original, innovative, first-time-ever election for this particular form of city-wide government.

Mr. Burstow: Will the Minister clarify something that she said at the outset? She suggested that she would be willing to reflect further on the matter. They are not exactly the words that she used, but the implication was that this was an issue to which the Government were willing to give further thought. Perhaps I have leapt in too soon and she was going to say exactly to what the Government were going to give further thought, but, having heard the exchanges on this particular point, it appears that the substance of the amendment--the issue of transition--is not one about which the Government are ready to think again. Will the Minister give us a little more comfort and say that it is still an issue open to debate and further consideration?

Ms Jackson: I am sorry if I have not made the position clear to the hon. Gentleman. There is undoubtedly a meeting of minds between us on the fact that there should indeed be a period between the declaration of the results of the first-ever election of a mayor and an assembly and their taking on their full responsibilities. There should of course be such a period for the reasons that I have already touched on--the appointing of senior officials, the necessity for the mayor to appoint chairmen to the committees that are directly accountable to him, and, to repeat a phrase that I have already used, the actual creation of the necessary systems to ensure that the mayor

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and the assembly will be able to carry out the duties placed on them thanks to their election to high office by the people of London.

The clear difference of opinion arises over whether that should be a permanent fixture at every election after the first. We are prepared to take away and consider proposals about the length of time between the election result being declared and the mayor and the assembly fully taking on their responsibilities. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, having heard that, will withdraw the amendment so that we can return to the issue. However, the Government are not prepared to accept that the proposed period between the election result and the mayor and assembly being fully in place should be a fixture in perpetuity at future elections of the mayor and assembly for London.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Minister has made that very clear, and the Committee is grateful. I must press her on a linked point in order to understand the first part of what she said, which was about the first time around. Is she now also saying that the Government are willing to accept that for the first time around--we shall leave future elections to be dealt with later--the GLA will come into existence after the elections rather than before, so that the sequence will be elections followed by start date? If that is the case, it is a very helpful and welcome statement.

Ms Jackson: I am delighted to be able to respond to the hon. Gentleman with a categorical and enthusiastic yes. There will be no mayor, no assembly and no Greater London authority until the election results have been declared. In the light of that, I trust that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam will withdraw the amendment relating to the time between the election result being declared and the mayor and the assembly having the reins firmly in their hands, so that we can return to the issue later. The Government believe that that is necessary, but would want to examine it in more detail.

I hope, too, that amendments Nos. 70, 65, 71 and 66 will not be pressed. We have no intention of returning to them, for the reasons that I have already given.

Amendment No. 32 would remove clause 3(6). I would be grateful if it were not moved, so that we can return to the issue on Report. I shall be perfectly honest: I would require the expertise of parliamentary counsel because it is possible that clause 3(6) is unnecessary. I hope that both the hon. Members for Croydon, South and for Sutton and Cheam will accept the proposal that I have put to them.

Mr. Ottaway: The Minister made it crystal clear in the first 30 seconds of her speech that she was making a concession. Willingly, we shall not press our amendments.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) rose--

The Second Deputy Chairman: I call Mr. Paul Burstow--sorry, Mr. Davey.

Mr. Davey: I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) would suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) and I looked too much alike.

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The Minister has taken an important initiative by showing that the Government are prepared to listen.

Ms Glenda Jackson: We are always prepared to listen.

Mr. Davey: The Minister says that this is not the first time that the Government have shown that they are prepared to listen. However, it is certainly the first time in this Committee that we have seen signs that they are prepared to discuss matters outside the Committee and consider ways in which, together, we may improve the Bill, on a joint and consensual basis, to paraphrase their words in the Green Paper. We welcome that, and are certainly willing to withdraw the amendment--and, later, not move amendment No. 32.

I would, however, like to press the Minister on one point. She says that she agrees with ourselves and the Conservatives that it will take time to set up the authority and make all the appointments following the elections. Will she say on which date she thinks the authority will be established following the elections? I would be grateful if she intervened now. Given that she has not, I hope that we can establish that point very quickly. It would be helpful to future proceedings in Committee. Although we may need to decide later how that date is incorporated in the Bill, the information should be put in the public domain as soon as possible. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Second Deputy Chairman: The hon. Member who moved the amendment must withdraw it.

Mr. Burstow: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Simon Hughes: I anticipate that this debate will be no longer than the previous one. We shall make good progress on this, as on other issues.

We shall vote against clause 2 standing part of the Bill not because there has been no welcome concession from the Minister--for which we are glad--but because the clause deals with some of the matters with which we have just disagreed.

Ministers and the Committee know that we have accepted that the referendum decided certain things, such as the creation of the Greater London authority, of which we have always been in favour; that there should be a mayor, which we have always accepted; and that there should be an assembly, for which we have always argued. We have some problem not with the superstructure, but with the infrastructure. We had three objections and now we have two; we are making good progress.

We canvassed yesterday on the first of our objections--the size and make-up of the assembly. I shall not cover the ground again. We have a difference of view about that and we are on the record as to what that is. It would be illogical and inconsistent for us, having said yesterday that we did not think that things should be like this, to vote today that things should be as stated in clause 2.

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Secondly--again, I shall not elaborate--we said yesterday that we preferred another electoral system. We had a good, interesting debate last night about electoral systems. I believe that there was acceptance across the Committee that appropriate systems must be chosen for the body concerned. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) made that point, perfectly reasonably, as did the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton).

Nevertheless, there is a difference of view between us. We have a preferred system; the Government have chosen their system. That is a perfectly honourable position, but there has not, on this issue, been the consensus that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) said that we were in danger of achieving more often than I had expected.

Thirdly, before we started to debate the Bill this afternoon there was a disagreement about the start date, but we have made progress on that, for which we are grateful. We have one agreement and two matters on which we have so far disagreed--it is two to one against. On that basis, subject to any other hon. Member wishing to speak, we ask the Committee to vote that clause 2 does not stand part of the Bill, so that we may come back and get it into a shape that is more to our liking.

I anticipate that we may not win this time, but Liberal Democrat Members are ever hopeful. Given that, yesterday, we saw the great Labour-Conservative coalition working against us--the most recent example--we believe that we can continue to make progress and gradually break down the barriers of the old, tribal political divides. We look forward to that, but it does not mean that we cannot have the odd distinction of view and the odd difference of opinion. They are honourable distinctions, and soon I shall ask that the Committee be allowed to decide on them.

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