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Mr. Ottaway: I should like to say how much I appreciated the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke). As we still have some 274 clauses to go and he is on the Committee, perhaps we might get one or two more speeches such as that from him.

The Minister has made a generous concession. I would not say that we are entirely happy with his reaction to the two amendments, but, under the circumstances, we think that his approach to the clause is right. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Voting at ordinary elections

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk): I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 3, line 38, leave out from 'system' to end of line 39.

The Second Deputy Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 9, in page 3, leave out lines 40 to 45.

No. 35, in page 3, line 41, leave out 'supplementary' and insert 'alternative'.

No. 36, in page 3, line 43, leave out 'a supplementary' and insert 'an alternative'.

No. 37, in page 3, line 45, leave out 'first and second'.

No. 51, in schedule 2, schedule 2, page 143, leave out lines 5 to 17 and insert--

'(2) The candidate with the fewest number of first preference votes is eliminated, and the second preference votes given for that candidate shall be ascertained.
(3) The second preference votes under subsection (2) above shall be transferred to the other candidates, being added to the first preference votes cast for the other candidates.
(4) If, following the recalculation under subsection (3) above, none of the candidates receives more than half of the votes, the remaining candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and the procedure in subsections (2) and (3) above is carried out.
(5) The process continues until one candidate has received more than half of all the votes, and that person shall be returned as Mayor.'.

No. 48, in schedule 2, page 143, line 20, leave out from 'the' to 'which' and insert 'Assembly shall decide'.

Mrs. Shephard: Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 have the effect of establishing a first-past-the-post system for the

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election of the London mayor. The Minister has sought to demonstrate his credentials as part of a listening Government, and he has with his acceptance of some of the points made in the previous group of amendments. We shall test him further when we make our case for this group of amendments.

The Minister will know, because we have made these points on a number of occasions both on Second Reading and in Committee on the Floor of the House, that we are concerned with the clarity and transparency of electoral arrangements for assembly members and now, this evening, for the election of the London mayor.

Our concern for clarity extends to the selection of candidate for mayor, which will not involve caucuses, closed doors or smoke-filled rooms, but one member, one vote and the utmost transparency at every stage. We have a clean slate with regard to our own party selection arrangements.

As I said yesterday, and it is not disputed, the Bill is a substantial piece of legislation which will, in effect, set up an entirely new form of government. As the Minister will know, we feel that some of the Bill's proposals do not contribute to the principles of transparency and accountability which we look for in local government, because of the proliferation of bodies, agencies, duties and overlaps that they introduce.

In addition, the provisions that we are debating this evening will oblige Londoners to use three different voting methods for two elections to be held on the same day--first past the post for the 14 constituency assembly members, a form of proportional representation with a closed list for the 11 London assembly members and, for the mayor, if there are more than two candidates, a supplementary voting system.

All of that would be difficult enough, but the Government are subjecting our capital city and much of the rest of the country to unprecedented constitutional change. Notwithstanding what was said in the House earlier this evening, the Opposition's view that the Government's approach to all this constitutional change is piecemeal, is shared by the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, which, in its second report on the operationof multi-layer democracy which was published on 18 November 1998, said:

Thus we see different systems and different voting procedures being introduced in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, with some recent rumblings from the direction of Hull, East about regional government in England as well, with no thought as to how, if at all, these new bodies and their functions will interact or affect one another. Such an approach is not only irresponsible, but it strikes at the very heart of democratic accountability by blurring and confusing the processes with accretions and overlaps.

It has to be remembered that Londoners will face no fewer than four intermediate layers of government between local authorities and central Government--the mayor, the assembly, the London development agency and the Government office for London. There will also be a transport body for London, the Metropolitan police authority, a London fire and emergency planning authority and the cultural strategy group.

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I am aware that on Second Reading the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that the mayor would be accountable for a number of those bodies and that there would, therefore, be accountability. But that proliferation of bodies and the consequent overlap of responsibilities could be confusing, and Londoners could be forgiven if they did not know exactly whom to hold accountable for policies affecting them.

5.45 pm

In addition, the Bill contains 277 clauses which set powers; introduce new rules, orders, functions, standards and regulations; plan audits; establish committees; set charges and levies, and provide for a set of new agencies. Against that background of wholesale change to be imposed on Londoners and against the confusion of accountabilities that the Bill, of necessity, introduces, the Government should pause to examine whether it would be better to retain a voting system to elect a mayor which is tried and tested, and familiar and comprehensible to the electorate.

We recognise that there is a case for a voice for London. That voice will be the mayor's. She will speak for London, to national Government and for London on the international stage. It was because we recognised the need for a voice for London that we recommended a yes vote in the referendum. The Government will no doubt argue that because the function of elected mayor is a new one--we would say an experimental one--it should be achieved with a new voting procedure. But we would argue that it is precisely because the Bill throws so much else into the air that a first-past-the-post, tried, tested and understood voting system should be used to elect London's mayor.

Leaving aside whether Londoners will welcome the range of different voting systems that they will have to face at borough, assembly, mayoral, parliamentary and European levels, which the Government are imposing on them, is not the reality that, in the end, there will be only two or three strong, high profile, credible candidates for the post of mayor? Would it not be better for the successful candidate to be able to say, "I was elected because I won a clear majority", not "I was elected because I was the least unacceptable candidate"--which could, to quote the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton), be the effect of the broad based, superior, majoritarian system being proposed.

I move the amendments in the interests of clarity, decisiveness and comprehensibility.

Mr. Burstow: I start by picking up one or two points made by the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard). As she spoke, I thought of the proliferation of different bodies that will have a responsibility in the running of London when the Bill is enacted, and then I thought back to the proliferation of bodies that emerged from the abolition of the GLC, some of which I jotted down--the London planning advisory committee; the London fire and civil defence authority; the London grants committee; the London transport committee, which previously included two or three other agencies; the London ecology committee; the traffic director for London, and the London waste regulation

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authority. So many different agencies and bodies were established by the previous Government to continue the governance of London by other means as a consequence of the abolition of the GLC, that I find it strange that the right hon. Lady now prays in aid the creation of so many new bodies as an argument for the alleged simplicity of the first-past-the-post system.

That goes back to some of the points made in yesterday's debate about the proposal that each of the boroughs should nominate appointments to those bodies. Perhaps it is a case of hankering after the structures which were put in place by the previous Government when they abolished the GLC, and a continuation of indirect representation on these London bodies, which has not worked particularly well during the past few years.

Amendments Nos. 35, 36, 37 and 51 deal with the fundamental issue of the method of election of the mayor. They would put in place the well known alternative vote system, which allows voters to express more than the two preferences allowed by the supplementary vote system proposed by the Government. Under the supplementary vote system, voters will have to make guesses and consider how to vote tactically in the election of the mayor. Many of those who made representations during the consultation period said that AV would eliminate the guesswork and result in a simpler system that would produce a better outcome for Londoners and for the governance of London.

The supplementary vote system can produce strange results. The Electoral Reform Society's document on electing the mayor--which has been referred to by other hon. Members in various terms, some not quite so glowing--gives an interesting worked example of how the system can produce perverse results in particular circumstances. In the first stage, the votes of four candidates are split evenly: the Conservative candidate gets 27 per cent. of the vote; an independent candidate gets 26 per cent.; the Labour candidate gets 24 per cent.; and the Liberal Democrat gets 23 per cent. Some hon. Members may regard that as an unreal example, but the situation has occurred in real elections, so the Electoral Reform Society's worked example is valid.

With no candidate getting a majority of the votes cast, the two top candidates go through to the next round and the others are eliminated. The second preference votes of the two eliminated candidates are examined and added to the totals of the votes for the top two. Second preferences for candidates other than the top two do not count. If the Liberal Democrat voters chose to vote for the Labour candidate as their second preference, those second preference votes would be wasted. If those voting for the Labour candidate split their second preferences equally between the independent and the Liberal Democrat candidate, half of those second preferences would also be wasted. The winning candidate in this example is the independent, with 38 per cent. of the vote. That is not a way to produce a strong majoritarian system of the sort described yesterday by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton). The system is not fair because it does not allow all those in London who choose to exercise their vote the opportunity to express their preferences.

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