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Mr. Ottaway: The Opposition have no trouble with accepting Amendment No. 102, which makes the same provision as that included in the legislation establishing the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

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However, what needs amendment is the Representation of the People Act 1983--not each individual Bill as it comes along.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 18

Cost of holding the first ordinary elections.

Amendment made: No. 108A, in page 10, line 25, leave out from 'prepare' to 'required' in line 27 and insert
'an account of any sums which are issued to him out of the Consolidated Fund by virtue of this section and of his use of those sums.
(6) The account'.--[Mr. Dowd.]

Clause 19

Qualification to be the Mayor or an Assembly member.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): I beg to move amendment No. 105A, in page 10, leave out lines 39 to 41 and insert

'a citizen of the United Kingdom'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 106A, in page 11, line 7, leave out 'his principal' and insert

'the place of work at which he spends the majority of his working time'.

No. 107A, in page 11, line 22, leave out from beginning to end of line 28.

Mr. Forth: I confess that, when I first saw the Bill, my eye was drawn to the provisions of clause 19. We heard over and over again--on Second Reading and in Committee--how the assembly was all about Londoners, and about how its establishment would be a great moment for Londoners. The Bill was about an assembly for London and for Londoners, and there would be an authentic London mayor.

I was therefore puzzled when I saw that the Bill provides that a person will be qualified to be elected mayor if he or she is

Such a provision would be bad enough, but the Bill goes on to say that that same person must satisfy at least one of a group of other conditions, of which one is that

    "his principal or only place of work during that twelve months has been in Greater London".

I was therefore forced to the conclusion that it would be perfectly possible to have someone from Finland or New Zealand, for example--I have picked the two countries more or less at random, although one is at the other end of the globe, whereas the other is somewhere up near the arctic circle--as mayor. The Finn might not speak English, although the New Zealander would happily do so. The only other qualification that those undoubtedly excellent people would have to have is that their principal, not only, place of work for 12 months has been in Greater London. A person who does not speak English or who

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comes from the other side of the world and whose sole qualification is that their principal place of work--an undefined term that could cover almost anything--is in London could offer themselves for election to a uniquely London body that provides an exciting new opportunity for London representation. That is political correctness carried to the most bizarre extent.

5.15 pm

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): But they would not be elected.

Mr. Forth: I am shocked that a Member of Parliament should feel himself able to predict the results of elections.

Mr. Gapes rose--

Mr. Forth: I do not want to prolong the debate, but I shall give way in a moment.

We are talking about a serious matter: the qualifications set out in legislation for those who want to be authentic representatives of London.

Mr. Gapes: In 1978 I was on telling duty at a polling station in Thamesfield ward in Putney. One of the Conservative candidates subsequently became a Member of Parliament for a Croydon seat and has now moved on to newer pastures. A Conservative-supporting voter came up to me and said, "Who are those candidates for the Conservative party? Oh, one is a woman and one is aNew Zealander. I'm not voting for him." Perhapsmy hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) might be right.

Mr. Forth: Or perhaps that story endorses my view--who knows? Rather than concentrating on the citizenship of an individual, I want to tighten the undefined criterion of the principal place of work over the previous 12 months, because it does not establish adequate credentials or connection with London to qualify someone properly to stand for election to the new, exciting and uniquely London body. I could have gone further and suggested that all candidates should be Londoners, or maybe even that they should have been born within the sound of Bow bells--a claim that, alas, I cannot make.

If we are not careful, people with only the most tenuous link with London will be able to clutter up the voting paper. Given the complexity of the voting arrangements that are to be foisted on the people of London, clarity is essential, particularly during the early stages of the new process. There is a risk that the voters, struggling with all the novel forms of election, might be confused or misled if we allow such generous, unrestricted, loose and ill-defined qualifications. That is why my amendments would do a great service to the people of London.

Mr. Simon Hughes: There are only two flaws in the argument of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), apart from the point made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours)--that someone who fitted the characteristics described would probably not survive the electoral battle. First, the rules for election to this place are based on the same criteria and have been used by certain Canadians and New Zealanders, who have become Tory Members.

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Secondly, if we define the electorate, it is reasonable that they should be drawn from the same constituency as those who seek to be elected. There may be arguments about who the electorate should be, but that is not a debate for London, but a debate for electoral reform. The right hon. Gentleman might have an uphill struggle if he suggests that Commonwealth or European Union citizens--let alone Irish citizens--should be suddenly disfranchised after having lived here for years.

Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) made a couple of good points, and I shall make a couple more.

I am disappointed that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) has seen fit to table the amendments, for the reasons that I shall explain. In seeking to narrow the categories of person who may stand for mayor or for the Assembly, amendments Nos. 105A and 107A could well send exactly the opposite message to the one that we have rightly encouraged--that London's multicultural diversity should be celebrated, rather than denigrated.

In Committee, I made it clear that the provisions of the Bill in respect of qualification to stand are based on the provisions of part V of the Local Government Act 1972 governing qualification to stand at local authority elections. It would be quite wrong to adopt different criteria for people standing for the Greater London Authority from those that apply for people standing for election in the London boroughs.

I find it even more extraordinary that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst should make the proposals given that the conferment on EU nationals of the right to vote and stand in local elections was inserted in the 1972 Act by regulations made in 1995 by the Government in which he was then serving as a Minister. I accept that the Conservative party is now apologising for what it did in government, and is moving on. However, it is a bit rich for the right hon. Gentleman to wish to reverse so soon afterwards decisions that he was very much a party to in the last Parliament.

On amendment No. 106A, clause 19(4)(c) provides that a person is qualified to stand for mayor or for the assembly if he or she satisfies the condition that his or her principal or only place of work during the preceding 12 months has been in Greater London. The amendment would replace the reference to principal place of work with

I cannot accept the amendment.

The terminology in the current provision is based on the provisions of the 1972 Act. "Principal" in this context means main or chief place of work. Where there is doubt, it will be ultimately for the courts to establish as a question of fact what constitutes a person's principal place of work. The right hon. Gentleman's formulation would, by contrast, be less flexible and difficult to interpret.

If someone divided their time equally between a couple of part-time jobs and a voluntary position for a charity or community organisation, but was paid significantly more for one job than for the others--to the extent that that was clearly the most important or principal job that that person did--that person could be disqualified, under the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, simply on the basis that he did not spent 50 per cent. or more of his time on that job.

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Therefore, there are practical problems with the proposal, as well as the obvious problem of precedent; the amendments would be a breach of current practice in local government provisions. It is important that the language of electoral law is consistent in such areas and, in the circumstances, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

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