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Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend develops a powerful case. Perhaps he overheard the Minister for Transport in London chuntering the word, "rubbish" from a sedentary position a moment ago in response to what he was saying about old-fashioned council housing. I wonder whether my hon. Friend deduces from that chuntering that the hon. Lady is an enthusiast for the drab uniformity of former council house provision.

Mr. Wilkinson: If I engender any reaction on the Government Benches, especially the Front Bench, I am heartened, especially in a somewhat specialist debate of this nature.

The Minister for Transport in London (Ms Glenda Jackson): I am determined to nail the canard that any utterance of mine from a sedentary or standing position is not entirely comprehensible to anyone in the Chamber. I never chunter.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) will, on mature reflection, agree with me that Labour policies on social housing transformed the life of thousands of Londoners by taking them out of the squalid slums in which decade after decade of Conservative Government had regrettably left them. The housing provided was a benchmark for the kind of housing that transforms not only people's lives but their health and the lives of their children.

Mr. Wilkinson: I agree that the hon. Lady never chunters. Her diction and elocution are a model to us all. If we all projected our voices as well as she does, we would do a better job.

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Social housing had its usefulness in its time, but it created ghettos. Decay was not remedied in many instances. Lady Thatcher's policy of enabling tenants to buy their homes did the good which was delayed for so long and transformed Greater London council estates.

I referred in Committee to new clause 33(4)(b). I seek a renewed assurance on the Floor of the House that the power to acquire existing housing accommodation shall not be abused. The subsection refers to "a temporary basis". The power could be abused, especially if compulsory purchase powers were invoked.

I welcome the broad balance of the consultees who are specifically listed in new clause 34 and the fact that the authority will be able to work out with the consulteesthe best manner of formalising any arrangement. The Government have done a good listing job and generally improved the Bill.

Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East): I did not intend to speak, but I have been sorely provoked, not least by the little tantrum from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), which exerted him so much that he had to leave. He then came back bright and recovered; whatever he went out to get, can I have some of it please? The hon. Gentleman spoke abject nonsense. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) that no Labour Government were ever against wealth creation of any description.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) seems to have great difficulty understanding overarching principles and qualifications of those principles in relation to health and sustainable development. He shows naked opportunism when it comes to equal opportunities. It is interesting that, this time round, he seemed to eschew lists. He may remember a classic little list from the Liberal Democrats in Committee that had about 20 organisations on it. Sadly, five never existed; three were wrongly named; and two had already been abolished. That is the strength of little Liberal Democrat lists.

Mr. Simon Hughes: A slight exaggeration.

Mr. McNulty: Well, I am allowed poetic licence to some degree, surely.

New clause 34 deals with consultation. It is right that it contains short lists of core bodies that should be consulted, such as the London boroughs and the common council. The new clause gives the mayor and the democratically elected assembly powers to consult whomever they see fit, as and when they see fit. That must be true democratic practice.

6.45 pm

I wish to nail the canard that, without the Liberals' sixth-form little amendment, the Bill will contain no reference to equal opportunities. That is utter nonsense. By any reading, equal opportunities and cultural diversity pervade the Bill. If people do not realise that, they should read the Committee proceedings in detail. During those glorious two months up in Committee Room 12, hon. Members from all parties stressed again and again the importance of equal opportunities and cultural diversity. So it is a shame and beneath contempt that the

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hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey implied that, without his amendment, equal opportunities would not be dealt with in the substance of the Bill.

Despite the hon. Gentleman's reference to Stonewall, it is a sheer and utter disgrace to pray in aid the bombs that have gone off in London in the past week in support of his amendment. To say that we must accept his silly little amendment because any real notion of cultural diversity and equal opportunities is absent from the Bill is shameful naked opportunism.

Mr. Simon Hughes: The amendment originated not with me but with others outside the House, so it is not "my little amendment". Those from whom it came think that it is important. It was important before the events of the past two weeks and it is important now. The argument that the hon. Gentleman has not answered is why legislation for London government should not give the same prominence to equal opportunities as legislation for the other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. McNulty: If the hon. Gentleman had been listening--he was talking to his colleague--he would have heard me say that equal opportunities pervade the Bill. They pervade it far more extensively than the legislation for Scotland and for Wales, which sought to encapsulate reference to equal opportunities in one clause. One has only to read the Committee proceedings to know how hon. Members from all parties view equal opportunities and cultural diversity.

Mr. Bercow: I agree with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's criticism of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and exhort the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) not to understate his case, which is a serious failing on his part. Does he agree that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey has just introduced an extraordinary constitutional doctrine which I have not come across before? He suggests that an amendment is not his simply because he was put up to it by someone outside the House. Is it not important that the hon. Gentleman should accept exclusive responsibility for the amendment that he and his party have tabled?

Mr. McNulty: Happily, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) was not a member of the Committee for two months. If he had been, it might have been all the more painful an experience. I am grateful for his guidance. I am mindful of the fact that I have a tendency to understate my case when I speak in the House, so I shall take his advice on board. He is right that, when hon. Members table an amendment, it is their amendment, wherever they take their inspiration from. Time and again in Committee, as members of the Committee will know, when Liberal Democrat members were in a corner they used the little refrain, "It's someone else's, not ours, guv," rather than claiming their own words. The proceedings are littered with that refrain, however much the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey may shake his head.

I am pleased that new clauses 32, 33 and 34 move us on to greater clarity, not least on the general power of the authority--despite what the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey says. Clearly, the Liberals would rather have some first-year undergraduate essay of 20,000

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words covering every little aspect of what the GLA may or may not do, but we seek to legislate for a strategic body; to give it the broad strategic framework within which to operate; and to elect a bunch of people to run it and tell them to get on with it, both in terms of fulfilling its functions and in terms of deciding who it should consult and how.

Happily, despite the protestations of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, we know that there will not be a Liberal Democrat mayor. Equally, we know that--unless the Conservatives secure a proper candidate rather than the current front-runner, who likes to give £2,000 to strangers at Paddington station every now and again--there will not be a Conservative mayor. I merely ask hon. Members to embrace not just the essence of new clauses 32, 33 and 34, but all aspects of the GLA.

As I said in Committee, I believe that five or 10 years from now the beast that will be the GLA and the mayor will be entirely different from what is currently in the legislation. That should inspire us with relish rather than anything else, but I will not indulge, or allow the House to indulge, in the naked opportunism indulged in by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. It is a disgrace, and I thought that someone should say so.

Mr. Raynsford: We have had an interesting debate on what a number of speakers have recognised to be an attempt by the Government to rephrase and clarify the previous drafting of the Bill, to ensure that its purposes are clear and unambiguous.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) gave us an insight into his strange view of the world when he suggested that wealth creation was not a concern of the party that is currently in government. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) made the perfect riposte, pointing out that, in some 30 years' experience of that party, he had never known wealth creation not to be one of its principal objectives--although, of course, there would be other objectives. We are no different in that respect: we make it clear that the principal purposes of the Bill are not just the promotion of economic development and wealth creation, but the promotion of social development and environmental improvement. I cannot imagine any sane person objecting to that formulation.


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