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Mr. Simon Hughes: I hesitate to rise because we have been debating this matter for so long, but surely after all these years the hon. Gentleman is not seriously arguing that if a party does not get a majority of the votes it should have the majority of seats and do what it likes, either in London or Scotland. Surely he cannot believe that any more.

Mr. Ottaway: I am not sure of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that if no party gets a majority, Labour and the Liberal Democrats will not enter into a dialogue over the Government of Scotland.

Mr. Hughes rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think we have had enough of tartan tales.

10.15 pm

Mr. Ottaway: I do not question your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but we are questioning the method of appointment to the Metropolitan police authority. The relevant point is that if there is a minority administration in the new London authority, a deal will have to be struck between parties to form a majority to make the appointments to the authority. Exactly the same method of election will be used in Scotland and Wales as we shall have in London, leaving aside the 5 per cent. threshold agreed earlier this evening. With respect, that is why it is fair to draw comparisons between what will go on in Scotland later this week and what could well go on in London if the amendment were accepted.

Let no one be under any illusion as to what is going on. I have here a poster that happens to emerge from Castle Point council elections, which are due on Thursday. It says:


Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have been as generous as I can with the hon. Gentleman, but this is absurd.

Mr. Ottaway: I recognise that I may have pushed my luck, but the point is that there is a lot going on between the parties, and that is what would happen if we got into the situation that the amendment would create.

Mr. Gapes: I should like to bring the hon. Gentleman back to London, if he does not mind. He talked about dirty deals. Is he aware that in the London borough of Redbridge, the Conservatives and Liberals combined to

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push through a joint budget and the Liberals put the Tories in as a minority administration? The yellow and the blue Tories joined together in Redbridge.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be tempted further down that road.

Mr. Ottaway: I would be, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if it were not for your ruling.

The proportional representation system that is being foisted on the people of London is the root cause of our concerns. It is possible that people will not be able to agree who are the best candidates, and that it will be necessary to reach a compromise.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Does my hon. Friend find great irony in the fact that we would probably be very happy for the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) to say who should be a member of the police authority, as he has said what an awful mayor the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) would make?

Mr. Ottaway: It is not for us to probe into quarrels between neighbours, but the story was in the Evening Standard. It seemed to show a radical split between Brents, East and South. Given that the hon. Member for Brent, South is a Home Office Minister and would be closely involved in the matter, it is a highly relevant point that my hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) makes. He is from Derbyshire, but he takes a close interest in London matters. It is a valid point.

The serious point is that the consequence of the amendment would be a compromise. The new authority would become a political football. It would be reminiscent of all the old weaknesses of the GLC. Under those circumstances, we do not feel able to support the amendment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kate Hoey): I welcome the support of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for the setting up of the Metropolitan police authority. I am pleased that the official Opposition seem to be moving towards supporting it. However, the effect of the Liberal Democrat amendments, especially amendment No. 31, would be to have the 12 assembly members elected by the assembly rather than appointed by the mayor. All the other amendments are consequential on that amendment.

As has been pointed out, the matter was debated in Committee, if not ad nauseam, then for a very long time. At that stage I resisted identical amendments, two of which were supported by Conservative Members. I am afraid that I have not been persuaded to do other than resist these amendments now.

Amendment No. 31 is another illustration of the real theme expounded by the Liberal Democrats throughout the Committee stage. They wanted to extend the powers of the assembly at the expense of the mayor. I do not want to repeat the arguments about why we have struck a balance between the mayor and the assembly that was endorsed by Londoners in the referendum; but I will repeat my firm rejection of any argument that the amendments are justified on the basis that they would

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bring the process of appointing members of the Metropolitan police authority, and the composition of its membership, into line with the process applying to other police authorities. Such an argument fails to take account of the unique model of governance that is being created for London, and ignores the existence of the mayor's strong strategic role.

We regard the power of appointment as crucial to the mayor's ability to take a high-level and strategic interest in the Metropolitan police authority's efforts to tackle crime and maintain an efficient and effective policing service in London. Moreover, the role is consistent with the mayor's power of appointment to the other three functional bodies. We do not want any dilution of the mayor's power in this respect.

The argument to which I have referred also ignores the split for which the Bill provides between the executive function of the mayor and the scrutinising function of the assembly. As we pointed out in Committee, local councils outside London combine those roles. It is simplistic to argue that, because local councillors elect their own members to police authorities, the assembly should elect its own members to the MPA. That incorrectly assumes that the assembly and local authorities are directly comparable, which they are not. However, I remind hon. Members of the requirement for the mayor to ensure that, as far as is practicable, his or her appointments reflect the balance of parties in the assembly.

I know that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) feels strongly about his amendments, but I think he also knows how strongly we feel. The mayor will have a crucial role in establishing the MPA and choosing its membership from the assembly. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Simon Hughes rose--

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster) rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I call Mr. Simon Hughes.

Mr. Hughes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am happy to allow the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) to speak before me if he wishes to do so.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman. I did not realise that the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) was trying to catch my eye.

Mr. Brooke: I had indeed been trying to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I thank the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for drawing it to your attention.

Responding to various amendments that the Liberal Democrats had tabled in Committee, the Minister argued that the existence of an alliance between the Liberal Democrats and the official Opposition was not in itself a reason for her to be convinced by our arguments. I said that the fact that she held the strong views that she

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expressed in Committee did not in itself constitute a reason for us to pay any attention to them, and that no greater logic was involved in the fact that her views were strong than in the fact that there was an alliance. Some might say, on the strength of the conduct of the Committee throughout, that the fact that the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats found something on which they both felt strongly, and in unison, was itself a suggestion that they might be right and the Government wrong.

The Minister has again cited the strong strategic role. You did not have the excitement and privilege of listening to our debates in Committee, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I can tell you that a consistent element was the attempt to find out whether the Government were introducing new clause after new clause, and rewriting the Bill as they went along, because they were smarting at claims made outside the House that the Secretary of State was being given all the powers and the mayor was not being given any, or because they had not actually written the Bill before Second Reading, and the cover was giving the Secretary of State powers in the first instance that could then be transferred to the mayor in the new clauses.

I accept that, although it took a long time, by painful extraction, to get an admission out of the Government, they acknowledged in the end that they had listened to criticism not only outside but in Committee, and had therefore decided to transfer powers to the mayor.

It has to be possible that the strong strategic role for the mayor to which the Minister alludes in the instance of the Metropolitan police authority was originally put in as a counterbalance to the criticism that all the powers were with the Secretary of State. That is not in itself a reason for the mayor to have a strong strategic role in the police authority.

The issue is essentially the principle of election against that of appointment. In Committee, I expressed surprise that the present Government should be so averse to election and so insistent on appointment. The view that has been expressed by the Opposition, not only in the Committee upstairs, but in the House now, is pluralistic: it is desirable that power should be moved down in any organisation, and any organisation where it is moved down is likely to be healthier than one where power is centralised.

The difficulties that the Government have had with their devolution programme--I will not go too far down that particular alley--is that they cannot decide whether they want power to be devolved from the centre, or to be retained in a centralised capacity at the heart of government. There is a real tension, which has been patent to anyone who has watched the Government's devolutionary programme.

We owe a debt to the Liberal Democrats for having brought the issue back to the House. The fact that the Minister sought to discredit the argument by linking it to other arguments that the Liberal Democrats have advanced, with which we might not have agreed--although we are in total agreement on the subject of election to the Metropolitan police authority--is not of itself an Exocet through the Liberal Democrats' argument. The hon. Lady repeated the arguments that she used in Committee. I personally thought that she had some obligation to do rather more than she did in Committee, when she spoke for six and a half paragraphs in response to the Opposition's points.

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In essence, the argument that the Minister has deployed on the issue, which is extremely important to the future of London, is that, because what the Government are proposing is different from what we have had in the past, everything about it should be different. As a Conservative, with a large C and a small c, I do not find that argument persuasive.


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