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Mr. Connarty: My hon. Friend spoke about the principles that the Government were applying and the fact that certain groups would be aided by amendments to the Bill. One group that he mentioned was workers, but he did not--

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What possible interest can the Member of Parliament for Grangemouth have in the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should know full well that hon. Members' constituencies do not prevent them in any way from taking part in our proceedings.

Mr. Connarty: I am grateful for that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and hope to see it underlined again and again.

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I am keen to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister how that throw-away phrase, "the enfranchisement of the workers", is linked to the logic whereby a company or body will appoint one or two people, according to its rateable value, and how that gives the workers anything. Is that a new departure--the third way--in industrial democracy?

Mr. Raynsford: As I said earlier in my speech, and as was pointed out earlier in the debate, clause 4 specifically requires a qualifying body to

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington recognised that that was an important shift, compared with the Bill as previously presented. I believe that that is a significant step forward.

By allowing the Bill to proceed, the House will be giving further encouragement to the City to continue the process of reform. The new electorate that the Bill will create, covering the full range of businesses operating in the City in place of the much more restrictive business franchise that previously existed, will become an added incentive.

However, the amendments would fundamentally alter the way in which the Bill works. They have not been fully considered. Practical issues were raised by the Chairman of the Select Committee and by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke),who is sponsoring the Bill, about the difficulty of implementing the proposals contained in the amendment. Nor have the amendments been the subject of local consultation, as the City of London Labour party had to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): How many votes will the Worshipful Company of Skinners get?

Mr. Raynsford: I would require notice of that question. However, I undertake to look into it and to write to my hon. Friend.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington admitted, amendment No. 33, the crux of the amendments, is a weak one. It would be inappropriate at this stage to insert the amendments in the Bill. The Government cannot, therefore, support them, and I hope that the House will not do so either.

9.45 pm

Mr. Winterton: I fully support the measured remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke)--and, if I may say so without ruining his career, the constructive, positive and reasoned response to the debate by the Minister. He understands the City.

I declare an interest in response to the intervention of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), with whom I have a great deal in common and whom I happen to admire immensely as a considerable parliamentarian, although he is out of place sitting where he is. The role played by the City provides a substantial advantage to the people of that area and considerable advantages to those who live within the City of London. I speak as an immediate past upper bailiff of the Worshipful Company

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of Weavers--the oldest, but in no way the most senior company in the City of London. We trace our foundation back to 1130.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing a group of amendments. Perhaps he could come directly to them.

Mr. Winterton: As one of my hon. Friends says, I am weaving a particular line in the case that I seek to make.

The Minister, in responding to the amendments--

Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham) rose--

Mr. Winterton: I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman, who happens to be an articulate and positive member of the Procedure Committee.

Mr. Efford: I used to do quite a bit of weaving in the City myself, but no one has ever given me a vote.

Mr. Winterton: Democracy is an interesting animal. In itself, it does not necessarily provide the quality of service which the people of London expect and which all the residents of the City of London receive from the City corporation.

My brief contribution to the debate is to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster in the constructive remarks that he has made. If the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty), who represents a Scottish constituency with great distinction, and the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), another distinguished and experienced Member of the House, can participate, I hope that the Member for Macclesfield, which is in the north-west of England, can also contribute, bearing in mind my intimate knowledge of the City of London. Although, as the hon. Member for Bolsover will know, I do not support many of the things that the City does in an economic context, I believe that it plays a major, positive and very beneficial role in local government.

Mr. Skinner rose--

Mr. Winterton: I give way to the hon. Gentleman with immense pleasure.

Mr. Skinner: All I can say is that the hon. Gentleman is now in favour of the block vote, and has deserted "one person, one vote".

Mr. Winterton: I have immense respect for the hon. Gentleman, and I like the point that he has made. I am highly principled: I believe in one man, one vote--or one man/one woman, one vote. We are dealing, however, with the City of London, a uniquely successful entity.

Mr. Corbyn: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Hon. Members: Go on.

Mr. Winterton: I give way.

Mr. Corbyn: A moment ago, the hon. Gentleman spoke of the City's good works and administration of

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local government. He will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) say that the City has reserves amounting to £1.6 billion in its coffers. I represent a borough that borders on the City. We have 10,000 families on housing waiting lists. Does the hon. Gentleman think that some of that money could be better spent in Hackney, Islington--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention does not relate in any way to the amendment, and I ask the hon. Member for Macclesfield(Mr. Winterton) not to respond to it.

Mr. Winterton: Of course I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have a full answer to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), but, owing to my deep respect for the Chair, I will not give it.

I merely say that I agree with the Minister that the Bill represents a considerable advance on what has preceded it, and I think that, for that reason alone, it would be inappropriate for it to be voted down. Bearing in mind the City corporation's assurance that it will continue to consider reform of what goes on in the City, I believe that the House should oppose the amendments, and support the Bill as it stands.

Mr. Sawford: My speech will be short, as I intervened a couple of times earlier.

I found serving on the Committee an enlightening experience. The Committee sat for several days, during which we listened to a good deal of evidence on behalf of the promoter and the petitioners. I learned a great deal about the inner workings of the City in that time, which led me to believe that it must be the most undemocratic, unrepresentative, unaccountable system left in this country. I felt, however, that it was making a genuine commitment to reform its methods of operation, and to increase its democratic accountability.

The Bill proposes to extend the franchise by, in effect, giving votes to buildings. Votes would accumulate on the basis of the value of those buildings.

Mr. Corbyn: My hon. Friend has examined the Bill. What evidence was there, in the response of the City of London corporation, of consultation with either individual businesses in the City or employees of those companies?

Mr. Sawford: We were presented with a considerable amount of evidence that there had been consultation through the City of London corporation. There had also been residents meetings. There had been much consultation. The one group of people which probably had not been consulted in particular were employees. Residents and businesses had had consultation, but that brings us back to the amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) is trying to include employees within the process.

Although extending the franchise on the basis of property values is one way to give a broader franchise to people who are involved and who make their living in the City, it is very much on a corporate basis. The amendments would extend it to people who have a working interest, who make their living and earn their livelihood there. It is still less than full democracy.

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