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Mr. Skinner: I am intrigued; I wonder what Prince Charles thinks about the carry-over motion? He comments on almost everything, but I have not heard anything on this matter. I assume that he is in favour of it.

Mr. Cohen: I cannot comment on that. Prince Charles is probably too busy fox hunting to have a view on the Bill.

Mr. McDonnell: He is with us.

Mr. Cohen: My hon. Friend says that he is with us, so we will forgive him on this point.

The corporation does good work in its management of open land, such as Epping forest, but the capital deserves an independent London-wide environmental green land trust, which does not have to be the corporation's responsibility. The corporation has such a role by accident of history--it bought much of its land with its vast funds. Despite the fact that many areas of London are heavily urbanised and road polluted, they do not receive any support from the corporation for an ameliorating green land policy. I could give examples of that in my constituency, where the M11 is being built--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I plead with the hon. Member. The House should not be hearing about the corporation itself. We are debating just the carry-over motion.

Mr. Cohen: I apologise; it is very difficult sometimes not to stray.

I return to the point that the City wants special treatment from the House. It wants all that money to be spent on it, but will not dip into its own pocket for the rest of London. That is at the heart of what I am trying to say.

Mr. Skinner: Is my hon. Friend trying to tell me that this is a carry-over motion, and a Bill for the few and not the many?

Mr. Cohen: That is extremely well put, but I had better not go further down that road.

City chiefs know that the corporation could and should do much more about green and open space in London, and that it does not run a comprehensive environmental green and open space policy for the capital, which is what is needed. Many would say that such a role is for the new

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mayor of London. Why, then, is the City even involved? The corporation hinders such a policy because it holds the main purse strings--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member is straying from the subject again, but he promised me that he would try not to do so.

Mr. Cohen: I shall not stray again. In deference to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have cut vast swathes of my prepared speech.

Even London businesses contribute £1.2 billion a year to the rest of the country through national non-domestic rates. The City speaks up for London businesses--or claims to do so--yet it is impotent in preventing all that money flowing out of London and in protecting business interests in London. It certainly does not put up its own money for that. Therefore, given the City's current activities, it does not deserve a special carry-over motion.

At an earlier stage in the Bill's progress, it was backed by the then Minister for London and Construction, my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning. Even today, I suspect that Ministers will troop through the Aye Lobby, as they did previously--wasting their time on a Bill that is not worthy.

What did my hon. Friend the Minister get from the City for committing the support of all those Ministers? The changes to the Bill do not add up to a moment's modernisation. Hereditary peers are about as modern as the corporation of London will be following the passage of this Bill. Ministers have been selling London short by the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Minister originally sought to be a candidate for the mayor of London. He is now a campaign manager for one of the candidates, but when it came to getting a deal for London and putting the squeeze on the City, for all the Government backing, he slunk away, losing the opportunity. His policy on the Bill does not inspire hope in Londoners that those in the capital's top jobs--the mayor and the Minister responsible for London--will fight hard enough on their behalf if it does not suit them or if they prefer a cosy deal with business men and dignitaries in the corporation of London. By supporting the Bill, the Government and the Minister responsible for London are sending an appalling message. We should be putting the squeeze on the City, so that, with all its vast wealth, it does a lot more for the environment and the businesses of London, as itshould. I--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Mr. Robert Syms.

8.10 pm

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): I shall speak briefly in support of the motion.

I served on the Opposed Private Bills Committee, which considered a fair amount of evidence. The Labour party had obviously changed its position on the City of London, but the incoming Government were nevertheless subject to an expectation that there would be reforms in the City, as the franchise was being severely criticised from all directions, and it was felt that improvement was needed.

In evidence, Mr. Tom Simmons, the clerk of the City of London, said that the City initially hoped and expected that the Government might encompass reform proposals

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within a Government Bill. Had that happened, there would have been no need for the City to promote a private Bill. However, the Government--no doubt because of their other priorities and because of all the difficulties with the Greater London Authority--did not wish to become involved in promoting a change to the franchise in the City. Despite that, there was still an expectation of reform and modernisation--that over-used word--so the City felt that it had to come up with proposals speedily to tackle the problem of the franchise to enable it to survive as an independent institution promoting what we probably all agree is a very important asset for the nation, and creating very many jobs in many other parts of London.

I support the carry-over motion precisely because the City was obliged to introduce a private Bill. The City is in a difficult position. Residents of the City and many businesses have been consulted on the new system. Considerable expense has been incurred in that consultation and in the promotion of the Bill. Because the City cannot impose a guillotine, it does not seem unreasonable that the Bill should be carried over.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain to me how he can possibly justify the carry-over of a Bill which would normally fall--as this Bill undoubtedly should--and which, in clause 3(1)(c), contains a provision that allows a person to appoint someone else to vote. That is not democratic, no matter how one looks at it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber when I made it clear that we are debating the carry-over motion, not the details of the Bill. Mr. Robert Syms.

Mr. Bermingham: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely the justification for carry-over is normally to be found in the Bill itself, enabling one to question its anomalies and undemocratic nature and to ask right hon. or hon. Gentlemen--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. All I would say is, "Surely not." The situation is clear: we are debating the carry-over motion. That, rather than the detail of the Bill, is what is on the Order Paper. [Interruption.] If the carry-over motion is passed, all the details and all the argument can be put forward again.

Mr. Syms: No doubt, if the carry-over motion is passed, the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to debate these weighty issues, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Bill is not ideal. I have some concerns about it, but its proposals are an improvement on the current arrangements, and the report back, on which the Committee insisted, will at least keep the matter in the political court so that we may see whether the Bill is working in the way that the City expects it to.

8.14 pm

Mr. Shaun Woodward (Witney): We are delighted to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) in his place tonight. We are sorry not to see the Minister for Housing and Planning, whose

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face we have become accustomed to seeing on these occasions, but we understand that he may be busy on the telephone to constituents of Brent, East tonight.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington(Mr. McDonnell) asks why the Bill should be carried over. The answer is that the City of London is unique, and the City needs the Bill to be carried over. We all hear the views of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, but his description of the City as a rotten borough probably tells the House little about the reality of the City and a great deal about the hon. Gentleman's deeply held convictions about those who create wealth in our city. As he says, he will launch a war of attrition to try to destroy the Bill if it is carried over, and perhaps that tells us all that we need to know about his objections tonight. It is not reform but an ideological agenda.

Mr. Bermingham: I shall try to keep my remarks in order this time, Mr. Deputy Speaker--if I go off the track, just tell me again: I promise to be good--but will the hon. Gentleman explain how, if he has reservations about a Bill which he thinks is a bad Bill, he can get up and justify carrying it over? Why should a bad Bill be carried over when it is much easier to get rid of it and start again?


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