Greater London Authority Bill

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Mr. Raynsford: I thank the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminister and the hon. Member for Croydon, South for welcoming the amendments that we have tabled to try to improve the definition of the role of the cultural strategy group. The right hon. Gentleman asked why we tabled them. At some very much earlier stage of the Committee's proceedings, my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London made the point that the cultural sections of the Bill are relatively skeletal, but that we hoped to amplify and expand them. That is what we have set out to do.

We recognise that it is important that the powers that the Bill creates should be defined in such a way as to make clear the importance that the Government attach to the cultural role of the mayor and to make it possible for the mayor to operate effectively through the cultural strategy group. We recognise the importance of having a cultural strategy group, and the amendments that we have tabled flesh out those provisions. They have been developed in parallel with the thinking of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the cultural consortia that are being established elsewhere in the country. There is a necessary process of linkage between those two.

Mr. Brooke: In a sense, the Minister's final remarks have forestalled me. I was about to ask him whether the reason for tabling the amendments was that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had not prepared the relevant clauses when the Bill was originally issued—which would explain why the provisions are rather skeletal, as he accurately described them.

Mr. Raynsford: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill is long. Inevitably, not every detail was absolutely right at the outset of the drafting process. As he knows only too well, a lengthy Committee stage such as this is part of that process. It has broadly followed the same timetable as we envisaged, but we have allowed some additional time in response to Opposition requests in order to ensure thorough and rigorous scrutiny of the entire Bill, and I am pleased that he recognises that. We want to ensure that the Bill leaves the Committee in a better shape than that in which it arrived. We thought that it was pretty good when it arrived, but we are not so arrogant as to believe that it was perfect, and feel that the process has improved it. It will continue to be improved, I hope, on Report, and possibly thereafter.

Mr. Forth: And in the Lords.

Mr. Raynsford: I said, ``Possibly thereafter''.

The issues raised by the hon. Member for Croydon, South relate to appointments to the cultural strategy group. It is not right to fetter the mayor's discretion. It is right that the mayor be able to choose appropriate people who have a contribution to make and can represent the wide range of different cultural activities in London. Allowing the mayor such discretion, just as we have in the Bill's other provisions, seems appropriate.

We differ from the hon. Member for Croydon, South on payment of members of the cultural strategy group. There is a great deal of merit in the principle of public service, and people will want and be happy to serve on that body without remuneration. I do not accept his view that the absence of payment for membership will reduce the quality of the contributions that we receive from people who believe in and have a commitment to the arts and want to make a contribution voluntarily. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman and his party should doubt the validity of that willingness to serve in a voluntary capacity, which has always been an important feature of public life in this country, and, I hope, will continue to be so for many years to come.

Mr. Forth: I think that I probably agree with the Minister on that matter, but a niggling doubt is in my mind, and I wonder whether he might put my mind at rest. If we continue to rely on public service as a motivator in such cases, might we not tend to have unrepresentative people on such bodies—the usual suspects:—the rather grand, the rather well-off and people who can afford the time or who are senior in businesses that allow them to take time off? If we are not careful, people on lower incomes or who have demanding jobs and cannot take time off will not be represented. Does the Minister recognise that risk?

Mr. Raynsford: I recognise that theme quite readily, and accept that in some areas that is such a worry that it is necessary to ensure payment. However, I doubt very much whether the relatively modest payments that would be appropriate in the case of a body such as the cultural strategy group—which will meet not full-time but only periodically, and would therefore qualify for only relatively modest payments—would make a genuine difference to people. I suspect that people who are genuinely interested in and care passionately about the arts will be prepared to serve without a relatively modest allowance for doing so. I could be wrong; I accept entirely that a risk exists, but in principle, we are doing the right thing in this instance.

It was rather touching to listen to the plea of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey for his amendment, describing it as ``just a little whittling down of the mayor's powers''. How many times during the past two months has the hon. Gentleman moved amendments, all of which could have been justified on the ground of just a little whittling down of the mayor's powers? Had all those amendments been accepted, the mayor would not have any power but would be a political eunuch with no say over London. Cumulatively, they would have entirely emasculated the mayor's work, as the hon. Gentleman should recognise. I pay as little heed to his claim for just a little whittling down as I do to the introduction to so many of his speeches that begin with the words, ``Just a short intervention.''

3 pm

I think that I have responded to the concerns of the hon. Member for Croydon, South about the additions to the Bill. I hope that the Committee accepts our amendments.

Mr. Ottaway: Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, I just about accept the Minister's response to amendment No. 1263, but not in respect of amendment No. 1262. There is a good case for the mayor appointing half the group, less one, from the assembly and nominating bodies to make the appointments to the other half of the group, plus one. It is a better way in which to involve those in the world of culture, media and sport. Although it is not the lead amendment, I wish to press amendment No. 1262 to a Division.

The Chairman: To help the committee, I shall allow the official Opposition a vote on amendment No. 1262, when appropriate.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Steven Pound (Ealing, North): On a point of order, Mr. Winterton. I think that it is one on which you may be uniquely qualified to rule. Last week, I addressed Conservative Members who have performed distinguished service to the state, under the colours of the Queen, as honourable and gallant Gentlemen. However, I notice in the Hansard report of our proceedings that the words ``and gallant'' are in parenthesis. I appreciate that such usage is a tad archaic, but I was under the impression that Conservative Members who had served under the Queens' colours are referred to as honourable and gallant—in the case of the hon. Member for Croydon, South, to great distinction. Will you correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Winterton?

The Chairman: For many years, it was the tradition and custom of the House of Commons to address a Member of Parliament if he was a current serving officer or a senior retired officer as hon. and gallant or right hon. and gallant. If a Member was a barrister, he would have been addressed as hon. and learned or right hon. and learned. If an hon. Member wishes to address other MPs as such, it can still be done, but the Modernisation Committee has changed the traditions and customs of the House—a matter on which I shall not comment, although I have very strong views about it.

If hon. Members wish to address other hon. Members as honourable and gallant, honourable and learned, right honourable and gallant or right honourable and learned, I shall not correct them. It is up to the Official Report how such procedure is reported. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is now aware of some of the traditions, conventions and customs of this great House.

Mr. Ottaway: Further to that point of order, Mr. Winterton. I think that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) was referring to me. All I can say is that I covered the withdrawal from Aden, and I commanded two of her Majesty's warships, but I certainly did not feel gallant in the process. The hon. Gentleman need no longer refer to me as such.

Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull): Further to that point of order, Mr. Winterton. I shall now make an inadequate attempt to add to your utterly comprehensible explanation. Would it be possible to address a parliamentary colleague as right honourable, gallant, learned, reverend and noble?

The Chairman: I shall rule on these points of order when I have taken the final one.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Further to that point of order, Mr. Winterton. Was it not the practice in times gone by for hon. Members to be addressed as gallant if they had reached the field of major, squadron leader or lieutenant-commander? Of course, the Modernisation Committee is entirely right that anyone who has served in the armed forces is, ipso facto, gallant, as is the hon. Member for Ealing, North.

The Chairman: I am sure that honour has been done in our brief debate on that point of order. The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) may be right that a limited number of people could be all the things that he suggested.

Mr. Brooke: On a point of order, Mr. Winterton. My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull included ``reverend'' in his list. Have you considered that that would creep in only if the Member was non-denominational?

 
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