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8.45 pm

The demand for the new clause to go through goes beyond the protection of individual residents of the City of London Corporation. If the Bill goes through, it will enable a breach of the human rights not just of corporation residents, but of my constituents.

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Under the Greater London Authority legislation, the City of London Corporation is treated as any other London borough in consultation and development of policies by the new structure for London government: the London mayor and Greater London Authority. Under a range of policy areas, the mayor is required in law to consult the corporation on the development of those policies. Therefore, the introduction of further selling of the business vote undermines the human rights not just of corporation residents, but of my constituents. In that corrupt way, the corporation will be elected and will influence London wide policy.

The ramifications for the human rights of the whole of London's population should be not only debated, discussed and examined by the House, but, under the new clause, considered by the Attorney-General. The new clause would enable the Attorney-General to consider the matter before the Bill's enactment. I hope that it would allow a report to be brought before the House--I believe that that is what was understood by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock--and a thorough debate to take place. The thorough debate would revolve around whether the Bill complied with the provisions in the European convention on human rights on the free expression of the opinion of the people.

Mr. Mackinlay: My new clause does not provide for a report to come back, but that would be ideal. Ideally, both the promoters and the Minister would get the mood of the House and suggest that we abandon tonight's proceedings, or adjourn, and ask for a report. However, failing that, my new clause would mean that the Act could not be triggered until such time as the matter had been brought back.

Mr. McDonnell: I understand what my hon. Friend says, but if a report is not brought back under the new clause, the House will not be able to discuss the validity of the Attorney-General's views. At least under section 19 of the Human Rights Act a statement is made. I was hoping that the new clause would enable at least some report to the House. If it does not, it may need further discussion and amendment later. I would welcome the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster to rise to his feet to withdraw the Bill for redrafting, but I have gone beyond that hopeful stage. I can see that you, too, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are beyond that stage.

There are implications not just for City of London Corporation residents, but for all the constituents of Greater London. That is why I as an individual Member of Parliament for a London constituency think that the issue is critical.

I appreciate that, under the Human Rights Act, there is an opportunity for a get-out clause. It has not been referred to, but I will draw that out briefly. Section 10(2) of the Act provides for remedial orders, which, in layman's terms, give the Government an opportunity to come back. If the Government have got legislation wrong and are found by the European Court to be in contravention of the European convention on human rights, they will be able to issue a remedial order. That order gets individual Ministers off the hook, not that I am particularly bothered about that at this stage. It enables us all, I suppose, to express a view with regard to liability. However, the new clause would obviate the necessity for such remedial orders. I believe that if the Bill were passed, a remedial order would clearly be required.

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Consequently, I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock to consider the new clause's potential and the Government's ability eventually to promote a remedial order. My hon. Friend may want to enter discussions with Ministers on the drafting of relevant remedial orders, should the new clause be passed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is ahead of himself. The substance of new clause 1 is to call upon the Secretary of State to make a statement to the effect that, in his view,

That is the limit of new clause 1. Even if the new clause were approved by the House, it would not debar someone later from challenging a statement of the Secretary of State. Therefore, we should be considering not remedial orders, but, right now, whether a statement will even be made.

Mr. McDonnell: With the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there will be no opportunity to challenge any statement made under the new clause. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock has just clarified, the statement would not be a report to the House. The problem with the new clause is that, even if it were passed, it would provide no procedure for a report or statement to be made to the House. As my hon. Friend has advised me, however, although the new clause is not intended to provide such a procedure, the use of such a procedure should be considered.

If a statement is not made to the House for debate, and if the Government are subsequently found to be remiss and in contravention of the convention, remedial orders will be required and all hon. Members will be complicit in contravening the human rights legislation. That is the logic that I am following in the debate.

I should be quite happy to engage in a dialogue or discussion with the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster and my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock on how the matter might best be dealt with. Today, however, I urge the House to proceed no further with the new clause. None the less, if we divide on it, I shall vote for it, as it would at least provide a fall-back position.

Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is very specific on what is lawful and what is unlawful. I am therefore at a loss to understand why the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), has not yet intervened to say whether the Government have considered the issues and the Bill, so that a statement might be made in accordance with the new clause.

As I have made very clear, I believe that we could act differently by throwing out the Bill and starting again with a more democratic Bill--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. However, not only is he repeating himself within the space of a very few minutes, but he is again ignoring my advice that he cannot revert to how the Bill is being dealt with. We are dealing with one simple matter: new clause 1.

Mr. McDonnell: I was going to finish my sentence by saying, "because of its offence against the human rights legislation", and that I support new clause 1.

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I also pray in aid some of the work that we have been doing on human rights legislation in relation to local government around the world. Recently, a conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association permitted us to examine and debate the human rights role and responsibilities of individual member states of the European Union and of the Commonwealth. New clause 1 is intended to ensure that the Government address the human rights issue by including in the Bill a requirement for them to make a statement, and it accords with some of the work being done by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

At the conference, Richard Bourne, chairman of the Commonwealth human rights--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I would accept an allusion, but we will not have a full discussion of that conference, which is quite outside the scope of the amendment.

Mr. McDonnell: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have respected your views throughout the debate, and you have been kind to me in every debate into which I have entered. However, with the greatest respect, you are not to judge whether I was about to make an allusion or a full statement on the matter, because I had not made it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must have a care about challenging the rulings of the Chair. He was about to launch into further references to the conference. I think that he had made a sufficient allusion to it in support of his general argument, which was therefore in order. However, I have had to remind the hon. Gentleman on a number of occasions of the specific matter that we are discussing. He has repeated himself several times, using the same words over and over again. That is causing me to repeat myself in calling him to order. The hon. Gentleman should respect the rulings that I have given from the Chair, and ensure that the remainder of his remarks is strictly within the terms of the new clause. Otherwise, I shall have to invoke Standing Order No. 42.

Mr. McDonnell: The discussion at the Commonwealth human rights conference was clear about the huge role that Governments had to play in the protection of citizens' human rights and the promotion of local tenets of democracy. The new clause would enable the Government to make a statement, before we proceed further with the Bill, that they value local democracy, value and uphold democratic rights and, on that basis, believe that we are not in contravention of the European convention on human rights. In my view, we are. In my view, we tread a dangerous path. It is my contention that all legislation should comply with the European convention, and private Bills should not be exempt. On that basis, I support the new clause.

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