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Mr. McDonnell: In a subsequent group of amendments, I have tried to provide at least the opportunity for shareholders to have a vote. I could not devise a method of including a customer vote in the amendments that we are discussing because of problems of definition, inability to register and the cost that such a vote would incur. Perhaps one day, if the City publishes its accounts, we can ascertain the exact amount that it could afford for those administrative matters.

Mr. Skinner: What about the Commission for Racial Equality? Will black business men or stakeholders have a specific proportion of the votes? Will that also apply to women? Those are the two big issues of the day. Will people have to sign a document? What chance have we got if someone on the other side will not sign it? A hell of a lot of people in the stock exchange and elsewhere in the City may not sign such a document. Another almighty row would follow.

Mr. McDonnell: The Bill and subsequent amendments make some attempt to ensure that the voters reflect the composition, including gender and ethnicity, of the companies' work forces. That matter needs to be tackled. There is a dearth of women and members of ethnic minorities on the City corporation and its various committees. However, the amendments that we are considering do not deal with that, and I shall move on.

The amendments would establish electoral colleges, comprising businesses and employees. Each would be able to determine the eventual composition of the City corporation's common council. If the amendments were

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accepted, the electorate would comprise the residents, the voters elected by the business electoral college and those elected by the employees electoral college.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): I understand that the Port of London health authority is in the City of London corporation. Would the amendments encompass it?

Mr. McDonnell: I believe that any organisation that is defined as a separate business entity and has property or employees in the City of London area would be covered by the business electoral college. There may be problems, for example, in the case of City corporation functions that are contracted out. If the contract is won in house, the workers are employees of the City corporation, not a separate business. However, a private company or separate agency that operated a service on behalf of the City corporation would be defined as a separate business and, in my view, would fall in the remit of the business college.

7.30 pm

Let me explain how the amendments that I have tabled fit together--the overview for which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) asked. I shall consider the amendments individually and examine how they hang together. The amendments are tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), and he and I have now worked together on them in four or five debates. I shall describe each amendment and how it contributes to the new stakeholder edifice.

Amendment No. 7 establishes the definition of a business electoral college as

of the Bill--

This is an indirect system of election, and there are two stages to the process. The amendment proposes that the qualifying bodies defined in lines 12 and 13 of clause 2 should be gathered together into a business electoral college. The qualifying bodies would then be enfranchised to nominate--I have retained "in writing" from the original Bill--a person or persons to represent them and vote on their behalf in the business electoral college.

Amendment No. 19 amends clause 3(c) to bring about that form of indirect election of the voter, who will eventually cast his or her vote on behalf of the qualifying bodies. The definition of "qualifying bodies" follows shortly, and basically covers the businesses themselves and certain other organisations. Those voters will then cast their votes in the overall City corporation ward elections. Amendment No. 19 therefore empowers the qualifying body to nominate its voter or voters, who will serve in the business electoral college, which will, in turn, elect the voters who will be qualified to vote.

This will be a two-stage, indirect election--there have been arguments about its complexity, but it is no more complex than the constitution of the United States of America, which provides for similar electoral colleges--which will also involve the election of a council, council leader and chairs of committees under the existing

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systems of local government. I reject the insinuation that this is closer to the election of a Pope or the canonisation of a saint. It is a straightforward indirect election system.

Mr. Skinner: I want to bring this debate up to date. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has thought this through, but he sounds as though he is nominating people's peers. This would be no different. There would be people nominating someone to nominate someone to nominate someone else and, despite all my hon. Friend's best intentions of getting some decent people on to this body, we know what would happen. We would get the great and the good again, and the people at the bottom of the street would get left out.

Mr. McDonnell: I understand my hon. Friend's concerns, particularly as both our applications to be people's peers were rejected. Never mind.

The selection of people's peers--or however we like to describe them--was carried out by a committee constructed by the Prime Minister under advice. The committee then nominated the peers--that is true. Under the mechanism that I propose, there will be nomination but there will also be forms of election. There is a difference between the two examples. I accept that this is a form of indirect election, but at the end of the day the route will lead to an election, particularly within the employers' electoral college. I accept that there is an element of nomination in the business electoral college.

Mr. Dismore: Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), I wonder how the aldermen and the mayor fit into the picture. As I understand the rather convoluted arrangements that exist now, they are chosen from among the councillors of the City--the members of the common council--who would be chosen by the people chosen by the college, who would be chosen by the college, which would be chosen by the electorate. There could be five or six different stages before we got to the most senior positions in the council, which are the Lord Mayor of London and the aldermen. Is my hon. Friend perhaps saying that they could be the people's aldermen, elected directly under his proposed arrangements?

Mr. McDonnell: I am surprised at this lack of understanding of the arrangements by someone who has been in the Labour party for so long. The party has had the mechanism for electoral colleges for nearly a century. The amendments reflect that mechanism. The electoral college determines the voters, who turn up at a conference and elect a national executive committee, which then elects a Chair and has, in previous times, worked with the parliamentary Labour party to elect the leader of the party who has gone on to become the leader of the Government and of the country. My proposal is a reflection of a democratic practice that has gone on for some time in this country. I accept that businesses have not nominated representatives to the Labour party conference, but who knows?

Amendment No. 56 would amend clause 3(c) and, as a result, a person would become entitled to vote in any ward of the City if, on the qualifying date, that person was

ordinarily in occupation of a hereditament. I prefer the French pronunciation of that word, as it has a French origin, although other hon. Members prefer the English

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pronunciation. Amendment No. 56 is a tidier and more comprehensive amendment than amendment No. 19, and it warrants support on that basis. It represents a slight variation on a theme.

Amendment No. 58 deals with the composition of the business electoral college. Its objective is to ensure that the business electoral college--the BEC--reflects the range of business activity in the City corporation. Hon. Members will understand that I am keen to ensure that the City corporation has a balanced form of representation drawn from the expertise available to it in the different professions, business operations and companies operating within the square mile.

Mr. Dismore: One thing that is starting to trouble me about this method of dealing with the issue is the question of nationality. To be a residential elector in an ordinary election in the United Kingdom, one has to be either a British or Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Irish Republic, or--in certain elections--a citizen of other European Union countries. It is not clear to me from the amendment whether my hon. Friend has addressed the issue of nationality. For example, in this new global economy, a business in the City whose head office and main operations were in the United States might have no real interest in the United Kingdom except for its business premises, which might be an offshoot of a conglomerate based in New York or Washington. Is my hon. Friend saying that such people should have a say in the democratic elections of the United Kingdom?

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