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5.17 pm

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members enjoyed the speech made by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). We have heard some of it before, but it was none the less welcome.

John McDonnell: Would the hon. Gentleman like to identify those parts of my speech that he had heard before and those that he had not? I do not think that he has heard my speech before.

Mr. Davey: I shall not go down that road, as I am sure that I should soon be brought to order. People who study our proceedings can read the hon. Gentleman's speeches for themselves.

I agree with some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, as I pointed out during some of the debates on this measure in the last Parliament. I and my colleagues also voted for many of the amendments that he tabled to improve the Bill.

However, I disagree with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's argument today: that this Parliament should not be allowed to debate the measure. It does not seem to be a logical sequitur that, because the Bill is inadequate, the House should not debate it. We are often asked to debate inadequate Bills, many of which are introduced by his right hon. and hon. Friends. It is the job of this place to improve legislation.

Jeremy Corbyn: Is it not a parliamentary maxim that one Parliament cannot legislate for another? Public Bills cannot be transferred from one Parliament to another. Private Members' Bills cannot be transferred from one Parliament to another—indeed, from one Session to another. Why on earth should private Bills—in this case, promoted on behalf of the City corporation—be allowed not merely to pass from Session to Session, but from Parliament to Parliament? If we are all still Members in four years, I would not be surprised to find us discussing a motion for the Bill to carry over into the next Parliament.

Mr. Davey: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I think that he misunderstands the parliamentary procedure under which we are debating the motion. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington agreed that this revival process has been used before to continue debate. Surely, the hon. Gentleman wants to debate the subject of democracy in our capital city.

John McDonnell: My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) was making the point that when other Bills are transferred they start afresh.

Jeremy Corbyn: They are newly introduced.

John McDonnell: Indeed. Our objection to the whole carry-over procedure in this motion is that the Bill will not start afresh. It will not go to a Select Committee where

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representations or petitions can be considered. The motion is certainly offensive because new amendments will substantially alter the measure. The Bill should start afresh.

Mr. Davey: I am happy to deal with that second point in due course, but it is my understanding that private business is often revived using this procedure. It is not a new thing for the House; it has happened over the years.

Jeremy Corbyn: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davey: No; I will not give way on that, because I want to deal with the second point raised by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, which he laboured at great length. He said that we had been promised amendments by the promoters, which in his view, would completely change the nature of the Bill, which therefore should not be revived.

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, because the principle underlying the Bill is that the promoters wish to change the franchise for votes for the City corporation. It is the House's job to decide whether the direction in which they want to change the franchise is correct. Therefore, if the underlying principle is about the franchise, it seems quite sensible that the Bill should be carried over so that we may continue that debate.

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I am pleased that the corporation has suggested that it will table amendments because, like him in the previous Parliament I disagreed with the Bill that the City corporation put before the House because—

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davey: I shall give way when I have finished the point.

I disagreed with the Bill that the City corporation had produced in the previous Parliament because it was unsatisfactory.

John McDonnell rose

Mr. Davey: Will the hon. Gentleman rest in his seat for just a second?

That is why I and my colleagues supported many of the amendments proposed by the hon. Gentleman. Like him, I wish to see the amendments that are mentioned in the statement before us, but unlike him, I am prepared to vote for the motion tonight so that we may see and debate them.

John Cryer rose

Mr. Davey: I will allow the intervention in a second, but I want to make this point. It is very important that we change the current franchise in the City. I find it as unacceptable as does the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. That is why I wish to see those amendments.

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I should have thought, given the hon. Gentleman's background, that he would want employees to be enfranchised within the new system.

John McDonnell rose

Dr. Vis rose

Mr. Davey: I give way to the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis).

Dr. Vis: I thought that the hon. Gentleman said that he was pleased that the amendments were there, but that must imply that he has seen them; he also gives the impression that he has not seen them. How can he be pleased about not having seen the amendments about which he is pleased?

Mr. Davey: The hon. Gentleman needs to listen more carefully. I said that I had been told, as had others, having read the statement before us, that there were proposals to table amendments. I wish to see those amendments, because we are told that they are moving in a direction for which I and Labour Back Benchers argued in the previous Parliament.

John Cryer: Why cannot we see the amendments now? What is preventing those amendments from being tabled now so that we can see them?

Mr. Davey: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I wish that the promoters had put the amendments before us for the debate. However, the question before us is whether we should vote for the motion, and if he is arguing that we should not vote for it just because we have not seen the amendments, I am afraid that that is a non sequitur, and therefore I cannot agree with the logic of his position because that logic is not very good.

John McDonnell: This is bourgeois liberal sophistry, but let us go through it. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have seen an amendment, and it is the same as the one that was offered last year. It does not give the vote to employees. It simply says that if a company has a specific rateable value it must, according to a formula, employ a certain number of employees and therefore it may have that number of votes per business. He knows as well as I do that if we allow the motion to pass tonight, the Government will steamroller the Bill through, and that the amendment is no more than a tawdry fig leaf. I ask him to get real.

Mr. Davey: The hon. Gentleman is making a number of assertions, most of which are highly contentious. After an hour-long speech, he has just told us the news that he has seen the amendments and can assure us what they are. That is news to me. I know of no publicly available amendments. If he has them in his possession, it is a shame that he did not bother to circulate them to other hon. Members. He has done the House a disservice.

John McDonnell: I referred to the amendments in my speech. They are the same as those on offer last November and were made widely known by the City of London corporation. Let us ask the Bill's sponsor to produce them now so that the hon. Gentleman can judge

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them tonight. I believe that, with those amendments, we are talking about a new Bill. The hon. Gentleman should ask the sponsor.

Mr. Davey: I am more than happy to see any amendments that the promoter wishes to put forward.

In the last Parliament, we had some good debates to try to make the City corporation more democratic. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends would want to move in that direction. I am worried about some of his arguments. He called me bourgeois in his pejorative manner, which shows where he is coming from in this argument.

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I do not find in my dealings with the City and my knowledge of its undertakings in the capital that it is always nefarious. The City corporation does some good works. It should be made more democratic and that would make those good works far more legitimate in my eyes and those of many other people. We do ourselves a disservice and we do not benefit the arguments for democracy when we resort to the approach and attitude demonstrated by the hon. Gentleman.

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