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Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): Will the right hon. Gentleman remind us of how part-time workers will be treated?
Sir George Young: I think that they will qualify if the premises involved are their principal place of work.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Paragraph 9 of the statement given us by the promoters states:
Sir George Young: I do not carry such important statistics in my head, but I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman receives them. The key point is that the boundaries are being changed so that the domination of the residential vote can be retained in the four wards, thus leaving the balance unchanged.
John McDonnell: I raised the issue of boundary changes in my point of order, because one of the
Sir George Young: I do not accept that criticism. I understand that the boundary changes are going through, although they are not included in the Bill.
Under proposed subsection (1B), the entitlement of any qualifying body to make appointments would be confined to situations in which the full five, or 50, increase in the size of the work force was satisfied. Remainders are ignored. A work force of nine, for instance, would generate an entitlement to one appointment, because the full step of five additional members of the work force above the one appointment generated by a work force of up to five had not been satisfied.
The quantitative assessment of the outturn in terms of the number of business voters has been a substantial obstacle to the adoption of a work force-based entitlement. Only through the results of a comprehensive land use survey in which the corporation has been engaged over the past four yearsa process involving personal visits both to individual City businesses and to correspondentshas the development of the scheme now envisaged being possible. The survey will need to be updated on a continuing basis through the development of an occupiers' database. That represents a substantial ongoing commitment on the corporation's part.
The promoters still think that rateable values would have provided the most readily available and easily validated basis for the entitlement to appoint. I note that the Government's recent White Paper, "Strong Local LeadershipQuality Public Services", anticipates the use of rateable values for the voting mechanism for business improvement districts. The promoters have, however, sought to respond to the continuing objections of the Bill's opponents in Parliament to a property-based system.
The City of London Labour party petitioned against the Bill when it was introduced. I hope that I will not offend my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) if I read a short passage from the evidence given to the Select Committee by Mr. Christopher Haines, chairman of the City of London Labour party, to which the corporation responded by tabling the new clause and amendments. He said:
The new scheme maintainsalbeit on a different basisarrangements for the appointment of individuals. I want to say something about that in the context of
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington asserts that there should be no element of appointment or nomination. The link between those who pay for local services and the entitlement to vote in local elections has long been recognised. It is axiomatic that people liable for council tax in any local authority area will have a residence there, and will thus be able to vote for their local council.
I accept that since the advent of the national non-domestic rate, there has been no such link between payment for local services and the local authority for businesses. The City's position, however, is different. Businesses in the City are uniquely subject to local rating powers. When the national non-domestic rate was being developed, officials at what was then the Department of the Environment calculated that without the local business rate arrangements, City residents would face yearly tax demands of £9,000 each.
These local business rate powers are not limited to businesses that currently have voting rights; they apply to all City businesses. The Bill as redrafted, however, does not simply give businesses that pay the right to a vote. It links the new entitlement to their work forces, and provides for appointments to reflect the composition of those work forces.
Phil Sawford (Kettering): I recognise that this represents a fundamental shift from votes for property to an arrangement based on the numbers who work in that property, but there is a whole body of electoral law applying to the normal democratic process. There are many questions relating to part-time workers, the number of registered electors, how we will be able to verify the information and whether these will be British citizens who would be entitled to vote in other elections. Amendment No. 149 shifts the goalposts without setting out the mechanisms. That is what concerns me on the democratic deficit side.
Sir George Young: That is a criticism that the Bill's opponents made when it was in its previous form. There are very good reasons for not setting out in detail the issues to which the hon. Gentleman refers. We are talking about a legal minefield. I believe that some 50 per cent. of legal actions, in the case of industrial ballots, relate to the operation of the law. I think it much better to set out the broad principle that the electorate should reflect the composition of the work force and leave the rest to the good sense of businesses, rather than embarking on a marathon of complex legislation that will end up before the courts. That was in the Bill before, and is unchanged by the shift to which I referred.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): May I pick up the point made by the hon. Member for Kettering (Phil Sawford)? I hope that the question raised by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) will be answered, if not this evening, then at some point in the near future when we have the statistics to hand.
There is no doubt that the local councillors who will be elected in four largely residential wards will be elected by residents. Whatever formula is used, there is no question of residents' positions being usurped by a block business vote. There is a protection for local residents.
Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification.
Mr. Dismore: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Sir George Young: I should like to make a little more progress.
The further consideration, which all those who have an interest in making the system work acknowledge, is that it should be simple to operate. Some of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington and his colleagues anticipate elections about elections by a system of proportional representation through electoral colleges or ballots, which involve such complexity that they would be guaranteed to ensure that the new system was still-born. That may indeed have been the intended consequence.
Amendment No. 10 deals with the situation where premises cross ward boundaries. In such cases the premises will be treated as being located in the ward in which the greater proportion of the premises is located. That achieves the same result as formerly provided for by clause 3(5).
Amendment Nos. 11, 17 and 20 simply change "hereditament" to "premises", to reflect the fact that the scheme is no longer based on rateable values. As I have said, "premises" is a standard legislative term.
Amendment No. 12 reproduces paragraph 13 of part 2 of schedule l to the present Bill. There are no changes in drafting and the purpose remains the same: to prevent the possibility of "double counting" or an entitlement to appoint individuals arising twice in respect of the same premises.
Amendments Nos. 13, 16 and 27 deal with a consequential drafting change to refer the reader to the 1957 Act rather than the current Bill and to take account of the other amendments to clause 3.
Amendment No. 15 takes account of the incorporation of the definition of "work force" in clause 2. As the term is to be defined as part of clause 2(1), there is no need for it to be repeated at clause 4(2).
Amendment No. 18 is a consequential drafting change to reflect the change from "hereditament" to "premises". It substitutes "premises" for "hereditament" and reorders the concluding words of clause 5(5).
Amendment No. 25 removes schedule l entirely. The schedule sets out the entitlement to appoint voters relative to the rateable values of premises. With the change to a work force-based system, it becomes redundant.
The remaining amendmentsNos. 21, 26, 27, 29 and 30are consequential, but I should refer to amendment No. 28, which concerns the repeals schedule. It may not be clear to the House that this is a repeal and not, I hasten to add, a reintroduction of a £l0 rateable value threshold. With the change to work force size as the criterion for the