Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Gentleman has a short memory. He was a candidate in the 1997 general election when the Conservative party fought on a manifesto that was wholly opposed to the introduction of a new elected body in London, believing that the quango arrangements set up when the Greater London council was abolished were adequate to ensure representation in London. We did not believe that they were adequate, which is why we legislated to give the people of London, like those of Scotland and Wales, the right to have their own directly elected bodies to look after their interests.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall touched on the extent to which the Liberal Democrats are relatively well represented in local government. I said that they had a reasonable record in local government and the Greater London Authority, but I hope that they will recognise that they must do better in relation to their selection of candidates generally. I hope that they learn some lessons from the unfortunate debacle at their conference recently, which set back the cause of women's representation in their party.

The hon. Member for Maidenhead suggested that we might be backtracking from our commitment on regional assemblies, but we are doing no such thing. We are committed to producing a White Paper next year that will spell out our proposals in detail. Our proposals in relation to the House of Lords—hon. Members will have astutely realised that they will be revealed tomorrow—will be detailed as well, but I shall not anticipate the future. I hope that the Committee will recognise that the amendments, although well intentioned, are either unnecessary or inappropriate, and that the hon. Lady will agree to withdraw them.

Mrs. May: I have been interested in our debate on the issues, and in the Minister's response. First, I want to comment on what the hon. Member for North Cornwall said. We have had several exchanges about the word ``consensus'' and the cross-party agreement on matters raised in the Bill and the amendments, but it is unfortunate that he did not have the courtesy to put consensus into practice. Until I arrived at the sitting, I was not aware that he had put his name to some of the amendments that I had tabled, as he had not chosen to speak to me on the subject. I was deeply sorry about that.

Mr. Tyler: I apologise. I confess that it was only when I considered the hon. Lady's excellent amendments last night that I realised that I entirely agreed with them. If she wants me always to tell her when I shall agree with her as opposed to when I disagree with her, she may be only partially aware of our views.

Mrs. May: I suspect that the number of occasions on which the hon. Gentleman will agree with me will be more limited than the number of occasions on which I will disagree with him and his party.

In relation to the amendments and the comments made on them, I want to consider the future bodies that might be introduced by Parliament. I take the point made by the hon. Member for North Cornwall that legislation has to be passed by Parliament rather than simply being the diktat of the Government, although the Government produce most legislation and make initial decisions as to how it should be introduced.

The amendments were an attempt to ensure that any bodies introduced by a Labour or Conservative Government during the period up to 2015 in which the measure will operate would be covered by it. I heard the Minister's comments on future bodies and his view that it would be preferable to tackle the issue when it arises in legislation. I recognise that legislation can be changed in future Parliaments, but if we are to make a statement now, through the Bill's passage through Parliament and its enactment, it is important that our statement does not simply relate to elections to bodies currently in place. The Labour Government have tinkered with the constitution by introducing several other bodies, and I shall comment on regional assemblies in a moment.

Mr. Raynsford: In my introductory remarks, I made it clear that we wholly supported the hon. Lady's objective in wanting the principles to apply, and that it was only the mechanism, not the principle, on which we disagreed. I hope that she accepts that we clearly believe that the principles behind the Bill should apply in future where appropriate.

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till Thursday 8 November at five minutes to Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Chairman)
Calton, Mrs
Follett, Barbara
Gibson, Dr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Gilroy, Linda
Hesford, Stephen
Hoban, Mr.
Lansley, Mr.
McKenna, Rosemary
May, Mrs.
Morgan, Julie
Raynsford, Mr.
Ruddock, Joan
Tyler, Mr.
Whitehead, Dr.
Woolas, Mr.

Previous Contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 6 November 2001