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Mrs. Lait: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend’s intervention went straight over my head. My only thought on this subject is that I was in Cardiff on Saturday and Sunday, and I am not sure that that
27 Feb 2007 : Column 838
match was the best example ever of football. However, I did not watch it, so I cannot contribute anything further.

I was about to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bromley and Chislehurst and for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling), both of whom are my constituency neighbours, for their enormously useful contribution—minus the football remarks—to the Bill Committee, for their comments this evening, and in particular for their observations on the assembly budget. Their intimate knowledge of how the budget system works—or does not work—is very valuable to us all. I also thank the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) for tabling new clause 8, which we will support if it is pressed to a vote.

I do not want to take up much more time, given that the arguments have been exceedingly well made. I am rather glad, however, that the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) is back in the Chamber, because he is responsible for the whole mess that the assembly budget is in. It was during his stewardship of the original GLA Bill that the Government failed to take into account the impact of their proportional representation system, which means practically by definition that no one political party will ever get a majority—and deliberately so, as he clearly explained at the time. However, the difficulty was that, in line with the mindset of the first-past-the-post system, of which I am a great supporter, the Government imposed the three-quarters majority rule on the budget vote.

Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Lait: I do not want to spoil the alliance between the Liberal Democrats and ourselves on this issue by getting into an argument about PR. I would prefer us to stick together and do our best to ensure that the new clause is carried.

Mr. Browne: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I am not seeking to cause an argument; I am simply wondering whether she supports the electoral system that operates for the leadership of the Conservative party. Of course, if she is in favour of a first-past-the-post—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am afraid that that is not relevant to the new clause under discussion.

Mrs. Lait: Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving exactly the same answer that I would have given.

It is the conjunction of the first-past-the-post mindset, whereby three quarters of the assembly must vote against the budget, and the d’Hondt system that has led us to this crazy situation. The London assembly has even fewer budgetary powers than the European Parliament has—and it did not have many. I therefore thank the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington for tabling the new clause. Year after year, sensible Conservative proposals for the Mayor’s budget have been overturned with an arrogance that most council tax payers are just beginning to come to terms with. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and
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Westminster (Mr. Field) said so succinctly, that is easy to see with the Westminster council tax budget. It is less simple for those of us in the outer suburbs and other boroughs—excluding Wandsworth, perhaps—to see the enormous hike that the Mayor imposes on us year after year. The Conservative group on the assembly and some of the other parties have from time to time proposed much more sensible budgets that would have obtained more and wider support for the institutions of the Mayor and the assembly, but they have been turned down.

I am beginning to wonder what the impact will be on the precept and the council tax payer of the Mayor’s proposed aggrandisement of London through the creation of six “gateways” into London, quite apart from the impact on those poor boroughs that will have to give planning permission for those monstrosities. I would have thought that the Mayor’s greatest monument is the congestion charge. His producing such a proposal shows that his behaviour is becoming infinitely more erratic. For the first time, we might actually get a majority against one of his proposals, which would enable us to turn down his budget.

Given that we cannot get a change to the election system into the Bill, the Committee tried, and we are now trying, to obtain much more rational control of the Mayor’s spending. We support the new clause, and I hope that we can ensure that the Government have to think again after we vote on it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait), like me, is a Londoner, although we do not speak with the same classic Cockney accent as some of our fellow citizens. She was being uncharacteristically uncharitable to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford). She accused him of being responsible for the mess that she says we are in, when we should be congratulating him on his stewardship and the leadership that he showed in pioneering the original Bill through the House in 1999. Our presence here today is testimony to the success of the model that he laid down, and he should be congratulated for what he achieved in steering through the original Bill.

New clause 8, which would allow the assembly to amend the Mayor’s final draft budget by a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority, was debated exhaustively in Committee. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) will not be surprised, therefore, to learn that the Government remain unconvinced of his arguments, just as he is unconvinced of mine. We remain firmly of the view that the two-thirds majority requirement for assembly amendments to the Mayor’s final draft budget is entirely appropriate for the GLA and the strong-Mayor model that we set up for London. As I emphasised in Committee, the GLA is based on the simple principle of a strong executive Mayor and an assembly that can hold him to account through its important scrutiny role. It is therefore only right for the Mayor to propose the budget for the GLA and its functional bodies, and for the assembly to have the power ultimately to amend the Mayor’s draft and final draft budgets for the GLA group, in order to act as an important check on him.

However, as the budget is fundamental to the delivery of the Mayor’s priorities for London, it is also
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important that the assembly be unable readily to amend the final draft budget simply to thwart the Mayor’s wider plans; otherwise, his ability to deliver his democratic mandate for London would be considerably weakened. That is why the Government believe that a two-thirds majority is the right threshold for a valid amendment by the assembly. It ensures that amendments have to be supported by a broad cross-section of assembly members, and requires a clear consensus that the Mayor’s final draft budget is flawed. It allows individual members or parties on the assembly to influence the development of the Mayor’s budget, but it does not fundamentally weaken the Mayor’s responsibility for the budget. Allowing the assembly to amend the final budget—like the draft budget—by a simple majority would do so. It would considerably alter the balance of power at the GLA in favour of the assembly and those parties that are able to muster among themselves a slim majority of assembly members.

7 pm

Mr. Pelling: Under a PR system, real influence could be given to very small groups that are in a minority in the assembly. At present, the Greens have the influence, but it is possible to envisage a scenario in which the British National party might hold the important ninth vote. We are storing up trouble for the future by opting for this anti-democratic proposal that a third will be able to block proposals.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Gentleman repeats the points that he made in debate today and in Committee. We obviously disagree about the model and I will come on to the issue of the mandate and the effectiveness of the procedures that are in place for approving the budget.

As I was saying, those parties would effectively be able to veto the Mayor’s proposals, undermining his ability to deliver his democratic mandate. That would ultimately be bad both for the post of Mayor and more importantly for London itself, especially as the capital needs a Mayor who can provide strong leadership and make, if necessary, tough budget decisions for the benefit of London.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington raises the concern that we have not adequately answered his challenge. We simply have a fundamental difference of opinion about the balance of powers between the Mayor and the assembly. I acknowledge his generous comments about my usual ability to explain, but those skills have deserted me on this occasion. He does not think that Londoners would agree, because of the rise in the rate of precept. All that I can say is that Londoners have the ultimate sanction, which will determine whether the balance of powers is correctly set or not.

It was alleged that we have not increased the powers of the assembly. I remind the House that the extra powers that we have given it include confirmation hearings for key mayoral proposals; stronger policy development, with the Mayor to have regard to assembly comments; powers to summon for three to eight years; the ability to set its own budget; and the
27 Feb 2007 : Column 841
ability to produce an annual report. That scrutiny broadens and reflects the wider responsibilities of the Mayor.

The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) raised a question about the assembly’s own budget being protected. We answered those points in Committee, because we believe that were the assembly’s budget to be threatened by any Mayor, there would be enough mutual self-interest to construct a two-thirds majority. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s proverbial vote of confidence and I will stick it in my back pocket.

The Government cannot therefore support the new clause. I would urge the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington to withdraw it, but I think that he feels too strongly about it. In that case, I ask my hon. Friends to oppose him in the Lobby.

Tom Brake: I have listened carefully to the Minister. I suspect that he and I both have a sense of déj vu about tonight’s debate and I noticed that the Minister could not identify a Back Bencher who supported the Government’s case. I thank Conservative Members for supporting our case and I am beginning to detect—especially in the hon. Members for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) and for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling)—certain Liberal Democrat tendencies, which will do them no good in their careers.

The Minister claims that the model has been tried and tested, but that does not mean that it could not be improved. That is what new clause 8 seeks to do by providing more oversight, more scrutiny and more checks and balances. The Minister has not convinced me that we should do anything other than vote for new clause 8 tonight.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—


The House divided: Ayes 196, Noes 286.
Division No. 058]
[7.4 pm



AYES


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen

Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Paice, Mr. James
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Smith, Sir Robert
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Teather, Sarah
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny

Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Adrian Sanders and
Mr. Dan Rogerson
NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Havard, Mr. Dai
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay

Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Lynne
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda

Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Winnick, Mr. David
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Tony Cunningham and
Huw Irranca-Davies
Question accordingly negatived.
27 Feb 2007 : Column 842

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27 Feb 2007 : Column 845

New Clause 9


Planning: access to information etc.

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