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Lord Howell: I could not disagree with the noble Lord more than I do. I am not particularly keen on referenda but what my noble friend said and what the Government propose is sensible in the circumstances of what is envisaged for London government. Indeed, I see no alternative to it.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has just tried to tell us what should happen in a referendum. I may be wrong but I cannot remember any referendum being conducted except on the basis of asking the people the question

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which the government of the day wished to ask. We cannot have a referendum on what the referendum shall be about. That is exactly what the noble Lord proposes. We cannot say to the people, "We shall have a referendum and we shall have some means of finding out what question we would like to ask you so that you can affirm the answer." That is a nonsense in government and local government terms. What is proposed is perfectly simple. If we are to have an elected mayor, then there must be some elected assembly to which he is ultimately responsible. Otherwise we totally depart from democratic concepts.

My noble friend puts before us a concept and the people will be asked to say "yes" or "no" to that concept. If they say "yes", we then move to the next stage, which has properly been raised, as to what should be the relationship between the two different bodies and how it should be defined in law. But that is stage two. Stage one is to obtain the agreement of the London people to the concept and my noble friend's case has been well made out.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: I should like to declare a personal interest in that I have had the privilege over the past 20 years of employing the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, as an adviser. I can tell the Committee that at no time has he suggested to me that he is a simple man.

I should like to ask one simple question. I understand the question from the Liberal Benches. But are we to have in the referendum only a question to which the Government are convinced they already know the answer? If so, in the Scottish referendum why was not the question: "Do you want an assembly with tax-raising authority?"? Why were the Scottish people asked two questions? First, they were asked whether they wanted an assembly, and, secondly, they were asked whether they wanted one with tax-raising authority.

Why in London are we not dividing those two questions? Why cannot we ask, "Do you want a tax-raising authority?"? Would it be a bad thing if the answer was "No"? At least we would know what the people of London thought. For the rest of the history of this Parliament and this Government are we only to have questions in referendums to which the Government know the answers they want and are convinced that they will get?

Lord Mishcon: The noble Lord, Lord Archer, was kind in his reference to me. But perhaps I may make it clear to the Committee that on this occasion, as over the many years about which he spoke, he has not taken my advice.

I am wondering where this debate is leading. I say that because I can remember a certain government deciding that they did not like the Greater London Council. I cannot remember them thinking it necessary to have a referendum on whether or not to abolish, as they did, the only authority that looked after Greater London. I cannot remember the then government suggesting that there should be a referendum asking,

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"Do you like the Greater London Council? If not, would you like to have an assembly of borough heads to look after London? Or would you like to have a mayor? Or would you like to have an authority?" No such question was asked. I should have thought that that was a more grave constitutional issue than the one with which we are now dealing.

I listen now to those from the Opposition Benches who seem to be so keen on having a referendum and believe that it is right to do so. As I see it--I say this with the utmost respect--the issue is a simple one. A government take responsibility for policy. This Government could do what the Conservative Government did; that is, they could introduce a Bill which would pass through the Commons and your Lordships' Chamber, which said that there should be a mayor and an authority looking after the mayor, to use shorthand words. They could have done that. They could have said, as they said in the manifesto: "London is the only capital city of any greatness in the world without an authority to look after it. We are imposing this upon the country and the people of London because it is the right thing to do, and we said that in our manifesto". Instead, the Government are searching out public opinion in London in a democratic way, asking the one question, "Do you think our policy is right in having an elected mayor and an elected assembly?"

If the answer to that question is "No", then I believe I am right in saying--I have no power from the Back Benches to say this--that the Government will think again. That is what we have to decide today. What the Government are not prepared to do in thinking again is to have, even if they have it in the worthy hands of the noble Lord, Lord Archer, a mayor of London with dictatorial authority. They would never do that. Without the authority, without the assembly, they say, "No thank you". Is not that the simple issue?

Lord Dahrendorf: This is indeed becoming an interesting discussion about what I too thought was a minor amendment. I had not intended to speak, but should like to say a few words.

We are partly talking about London and the government of London and we are partly talking about referendums. I repeat what I said in the Second Reading debate: we need to spend more time thinking about referendums. Contrary to my noble friend Lord Wallace, I feel that plebiscites are instruments to establish legislation--treaties or whatever--by the will of the people, whereas referendums are instruments to find out the will of the people. The normal process of representative government is then set in motion to put the will of the people into legislative form.

My thoughts about referendums--and I have given the matter quite a bit of thought--is that one must beware of turning them into politics or policies by multiple-choice questions. That cannot be the purpose of referendums and therefore governments should have the right, indeed the obligation, to put a proposal to the people to find out what the people think. If the proposal is a package, so be it; it is a package. If the Government

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are uncertain and do not want to do it in the form of a package, so be it. But it is for the people to express a view on the specific government proposal.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that if the answer is "no", the probability must be extremely high that the Government will think again and will not try to push the issue through the Houses of Parliament, as they could. I continue to see no difficulty in asking one package question and therefore see no reason to change the specific paragraph which we are discussing.

Baroness Ludford: The debate has illustrated the difficulty faced in moving Amendment No. 3, which was to try to keep it self-contained so that it did not spill over into debates on Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 concerning the form of the questions in the referendum. On that basis I restrained myself from the temptation of talking about a two-question referendum. However, I am grateful for some of the comments which relate to that topic.

Perhaps I can make a brief comment. The Minister must address the issue of the Government's lack of confidence in their proposals. It will be up to the Government to advocate and lobby for their package, if the result of the Bill is that there is a one-question referendum. But we must also face the fact that the only excuse the Government can give for not having a two-question referendum is that they fear that Londoners may opt just for a mayor. The Government do not support that and therefore they say that they do not want the referendum to contain two questions. We should address that matter head on in a common-sense way. We know that the majority of people in London want an assembly. But as my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said, it is the question of the mayor that is the controversial point and constitutional innovation.

I do not accept the description of "multi-choice". The reality of the situation is whether we should have an assembly or an assembly plus a mayor. It is unlikely that people would opt only for a mayor. They will think of a government, a parliament, an assembly or regional and local government as a collection of people and not as one person. That is what most people will think of when they say they want the return of an elected authority for London.

We have had part of the debate on a referendum. However, in recognition of the fact that the debate on the amendment has inevitably spilled over into later amendments, I am prepared to withdraw it on the ground that what we are really talking about--the nub of this issue--is the question in the referendum. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bowness moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 9, leave out ("elected assembly") and insert ("assembly of the leaders of all the London borough councils and the City of London Corporation").

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The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 10 and 24. In view of the wording, perhaps I should declare an interest as a member of a London borough council, at least for the next four and a half months.

At Second Reading and in another place it was made abundantly clear that the Conservative Party accepts the need for an assembly. The argument that a mayor is unsupportable without such an assembly is one we accept entirely. However, we do not accept the need for a directly elected assembly. We submit that, if the Government really mean what they say about not creating the former Greater London Council, they will not take the dangerous step of creating a directly elected authority. That would increase the chances of conflict between the mayor and the authority, between the authority and the boroughs and between the boroughs and the mayor. It is inconceivable that directly elected members will be content with the role described in the Green Paper,

    "a key role as a check and balance on the mayor".

I said at Second Reading that we want to look forward rather than back, but I believe that we need to draw on the experience of the past to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

When the Herbert Commission recommended the creation of the Greater London Council and the London boroughs, it was always envisaged, if it was not specifically said in the report, that the boroughs would be the primary units of local government within greater London. As things turned out, for whatever reason-- I do not direct these comments at any former GLC of any particular political colour--the GLC did not limit itself to what was described as a strategic role; rather it saw itself as the former LCC writ large over the whole of greater London, exercising a superior role as an upper tier authority over the boroughs. It seemed to be forgotten that while within the area of the old LCC it was the LCC as opposed to the metropolitan boroughs that had the major functions of local government, in the new arrangements the major functions and powers should have been with the new and significantly larger and resourceful London borough councils. That was the case with both inner and outer London. The only major difference between inner and outer London was that outer London boroughs exercised a role as education authorities while in inner London that role was exercised by the Inner London Education Authority, which I believe, although those who served on it will tell me if I am wrong, was technically a committee of the Greater London Council.

Notwithstanding this, members of the GLC found themselves with virtually a full-time job as members. That was at least in part a result of duplication and involvement in a host of matters which should have been left to the borough councils. If this new authority of directly elected members is created, they, like the GLC members before them, will be looking for a role. This danger can be avoided, partly, in the Act which will establish the new authority and by making the assembly indirectly elected and representative of the boroughs.

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I submit that there is nothing undemocratic about this. The leaders of London boroughs have been elected to hold office as councillors in their own boroughs; they have been chosen by their political colleagues to lead their authority.

The opposition to that notion is that the affairs of London cannot be looked after by such a body because the leaders will take only a parochial view as opposed to a London-wide view. It is difficult for me to say this, having been a London borough leader, but that is an extraordinarily patronising view. It ignores the considerable working together, of which there is now great evidence, of different groups of boroughs of different political persuasions which has taken place following the abolition of the GLC and the co-operation in doing many things which before abolition were thought capable of being done only by an upper tier authority.

It also ignores the extreme difficulty in knowing or finding in the majority of cases what is a London-wide view. London is not the homogenous unit which is often described. Its history and development are different from other cities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. I do not like the overworked cliche of a collection of villages, but it is a collection of towns and cities that have developed very much in their own way--certainly not according to some great master plan and certainly not from one centre outwards. Those towns and cities do indeed have common interests and common problems. They are not islands and I do not suggest that they should act as islands.

The problem most often on people's lips is transport, but the transport problems of greater London extend far beyond the boundaries as they are currently drawn and as proposed in the legislation. Other problems of perhaps lesser magnitude are likely to be of concern to the neighbouring towns which make up the area of the capital rather than to greater London as a whole. It would therefore be appropriate if the leaders of the towns and cities of London were the people who sat down with the mayor to discuss these issues of common interest and provide the checks and balances the Government quite rightly want.

It is worth remembering that there are no problems within greater London that do not affect one or more boroughs. There will be no greater London problems that are problems just for the greater London authority and its members. The problems of greater London are the problems of the citizens, the people who live in the boroughs. Furthermore, the idea that this assembly should be indirectly elected is not without precedent elsewhere, certainly in the rest of Europe. In France, the different municipalities that make up a conurbation come together to exercise jointly certain functions through the medium of a district authority or the urban community. There is no suggestion of a top tier or superior authority. The urban community is the creature of those municipalities that make up the conurbation, represented usually by their mayor or a senior deputy mayor.

Given the distinctive nature of the towns and cities that make up the area of greater London, this must be a model which is at least worthy of consideration. It

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would put control of the greater London authority and the assembly firmly in borough hands; not one borough which would be able to torpedo any London-wide policy, but all working together with the mayor, which would be a great safeguard against the authority seeking to trespass beyond its remit. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, to the extent that the members of the greater London authority need to have a proper job. My noble friend and I have worked out that their acronym, GLAMs--Greater London Authority members--will give them something to live up to. However, that is a rather trivial point and considerably less important than looking at the detail of the job they are to do.

The restriction on the members of the assembly interfering in matters that are beyond the strategic is an issue for the Act and for the culture of the assembly as it develops. I would be very concerned indeed if London were to get a fifth-best assembly. That is not because of the quality of the individual leaders who might comprise it, as contained in this proposal, but simply that I do not believe it would be workable.

I do not believe that leading a London borough and taking a strategic role, as has rightly been described, in this great city are two jobs that can be run together. I do not believe that for any individual there would be the time. I do not believe that a borough leader could possibly make the London assembly his or her first priority. It is not practicable as regards time.

In using the term "parochial" I say to the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, it is not because I am being patronising about it, but the job of a leader is to lead his or her borough to fight for what in those terms are parochial matters. It would be a distraction to have to deal with strategic matters and I do not believe that that could be done well. Getting a group of council leaders together might well mean that they start trading-off between themselves rather than taking an overall view.

I said at Second Reading that I have had a little experience of these issues in chairing a London-wide committee. I was very conscious of the fact that London borough members, with the best will in the world for the progress of that committee, nevertheless had to give the majority of their time to affairs in their own boroughs. I see that the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, is in his place. I suspect that he has had similar experiences in chairing SERPLAN, the South-East Regional Planning Conference. That was composed of members of London boroughs, districts and counties. The job at SERPLAN happened to tag along with jobs back home.

The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, referred to consultation with the boroughs. That is not ruled out by having a separate assembly. But what is most important in considering this matter, as well as the strategic overview of London, is that a group of London leaders could not act effectively as a check on the mayor. They

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would simply not have the time or the means to do so because they have to do another very important job. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue this proposal.

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