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Lord Renton: My Lords, I should like to endorse what my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said about the part played by the Minister in attempting to improve the Bill. But I have to confess that after 53 years in Parliament, first in one House and then in the other, I do not remember a Bill--although in wartime it did happen, before some of us came into the House--in which so much of importance was to be done by regulation instead of by primary legislation. I do not apologise for repeating this again. I repeat it because the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which took a similar view, said that it was not to be regarded as a precedent. I most earnestly hope that the Government will regard this Bill as quite offbeat and not regard it as a precedent and that we shall never have a Bill presented to us in future which contains the fundamental flaws which this Bill still does contain.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their kind comments. However, I hope that noble Lords do not mistake flexibility in response to constructive criticisms for softness in the head. The Bill is substantially improved. It is a very good Bill now. It will be an effective Bill in achieving its objectives. I beg to move that the Bill do now at last pass.
I have to confess to a considerable amount of emotion in introducing this Bill here today. Thirteen years ago, I stood on the terrace of County Hall and watched the flag of the GLC being lowered for the last time. The Conservative government, in one of their biggest mistakes, had abolished the GLC. They abandoned London and left it as the only European capital city without any form of city-wide strategic leadership. Thirteen years on, it has to be said that, in many ways, London has been the loser: in terms of congestion; transport systems; air quality; and planning systems. Other European cities--Paris, Barcelona, and now Berlin--have moved ahead as places in which to live and work.
Many in your Lordships' House opposed that legislation which abolished the Greater London Council. In doing so, you voted alongside the vast majority of the people of London. They never wanted government in London to be abolished, and they have been impatient for its return.
But this Bill is not about nostalgia. We are not recreating the LCC or the GLC. The GLA will not be a housing authority, or an education authority, with all the administrative overheads and bureaucracy that that entails. I should say, as someone who now lives in a block built by the LCC and whose children were educated by the ILEA, that those authorities achieved many startling successes. But today's problems are different. We are creating a strategic authority. The legacy of the GLC is still with us, and much of it is now carried out by the London boroughs. There were many distinguished leaders in the old GLC. I am particularly gratified to see on the list of speakers the name of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone. What is needed now is not a re-creation of the GLC, but a strategic authority to deal with the problems of spatial planning, transport congestion and the environment.
The GLA Bill is an integral part of the Government's wider vision for modernising the way in which the United Kingdom is governed. Democratisation, decentralisation and devolution were at the heart of our manifesto. This Bill is about creating modern, integrated and responsive political structures in London, putting Londoners back in charge of the way in which their city is run. We want Londoners to stop looking enviously at Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. We should like the inhabitants of those cities to look to London as the example for the future.
In July 1997 we issued a Green Paper on how we might fulfil our manifesto commitment to create a London-wide authority made up of a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly. We listened to and considered the representations made to us by Londoners: from London businesses, voluntary bodies, local authorities and individuals. Last year we produced a White Paper setting out our proposals in fine detail, and in May last year, we held a referendum. Across London, in every one of the 32 London boroughs and in the City of London, people voted "yes" by a clear majority.
There was a "yes" vote from voters in inner London and in outer London; from voters in Labour boroughs, in Conservative boroughs and in Liberal Democrat boroughs. There was support from voters in all of London's ethnic, racial and religious communities. It is clear that London needs this Bill and Londoners support it.
For more than 10 years, London lacked leadership, co-ordination and accountability. Decisions were taken behind closed doors by a hotchpotch of unaccountable committees and obscure quangos. This Bill marks the end of that sorry chapter in London's history. Londoners are going to regain control of how their city is run.
The mayor of London will be the first directly elected executive position in the United Kingdom. She or he will have a greater direct personal mandate than any other elected office holder in the United Kingdom.
The electoral systems have attracted some comment. The mayor will be elected by the supplementary vote, ensuring that the winning candidate has a clear mandate. After all, the mayor will be the leader of one of the world's greatest cities. He or she will have the resources, the profile and the powers to tackle London's problems and make a real difference to people.
The constitution, structure and separation of powers within the GLA are truly innovative. They represent a complete break with the past. When I say that the GLA will be innovative, I choose the words with care. The powers, structures and working culture of the GLA will be unlike anything seen before in this country. The mayor of London will not be equivalent to the leaders of the LCC or the GLC. They were powerful figures, but their mandate came solely from being leader of the most popular party in the council chamber. Under this Bill, mayoral candidates will present themselves for direct election as individuals. They will stand for that executive position on their own terms, with a clear agenda, priorities and visions for the capital.
Assembly members will have a very clear role. They will not act as a legislature but will have the unique responsibility of holding the mayor to account. They will be full-time representatives of Londoners' views, responsive to London's problems, investigating issues of concern, scrutinising the mayor's budget and his policies, operating in the public eye, with open meetings. That will be a vital job, and the assembly will have the teeth to ensure that it is done.
The mayor will have a mandate to lead; the assembly will have a mandate to scrutinise. There will be no reliance by the mayor on rebellious party factions. There will be no pork barrel politics. Together, the mayor and the assembly will bring firm and accountable government to London. That is what London has sadly lacked, and what Londoners want.
The Bill comes to this House after extensive consideration in another place. As your Lordships will have noticed, it is an extremely long and complex piece of legislation consisting of 330 clauses and 27 schedules. I understand that it is the longest Bill in this parliamentary Session, and indeed for many a long year. I need to take some time to explain the main provisions.
As regards the electoral systems, the mayor will be elected by the supplementary vote. That is the correct electoral system for the office of mayor. It will allow voters to mark their first and second choice to be mayor. It will ensure that whoever wins will have clear support throughout London and will not be everyone's third choice.
The assembly will be elected by the additional member system. Fourteen members will represent specific constituencies. The Local Government Commission has decided on the boundaries, which the Government have accepted. The other 11 members of the assembly will be elected on a London-wide basis from party lists. That should ensure that the assembly as a whole more clearly reflects the balance of political views in the capital than it would do simply under the first-past-the-post system.
We have also included in the Bill a 5 per cent threshold for elections to the assembly. That will mean that any party represented in the assembly will have to have received a significant level of support across London as a whole. It will also be a safeguard against the possibility of extremist parties or candidates gaining a toe-hold in our democratic processes, having won only a very small proportion of the vote.
Part II sets out the principal purposes of the GLA. They are: to promote economic development and wealth creation in Greater London; to promote social development in Greater London; and to promote the improvement of the environment in Greater London. The authority's general power is conferred to enable it to further one or more of those purposes, and those purposes will inform the preparation of each of its strategies.
Because of concerns expressed in Standing Committee in another place, the Bill makes it absolutely clear that in exercising the general power to do anything which it considers necessary to further any one or more of those purposes, the authority must have regard to the effect that this will also have on the health of people in London and on the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom.
Where the authority does exercise the general power conferred by this clause, it is also required to do so in a way which is best calculated to promote improvements in the health of people in London and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Also, in preparing or revising his or her strategies, the mayor must have regard, not only to the principal purposes of the authority, but also to similar considerations.
Of course, there are limits to what the authority can do. That is why in drafting the general power we have sought to strike a clear balance between the need to provide the authority with the freedom and flexibility to act and the need to avoid duplication in regard to the statutory responsibilities of its own functional bodies and other local authorities, organisations and public bodies.
Our primary objective in establishing the GLA's structure and its procedures is that it should be easily accessible to the people of London. That means effective consultation. Londoners must be able to ensure that their views about what the authority does, or plans to do, are properly considered and taken into account.
These provisions are intended to be inclusive. But it was clear from the debates in the other place and from other representations received from interested groups that our intentions would be clearer if certain broad categories of interests were named on the face of the Bill as consultees, or potential consultees. We agreed that clarity was important. Therefore, we have extended the consultation provisions to meet the concerns that have been expressed.
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