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Baroness Hamwee: That is not the reason why I do not agree with the noble Baroness with regard to this group of amendments. We think it is essential that the new authority takes a strategic approach. I accept that the noble Baroness has included that in her "job description" in this group of amendments. However, I believe that the model which she proposes would make it difficult for the members to approach their job strategically.
I believe that the assembly will be rather on the small side easily to permit a mix of constituency and London-wide views. The noble Baroness talked passionately about the need to support the different parts of London and the different boroughs. I do not argue against that. However, I think it is particularly important that the members achieve the right mix of a pan-London approach in their work with an understanding of the particular parts of London. The Government's model proposes that the constituency members will have that mix; other members will have it simply through their backgrounds. I do not think it is necessary for each member to represent one identified, discrete borough in order to achieve the understanding and feel for different parts of London which I believe will be a part of the job.
The remit of the assembly is to be scrutiny, not policy making. I suspect that to have direct borough representation could well be counter-productive to the fulfilment of that role. On considering this group of amendments I wondered whether borough representation might even stand in the way of a good relationship between the authority and the boroughs. It is important that the authority has regard to the views of the boroughs and that it liaises with them. I believe
One reason for the need for that relationship may be because any given borough will wish to put forward not just a single, simple view on each issue. Some boroughs will not be under the control of one political party, but even if that is not the case I hope that there will be the scope for all council members who have sensible things to say in dialogue with the authority to be able to put their views forward. I believe that to have a single representative might represent something of a block to that. I can even envisage a situation where representatives of the boroughs, as assembly members, could get sucked into the decisions of the authority. One can see that happening from time to time. That would make it even more difficult for such members to argue a distinct borough position.
We on these Benches believe that London needs a London government. The success of the GLA will in part be measured by reconciling the interests of different parts of London--the different geographical parts, different social parts, people in different types of employment and so on; the list is quite long. To sum up, the GLA should reconcile and take forward the interests of the various communities of London, of which we are all members. Those communities need to be pulled together at a strategic level and not taken over from the boroughs. I stress that in making these points we are not concerned to block borough interests--quite the opposite--but the GLA should be more than a collection of boroughs; in our view, the whole must be more than the sum of the parts.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I support the amendments moved by my noble friend. On page 9 of the Explanatory Notes to the Bill it states that there will be 14 members directly elected under the first-past-the-post system and an additional 11 under the d'Hondt formula. As I understand it, that system was used for the European elections. In my constituency in Oxfordshire, under that system, the Liberal Democrats closed list was so closed that we were not sent the names of the candidates. I found that fascinating.
Any borough set-up would be better than the way suggested in the Bill. Even in the 14 constituencies which are to have direct elections, the candidates will be selected, presumably, on a party basis. I do not think the party selection process is as good as a system of direct election. Under the compromise put forward by my noble friend in these amendments, whereby each borough would nominate someone for the assembly, at least the people nominated would have been directly elected by constituents in the boroughs concerned. They will have been through a direct electoral process, which is much preferable to the d'Hondt system. Can the
Baroness Young: I was interested when the Minister referred to the referendum on London government. Although he did not say that he was going to play it as his trump card, he clearly regarded it as very important. If my memory serves me correctly there was a very low poll then of approximately 35 per cent; hardly an overwhelming majority. The likelihood is that, except for about 25, hardly any of those voting actually understood the intricacies of the proposed voting system.
I am even more surprised that the Minister can defend such a system after our experience of the European elections last Thursday. Even in the polling station the ballot paper was regarded as a joke. I do not consider it funny at all; it is extremely serious that such a totally discredited system should be employed in London. I do not live permanently in London, but I would not wish on London that kind of an election. Whatever else the Government do or do not do, they should reconsider the whole system, which has been thoroughly discredited.
Lord Avebury: The noble Baroness has used the word "discredited" on a couple of occasions. Is that simply because of the low poll? If so, would not she then apply the same etiquette to elections which have been held for local government in the past, where polls as low as 10 per cent have been recorded? Does not that discredit also her system as well?
Baroness Young: I have fought a number of local government elections and the poll--although, admittedly, not as high as I wished--was always between 40 and 50 per cent. A figure of 23 per cent throughout the country is a very low poll. I dislike what happened because of the number of people who said to me, "Who are we voting for?" From much of the literature which dropped through one's door, one did not know for whom one was voting. Therefore, although we have representatives in the European Parliament, there will be absolutely no means of communicating with them. That seems to me a "discreditable" election and I stand by that word. The Government should think again.
A further difficulty is that the new constituencies are not coterminous with the London boroughs. Perhaps I may make a very serious point about local government. In my experience of local government, one of the great difficulties--I do not think it has yet been resolved; it is a matter about which all local governments are concerned--is the lack of coterminous areas for the different functions which affect the population at large. In local government there are police authorities, water authorities and so on, all operating under different areas. It is very difficult for people to understand. The idea that this will somehow be made more transparent simply is not true. It is a recipe for conflict.
If we are to have a system of voting similar to that of last Thursday, there will be an even lower poll than at the European elections. People will have no idea for whom they are voting or what they are supposed to be doing. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is looking for splendid people who are able to take an overall view of the needs of London and at the same time understand the intricate local details of the London boroughs. She is looking for paragons. If she found them, it would be a triumph of hope over experience. We are unlikely to find people able to fulfil both tasks.
A very complicated structure is being created for London which by no means can be described as democratic in the way that we have always understood. It will have a built-in conflict between the boroughs and the assembly and the party list people. For instance, transport is one of the most difficult issues with which to deal, particularly when one is dealing with road schemes, bus lanes and other matters of public transport. There will be two groups interested in that subject--the new authority and the boroughs--and each group will be represented by different people on different boundaries. It is most improbable that that will be more efficient. The Minister should look again at some parts of this package.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The Minister previously indicated that the Government were not too keen on Amendment No. 4 and the notion of nominated members. If he is to tell us that, will he at the same time give his attention to the notion that there should be 33 members of the authority? Even if the Minister insists on direct election to the authority, if there were to be one member from each authority--and here I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee--it would be an enormous advantage to the person taking the strategic view to have been elected from the authority which will have to put matters into practice.
When I was a councillor--it was some time ago; I am not pretending I am up to date but I believe matters have not changed--I was a member of the strategic authority. I came from one of the lower authorities. I would talk to the lower authorities; I would consult them; I knew exactly how the strategic decisions would affect them, but that did not mean that I was not detached when I made a decision.
To be elected from two or two-and-a-half authorities, which is what will happen, is a fairly strange idea. There is something to be said for having 33 members of the authority, even if they are elected. I wonder whether the noble Lord will consider that part of the amendment even if he will not accept all of it. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, who has enormous experience of local government--she knows a great deal more about it than I do--will be able to help him on this matter; perhaps not at the moment, but as time goes on. I think it is one that he should consider.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Perhaps I may express one or two doubts about the amendment to add to those more serious ones raised by my noble friend. If I understand the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, correctly,
Perhaps I may respond briefly to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is true that there is a conflict of interest in a county council between one's duty to consider the well-being of the county council and one's desire to represent one's constituents. However, as I understand the Bill, the position will not be the same under the new authority where the assembly members will have a strategic role but will carry out very little day-to-day detailed administration of individual projects.
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