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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is important that we establish at the beginning of this amendment that we are talking about the principle and not the present occupant of the mayoral office. It is terribly difficult in this Bill not to take account of what has
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The office of mayor in this country is now the nearest thing we have to a dictator. There is very little to stop him doing what he wants to do. It is true that he or she has to consult and take account of other bodies within London, and presumably he has to take some account of the electorate, otherwise the second term would not appearnor would a third, if that is what is proposed. It is a very unusual office in this country; in fact, it is unique. It seems to us that the whole principle established by the Septennial Act, which limits parliamentary terms to four or five years, is based on the acknowledgment that Administrations become tired and complacent, and potentiallyif they are on their own, as the Mayor iscould become dictatorial in that job.
The Bill affects the London Assembly, one ingredient in a plethora of organisations dedicated to the service of running London, but an ingredient that we would say is top-heavy. The Mayors position is very powerful and has at its disposal considerable resources. As we discussed briefly before, there were attempts in the Greater London Authority Act to limit the amount of resources that would be available to any Mayor, and it has not been possible to do that. However hard we try to make ourselves believe otherwiseor, at least, however hard the Government do sothe scrutiny role of the Assembly is still not powerful enough. We are trying in this Bill to ensure that it becomes a bit stronger, but it is still not strong enough to stop a Mayor in his tracks or to provide an adequate check on the mayoral position.
For those reasons we feel that the Mayor should be entitled to run for only two terms of office, and that that period should be the Mayors time and his record. The position should not become monopolised by any one individual or party, because that is effectively what happens when the role is occupied for too long. The role requires challenge, renewal and refreshment. If it remains for too long in the hands of one occupant, there is a considerable danger either that there could be a feeling that that one person was a permanent institution or that, if he was there for more than two terms, the Mayor may become disparaging of and disconnected from the electorate.
I have been trying extremely hard to make sure that I am talking only about the position, not the person. I understand that at this stage of the process it is quite hard to disconnect one from the other, but I am talking about the principle here, a principle that we
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Lord Tope: My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 26 and 93, standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I declare again that I am a Member of the London Assembly, although I am not seeking re-election next year. Through my Assembly membership, I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and, completely unrelated to that, I am a London borough councillor and intend to remain so at least until 2010.
We had an interesting debate on this in Committee. Our Amendment No. 26 has the same effect as Amendment No. 3, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has just spoken. I concur with all that she said but I will not repeat it. I want to address some of the points made in Committee.
It was pointed out correctly that it has not been the practice in this country to have term limits. That is important. The Greater London Authority Act, establishing the office of Mayor of London, was the first time in this country that we moved from an essentially parliamentary system. Local government works on a parliamentary systemperhaps more in theory than in practice sometimeswhere power is shared between a number of people, and the leader, however termed, is elected by the council and not directly by the people. We moved from that system to an essentially presidential system, where one person has all executive power vested in him or her. Rightly or wrongly, that was a very important shift in practice. It is certainly not unusual for other countries with a similar system to have term limitsFrance and the United States spring most immediately to mind as perhaps our closest allies. Although not universal, it is the norm, for the very good reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has given. It has been seen as necessary and desirable to have such term limits.
That is why we should incorporate this system here. I was asked in Committee whether I would apply this elsewhere. That is not a matter for this Bill but, as it happens, the answer is yes. Where there is elected office and one person holds all the executive power, there should be term limits. That is irrelevant to the business before us; we are amending the original Greater London Authority Act, the first to establish a presidential-style elected executive Mayor, and I believe that the Act should be amended in the way proposed.
It was suggested in Committee that we were doing this only because of the difficulty of defeating the present incumbent. Not so; we moved amendments with exactly the same intention during the passage of the original Act. We have learnt, perhaps from experience, that the fact that we did not succeed in persuading the Government eight years ago does not mean that we are wrong to try again now.
A fairer point made in Committee was that it would not be right to introduce term limits only a matter of months before the election. That is fair comment; many of the candidates have already been chosen, presumably not on that basis. That is the purport of Amendment No. 93. It would be left for others to determine but it need not be implemented prior to next years elections. I think that that is fair. As I said in Committee, Mayor Livingstone will always have been the first Mayor of London; he may very well be the only Mayor of London ever to serve three terms. I am not pre-judging next years election result; I am merely saying that that may well be the case. There is a very well known precedent for that. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only US president to serve three terms, after which, despite his successes as president, it was seen fit to introduce a limit of two terms.
I suggest that this is a proper and appropriate opportunity to do what I think we should have done in the first place: introduce the concept of term limits to an office which is, within its legislative limits, all-powerful. The executive power is held in the hands of one person, with relatively little check and balance. We will debate that point further later. I hope that today we will see fit to introduce those term limits, which are the norm in presidential systems and should be the norm in this country to the extent that we go down that road.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, my recollection is that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected for four terms: in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. Sadly, he diedhe was not removed from officebut I believe that, had he wished it, he could have gone on, because he was that kind of man. Whatever happens to Ken Livingstone is in the lap of the gods. Our system should not take away from the electorate the right to remove from office an incumbent leader. The people of London, rightly or wrongly, wish to see the Labour Partys nominee, Ken Livingstone, lead London in all its many forms. When the GLA Act was first proposed, there was no restriction; attempts were made to impose a restriction but they were rejected democratically.
I am strongly of the view that the people who are affected, whatever the forum, should have the power to remove someone. Those opportunities come along regularly in parliamentary elections. In 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992, the people of this country chose a Conservative Government. For the first three of those four election victories, the party which gained power and office was led by the same person. I cannot understand, unless I reflect on history, why the Conservative Party is moving this amendment. I see in the Chamber a number of noble Lords who served at a high level from 1983 to 1986. Colleagues may remember that this was the period in which the abolition of the Greater London Council was conceived, primarily because the council, led by the same Ken Livingstone, was proving unwilling to be as compliant as the Government wished. Instead of leaving it to the people to reject the Labour administration at County Hall, the Government made reference by an Act of Parliament, based on a manifestoI do not dispute thatto the
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I am intriguedperhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will help methat when this matter was discussed in the other place, her partys spokesman, Michael Gove, was strongly of the opinion that that which is proposed today should not be the vogue and that it should be left to the electorate to reject an incumbent mayor. Perhaps the noble Baroness will explain to me why the official line of the Conservative Party has been changed. I would be very interested to know. While I appreciate what the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said about differentiating between the position and the person, I cannot do other than believe that the personality of the Mayor is somehow involved in what we are talking about. The noble Baroness is right in saying that she and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in this House have been consistent in wanting to change the whole basis of the system. I wonder how the people elected as mayors of our cities would be affected. One would get caught up in arguments not only about length of service but about age.
I strongly believe in the intelligence and the political sagacity of the electorate, who are not fools, are very well served by the media and have it in their power to make a judgment. Very often colleagues in the other place who have been successful in carrying the banner for their parties time after time, after a good length of service suddenly find that not only their party but the electorate reject them. Some Members of this House, myself included, have had the experience of being rejected by the electorate. That is democracy; that is how it should work.
These amendments, well intentioned though they are, should be rejected, because the people of this country and of London are well capable of deciding that enough is enough. If, as I detect from the words used by those who have spoken before me, this proposal is being made because the powers of Members of the GLA are insufficient to bring the Mayor to account and therefore the best way is to take him out of office, I do not think that that is the right way in which to do it. I believe that the good sense of the people of London should prevail.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I had not intended to speak, but I wanted to add to my noble friends comments. I urge rejection of this amendment on the basis that it is not good enough to slip through a provision with major constitutional complications while amending a Bill that does not directly concern that particular constitutional issue. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is wrong to say that the issue is not relevant in the way I am suggesting; it is very relevant. It would be a major change with implications throughout the British democratic system, and now is not the time to have that discussion.
The Minister, in responding to a similar amendment in Committee, challenged the notion that after two or three terms one might run out of steam and said that we had the example before us of a third-term Government boiling over with new ideas and energy. It struck me afterwards that a comparison to be made is between the Mayor and the Prime Minister, not between the Mayor and the whole of the Government. This is the particular point about the mayoralty of London: if one can compare it to anything in terms of profile and influence, it must be to the Prime Minister. But it has also been comparedand I have compared itto the position of a president, because it feels very presidential.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, talked about the same Ken Livingstone who, not able to be put back in his box by the Conservative Government in the 1980s, had the box abolished around him. I am not actually sure that he is the same Ken Livingstone, but that would be to personalise it more than I am telling myself that we should.
A clear distinction is to be made here. Does one leave it to the electorate to vote every four years or should there be some sort of constitutional structural limit on the number of terms that a Mayor can serve? This would be a constitutional limit on a single-person executive; a very particular and uniquethat is not a term I use oftenoffice. Local mayors have been mentioned. We shall discuss that tomorrow and thereafter. These Benches have similar concerns about the position of local single-person executives.
This Bill gives us our first opportunity to adjust the introduction of a new governmental institution. On that basis, I refute the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that it would be inappropriate to deal with the matter on this occasion.
The electorate whom I have encountered during the past few years have expressed surprise that there is not such a constitutional bar. That was very much in our minds when tabling these amendments. As my noble friend said, we tabled similar amendments in 1999, but London voters have told me time and time again that as this is such an unusual position there must be this unusual constraint upon it.
Our amendments and that of the noble Baroness extend to Assembly Members, not so much because we feel that the same arguments apply to them but in order to pre-empt accusations that we are protecting our own position and just having a go at the Mayor.
In Committee, it was fairly said that it would not be appropriate, so close to the next election, to place a bar on mayoral and Assembly office holders standing for office again. If this amendment finds favour with the House, we should follow through on that. Amendment No. 93 to Clause 57 concerns the rather technical point of commencement dates. It seeks to make a distinction between current and future office holders to enable it to be brought into effect after the next election. We should not kid ourselvesthe next election will reflect the advantages of incumbency. It will also reflect the disadvantages if those seeking election have offended the electorate. My noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market referredwith irony which was not shown very clearly in Hansardto that
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I hope that the House will understand that the amendment is not tabled on a whim to attack an individual but reflects a constitutional concern that the Liberal Democrat Benches have had from the start, and which they retain.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for elucidating and developing the debate that we had in Committee. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, who made a very eloquent speech. His forensic analysis exposed the illogicality of the presidential parallel, the cracks in the political cohesion of the Conservative Party in its position on mayors and the weaknesses of the political argument in relation to scrutiny, which we have tried to strengthen. As I listened to the debate, I was extremely interested in the different arguments used to justify what I believe was a very strong argument for the democratic process and elections, and the fact that in this country we do not remove people other than by electing them out of office. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, spoke about a dictator and, on the other hand, about a leader who was worn out. She spoke about the need to end the monopoly and about the weakness of the present system of scrutiny. On the first three groundscan you imagine a stronger argument than eviction by election? I cannot. On the last argument, we have strengthened the powers of scrutiny of the Assembly.
I am sure that the changes are not proposed on a whim; clearly the Liberal Democrat Party has pursued this issue for some time, but as my noble friend Lady Thornton said, they have serious constitutional implications for the established democratic process. They also create precedents for elected mayors around the country. It is not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, a unique situation. As much as noble Lords argue that this is about principlesI take the integrity with which they make that argument and their determination to separate the office from the office holderI put it to them that it is impossible to make that argument with any conviction, because it would be judged in any case to be seen to be a way of removing a strong Mayor without the bother of electing him out of office. It will be seen by Londoners as a pretty devious, back-door way of stopping Ken Livingstone from standing for a third term. I take the point that in Amendment No. 93 that is protected. It will certainly be seen as a way of denying the opportunity to decide whether he is the right Mayor, and it will be seen and judged to be the act of a party that finds it difficult to find a strong candidate and which is in something of a muddle about this.
The arguments that have been put forward have been rather bizarre. This goes right to the heart of the GLA constitution. It goes right to the heart of the key principle of a strong executive Mayor with a democratic mandate and it goes right to the heart of the fact that in this country we derive political legitimacy from direct elections, in the case of the GLA, involving all Londoners every four years. This
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In the White Paper, A Mayor and Assembly for London, published in 1998, we made it very clear that there should be no limit on the number of terms of office of either the Mayor or the Assembly, in common with other categories of elected office across the country. To remove the right of Londoners to vote out the Mayor is a fundamental change; it should not be contemplated lightly. It is what gives the Mayor his political legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate. If he is a dictator, the best way to remove him is by the democratic process. I am not convinced that the arguments put forward today about the need for term limits on any grounds that I have heard override this fundamental democratic principle which is a cornerstone of political life in this country.
In the recent prescription by the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, for local government change and for stronger mayors, there is no reference that there should be any term limits on the Mayor. That should cause the noble Baroness to think hard about whether she will press her amendment. I see no argument with the fact that the democratic process should continue, should be strengthened and should not be overturned by the amendment.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I have been fascinated by the arguments put contrary to my amendment. I am bound to say that I am at a loss to understand how it can be suggested that the electorate would be taken out of the equation if there was a clear indication that the period of office should be limited to two terms. Some mayors may not survive two termsthey may be voted out in the middle. The electorate would have a right on two occasionsto elect them in and to re-elect them. The term of office would then be completed and the electorate would have the right to vote for someone else. I do not follow at all the suggestion that that would deny democratic procedures.
I and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, triedand the Minister rather undermined that attemptto ensure that this discussion was based around the principle of the term of the mayoralty. This was not and has never been tied up with the present Mayor. This has always been related to the constitutional implications for the GLA. It was not just my friends in the Liberal Democrat Party who attempted, during the passage of the GLA Bill, to impose this measure; as I recall, it was a joint venture to limit the period of office to two
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