HL Deb 12 October 1999 vol 605 cc211-83

3.20 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I beg to move that the Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Whitty.)

Lord Henley

My Lords, I rise to complain about the handling of the Report stage of this very important piece of legislation. I have given the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip notice of my intention to do so. This House is the main revising Chamber of Parliament and has a very important function under our constitution. It is entitled to be treated with respect. Government departments have a duty to assist this House in performing its revising function properly. I hope that no government will ever expect this Chamber to be a mere rubber stamp that endorses government Bills with little discussion and less notice. I do not believe that that is necessarily the intention of noble Lords opposite. However, the way that this House has been treated in recent days is not a good sign.

Yesterday, the House considered the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill. We had some 170 late government amendments to a Bill which it had been agreed would be given two days on Report. As a result, as I and the Government Chief Whip will be aware, we sat until 2.30 this morning. Given the large number of (dare I say) older Members on both sides of the House involved in that Bill, that was most unsatisfactory. Today, we have received of the order of 300 late amendments to the Greater London Authority Bill. My colleagues on the Front Bench did not see those amendments until last Friday. I understand that four more amendments have been tabled today, and there are rumours that up to 200 further amendments to the Bill will be tabled during the course of Report stage.

The House went into recess in July. Since then, over nine weeks have elapsed before this mass of amendments has poured onto our heads. I must ask: why did so long a time elapse? Why were at least some of the amendments not published somewhat earlier? Will there be any more government amendments to these and other Bills coming before the House at Report stage? If so, how many, and when will they be made available to the House and my colleagues on the Front Bench? Who took the decision that this House should be treated in this way? Was the Government Chief Whip warned or consulted on the matter; if not, why not? I very much hope that the noble Lord will communicate these points to the respective Secretaries of State and Permanent Secretaries in the departments concerned. I believe that both Ministers and officials should be made fully aware that Parliament and this House do not take kindly to being treated in this way. In making these particular points I am sure that I speak for all Members of this House with an interest in these important Bills.

The Greater London Authority Bill was some eight days in Committee. None of those days was a full day in that we were interrupted by Statements. My noble friends on the Front Bench co-operated as far as they could in ensuring that the Committee stage was completed before we rose in the summer, as the Government wished. I believe that it is right to ask whether it is reasonable to expect the House to sit quite so late on Report to consider a host of very late government amendments to meet a timetable which was accepted in good faith without knowledge of the weight of this business. I make that point particularly in light of the fact that the Bill was virtually rewritten in the Commons before it came here. The noble Lord put that point to me as an argument for having a shorter Committee stage than that which occurred.

I hope that the Government Chief Whip will not close his mind absolutely to giving the House sufficient time to consider this important Bill, and others, and the issues raised by them and to enabling us to do so with reasonable notice of all the amendments. I hope also that we shall debate them at a reasonable hour, not at 2.30 in the morning. There are limits to how long this House is prepared to sit, particularly when the extra time that we are being asked to sit is the result of the Government's incompetence in this matter.

As the noble Lord will be aware, we have in the past, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor put it, insisted on downing tools at a late hour. We hope that we shall not have to insist on downing tools in future and that the Government Chief Whip will make a conciliatory reply which will at least allow us to respond and consider these Bills in the appropriate manner and with the appropriate amount of time.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has said, just as I had great sympathy with the then Labour opposition, who made precisely the same complaints when the previous government were in office. The fact is that we do not handle the business of this House in a competent fashion. We had a report of a committee chaired by Lord Rippon of Hexham which made recommendations in the lifetime of the previous government. Unhappily, many of those recommendations have not been implemented. Lord Rippon made the point that it was for the House to determine the number of hours that it sat but that, by and large, it should not regularly sit after 10 o'clock at night.

As the noble Lord who has just spoken pointed out, we sat. until 2.30 this morning. That is not a sensible way to conduct our business. I very much hope that the Government Chief Whip will return to this matter in the Procedure Committee in the next Session of Parliament so that we can review the recommendations of Lord Rippon of Hexham and his colleagues and avoid complaints of this kind. It is wholly unreasonable for the House to sit as long as it is now regularly sitting. I hope that the complaints made this afternoon will be taken very seriously by the Government, as I am sure they will be.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for giving me notice of his intention to raise this matter today. I accept that this will be a very busy spillover, and there is a lot of work still to do. In that respect, it is no different from any other spillover; it is always a very busy time of year. I always try to be conciliatory, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is aware. As for the GLA Bill, the Government listened carefully to points made by the Opposition and others in Committee and have responded positively with amendments to deal with 80 per cent of the issues raised. It is a little strange. I understand the point that the noble Lord makes, but we have had to take time to make concessions on matters such as equal opportunities, consultation with the disabled on transport, and a new appeals process for bus licensing.

Notwithstanding the fact that many of these amendments relate to such concessions, we have been at pains to send advance copies of draft amendments and explanatory notes to opposition spokesmen. Most, but not all, of the amendments were tabled at least a week in advance. Meetings were organised last week in which my noble friend Lord Whitty discussed the remaining stages of the Bill with the Opposition and of her noble Lords. I know that he is willing to hold further meetings if that would assist.

No new areas of policy are being raised for the first time at Report. We would have expected the Opposition to be pleased that the Government had made a substantial number of concessions in this very important Bill. It is true that the GLA Bill will go back to the House of Commons with a large number of amendments in it, but the House of Lords is a revising Chamber; its role is to improve legislation where possible and to amend it where necessary.

Without speaking in any partisan sense, we became used to very large numbers of amendments being tabled by the previous government on a whole variety of Bills. Only this morning I was given a graphic description of the telephone directory of amendments tabled on the Financial Services Bill. The suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, about the Procedure Committee again considering the Rippon report in the new Session is a good one. This is a problem for all governments, and I shall put with some force to the departments involved the points made by the Opposition Chief Whip.

As to the GLA Bill currently before the House, most of the amendments that the House is being asked to consider are technical or relate to concessions by the Government. As to the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill, I understand that there will be 60 fewer amendments than the 260 that the previous government tabled at the same stage to their Pensions Bill in 1995. I do not want to go backwards and forwards on the number of amendments tabled at different stages.

As regards the point about the amendments that were tabled on Monday for consideration today, I think there were only four and they were all technical. I suppose a little more time could have been found if we had sat last week but, in the spirit of good will, I try to avoid sitting the week of the Conservative Party Conference so that Conservative Peers can fully enjoy their week in Blackpool.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, was not prepared to be slightly more conciliatory. As he will be aware, we were quite prepared to sit into August and it was the Government themselves who resisted such a move. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, boasts that many of the amendments were available last week, but can he confirm that my noble friend Lady Miller, who is leading for us on much of this Bill, was able to see those amendments only on Friday? As I am sure the Government expected her to be, she was in Blackpool earlier in the week.

I imagine that a certain number of Ministers and officials were in their offices for part of August and September. Nine weeks have elapsed since we completed the Committee stage of this Bill. It is simply not satisfactory to bring the amendments to us at this stage and then still have further amendments to bring forward. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, confirmed that four more amendments, which he described as merely technical amendments, were laid today. We do not have the resources of the Government to establish whether they are technical. It takes quite a long time to get to grips with these amendments.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is not prepared to be slightly more conciliatory in this matter. As I stressed, we sat—because we are a very co-operative Opposition—until 2.30 this morning to assist the Government in getting their business through on the Welfare Reform Bill. However, this Bill, the London Bill, which has had fewer than eight days in Committee, is the biggest Bill that has ever been before this House. It is bigger than the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Bills put together, and it is likely that four days will not be adequate for its proper consideration at Report stage. We, as an Opposition, reserve our right to consider how to deal with this matter later if the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is not prepared to offer more time.

As I said earlier, we have in the past insisted on our right, as the the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said, to "down tools", and we might have to insist on that right again in the future.

Lord Carter

My Lords, as regards the point about August, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, knows, we agreed that if we could finish all Committee stages before the Recess, we would then rise. We did finish all the Committee stages by the end of July and that is why we did not sit into August.

As regards the amount of time required, that is a matter for the usual channels, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, knows. We meet each other, and I also meet the noble Lord, Lord Harris, every week. That is the time to discuss the problem. I do not like sitting until 2.30 in the morning any more than the noble Lord, Lord Henley. He, I and our Whips are the people who are here with the Ministers. We are as keen as anybody not to sit late. We do have a problem. This is a very large Bill. We have made a large number of concessions. Because of the size of the Bill and the concessions we have made, there have to be a large number of amendments. I am entirely willing to talk to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to see if we can organise things a little better. The spillover is always heavy. This is not the first time and this is not the first Government to have a Bill before the House in the spillover with a large number of amendments presented a little later than we would all like.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Membership of the Authority and the Assembly]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 15, after ("London;") insert ("and the Deputy Mayor, who will exercise the executive power of the Authority")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I would like to speak to the group of amendments which start with Amendment No. 1 and go on to Amendment No. 159 on the Marshalled List. Not consecutively, I hasten to say; only to the amendments in the grouping.

As I said in Committee when I moved almost identical amendments, it really is not as formidable a number as it might appear because all of the amendments relate to one key point: that the deputy mayor should be elected and not merely nominated by the mayor and plucked out of the ranks of the assemblymen. Other amendments in this group are consequential or rectify the omission of reference to the deputy mayor where it would have been appropriate.

I shall deal with the principal amendments in this group, and I certainly will try to avoid taking up your Lordships' time by repeating the same arguments that I made in Committee, without much success I have to say. I will try to shorten what I wanted to say because of the lack of time.

If the deputy mayor is not just to be an ornament standing in at an engagement when the mayor is double-booked, we propose that the deputy mayor should be directly elected by the citizens of London in the same way and at the same time as they elect the mayor. The purpose of the amendments that I am proposing at this stage is to make it clear, which I clearly failed to do last time, that the mayor and his deputy shall be elected at the same time and on the same ticket.

Amendment No. 7 provides for the candidate for mayor to nominate his deputy to run on this joint ticket. Some of your Lordships might argue that that is not democratic, but at least the voters themselves will have some say in who is deputy mayor. If they do not like the mayoral candidate's choice, presumably they will vote for neither. It is certainly more democratic than the Government's proposal contained in Clause 41(3) which empowers the newly elected mayor to foist—I do not use that word lightly because he can do that—his choice on the electorate after they have elected the mayor when it is too late for the electors, who may not like that choice, to do anything about it.

All of the arguments that the Labour Party mustered for the election of a mayor apply equally to his deputy. Electing the deputy will give him not only status but also a greater degree of authority than he can expect if he is merely selected from among the assemblymen by the mayor to whom he will thereafter obviously be beholden.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in responding to my amendments on the previous occasion, argued: Our intention is that the deputy mayor should act as a link between the two directly elected bodies". A few lines further on in Committee he said, It does give a separate position which … can provide a bridge between the two parts of this authority".—[Official Report, 14/6/99; co1.25.]

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, earlier in that speech also used the same phrase to describe the deputy mayor as a bridge between the two parts of the authority.

Obviously, this connection, whether they call it a link or a bridge, is exactly what the Government wanted; or at least what they wanted at that time because that is what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, told us. That is the direct antithesis of what we all understand as the separation of powers. A distinct separation between the executive, in the person of the mayor, and including his deputy whenever he is performing those executive duties on the one hand, and the legislature in the form of the assembly on the other. At Committee stage I argued for a clear application of the doctrine of separation of powers but, in opposition to that, the Government spoke, as I have just quoted, of "links" and "bridges".

In August the Minister for London issued a consultation paper regarding the proposed interim organisation which is needed to be in place before the mayor assumes office. On page 1 of that consultation paper, at point 1, the Minister says, There will be clear separation of powers between a directly elected executive mayor and a 25 member assembly".

We do not believe that there will be that clear separation of powers when there is a link or bridge in the person of the deputy mayor plucked out of the ranks of the assemblymen; someone who will then owe the mayor his support in the assembly as the price of the mayor's patronage. The amendments will put into effect what the Government now say, in the person of the Minister for London, they want to achieve—the separation of powers.

The Minister's statement is the very reason why I believe the Government should simply accept this series of amendments.

If the deputy were to be selected from amongst the assemblymen, there is a grave danger of a conflict of interests should the mayor and the assembly disagree on some topic or other, as they are more or less bound to do at some time, even assuming that the mayor is of the same party as the majority in the assembly. One neutralised assemblyman taken out of the assembly to become the deputy mayor from a mere 25 members represents the equivalent of four per cent of the votes.

For the first time we have in statute a separation of powers between the executive, in the form of the mayor, and the legislature, in the form of the assembly. The mayor is elected on his own manifesto and carries out his own polices. The assembly is there to scrutinise how he does that and only to a limited extent to exercise a check where they disagree. That check and balance disappears when four per cent of the legislature has a dual role as a member of the legislature and as a member of the executive. It is poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously. The mayor's authority comes directly from his having been elected as an individual. The Government's whole raison d'être for having a directly elected mayor was to secure his total independence. Here they are trying to tie him into the assembly.

In Committee, I asked the Minister how, when the deputy was performing his duties he could simultaneously find the time to perform his duties as an assemblyman. At that stage the Minister did not answer me; he may have thought of something now. But, most importantly, the deputy mayor temporarily acts in place of the mayor if a vacancy occurs, but with extremely circumscribed powers. I pointed out that those powers are so circumscribed that there is a virtual hiatus in many of the functions of the mayor's duties until a replacement is elected. I also drew the Committee's attention to the anomaly that there was no provision in this badly drafted Bill to cover the temporary incapacity of the mayor. I am glad to see that the Government are now attempting to rectify this although I shall comment on their proposals.

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, was kind in the way that he mentioned that we have real difficulties. The Chief Whip said that the Government had taken note and that that is why there are so many amendments. The truth is that the measure was extraordinarily badly drafted, so they had to take note. We did our duty properly in Committee. We wish to continue to do so at Report stage.

If the deputy mayor is to perform some of the mayor's functions, the voters are entitled to pick him for themselves, with a properly elected deputy with the authority of having been elected by the voters. The natural thing would be for him to take over the office on a permanent basis in the event of a vacancy or during a mayor's long-term incapacity. If the Government were to accept the amendment, there would be some consequential amendments. However, I assure the Minister that we would be co-operative in seeking to get them through as quickly as possible.

I should like to touch on the provisions that the Government have proposed with regard to Schedule 4. The production of four pages containing 22 amendments covering a possible vacancy in the office of mayor, the refusal or inability of the deputy mayor to be the acting mayor, and the consequent situation of the chairman of the assembly who then has to cease to be the chairman of the authority, looks like the creation of a deputy deputy mayor. I believe that that complicated machinery might very well have been avoided by the election of a deputy mayor who is divorced from the assembly.

Amendment No. 4 makes it clear that the authority consists of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the assembly. I still believe that omitting the reference to the deputy mayor from the list is demeaning to that office. I hope that the Government may feel that it is worth accepting our wording so that the authority consists of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the assembly. Whether or not the deputy mayor is directly elected, there is no justification for making him a virtual non-person in the definition of the authority. I hope that the Government will accept that provision.

I hope that the Government will agree that the direct election of a deputy mayor is far more democratic than the mayor selecting his own deputy without the assembly or electors being able to gainsay it. Perhaps that last thought may make the Government pause and reflect on the matter and accept the amendment and the resulting consequential amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the noble Baroness has had great experience of local government. Could she explain to the House how things would operate if the deputy mayor who was elected had a policy which was directly in conflict with the mayor? With her reputation as someone who likes to see tidy local government, would the noble Baroness please explain how that would be tidy?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, the bottom line is that the mayor and deputy mayor will have a manifesto. Presumably if the mayor chooses, and it is on a joint ticket, the problem mentioned by the noble Lord does not arise. They will run the election on a joint ticket. That is what my amendment provides.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that I have enormous experience of local government. I should like to think that I have. If I have managed to convince the noble Lord that I have, I am very pleased—but I have not.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, during the last stage of the Bill, these Benches made clear that we were most unhappy about the structure for the new London authority proposed by the Government and set out at such great length in the Bill. However, we have taken the view that having made the effort at that stage to make alterations to the structure, such amendments will be fairly sparse from these Benches during this stage of the Bill. We believe that we need now to shift our concentration to improving the Bill within the framework on which the Government are so clearly set. In particular, we are not at this stage attempting to change the role of the assembly members other than in rather narrow areas.

Similarly, I believe that to have a mayoral candidate running on a joint ticket with a deputy mayoral candidate is likely to confuse the electors who will have four votes on 4th May. That is already difficult enough. I believe that such a joint ticket would compromise the position of the deputy mayor as a member of the assembly. That position is important. All the members of the assembly have a responsibility to scrutinise the actions of the mayor. We believe that that scrutiny function means a mixture of supporting the mayor when the mayor is right in the eyes of the assembly members—that may well mean supporting the mayor against an over-centralising central government—but also reining back the mayor when the members of the assembly believe that the mayor is going off course. We should be concerned to see such a change as proposed by the noble Baroness.

Nor do we believe—the recent brief exchange demonstrated it—that the joint ticket would be more democratic. It would be more democratic if one could vote for a mayoral candidate from one party and a deputy mayoral candidate from another, but not if there is a joint ticket. I do not think that that argument stands up. Therefore, I regret that we are unable to support this amendment or the accompanying amendments.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, it is good news that the Liberal Democrats are not going to continue their strategy of attempting to turn the Bill into something they would have had if they had been in government rather than dealing with the Bill the Government propose. I am glad to hear that. I had said to them that I hoped that that is what they would do. I do not know whether I had any influence; but if I had I think the House owes me a little credit as well as them!

If the Government will not accept this idea, I should like to say (if it does not sound too pompous) that I think that they will be making a mistake. Many of the amendments that the Government have put down are technical amendments. That is always a good thing to do. It is the job of the House. It is a sign that the Government have not drafted the Bill very well, but as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, that happened also when the present Opposition were on the other side of the Chamber. It is something that we regret, but it is necessary and we have to accommodate it.

However, this is not a technical matter. It is seminal to the way the new government of London will work. I believe that my noble friend's idea is more likely to work than that proposed by the Government. I believe that they should consider it seriously.

When replying to the amendment in Committee, the Minister said that it would make for too much conflict if there were a deputy mayor on a joint ticket with the mayor. He said that there would be three directly elected components instead of two: a mayor, a deputy mayor, and the assembly. He also said that people have not voted for that. I do not believe that those three statements are valid. If the mayor and deputy mayor were elected on a joint ticket, the electorate would overwhelmingly expect them to agree.

I do not believe that the Minister thought it relevant on the last occasion, but perhaps he would turn his mind to what we all understand is the way things work in the United States of America. It would be very unlikely indeed that the President and Vice-President would disagree. If they did I believe that the Vice-President would have to resign. It is quite a simple point. The Minister said that people working in local government should understand this. My noble friend pointed out that what happens in local government is not similar. The matter has nothing to do with local government. It is a new form of such government. The separation of powers has nothing whatever to do with existing local government.

The noble Lord said that there would be three directly elected components if this amendment were adopted. There would be only two. There would the mayor and the deputy mayor and one vote. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that one would not vote twice on a joint ticket, but once only. There would be the assembly. The components would be only two in number. The first would have added to it the deputy mayor.

The noble Lord said that the people have not voted on this matter. We must use referendums intelligently. When the people voted they did so for a system which they assumed would work. Having proposed one structure, if the Government believe that it should be changed in order to make the system work better, no one would welcome it more than the people of London. I certainly would welcome it. As a Londoner, I voted for a mayor and for the Bill as it stands. I would have no objection to Parliament improving the Bill so that it worked better. I believe that it would do so in the way proposed.

I genuinely believe that this is not a party political matter at all. We are trying to get the government of London to work. I believe that there will be far less conflict and far more effective government of London if the deputy mayor and the mayor were on the same ticket and were distinct from the assembly. I very strongly support this group of amendments.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps I may make this point. I thought that I had not suggested that there would be an extra vote in any physical sense, but that there would be an extra person on the ballot paper or in the election literature, alongside each of the mayoral candidates. There will be four votes. The legislation provides for a first and second vote as regards the mayor and a vote for the electoral area assembly members. The fourth vote is for the top-up list. That was the context in which I made my comment.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend. I have watched the process from the day of the referendum. As the process has continued, I believe that all of us have discovered that because it is totally new, there could be better arrangements. I feel very strongly that it is a good thing that the mayor tells the people of London who his deputy mayor is to be. I have made it absolutely clear that the distinguished leader of Wandsworth Council, Mr Eddie Lister, would be the deputy mayor if I were fortunate enough to become the mayor. There would be no conflict in that regard, as suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. On the contrary, I have chosen a person of exceptional talent and with experience of local government. It is good that the people of London know that it is a team. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that in every mayoral election in the United States of America—I have been studying the subject quite seriously—the mayor always informs the city who the deputy mayor will be and the name is not on the ballot paper. Of course, it is in the manifesto which clearly states why that person should be chosen.

Perhaps I may add a personal note as I consider the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, a close friend. Like the noble Lord, I have long believed that my noble friend Lady Miller has a long and distinguished record in local government because she has served on every committee in London for many years. She has specialised in selecting those for local government. I believe that my noble friend is wrong and that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is right. But we should all look on my noble friend as having great experience.

I say to the Minister very seriously that discovery has occurred during the past two-and-a-half years. We now know that the deputy mayor must come from the assembly, but will not be its chairman who will be another person. We could follow the road advocated by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, if, when elected, one looked at the assembly and said, "Now I have to find someone to be my deputy mayor". It would he much better to say, "I know who I want as my deputy".

In our party—I suspect it will also be the case for the Labour Party —I have stated that I want Mr Eddie Lister. Naturally, the team picking those to take the GLA places is making sure, I hope, that Mr Lister will be at the top of the list otherwise one will need to look at the people who have been selected and choose in that way. When the Labour Party eventually finds a candidate, by whichever method, I hope that at least that candidate will be able to choose who his deputy will be.

I say to the Minister that if there is a chance of rethinking this matter, we would like to permit the mayoral candidates to pick their deputy mayors with the knowledge that they should be separated from the GLA because its chairman is not going to be the deputy mayor. I know that we face a long session over several days. I heard what was said by the Opposition Chief Whip. But we must not have a Bill which contains faults because it has been rushed through.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, not the least of the problems that we have faced constantly during debates on this Bill is the fact that the separation of powers is not spelled out on the face of the Bill. It is implicit within its massive content. Clause 31 deals with delegation and there the matter becomes relatively more apparent. But in fact the separation of powers is not spelled out. For that reason in Amendment No. 1 there are the additional words, who will exercise the executive power of the Authority". Amendment No. 2 is grouped separately, but none the less it is relatively meaningless unless Amendment No. 1 is accepted. It is the second part of a pair of amendments which put on the face of the Bill the separation of powers which otherwise have to be sought in the document The Shape of Things lo Come? I suppose that it is a semi-official description of the future structure and the initial organisation of the Greater London Authority. There one sees how the separation of powers is set out.

We tend to think of the separation of powers almost automatically—perhaps completely erroneously, but none the less a fact—in the context of such separation in the constitution of the United States of America. There is a fundamental difference as regards the position that the Greater London Authority will face and its constitution. The assembly is not a legislature. It is not intended to be so. It has no possible role is which it could fulfil that particular function.

Despite that, the assembly will exist to scrutinise the work of the mayor. As regards London, the mayor is virtually the executive and legislature rolled into one. All that the assembly can do is to supervise, examine and criticise, if it so pleases, what he is doing. That is a fundamental distinction. It is not readily apparent to the normal person outside in the street that that is what has happened. That is the reason why Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are worded as they are.

The problem is that the position of the deputy mayor completely breaches that separation of powers because in particular circumstances—it has to be acknowledged that they may never arise and one might hope that they would never arise—the deputy mayor has to act either as or for the mayor, and for a temporary period he could even become the mayor. At the same time he is expected or supposed to fulfil a full role as a member of the assembly. That is neither a practical proposition nor a reasonable way to proceed. Therefore, I have the greatest pleasure in supporting my noble friend's remarks on the first amendment.

Perhaps the House will forgive me for jumping a little ahead of the game: should the amendment fall, I shall probably not trouble the House by moving the second amendment. I am glad to support Amendment No. 1.

4 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, with the leave of the House and in respect of the Chief Whip's comments, perhaps I may say that in many respects I regret the number of amendments which we are tabling. As the noble Lord, Lord Archer, says, they are an attempt to make the Bill right. I believe that as we go through the Bill there will be greater consensus on those amendments than perhaps appears at first sight.

Unfortunately, however, that does not apply to the first amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, proposed a similar, although not entirely the same, amendment in Committee. I believe that part of the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, is that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has shifted her ground slightly. We have previously discussed the direct election of a deputy mayor. We are now discussing an indirect election for the deputy mayor on the coat-tails of the mayor. If we are using the American analogy, we refer to the system that almost gave us Spiro Agnew as President of the United States. That does not lend a particularly attractive or democratic legitimacy to these proceedings.

That system would, in certain circumstances, also lead to exactly the kind of situation to which my noble friend Lord Mishcon referred. For example, if there were a less than credible candidate for mayor—not that there is any such in this House or elsewhere—that candidate might be tempted to have a populist running-mate. That would open up the possibility of serious conflict. One can also envisage exactly the opposite situation.

It must be clear that it is the mayor who has democratic legitimacy; that it is the mayor for whom people are voting and that it is the mayor who will have those powers. We have indicated that a deputy mayor should be designated by the mayor and should, as the noble Baroness said, be the bridge between the mayor and the assembly. Far from being foisted upon the people of London, they will have a democratic legitimacy, having been elected through the assembly. That provides the flexibility that the mayor will need as well as the link to the assembly.

Regarding the clean separation of powers to which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and other noble Lords referred, we believe that we need some link between the various parts of the new authority. Indeed, with reference again to the United States, there is a link in the opposite direction, as it were, in that the Vice-President sits as the Chair of the Senate. We are doing it the other way round, in some sense, and it will bring the two elements a little further together.

That system does not preclude the mayoral candidate from identifying in advance whom his running-mate shall be on the list of assembly candidates. If elected, the running-mate will become deputy mayor. But there must be left with the mayor the responsibility and the authority, throughout his term, to have a deputy mayor who will work with him. That means that the ability to change the deputy during the course of the term of mayor, if that relationship fails, must be left to the mayor. If that is not done, one builds in—even where candidates run on a joint ticket—the potential for further division and for a problem in terms of the mayor carrying out his function.

If the noble Baroness's amendments were accepted, the mayor could not change the deputy during the course of his own term. That is a recipe for greater confusion, not less. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness is able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I have listened carefully to what the Minister said, as I always do. I must confess that I am somewhat disappointed. I do not really agree with his premise. I believe that in America where a President and Vice-President are elected on a joint ticket, the problems which the Minister has just envisaged do not actually occur. He proposes that the mayor can choose someone from the assembly and that it can therefore be said that they were democratically elected. But they were elected to the assembly, and that is not necessarily what the people of London might want for their deputy mayor. If the candidates ran on a joint ticket, the people of London would know who they were.

However, I do not wish to pursue the matter any longer. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister and his colleagues will have another rethink. There is a lot to be said for the suggestion in my amendment. I realise that it would cause some difficulty in terms of the way in which the Bill is structured, but I believe that that could be dealt with. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 5 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 5A:

Page 2, line 18, at end insert ("; and (c) the holding of an election for Mayor in the event of a vote of no confidence in accordance with section 14(c)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 22. The amendments are tabled in my name and in that of my noble friend Lord Tope. I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, had hoped to have had her name added to the amendment, which builds substantially on the Conservatives' amendment tabled in Committee. I know that some difficulties were experienced by the Public Bill Office at the end of last week and the beginning of this week, given the number of amendments which arrived on their desk so late in the day.

The amendment gives me the opportunity to say that the House must, on this point, "think the unthinkable"; that is, about the position if the mayor loses the confidence of the assembly and of London. Amendment No. 5A is a paving amendment, adding a reference to the mayor being returned at an election after a vote of no confidence in his predecessor, or indeed in the same person if the electorate turns out to have greater confidence in him than had the assembly members. Our Amendment No. 22 which, if accepted, would become Clause 14(c), deals with a declaration of vacancy in the office in the event of a vote of no confidence. That vote would be cast by 19 members of the assembly out of the total of 25.

At the last stage of the Bill, my noble friends and I proposed that a vote of no confidence to unseat the mayor would require a two-thirds majority of the assembly. We added what became known as "the nuclear option", which would be the automatic resignation of the assembly members. In other words, all the members of the new authority, whatever their capacity, would have to go to the electorate. Other noble Lords thought that that was unrealistic on our part and we have accepted that view. The Conservatives proposed in a similar amendment that there should be a unanimous vote against the mayor in order to achieve his unseating.

I said that we need here to think the unthinkable. The Government have done so in their drafting to the extent of dealing with criminal offences which would commonly lead to disqualification from local government, electoral offences, bankruptcy, and criminal offences which carry the possibility of a custodial sentence.

However, it is by no means impossible that a mayor should lose the confidence of the assembly and of Londoners which is, of course, particularly important. In our view the assembly has a particular responsibility to speak for Londoners. The assembly has the job of scrutinising the mayor's decisions and actions and will be well placed to judge the conduct of the mayor and whether particular conduct might bring the office of mayor and the whole of the work of the authority into disrepute; for example, if the mayor's priorities lost touch with reality or even if the mayor's personal conduct affected public respect for the office. We believe that generally a politician's private life should remain private, but I mention that area of concern because, by definition, given the structure of the new authority, the mayor will be a big personality. The whole structure is designed for personality politics. Therefore, we believe that the mayor's general conduct is relevant where, in other offices, it might not be.

It is a sad fact—and I know that it is a concern shared right across the House—that confidence in politics and politicians is at a very low ebb. That is manifested in low turnouts, including that at the referendum last year for London government.

Therefore, to argue that a matter of confidence would begin and end with the electorate only at the time of the election is, I believe, ducking the issue of the responsibility of other politicians to that electorate.

I was a member of a Select Committee of this House and another place which considered a draft Bill on local government. That Bill is likely to come to your Lordships in the next Session. The aim of the Bill was in part to deal with the introduction of executive mayors into local government. During the proceedings of the committee, it was commented that to have no provision for the recall of an executive mayor would be unique. Most other countries have either an impeachment process or a process to allow voters to petition. There is no mechanism such as a voter petition in this case. If there were to be—and we have not proposed this—it would raise questions about how many signatories would be required. I understand that in Los Angeles 15 per cent of the electorate signing a petition can cause the mayor to leave office. That is a large number of people but quite a small proportion of the electorate. If that were to be the course that your Lordships favoured—in other words, some mechanism for the electors who put the mayor in office in the first place—I have wondered how he or she would be removed. Perhaps coupons would be printed by the Evening Standard to be returned. May be there would be the option to call an 0800 telephone number to register a view, although it occurred to me that that might be an income-generating activity if premium rates were charged.

That is not sensible. We believe that it should be possible for the politicians—the assembly members—to act as leaders in such an unhappy situation, if it were to happen. The figure of 19 members out of 25 proposed by the amendment is a high proportion. We do not believe that it could easily be achieved. We accept that. Indeed we have deliberately sought a high proportion. We have not proposed unanimity among the assembly members. We do not believe that that would be appropriate. Some of the assembly members—for example, the deputy mayor whose position we have just debated—could be so closely associated with the mayor that it would be in their personal interests to vote to support the mayor.

In other countries mechanisms flow from different constitutions; for example, the decision of a supervising governor. In Japan, I understand, a proportion of the assembly can pass a resolution of no confidence which allows the mayor to dissolve the whole body. We in this country have an unwritten constitution. In this Parliament, the Prime Minister may be subject to a vote of no confidence and that would normally lead to the dissolution of Parliament. The constitution of the new London authority is not unwritten. Indeed, one might say it is overly written.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, given how circumscribed and very detailed the constitution is, we do not believe that this is an omission which should remain. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I am very pleased that I was able to add my name to Amendment No. 5A. As noble Lords will know, in Committee I tabled a similar amendment except that the power to remove the mayor depended upon there being a no confidence vote, unanimously passed. Clearly, since that debate I have had time to reflect and I hope that the Government have done likewise, because I now accept that a unanimous vote of no confidence is not a practical possibility. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, at least one member of the assembly—that is, the deputy mayor—will be beholden to the mayor for his position as deputy. Therefore, the chances of him voting against the mayor are highly unlikely. Secondly, under the system of proportional representation being used in this case, it is possible that a fringe party might somehow secure one single assembly member.

We propose the number of 19 members because that is equivalent to four-fifths of 80 per cent. It is a very substantial proportion and represents a hurdle which could be overcome only with cross-party support. That seems to us an impossible state of affairs. If a mayor for some reason behaved in a certain way, he could not be got rid of. It is unacceptable and, in my opinion, strange that in an office where the incumbent is elected for a fixed term, there is no power to remove him except on the very restricted grounds provided in Clauses 13 and 14. The Prime Minister can be removed if he loses the confidence of his parliamentary colleagues and they vote against him. I believe that that can happen on a simple majority. Therefore, it seems an extraordinary state of affairs that this cannot happen with the mayor. The occupant of the humblest political office—the chairman of a ward—would be bound to go in such circumstances if his committee voted against him. High Court judges can be removed from office under very stringent conditions. The most powerful man on earth—the President of the United States of America—can be removed from office by Congress. In the lifetime of every one of your Lordships, two presidents have very narrowly escaped that indignity.

Let us suppose that the mayor commits a serious crime for which he has not yet been convicted. Of course everyone is entitled to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. But should the mayor shoot the leader of the opposition in full view of the entire assembly, is he to continue in office for perhaps the time it might take to bring him to trial? The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, did postulate the possibility of an entirely independent person, unconnected with any party, being elected as mayor. As the noble Lord put it, the party establishments would then gang up on him and remove him even though he had the endorsement of Londoners in a direct election.

The noble Lord upbraided me—rather nicely, I might say—during the debate on Amendments Nos. 48 and 50 in Committee for pointing to what he described as, a somewhat improbable set of circumstances".—[Official Report, 14/6/99; col. 102.] An independent candidate may stand for mayor. But while, of course, anything is possible, it is not necessarily probable. I cannot envisage an independent candidate beating the choice of any of the party machines. But let us suppose that that improbable event did occur. Is the Minister suggesting that new Labour would be a party to "ganging up" on the choice of the people of London? I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Conservatives on what is clearly a hypothetical point. However, I can say that I do not know of any one of my colleagues who would countenance such disgraceful conduct—"ganging up" on someone because he was not a member of the party when he really had not done anything that deserved it.

In rejecting my amendment, the noble Lord said also that this was a matter for the people, not the assembly. But how is the people's will to be expressed? The Government have made no provision for a recall petition, and perhaps that is just as well too. How does anyone set about collecting and verifying, for example, half a million signatures? The assembly is specifically charged with the duty of supervising the mayor and that is a mere piece of window dressing if it has no power remove him for what the American constitution neatly calls, without specific definition, "grave crimes and misdemeanours". The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred simply to "losing the confidence of". There could be a variety of issues that caused that to happen. The constitution the Government are proposing for our capital city is that the mayor is virtually irremovable, no matter what. That cannot be right and I very much support the amendment.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I support the amendment. This is possibly one of the most significant issues we shall consider today. I certainly think that it is the most significant omission from the Bill, or the Bill as it will be amended during the course of our proceedings. My noble friend Lady Hamwee says that we must think the unthinkable. We have had to do that a number of times. Much of the Bill is devoted to making provision for circumstances which we all hope and many of us believe will never happen, but which may happen.

It is conceivable that in the future a mayor will lose the confidence of Londoners. I do not mean that the mayor will have low opinion poll ratings. That is almost certain to happen and has been the experience of most politicians at some time. I am visualising more serious events when the mayor loses the confidence of Londoners and of their representatives elected in the assembly. I do not wish to indulge in hypothetical conjecture of what such situations could be, but let us accept that there is that possibility.

What happens then? Noble Lords have pointed out that in the Bill as it stands we have a situation where the mayor is above recall. There are no mechanisms for recalling the mayor, whatever the circumstances, other than those provided for in criminal law and so on. It is astonishing that a Bill of such length and detail omits a matter as important and as significant as that. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, at the previous stage, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that there might be "frivolous action" by assembly members ganging up together against the poor innocent mayor. I believe that that is highly unlikely. We have provided here that three-quarters of the assembly members—19 out of 25—have to agree on a vote of no confidence in the mayor. No elected assembly person is going to take such a decision lightly. They too will be answerable to the electors of London. If, by so doing, they force another election on Londoners, then Londoners will make their judgment on assembly members as well as on the mayor. This is not something which will be done frivolously by any assembly member.

To secure a coalition of 19 assembly members, all of whom will have been elected at the same time as the mayor—regardless of party or non-party affiliation, they will all have been elected in the same election—and get them to agree on such a serious step would mean that London and London government would be facing a very serious situation. All of us hope it will never happen, but it may. The Government may disagree with the mechanism we suggest for dealing with this unlikely situation. If so, I should like the Minister to tell us what he feels about the principle. Does he acknowledge that this is a situation that could happen? If he does, then what do the Government envisage should be done about it? In other words, I hope that he will deal with the principle of the situation, should it arise, rather than merely the mechanism.

If the Bill passes from your Lordships' House without some provision for dealing with the very serious situation where the mayor of London—a very high profile, public figure with considerable power—so significantly loses the confidence of the assembly and therefore, I am sure, of London voters, what do the Government propose should be done about it? We have proposed a sensible and serious way of dealing with the matter. We have reached agreement with the Conservative Opposition because both of us recognise that this is a situation for which we have to make provision. For that reason, we have come together to try to find, under all the circumstances, the most satisfactory answer.

Reference has been made to voter petitions. On a previous occasion I recall the Minister saying that it is the people who elect the person and that it should be the people who have the right to unelect the person. As a democratic principle, I adhere to that. However, the mechanics of trying to get a petition around 5 million London voters—or whatever proportion one chose, even the 15 per cent mentioned earlier—would be impossible. More importantly, too much time would be needed to organise that kind of action. The matter would need positive, firm but not precipitate action. The time taken to organise a voter petition could only be damaging for the good of London government.

I return to the point I made earlier. Whether or not the Government accept the amendment, I should like the Minister to tell us how they propose to deal with a situation that may arise at some time in the future where for some reason the mayor loses the confidence of the assembly and of London voters as a whole.

Lord Dahrendorf

My Lords, I wish simply to underline that this is an exceedingly difficult issue. My noble friend Lady Hamwee made an extremely balanced statement in pointing out what happens elsewhere in the world. I readily agree with my noble friend Lord Tope when he says that we should deal with the principle more than the mechanism. But in this particular case the mechanism is not unimportant. I feel that I must introduce into the debate some comments on my experience of what happens in other parts of the world. I cannot think of a single example of circumstances in which someone who is directly elected by the people can be removed by another body also elected. There should be a procedure which is in some form judicial. That is true of the United States Congress and the question of impeachment.

It is conceivable that one could return to the original electorate and invite a certain quorum of signatures. I must say to my noble friend Lord Tope that there are quite a few examples around the world where large numbers of signatures of voters are required in order to set in motion a complicated and serious process of this kind. In my view, the mechanism has to be judicial and cannot simply comprise the removal of a directly elected person by another elected body.

We are moving here into an area of constitutional innovation. It is important that we understand what we are doing. The direct election of a mayor by the people is a serious new phenomenon in the practical constitution of this country. It does not have to he a written constitution. We need to think the matter through. It means in principle that whoever is elected cannot be removed except by the electorate or possibly, and arguably—this is where the mechanism as well as the principle becomes so important—by finding a judicial or quasi-judicial procedure. Perhaps there could be some kind of impeachment procedure leading to the removal of the mayor.

I make these comments as a contribution to a continuing argument and not because I believe that I have the right answer. We should take this constitutional innovation seriously. I am wholly in favour of the process, but it has implications, particularly as regards the issue we are discussing.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords I am grateful for all the views that have been expressed, particularly those of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, because this can become an issue of principle. Similar amendments were discussed in Committee. The noble Baroness has abandoned the "nuclear option", but she seems to be going for ritual execution.

There is a principle involved here. The principle behind the amendment results from an incorrect understanding of the authorities we are setting up. It assumes that the assembly's mandate is in some sense superior to that of the mayor. That is not the case. Both will have been elected by the same electorate, some directly and some indirectly. The mayor will be elected directly by 5 million Londoners for four years. It does not seem to me that people elected in parallel have the right to remove that mayor.

I have been accused of citing highly unlikely situations. Perhaps I may suggest another extremely unlikely situation. It has been put to me that the noble Lord, Lord Archer, for example, is hugely more popular than is the Conservative Party as a whole in London. I do not necessarily subscribe to that view; nevertheless, it is not inconceivable. That could still mean that he was third in the election; nevertheless, if the noble Lord were elected on that basis and the Conservative Party only had 15 per cent of the vote in the assembly, it is very easy to see that the other parties could gang up against the noble Lord in his new capacity.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, it could equally apply to Mr Livingstone and the Labour Party.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the Labour Party has yet to decide its candidate. Therefore, I could not possibly comment.

It would be unacceptable, therefore, if the 75 to 80 per cent of the assembly which was of a different political persuasion from the mayor, or was momentarily, over an important area of policy, out of sympathy with the mayor, could on political grounds vote against the mayor and remove him from office. No one else in our political system who is directly elected can be removed by somebody else who is directly elected. All the other examples—the Prime Minister, the chair of the branch, the leader of the council—are indirectly elected by the group or the party in power.

The people will have decided who the mayor should be and the people should have the right to remove the mayor after the due four years. That does not mean to say that the mayor cannot be removed. I remind noble Lords that the normal disqualification rules that apply throughout local government apply also to the mayor. The conduct of the mayor will have to comply with what is required in terms of the conduct of all councillors and other local authority representatives, but removal in those circumstances will be by a judicial procedure and not by a procedure of parallel democratic election. Removal would be for specified crimes. The crime of being momentarily unpopular with the assembly is not one which is recognised in local government law. It would not be sensible to pursue that line.

Noble Lords have tried to give as an analogy the position in the United States. Since similar amendments on impeachment were considered by a committee of the House in another place, we have seen a deeply flawed process in the United States in relation to this similar process, which was conducted, until people saw where it was leading them, on deeply partisan lines. That is not a system which I think should be imported into British local government and in particular into local government in our capital city. That alone should warn people of the dangers of giving one set of democratically elected politicians the right to remove another democratically elected politician. The mayor should stand or fall subject to the law, and the law is pretty tight in relation to local government misdemeanours. The mayor, subject to the law, should be removed only by the people who have elected him.

That is a principle that divides these Benches and the Liberal Benches. I am slightly more surprised at the Conservative Front Bench's support for the amendment because those noble Lords started from the position of wanting a mayor and not an assembly. Now they are saying that the assembly should be able to get rid of the mayor. That is not a logical and consistent position.

I understand the position put forward by the Liberal Benches, but I do not agree with it and I do not believe that it is a democratic position. Therefore, I urge noble Lords not to accept the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I should like to deal first with the point made by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf. I note his concern and anxiety, which I share. However, my noble friend makes the very important point that the Bill has no mechanism for dealing with a mayor who loses the confidence of both the electorate and other politicians, but most importantly the confidence of the electorate.

The Minister criticises the amendment on the basis that we are assuming that the assembly mandate is superior to that of the mayor. That is not the basis of our argument. We are seeking a mechanism to deal with the position where, for example, two years into a four-year term the mayor goes off the rails. The Minister states that no one else in government can be removed in this way. No one in local government or at any other level of government in this country will be elected in this way. We have to deal with a very particular situation. I accept that the normal local government provisions will apply, but they are not adequate to deal with the variety of situations which we hope will not arise, but which just conceivably might.

The criticism is also made that a temporarily unpopular mayor could be disposed of by an assembly acting in an irresponsible manner. I accept that that is just conceivably possible, but I suggest that it is likely that assembly members, who must have an eye to their own position, would be very careful about such an action.

The short point is that there is no proposal in the Bill for dealing with a mayor who acts improperly—but not improperly within the criminal provisions to which the noble Lord has referred. We would look at any proposed judicial mechanism carefully and we might well support it, but the Government have not come forward with such a mechanism. We have thought very carefully, and I hope responsibly, about how such matters should be tackled. I believe that this is a matter on which we should seek the opinion of the House.

4.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5A) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 213; Not-Contents, 117.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Addison, V. Elton, L.
Ailsa, M. Ezra, L.
Alderdice, L. Falkland, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Ferrers, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Fookes, B.
Anelay of St. Johns, B. Geddes, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, Geraint, L.
L. Gisborough, L.
Arran, E. Glanusk, L.
Ashbourne, L. Glenarthur, L.
Astor, V. Glentoran, L
Astor of Hever, L. Goodhart, L.
Attlee, E. Gray, L.
Avebury, L. Gretton, L.
Barker, B. Grey, E.
Bathurst, E. Hampton, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Hamwee, B.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hanham, B
Berners, B. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Bethell, L. Harris of Peckham, L.
Blaker, L. Harrowby, E.
Blatch, B. Hayhoe, L.
Boardman, L. Henley, L. [Teller]
Bowness, L. Higgins, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hogg, B.
Bradshaw, L. Holderness, L.
Bridgeman, V. Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Howe, E.
Bruntisfield, L. Hunt of Wirral, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Burnham, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Buscombe, B. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Butterworth, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Byford, B. Jopling, L.
Cadman, L. Kelvedon, L.
Caithness, E. Keyes, L.
Calverley, L. Kimball, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Kintore, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Kirkwood, L.
Carlisle, E. Knight of Collingtree, B.
Carnock, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Lang of Monkton, L.
Chadlington, L. Lauderdale, E.
Chesham, L. Leigh, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Clark of Kempston, L. Liverpool, E.
Clement-Jones, L. Long, V.
Coleraine, L. Lucas, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Courtown, E. Luke, L.
Davidson, V. Lyell, L
Dean of Harptree, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Denbigh, E. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Dholakia, L. McNair, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. McNally, L.
Donegall, M. Maddock, B.
Downshire, M. Mar and Kellie, E.
Dundonald, E. Marlesford, L.
Dunleath, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Eden of Winton, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Effingham, E. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Ellenborough, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Elles, B. Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Rotherwick, L.
Monro of Langholm, L. Rowallan, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L. Russell, E.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Russell-Johnston, L.
Montrose, D. Ryder of Wensum, L.
Mountevans, L. St. Davids, V.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Moyne, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Moynihan, L. Sandberg, L.
Munster, E. Seccombe, B.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Selborne, E.
Naseby, L. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Newall, L. Sharples, B.
Newby, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Norfolk, D. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Norrie, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Northbrook, L. Slim, V.
Northesk, E. Smith of Clifton, L.
Norton of Louth, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
O'Cathain, B. Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Ogmore, L. Strathclyde, L.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Swansea, L.
Park of Monmouth, B. Swinfen, L.
Pender, L. Taverne, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Phillips of Sudbury, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L Thurso, V.
Platt of Writtle, B. Tope, L. [Teller]
Radnor, E. Townshend, M.
Rathcavan, L. Trefgarne, L.
Razzall, L. Trumpington, B.
Reay, L. Tryon, L
Redesdale, L. Vivian, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L. Warnock, B.
Rennard, L Waterford, M.
Renton, L. Watson of Richmond, L.
Renwick, L. Wharton, B.
Roberts of Conwy, L. Wigoder, L.
Rochester, L. Wilcox, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Romney, E. Young, B.
Acton, L. Desai, L.
Ahmed, L. Dixon, L.
Alli, L Dormand of Easington, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L Dubs, L.
Amos, B. Elder, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Falconer of Thoroton, L
Bach, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Barnett, L. Fitt, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Berkeley, L. Goudie, B.
Blackstone, B. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Blease, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Bragg, L. Hardy of Wath, L.
Brett, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L. Haskel, L.
Carter, L. [Teller] Hayman, B.
Christopher, L. Healey, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L
Clinton-Davis, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Crawley, B. Hoyle, L.
Dahrendorf, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord
David, B. Chancellor)
Davies of Coity, L. Islwyn, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Rea, L.
Privy Seat) Rendell of Babergh, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Richard, L.
Kennet, L. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Kilbracken, L. Sawyer, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Kinloss, Ly. Serota, B.
Kirkhill, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Lea of Crondall, L. Shepherd, L.
Lockwood, B. Shore of Stepney, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L. Simon, V.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
[Teller] Strabolgi, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Marsh, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Thornton, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Milner of Leeds, L. Varley, L.
Mishcon, L. Walker of Doncaster, L.
Molloy, L. Walpole, L.
Monkswell, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Montague of Oxford, L. Weatherill, L.
Morris of Manchester, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Orme, L. Whitty, L.
Peston, L. Wilkins, B.
Pitkeathley, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Plant of Highfield, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Prys-Davies, L. Winston, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B. Young of Old Scone, B.

[*The Tellers for the Contents reported 213 names. The Clerks recorded 212 names.]

Resolved in the affirmative and amendment agreed to accordingly.

4.55 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Time of ordinary elections]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 3, line 20, at end insert—

( ) The provision that may be made by an order under paragraph (d) of subsection (4) above includes provision for such enactments or statutory instruments as may be specified in the order to have effect with such modifications as may be so specified. ( ) In this section "prescribed" means specified in, or determined in accordance with, an order under this section.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 9 gives the Secretary of State an enabling power to introduce a system of early voting at the first GLA elections next year. This is a new concept. By "early voting" we mean the option for voters to vote in person at a polling station on a day before polling day itself. Putting this in the Bill does not mean that we have made a final decision on whether or not to proceed with early voting for the first GLA elections. We want first to discuss the details with the London boroughs, the Common Council, electoral practitioners and the main political parties. If a suitable system can be developed in time this amendment would give us the power to implement it, and I commend it to the House.

The introduction of such a system was recommended by the official Working Party on Electoral Procedures under the chairmanship of George Howarth, which included representatives of all political parties, in its interim report of January 1998. Such a procedure could ensure a higher turnout of voters for the London elections and it is one for which we should provide the power. Whether we can do so will depend on the conditions to which I have alluded. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I am thoroughly opposed to introducing an innovation like this at this stage of the Bill. It is something which requires debate and a great deal of consideration. We need to consider what the consequences might be and whether those are desirable. To do it "on the nod" on a Government amendment in the spill-over period at Report stage is, to my mind, totally unsatisfactory.

The Minister has given no justification for this amendment except for a reference to a report which, as far as I know, is not before the House. I do not see it on the table at the moment. I consider this to be entirely unsatisfactory and I do not believe, unless I am contradicted and comforted by my own Front Bench, that we should pass this amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for a meeting we had last week and for a preliminary discussion of this particular subject, since which time I have had the opportunity to test the views of those from another place to a limited degree. I am happy to say that, in principle, they think that anything that would make the voting process easier for the public is to be commended. Therefore, despite the doubts of my noble friend Lord Lucas about the method by which this amendment is being introduced at this late stage—and we have already had sufficient debate on that matter this aftemoon—the principle is not objectionable.

The only comment that was made to me was that one might perhaps need to think carefully about how this would be done. If one were to have a polling station open on a Sunday, that might offend Christians. Similarly, I am told that doing so on a Saturday might perhaps offend Jews and that having a polling station open on Fridays might offend Moslems. However, as we have permitted shopping and everything else to take place on these days, it seems to me that that is not an argument. Providing that such polling stations were not open on a particular day but were available for a number of days, I believe that that specific objection would be overcome.

I am happy to support the amendment. It will be very interesting to see how it works and whether Londoners—if they are given the chance—will avail themselves of the opportunity and to what extent they do so.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, perhaps I should preface my remarks by declaring a potential interest in these matters as someone who has been selected as a prospective Greater London assembly candidate.

I, too, welcome the amendment. I know that some discussion has taken place within local government about this possibility during the past few weeks. I believe that there is quite widespread support for this as an innovation. There are many advantages to this proposal. We must recognise that working patterns have changed quite dramatically in recent years. Many people now leave their homes during the early hours of the morning, especially those who live in the outer suburbs of London. They do not have the opportunity to vote, or it may not be convenient for them to do so on the particular days set for elections. Moreover, they may not realise this in time to apply for an absent voting arrangement. Therefore, this kind of flexibility would enable people to respond accordingly.

Part of the process that we are discussing must involve separate polling stations being available for a number of days. My own view is that we will not see an enormous uptake of this opportunity at the elections. However, it is an additional facility that ought to be offered to the public and one which should be monitored carefully during the elections. I am sure that it will be of general value in future elections. It is a welcome innovation and I am certainly not disappointed to see it put forward at this stage; indeed, I would have been very unhappy not to have seen it brought forward because it seems to me to be an innovation which is widely accepted.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, I do not object to the amendment but I hope that those who consider it will do so rather carefully. There are some quite serious technical difficulties involved. We keep quoting examples from the United States, but I shall do so now in a totally different way. Because the USA is a big country, voting commences either three or four hours earlier in one area than another and, equally, polling stops earlier. As a result, the authorities have had to adopt some very careful rules to ensure that the people who vote late are not influenced by the exit polls or the results of voting in, say, New York or Washington—or, indeed, along the east coast of America in general.

We could have people voting on Sunday; indeed, I do not know why we do not all vote on Sunday. An awful lot of people vote on Sundays and it is a day when most people are not working. If, for example, some people voted on a Sunday and others voted on the subsequent Thursday, exit polls taken from people coming out of the polling stations on Sunday might very well influence the way people voted on the Thursday. People like to be on the winning side and that is one of the things that happen in elections. That is just one of a number of obvious technical problems. A slightly more frivolous one is that f hope that the fact that people are able to vote early will not mean that they will be permitted to vote often.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am grateful for the support expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey. It should be clear that a lot of further, detailed work will be required with the London boroughs and with the election officers before we could put this process into practice. However, it would be remiss of the House not to allow this possibility for the GLA elections.

As regards the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, I should point out that it is a different situation when the whole electorate has voted early in one part of the country, with an exit poll being taken, and where a few people have voted on a quite unrepresentative basis at an early date. We manage to keep the results of the European elections (where people vote on different days) secret until they are all announced on the Sunday. Therefore, I see no reason why we should not do so for these elections. I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4 [Voting at ordinary elections]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 4, line 13, leave out subsection (10) and insert— ("(10) At an ordinary election a person may not be both a candidate to be an Assembly member and a candidate for Mayor or Deputy Mayor.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 12. Both amendments cover an identical point which occurs in different parts of the Bill. They would prohibit a person from simultaneously being a candidate for both the office of mayor and for a place in the assembly.

When I raised this matter in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, who responded for the Government, pointed out in an endeavour to be helpful—for which I thank her—that under Clause 4(7):

"The persons who are to be returned as—

  1. (a) the Mayor, and
  2. (b) the constituency members,
must be determined before it is determined who are to be returned as the London members"—

in other words, if the person who is elected mayor was also high up on his party's list for being a London member, he is eliminated from the list.

I can understand a party wanting to place a mayoral candidate in a favoured position so that it can get him on the assembly if he fails to get elected as mayor, but why should he be allowed to have this safety net? Is it a qualification for a seat in the assembly that the electors did not think that you were fit to be the mayor? If you are not fit to be mayor, how are you qualified to exercise the supervisory and advisory functions of an assembly member?

The so-called "London members" are being elected by proportional representation off party lists. As an intrinsic part of that system, it is only those at the top of the list and who are not ineligible for some reason or other who get elected. As drawn, the Bill allows someone to stand simultaneously for mayor and also for a place in the assembly. I ask again: why should this be permitted? Why should someone be allowed to ride two horses at the same time?

A parliamentary candidate is not allowed to stand for two constituencies simultaneously, so why should the candidate for mayor be allowed to hedge his bets in this way? Is it not demeaning to the office of assembly members that a person standing for the office of mayor should say, in effect, "Well, if I'm good enough, elect me as mayor, but if I am not good enough for that, why not let me settle for second best"?

Although the Government accept that a person has to be eliminated from the contest for election as a London member if he is elected the mayor, there is still the anomaly of the person standing for and being elected simultaneously as a constituency member and the mayor. This would give rise to the need for an immediate by-election. Is that not the height of folly?

The Government have already legislated in Clause 10(10) against a candidate running in a by-election for a vacancy as a constituency assembly member if he is already a member of the assembly or the mayor. The Government have already legislated in Clause 16(10) against a person simultaneously standing in by-elections to fill casual vacancies for mayor and the assembly. Why then do the Government turn their face against a person running for both offices in by-elections but insist on permitting it in an ordinary general election?

The noble Baroness did not deal with those points on the last occasion that the issue was before your Lordships. I do not believe that any logical reason can be given for the Government insisting on this anomalous position and I have brought back the matter for your Lordships' further consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I listened with interest to the noble Baroness. She moved her amendment solely in terms of the mayor and whether the mayor should be able to be a candidate for the assembly—and I have some sympathy with her arguments. I have also some sympathy with the smaller parties—the Greens, for instance—which may well recognise that their candidate is not likely to be elected as mayor, but wish to have their best person standing for that role and to be a member of the assembly, which is a little more likely.

The amendment refers also to the deputy mayor. As we discussed earlier, we differ on that matter. We certainly would not support the amendment—for reasons we have rehearsed many times; I shall not do so again. We believe strongly that the deputy mayor should be able not only to stand for the assembly, but should also be a member of it.

Lord Witty

My Lords, given that the noble Baroness did not pursue her earlier amendment, if this amendment were to be agreed, the provisions would be somewhat flawed. The question of fitness for these offices is a matter for the political parties putting forward candidates and for the electorate who will judge them. It is clear that the mayor cannot occupy both offices at once, but there is absolutely no reason why, in the first instance, the electorate should not be asked to decide about someone who is a candidate for mayor and who also appears on the party list. In the possible event of a candidate being elected to both offices, there would have to be a by-election. That is a relatively small price to pay for allowing the parties and the electorate the freedom to choose whoever they wish. I am not convinced by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, are correct. It would have been very different if the Minister on behalf of the Government had accepted my earlier amendments concerning the deputy mayor. I had such confidence that he would accept the amendments that I did not think it was necessary to table an amendment to this provision. In view of that, I shall not seek to press the amendment. I hope that the Government will reconsider the position in order that we may bring it back at Third Reading, if necessary, with the deputy mayor omitted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Schedule 2 [Voting at elections]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 207, line 27, at end insert ("no later than 55 days prior to the date set for the ordinary election")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 11, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13.

The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 was passed to set up proportional representation by the party list method. Amendment No. 13 is a technical amendment which is partly dependent on Amendment No. 11 being agreed. It also tidies up the 1998 Act by setting a time-limit on the registration of political parties for Greater London election purposes.

The main amendment requires a party to submit its list of candidates no later than 55 days before the date of the election. That is more or less the equivalent of two months or 11 five-day working weeks. A 55-day deadline will serve to discourage last-minute entries by single-issue pressure groups. I remind your Lordships that as long ago as 17th May 1995 there was a debate on single-issue pressure groups when it was generally agreed that such groups often exercise an undue and undemocratic influence on governments. They are the inevitable consequence of proportional representation. However, we are not here to debate the merits—or lack of them—of voting systems.

The question is: whose convenience is to be considered? The registrar's duties are purely administrative. I venture to suggest that no more than a few hours' work is required to check the validity of each application. Any political party worth its salt will have its list ready well in advance of the 55-day deadline.

The public interest is paramount and needs to be considered. Bearing in mind that this election will be always on a fixed date, the public and the media are entitled to be given as much notice as possible of who the candidates are as that will enable them to make a thorough check of the candidates' antecedents and capabilities.

I was very surprised when the Government refused my amendment at an earlier stage. Despite studying the Government's reply, I cannot understand their reasons. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, said that the time-table imposed by the amendment would give the registrar, effectively three weeks in which to register a late-arriving application".

However, under the Bill as it presently stands, there is no time-limit except the physical one of what it is possible for the registrar reasonably to do. According to the noble Baroness, the registrar's aim, is to decide straightforward applications within five days".—[Official Report, 14/6/99; col. 75.]

A possible five days; what sort of notice is that? To paraphrase Dr Johnson, if a party knows it will be excluded in two months, that will concentrate its mind wonderfully!

The next ground on which the Government opposed a time-limit was that one had not been imposed in any other election. The whole concept of PR and party lists is new to Britain. We are not talking about upsetting a long-standing, tried and tested system. Our concern—I am sure it is the concern of everyone in the House today—is London, a part of the United Kingdom which has a greater population than Wales and Scotland combined. What may suit two comparatively small electoral units may not suit London.

Equally, what is suitable for a national election for the European Parliament may not be suitable for local elections in the largest capital city in Europe. Are the Government telling us that the administrative arrangements for this novel form of election are the acme of perfection and need no adjustment or modification?

If the Government again ask your Lardships to reject this very modest, constructive and non-controversial slight modification to the rules, we should have a more explicit reason than the one given by the noble Baroness previously; that they do not add value to the Bill".—[Official Report, 14/6/99; col. 75.]

I think it makes the Bill better for the public. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Baroness has not convinced me. The strictures imposed by straightforward applications would not be a great burden on the registrar; in practice, he already substantially exceeds them.

Part of the problem is that we have a complexity of electoral law. In this area there seems to be no good reason why the time-scales and procedures applying to London should be different from those relevant to any other election. I am not sure that the noble Baroness has put forward a convincing argument as to why they should differ. It is normal procedure for time-scales to be set out in election rules rather than enshrined in primary legislation. As my noble friend Lady Farrington informed the House previously, we will follow that general practice in London.

There has been no move to put forward different time-scales and procedures in relation to other elections which have introduced new voting procedures and I see no reason to do so in London. I have heard nothing from the noble Baroness which would convince me to alter the procedure. Let us keep it simple.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords. there have not been many different kinds of electoral procedures. I made the point that Scotland and Wales cannot be compared to London; we think that London is special and I think that the amendments would be helpful. However, as the Minister wants to keep things simple, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 not moved.]

Clause 6 [Failure to attend meetings]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 4. line 23. leave out ("six") and insert ("three")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 15, 19 and 20. These two pairs of amendments deal with disqualification of, first, a member of the assembly and, secondly, the mayor for failure to attend.

We propose in both cases a reduction in the period of failure to attend that would lead to disqualification. The amendments are supported by the Conservatives. We have added accompanying amendments to provide that if the assembly agrees to a longer period of non-attendance, that would override the basic period.

The point about the period of non-attendance was made by the Conservatives at the previous stage. We thought that they had a good point. We propose that in both cases the period of six months should be reduced to three. In replying, the Minister said that six months was the period that applied in the case of local government —local authority councillors are disqualified if they fail to attend meetings over that period—and the Government saw no special reason for the period to be different in this case.

We believe that there is a difference. The assembly will have only 25 members. It will be a far smaller body than London borough, county, unitary and most district authorities. The impact of non-attendance will be proportionately greater.

The Minister said that it was unlikely that the mayor would consciously seek to avoid meetings but that he or she would have other "significant duties". The Minister could easily conceive of reasons—for example, illness—which would keep the mayor away.

This pair of amendments is intended as a balance. Six months is a long period. It is one-eighth of the term of office. However, there may be very good reasons for either an assembly member or the mayor being absent for more than three months. We follow the analogy of local government in the second of each pair of amendments by proposing that the assembly should be given the opportunity to consider whether the reason is a good one. If it is—for instance, illness—then, if noble Lords like to use the phraseology, the rule could be waived. The assembly will be in a position to judge whether a colleague or the mayor is "skiving" or whether he or she has a good reason for not being there for the period in question.

I recall a councillor colleague suffering from a long-term illness. It was well understood among councillors of all parties that that colleague was still carrying out certain functions as a councillor but that there were difficulties in attending meetings. Our proposals, which apply in local government, allowing the period to be altered are a matter of common sense and should apply in the case of both members of the assembly and the mayor. However, given the responsibilities and the numbers of people involved, the basic period should be reduced from six months to three months. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I have put my name to both Amendment No. 14 and Amendment No. 19 and I am pleased to support them. Both are to the same effect. One relates to absences on the part of an assembly member, and the other to absences on the part of the mayor. The principle is the same in both cases.

The Government suggest that an assembly member can be absent from no fewer than live consecutive meetings of the assembly and the mayor can be absent for five consecutive statutory meetings of the assembly without forfeiting office.

As I promised, I have carefully considered the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, in response to my amendment in Committee. It seems to me that her observations actually supported my amendments rather than providing a reason to reject them.

I turn first to the situation regarding the mayor, which is covered by Amendment No. 19. The Bill as drafted refers to the statutory monthly meetings of the assembly held pursuant to Clause 44(2). The mayor is obliged to attend pursuant to Clause 37(3). The Bill states that, The Mayor shall attend every meeting of the Assembly held pursuant to Section 44(2)". There is no sanction if he does not, except in Clause 13, which, as drafted, provides for him to be disqualified if he fails to attend six consecutive statutory monthly meetings.

The noble Baroness, in her response regarding the mayor's attendance, said: The assembly will undoubtedly want to invite the mayor to attend the other meetings it will hold and the mayor will undoubtedly wish to accept such invitations"—[Official Report, 14/6/99; col. 92.] Those "other meetings" are not what the amendment is about. I agree entirely that the mayor is not to be at the beck and call of the assembly. If it decides for its own reasons to meet, let us say, every Tuesday, there is no reason why the mayor should be required to drop everything in order to attend. However, the Minister later referred to a series of theoretical calamities which might make it necessary for three or more meetings of the assembly to be missed.

But we are not talking merely about meetings of the assembly. Clause 13 relates to the statutory monthly meeting which the mayor is required to attend under Clause 37(3). In her reply, again at col. 92 the Minister reminded the House: The meetings have been established for the express purpose of allowing the assembly to cross-examine the mayor about his decisions and actions". In a mayoral term there will be 48 statutory monthly meetings of the assembly. Clause 13 as drafted permits the mayor to be absent for five statutory meetings before the sanction comes into effect. So despite what the Minister concedes is the vital importance of those meetings, the mayor could avoid attending all but eight of them during the whole of his term of office. That is "completely unacceptable." Those are the Minister's words, not mine. She said: we recognise that the mayor cannot be allowed to treat the assembly in a wholly cavalier manner". In terms of absence, six monthly meetings are far too many. The absence of the mayor, even if his deputy turns up in his place, leaves the assembly virtually toothless. What will the assembly do during those six meetings? Will the members merely turn up and claim their allowances?

The mayors of other great cities spend a large part of their time, sometimes up to 18 hours a day, glued to their desks. Although we agree that the mayor will have duties, possibly overseas, promoting London as a business and tourist centre and studying the government of other cities, the dates of the statutory meetings will be well known. The mayor will simply fix his absences abroad around those dates.

I stress that our amendment refers to the mayor's absence from the statutory monthly meetings. The Minister's reply was based upon it relating to only six meetings of the assembly, including those that the law will not oblige him to attend. The Minister said that the Government were linking the procedure for disqualification to the statutory monthly meetings. So do we. The difference between us is that we believe that three meetings should be the limit, not the six consecutive absences that the Government propose to grant.

I now turn to the situation regarding the assembly member covered by Amendment No. 14. The Government propose that an assembly member can be absent for up to six consecutive months from all, or any, meetings, statutory or otherwise. In her reply, the noble Baroness said, at col. 93: An assembly member is likely to be busy with the statutory monthly meetings and any committees … on which he is required to serve". Whatever meeting of the assembly he attends—whether one of the statutory meetings or any other business meeting that the assembly may hold—it starts the clock running all over again. If he attends a committee meeting or a meeting of some outside organisation as the representative of the assembly or the authority, then it counts in his favour. Once again, the clock begins to run.

The Minister attempted to draw an analogy between an assembly member and local authority members as provided for in Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972. With the greatest respect, there is absolutely no relation between the two situations. Local councillors represent infinitely smaller constituencies than the 14 super constituencies that the Bill will create. Each of those local wards usually has two or three councillors, so that an absent member can be covered by a colleague. Here, the constituents will be effectively disfranchised.

In my view, there is no reason to establish two different scales of permitted absenteeism. So the same period should also apply to the so-called London members elected on their party ticket. Here again, the difference between us and the Government is just a question of numbers. The Government offer an assembly member a generous six absences whereas we and our colleagues on the Liberal Democrat side say that three is enough.

The job of governing London is not a part-time job either for the mayor or for a member of the assembly. We do not want an assembly which is a mere talking shop, whose members drop in when they have nothing better to do. We also do not want a mayor who is supposed to be accountable to the assembly but who can treat it with total disdain by ignoring seven-eighths of its statutory meetings during his term.

The amended periods of absences that we have proposed are more than adequate. Except in cases of illness, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out, when there might well be a need to have a few absences, if a person really cannot guarantee to give the time, he should not offer himself as a candidate.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I support the group of amendments, which are reasonable, sensible and, under the circumstances of the Greater London authority, necessary. As others said and we discussed at Committee stage, the provisions in the Bill are based on the current law and practice in local government. I know them well and have had to use them on a number of occasions, so many occasions that for the first and only time in my local government career, I knew the practice rather better than the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton. It is the only time I am willing to acknowledge that I have been right and she has been wrong.

The provision permits local authorities to give consent to the absence of a councillor for longer than six months. They will do so if it is seen to be for good reasons, the most obvious being illness, but there are others. In my 25 years in local government I have known that happen on quite a number of occasions. I have never known it to be refused. No doubt it has been refused somewhere, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Where an application is made for leave of absence for a demonstrably good reason, regardless of party politics, generally the body concerned will grant it. That is the situation referred to under Amendments Nos. 15 and 20. In other words, it is not automatic that if for any reason someone fails to attend a meeting within the specified period he or she is disqualified. It is not mandatory, there is a discretion on the assembly. In my experience, if there is a good reason, the body will exercise its discretion.

We come to the crucial point in the amendments: should it be six months, as is the provision for local government, or three months, as we propose? There are a number of reasons why I think it should be three. First, the Government have told us continually and probably rightly that the Greater London authority is not local government. It is not regional government either, it is unique. Therefore, it follows logically that we should have a unique provision.

It is unique in that it will be the first authority in the country to have a directly elected mayor with a high profile and considerable personal powers, unlike the situation anywhere else in the country. It is therefore reasonable to have a different provision with regard to his or her absence from that which applies to any other borough or district councillor anywhere in the country. Those people are in a different position. For a mayor to be absent without good reason and the consent of the assembly for a period of longer than three months—I believe it is unlikely to happen—would be serious and a situation for which provision should be made.

I turn to the assembly. There will be 25 assembly members, half the number of the smallest London borough council The assembly members will be full-time, unlike most London borough or any other councillors. They will have heavy and important duties both on the assembly and, most of them, on the functional bodies. For them to go absent without good reason for a period of six months would be very serious indeed for the workings of the assembly and the effect on their colleagues in the assembly. That is qualitatively different from the position if one of 50 or more London borough councillors should be missing for six months.

Six months is much too long a period, especially in a four-year term of office. It is reasonable to provide that three months should be the maximum unless there is a good and unavoidable reason for a longer period of absence—for example, illness. Should that happen, the assembly will have the power to give consent to that absence. In my 25 years' experience of local government I know that under those circumstances consent would generally be given.

I hope that the Government will consider the amendment seriously. It is reasonable and sensible and, given the circumstances of the Greater London authority, it is necessary. If we are left with the six-month period of absence it could have a serious effect on the government of London.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, some interesting points have been made. However, I still do not believe there is a convincing argument as to why assembly men and women should be treated differently from councillors throughout the land. Six months has long been the position there and there are local authorities of varying sizes and electorates. As the noble Lord, Lord Tope said, London is unique but there is no point in applying different rules to London from elsewhere just for the sake of it.

As regards the mayor, I can see that there are different arguments but we are in a unique situation in relation to the mayor. We considered that the six-month period was appropriate and a single absence of six months still seems to me to be the sensible position.

I take some of the points made by the noble Baroness in relation to the roll-on effect and how much, theoretically at least, it could mean throughout the mayoral term. I am not entirely convinced that we need to alter this to take account of an unlikely situation, but in relation to the mayor I am willing to consider it seriously.

If we accepted the amendments as they stand, we would have a potentially worse situation from the noble Baroness's point of view because theoretically at least, the assembly could concede that the mayor should not even attend after the six months. Whatever the level, three or six months, the assembly could give leave to him not to attend after that. Therefore, I do not believe that the amendments as they stand would meet either of the Opposition Benches' points. If the assembly were to collude with the mayor, it could allow the mayor to fail to attend for yet more meetings.

There is an issue in relation to the roll-on effect which I ought to consider further. But I would not be prepared to support the amendments as they stand.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Lord sits down, I know we are at Report stage but it is important. The Minister said that he would consider the question of the mayor and I am sure he is right to do that. Some very good arguments have been made. He said that he saw no valid reason why the assembly members should be treated any differently from members of local government. When the Minister reads what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has said, he will find that there are valid reasons. I suggest that he considers them.

It is important to get this right; it is not a difficult adjustment to make. The Minister may have considered this very carefully indeed or he may not: I do not know. He may be defending his position until he reads what Hansard says. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, made one or two very good points about the assembly members and. I hope that the Minister will look at those as well.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I hope that this is something to which the Government will give a little further thought.

The position may not arise so far as the mayor is concerned, although it is possible that it will. It is fairly likely, however, that a member of the assembly will, over a period of four years, be in the position when perhaps illness or some other good cause will make attendance difficult but where, just as with local government councillors, it would be appropriate for there to be a mechanism to allow that person to remain in office.

The Minister has laid great stress on the rules applying to members of the assembly not being different to those applying to members of local authorities, including London boroughs. I believe that there should be no difference in respect of the way an absence is considered, as a quite separate matter from the length of time concerned.

When, as I hope will happen after this stage of the Bill, the Minister looks at how this applies, I would be interested to know how the proposed alterations to Clause 44 will affect the position which allows the assembly to meet more often than once a month, because I believe that we need to consider these things together.

With regard to possible collusion between members of the assembly and the mayor, allowing the assembly to let the mayor off the hook and perhaps spend the period of office promoting London around the world or whatever, we have talked about what is likely, what is conceivable and so on. It is possible that the mayor might decide that his or her duties called for him or her to be away from London at all the relevant points. That does not dispose of the need for attendance at what, for the purposes of the Bill, we are still to call the "State of London debate" and the "People's question time". I do not think that what we are suggesting, therefore, is to allow the mayor to go off on a "jolly" for four years and never to pitch up facing the people of London.

I hope that we may have some news now and perhaps I should go on speaking for a moment. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will consider the serious points which we are making. This is not an attempt to upset the structure of the Bill. It is an attempt to address likelihoods. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Lord Topemoved Amendment No. 16:

After Clause 7, insert the following new clause—


(" . Any London member elected as a member of a registered political party who resigns his party whip shall be deemed to have created a vacancy.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, earlier this afternoon we dealt with the possible eventuality of needing to recall the mayor. We all expressed the hope and the belief that such a situation was unlikely to arise.

This amendment deals with a situation which from long political experience I believe is very likely to arise sooner or later. Again, a Bill which is extremely prescriptive is singularly silent on this particular point. That is, what happens if one of the members of the assembly taken from the party list subsequently resigns the party whip and ceases to be a member of that party?

The Greater London assembly will have 14 members elected from constituencies—very large constituencies. It can be argued quite legitimately there, as it is in respect of Members of Parliament, that the people who vote for them vote for them as individuals; they are elected as individuals, albeit most of them on a party ticket. We could have a debate about whether they would or would not be there if they were not on that party ticket. There at least, however, there is a direct link with the electorate. People have voted for that individual and elected him or her. They should no more be obliged to resign should they change parties than they are in the other place. One might have a point of view about what is the ethical thing to do under such circumstances, but there are enough precedents to demonstrate that ethics do not always arise in such circumstances.

Here, however, we are talking about a group of people the like of whom do not yet exist anywhere else in British politics. These are people elected from party lists to give a party balance on the assembly. In other words, to ensure that the membership of the assembly as near as possible represents the proportion of votes cast across London for each party or group. They are people who will be there for no reason other than their membership of a political party and the position on the list on which that party has chosen to put them. That constitutes their legitimacy. They are there because people have voted for the party, not for the individual.

What we are trying to deal with here is a situation where an individual decides that he or she no longer wishes to represent that party and to be a member of that party within the assembly. We are not dealing with a case where the party expels that member. That was a point of difference we had with the Conservative amendment at the Committee stage. I did not agree with that because, if it were to deal with expulsion, the incentive to expel a troublesome member might be rather too tempting on occasion.

The situation with which we are dealing here is one where an elected assembly person from the list chooses no longer to be a member of the party from whose list he or she has been elected. When that situation arises—and I believe that it will arise, perhaps not in the first term but sooner or later—the individual who has been elected and put in that position solely because of having been put on a party list by that party will no longer be representing that party. The party will be deprived of that representation. The voters who have voted for that party in the expectation that they will have that proportional representation will then be deprived of that representation.

My Lords, that is a different situation from any other in the British political system, structured as it is at the moment. I forget Scotland and Wales. I should say in the English political system. It is a very important situation and one which should be dealt with.

We are dealing with it in the way suggested here. We believe that someone who loses his or her electoral or party legitimacy as a London member, should be deemed to have resigned and to have created a vacancy. I think that is the right and proper way to deal with the matter, and presumably the next person on the list would step in.

I again ask the Government, as I did on the question of recall, if they recognise that this is a situation which is likely to occur sooner or later but they do not like this particular mechanism—though personally I think that it is the best one—will they tell me what mechanism they propose to deal with it when it does arise?

This extremely long, very prescriptive Bill is strangely silent on something which is not a remote possibility but which is a very likely event, sooner or later. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord 'Tope, is right that we had a very similar amendment to this at Committee stage, with the additional part relating to expulsion. On reflection, we decided that the Liberal amendment was better than ours and we dropped our amendment. It was the second of the two amendments I mentioned earlier to which my name was unfortunately not added because of a problem when we went to the Public Bill Office rather later than we should have done.

I do not wish to repeat everything that the noble Lord has said. There is one thing I would say, however. The noble Lord, whose party has far more enthusiasm for proportional representation than do I or my party, joined me at Committee stage in pointing out that there is a vast difference between a first-past-the-post Member of Parliament crossing the floor and a member who owes his election simply to being a representative not of the members of his constituency but of a political party.

The fiction that applies in parliamentary elections and local council elections—namely, that voters elect individuals and not parties—does not apply here because that is precisely what the electors are doing. First, they are told, or authorised, to vote for a candidate for the constituency in which they reside. Secondly, they are authorised by a combination of the provisions of Clause 4(1)(c) and Clause 4(5)(a) to vote for, a registered political party which has submitted a list of candidates". As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has already said, that is precisely the point. The London vote is for a party, not an individual. The parliamentary fiction does not apply.

This is supposed to be an election based on proportional representation, and the proportionality chosen by the electorate—I stress that—ceases to exist when a party representative simply changes sides.

Why is it that Clause 11 is devoted to the machinery for replacing a vacancy among London members, but the Government, judging by their response at an earlier stage, decline to accept that such a vacancy occurs when a member of the assembly ceases to be a member of the party that sent him to the assembly? Why does Clause 11(5) specifically provide that when a vacancy occurs among the London members, which must be filled from among the other members on the list, someone who is not a party member is not eligible as a replacement?

What is the reason for the Government's inconsistency in this matter? Having listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to the Committee and studied it carefully in Hansard, I confess that I do not know. I cannot see it. It cannot be that they believe that under the benign dictatorship of their leader they are immune from defections from their party; certainly at local level, they are not. The noble Lord nods his head, but I am not sure that that is due to the note that he is reading or as a result of what I have said.

This amendment is not some devious plot on the part of the Opposition, including the Liberal Democrats, to damage the Bill; it is designed simply to correct an anomaly or to cure an oversight. The noble Lord criticised the Liberal Democrat amendment on the ground that a dissenter would not leave his party, but would simply ignore the Whip. He did not answer my amendment at all, except to repeat the entirely fallacious argument that people are to elect an individual, not a party. He prayed in aid the fact that it is only comparatively recently that party labels have been attached to candidates' names in Westminster and local elections. That was done precisely because it was realised that a large number of the voters did not have the foggiest idea who was the local candidate for the party of their choice, no matter how many posters went up in neighbours' windows or how many unread election leaflets fell onto their doormats, along with soap coupons and adverts from the local pizza delivery service. Three months after an election how many electors can tell you on the doorstep what party their member represents, much less his name? The election of a London member will take place not because of who he is, but because he is a member of a particular party. His individuality is absolutely irrelevant.

When the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, began his response to this debate in Committee, he admitted that he was "a little torn" on it. I assume that he meant that he agreed that the point had some merit. He said that he tended to think that if people left a party, there should be some sanctions, but that he thought our proposals were "pushing it a bit". But in this case he has missed the point. The sanction is not that the defector loses his seat; it is against the voters who lose one of their elected party representatives. It is not like an ordinary parliamentary constituency where the voter can take his problems to another Member of Parliament in a neighbouring constituency. There can be absolutely no reason at all why the voters who have elected somebody on a party ticket, not as a theoretical individual, should be deprived of part of their voice—perhaps of all of it if their party has only one London member—when an individual changes the party allegiance for which he was selected. I can only hope that the Government, having had time to reflect on what both I and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said in Committee, now accept this entirely constructive amendment.

Lord Bowness

My Lords, I very much regret that in this amendment I cannot support my noble friend Lady Miller or the noble Lord, Lord Tope, whose knowledge of local government matters I deeply respect. I had rather hoped that those who were elected would be London-wide members in the light of the normal convention that, however people are elected and by whatever means, they then become representatives of the people of the area. Surely it is not suggested that the London members should be purely nominees just to do the bidding of their party irrespective of the wishes or needs of the citizens of Greater London. If one does not like the party list, to argue that that should be the case is to argue for more power to the party in determining such matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, wants a mechanism to deal with this situation. I hope that we shall not have such a mechanism, but that in the interests of democracy (even if people are elected by a list submitted by their party). they become members of the Greater London authority. If they fall out with their party, that is a problem for their party and its leaders. It is not for us to legislate that they be removed from the forum where they might express a strongly held view for the benefit of the citizens of Greater London.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am reminded of the old line: O what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive! The deception here is proportional representation. Having started down that road we encounter serious difficulties, such as the one your Lordships are considering this afternoon.

I take exception to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. He said that we had no experience of these matters anywhere in the United Kingdom's political system. We do. We have already had the experience of Scotland and of Wales. During our Committee considerations of the Scotland and the Government of Wales Bills your Lordships looked at exactly these issues when considering the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. In particular, we discussed this matter in relation to the Scottish Parliament on 14th July 1998. We discussed it then in the context of two quite different problems. The first was the one that we are addressing today: the position of the additional members who are there only to keep proportionality, now so beloved of the Government as well as the Liberal Democrats. They are not there for any other reason.

Whether a party has two or three members is decided entirely on the basis of proportionality. The intention is to retain proportionality. The additional members are there for that purpose and do not represent anyone other than their party and proportionality. I am sorry to disagree with my noble friend. We may not like it, but that is the reality. The additional members are quite different from the first-past-the-post members. The governing party here and in Scotland has treated them differently when it comes to expenses. It has said that the first-past-the-post members will receive so much expenses and that the additional members will receive less. Somehow they are second-class members when it comes to representing constituents—because they do not have constituents in the same way. The system that has been devised in Scotland, Wales and now London has created two classes of member. I do not like it, but that is the reality.

The problems that your Lordships addressed in the Scotland Bill were even worse than the present ones. If one of the additional members had died, retired or resigned, the returning officer would have turned to the highest loser and asked whether that individual wished to take the seat. If he agreed, he would have taken the seat. He could have left the party by that time, but the legislation as originally drafted would have allowed it. Your Lordships forced the Government to change that. Clause 11(5) now appears in the Bill solely because we forced the Government to change their mind. The situation is that if the highest loser is no longer a member of the party, he or she is not elected.

Unfortunately, in the Scotland Bill we were so pleased with our success that we rather took our eye off the other half of this particular ball game, the one that has been addressed today; namely, if somebody from that additional list leaves that party and crosses the floor, do we treat it in the same way as we treat first-past-the-post members, or do we accept that that has actually upset the very proportionality for which that individual was sent to the Parliament? That individual was not sent to Parliament for any other reason than proportionality.

I believe it is a serious defect in the system. I believe the system is defective, and inside the system there is a serious defect here. As the Bill, the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act have addressed the first problem—namely that nobody should inherit a seat if they have left the party whose seat it is—then I believe that nobody should be allowed to keep a seat if they change their place in the chamber, because they are only there to maintain that proportionality. If they move to the other side of the chamber they will have broken that proportionality.

I am afraid that this amendment is totally logical and it is totally at one with Clause 11(5). If my noble friend does not like it, it is because he does not like proportionality and proportional representation. In that I agree with him. I do not like it either. However, it is reality. It is what we have in Scotland and Wales. It is what London is going to have. I believe that we have to grope for ways to make the system as workable as possible. I think that this amendment ought to have been pressed in the Scottish and Welsh Bills. It was not, and I take my share of responsibility for that. I certainly hope that, if it is pressed today by the Liberal Democrats, even though we profoundly disagree on the principle of proportional representation, it will be passed by your Lordships.

6 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I simply cannot agree with my noble friend Lady Miller that because you fundamentally disagree with somebody you lose your seat. We know that proportional representation is a rotten system. If we think in this House that it is a rotten system, which we do because it produces people like Adolf Hitler who, as your Lordships are well aware, was voted into power perfectly legitimately under proportional representation, why should we even attempt to make it better? Why should we attempt to make it better by a method of democratic centralism which provides that you cannot do anything other than I say you can do? This is a deeply, deeply illiberal amendment.

I am sorry to say this and disagree with my noble friends. My noble friend Lord Mackay is saying that it is a bad system and that we might make it better. I think that it is a system which is not made any better by doing anything to it at all and that we should allow people to have some sense of their own consciences. What happens, for instance, if someone is a totally rebellious Tory, Liberal, Labour, Independent, Scottish National, Green or whatever in London? He does not resign, he just persistently votes the other way. Is his party going to have the right to expel him? All he does, if he has an ounce of noodle in his head, is not to resign the Whip. He just behaves as if he has and keeps the Whip.

This is giving too much control to party power. I do not like it, and for Tories who believe in freedom and for Liberals to agree with something like this seems to be going against all of our ancient and good traditions—the best traditions of Gladstone or of Lord Salisbury, whose excellent biography I am now reading. To find myself in support of the Labour Party is such a painful experience.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with both my noble friends who spoke about democracy of the individual. The trouble is, as we have seen with the Scottish Parliament, this is the system we now have. My noble friend said that it does not matter at all who the member is; the members are just there for the party. Alas, that is the position the Government have accepted, as have the Liberal Democrats.

I wonder whether, quite apart from paying less expenses to the list members, it would not be cheaper still just to have buttons which one presses to vote. There is very little point in being there at all if you cannot do anything your party does not want.

The other point to make is that there is no way for list members to use clout against their party to try and tell them they are wrong and persuade them to change. On a number of occasions in local government I remember saying I was going to resign as the chairman of a committee or as a member if it did not do this, that or the other, or that I would change parties. If you move from one party to another in this assembly, no clout at all remains with you. You have no sanction. Nevertheless, this is the system we have and we have to get it to work.

I forget whether, when the Scotland. Bill was going through this House, anyone raised the question of the human rights of the 'individual. I do not know whether the Convention on Human Rights would make it difficult to legislate for someone to have to resign if they moved party. It seems to me it is a limitation on human rights. It is a question that the Government may have looked at and, if they have not, they probably should.

I think we have to go along with this amendment. In this assembly, I think that the system becomes more and more unfortunate and less and less democratic. The Liberal Democrats are being logical. They do not mind who is in the assembly. They just mind that they are there because they belong to a particular party and they are the ones the party happens to have picked out. The electorate can only tell what the balance of the assembly is.

I say that we have to go along with this—I say so with a heavy heart—simply to be logical. Your Lordships usually try to be logical when they are improving a Bill.

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, with regard to the argument that has been advanced, the emphasis has been on the party. If they had been elected by way of proportional representation, then their loyalty is to the party. The amendment, as I understand it, is that if someone leaves the party and crosses the floor then of course they are no longer entitled to retain their seat. What would happen if the party machine does not like an individual and takes away that individual's membership, or indeed takes away that individual's Whip? Then that person is persona non grata. That is a power for the machine to institute disciplines, beyond the level of democracy in my view, to ensure that that individual no longer is a representative of the people who elected him.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, on that last point., the possibility of party discipline being, shall we say, over-strengthened would arise if the words "if a member were thrown out of his party shall be deemed to have created a vacancy" were in the amendment, but that is not there. This particular amendment is very specifically drawn so that it applies only to an individual who, of his own volition, decides that he wishes to leave his party. There is nothing in this specific amendment which would give the party machine any greater authority over its members than it already has.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, that should teach my noble friend not to make jokes on the basis of his experience as an old apparatchik. He ceased to be one some time ago. As the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Coity—who I think must have been as surprised as the noble Earl to find himself on the same side—said it gives enormous power.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, that is the point. In this House we can have very odd bedfellows (if that is the right use of the word).

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, it is indeed. The noble Lord referred rightly to the fact that those who wished for the democratic centralism to which the noble Earl referred would very much like this power.

As noble Lords have said, the amendment returns to an issue debated at earlier stages. The Government continue to believe that it would be impractical to implement the proposals set out in the amendment. A dissident member of a registered party who stood to lose his or her assembly seat by resigning the Whip would surely simply not resign. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, referred to the question of ethics. But that would not arise because the person who was prepared voluntarily to face the electorate would not be in this position. Therefore, we are dealing with those who do not want to resign their seat.

From the debate, it is clear that, in the view of those who support the amendment, the provision should never be used for those who have been sacked. A case has not been made to justify those who take the specific action of resigning the Whip—for whatever reason and however honourably—to be forced to do so; while those who refuse to do so—however dishonourably it may appear in individual cases—are not affected.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, on the basis of that argument, the Government should be moving to delete subsection (5). Exactly those rules will apply to the next highest loser if a vacancy occurs. The party will be asked whether that person is still a member of the party. If it is good enough to be a test for whether the next highest loser can come into the Parliament, it is good enough for someone who is already there.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, the noble Lord is well aware that we are dealing with two separate matters: the process whereby someone becomes a representative (whether of a parliament, local authority or an assembly); and what they become at the point they accept office. I, and noble Lords with more distinguished careers in local government than mine, recognise that at the point where the electoral process had been completed, he or she began to represent all those who had been involved in that election process. That is the position that the Government take.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, we are not talking about local government, but about additional members. I may be wrong, but I do think that any local government body in England has been elected by the additional member system of proportionality. The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are so elected. The London body will be quite different.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, if the noble Lord reads Hansard, he will find that I said that it is regardless of which type of election and to which body the person is elected. It is a process that allows that person to accept office. I repeat the point. It is the Government's view that regardless of what happens during that process, at the point that that person accepts office, his position changes. What would happen is that a dissident member would refuse to toe the party line, or resign the Whip, and yet maintain his position.

We opposed these amendments when they were first considered in another place. We continue to oppose them. I hope that the noble Baroness will choose not to press them.

I have been asked what the Government would put in place. The Government take the view that the issue that is being dealt with in these amendments is a dangerously centralising one, giving far too much power to political parties. It is a quite clear convention that a sitting representative, whether a Member of Parliament or a councillor, has an identity and role regardless of the process used in terms of party affiliation.

London members, through whichever electoral procedures they are elected, will be elected to represent the strategic interests of all Londoners. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, is right in regard to the responsibilities people have.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, asked about the remuneration of Members serving in the Scottish Parliament. Knowing his support for the principle of devolution to Scotland, I am sure he would be appalled were Ito rise to that bait and deal with the internal affairs of the Scottish Parliament and its decisions. I think that it would be wrong for us to interfere in the way suggested in the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Tope

My Lords, the amendment has provoked a most interesting debate. I am sorry that it has divided the Conservative Party. I have spent most of my adult life trying to divide the Conservative Party, usually unsuccessfully. On this occasion, I seem to have provoked it without intending to do so.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, for his eloquent support, and his experience in Scotland and Wales. I apologise if I gave another impression when I referred to Britain. As I said it, especially looking at the noble Lord, I realised that I meant England. I think that I corrected what I said. If I gave offence to Scotland or Wales, it was unintentional and I apologise.

Perhaps I may disagree with the noble Lord on one point. He said that what we have now is an inevitable consequence of proportional representation. That is not true. It is rubbish. It is an inevitable consequence of this system of proportional representation. If he would like me to give your Lordships a lecture on the differences of proportional representation, I shall do so; but I can see that he does not. The system for this election, as for Scotland and Wales, is not one favoured by the Liberal Democrats. We favoured a system of proportional representation which would not have led to these consequences. So from that point of view, I find myself in exactly the same position as the Conservative Members who are supporting this amendment. It is not a system we would have chosen, or wished for; but we have it and we have to make it work. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, made the point well.

A number of speakers, including, surprisingly, the Minister replying, referred to giving too much power to the party and the party machine. We have had talk about democratic centralism. Talking about democratic centralism at the same time as referring to apparatchiks must cause a few twinges! It is to misunderstand the amendment. That was exactly the reason why we disagreed with the earlier amendment from Members on the Conservative Front Bench, as they have readily acknowledged and recognised. Their amendment provided that if someone were expelled from the party, he or she should have to resign. We disagreed with that for exactly the reasons others have given: that that would provide too much power to a party machine to deal with difficult and troublesome people.

This amendment does not refer to party power, but to the individual choice of the assembly member. It is nothing to do with the party. If the assembly member chooses to leave one party and join another party, or no party, that is that individual's choice. It is nothing to do with the party. If an assembly member knew that if he changed party or left the party from whose list he had been elected he would have to leave his seat on the assembly, that may well be a disincentive to change party. I acknowledge that and it is true. It will be troublesome for the party concerned, which I also acknowledge. Others have said that it is a problem which the party managers will have to deal with. That is also true. That situation may well occur. It is something we shall have to deal with. However, this amendment deals solely with a situation where an individual assembly member, elected for no other reason—

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I realise the subtlety in the difference between someone choosing to leave and someone being pressured to do so. But in the field of industrial relations, particularly as regards the legislation covering that subject, there is a term called "constructive dismissal". A situation could arise where one says it is only through choice that one leaves, but the pressure could be such that the person concerned did not really have a true choice. I understand the subtlety of the situation, but I am not sure that the arrangement would work as perfectly as the noble Lord has suggested.

Lord Tope

My Lords, if we were ever in such a situation I suspect that there would be nothing very subtle about it. I also understand what constructive dismissal means in terms of industrial relations. I have no doubt that if we come to such a situation, all kinds of pressures will be placed on an individual assembly member under the circumstances. However, it will still be the choice of the assembly member. An assembly member elected by whatever means, but in this case through a party list, will not be in the same position as an employee in an employment situation. I do not believe that it is a close analogy.

We are speaking about an individual decision taken by an assembly member from the party list. Should the member take a decision that he or she does not wish to be a member of a particular party, but perhaps wishes to join another, then the effect of that decision is to destroy the proportionality in the assembly which the whole system has been designed to achieve. I cannot imagine it ever happening, but if a Liberal Democrat London member from the list suddenly had an aberration and decided to become a Conservative and joined that party, that would immediately upset the balance between the members. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, it would upset the balance to a much greater extent than would be the case in the Scottish Parliament, because we have only 25 members in total in the assembly. I have not done the arithmetic, but it makes a significant difference to the party balance. In one step it would destroy the purpose of having proportionality, even in this imperfect system.

This is a serious point. I am sorry that some noble Lords, including Members of the Government Front Bench, have misunderstood its purpose. It has nothing to do with party power, democratic centralism, but it is concerned with achieving the Government's objective of giving the Greater London assembly a proportionate membership which reflects the votes of Londoners. I shall not press the amendment on this occasion. I hope, having explained the amendment carefully and clearly, that the Government will reflect further on it. We shall certainly do so. I feel sure that we shall return to it in one way or another at Third Reading. I look forward to the Government's amendment for that purpose. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Date of casual vacancies]:

Lord Whitty, moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 5, line 27, at end insert— ("(aa) in the ease of any person being returned as mentioned in section 16(10) below, on the date on which he is returned to fill the vacancy in the Assembly constituency;")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24. They are quite straightforward. They attempt to rectify an inconsistency which has been referred to earlier. At the moment, the Bill prevents a person standing as a candidate to fill a vacancy in the office of mayor if he or she is also a candidate to fill a vacancy in an assembly constituency. I appreciate that certain noble Lords were against the prohibition as regards an ordinary election, but we have passed that point. If we are in favour of that prohibition concerning an ordinary election, as the Bill now provides, then, on reflection, we consider it not sensible or consistent to prohibit it as regards a by-election.

Therefore the amendments provide for a candidate to stand for both offices. In the unlikely circumstances where a candidate is successful in both elections, it provides for a vacancy to occur within the assembly and for the procedures for a further by-election to be put in hand. That is consistent with the earlier part of the Bill, which has been agreed to. I hope that noble Lords will accept this amendment.

On Question, amendment. agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 6, line 11, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert ("give public notice of any casual vacancy among the Assembly members, and shall also convey such notice in writing to the Greater London returning officer")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as presently drafted, when a casual vacancy occurs in the assembly, Clause 9(2) requires a proper officer of the authority to issue written notice to the returning officer if the vacancy occurs among London members and a public notice if the vacancy occurs among the constituency members. What the Bill does not require is for the public to receive any notice when a London member's place becomes vacant. This amendment is tabled in order to cure that defect. The Government rejected this simple amendment at Committee stage because the vacancy among London members would be filled by the next person on the party list, so that no by-election would be held.

The Minister said that public notice was not necessary. Even if one were to accept that assumption and agree with the rather startling proposition that it is unnecessary for the electorate to be told who their representatives are, it is also not unnecessary, if a double negative is acceptable. The Minister claimed that public notice will have been given in effect by the publication of the party lists at the time of the preceding ordinary election. That is not a credible argument.

The Bill does not even require that the public should be told that a casual vacancy has occurred. An ordinary nonpolitical member of the public is unlikely to remember the sequence of persons appearing on the party list a week after the election, let alone a couple of years later. Giving the public notice of the name of the new London assembly member will cost next to nothing either in money or effort.

The proper approach to this amendment should be "Why not"? rather than "Why should we?" The public have the right to know the names of their representatives. They should be told in the simplest and most expeditious way without being obliged to go scrabbling through back numbers of local papers. The Labour Party claims to be the party of open government. In this case, let it match its words with deeds not merely by providing open government but by ensuring that the governed know who their governors are. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, in this context, "public notice" means effectively the public notice of an election. An election is not required as regards filling a vacancy in the list system for the London-wide seats. The names of the candidates for the seats will have been promulgated at the previous election as I said earlier.

It would require a wholly different system of notice to do what the noble Lord wishes. I am sure that, were a vacancy to occur in the 25-member assembly, normal coverage of that fact in the media and in political communications would be made. Therefore, it is unlikely that the electorate in London and those who are paying attention to the activities of the assembly—a higher proportion, we hope, than currently pay attention to local elections—would not notice when there was a change in their representation. It is my belief that the media would draw attention to the change in representation both at the creation of the vacancy and as regards the name of the person to fill it.

I do not think that the terms of the amendment would achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith seeks to do. I believe that an alternative means of public communication is unnecessary in this case.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, it may well be that the reality of the modern world and modem communications would suggest that in fact the media at large would take note of what was happening and would report on the loss of a member and on the appointment of his successor. I certainly would not dissent from that particular series of events. But it seems to me a novel departure for local government in this situation to rely informally on the media to report and record what is in fact a very formal change.

It was with that situation in mind that the amendment was tabled. I am sorry to disagree with the Minister on the subject but I believe that the matter should be properly dealt with and published by the proper authorities. That said, we have had a lot of discussion this evening and we shall consider the matter further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Failure to attend meetings]:

[Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 21:

Alter Clause 13, insert the following new clause—


(".—(1) Subject to subsection (2), if the Mayor fails to attend a meeting in accordance with section 39 below he shall be disqualified from being the Mayor.

(2) The Mayor's failure to refer to the meeting the subject of section 39 below as a "State of London debate" shall not in the absence of any other failure cause his disqualification.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 140 to 145, two of which—Amendments Nos. 141 and 143—are government amendments.

The amendments are tabled in this way on the Marshalled List—and I am sure that the Government spotted this—because we did not know until late into the day the welcome news that the Government accept our point about the terms to be applied to the "State of London debate", as it is referred to in the Bill, and indeed, later, the "People's Question Time". They will have spotted that Amendment No. 21 is a rather artificial amendment which might have allowed us to troop through the Lobbies again before dinner-time, had we needed to press the point.

We had some fun, though on a serious subject, at the last stage. I am glad that the Government have agreed with us. I suspect that neither Minister would much have relished defending the position that they were forced to defend on the last occasion. I shall not say more about that, because I believe that it would be proper for the Minister to speak to the two government amendments. I look forward to hearing what they have to say about Amendments Nos. 141 and 143. I simply say that I note that in Amendment No. 143, allowing someone who may or may not have a connection with the authority, they have produced what I can only term the "Let's have John Humphrys as chair" provision. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. We have sought to listen and have on many occasions proved that we listen carefully.

We listened to the views expressed in Committee, and therefore government Amendment No. 141 removes the requirement to use the name while leaving it as a defined term in the Bill. We believe that that offers the best of both worlds, because it does not prescribe what the meeting should be called but leaves the term in the legislation as a clear steer as to the spirit of the event. Amendment No. 143 also responds directly to concerns raised in Committee, particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, that the clause did not specify that members of the public should be able to participate in the debate.

The amendment places a duty on the mayor to decide the form of and procedure for the debate following consultation with the assembly, and it clarifies that that must include an opportunity for members of the public to speak, and also that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, a person not connected with the authority may be appointed to chair the meeting. We all know that, occasionally, we who are politicians may not attract such great interest from the public as might certain other figures chairing a meeting. We have listened and responded to concerns expressed in Committee, and brought forward what I hope are suitable amendments. We hope that, in the light of that, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, we thank the Government for listening. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 21.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Declaration of vacancy in certain cases]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 8, line 15, at end insert ("or (c) is the subject of a vote of no confidence by not less than nineteen Assembly members,")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [Date of casual vacancy]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 8, line 21, leave out ("paragraph (a)") and insert —("paragraphs (a) and (aa)")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Filling a vacancy]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 9, line 24, leave out subsection (10) and insert— ("(10) If

  1. (a) a person who is a candidate in an election to fill a vacancy in the office of Mayor is also a candidate in an election to fill a vacancy in an Assembly constituency, and
  2. (b) that person is returned in both elections, but
  3. (c) the circumstances are such that a vacancy does not arise in the Assembly constituency by virtue of section 8 above,
a vacancy shall arise in the Assembly constituency.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Amendments of the Representation of the People Acts]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 212, line 30. at end insert—

("Requirement of secrecy

—(1) Section 66 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (6) there shall be added— (7) In their application in relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, the preceding provisions of this section shall have effect with the insertion, after the words -the candidate for whom", in each place where they occur, of ", or the registered political party towards the return of whose candidates,". (8) In relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, any reference in this section to the return of a registered political party's candidates is a reference to the return of candidates included in the list of candidates submitted by the registered political party for the purposes of the election.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, because of its length, this group of amendments looks more daunting than it actually is. I understand that because of the length of the list, noble Lords may wish to speak to separate amendments in their place on the Marshalled List.

The purpose of the majority of the amendments is simple. They amend I he provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1983 to take account of the new electoral system which will be used during the GLA elections. Amendment No. 25 extends to the GLA elections the application of the rules of secrecy of voting set out in Clause 66 of the 1983 Act.

Amendment No. 26 puts on to the face of the Bill the limit on the amount of personal money which a mayoral candidate may spend at an election. Paragraph 17 of Schedule 3 already establishes the limits for assembly members. We believe that our proposed figure of £5,000 is reasonable, given the size of the electorate which each candidate will need to address, and the number of individual communities which the population of the capital has formed. The £5,000 personal expenses limit is in addition to the campaign expenditure limits we propose to set, about which we shall be consulting the parties shortly.

The remaining amendments deal with a range of technical issues. I should like to single out Amendment No. 34. which adds to the provisions of Section 85 specific provisions in relation to the mayor. It provides that if the required returns and declarations are not delivered by the mayor before the expiry of the appropriate time limit, the mayor shall be disqualified from office. It also provides that the mayor will be entitled to apply for relief against that qualification under Section 86 of the 1983 Act. The amendment does not specify for how long such a disqualification should apply. We shall be bringing forward amendments during Third Reading to rectify that omission.

As I said, the amendments in this group are simply designed to adapt the Representation of the People Act 1983 to fit the new electoral systems which we are proposing. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, these amendments are obviously very necessary, but it is quite difficult for those of us who have only just seen them to know what the noble Baroness is doing. Will she tell us why the amendments have not been introduced into the Bill until now?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, in terms of the rules of procedure, may I clarify with the noble Baroness that she intends to answer that particular question?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will wait until she sums up to tell me the answer to that.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, this is indeed a fairly wide-ranging group of amendments and I intend to get to my feet fairly often during the course of this debate to explore some of the individual aspects on individual amendments.

We have received very little explanation from the noble Baroness as to what all these amendments are about. Indeed, some of them have not been mentioned by her at all, even in passing. Therefore, when we come to them individually, where I feel that there is a question that needs an answer and where their application is not entirely obvious, I will raise the question at that time.

It might now be sensible for me to address myself to the first amendment—Amendment No. 26—on which I do have some questions. That amendment sets the amount of personal expenses allowed to a mayor of London. I think we ought to have some justification for this figure. If one draws a line in relation to the size of electorates and the sort of campaigning which is likely to be necessary for a mayor to do, let alone the travelling that is likely to be necessary for a mayoral candidate to do, and sets that in relation to the level of personal expenses allowed for a general election to a candidate in a constituency in merely a small part of this area, the amount seems extremely low.

I would like to understand in some detail how the Government think that the figure of £5,000 can be justified in relation not to some earlier decision taken on the same Bill—I cannot say that I understood quite how those figures were justified—but in relation to a parliamentary election, which I think will be on much more the sort of scale that we are expecting for a mayoral election; something which is wide ranging and involves a lot of travelling and public debate and activity. In the context of a constituency the size of London, £5,000 seems extremely low.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, in response to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, we have discussed and considered in detail some of the points to which these amendments refer. That is one of the reasons for the amendments. Should there be further reasons, I shall let her know. During the course of this debate, should there be any point which I fail to clarify to her satisfaction, I shall be only too happy to answer her in writing.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has slightly misunderstood the position regarding the £5,000. That is a personal expenses limit, not a campaign expenditure limit. I fear that he was comparing the expenditure with that for the campaign. However, London is a far larger constituency than any other and far larger than a parliamentary constituency, as the noble Lord said, with 5 million voters. We shall consult widely about the overall campaign expenditure, and I hope that answer will satisfy the noble Lord. The points made by the noble Lord will be very valid when we come to consider the campaign expenditure as opposed to the personal expenditure.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I accept gratefully what she says about consultation. Will the noble Baroness give the House any indication as to the factors that may be taken, or may be required to be taken, into consideration at that stage?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, it would be invidious to start to single out certain factors that would be taken into account. Since we shall consult parties, I am quite sure that, in line with their normal practice, the Government will take into consideration all valid points that are put to them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendment No. 26:

Page 215, line 21, at end insert— ("(aa) the amount which a candidate at an election of the Mayor of London may pay shall not exceed £5,000,")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendments Nos. 27 to 29:

Page 215, line 27, after ("(a),") insert ('(aa),")

Page 215, line 30, leave out ("at an ordinary election")

Page 215, line 31, after ("treated") insert—

On Question, amendments agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendment No. 29A:

Page 215, line 32, at end insert—

("Prohibition of expenses not authorised by election agent

.—(1) Section 75 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) (which prohibits the incurring of certain expenses by any person other than the candidate, his agent or persons authorised in writing by the agent)—

  1. (a) after "promoting or procuring the election of a candidate" there shall be inserted "(or. in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, a registered political party or candidates of that party)"; and
  2. (b) at the end of paragraph (c) there shall be added "; or
  3. (d) in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, of otherwise presenting to the electors the candidate's registered political party (if any) or the views of that party or the extent or nature of that party's backing or disparaging any other registered political party"; and.
  4. (c) after the words "but paragraph (c)" there shall be inserted "or (d)".

(3) After subsection (I) there shall be inserted— (1A) In the application of subsection (I) above in relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, any reference to the candidate includes a reference to all or any of the candidates of a registered political party.

(4) After subsection (IA) there shall be inserted— (1B) In its application in relation to an Authority election, subsection (1)(ii) above shall have effect—

  1. (a) with the substitution for the monetary sum there specified of such sum as the Secretary of State may prescribe in an order made by statutory instrument; and
  2. (b) in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, with the omission of the words from "and are" to "others".
(1C) Different sums may be prescribed under subsection (IB)(a) above in relation to—
  1. (a) an election of the Mayor of London:
  2. (b) an election of a constituency member of the London Assembly; and
  3. (c) an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election."

(5) At the end of the section there shall be added— (7) For the purposes of this section, in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, a candidate's registered political party is the registered political party (if any) which submitted for the purposes of that election a list of candidates on which the candidate in question is included.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment, as do the other amendments, brings into line the normal practice for elections. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendments Nos. 29B to 29D:

Page 216, line 27, leave out ("after") and insert— ("(a) for").

Page 216, line 28, leave out ("inserted "(a),") and insert ("substituted "74(1)(a), (aa),").

Page 216, line 28, at end insert ("; and (b) after ''75(1) above" there shall be inserted ", a sum prescribed under section 75(1B)(a) above"").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No.30:

Page 216, line 33, at end insert —

("Return as to election expenses

.—(1) Section 81 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (I) (which allows 35 days after the day of the declaration for the making of the return) there shall be inserted— (1A) Subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) in its application in relation to an election of the Mayor of London. shall have effect with the substitution for "35 days" of "70 days"; and
  2. (b) in its apple cat ion in relation to the election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, shall have effect with the substitution for "35 days after the day on which the result of the election is declared" of "70 days after the day on which the last of the successful candidates at the election is declared to be returned."

(3) After subsection (5) there shall be inserted— (6) Where a registered political party submits a list of two or more candidates to be London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, the preceding provisions of this section shall have effect in relation to those candidates and their election agent with the following modifications. (7) The return which the election agent is required to deliver under subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) shall be in respect of all those candidates; and
  2. (b) shall be in the form set out for the purpose in rules under section 36(2A) above or to the like effect.

(8) If any payments made by the election agent were in respect of two or more candidates, the return shall deal under a separate heading or subsection with all such payments, and the expenses to which they relate, in respect of those candidates.

(9) The statements which the return is required to contain by virtue of subsection (3) above in respect of the matters there mentioned shall be a separate statement of each such matter as respects each of the candidate in question.

(10) If and to the extent that any such matter is referable to two or more candidates together, the return shall contain a separate statement of that limner as respects those candidates.

(11) Where one of the candidates is the election agent, subsection (4) above shall have effect, as respects that candidate, as it has effect where a candidate is his own election agent.".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, for the benefit of the House, I remind the House that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, indicated to me that he and other noble Lords may wish to ask questions on amendments as we reach their place in the Marshalled List. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, the facet of this amendment which principally concerns me is the extension of the time limit from 35 to 70 days for getting together one's return of expenses. That seems to me to allow the matter to be dragged out for an astonishingly long time. I believe that, in an election which is fought principally by well-organised parties, it should not take more than about seven to 14 days to put together a reasonable schedule of expenses. To allow 35 days as in parliamentary elections would seem reasonable because one expects that individual candidates will be taking part. To extend it to 70 days merely because it involves a wider spread of the electorate seems entirely without justification. If the expenses for each individual constituency can be compiled within 35 days, it cannot take more than an hour or two to add them all together and hand them in as a bulk lot. I do not see any justification for this extension of time limit. I wonder why the noble Baroness believes that a 70-day time limit for getting together figures—something which would not be accepted in any business—should be allowable in a matter of government.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that a period of 70 days seems to be very long. My first thought was to ask whether, if for practical reasons, the period has to be extended, 70 days is the tight period. It is 10 weeks, but it is not naturally a period that one may easily calculate. However, that is a minor point. It is a long period and it is desirable that any questions that arise over expenses should be dealt with quickly. It is not good for such matters to drag on. Can the noble Baroness tell the House what period applies in the case of elections to the European Parliament, which is the nearest equivalent we have?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I believe that the period is considerably longer. However, I hope to be more specific than that and I shall write to the noble Baroness with a detailed response.

It is difficult to make a judgment. We take the matter seriously in terms of a desire to operate to the highest standards. Seventy days is a reasonable period, and it is right that disqualification would follow. This will be a different kind of election from that for a constituency in terms of the complexity of ensuring that election expenses are accurate. The area is larger and there is a need for parties to be accurate within that. For that reason, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will overcome any hesitation he may have, and agree that to reduce the period below 70 days could lead to a degree of hastiness.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, does she agree that, in the days of properly programmed computers, it should not be difficult to keep the period to the original figure of 35 days?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. However, I remind the House that the situation is unique in the sense that, under the Government's policy, candidates will be able to stand for election both to the assembly and as mayor. For that reason, it is extremely important that adequate time—not too great a period, but adequate time—is given to ensure that election expense returns are accurate to the highest possible standard.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I think I should have intervened before the Minister sat down. If the Minister considers it important that a period of 35 days does not appear to be enough, how is it possible that the provision has only just now appeared before us in this amendment? The Bill has gone through the House of Commons—through its Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading. It has been through Committee here. Why have the Government decided, with very little notice, that they want to change the provision to 70 days? This is a matter that could have come forward much earlier.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, we have ensured, in great depth, that comments received from a wide variety of sources—not only during the passage of the Bill in Parliament but also from sources outside—have been taken into account. I would say particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, that this Government seek to be a listening government. In that context, I hope that she will agree that it has been wise for us to have listened carefully and to have taken particularly into account representations that have been made concerning the complexities involved for those who may stand as candidates in two simultaneous elections.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, would she be kind enough to write to tell me what those representations have been?

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 216, line 35, at end insert— ("( ) In subsection (1) (declaration by agent) for "the form in Schedule 3 to this Act" there shall be substituted "the appropriate form". ( ) In subsection (2) (declaration by candidate) for "the form in that Schedule" there shall be substituted "the appropriate form". ( ) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted— (2A) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) above. "the appropriate form"—

  1. (a) in the case of the election agent for the candidates on a list submitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1999 Act (election of London members) by a registered political party, is the form set out for the purpose in rules under section 36(2A) above;
  2. (b) in the case of any of the candidates included in such a list, is the form set out for the purpose in those rules; and
  3. (c) in any other case, is the form in Schedule 3 to this Act.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendment No. 32:

Page 216, line 38, at end insert — ("( ) After subsection (5) there shall be inserted— (5A) Where one of the candidates included in a list submitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1999 Act (election of London members) by a registered political party is the election agent for those candidates, the declarations required by subsections (1) and (2) above shall instead be modified as specified in the form set out in the rules under section 36(2A) above.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendment No. 33:

Page 216, line 38, at end insert—

("Penalty for sitting or voting where no return and declarations


.—(1) Section 85 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted— (2A) As respects Authority elections—

  1. (a) subsections (1) and (2) above shall not apply in relation to a candidate in an election of the Mayor of London (for which separate provision is made by section 85A below);
  2. (b) in the case of any other Authority election, the reference in subsection (2)(a) above to the council for the local government area for which the election was held shall be taken as a reference to the London Assembly; and
  3. (c) in the case of a candidate included in a list submitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1999 Act (election of London members) by a registered political party. the references in subsection (1) above to the returns and declarations in respect of election expenses shall be taken as references to the declaration as to election expenses by the candidate.".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendment No. 34:

Page 216, line 38, at end insert—

("Disqualification where no return and declarations transmitted

after Mayoral election

.After section 85 there shall be inserted—

"Disqualification where no return and declarations transmitted after election of Mayor of London.

85A.—(1) If, in the case of any candidate at an election of the Mayor of London, the return and declarations as to election expenses are not delivered before the expiry of the time limited for the purpose, the candidate shall be disqualified from being elected or being the Mayor of London or a member of the London Assembly.

(2) Any application under section 86 below by such a candidate for relief in respect of a failure to deliver the return and declarations as to election expenses must be made within the period of 6 weeks following the day on which the time limited for their delivery expires.

(3) A disqualification under subsection (1) above shall not take effect unless or until

  1. (a) the period specified in subsection (2) above for making an application for relief under section 86 below expires without such an application having been made; or
  2. 269
  3. (b) if such an application is made, the application—
    1. (i) is finally disposed of without relief being granted; or
    2. (ii) is abandoned or fails by reason of non-prosecution.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, here again we have come to an interesting part of this group. This amendment proposes that if the mayor, unlike the assembly members, is found not to have handed in his election expenses within the requisite time, he shall be disqualified; he will not merely be suspended. As I understand it from the noble Baroness, further amendments in this area are to be tabled.

At this stage I would appreciate receiving from the Government an exposition of exactly what they believe will happen should this matter come to pass, and indeed, how they believe it might come to pass. What will constitute an undelivered set of election expenses? One could dream up any set of election expenses and submit it, but presumably that would not count. I assume that the election expenses would have to be accurate. If one reached the position where the election expenses of the mayor were in some way called into question, presumably it would be extremely difficult for any government of London to carry on until the matter was resolved. It may be that at that point the mayor has been disqualified and that actions by or on behalf of him would become—questionably—void.

The situation is odd and it is not one that occurs in parliamentary elections in which the Government and Parliament take the decisions. However, the mayor in this town will have a Very particular position. If his or her election expenses are queried in this way, and he or she is therefore seen to be likely to be disqualified, until that rather lengthy and tortuous procedure is settled (we have seen that in parliamentary election cases), the whole government of London will be called into question. I should like to understand exactly how this provision might be triggered, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to take me through the sequence of what would happen. I hope to understand the consequences for the government of London of a mayor who is first suspected of having produced incorrect expenses and is then eventually found to have done so. How would that be handled? It may be that this will need to be set out in a letter. However, I should appreciate a little essay on the subject from the noble Baroness this evening, if that is possible.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, I rise in support of the question. The House should realise that, with the time-limits that we have accepted, if the eventuality arose, the mayor would have already been sworn in. I believe that the mayor will be sworn in within 48 hours of the election. In this scenario, he will then, therefore, have been functioning as mayor for nearly two-and-a-half months. Then, on a technicality, the office would come to an end and we would need to have another election. That may very well be, but it seems to me that we should recognise that the mayor should not be eligible to be recognised as the mayor until his return of election expenses has been submitted. Then there would not be the dilemma of somebody having served in the job for a long time and then suddenly losing it. The essay that the noble Baroness is going to write is expanding!

7 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I shall seek to answer the points raised by some noble Lords, but I crave the indulgence of other noble Lords in allowing me to give a written reply. It is extremely important that, for example, we take up the very valid point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and specify in detail for how long such a period of disqualification would apply. I hope that he will understand that I cannot, off the top of my head, refer to Section 85 of the 1983 Act and slot in the information. It would give me pleasure, and I hope give the noble Lord satisfaction, to write to him in detail on that point.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, there is a question about the period involved. I shall write to the noble Lord if my memory is in error, as it was on a previous occasion in relation to an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but my recollection is that when someone is elected, he or she will take office and assume the responsibilities, and that the disqualification occurs only when there is a challenge to the completed returns. It is my understanding that that situation would apply in this case in exactly the same way. To prevent people taking office until that process has been gone through could lead to an enormous hiatus.

I hope that I have answered some of the points raised. If other noble Lords want to ask detailed technical questions, I shall be only too happy to arrange detailed replies as soon as possible and before we reach the next stage.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, is the noble Baroness going to move the amendments? If she is going to move them before noble Lords have received written replies on the matters that she is going to look into, what will happen if the answers do not satisfy noble Lords, because the amendments will then have been passed?

The amendments have been put down quite late and the Opposition need answers to many of the points. However, the Government themselves need to know a little more about them.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I think the noble Lady misunderstands me. I have now moved Amendment No. 34. I have answered the factual questions raised about the period of disqualification and have stated that somebody takes office immediately upon acceptance of office. I have assured the noble Lords that I shall look into the period of disqualification.

There was a query as to whether 70 days was an accurate period of time. I have undertaken to write to noble Lords, but that is the kind of issue in respect of which we have considered representations from those who act as returning officers and have detailed, professional knowledge. I hope that noble Lords will accept the amendments as moved.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to deal with a further question when she replies to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas? If, after 70 days, the mayor has failed to submit the election return, does the disqualification come into operation immediately or is it suspended for a further six weeks pending his request for relief under Section 86? I do not have a copy of the Act with me and I do not know whether Section 86 already deals with that point, but if it does not, there would be a further period of uncertainty during which the mayor would be carrying out all the functions of office but be under threat of disqualification.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, this is in addition to Section 86, so the answer is that that provision does apply.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, is there a time-limit within which a challenge can be issued after the end of the 70 days, because it is eating well into the mayor's period of office? If it is a matter of weeks or months, it could cause absolute chaos.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, there is a period during which there may be an appeal by the person concerned. My understanding is that that is quite a lengthy period of two years. However, I am being very careful not to state that something is accurate without checking that that is so. I should be much happier if I could write to the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 35 to 41:

Page 216, line 38, at end insert—

("Publication of time and place for inspection of returns and declarations

.—(1) Section 88 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In the words preceding paragraph (a), after "At a parliamentary election" there shall be inserted "or an Authority election".

(3) In paragraph (a) (which requires publication of notices in at least two newspapers circulating in the constituency for which the election was held) after "the constituency" there shall be inserted "or electoral area".")

Page 216, line 42, at end insert—

("Schools and rooms for election meetings

.—(1) Section 96 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) (which entitles a candidate to the use of certain premises for holding public meetings in furtherance of his candidature) for "in furtherance of his candidature" there shall be substituted "to promote or procure the giving of votes at that election—

  1. (i) for himself, or
  2. (ii) if he is a candidate included in a list of candidates submitted by a registered political party at an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, towards the return of candidates on that list,".").

Page 216. line 42, at end insert—


.—(1) Section 113 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (2) (conduct which constitutes bribery) at the end of paragraph (ii) there shall be added "; and

  1. (iii) references to procuring the return of any person at an election include, in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, references to procuring the return of candidates on a list of candidates submitted by a registered political party for the purposes of that election".").

Page 216, line 42, at end insert—

("Election court for local election and place of trial

.—(1) Section 130 shall be amended as follows.

(2) At the beginning of subsection (2)(b)(ii) (which provides that a person is not qualified to constitute an election court for the trial of a petition relating to a local government area in which he practises) there shall be inserted "except in the case of an Authority election,".")

Page 216, line 42, at end insert—

("Consequences of election etc of London members being declared


.—(1) In section 135 (consequences of local election declared void) after subsection (1) (which provides for a new election in certain cases) there shall be inserted— (1A) Subsection (1) above shall not apply in the case of an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election (for which separate provision is made by section 135A below).

(2) After section 135 there shall be inserted—

"Consequences of election or return of London members being declared void

135A.—(1) This section applies where the election court has made a determination under section 145 below at the conclusion of the trial of a petition questioning the election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election.

(2) Where, pursuant to section 145(6) below, the proper officer of the Greater London Authority receives the copy of the certificate of the election court's determination in relation to the election which was questioned, he shall send notice of the determination to the Greater London returning officer.

(3) If the election is not declared void but—

  1. (a) the return of a candidate at the election is declared void, and
  2. (b) no other person has been declared returned in his place, the vacancy shall be filled (or, as the case may be, remain unfilled) as if it were a casual vacancy (see section 11 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999).

(4) If the election is declared void, a new election shall be held in the same manner as at an ordinary election.

(5) The date of the poll at the new election shall be fixed by the Greater London returning officer.

(6) The date fixed shall be no later than three months after the receipt by the Greater London returning officer of the notice under subsection (2) above.

(7) A new election shall not be held if the latest date which may be fixed for the poll falls within the period of three months preceding an ordinary election.

(8) If the determination of the election court is that the election is void, the Greater London returning officer shall inform the returning officer for each Assembly constituency of—

  1. (a) the contents of the notice under subsection (2) above; and
  2. (b) the date fixed for the poll at the new election.

(9) The results of the elections of the constituency members of the London Assembly at the last ordinary election shall have effect for the purposes of ascertaining the results of the new election.".").

Page 216, line 42, at end insert—

("Conclusion of trial of local election petition

.—(1) Section 145 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (1) (which specifies the questions to be determined by the election court) there shall be inserted— (1A) In the application of subsection (1) above in relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, for the words from "shall determine" to "void," there shall be substituted "shall determine whether—

  1. (a) the person or persons whose return is complained of were duly returned,
  2. (b) some other person or persons should have been declared to be returned, or
  3. (c) the election was void.".").

Page 216, line 42, a t end insert—

("Election court determination in respect of election of Mayor or constituency member

. After section 145 there shall be inserted —

"Determination in respect of election of Mayor of London or

constituency member of London Assembly.

145A.—(1) This section applies where the election court makes a determination under section 145 above in respect of—

  1. (a) the election of the Mayor of London, or
  2. (b) the election of a constituency member of the London Assembly, and the conditions in subsections (2) and (3) below are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the determination of the election court is—

  1. (a) that the person whose election is complained of was not duly elected; or
  2. (b) that the election was void.

(3) The second condition is that the return of that person at that election was taken into account for the purpose of deciding which persons were to be returned as London members of the London Assembly.

(4) Where this section applies, the validity of the return of the London members of the London Assembly shah not be affected by—

  1. (a) the determination of the election court; or
  2. (b) in a case falling within subsection (1)(b) above, the subsequent return of a person as the constituency member for the Assembly constituency concerned.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbletonmoved Amendment No. 42:

Page 217, line 6, at end insert—

("Avoidance of election Pr employing corrupt agent

.—(1) Section 165 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3) (vote given for person incapable of being elected by reason of employing corrupt agent not to be deemed to be thrown away unless given for same person at a poll consequent on the decision of an election court) there shall be added—

"(4) In the case of an election of the Mayor of London, a vote deemed accordance with subsection (3) above to be thrown away shall be so deemed only to the extent that it is a vote given so as to indicate that the person who was under the incapacity is the voter's first or second preference from among the candidates."").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I am sorry to cause inconvenience, but there will be one or two other amendments in this section in respect of which I should like an answer.

I confess that my knowledge of what constitutes a corrupt agent in this context is scanty and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to sketch that in, but an interesting innovation on the pattern of the present law is that when one is discovered it shall only be one type of member who is disqualified and not another type of member. I should be very grateful for an explanation of why this decision has been taken and why it is expressed in the amendment.

Lord Renton

My Lords, the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is an important one. The expression "corrupt agent" could mean at least two things. It could mean somebody who has been successfully convicted of corruption, and it could mean that such a person could never act as an agent in the circumstances envisaged; or it could mean somebody who, while acting as agent, behaved corruptly and was convicted accordingly. I presume that it is the last meaning that the Government intend. If so, they should make that clear. I suggest that we do not accept the amendment at present but ask the Government to take it away and consider it further with the parliamentary draughtsmen.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, the Representation of the People Act 1983 includes the definition of corruption as: … having been convicted more than once of an offence under the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act … the candidate shall be incapable of being elected to fill the vacancy in the election which is held". The side note to Section 165 reads: Avoidance of election for employing corrupt agent. Section 165 goes on to state: If at a parliamentary or local government election a candidate or his election agent personally engages as a canvasser or agent for the conduct or management of the election any person whom he knows or has reasonable grounds for supposing to be subject to an incapacity to vote at the election … Those are two examples of corruption.

Amendment No. 42 merely provides that in circumstances where a mayoral candidate cannot be elected because he or she has employed such a corrupt agent, the elector's second preference vote is not deemed to be thrown away and is held as valid unless any other candidate is subject to the same incapacity.

I would be happy to write to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, with the detailed reply that he seeks and to send copies of the replies which have already been sought by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I trust that I am in order in saying that we should be grateful to her for pointing out the intention of the Government and the previous law in this matter. However, not all previous law makes good sense for ever, as some of us who have practised in the courts know only too well.

The expression "corrupt agent" in the circumstances in which it is intended to apply in the amendment needs to be looked at again. It obviously covers two possibilities; not merely the previous conviction but the behaviour while acting as agent. The Government would be wise to consider this again. It would be in their own interests and the long-term interests of Greater London.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I sympathise with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Amendment No. 42 merely seeks to apply existing law in the particular circumstances proposed in this form of election in London. I sympathise only too well with the noble Lord when he makes the point that there may be sections of the law which need to be looked at again and revised. However, in the context of this Bill, I hope that he will agree that it is logical to ensure that the same caution, care and scrupulous attention to detail is taken within the existing framework of the law to ensure that corruption does not allow anyone to gain or to lose inadvertently by not being involved in the corruption.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I move Amendments Nos. 43 to 46 en bloc. They all deal with references and definitions.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I am not exactly au fait with the procedure of the House, but I wish to speak to Amendment No. 46.

Earl Russell

My Lords, perhaps I might assist the noble Lord. My understanding of the procedure is that if any noble Lord objects to the amendments being taken en bloc they are not so taken. Therefore, amendments No. 43 to 45 can be taken en bloc but Amendment No. 445 should be moved separately. The noble Lord can then speak to it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 43 to 45 en bloc:

Page 217, line 6, at end insert—

("References to elections under the local government Act to

include Authority elections

. After section 189 there shall be inserted'—

"The Greater London Authority

"Extension of references to elections under the local government


189A. For the purposes of—

  1. (a) Part II of this Act,
  2. (b) Part III of this Act, and
  3. (c) section 189 above, any reference to an election under the local government Act includes a reference to an Authority election.").

Page 217. line 9, after ("(1),") insert—

Page 217, line 16, at end insert— ("( ) In subsection (1), after the definition of "proper officer" there shall be inserted—

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 218, line 20, at end insert ("and related expressions shall be construed accordingly—)

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I should like clarification of the meaning of the amendment. It is to be inserted at the end of a subsection which states: Any reference in this Act to a registered political party submitting a list of candidates to be London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election shall be construed in accordance with section 4(5Xa) of, and Part II of Schedule 2 to, the 1999 Act and which will then continue: and related expressions shall be construed accordingly". Could the Minister provide me with a list of related expressions and how they should be construed because I am at a total loss to understand this?

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, my point is more general. As has been said most forcefully from this side of the House, there are difficulties with so many amendments, technical or not, coming before your Lordships at so late a stage.

I shall put my complaint on the record just once. It is not a complaint against Ministers; nor, indeed, against particular officials. I would not, of course, make that point. However, in producing a Bill which was clearly always going to be complex, the Government should have devoted adequate resources to its drafting.

I can only sympathise with those who have been involved in the preparation of the Bill. I note the Minister's remarks about listening to the representations that have been made both within and outside Parliament. However, Amendment No. 42 is both technical and legal. There should have been enough people dealing with it to have picked this up, perhaps not last November when it was first presented to another place, but certainly earlier than October of the following year.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I reiterate the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It is impossible for the House to scrutinise this enormous schedule when it comes before us in this way. Most of this seven-page schedule amends other Acts of Parliament, to which we do not have instant access; I certainly do not. I only saw the amendments when I arrived at the House this morning. Therefore, we are not able to do a proper job.

The noble Baroness is quite right that we should not pin blame on anyone in particular. However, perhaps I might suggest that if the same situation arises again, the Government should supply the House with the equivalent of an Explanatory Memorandum and, if possible, quotes of how the amended Acts will look. They were good enough to do that with one part of the Scotland Bill which the House had problems in understanding.

It is not at all suitable for this to be done in this way. The Government may inadvertently make mistakes as a result of not having the schedule scrutinised. It would be helpful if they could perhaps provide something better. It would have been helpful to my noble friend Lord Renton who, as an eminent lawyer, asked a valid question. It was very difficult for him, as for the rest of us, to see how it would read when the Bill was amended. Would it be possible to do that in future?

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, there have been in the past, if I remember correctly, rewrites of legislation that was being amended in a major way in the Bill amending that legislation. I am not sure whether I am right, but I wonder if I am thinking of a Keeling schedule. Would it be possible to include that in this Bill?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I am sorry. I think there is a misunderstanding here. It is not that we are amending the Representation of the Peoples Act; it is that we are applying it and tailoring it to this particular Bill. Therefore producing an example of what the other Bill would look like is not relevant in this context. The particular query raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, with regard to this particular example is that it merely ensures that the definitions referred to encompass the point already being covered, ensuring that they relate to registered political parties. It is a fairly minor point, meant to ensure that the legislation applies in the appropriate way to a different form of government.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 47:

After Clause 18, insert the following new clause—




(" .—(1) The Secretary of State may incur expenditure in doing anything which he considers expedient—

  1. (a) in preparation for the holding of the first ordinary election,—
  2. (b) for the purpose of facilitating the conduct of the first ordinary election, or
  3. (c) otherwise in connection with the holding of the first ordinary election.

(2) "The Secretary of State must not, by virtue of subsection (1) above, incur expenditure of a kind which is recoverable by a returning officer under suction 18 above.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this new clause is an important technical addition to the provisions for expenditure on the first GLA election. As currently drafted, the Bill only allows returning officers to incur expenditure directly in support of preparing for the election. That is normal practice, and returning officers will be reimbursed their costs accordingly. However, the reality of the matter is that it may be some time before we are able to appoint a Greater London returning officer, and we need to press ahead with preparations for the fast election. This clause will allow the Secretary of State to get on with the preparations in advance of the appointment of the Greater London returning officer. I commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I should be very grateful if the noble Lord could give me some examples of expenditure which would fall under the heading of "otherwise".

Lord Whitty

My Lords, "otherwise" relating to the preparation of the election means expenditure over and above that prescribed by the clause; for example, early information to the public as to in what manner their votes should be cast—not in what direction they should be cast. I was quoted earlier as being in favour of democratic centralism, but even I would not go that far. Therefore I stand corrected on that. This would also help in preparing literature for the returning officer for the election. All that needs to start probably before the returning officer is formally appointed, and that is what the amendment is intended to cover.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the Minister sits down I wonder if I might ask him one further very specific question. He will be familiar with the Scope report about the difficulty of access to polling stations for disabled people. Would action taken to remedy that difficulty come under the heading of "otherwise" under this amendment?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, only if such action had to take place prior to the appointment of the returning officer. In most cases the actual preparation of the polling station, which is the relevant point, would almost certainly occur after a returning officer had been appointed. It refers more to the publications and preparations for advice rather than the actual physical conditions of the polling station itself.

Lord Bowness

My Lords, before the Minister sits down—I am sorry, but this point occurred to me while he was giving his explanation—can he advise the House of the significance of subsection (2)? I understood him to say that the Secretary of State could incur the expenditure that the returning officer would incur had the returning officer been appointed. However, subsection (2) says that the Secretary of State must not incur expenditure of a kind which is recoverable by a returning officer under section 18 above. That seems contrary to what the Minister was saying was the purpose of the clause.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, once the returning officer is established it is his expenditure and not that of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State cannot therefore recover that expenditure, but up to the point where the returning officer is in post and has a budget, then the budget and that preparation falls on the Secretary of State. It is not directly covering the cost of the expenditure: it is a pre-returning officer's expenditure which is covered here.

Lord Bowness

My Lords, the new clause does not say that. It says "of a kind" incurred by a returning officer. It defines the sort of expenditure, not by whom it is incurred or when,

Lord Whitty

My Lords, with great respect, subsection (2) refers to expenditure incurred by a returning officer and recoverable by a returning officer.

Lord Bowness

My Lords, it says "of a kind".

Lord Whitty

My Lords, subsection (2) reads: The Secretary of State must not, by virtue of subsection (1) above, incur expenditure.….which is recoverable by a returning officer under section 18 above. Is that what the noble Lord is referring to?

Lord Bowness

My Lords, I was referring to the fact that subsection (2) says, incur expenditure of a kind which is recoverable by a returning officer. We know that the Secretary of State is going to spend money which would be spent by a returning officer had he been appointed, but the subsection appears specifically to exclude, not expenditure which the returning officer could legitimately incur, but expenditure had he been appointed, "of a kind" which he would incur. That seems to me to prevent the Secretary of State doing what he wants to do because there is no returning officer and he cannot spend money on that kind of thing.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Lord is referring now to the existing Clause 18(1), not the subsection to which he drew the attention of the House.

Lord Bowness

My Lords, I am sorry. Perhaps the noble Lord can write to me and explain. I am referring to Amendment No. 47, subsection (2), and the wording thereof.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, as I understand it, that amendment does not refer to "of a kind". Where "of a kind" is referred to is in Clause 18(1)(a). I apologise. The words "of a kind" were omitted from my version and therefore for the last two minutes I have caused a serious misunderstanding between myself and the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, for which I deeply apologise. It is nevertheless expenditure of a kind determined by the Secretary of State under the existing Clause 18, which means the regulations which are issued by the Secretary of State in relation to parliamentary elections, as I understand it. Nevertheless, I shall write to the noble Lord, as he requested.

The Deputy Speaker (The Viscount of Oxfuird)

The Question is that Amendment No. 47 be agreed to?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, forgive me, but before the noble Lord sits down, he has said that he is going to write to my noble friend. However, I would ask your Lordships: should not this amendment now be withdrawn, taken away and looked at so that we can have it in proper form in front of us? I feel sympathy for the Minister but it is a difficult position to be in if amendments are moved and accepted but we do not know what they mean.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, as I understand it, this amendment has been moved and the vote was actually taken while the noble Baroness was standing up. If it has not been taken I now move it again. If anything arises from my consideration of what the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, said I shall come back at the next stage of the Bill and clarify the matter. However, can I just say that in the whole of this area all we have tried to do is to make sense of the Representation of the Peoples Act in the context of the new London elections.

There is no question of pulling the wool over anyone's eyes. I have outlined what we are trying to do. The same applies here, where there will be a hiatus before the appointment of the returning officer. I commend the amendment to the House. If anything further arises in this respect, I will return to your Lordships on the matter.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

7.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 11, line 33, at beginning insert ("section 85(2A) or")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, this is the last of the notorious group. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel moved at the end of this grouping to agree that such groups should not be imposed upon this House again in the course of the Bill. It really would be much simpler and easier if we rattled through these questions with a separate subject for each group, rather than having a mishmash of what has turned out to be half a dozen good and important debates within one group. In particular, when discussing issues on Report, we cannot come back in the course of the debate. It is extremely difficult to handle portmanteau groups effectively. When amendments involve matters which we have not seen before, I think that the Government owe us the courtesy of presenting them to us in a way which is reasonably digestible.

I have a very simple question for the noble Baroness and I hope that she will be able to solve it for me. Can she say what Section 85(2A), which, apparently, was forgotten by the draftsmen in their previous attempts at this Bill, will do?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. There was a sound of paper being rustled and I did not actually hear his question.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, the amendment would bring Section 85(2A) of the Representation of the People Act into the disqualification provision. I would be grateful to know what this section does and why it was previously omitted.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Lord ought perhaps to consider my remarks on the previous amendment. All we are trying to do here is to bring in a form of the Representation of the People Act which is applicable to the London elections. I do not have any trouble with the Representation of the People Act or with the other legislation to which there is a cross-reference. I can assure the noble Lord that we are doing nothing underhand here. Therefore, if he requires further clarification and is not satisfied with that clarification, we will return to the matter on Third Reading.

I believe that the whole episode of the past hour or so has indicated that we have not sufficiently communicated our intentions to the House, and I apologise for that. Nevertheless, this is a fairly straightforward transposition of pre-existing electoral legislation upon which I would have thought we could have reached a consensus. However, that may be partly through the late tabling of our own amendments and partly because of a suspicion on the other side of the House that we are trying to pull a fast one—and we are not. I think that such groupings could be done better in the future. For the moment, I commend Amendment No. 49 to the House. In the same light as I replied to the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, I should tell the noble Lord that if he is not satisfied with my subsequent reply, we will return to the matter on Third Reading.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I am absolutely certain that there is no suggestion that anyone from any part of the House is trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. However, the fact remains—and this point was made very early on in the proceedings—that very many amendments were tabled at a late stage. The Chief Whip said that something like 80 per cent of those amendments were in response to points that we had made.

The point we would now like to make is that none of these issues that have been discussed over the past hour are in response to any points that we made. As they appear to be so necessary and the Minister wishes to move them before we have actually seen the documentation—he feels that there is nothing much in them and that they are quite simple, and so on—we would like to point out that it really does look like legislating on the hoof. This Bill has been through the House of Commons; indeed, as I said before, it has been through the Committee stage, the Report stage and Third Reading. It has also been through the Committee stage here. It seems extraordinary to us that, all of a sudden, things arrive which apparently are so obvious and simple. We have had no time to discuss them.

Noble Lords, like my noble friend Lord Lucas, have only seen such amendments today and it is very difficult to deal with them. Quite frankly, with all the other amendments that we have had to consider, noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench have not really had the time to take note of these issues. Indeed, we have had since Friday. It has been impossible. We do not have the officials. We are not blaming the Ministers and we are not singling out any officials. I think that the Ministers have been ill-served in this matter. I feel very sorry for them. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it has not been right for us and it is not right for the House. This whole group of amendments ought to have been taken away, looked at again and the necessary advice taken as regards the questions that noble Lords have asked.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I must say that I have huge sympathy for the Minister's position. I readily accept that we on these Benches should have looked up Section 85(2A). We, too, have been overwhelmed. However, as I read it, this is an amendment to Clause 20, which deals with disqualification of someone who is elected as mayor or as an assembly member I believe that to be so serious that it is not a matter upon which the House should be asked to take a decision.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am not sure whether or not we are all abusing the procedural rules relating to the Report stage of a Bill. However, it is logical that I rise to speak at this point, even if it is not entirely procedurally in order. Again, all we are doing here is dealing with the disqualification proceedings which are at present in existing legislation and transposing them into this legislation by means of amendment. If noble Lords do not agree with that, I think that they had better vote against the amendment. I wish to press the amendment now. If further issues arise as a result of subsequent correspondence between us, they can be dealt with on Third Reading.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I hope that he agrees that nothing said during the course of the past few minutes has answered my question as to what this amendment actually does. We are being asked to insert something into the Bill about which we are entirely in the dark. We have received no explanation from the Government as to what it will do. If the Government do not know what it does, I really do not think that they have any business voting on it.

7.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 49) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 96; Not-Contents, 93.

Division No. 2
Acton, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Ahmed, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Alli, L. Hoyle, L.
Amos, B. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Bach, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord
Bassam of Brighton, L. Chancellor)
Berkeley, L. Islwyn, L.
Blackstone, B. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Blease, L. Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Bragg, L. Kennet, L.
Brett, L. Kilbracken, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. King of West Bromwich, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Kirkhill, L.
Burlison, L. Lockwood, B.
Carter, L. [Teller] Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Chandos, V. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Christopher, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. [Teller]
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Mallalieu, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Crawley, B. Milner of Leeds, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Molloy, L.
David, B. Monkswell, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Orme, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Palmer, L.
Desai, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Dixon, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Donoughue, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Dubs, L. Rea, L.
Elder, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Evans of Parkside, L. Renwick of Clifton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Sawyer, L.
Gilbert, L. Simon, V.
Goudie, B. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Strabolgi, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Grenfell, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hacking, L. Thornton, B.
Hardy of Wath, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Varley, L.
Hayman, B. Walpole, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B. Winston, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. Young of Old Scone, B.
Alderdice, L. Lucas, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Lyell, L.
Avebury, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Baker of Dorking, L. McNair, L.
Barker, B. McNally, L.
Bathurst, E. Maddock, B.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Mancroft, L.
Berners, B. Mar and Kellie, E.
Biddulph, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Blatch, B. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Boardman, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Bowness, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Burnham, L. Montrose, D.
Buscombe, B. Mountevans, L.
Byford, B. Moyne, L.
Calverley, L. Moynihan, L.
Carlisle, E. Munster, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Norrie, L.
Carnock, L. Northbourne, L.
Chesham, L. Northesk, E.
Clancarty, E. Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Clement-Jones, L. Onslow, E.
Coleraine, L. Oxfuird, V.
Cross, V. Perry of Southwark, B.
Dholakia, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Ellenborough, L. Radnor, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Renton, L.
Elton, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Falkland, V. Rotherwick, L.
Ferrers, E. Russell, E.[Teller]
Geddes, L. Selsdon, L.
Geraint, L. Sharples, B.
Goschen, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Gray, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L
Hamwee, B. Strathclyde, L.
Henley, L.[Teller] Swinfen, L.
Hogg, B. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Hooper, B. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Thurso, V.
Kinnoull, E. Tope, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B. Tordoff, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Torrington, V.
Leigh, L. Wise, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Young, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned and that we resume again not before 8.50 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

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