London Government

– in the House of Commons am 11:41 pm ar 15 Chwefror 2000.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 11:41, 15 Chwefror 2000

I beg to move, That the draft Greater London Authority (Election Expenses) Order 2000, which was laid before this House on 3rd February, be approved. The draft Greater London Authority (Election Expenses) order prescribes the maximum amount of election expenses of candidates and their agents, and third parties, in elections for the mayor of London and the London assembly. In my opinion, the draft order is compatible with the European convention on human rights.

There are separate limits for mayoral candidates, assembly constituency candidates, and parties and independent candidates contesting the Londonwide list, reflecting the Greater London Authority's unique structure and voting systems.

We need to prescribe limits to the spending of GLA election candidates and parties to ensure that the election is contested on as level a playing field as possible, and to prevent extravagant spending. We consulted political parties on our proposals in December 1999, and listened carefully to the points that they raised. The limits that we propose take account of the points made in the responses to the consultation.

The candidates' expenditure limits are £420,000 per mayoral candidate; £35,000 per candidate contesting an assembly constituency; and £330,000 per party or independent candidate contesting the Londonwide list.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

It is a little premature in the proceedings, but as I have rejected the hon. Gentleman in the past, let me embrace him now.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Minister properly received representations, as he said, and we are grateful that on the mayoral expense limit, he accepted in broad terms what my colleagues and I proposed. Can he tell us how many representations he received in favour of not having a freepost?

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

We received no representations in favour of not having a freepost, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. He was gracious enough to recognise that we listened carefully to the representations made, and we reduced the level of election expenses precisely to the level suggested by the Liberal Democrats. The Government listen and respond to reasonable representations. It seems, however, that on this occasion the Liberal Democrats are the party of no compromise and no surrender, which is not a good precedent.

I emphasise that we have significantly reduced the mayoral and Londonwide list limits from the levels that we originally proposed, which were £990,000 and £495,000 respectively, because parties considered them too high, and likely to put smaller parties at a significant disadvantage.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Minister (Transport)

Why did the Minister think that £990,000 was initially the correct figure, and then accept representations from the Liberal Democrats and us to reduce it substantially on the basis that there should be a free mailing instead? Why did he accept that there should be a reduction in the spending limit, but not provide for the free mailing? Is there not some inconsistency in accepting only one half of the representation? What is the point of that?

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

I do not know how many more times I have to explain this matter to the hon. Gentleman, or in how many more ways I can put it—there are no powers in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to secure the free mailshot on which he and other hon. Members dwelt at such length during our earlier proceedings.

We have calculated the limits using the most appropriate comparator from other expense limit regimes. The mayoral and Londonwide list limits are broadly derived from the amount of £30,000 per parliamentary constituency used in the Political Parties, Elections, and Referendums Bill as the building block for calculating the national spending limits for political parties. The assembly constituency limit is broadly equivalent to the sum of parliamentary constituency limits within an assembly constituency area. The limits are enough to enable candidates and parties to fight effective campaigns either London wide or at constituency level, while not allowing their spending to become unacceptably high.

When the order comes into force, GLA candidates and parties will not be permitted to spend in excess of the limits on their election expenses. Election expenses are defined in the Representation of the People Act 1983 as expenses incurred whether before, during or after an election, on account of or in respect of the conduct or management of the election". Spending by GLA candidates or their agents before 14 December 1999—the date when the relevant provisions in the Greater London Authority Act were commenced—will not, in our view, count towards the limit.

Article 2 of the order prescribes the maximum expenditure that a person other than a candidate, his agent or persons authorised in writing by the agent—that, is a third party—may incur at such elections. The limits are set at £25,000 per third party supporting or opposing mayoral candidates; £25,000 per third party supporting or opposing Londonwide list candidates, including independents; and £1,800 per third party supporting or opposing an assembly constituency candidate.

Those limits are calculated using the same formula that we intend to introduce, as an amendment to the Political Parties, Elections, and Referendums Bill, to limit third-party spending in local elections. I realise that the limits are high compared with the current £5 limit set out in the Representation of the People Act 1983. However, I believe that they are justified in the light of the Bowman judgment in the European Court of Human Rights—where the court ruled that the £5 limit constituted an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression—and because they ensure that third parties can adequately put across their case to the electorate.

The GLA Act does not entitle candidates in GLA elections to have an election address delivered free by the Post Office, and election mailshots are not, therefore, a matter for the order. GLA elections are classed as local elections in section 17 of the GLA Act; that approach puts GLA election candidates on the same footing as local election candidates generally.

There is nothing new about Londonwide elections without free mailshots.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Will the Minister name one other local authority election in which deposits are required?

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

That is not relevant. The provisions in the order and in the Act are commensurate with elections in London.

Every four years, elections are held for each London borough council at the same time across the whole of London—exactly the same area and same electorate as the GLA—without free mailshots. During those elections, parties mount campaigns, without free mailshots, across the whole of London, exactly as they will for GLA elections.

In the White Paper, we made clear our concern to ensure that the election did not become a platform for frivolous candidates or publicity seekers, who could gain unfair access to public funds simply in an-attempt to promote either themselves or obscure causes. [Interruption.] Do I detect a note of envy in hon. Members' response? We have considered carefully whether there should be free mailshots for GLA elections. We decided against, for three reasons.

The first reason was the cost. The total cost to the public purse of a free mailshot would be very significant. The total could be well over £10 million and possibly as much as £20 million, depending on the number of candidates.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Such costs would be disproportionate to the GLA's proposed budget of some £35 million and would be equivalent to more than £3 for every council tax payer in London—almost twice as much as London council tax payers will contribute to the costs of the mayor and assembly.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

The public would, rightly, be extremely critical if large sums of public money were spent on free mailshots—especially if that encouraged frivolous candidates—instead of on the vital issues that concern Londoners.

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait Ceidwadwyr, Beckenham

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has left me extremely confused because, although he said that there were no powers in the Act in respect of mailshots, he has just explained that the Government considered carefully whether there should be mailshots within the Act. Will he please at least make it clear at what point the Government decided that mailshots were not appropriate because this was a local government election?

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

The hon. Lady will be aware that there are other routes to achieving the objective that she evidently seeks, but it is absolutely the case that there are no powers within the 1999 Act, and to that extent all the representations about free mailshots, especially in connection with these orders, are entirely otiose.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

No; I will not. I must make progress. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman in once. I have been very generous to other Members—perhaps excessively so—and I know that many in the Chamber await with bated breath the continuation of my remarks.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Our second consideration in opposing free mailshots was the related issue of precedent. GLA elections are classed as local elections and will be run broadly under local election rules. Candidates in local elections do not receive a free mailing, and to allow GLA candidates a free mailing would set a precedent for local elections generally, and for elections of directly elected mayors in particular. That would take the public subsidy of political material to previously unimagined levels.

Thirdly, we took into account the risk of abuse by unscrupulous candidates. For the cost of a £10,000 deposit, a mayoral candidate could get a free Londonwide mailing worth up to £750,000 if sent to each London elector. The risk is real. There has been at least one media report of an individual planning to back a mayoral candidate's campaign as a way of promoting his business. To allow such candidates a free election mailing would make a mockery of the democratic process.

We have heard much from the Opposition parties about their concern—

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Ceidwadwyr, Ruislip - Northwood

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

First let me finish the sentence, for the benefit of the consecutive order of my remarks. We have heard much from the Opposition parties about their concern at the lack of a free mailshot, and I suspect that we are about to hear more.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Ceidwadwyr, Ruislip - Northwood

Is not the purpose of a deposit to eliminate frivolous candidates, and are not mayoral candidates required to pay a £10,000 deposit? Furthermore, who is the Minister to decide which candidate is frivolous or not? Is that not a wholly fascist notion? Should he not be ashamed of himself?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Llafur, West Ham

That is not what the hon. Gentleman said about General Pinochet.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Do I hear a cry of "General Pinochet"? I do not want to pursue that particular road.

The concept of the frivolous candidate is common parlance in discussions about electoral practice and electoral procedure. The Government are not making a judgment about the frivolity of candidates, but I have to tell the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) that we know that there is adequate evidence that there are such candidates available. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I will name them. In the aftermath of the recent Kensington and Chelsea by-election, a gentleman by the name of Sam Rosen, who was the sponsor of a candidate in the election who rejoiced in the name of Lisa Lovebuckett, declared that the advantages to his business of sponsoring that candidate had been so enormous that he was perfectly prepared to pay a deposit for the GLA elections so that he could advertise his business. If he is prepared to do that without the benefit of a free mailshot, the scope for such commercial candidatures is endless. It is a serious consideration and a proper one for the Government to take into account.

I am somewhat surprised about the concern that Opposition Members have expressed about free mailshots.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Llafur, Gorllewin Casnewydd

Will the Minister explain whether his comments will apply to future parliamentary elections?

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

To the extent that there is already the well-established convention of deposits, the practices already apply. We do not have to think about the future; that is current reality. However, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that thought.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

No, for the sake of other hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate, I need to make progress.

Free mailshots are not a matter for the election expenses order, and primary legislation would be needed to provide mailshots at the public expense in such elections. We did not include provision for free mailshots in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 for the reasons that I have just described. The Act was scrutinised at length both in this House and in the other place. Hon Members in the opposition parties had ample opportunity to table amendments to provide for free mailshots, but they did not. If this were really an issue of such great concern, that would have been sheer political incompetence.

I understand the concern raised that the lack of free mailing could favour the richer parties. That is precisely why we have adjusted the election expenses limit downwards by a substantial amount to help level the playing field. That was done to help the smaller parties and independent candidates, and was a direct response to points made to us in the consultation. The limits will allow candidates and parties to put their message across to the electorate. They will allow parties with both a mayoral candidate and a Londonwide list, or independent candidates who stand both for mayor and as a Londonwide assembly member, to send a mailshot to every household in London if they wish.

I reject the Conservative party's accusation that the proposal is ballot rigging. That is an absurd suggestion. I have made it quite clear why there will not be free mailshots. For an outlay of £10,000, a mayoral candidate could get a benefit worth up to £750,000: they would be queueing up at the door with their nomination papers and pound notes in their hands. The cost to the public purse would be open-ended and could add up to a sum equivalent to the first-year budget for the GLA itself— £35 million. I do not think that spending public money on this scale on campaigning would be a priority for Londoners or, indeed, taxpayers elsewhere.

Then there is the scope for abuse. The GLA is all about reconnecting people with democracy at a local level. Frankly, a long list of frivolous, publicity-seeking candidates with campaigns subsidised by the taxpayer would simply alienate Londoners, and would risk damaging the public's perception of the new authority before it has even started. Finally, elections to the GLA are local elections that will be run under local rules that do not include a free mailing paid for by the Exchequer.

The limits provide for GLA elections to be as fair as possible while allowing candidates and parties the freedom to put their message across to the electorate. They take account of the GLA's unique structure and voting systems, and will allow parties with a mayoral candidate and Londonwide list to pay for a mailing to each London household.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:59, 15 Chwefror 2000

Rarely can the House have seen a Minister of the Crown treat matters of democracy and fairness with such contempt. I wish that the Minister could have sat here and seen the faces of his hon. Friends, because they told the true story of the mess that they think he is making. He has been deliberately churlish and obtuse in his denial of the strength of the arguments that hon. Members from both sides of the House have presented.

The Minister's behaviour is like that of a spoilt child who does not want anybody else to play with his toys. That is the basis on which he has conducted consultation. He has dictated his terms on the democratic process instead of genuinely listening to the case put before him. He might tonight command the votes of the House, but he does not command the hearts of Members who believe in real democracy.

The hon. Gentleman said the matter should have been raised during the passage of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, and that it was a matter of high political incompetence that amendments on the issue were not tabled then. I invite him to consider the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 1998. I sat through all the proceedings on those Bills on the Floor of the House, but we never even discussed free mailings. It was taken as read that there would be free mailings. It is ludicrous to suggest that there are free mailings in elections at an important point of constitutional reform only if the Opposition raise the matter.

The first the opposition parties knew about there being no free mailings in the London elections was when the Minister's letter of consultation, dated 15 December, landed on our desks. We were required to do all the work in response to that letter in the run-up to Christmas. The Minister now generously describes that as consultation for which we should be unctuously grateful. It was said in the previous debate that there is no precedent for such matters being tackled without proper consensus. The hon. Gentleman has made the mistake of reading out the speech that was read out by Lord Bassam in the Upper House last night. That fully explains the hon. Gentleman's dusty brush-off by some of his colleagues tonight.

The Minister mentioned General Pinochet, who held a referendum and sought consensus on Chile's transition to democracy. General Pinochet and the hon. Gentleman are ships that pass in the night: while General Pinochet brought Chile back to democracy, the hon. Gentleman is taking London away from democracy.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Llafur, West Ham

I do not know how old the hon. Gentleman was, or where he was, when his father, then the Secretary of State for the Environment, now a noble Lord, was abolishing the Greater London council, and we were on the other side of the House asking for a referendum that he never gave us. How dare the hon. Gentleman stand up and talk about referendums in the same breath as the fascist Pinochet?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. Perhaps we should get back to the order before us.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am very happy to get back to the order.

What we managed to do was get rid of the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) and that was doing London a favour at the time.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Llafur, West Ham

I am still here, but the hon. Gentleman's father is not.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Gentleman should take a tablet and lie down in a dark room. He would feel much better.

As the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) pointed out, the Minister, in his letter of 15 December about the consultation for the proposals, talked at length about the comparability of these elections with Westminster, European, Scottish and Welsh elections.

In his letter, the Minister refers to the necessity of setting fair and reasonable expenditure limits on candidates, while not placing candidates without significant personal or party resources at a significant disadvantage. Even though he has adjusted some of the spending limits, those who have substantial resources will still have a significant advantage over those who do not, and the absence of free mailing compounds that advantage in spades. The letter continues: We believe that a higher limit could encourage unscrupulous candidates or parties to spend excessively in seeking votes, putting other candidates with more limited means at a disadvantage. Yet by maintaining higher spending limits instead of allowing free mailing to which voters think candidates should be entitled, the Minister is allowing unscrupulous candidates or parties to spend excessive sums chasing votes, thereby putting candidates with more limited means at a disadvantage. The most extraordinary feature of the letter of consultation is that it sets out the very disadvantages of the scheme that the Minister has finally proposed to the House, all on his own, without a single ounce of support from any other political party that will participate in the elections.

The reason why the Minister has put himself in that position is a mystery. There are only two possible explanations. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) alluded to one: the "stop Ken" campaign, bringing party factionalism into the very conduct and fairness of our democracy. Never has there been such an abuse of the responsibilities of office in the face of all the opposition parties. The other explanation, which I believe contains some truth, is that the Minister and his Department have become caught between a rock and a hard place: the rock is the principle of democracy, which will be upheld by the other place when it votes on the orders next week; the hard place is the Treasury.

If the sort of arguments that have been deployed by the Minister this evening—the ridiculous, extreme, reductio ad absurdum arguments about excessive cost and the potential for abuse—apply to the London elections, they must apply to parliamentary elections. Whatever abuses may or may not occur in parliamentary elections, we tolerate them because we believe that democracy, openness and direct contact with voters are more important. In any case, were such abuses to occur, they could be dealt with by other legislative means—one of my colleagues has pointed out that we suspended an entire Assembly in 24 hours of legislating, so it cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise legislative means to provide free mailing for mayoral candidates and constituency candidates in the forthcoming London elections.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Llafur, Wimbledon

I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely. However, I have to tell him that his democratic arguments are somewhat undermined by his calling in aid the unelected House of Lords, the Conservatives' abolition of the GLC and even General Pinochet.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that the Labour Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, made clear her belief that the Upper House now has the legitimacy needed to deal with such matters. If she believes that the reforms forced through by the Labour party have given the upper House the necessary authority, it ill behoves the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) to say that the other place should not interfere. According to his own lights, the Labour Government have enhanced the credentials of the Upper House.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Ceidwadwyr, Ryedale

My hon. Friend might care to speculate on a point that I wanted to raise with the Minister but he would not give way. There is consensus between the Home Secretary, the House and the other place on the Representation of the People Bill, which will encourage voter participation in elections—yet the order does the opposite. Denying a free mailshot to all mayoral candidates will reduce participation in the mayoral elections.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Minister (Transport)

My hon. Friend is right. The inconsistency in the Government's position is glaring, but it is for them, not me, to explain it. An amendment was discussed in the Upper House during proceedings on the Representation of the People Bill. It set out the exact way in which we want free mailings to be tackled. The Government will not only lose the orders next week, but if they want the amendment to be put to the vote on Report, they will also lose that vote.

The Government's position is inexplicable because it is impossible to understand how they can win. Ministers should return to their offices tomorrow morning, pick up the telephone and start organising a meeting so that we can sort out the problem in a proper, open, democratic and consensual fashion.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Llafur, Hackney North and Stoke Newington 12:11, 15 Chwefror 2000

I spoke in the earlier debate on related matters, so I wish to confine my remarks to the arguments that Ministers presented time and again tonight. They say that they will not allow a free mailshot because we are considering a local authority election, which is like any other. I shall give three reasons why it is not simply a local authority election.

First, the electorate numbers more than 5 million people. Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Minister knows, in most local elections in urban areas it is possible to organise the delivery of a mailshot through volunteer labour—I know that because I have worked in every local and general election since 1978. It will be almost impossible to organise the delivery of a mailshot through volunteer labour in Greater London.

Thirdly, in London many people live in houses and flats with entry phones and there are many houses in multiple occupation. Even if we were able to mobilise a co-ordinated army to cover London from Hillingdon to Croydon, many people would not receive their election address without the provision of a free mailshot.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Llafur, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

I am afraid not; it is late and my arguments address a specific point.

We all appreciate the energy with which the Minister has prosecuted the Government's case tonight. However, it is not intellectually sustainable to claim that the election is simply a local authority election like any other.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Whip 12:13, 15 Chwefror 2000

Most of the Government's fairly weak arguments have been demolished in our two debates. I want to focus on one specific argument. The Government claim that the issue that we are discussing was not raised in Committee. Earlier, I quoted exchanges from our Committee proceedings which proved that the issue was debated then.

The Government said that they would consult widely to gain consensus on election limits. If the Minister is in doubt about that, I shall quote again an exchange that he and I had in Committee on 28 January 1999. I said: I believe that the Neill report and the White Paper say that the Government intend to hold consultations with the Association of London Government. Have those consultations started? It is important that we move ahead. If they have not started, will the Minister tell us when they will take place? The Minister replied: I have already given the Committee an absolute assurance that we will consult before we come forward with proposals. I have undertaken that those consultations will include both the hon. Gentleman's party and the principal Opposition party."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 28 January 1999; c. 84.] The Committee considered the issue in that spirit, so does the Minister honestly think that sending a letter to various people on 15 December with a closing date of 4 January represents the consultations that he assured the Committee he would provide? if he does, that is nonsense and no one will believe him. It is an act of bad faith and if that is how the Government approach consultations on running elections in the capital city, the Minister should hang his head in shame. We have a new electoral system, so a full and proper consultation on the rules and election expenses was required, but it took place during the Christmas and millennium celebrations. That is an absolute outrage.

Many people answered the consultation invitation and we only just managed to submit our replies. The Minister has already admitted that no one suggested that there should not be a mailshot, so taking this approach to the free post suggests that the Government have not listened to anybody. He says that expense limits have been reduced in line with Liberal Democrat proposals—he is right and we welcome that—but he failed to say that our reply linked reducing the high expenditure limits to the provision of a free mailshot. As usual, he tries to have his cake and eat it. Our submission states: An alternative to the high expenditure limits and lack of free mailshot could be solved by granting a free mailshot to all political parties and then deducting the cost of this from the expenditure limit of £990,000.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Whip

Yes, but still the Minister is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

The Minister may win tonight's vote, but he and his colleagues will not win the vote in the other place and we all need to know what will happen then. Are the Government seriously saying that they will allow the elections not to take place? Without the two orders that we have debated tonight, they will not happen. That would be a matter of great regret, because we support the Government's general proposition that we need to return democracy to the capital city. The Liberal Democrats and the Labour party have argued that case for many years, ever since the Conservatives abolished the Greater London council. We have supported and worked with the Government, so it is a great shame that they are trying to reduce the democratic voice at the last minute.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham Llafur, St Helens South

I live in a block of flats in north London and have a vote in the GLA election. About 200 others also live there. I will know the candidates as I am a member of a political party, but how will the other residents know the candidates of the various competing political parties if those parties cannot carry out a mailshot? That is why I am a little worried about there being no mailshots.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Whip

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. Perhaps he joined the debate at a late stage—I am not sure, as I did not notice whether he was in his place earlier—but he is very welcome if he backs our case. If he has not realised it, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are arguing for a free post.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

As are the hon. Gentleman's colleagues.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Whip

As my hon. Friend says, so are some Labour Members. Clearly they have another recruit to the cause, and we are glad that the hon. Gentleman sees the logic of our argument for democracy.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

We are adding up the balance of supporters. Am I right in thinking that so far we have not heard, apart from the Minister's, any speech in favour of the Government's proposition from any part of the House, including the Government's side?

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Whip

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, as always. We wait in anticipation for some Labour Back Benchers to put their heads above the parapet and try to make the case for the Government, because the Minister clearly has not been able to do so.

Part of the Government's argument tonight has been about frivolous candidates—the idea that people will run for the position of mayor, have a free post and waste taxpayers' money. As a Conservative Member said earlier, it is outrageous that the Government are to decide who a frivolous candidate is. That is against all democratic principles in this country. We have seen for many years in parliamentary by-elections, and indeed in general elections, a variety of candidates from the less serious wing of British politics: the Monster Raving Loony party, for example. No one has questioned its right to free post. I have never seen in a Labour party manifesto or speech by a senior Minister a suggestion that free post should be taken away from such parties, and I hope I never shall.

The Minister makes a spurious point, and indeed goes against the whole theory behind this new form of government. The Government used to argue that, with the new position of mayor, non-political people would be encouraged to come into running the capital: that there would be independents. So if the Government wanted a system to encourage independent candidates, why are they trying to prevent them having the chance to put their case? Again, logic is against what the Government are trying to do in the order.

The Minister made a point with respect to third party expenses. We believe that the third party expense limits in article 2 are rather high. That third parties can spend up to £25,000 supporting a candidate for the mayor of London seems to me ridiculous. One might hypothesise that this was put in to enable various institutions—trade unions, for example—to support various candidates, but the Government might want to think again, given the way in which the unions seem to be stacking up behind certain candidates. Not only is it wrong in principle that the limits should be set so high, but it is also foolish in terms of what the Government are trying to do. Again, the Government seem to be incompetent even with regard to their own motivations.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Transport and the Regions)

Is there not a danger with third party campaigns, particularly from particular pressure groups, that instead of a campaign in favour of a candidate there will be a campaign against candidates—negative campaigning, as the United States has at present?

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Whip

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. He makes a very powerful point. We could see in the mayoral elections, if those third party expense limits stay as high as they are, a whole series of people running appallingly negative campaigns. And the Government will have permitted that in their rules.

If the Government were so worried about frivolous candidates, why did they not raise the matter in Committee? Why did they not ask Opposition parties to talk to them to find out how we could change the rules to ensure that frivolous candidates could not stand? It could be done by raising the deposits, increasing the number of signatures needed for nominations, or tightening up the rules with respect to free post. The Post Office's rules and guidelines are already very tight. They prevent people from abusing free post for commercial purposes or asking for money. If the Government believe that the rules are not tight enough, why do they not ask us to join in reviewing those guidelines to see whether they can be made tighter still? I see the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) nodding in agreement. I am sure that we could arrange to tighten them up. Then the logic of their position—assuming there is any remaining logic—would certainly go.

It is bad enough when the Labour party tries to fix its own internal elections. It is outrageous when it tries to rig public elections.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Llafur, Rotherham 12:25, 15 Chwefror 2000

My constituency is far from London, but never have I heard such metropolitan elitism from the Opposition parties. I have heard the unusual combination of a Conservative party pleading for a significant increase in public expenditure at the taxpayer's expense, and a Liberal Democrat party that is prepared to consign its own activists and members outside London to the hard electoral work of delivering leaflets through letter boxes—indeed, to tower blocks. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) seems to have left, but I assure her that it is difficult to get into some tower blocks in the north of England, not just those in east London.

Liberal Democrats have argued tonight that their poor, suffering activists must deliver leaflets in Sheffield or Manchester, but that in London they should all be able to sit on their sofas watching "EastEnders" while Her Majesty's postal workers do their political work for them. I consider that insulting, patronising and unworthy of a party with which, in many respects, my party is prepared to co-operate.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Llafur, Rotherham

I would prefer not to.

Assuming there are about 4 million voters in London—[HON. MEMBERS: "Five million."] The number is increasing by the minute. We are being asked to spend more than £1 million per candidate of my constituents' money because we are not confident that our parties are keen enough on their candidates, whoever they may be. Certainly, when the time comes, I will be out there delivering leaflets for my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), without demanding that money be spent. That is how elections are conducted at local level in this country.

The new shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is one of the richest Members of Parliament. It is extraordinary that he should encourage one of his junior satraps to increase public spending, when tomorrow his leader—the leader of the Conservative party—will be talking about tax promises, and cutting public expenditure. That is the hypocrisy that we see tonight, in miniature. There are about 40 million voters in the country. If the same rule is applied to London as is being called for tonight, I assure the metropolitan chattering classes on the Opposition Benches—

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Llafur, Rotherham

I will not give way. I am trying to finish my speech.

Let me assure those chattering classes that what they hear in the way of London Liberal Democrat and Tory arrogance tonight they will hear from Rotherham, Sheffield, Exeter and Scarborough tomorrow. I see many Members from other areas present. As I have said, there are some 40 million voters in the country. If we apply the London rule that in local government elections there is to be a free post, we are talking about between £5 and £6 million per main party candidate, which means £40 million or £50 million if the same principle is applied throughout the rest of England—I am not talking about Scotland and Wales. That is unacceptable.

I do not want public expenditure to be increased unnecessarily to support unreasonable causes. I will not vote to increase public expenditure in order to satisfy the laziness, inaction and unwillingness of Opposition parties to campaign effectively in the London election.

I ask the Minister to stand firm. I ask my hon. Friends not to vote for an increase in public expenditure and not to set an example that will demoralise party activists in the north of England—the heartlands of England. Every Tory and Liberal Democrat local party will be absolutely scandalised that the slovenly, lazy Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in London want the taxpayer to pay for their post delivery, when the rest of us believe in British democracy and are prepared to deliver our leaflets so as to promote our policies and beliefs.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 12:30, 15 Chwefror 2000

I apologise for my costume. I came straight to the House from the annual dinner of a national organisation. I have remained in the Chamber ever since.

As always, it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). He made much of the fact that Rotherham is a great distance from London and ignored the fact that Scotland and Wales are, too. We have already discussed the fact that the free mailshot does not appear in legislation relating to those countries.

The hon. Gentleman exaggerated massively the amount of money that the Government themselves think will be spent by each candidate in a free mailshot. Rotherham itself was never part of the Government's constitutional reforms.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

No. We are short of time. I apologise to my hon. Friend.

As ever, the Minister for Housing and Planning is sitting next to the Minister for London as his minder; he has done so consistently on other occasions. Towards the end of the Napoleonic wars, the great Napoleon wished to give a marshal's baton to General Lefebvre, one of the great old soldiers of the republic. He sent him to capture a major city in eastern Europe, accompanied by Marshal Oudinot.

Marshal Oudinot had already been wounded in the Napoleonic wars 33 times. Although he was only there with a watching brief, he managed to get wounded during that campaign, too. The Government's apprehensions that they will get wounded in the London elections bring the Minister for Housing and Planning to the House tonight.

The Minister has a powerful historical sense. He knows that, in 1906, the Tory party suffered its largest defeat in a general election this century, until the recent one. He knows that the first sign of the party's recovery was that, for the first time in 18 years since the London county council founded in 1889, it took the LCC the following year, in 1907.

The Minister further knows that, although the Labour Government had a majority of 150 in the general election of 1945, by 1949, although Herbert Morrison had held London for 15 years for Labour, the Conservatives had a majority of 120,000 votes in London at large. They got exactly the same number of seats. The one Liberal who was elected was prepared to vote for the Tories. It was not one of the finest moments in the history of the London Labour party. I have had to listen to a lot about the Greater London council since 1986, but the Labour party insisted on retaining control by fiddling the aldermanic vacancies.

Before the election, the Evening Standard said that the mayoralty of London was the Prime Minister's big idea and that, in that respect, it was going to march with Scotland and Wales. The Minister will remember it. We devoted a whole day to the governance of London on a Friday in June 1997. It was not the equivalent of discussing Rotherham. It was a major part of the Government's constitutional reforms.

I represent an inner-city seat. In the 1983 general election, it had the lowest turnout in the country. On the eve of 1987 general election, I told my agent that we were going to improve. We overtook eight seats. Six were inner-London seats, or on the periphery of inner London. In 1992, we moved up a further eight seats. Again, we overtook inner-city seats. In 1997, we moved up a further eight seats. Again, we overtook inner-city seats.

It is difficult to run elections in inner-city seats, whichever the city—I am not including Rotherham in my remarks. The consequence is that the mailshot is a matter of extreme importance. If the Prime Minister really does have a big idea about London and wants to make the mayoralty a success, he will accept the argument on the mailshot; otherwise, the turnout will be the same as it has been historically. That is, frankly, going to be a loss to everyone. The media attention to which the Minister for London referred is present in a general election, when we again have the problem of getting out the inner-city vote.

The Minister cited three reasons for the Government's position on the matter. He was not on the Committee, so he will not recall—as the Minister for Housing and Planning will—my telling the story of the Polish bishop who arrived in a parish in his diocese and said to the curate, "I am usually accustomed when visiting parishes to be greeted by the sound of bells. Why am I not greeted by bells?" The curate said, "My lord, there are three reasons. The first is that there are no bells." "Pray go no further," said the bishop.

The Minister for London made the great mistake of going further, so that, having rested his argument on the principle that the Greater London Authority Act 1999 is local government legislation—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) referred—he then produced other reasons why the Government were not going to pursue the matter. In the process, he totally demolished his basic argument—he delivered an Exocet at it—about the local authority.

We know about the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the fact that they contained no provision for a free mailshot. We know, too, that—until the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill—the Government have made up the laws on referendums as they have gone along. In Committee, I accused the Minister for Housing and Planning of making up the Greater London Authority Act 1999 as we went along. I realise that consistency can be castigated as the hobgoblin of little minds, but there is no possible way in which, on the basis of how the Government have conducted their constitutional reform so far, the Minister can rest on the fact that the 1999 Act is local authority legislation and, therefore, that local government arrangements should apply.

Regardless, I say to the Minister, as I say to the House, that democracy is more important than all such issues.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise Llafur, Preston 12:37, 15 Chwefror 2000

I shall make a very short and plain statement. The debate has been conducted largely as though we were discussing a matter affecting only London, which may seem to be a reasonable conclusion as the order is about elections for the London assembly and the London mayor. However, the matter has a wider significance.

It is not true, as has been well established, that the London elections will be simply local government elections. It is not even true that the major problem is that it is hard work to run elections and difficult to canvass and to deliver. That is not really the essence of the matter at all, as that problem applies anywhere in the country and also in parliamentary elections. I have sat in the Chamber, through the previous debate and this one, asking myself over and over, "What arguments would Labour Members be adducing if we were facing a proposal from the Opposition—were they ever again in a position to do it, which I hope that they will not be—to abolish the free mailshot in parliamentary elections? How would we defend the free mailshot?"

I accept the free mailshot at general elections in my constituency. I would not dream of saying that we have plenty of workers, or that we rely on the fact that we shall have one leaflet delivered by post. We still organise as many people as we possibly can to deliver and to canvass, because one leaflet does not make an election. The issue is not about Labour Members or Liberal Democrat Members or anyone else being short of election workers: it is about providing a reasonable minimum standard so that everyone is able to deliver at least one leaflet. If they can do more than that, it will have to be down to their own efforts. As has already been pointed out, the leaflets and envelopes have to be paid for. It is not a free ride; it is simply a free delivery.

I worry a great deal about the possible implications for parliamentary elections. When my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) was looking for people who might be affected, I was glad that his gaze passed over me and he did not say Preston. I would not have liked to be prayed in aid to that speech.

Never mind clever-clever passion and grandiloquence. When all is said and done, it is a pity that the Opposition have been handed a weapon to use against us. We have been reduced to saying "Yah-boo, you've done worse." Of course they have done worse. They abolished the Greater London council, which was a downright disgrace. However, we are not improving on that by what we are doing tonight. We are giving them a cover so that people can say "Oh well, none of the parties are really very good. None of them are much devoted to democracy." It is a pity to do that.

If we were to add up the cost of the parliamentary mailshots, how would we defend them? If cost is the true issue, it is shameful. I do not know what the true issue is, but the order is a mistake. We should not have handed the Opposition this weapon.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Ceidwadwyr, Fylde 12:41, 15 Chwefror 2000

We have heard some brave speeches from Labour Members this evening—three of them in defence of basic democratic rights. The Government have been promulgating so-called freedom of information, but the lack of a freepost will deny electors who seek the freedom to know who is standing in an election their right to know what is going on. If the best defence that the Government can put up is the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), it says a great deal about the paucity of their arguments. All that he could do was rail against what he called lazy parties. I have always thought that he was a democrat, but he seems to have failed to take into account the position of vigorous smaller parties, or even good independents. They will find it difficult to get their message across, because they may well be crowded out by the more conventional methods of communication of the media. The electorate have a right to know who is standing in the elections.

When I had to defend difficult wickets as a Minister, I remember falling back on one of two strategies: the first was to laugh at the Opposition and the other was to pray in aid lots of technicalities in the hope of running out of time before having to defend the central issue. The Minister has done that this evening. He has illogically told the House that freeposts are not applicable in ordinary local government elections, and then gone on to tell us about the unique structure of the Greater London Authority and the special nature of the elections. He cannot have his cake and eat it. The electorate will expect a freepost to tell them what is going on. It is incredible that the Labour party is prepared to connive in denying people their basic rights to information.

What has happened in the Department? The civil servants will have given the Minister a brief. Options will have been put before him and factors will have been considered. I have no doubt that many of the arguments about comparability with other forms of election that my right hon. and hon. Friends have made will have been put to the Minister. I see him smiling, so I assume that that is what happened. However, he turned round, for political reasons—I do not know what they are, because he has not engaged in the debate to tell us this evening—and said to the officials, "No, we are not having a free mailshot, so construct me some arguments that will enable me to make that point." He has not come up with any logical explanation to deal with the coherent arguments put forward by the hon. Members for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) and for Preston (Audrey Wise), and unless he does so, we will know that it was a political decision, and a shoddy one at that.

The decision marks a nasty turn in our electoral processes. We have seen the first manifestation of electoral censorship. The Minister turns his face from that, but we have heard all sorts of fallacious arguments about what sort of candidate will be able to get their message across. The Government's attitude breaks the cross-party consensus that had grown up on the way in which elections should be conducted in the United Kingdom, given an election that caters for such a large and diverse electorate. What will the ethnic minority groups think when the Labour party denies people information in their own languages about the candidates? As they say, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham Llafur, St Helens South

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that in any local government election at whatever level—whether for mayors in Liverpool or Birmingham or generally—there should be a free mailshot? If he is, I will understand his argument.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Ceidwadwyr, Fylde

My argument addresses a unique occasion in our democratic process—the first election of a mayor for London. The Minister said that the election had a unique structure, and that is why I argue that candidates should have a free mailshot. The size, scale and diversity of London demand that that type of communication be made available, and the Government have advanced fallacious cost information to justify their position. What price democracy? Tonight, if the Government have their way, electoral censorship will arrive in this country and our democratic processes will be the worse for it.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 12:47, 15 Chwefror 2000

I wish to add a brief word in support of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), and on behalf of those constituencies, whatever their party allegiance, that traditionally have very low turnouts. It is unarguable that it will be impossible to reach all the electors in any of the constituencies unless there is a free mailshot. I say to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), who knows as much about Europe as about Rotherham, that the largest European constituencies have always had a free mailshot in elections, so that every elector can have the facts.

People often complain that we only take an interest in them at election time. They will get their polling card, but if they get no literature, what will that do to restore the political process? What will it do to make people feel engaged? What will it do to make people feel included? What will that do to make politics more valued? It will do nothing. All it will do is ensure that those who feel marginalised and excluded already feel even more alienated from the political process.

If nothing else will persuade the Government, I repeat the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) asked earlier. The Government have to come up with an alternative, because if they persist in their approach, they will be defeated. That is a solution that they do not want—and neither do we, because we want the election to go ahead.

There is a debate in the Labour party about Labour re-engaging with its heartland. At the last election, the majority of people in London voted Labour. The largest number of local authorities in London are Labour controlled. It will be to traditional Labour voters that the Government do the greatest disservice.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

No, I will not. Many of those traditional Labour voters will be disengaged; many of them will not receive communication, and many of them will feel that their Government have let them down.

I join colleagues from all parts of the country and both sides of the House in saying that the Government have about seven days in which to think again. If they do not, they will be making a terrible political mistake.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham Llafur, St Helens South 12:50, 15 Chwefror 2000

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) refused to give way to me. If he had, I would have asked him a very simple question—the same question that I asked the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) a short while ago. If we are to have a referendum, and if we are to have freepost, should we not have it in all elections? Why did the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey not give way and answer that question? It is because he does not want to know the answer, which is that if we do it for one election, we must do it for every election. It must be as simple as that. [Interruption.] Wrong. I am saying that if we do it for London, we have to do it for Liverpool, Birmingham, and everywhere else.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Llafur, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Will my hon. Friend accept that London has local elections? They are for the boroughs. This is a regional election involving 5 million people—the electorate is larger than that of Scotland and Wales. This is not a local election, but a regional election, and of course there should be free post.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham Llafur, St Helens South

That is exactly why I am saying that there should be free distribution at elections. We cannot distinguish between elections. That is why I asked the question of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. It is as simple as that. If we differentiate one election and another, where the heck do we go?

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait Ceidwadwyr, Beckenham 12:52, 15 Chwefror 2000

I have been fascinated in both debates about the confusion that appears to be emerging at the heart of the new Greater London assembly. Having a mayor and assembly was the one clear policy for London that we thought the Labour Government were introducing. We now appear to be challenging the role of the mayor and the assembly. On the one hand, the Minister insists on maintaining that this is a local government election; on the other, he is introducing to that election a system of deposits that is alien to local government elections.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) made exactly the point that I wish to make, which is that London is a region. It is defined as a region by the Greater London Authority Act 1999, and the London development agency is, by any definition, a function of regional government. If we are talking about regional government, we have to be talking about an organisation that is not a local government organisation.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I wonder whether the hon. Lady can help me on a point made by the Minister. He suggested that if there was a free post for the whole of London, frivolous candidates or commercial interests would flood Londoners' post boxes with leaflets in support of their businesses. The hon. Lady represents a London constituency. Was she aware of that happening during the European elections, when similar circumstances prevailed in that London was treated as a region and there was a free post?

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait Ceidwadwyr, Beckenham

The hon. Gentleman has picked up on another point that I was going to make. During my by-election, when one expects frivolous candidates, there were none, apart from the British National party. Therefore, I suggest that the idea that there are always frivolous candidates, and that the organisation of these expenses is designed to eliminate them, is a fantasy to bolster Ministers' confused arguments. I can understand their confusion. Last Saturday, I campaigned with our prospective candidate for the assembly in a nice, respectable, Conservative part of Beckenham—[Interruption.] The Minister would do well to listen to this. Reaction in that area suggested that people would vote for Steve Norris or, in fewer numbers, for—whisper his name—the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). Not a single person mentioned the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) or the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson).

When I told people that I was accompanying their prospective assembly candidate, the usual reaction was, "What's the assembly?" If there is any strong argument for free post, the understandable ignorance of the London electorate about the assembly's existence is it. There is no evidence that ordinary voters even know that there will be an assembly. I hope that the Government do not decide to solve that problem by themselves advertising the assembly. That would be an even greater travesty of democracy. We need to allow all prospective candidates for the assembly to benefit from a mailshot, just as the candidates for mayor should.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Llafur, Wimbledon

Did the hon. Lady remind her constituents on the doorstep that her party is profoundly antagonistic towards London government? Did she tell them that her party abolished the Greater London council and did not want these elections to happen? In opposing the motion, does she not intend to bring about a situation in which we have no election at all to the London authority?

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait Ceidwadwyr, Beckenham

If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is suggesting that a mailshot would put people off voting for the assembly. We have all argued that the opposite would be the case. The Minister would be rash to ignore the arguments advanced in favour of democracy for all Londoners and for residents of all the other cities in which the Government propose to introduce mayors. Candidates for mayors in other cities will have huge fund-raising requirements if they are to stand. In some less-well-off areas, I can see people being deterred from standing by the sums that will have to be raised if the electorate is to be reached. I beg the Government to add to their proposals for mayors of other cities the implications of what they are doing in Greater London.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Ceidwadwyr, Ryedale

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way as it means that I shall not need to detain the House with a speech. Her last point is extremely strong. The hon. Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) said that this matter goes wider than London. Does my hon. Friend agree that if we are to have regional assemblies, which many Opposition Members do not want, there should surely be free postal delivery in Yorkshire, the south-west and the west midlands, just as there was in Scotland and Wales?

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait Ceidwadwyr, Beckenham

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. He points up the confusion that lies at the heart of the proposal not to provide a mailshot for the mayoral and assembly candidates. The Government ought to think hard about this matter, and they will have an opportunity to do so when the orders are defeated in the House of Lords. They must think hard about the role of the mayor and the assembly in our constitution.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 262, Noes 168.

Division No. 77][12.59 am
Abbott, Ms DianeCampbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Ainger, NickCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Ainsworth, Robert (Covtry NE)Campbell—Savours, Dale
Alexander, DouglasCann, Jamie
Allen, GrahamCaplin, Ivor
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Casale, Roger
Atkins, CharlotteCaton, Martin
Austin, JohnCawsey, Ian
Banks, TonyChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Barnes, HarryClapham, Michael
Barron, KevinClark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Bayley, HughClark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bermingham, GeraldClark, Paul (Gillingham)
Berry, RogerClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Best, HaroldClarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Betts, CliveClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Blackman, LizClelland, David
Blizzard, BobCoaker, Vernon
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulCoffey, Ms Ann
Borrow, DavidCohen, Harry
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Coleman, Iain
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Colman, Tony
Bradshaw, BenConnarty, Michael
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Browne, DesmondCorbett, Robin
Buck, Ms KarenCousins, Jim
Burden, RichardCox, Tom
Burgon, ColinCranston, Ross
Butler, Mrs ChristineCrausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Lepper, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Leslie, Christopher
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Levitt, Tom
Dalyell, TamLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Darvill, KeithLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Davidson, IanLinton, Martin
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
Dawson, HiltonMcCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Dismore Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian HMacdonald, Calum
Doran, FrankMcDonnell, John
Dowd, JimMcFall, John
Drew, David
Edwards, HuwMcGuire, Mrs Anne
Efford, CliveMackinlay, Andrew
Ennis, JeffMcNamara, Kevin
Etherington, BillMcNulty, Tony
Fisher, Mark
Flint, CarolineMacShane, Denis
Flynn, PaulMactaggart, Fiona
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)McWalter, Tony
Fyfe, MariaMcWilliam, John
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, BarryMahon, Mrs Alice
Gerrard, NeilMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Gibson, Dr IanMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, PaulMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Gordon, Mrs EileenMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Martlew, Eric
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Maxton John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, JohnMeacher, Rt Hon Michael
Hain, PeterMeale, Alan
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Merron, Gillian
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, DavidMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Healey JohnMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)Miller, Andrew
Hepburn, StephenMitchell, Austin
Heppell, John
Hesford, StephenMoffatt, Laura
Hill, KeithMoonie, Dr Lewis
Hoey, KateMoran, Ms Margaret
Hood, JimmyMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, KelvinMountford, Kali
Hoyle, LindsayMudie, George
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)Mullin, Chris
Humble, Mrs JoanMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, JohnMurphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Iddon, Dr BrianMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Illsley, EricNaysmith, Dr Doug
Jamieson DavidO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)O"Neill, Martin
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Organ, Mrs Diana
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Perham, Ms Linda
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kemp, FraserPickthall, Colin
Kidney, DavidPike, Peter L
Kilfoyle, PeterPlaskitt, James
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr AshokPollard, Kerry
Ladyman, Dr StephenPond, Chris
Laxton, BobPope, Greg
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, GwynTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Purchase, KenTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms JoyceTemple—Morris, Peter
Quinn, LawrieThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Radice, Rt Hon GilesThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rammell, BillTimms, Stephen
Rapson, SydTipping, Paddy
Raynsford, NickTodd, Mark
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Touhig, Don
Rooker, Rt Hon JeffTrickett, Jon
Rooney, TerryTruswell, Paul
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Rowlands, TedTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Roy, FrankTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Ruane, ChrisTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Ruddock, JoanTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Sarwar, MohammadTynan, Bill
Savidge, MalcolmVis, Dr Rudi
Sawford, PhilWalley, Ms Joan
Sedgemore, BrianWatts, David
Simpson Alan (Nottingham S)Whitehead, Dr Alan
Singh, MarshaWicks, Malcolm
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Winnick, David
Southworth, Ms HelenWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Squire, Ms RachelWise, Audrey
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWoodward, Shaun
Steinberg, GerryWoolas, Phil
Stevenson, GeorgeWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Tellers for the Ayes:
Stinchcombe, PaulMr. Mike Hall and
Sutcliffe, GerryMr. Kevin Hughes.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Chidgey, David
Allan, RichardChope, Christopher
Amess, DavidClappison, James
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelClarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Baldry, TonyClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Ballard, JackieCollins, Tim
Beith, Rt Hon A JColvin, Michael
Bercow, JohnCotter, Brian
Beresford, Sir PaulCran, James
Blunt, CrispinCurry, Rt Hon David
Body, Sir RichardDavey, Edward (Kingston)
Boswell, TimDavies, Quentin (Grantham)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Day, Stephen
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaDorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Brady, GrahamDuncan Smith, Iain
Brake, TomEvans, Nigel
Brand, Dr PeterFaber, David
Brazier, JulianFabricant, Michael
Breed, ColinFallon, Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterFearn, Ronnie
Browning, Mrs AngelaFlight, Howard
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Foster, Don (Bath)
Burnett, JohnFox, Dr Liam
Burns, SimonFraser, Christopher
Burstow, PaulGate, Roger
Garnier, EdwardNicholls, Patrick
George, Andrew (St Ives)Norman, Archie
Gibb, NickOaten, Mark
Gill, ChristopherO'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Gillan, Mrs CherylÖpik, Lembit
Gorman, Mrs TeresaOttaway, Richard
Gray, JamesPage, Richard
Green, DamianPaice, James
Greenway, JohnPaterson, Owen
Grieve, DominicPickles, Eric
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchiePortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hammond, PhilipPrior, David
Harris, Dr EvanRandall, John
Hawkins, NickRedwood, Rt Hon John
Hayes, JohnRendel, David
Heald, OliverRobertson, Laurence
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon DavidRuffley, David
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Horam, JohnSt Aubyn, Nick
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Sanders, Adrian
Hughes, Simon (Southward N)Sayeed, Jonathan
Hunter, AndrewShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Soames, Nicholas
Jenkin, BernardSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Key, RobertSteen, Anthony
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Streeter, Gary
Kirkbride, Miss JulieStunell, Andrew
Kirkwood, ArchySwayne, Desmond
Laing, Mrs EleanorSyms, Robert
Lait, Mrs JacquiTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Lansley, AndrewTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Leigh, EdwardTaylor, Sir Teddy
Letwin, OliverThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Tonge, Dr Jenny
Lidington, DavidTownend, John
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterTredinnick, David
Livsey, RichardTrend, Michael
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Tyler, Paul
Llwyd, ElfynTyrie, Andrew
Loughton, TimWardle, Charles
Luff, PeterWaterson, Nigel
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnWebb, Steve
McIntosh, Miss AnneWelsh, Andrew
MacKay, Rt Hon AndrewWhitney, Sir Raymond
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidWhittingdale, John
Maclennan, Rt Hon RobertWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
McLoughlin, PatrickWilkinson, John
Madel, Sir DavidWillis, Phil
Malins, HumfreyWilshire, David
Maples, JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Tellers for the Noes:
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)Mr. Peter Atkinson and
Moss, MalcolmSir Robert Smith.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the draft Greater London Authority (Election Expenses) Order 2000, which was laid before this House on 3rd February, he approved.