City of London (Ward Elections) Bill (By Order) — 24 Feb 1999
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Many things in the City of London have a very long history. The local electoral system dealt with in the Bill is certainly one of them. In recent times, the shortcomings of the system have been the subject of some criticism--shortcomings that have been recognised by the City corporation itself.
Dealing with those shortcomings legislatively has, however, been less straightforward, but it is what the corporation seeks to do in the measure. It does so in the context that none of the political parties now has a policy of abolishing the corporation, so the issue is one of reform and of how the City's various interests may be more evenly represented.
Although the Bill is corrective in nature, it would be quite wrong to infer that local government in the City has failed to work. The reverse is the case. The common council, which discharges the local authority functions in the City, is widely credited for its innovative activities. Indeed, one of the foundations of the success of the City as the leading international financial centre is the support that is given by its own dedicated local authority, to which the present Prime Minister testified in a lecture in the City in September 1996.
The corporation's support for democratic rights also has a long history. This speech is not the occasion for that trawl through history, but it is perhaps worth recalling that the passage of the Great Reform Bill of 1832 through the House followed strident petitions to Parliament from the City civic urging those reforms.
The last royal commission on London local government, which sat for three years between 1957 and 1960--perhaps I should declare an interest and say that it
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was appointed by my father--recognised the distinct nature of local government in the City, and recommended its retention.
That was 110 years ago--the man who asked the question was my grandfather. Alas, I did not know him--he died before I was born. However, he would turn in his grave if I did not speak on the matter to which he devoted his life.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--
The House divided: Ayes 198, Noes 91.
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