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Motions

(A)      To consider a Motion, submitted by Sir Mark Boleat, in relation to a second referendum concerning membership of the European Union.

 

(B)      To consider a Motion submitted by Munsur Ali, concerning the revocation of an Honorary Freedom.

Minutes:

Motion – “Given –

  • That the terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union negotiated by the British government seem unlikely to be approved by Parliament.
  • That those terms are far removed from what was proposed by the official Leave campaign during the Referendum and ministerial statements after the Referendum.
  • That the Prime Minister has indicated that if the exit terms that have been negotiated are not accepted the alternatives are exit without a deal and no Brexit.
  • That opinion surveys show growing support for a referendum on whether to approve the deal or remain in the European Union.
  • That while the financial services industry is well placed to handle Brexit it is doing so only by moving functions from London and the rest of the country, which will mean a significant loss of jobs and tax revenue in the longer term, and substantial damage to London’s position as an international business centre.
  • That the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and a number of London boroughs have indicated support for a referendum.

 

This Court supports the holding of a referendum on the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union with the electorate being given a choice that includes remaining in the European Union.”

 

Sir Mark introduced the Motion, referencing the resolution approved by the Court at its March 2016 meeting where Members supported the United Kingdom remaining a member of the European Union. Sir Mark explained that following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, there was still no clarity as to what Britain’s relationship would be with the European Union and this would have an adverse impact on London and the rest of the country as a significant amount of business would move away from London.

 

Sir Mark proposed that a second referendum should be called on the matter, noting that the deal as set out by the Prime Minister bore no relation to what was presented in 2016 and there was now further information provided as to what the implications would be for Britain leaving the European Union. Sir Mark commented on the issue of whether the City of London Corporation should be involved in the debate, advising that for the City Corporation to take the view that this was a matter best left to national politicians would undervalue its role and status. Whilst the City Corporation was not technically a local authority, it is considered as one which has a national and international remit, the London Assembly along with a number of other London Boroughs support a referendum and the City Corporation should also express its view, not just because it has responsibilities for its electorate but for the people employed in its financial services and related industries.

 

 

The Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee responded to the comments made explaining that she would not support this Motion because of the special voice of the City Corporation which has the responsibility to speak for the jobs and prosperity in the square mile and sector, The Chair noted that the City Corporation was seen as speaking for a critical part of the UK economy and she was not aware of any businesses or trade associations asking the City Corporation to call for a second referendum. The Chair noted that the City Corporation regularly speaks on matters of national interest and political importance and its views were informed by research, consultation with the sector, the regulators, and other stakeholders, not politics. The Chair raised her concern that the City Corporation’s voice would be diminished if it were to support this motion and may be viewed as prejudiced.

 

The Chair added that the London Boroughs referenced were party politically driven, were following party lines, and their interventions would be viewed as such. The Chair asked Members to consider regardless of their personal views, how best the voice of this City Corporation could be deployed when voting on this Motion and asked that keep to the pragmatic approach and not engage in politics.

 

 

The Court proceeded to debate the Motion.

 

During lengthy debate on the issue, a number of Members spoke in opposition to the Motion that the City Corporation support a second referendum, urging that a neutral stance be maintained. The following arguments were made in support of this viewpoint:

·         Some Members expressed the view that the City Corporation should not be indulging in party politics, this was a matter that should be left to Parliament and was not for this Court to debate. The public had voted for Brexit and the solutions should be found in Westminster and not be influenced by the Court.

·         Members added that the professional financial services sector had not asked the City Corporation to consider supporting a second referendum and the City Corporation should remain independent. To act like other party-political authorities would weaken the City Corporation’s position.

·         Several Members expressed the view that the public had already spoken, Brexit was one of the most divisive issues for the country and to have a second referendum would add further division and would be undemocratic. Certainty was needed, the public want the decision to be implemented and not continuing debate.

·         Members commented that if a second referendum were to take place, this would not be held until at least 2020 and would contribute in creating dissent and disorder. A second referendum would undermine the vote taken 18 months ago; people voted to leave and to support the Motion would be to disrespect the vote taken. 

·         This Motion could be viewed as a form of gesture politics, Members should instead be lobbying and consulting politicians. It was suggested that to hold a referendum now would be high risk, and if Members did want to support a second referendum, they should wait until there was further certainty from Parliament and this would reduce the risk.

·         A Member queried what benefit there would be for the Court to choose sides on this matter, the legacy of those who attempt to undermine the vote would result in a loss of credibility. People were told the results would be final and honoured and politicians are losing the respect of the public. It was suggested that the democratic option would be for a referendum to take place on the manner in which the way Britain leaves the European Union with a choice between the Prime Minister’s deal or via World Trade Organisation’s terms. This would mean the promise to the public would be kept and their choice respected.

·         It was suggested that as the City Corporation already has a Brexit strategy, to pass this Motion would undermine that and the credibility of the Chair of Policy and Resources and the Motion would not assist her in carrying out her role.

·         Whilst there was misinformation given as part of the Brexit campaign in 2016, there was misinformation on both sides, however this was part of the democratic process and occurs during general elections too. Elections should not be re-run because people do not like the vote. Several Members echoed this view.

 

A number of Members also took the opportunity to speak in support of the City Corporation supporting the referendum, arguing that it was important to do so. The following points were advanced in support of this viewpoint:

·         A Member spoke on behalf of the foreign national employees who worked within the banks and law firms located in the City and made a huge contribution to the London economy and the City’s global status yet were denied a vote on an issue which directly affected them. A second referendum would help those individuals, and this was an issue which the City should take a stand on and would be better business for its constituents.

·         Several Members spoke in support of a second referendum, noting the public was now better informed and aware of the terms of the deal Britain would be signing up to. The deal currently on the table represents a different proposition to what was originally proposed and to push this through without checking whether it was what people want would be undemocratic.

·         Whilst a new referendum would be divisive, so would the alternative. There had already been demonstrations and marches and if Parliament were to push through this deal, there would be more. Britain’s trading partners were watching the chaos and the only way to resolve this situation would be to give the people their democratic right to vote with remaining in the EU as an option.

·         Several Members spoke on behalf of City residents and businesses who Members had the duty to represent. Residents had expressed the view that the public was now in a better position to make an informed choice than in 2016 which would strengthen democracy and produce a more reliable expression of the will of the people. The message from businesses was equally clear, stop the chaos and prevent a no deal Brexit.

·         A Member responding to the view that this was a matter for Parliament  countered that Parliament was deadlocked and Britain divided. Businesses and residents supported a second referendum and this path would solve the deadlock.

·         A Member commented that as part of this Motion, the Court was asking for the people to have control and vote on the matter with the terms before them, people want to know what they are voting for. He added that what makes the City Corporation different is that Members are elected to represent the public and Members should not stand by but should stand behind this Motion and their voice would be heard by MPs. This was not party politics, but a chance to give control back to the people.

·         A Member raised the issue of staff retention as a result of the Brexit vote and the damage this would cause to the London and UK economy. The Member referenced a survey which had taken place where 50% of hospitality workers in London said they would leave as a result of the Brexit vote, as would 70% of high skilled workers in the younger age bracket, and those numbers might now be higher. The Member added that a number of big businesses headquartered in London were triggering plans to relocate to other European locations.

·         A Member responding to the discussion noted it had been reported that the financial and professional services sector had not asked the City Corporation to vote on this matter. However, the people who worked for those firms had sought out Members to ask that they back a second referendum. Members of Parliament were being harangued and abused and this was not time to be timid, but to take a bold decision. Members of the Court were far more connected to the workers in the square mile than in the past, and it was their interests that the Court should represent and support.

·         It was argued that this was not politicising, but was an issue which has and would continue to affect the people and firms within the square mile more than any other and the Court should take a view on this.

 

The Town Clerk advised the Court that there were still a number of Members who wished to speak and only three minutes remaining.

 

Motion – That, in accordance with Standing Order2(2) to suspend Standing Order 12(6), to allow for continued debate on this Motion. (Seconded by Vivienne LittleChild).

 

The Lord Mayor declared the Motion to be carried.

 

Discussion recommenced with Members expressing their views.

 

Once again, a number of Members spoke in opposition to the Motion that the City Corporation support a second referendum, and the following arguments were made in support of this viewpoint:

·         Some Members continued to argue this was not a matter for Members to decide. If there was a second refereudum that did not take place until 202, this would lead to greater undertainty, and to do this would be damaging. The matter should be resolved now and not prolonged.

·         This motion could only be seen as a pro-remain move and the Corporation should not take a position on this, it would blunt the Corporations credibility, relationships with businesses and ability to represent the City. If there were a second referendum, it could not undo what has passed over the past two years and from what has passed, the events of the last two years have led to us not being able to remain with the EU.

·         A Member noted that the opening remarks regarding this Motion had referenced the March court meeting of 2016. The Member reminded the Court, that this debate had taken place in two parts; with the first debate being a 60/40 decision as to whether the Court should adopt an opinion and there was not much further debate as much had been said, there can be disagreements as to how strong the final position was. At that stage, the mover of this Motion was the Chair of the Policy Committee and had the Committee’s support, but today the Chair does not support the Motion and Members should think of her position. The best thing to do would be to withdraw it, having heard the debate and mood of the Court, that is the thing to do. I would not like to predict the result of a second referendum, if people vote for an immediate leave on world trade terms, it’s a dangerous road you’re going down and I urge caution. Whilst the agreement so far is badly negotiated,

 

Members also took the opportunity to speak in support of the City Corporation supporting the referendum, and following points were expressed:

·         A Member commented that Brexit was a fundamental part of trade and it was therefore appropriate for the City to take a view. Businesses required certainty and no matter what the decision was, it would take time to resolve this matter and the question was what would give the most certainty. People have cont. to learn more about the European Union as time has passed and it would therefore be appropriate to once again take the view of the country.

·         A Member expressed the view that this was a bad result and now the country was on the cusp of final decisions and it was up to Members as to what should be done on behalf of those they represent. From the point of view of residents and city workers, there is a clear view that the City Corporation should support a second referendum as that is the only chance to remain with the European Union. The country would not be a global Britain, but rather a Little England. This is not a matter of normal negotiation where Members would always back the Chair of Policy and Resources, but this is a betrayal of the younger generation by the older generation.

 

 

Motion – That, in accordance with Standing Order 11(9), the Question be now put.(Lord, seconded by Tumbridge)

 

Upon the Question being put, the Lord Mayor declared the Motion to be carried.

 

The Town Clerk invited Sir Mark to close the debate.

 

Sir Mark addressed the points raised and noted that whilst some had argued this was not a matter for the City Corporation to debate, a large number of Members had spoken which demonstrated the strength of feeling on this matter. Sir Mark clarified that the Motion was simply for a referendum which includes as one of its options remaining in the European Union and did not seek to exclude any other option.

 

He noted that there had been much misinformation in the Brexit debate and the point that this could be said to be true of all politics. However, there was a difference between the referendum and the normal electoral process. In the referendum the winners simply walked away other than to argue that there should be no opportunity for the decision to be revisited.

 

Sir Mark commented on the views expressed that this was a party-political matter and that the City should not become involved in such matters. Sir Mark argued that this was not party political; the Labour and Conservative parties at present opposed to a referendum, and only the Liberal Democrats supported this.

 

Sir Mark noted the comments made regarding the views of financial institutions on the case for another referendum and that he had previously made the point that the interests of City of London Corporation and financial services industry were now different in respect of Brexit. Sir Mark disagreed with the suggestion that the City Corporation needed to be aligned with the industry and noted that the Association for Financial Markets in Europe, one of the major trade associations in the country, held its recent annual dinner in Paris.

 

Sir Mark concluded noting that another referendum would be divisive but Brexit itself had been divisive and if Britain were to leave without the people having a chance to vote on the deal it would be very divisive, particularly among young people whose future would be affected by this.

 

Upon the Motion being put, the Lord Mayor declared it to be lost. A division being demanded and granted, there appeared:-

 

For the Affirmative 31

 

ALDERMEN

 

Garbutt, J.

Gifford, Sir Roger

Graves, D. A.

Jones, G. P., Q.C.,

 

 

COMMONERS

 

Ali, M.

Anderson, R.K.

Anderson, T.A.

Bastow, A.M.

Bensted-Smith, N.M., J.P.

Boleat, Sir Mark

Bostock, M.

Broeke, T.

Everett, K.M. D.Sc.

Fairweather, Ms. A.H.

Fredericks, Ms, M.B.

Hill, C.

Holmes, Ms A.

Knowles-Cutler, A.

Levene, T.

Littlechild, Mrs V., J.P.

Lloyd Owen, N.

Pimlott, W.

Pritchard, J.P.

de Sausmarez, H.J.

Sayed, R.

Scott, J.G.S., J.P., B.A (Hons)

 

Bennett, J.A., Deputy

Cassidy, M.J., C.B.E., Deputy

 

Lord, C.E., O.B.E., J.P., Deputy

Sleigh, T., Deputy

Tomlinson, J., B.A., M.Sc., Deputy

 

 

Tellers for the affirmative – (Affirmative) Wendy Hyde and William Upton (Negative).

 

For the Negative 60

 

ALDERMEN

 

Edhem, E.

Gowman, Miss A.J.

Goyal, P.B., O.B.E., J.P.

 

Hailes, T.R., Sheriff

Howard, R.P.S.

Hughes-Penney, R.

Keaveny, V.T.

King, A.J.N., M.Sc.

Luder, I.D., B.Sc.(Econ)

Mainelli, Professor, M.R.

Parmley, Sir Alan

Russell, W.A.B.

Wootton, Sir David

Yarrow, Sir Alan

COMMONERS

 

Barr, A.R.M.

Barrow, D.

Bennett, P.G.

Chapman, J.D.

Duckworth, S.D’O., O.B.E.,D.L.

Dunphy, P.G.

Durcan, J.M.

Fernandes, Miss S.A.

Haines, C.W

Harrower, G.G

Hayward, C.M.

Hill, C.

Hudson, M.

Joshi, S.J.

 

 

Mayer, A.P.

Mayhew, J.P., M.A., M.B.A.

McMurtrie, A.S., J.P.

Mead, Mrs. W., O.B.E.

Moys, Mrs. S.D. 

Murphy, B.D.

Newman, Mrs, B.P., C.B.E.

Pearson, S.J.

Petrie, J.

Seaton, I.C.N.

Sells, O., Q.C.

Simons, J.L., M.Sc

Smith, G.M.

Tumbridge, J.R.

Wheatley, M.R.P.H.D.

 

Bottomley, K.D.F., Deputy

Bradshaw, D.J., Deputy

Chadwick, R.A.H., O.B.E., Deputy

 

Hoffman, T., Deputy

Ingham Clark, J., Deputy

James, Mrs C. M.A., Deputy

Jones, H.L.M., Deputy

 

McGuinness, Miss C., M.A., Deputy

Merrett, R.A., Deputy

Mooney, B.D.F., M.A. Deputy

Morris, H. F., Deputy

Nash, Mrs, J.C., O.B.E., Deputy

Pollard, J.H.G., Deputy 

Rogula, Miss E., Deputy

Thomson, J.M.D., Deputy

Woodhouse, P., Deputy

 

 

 

 

 

Tellers for the negative –John Fletcher (Negative) and Henry Colthurst  (Affirmative).

 

Whereupon the Lord Mayor declared the Motion to be lost.

 

Motion – “That this Honourable Court expresses its regret as the minority Rohingya population suffering persecution still await justice, especially as the international world continues to call for justice and most recently the call to bring the generals of the Myanmar army to justice for genocide.

 

This Court therefore resolves that:

 

1.    The Freedom Applications Committee commences, forthwith, the process to revoke the Honorary Freedom granted to Aung San Suu Kyi in May of 2017.

 

2.    The Freedom Applications Committee provides an update to the Court at the March meeting.”

 

Mr Ali introduced the Motion, thanking the Chairman of the Freedoms Applications Committee for his assistance in this matter and advised the Court that the Motion before Members was to action a process to revoke the Honorary Freedom awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi. Decisions to award and revoke a Freedom should be based on facts and Mr Ali explained that the facts were that Aung San Suu Kyi had failed to protect the Rohingya or speak out for them and had denied the genocide which took place. Mr Ali explained that Aung San Suu Kyi as the head of the country failed to protect her own people and Members should base their decision when voting on this Motion on facts and not speculation. Mr Ali advised that Aung San Suu Kyi no longer merited the Honorary Freedom awarded to her.

 

Alderman Sir David Wootton responded to the comments made and reiterated the point that treatment of the minority Rohingya population is appalling and must stop; they must be allowed to return to their country in safety and those responsible brought to justice. The Honourable Member set out the implications of Members’ voting, explaining that this Honourable Court had approved in September 2018 a process for removing an Honorary Freedom. If the Motion were to be passed the Freedoms Application Committee would move to inform the Honorary Freeman of the proposal to remove the Freedom, together with the reasons for the proposal, and invite their comments on it. The remainder of the defined process would then ensue. The passing of this Motion would start the process towards revocation. Alderman Sir David Wootton set out the reasons both for and against revocation and advised that he would not express a view on either side of the arguments and would be grateful if Members could during discussion cite the reasons behind their views, which could be communicated to the Honorary Freeman if a decision was made for revocation.

 

Discussion amongst Members ensued with Members expressing the following viewpoints:

·         Several Members expressed their sympathy for the Rohingya and that nothing could condone the horrific violence inflicted by the military, but commented that the City Corporation was an institution which took the long view. Consideration should be given to the 25 years of hard work which the Honorary Freeman had put as well as the courage displayed by this woman who sacrificed much  against the 25 months since her return to Burma. The City Corporation should not engage in gesture politics and concerns were raised that if the Motion were to be approved, the focus would be on Aung San Suu Kyi and not those responsible for the order of the acts. The City Corporation should instead seek to bring those individuals to account.

·         A Member added that the City Corporation should not be looking back through those who had received the award to try and rewrite history but should stand by the judgement made in the circumstances made. The point was raised that the City Corporation was not in receipt of the facts and did not know the constraints Aung San Suu Kyi may be under. The City Corporation should not jump to headline grabbing actions but instead should play the long view and it may be an act of ill judgement to rescind the Freedom under such circumstances.

·         A Member countered the argument made explaining that Members were not seeking to rewrite history, the atrocities were taking place now and this was not party political. A fact finding mission was conducted by the United Nations where it was found that Aung San Suu Kyi and her government had contributed to the atrocities and the Honorary Freeman had not used her political position to condemn the acts.

·         A Member advised that the award was made with the tacit approval of the Foreign Office and no wish from HM Government had been given to revoke the freedom and to do so would not save any lives, and would therefore be gesture politics and would take the focus away from those truly responsible for the atrocities.

·         A Member commented that the rules governing the award of Nobel Prizes allowed for them to be withdrawn and this individual had been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. It was added that there are other arguments being presented via the media and these were matters beyond the scope of the Court and Members should stick to matters where it has the authority and scope to speak.

·         A Member countered the argument regarding it being gesture politics, noting that to dismiss it as such would be to dismiss the award process. It was added that this was an issue of conscience and the question of whether this should have been awarded is of importance and recognised international bodies have named ASK as being partially responsible. Several Members commented that this was an honour erroneously given, a mistake was made and should be revoked.

·         A Member commented that the City Corporation should stand against genocide and this went to the heart of the relevance of the City Corporation.

·         A Member noted that there was a judgement to be made here, and Members were appalled by the events taking place, but the question was would this be an appropriate act.

·         A Member commented that the award of the Freedom had first been offered years before she had received it and there was much unknown about the situation in Burma which may reveal itself over time.

·         A Member commented this was a humanitarian crisis, and the Court has waited. A debate took place over a year ago, which has now elapsed and further atrocities have taken place. The City Corporation had a moral duty to take responsibility for its actions.

 

Motion – That, in accordance with Standing Order 11(9), the Question be now put.(Lord, seconded by Broeke)

 

Upon the Question being put, the Lord Mayor declared the Motion to be carried.

 

The Town Clerk invited Mr Ali to close the debate.

 

Mr Ali commented that it was a pleasure working with the Chairman of the Freedoms Application, the discussion had covered any additional he would have raised and thanked Members for their comments.

 

The Lord Mayor declared the Motion to be carried.

 

 

 

Supporting documents:

 


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