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Lord Mottistone: I hope that it does not happen again.

Lord Whitty: So far as it is within my gift I shall try to ensure that such a grievous error does not happen again. I apologise to the citizens of the Isle of Wight.

Members of the Committee also raised the question of East Anglia. Clearly the boundaries of East Anglia have been a matter of dispute from Saxon times onwards. It is by no means definite that the headquarters of the regional development agency would be in Bedford, which incidentally tends to regard itself as an eastern town and historically has had great ties with the rest of East Anglia. For example, the main part of the government offices in East Anglia are in Cambridge, which was recognised as being in one of the central counties of East Anglia.

There will be difficulties with boundary areas. But if we tell the people in the metropolitan parts of Essex and Hertfordshire that they are part of London, they will not treat those comments kindly. I suspect that they would much rather be regarded as part and parcel of East Anglia, even if there are disparate interests within East Anglia. Clearly there are more urbanised and more rural areas, but the development of industry across East Anglia in recent years has been remarkable. It is no longer solely or even primarily composed of agricultural counties, even in Norfolk and Suffolk.

We believe that the area we designated has a reasonable coherence and is able to be treated as a whole. Again, I reiterate that certain points--for example the Thames Gateway, the Essex part of the eastern region--would probably co-operate with London rather than with the south-eastern region.

I hope that what I conveyed is not absolutism. These boundaries are not ideal and perfect for all times. We have a means of changing them. They do not pre-empt any other boundaries. They are the most sensible suggestion with which we can come forward within the timescale set for the RDAs. A lot of people, businesses and local authorities in the regions are expecting us to deliver. Further delay on the lines suggested by the amendment would not be sensible and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw it.

Lord Bowness: I thank the Minister for his reply. I suppose one cannot be surprised and disappointed at the same time. I am disappointed in his response. The

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speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and my noble friend Lord Mottistone, eloquently indicated the difficulties of drawing boundaries.

I acknowledge the boundaries but I do not feel that the Minister has given to the Committee a satisfactory explanation--other than as a matter of administrative convenience--as to why the regional development agencies which exist to serve local communities and to develop local economies should automatically follow the government offices' boundaries themselves. Indeed, it was interesting that the Minister, when he talked of the impending RDAs--I may not quote him precisely--brought rivalries together; difficulties that already existed. The fact that one acknowledges that those kinds of rivalries and differences are being forced together by virtue of this Bill into one specific area of operation indicates that those areas are not correct. They are not necessarily the groups and communities that will work naturally and closely together.

I believe that in matters of economic development, which will be a vital part of the operation of those organisations, to be able to work with one's neighbours is important. It is working with one's neighbours which will overcome political differences that may exist. By and large local governments will get along with their neighbours, whatever the political persuasion of those various authorities. However, when we put together in one grouping disparate interests and rivalries, trouble will come.

It is extremely unfortunate that we will have to rely on review after a number of years of operation--and a great deal of cost in unscrambling what we have done by virtue of this Bill--rather than seeking within a time limit to establish reasonable boundaries for regional development agencies covering reasonable communities of interest.

I am grateful to the Minister for the clarification which he gave in relation to the present position regarding the agencies and the chairman. I cannot accept all that he said. I shall consider it further. It may be that we shall wish to return to this at a later stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 5 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 2 [Constitution]:

Lord Bowness moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 1, line 17, at end insert ("and the Secretary of State shall include in his appointments to each agency persons who hold office as elected councillors for local authorities within the area of the agency.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment to Clause 2 is one which we consider to be extremely important. In moving Amendment No. 6 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8.

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In the preface to the consultation paper Local Democracy and Community Leadership, the following fine words are found:


    "[The Government's] agenda is the review of local democratic government, leading local communities and serving local people. We want councils to gain a new democratic legitimacy. We want them to follow new ways of working and to adopt new disciplines. We want councils, renewed in this way, to have the new powers they need to lead their communities".
The first thing we do to achieve that is to create powerful regional bodies with powers to intervene in a whole range of different functions previously the preserve of local government. What is more, we will not even put on the face of the Bill local government's right to representation on those new bodies. The right to representation rests with the Secretary of State. Even if the Secretary of State appoints members of local government to the board, it will not be the choice of the local authorities in the area; it will be centrally determined.

How many local government members are about to be appointed? I do not know whether the Minister is able to tell the Committee. We heard something of the processes which have been going on while the House was waiting to debate this Committee stage. Local government is the democratic element in its specific area. The different authorities within the area of an RDA are the democratic element for the area as a whole. Even with the current levels of turnout at elections, they can claim to be the most democratic institutions in an area. Certainly they will be more democratic than a regional development agency established, directed and guided by ministerial powers.

In my view, it is right that that quality should be realised by ensuring that local government representation is a matter of right, not patronage. Indeed, I should like to see the minimum number of members as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. Perhaps I am not so ambitious in my wishes in this matter; I am prepared to accept that to impose overall numbers may impose difficulties. I should like to see the members appointed by local government within the area.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is included in the grouping with Amendment No. 2. While I am on my feet, perhaps I may deal with the question of the second part of his amendment which I believe many people would support; namely, that the retention of membership of the regional development agencies by those who are originally appointed as local government members to represent local government on the regional development agency boards, should cease if they cease to be local government members.

I understand that the Minister may tell us this afternoon that people will be appointed for their particular expertise. However, I suggest that it is a question of picking local government members for the particular expertise that they can bring, while also representing the interests of local government on an RDA. For the reasons I indicated in speaking to Amendment No. 16, local government is different from all the other interests which people will seek to have represented on an RDA. Local government members are

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particularly important because they provide a democratic element. It is nonsense to suggest that as a result of elections those people who have been appointed to an RDA in a particular area to represent the interests of local government might cease, for whatever reason, to be members of local government and yet remain members of an RDA, occupying places, however informally allocated, that the Secretary of State is reserving for local government.

I urge the Government to include in the Bill the right of local government to be represented. I support the proposal that those local government representatives remain members of an RDA only while they remain in office or within a reasonable time limit of their ceasing to be local government representatives. I beg to move.

Lord Dormand of Easington: Before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he will comment on the composition of those bodies which were dissolved as recently as three or four months ago. I am referring to the urban development corporations which, as the noble Lord will know, were part of the flagship scheme of the previous government. There is no question about the fact that they did some excellent work. In some ways they resemble the RDAs; for example, in helping to develop the areas concerned. I was a member of the Teesside Urban Development Corporation which faced problems of dereliction and lack of jobs.

In view of the noble Lord's eloquence about the need to have local government representatives, I must point out that there were no direct local government representatives on urban development corporations in those days. If the noble Lord is saying that that situation would be good now, I should have thought that it would have been good for the past 11 years. During that period members of local authorities served on such bodies although they were not appointed as elected councillors. If I understood the noble Lord correctly, that was the essence of his point. Would he like to comment on that?


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