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Lord Graham of Edmonton: Before the noble Lord sits down, I am heartened by the flexibility and the range of options offered to meet my point. I shall certainly not press Amendment No. 8. However, I beg the noble Lord to understand that the persons who will be appointed to represent local authorities will be there only because they are at the time members of a local authority. Yes, there is a range of qualifications. But the key qualification is that they are nominated by local government in their region--in which case, if that peg falls, the matter is worthy of deeper consideration than merely looking at a timescale.

Lord Whitty: I recognise that important qualification for the job. On the other hand, that is not an absolute situation either. Neither the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, nor the noble Lord himself suggested that people should resign if the local authority that has originally nominated them changes political control. That introduces an entirely different argument. If they were totally

7 Oct 1998 : Column 463

representative of the particular authority which had first put their names forward, that would be the logic of the situation. I do not believe that anyone is pressing us to accept that. I shall take account of my noble friend's comments and we shall consider these matters. As my honourable friend Dick Caborn indicated, to accept such situations would require Ministers to react to particular circumstances. These amendments are drafted in absolute terms and that would not help the representation of local authorities in the RDA process.

Lord Bowness: I thank the Minister for his observations on the amendments. We shall certainly return to the question of resignation with Amendment No. 12, to be moved by my noble friend Lady Miller. I regret the response to proposed Amendment No. 6. It is not expressed in absolute terms. It merely asks that,

    "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".
That is not prescriptive. It would not take up a set number of appointments. It leaves great flexibility for the Secretary of State in regard to the numbers. However, it recognises the particular and special place of local government.

Some Members of this place have sought to draw parallels between my proposal and what happened under the UDCs and the previous government. As I have said, I am not responsible for answering for the previous government. However, matters have moved on, in the sense that local government of all political persuasions has become much more receptive to working in partnership with the private sector and other sectors. Economic development is to be found in local authorities across the country. The UDCs were set up at a time when there was a singular lack of activity. The position is now quite different. My amendment seeks that the particular and special place of local government--whose prerogatives are in many ways threatened by this Bill--should be recognised. In their White Paper, Building Partnerships for Prosperity, the Government recognised, and should recognise this afternoon by accepting this amendment, the special case for local government.

Chapter 10, on the structure and accountability of RDAs, states at paragraph 10.6:

    "We expect to draw members from"--
and a number of different interests are listed, including local authorities. Paragraph 10.7, however, under the heading, "Local Representation", states in the Secretary of State's own words:

    "An exception to this approach arises in relation to local government. We intend that, while RDAs will be ultimately accountable to Ministers, they should be responsive to the communities which they serve. For RDAs, we consider that this requires a clear, predetermined level of involvement of local government on their boards as well as a mechanism through which the RDA should consult regional groupings of local authorities and others".

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I ask the Committee to make clear on the face of the Bill the,

    "predetermined level of involvement of local government"
by making it clear that among those members appointed to the boards of RDAs shall be members of local government. I seek the opinion of the Committee on that point.

4.56 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 98.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Aldington, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Bath, M.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berners, B.
Biffen, L.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Caldecote, V.
Calverley, L.
Coleridge, L.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Ely, Bp.
Falkland, V.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gainford, L.
Geddes, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harrowby, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Hereford, Bp.
Holderness, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jopling, L.
Kenyon, L.
Kintore, E.
Knutsford, V.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Ludford, B.
Lyell, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Middleton, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monk Bretton, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Noel-Buxton, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Redesdale, L.
Rees, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Seccombe, B. [Teller.]
Smith of Clifton, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stewartby, L.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Tordoff, L.
Waddington, L.
Wakefield, Bp.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.


Ailesbury, M.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blease, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardie, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Headfort, M.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Lytton, E.
McConnell, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Orme, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stallard, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thornton, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7 Oct 1998 : Column 465

5.6 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 1, line 17, at end insert--
("( ) At least one member appointed under subsection (1) shall have direct experience in rural matters.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 7, I shall, with the permission of the House, speak also to Amendment No. 9. I approach this with some trepidation, having heard the arguments over the previous amendment. Amendment No. 7 would ensure that at least one member of the RDA had direct experience of rural matters. I am simply asking the Government to give effect to the undertaking which they gave in the White Paper at paragraph 4.22 that:

    "each RDA Board will include at least one member who can contribute a strong rural perspective".
Despite that undertaking, there is at present nothing on the face of the Bill to guarantee that that will happen. If we must have RDAs and all the extra bureaucracy that I fear they will of necessity impose upon us, let us at least make that bureaucracy work as effectively and, above all, as equitably as possible. My Amendments Nos. 7 and 9 attempt to achieve that in respect of all who live in communities in rural areas.

7 Oct 1998 : Column 466

I note that the response to the consultation paper by the Consortium of Rural TECs stated that:

    "There are concerns that the RDA model may increase the focus on inner cities and fail to address the needs of the communities in rural areas. There are fears that RDAs will in practice be urban-based bodies and will focus on urban issues".

It is vital that the creation of RDAs should not lead to the marginalisation of rural areas in decision-making on such vital matters as economic support, housing, transport and associated services. There is a very real danger that the particular needs of rural areas may not be appreciated and therefore will go unmet.

During the passage of the Bill through another place the Government spoke of their commitment to the countryside and its prosperity. By my modest amendment I am giving the Government an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and commitment to the countryside.

I feel that rural areas would benefit from the appointment of at least one member with direct experience in rural matters. Bearing in mind the discussion that the Committee has just heard on the previous grouping of amendments, I stress that I am not arguing in favour of having a rural representative. I understand that those who are appointed to the board should not consider themselves as either delegates or representatives; they must act for the benefit of the whole region. But it is important that specific knowledge of, and expertise in, rural matters is available to every board. I note that in the brief circulated to your Lordships today the CPRE has signalled its support for my amendment.

I am not proposing a principle that is new to advisory or executive-appointed groups. There are already many organisations accountable to government whose constitution states that there must be a member who is appointed after consultation with specific groups on the basis that that member will bring the expertise vested within the group to the decision-making of the appointed body. The most notable example that comes to mind is that of the position enjoyed by the trades unions. The Women's National Commission, upon which in the past I have served as a representative of the Conservative Women's Committee, is comprised of 50 people who advise the Government on the impact of legislation upon women. Of those 50 members, five must be appointed after consultation with the trades unions. As to the Social Security Advisory Committee, one out of the 12 members must be appointed only after consultation with the trade unions. I could go on but the Committee is aware that the public appointments handbook is one-and-a-half inches thick and I shall not test noble Lords' patience too far by continuing to quote from it.

In all these cases, the trade union appointee is expected not to represent the trade union or to act as a delegate on specific issues but to bring his expertise to bear on the decisions made by the appointed body. My experience as a non-trade union member on both the bodies I have cited is that the trade union members have brought their expertise without rancour or partiality to the decision-making process. I believe that if a person with direct experience of rural matters were appointed

7 Oct 1998 : Column 467

to the board he could bring his special expertise to the decision-making process without acting as either a representative or delegate.

The Minister in another place argued that one of the reasons why the Government should not keep to the commitment in the White Paper by putting it on the face of the Bill was that the amendment would require the London RDA to have a board member with a strong rural perspective. The Minister said that that was not the Government's intention. I regret it if it is not the intention of the Government so to appoint someone to the London board. I do not accept that that would be a relevant argument for rejecting my amendment if the intention is to try to exclude London. After all, every RDA will have a different composition in terms of blend and rural interests. London, like all regions, is different. But I argue that it is still relevant to have a member of the London board with direct experience of rural matters because, as a region, London has an impact upon the surrounding rural areas as green belt meets countryside. I grew up in just such an area. I was very much an urban-minded suburban person who lived only 100 yards from the nearest farmland. I am sure that any area such as that would benefit in its decision-making from the participation of someone with direct experience of rural matters.

I began by saying that Amendment No. 7 was modest. I hope that the Committee will agree with that. I recognise that I could have been more ambitious. I am aware that some of my noble friends would have liked me to be more ambitious and propose that more than one member should be appointed from those with direct experience of rural matters. But I have decided to remain modest in my proposal today by simply asking the Government to do what they said they would do but have not yet done.

I should like to speak far more briefly to Amendment No. 9, which is grouped with Amendment No. 7. Subsection (3) of Clause 2 requires the Secretary of State to consult relevant interested parties before making appointments to the RDA, bearing in mind the need to reflect an appropriate balance of regional interests in the composition of the boards. Amendment No. 9 would require the Secretary of State to consult individuals and organisations representative of the economic, social and environmental concerns of local communities in rural areas before making an appointment to the board.

As it stands, the subsection provides that the Secretary of State shall consult local authorities, employers and employees but no other groups are as yet specifically mentioned. The Secretary of State is directed simply to consult anybody else whom he considers to be appropriate. I believe it is essential that there should be a provision on the face of the Bill for the Secretary of State to consult among those other groups whom he considers to be appropriate--people who have special knowledge of the needs of communities in rural areas--before committing himself to making appointments to the boards. I believe that Amendment No. 7 is modest and Amendment No. 9 even more so. I beg to move.

7 Oct 1998 : Column 468

5.15 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: These amendments cover a fairly wide range of rural and green matters and border on Amendment No. 16 in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, with which the Committee will deal a little later. Probably every Member of the Committee agrees that it is important that the rural identity is recognised and looked after. In this country we have a very strong rural identity. The fact that at the moment it feels rather neglected, as we saw from the Countryside March, or is extremely poor, as we recognise from the falling prices of pork and lamb and from seeing small farmers go bankrupt literally month by month, means that we must do our very best to ensure that the Bill gives full voice to the countryside.

Last Friday and Saturday I visited the Northumberland national park. That area is bordered by large conurbations, one of them Newcastle, with enormous areas of extremely attractive wilderness and marginal farming land where excellent farmers try to scratch a living from holdings that are not succeeding in the present climate. The great temptation of regional authorities, dominated as they are bound to be by the great conurbations, will be to neglect these rural areas. It is important that we give them the best possible representation.

The Government have argued, first, that rural representation of a high order goes without saying and, secondly, that to write it into the Bill tends to sideline or "ghettoise" it and relieves other members of the authority of their responsibility for it. I do not believe that the second argument has much merit, but I look forward with very great interest to the response of the Government. I hope that the Government regard this as tremendously important. Whether or not we support these amendments will depend upon the assurances that the Government give that the countryside will be looked after.

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