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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Clause 5 sets out the limits of RDAs' powers. Subsection (3) refers to the agencies' remit to provide housing. RDAs will not be housing bodies and may only facilitate the regeneration of housing or acquire existing housing on a temporary basis for their own relocated staff.

However, Amendment No. 23, like Amendment No. 22, would remove those limitations. As a result, RDAs would be able to provide housing for any reason, provided that it was incidental to their main purposes. We do not wish the agencies to become housing bodies. Housing is already provided in the public sector through local authorities, housing associations and private landlords. We do not feel the need to create another housing provider. However, in agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, we appreciate that in a few cases there may be a need for the agencies to provide housing on a temporary basis for their staff.

In addition, the transferring bodies may have a facilitating role. English Partnership, for example, aids the provision of housing by providing sites suitable for development. That is why we have provided the limited power in the Bill. We see no case for enabling RDAs to provide housing on a permanent rather than on a temporary basis, or for enabling them to create new housing accommodation.

The noble Baroness asked whether it would be open to RDAs to take any further action, perhaps by providing financial assistance to public/private partnerships to regenerate an area by building residential accommodation. It may be helpful if I confirm that that is the case. The restriction in Clause 5(3) relates to the provision of housing by an RDA as a landlord. It does not prevent an RDA from facilitating the provision of housing by others. RDAs will have the same powers in relation to facilitating the provision of housing as English Partnership. We envisage them having a similar role.

Amendment No. 34 would provide that guidance and directions on RDA strategies could deal with the availability of housing in an RDA's area. There are three objections to Amendment No. 34. First, there is a point of principle. I am not attracted by the idea of spelling out in minute detail the guidance and directions given by the Secretary of State to the RDAs. Clause 7(2) provides an umbrella for any guidance that the Secretary of State may wish to give and sets out only broad categories.

Secondly, subsection (3) is not an appropriate place for adding this sort of detail as it relates to geographical areas, not subject areas, on which guidance can be given.

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Thirdly, it is unnecessary to amend the Bill this way. We must not forget that at the regional level housing issues are already addressed in the regional planning guidance. RDAs will need to have regard to regional planning guidance when they formulate their strategies. Therefore they will consider the housing policies set out in the RPG and how these will impact on their own functions. I would therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw these amendments.

8 p.m.

Baroness Maddock: I thank the Minister for her answer. As to the first amendment, the removal of the words in the middle make absolutely no difference. We are in agreement; we just disagree about the way we interpret the words on the page. I agree that we are anxious to enable the RDA to have powers that are incidental to anything else it might be doing and that it is not held back because it has to get permission from somewhere or simply cannot do something. It is semantics, and I shall not press that at the moment.

As to Amendment No. 34, the Minister had three objections. One was the principle that it was minute detail. I do not think I have described in minute detail what should be in this Bill with regard to housing. I have merely said what is absolute common sense--something with which we fail with too often in this country--that housing and economic development are inextricably linked. This brings that principle into the Bill. I agree with the Minister--and I nearly said it in my opening comments but I thought it better to leave something for the Minister to do--that this is not an appropriate place to put this in the Bill. I appreciate that. In my opening remarks I said that we were merely trying to get an indication from the Government that they appreciated the point we were making. I am disappointed that they do not seem quite to appreciate the point.

We need to return to this again at a later stage of the Bill. It is certainly necessary somewhere in the Bill for it to be stated that regional development agencies, in their strategies, recognise the importance of key workers in their region. In any key development on the economic front, the people working there should have appropriate housing. We should plan for appropriate housing to go with the economic development strategies.

I am sure we will return to this issue at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Delegation of functions by Ministers]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 24:


Page 3, line 2, after ("delegate") insert ("the exercise of").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 24 and will speak also to Amendment No. 28 grouped with it. The group also includes Amendments Nos. 25, 27 and 29 in the names of other noble Lords. My two amendments will probably be the shortest in substance in the group.

The first amendment is to suggest that delegation by the Minister should not be delegation of his or her function but of the exercise of that function. I apologise

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for being so picky. It probably confirms the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, about the lawyer influence.

The second amendment deals with the question of revocation of a delegation. It suggests that delegation should only be revoked after consultation with the agencies in question. Earlier parts of Clause 6 provide for the agreement of the agencies concerned in various circumstances. It can only be sensible if an agency which has been exercising the function has the opportunity to make its points to the Minister before it loses that function.

Lord Bowness: I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 25 and 29 within this group standing in my name. In setting up these new bodies we should recognise that they have no democratic accountability other than to Parliament through the Secretary of State. Perhaps that clarifies my view of regional development agencies for the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. It is a delusion to suggest that they are local bodies because, as this Bill is drawn, local communities will have any input only by virtue or the grace and favour of the Secretary of State.

The Bill creates bodies which are his creatures and gives to them certain functions under Clause 4. I would suggest that those functions should be strictly adhered to. It should not be possible for the Secretary of State, at the stroke of an administrative pen, to vary these. It may well be that I am seeing more in this clause than actually exists. No doubt the Minister will advise me if that be the case.

If the Government will not concede that the functions should be restricted to the functions of the RDAs, as on the face of the Bill, I hope that they will then agree with the second of my amendments. At the very least Parliament, to whom the Secretary of State is answerable, should be told that the functions of one of the principal Ministers answerable to it have been delegated to one or other bodies.

While we are discussing this, perhaps the Minister can assist the Committee--or at least assist me--with the precise meanings of the wordings in Clause 6(4). It is not clear to me what are the functions that will not require the regional development agencies' consent. Clause 6(4)(a) refers to that. We are talking there about no variation of a delegation being made without the agreement of the regional development agency unless, in the first place, it did not require that agreement. Where are we on that? Are we supposed to refer back to Clause 6(3) which says that no delegation may be made without agreement unless it is made to all of them?

In that case I am lost by Clause 6(4)(b) because it then talks about no variations being made without agreement unless it did not require that agreement in the first place, and a corresponding variation of every corresponding delegation to not all the other regional development agencies--as would appear logical from Clause 6(3)--but to another regional development agency is made at the same time. Are we talking about subsection (4)(b) applying only where it refers to one or more?

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I hope that we will hear from the Minister about the eligible functions of the Secretary of State. Apart from a reference in Clause 6(2)(a) which tells us what is not eligible, it would appear that anything the Secretary of State decides is eligible may be delegated according to Clause 6(2)(b). That leaves available for delegation a great range of powers which the Secretary of State currently exercises. I shall not take up the time of the Committee by going through all the powers of the Secretary of State, even if I could bring them all to mind. But may we have an assurance, for example, that the allocation of revenue and capital between individual local authorities within the area of an RDA will not be delegated? Can we be sure that, although planning has been withdrawn from the Bill, the Secretary of State cannot delegate his final powers of confirmation on the outcome of planning inquiries? There may be better examples, but those are examples of important functions that the Secretary of State exercises. We ought to know whether or not it is ever envisaged, or indeed whether it would be possible as the Bill is drawn, that delegation of such matters will be made.


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