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Baroness Hamwee: I thank the Minister for his comments. I believe what he was saying in relation to Clause 25 and the number of regions amounted to, "This will not be because we say it will not be", about which I am rather sad. However, with regard to Amendment No. 69, I understand the point that he makes on the drafting. It was not what I intended and it would be wrong to pursue that amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

Lord Bowness moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 12, line 36, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: I have spoken to this amendment already. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I need to respond at this point to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness. The

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objection that we have to re-opening the question of the number of regions as distinct from relatively minor changes to the boundaries of those regions is that we believe that, in order for the development agencies to work, people must believe that they will be, broadly speaking, permanent areas. Otherwise we will have the local authorities, various business groups and other interests within those regions constantly pursuing the Secretary of State to exercise his discretion to create, for example, a regional development agency for the Isle of Wight, for Devon and Cornwall, Poole Harbour and Bournemouth. As a recent Dorset man I recall that Bournemouth has been in Dorset for some considerable time and we intend to keep it that way. One has different views about Bournemouth, but geographically and economically we wish to keep it in Dorset.

If we were to re-open the question of the number of regions, it would lead to local pressure groups trying to alter what has begun to be a constructive dialogue to make the RDAs work. Clearly, if this were a hidden agenda to create a regional assembly it would not be a very effective one. It requires primary legislation to set up regional assemblies in the sense the noble Lord means, and indeed as the Government intend at some stage in the future. That primary legislation could easily alter this primary legislation in order to make RDA areas fit an alternative structure for regional assembles. That point, therefore, is a red herring. The point is that the Government want to maintain that number of regions. They believe that that puts pressure on people to co-operate. That co-operation is beginning. If we remove that constraint some of that co-operation may be lost and that would not be to the benefit of the purposes of the Bill or the future development of many of our regions.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister seems to anticipate the response that might be needed if representations were made from different areas about changes to the regions. I do not think that it is proposed under the amendment that anybody other than the Secretary of State will be in a position to promote an order. I can understand that the Minister would like to keep down the amount of correspondence, but I am not sure whether that is a good argument for ruling out the use of secondary legislation in order to consider changes for which there is public demand. I do not think that any noble Lord is necessarily saying that that demand should be met in the next year or so, but to rule out the use of this order-making provision entirely suggests a lack of willingness on the part of the Secretary of State to listen to the arguments in the future, which I am sure is not what the Government really intend.

Lord Bowness: I thank the Minister for his reply. I agree entirely with the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I am disappointed by the Minister's response, and particularly that the amendment should be rejected on the basis that the present proposals have been canvassed and considerable "pressure"--I think that that was the word used--put on people to reach local arrangements, with the view taken being, "We don't want changes being advocated by

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local pressure groups". All that in a piece of legislation which is about to empower the regions and local communities!

The notion that somehow or other, without primary legislation, one cannot divide the area of an RDA, which in the foreseeable future may be shown not to be working properly, is extraordinary, particularly when there are so many matters that we believe are fundamental but which the Government have refused to put on the face of the Bill. With the greatest respect, I must advise the Minister that I believe that his response is unsatisfactory and I seek the opinion of the Committee.

11.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 71) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 34.

Division No. 3


Anelay of St. Johns, B. [Teller.]
Attlee, E.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bowness, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Carlisle, E.
Craigavon, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Hamwee, B.
Luke, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Maddock, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.


Alli, L.
Amos, B. [Teller.]
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
David, B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Donoughue, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardie, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Lockwood, B.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Simon, V.
Thornton, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Whitty, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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11.34 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 13, line 20, leave out from ("instrument") to end of line 21 and insert--
("(8) No order shall be made under this section unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
(9) An order under this section which would, apart from this subsection, be treated for the purposes of the standing orders of either House of Parliament as a hybrid instrument shall proceed in that House as if it were not such an instrument.").

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The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [General power to give guidance and directions]:

Lord Bowness moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 13, line 43, leave out from ("guidance") to end of line 1 on page 14.

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 75, I shall speak briefly also to Amendments Nos. 76 and 77. This is an attempt, no doubt doomed, to try to give a measure of local freedom to what we perceive to be flawed bodies, the regional development agencies. This measure is heralded as one devolving power to the regions and to the local level, but is it really necessary to have a set of provisions which enable the Secretary of State to control the agencies' every move? I ask the Committee to consider this provision. Not content with taking a statutory power to give guidance, the Secretary of State wants to be able to direct, and what directions! He may require the agency,

    "to exercise its functions in any manner specified in the directions".
The Secretary of State may as well have a direct representative on the board with a power of direction or veto. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We seem to have spent much time this evening debating two opposing views being put forward from the Opposition Benches; namely, that more measures should be imposed in terms of powers to direct, control and determine from the centre, or, on the other hand, that the whole measure is totally riddled with direction and control from the centre. Will the Opposition please let us know when they have decided which their policy is?

Lord Bowness: It is late but the position is quite clear. The amendments that we have sought to put on the face of the Bill specifying particular provisions seek to achieve some local accountability and some protection for local authorities in particular. The measures we have opposed are those which enable the Secretary of State to dictate and to direct everything from the centre.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, said, the hour is late and no doubt he is sad that he cannot be in Bournemouth this evening.

Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 taken together would remove the general power in the Bill for the Secretary of State to be able to issue directions to RDAs. I had wondered whether the amendments were tabled to probe the Government's approach to issuing directions because I cannot believe that the Opposition would actually want to remove this general power from the Bill. On the one hand, the Opposition object to the establishment of RDAs, which they see as quangos, and yet on the other they want to take away any powers the Secretary of State may have to control their activities in an accountable way.

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RDAs are being established as non-government public bodies, NDPBs. As such, they are accountable to Ministers, and through them to Parliament. The Committee will be aware that in setting up agencies and NDPBs, it is standard practice for the respective Bill to include a power for the Secretaries of State to be able to give directions to the body concerned. The party opposite has included such provisions in many Bills, including the Bill setting up English Partnerships. This legislation is no different. We would expect to have to use the power only exceptionally. We expect RDAs to develop sensible and appropriate policies and working methods. However, we live in an uncertain world and I cannot say hand on heart that we shall never have to direct an RDA to do something. The power is there as a precaution. I hope the Committee will agree that it is a sensible reserve power for us to take and reject these amendments.

Amendment No. 77 seeks to remove the clarification in Clause 27 that directions to an agency may be of a general or particular nature. We cannot agree to this amendment. Directions are very much a tool of last resort. We expect RDAs to take account of the views of partners and stakeholders as they go about their day-to-day business. We will issue guidance on various issues to help them in their work. If we have to issue a direction--and we hope that we never have to--we shall need the flexibility to be able to issue general directions rather than a series of particular ones. I therefore ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

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