Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am grateful to the noble Lord and even more grateful to the noble

14 Jun 1999 : Column 18

Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I trust that the Committee will accept that the amendment is unnecessary in so far as noble Lords will be pleased to note, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that Clause 329 of the Bill is an interpretation clause which sets out the meaning of various terms. In common with normal legislative practice, there is a consolidated interpretation clause in which definitions are brought together. Clause 329(1) states:


    "In this Act ... 'the Authority' means the Greater London Authority". I hope that reference meets the concerns spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am delighted to receive that assurance. The amendment arose out of what I regard as a logical necessity to put definitions at the beginning rather than the end so that one knows what ground one is standing on before one starts. That is why it slipped my memory. I apologise to the Committee and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Membership of the Authority and the Assembly]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No.3.


Page 1, line 15, after ("London;") insert--
("( ) the Deputy Mayor;")

The noble Baroness said: I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 3, 9, 10, 15, 17, 60, 61, 63, 64, 65 and 68 together. It is not such a formidable list because all of the amendments revolve around one key point; that the deputy mayor should be elected and not merely nominated by the mayor and plucked out of the ranks of the assemblymen. Other amendments are consequential on this amendment. Other amendments rectify the omission to refer to the deputy mayor in places where it would have been appropriate, unless it was the Government's intention that the duties of the deputy mayor were intended to be largely ornamental. I hasten to say that I do not believe that that is the case.

I shall deal first with the principal amendments in this group, which are Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 15. If the deputy mayor is not just to be an ornament, standing in at an engagement when the mayor is double-booked, we propose that the deputy mayor should be directly elected by the citizens--or should I say the people of London--in the same way and at the same time as they elect the mayor.

All the arguments that the Labour Party used for the election of the mayor I believe apply equally to his or her deputy. Electing the deputy will give him not only status but a greater degree of authority than he can expect if he is merely selected from among the assemblymen. Furthermore, if he were to be selected from among the assemblymen there would be a grave danger of a conflict of interest should the mayor and

14 Jun 1999 : Column 19

assembly disagree, as they are bound to do at some point, even assuming that the mayor is of the same party as the majority in the assembly.

Since the mayor and the deputy will not be running on a single ticket, theoretically--although it is unlikely--the mayor and his deputy might not be of the same party, and this of course would make for exciting times in the authority.

For the first time in a statute there is a separation of powers between the executive, in the form of the mayor, and the legislature in the form of the assembly. The mayor is elected on his own manifesto and carries out his own policies. The assembly is there to scrutinise how he does this, and only to a limited extent to exercise a check in circumstances where it disagrees. That check and balance disappears when one of the legislature of 4 per cent--to be facetious--has a dual role as a member of the legislature and as a member of the executive--poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously. I do not understand why the Government are opting for the choice of a nominated deputy mayor. Perhaps they are drawing on an analogy with the Cabinet, which has a Deputy Prime Minister who has absolutely no constitutional status or duties save for those that the Prime Minister may temporarily and revocably hand to him. The members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, draw their authority from their manifesto and majority in the House of Commons. The authority of the mayor comes directly from having been elected as an individual. The Government's whole raison d'etre for having a directly elected mayor is to secure his total independence. Yet here they are tying him into the assembly.

Clause 41(2) states:


    "The Deputy Mayor shall have such functions as may be conferred or imposed upon him by or under this Act or any other enactment, whenever passed or made". What are those functions? One such function is that the deputy mayor will be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He can have some of the mayor's functions which are delegated to him to if the mayor chooses. Those are defined in Clause 31. While he is performing those duties, how will he simultaneously find the time to perform his duties as an assembly man? Most important, he temporarily acts in place of the mayor if a vacancy occurs, but with extremely circumscribed powers. Those powers are so circumscribed that there may be a virtual hiatus in many of the functions of the mayor's duties until a replacement is elected. There is no provision in the Bill as to what is to happen if the mayor is incapacitated for a while.

If the deputy mayor is to perform some of the mayor's functions either because the mayor delegates them to him or because the mayor becomes incapacitated in some way, or perhaps because the Secretary of State gives them to him under some residual power or other, then the voters are entitled--I stress "entitled"--to know in advance who that deputy will be. Indeed, they should choose him for themselves.

14 Jun 1999 : Column 20

With a properly elected deputy who has the authority which I have already mentioned of being elected by the voters, it would be natural for him to take over the office on a permanent basis in the event of a vacancy or during the mayor's long-term incapacity. In a way, that is just like the vice-president of the United States of America. It would also avoid the rigmarole and expense of a by-election if a vacancy occurred in the office of the mayor.

I acknowledge that if the main amendment is accepted, many amendments will be needed to other parts of the Bill. However, if that must be done to get right the status and functions of the deputy mayor, the extra effort will be a price worth paying. I certainly pledge my co-operation in working out what needs to be done.

I referred to the possible need for amendments to other parts of the Bill if the main amendment is accepted. I do not believe that the Government would complain about that, for the Bill has already grown from 267 clauses and 21 schedules when it was first introduced in the other place to the 330 clauses and 27 schedules which the Committee is now being asked to consider. Legislate in haste and amend at leisure.

That brings me to what I described as consequential amendments, although some stand on their own irrespective of whether the Committee accepts the principle of an elected deputy mayor. Amendment No. 38 makes it clear that the authority consists of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the assembly. Omitting a reference to the deputy mayor from the list is demeaning to the office of deputy mayor, even though the Government's plans were that he should merely be a nominee of the mayor, with very limited powers and duties. Perhaps that omission underlines the absence of status and, perhaps I may say, dignity to which I referred in my earlier remarks.

Whether or not he is directly elected, there is no justification for making him a virtual non-person in the definition of the authority. I hope that the Government will accept this amendment as being right and proper. Amendment No. 17 relating to the term of office of the deputy mayor and Amendments Nos. 60, 61, 63, 64 and 65 relating to the disqualification of persons from being deputy mayor are dependent on it being agreed by the Committee that he should be directly elected. Amendments Nos. 66 and 68 are also entirely dependent on an agreement to elect the deputy.

I hope that the Government will accept that the direct election of a deputy mayor is far more democratic than the mayor selecting his own deputy without the assembly or the electors being able to gainsay it. Perhaps that last thought will make the Government pause and reflect on the matter and accept this and the consequential amendments to which I have just spoken. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: I am not sure whether in this group of amendments the noble Baroness proposes that the deputy mayor should be elected on a joint ticket with the mayor or whether a separate vote is involved. If it

14 Jun 1999 : Column 21

were to be on a joint ticket, then the electors would not be presented with any additional choice. If anything, the matter would become rather more confusing and difficult for the electors.

The manifesto on which the mayor will be elected will be very much the mayor's manifesto. I believe that that is right, given that the model which is proposed in this Bill is that it is for the mayor to create and revise strategies and to put forward policies. The proposal that the deputy should be directly and separately elected may be rather confusing. The noble Baroness compared the situation with the US presidency, but the situation in the United States is different in that there the deputy would take over and literally has the possibility of having his finger on the button for the rest of the four-year term. These proposals would involve a by-election. Therefore, we are not comparing like with like.

To my mind, the most important point is the possibility of the choice of a deputy mayor from out of the assembly, which allows for a pluralist approach and a reflection of the diversity of the assembly which is likely to be created, given the form of elections that we shall have. It may well be that there will be no political majority in the assembly and even if there is, the culture of the authority--comprising the mayor on the one hand and, the assembly members on the other--will be co-operative, consultative, cross-party and extremely constructive. To allow for the appointment of the deputy from among the men and women who make up the assembly may be one factor which helps to encourage that.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page