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Lord Dixon-Smith: When we debated Clause 25, the Minister was taking slight advantage when he accused us of "schizophrenia" in our attitude to that clause. But

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the truth of the matter is that this Bill is itself schizophrenic. To the extent that this Bill is the Government's Bill, the Minister will forgive me if I tar him with the same brush. I am more inclined to think of pots and kettles than I am of schizophrenia.

If one reads Clause 26(7) and what we say should be removed when we have considered the full import of it, it will be seen that we are dealing with an extremely serious matter. Clause 26(7) says,


    "The Secretary of State may by order amending this section make further provision for preventing the Authority from doing by virtue of section 25(1) above anything ...


    (b) which is specified, or is of a description specified, in the order". In other words, Clause 25(1) says,


    "The Authority shall have power to do anything which it considers will further any one or more of its principal purposes", subject to the Secretary of State's opinion under Clause 26(7)(b). That is a completely open restriction. It is a complete power to negate Clause 25(1). It may be that it is a reserve power. But others with experience of local government will understand why some of us have a natural hesitancy about reserve powers.

In any event, if we consider other similar powers in this Bill, this one--to use the words the Minister used on the Local Government Bill--is the "nuclear option". Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 71(5) give the Secretary of State power over the budget because he can alter the constituent parts of any budget calculation and he can alter the rules for making any calculation. Under Clause 80, he can specify a minimum budget for the police. Under transport, he can specify what action shall be taken to deal with anything that he considers might be inconsistent with national policies or that might affect outside areas. He can control transport for London under Schedule 18. He has virtual power to control road user charging under paragraph 16(2) of that schedule.

Under Schedule 19 the Secretary of State has similar powers over the workplace parking levy. In further clauses, he has powers over the future London Development Agency. Under Clause 267(5) and (6) he can deal with any planning matters that he considers inconsistent or affecting outside interests. Under Clause 283(4)(b), he can have a strong influence on what happens with regard to waste. Clause 284 is similar.

Therefore, as one goes though the Bill, it is clear, clause by clause, that the Secretary of State actually has huge power over the detail of what the GLA may do, to say nothing of a little later clause, with which we have not dealt, which says that he can in fact virtually set its budget. I have always held the view in local government, in government--or, indeed, in Europe, for those who are rash enough to get into it--that, if you control the money, you actually control everything.

I submit very seriously indeed that, if this paragraph were to be removed from the Bill, it probably would not affect the Secretary of State's power to control the GLA at all. However, having read out all that detail, if Members of the Committee were to consider that, perhaps they might also consider that to accuse us of being schizophrenic is passing strange.

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I have to repeat that I think this paragraph could well be removed from the Bill without, shall we say, damaging the Secretary of State's ambitions in the slightest. Indeed, if we were to remove it, we might even do something to further the putative mayor's ambitions. Certainly, any mayor would be glad to see this removed.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: I note that both Front Benches opposite support the amendment, although it seemed to me at times that they were doing so for diametrically opposite reasons. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is trying to ensure that there is some degree of flexibility for the Secretary of State which might, in certain circumstances, involve encroachment, whereas the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, seemed to suggest that there should be no such encroachment and that by deleting the paragraph there would be provision for limiting the encroachment yet further. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, further confused me, which was probably the intention of his intervention, in that I believe he missed the word "and" in Clause 26(7) between the two paragraphs (a) and (b). He also referred to Clause 26(1), which really relates to the relationship between the GLA and its functional bodies and not between the GLA and the London boroughs, which is dealt with in Clause 26(7)--

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but I do not think that I referred to Clause 26(1); I believe I referred to Clause 25(1).

Lord Whitty: In that case, I apologise to the noble Lord.

I return to Clause 26(7)(b), which provides for the Secretary of State to intervene to specify specific functions of the boroughs, the City or other public bodies which the GLA cannot provide. That is to ensure that the GLA cannot, if it seeks to do so, duplicate the statutory functions of those bodies. Clause 26(l) to (3) specifies the functions on which the GLA cannot incur expenditure.

The list is not exhaustive; nor is it intended to be. We want to give the authority the widest possible scope to co-operate with other authorities and to ensure that London gets the best quality services. Some of that will be achieved by co-operation, with the GLA delivering some of those services. We also believe that it is necessary to give some of those other authorities the reassurance that, where the GLA did seek to intrude into matters which were their responsibility without their agreement, the Secretary of State would have the power to add further functions, and the functions of further bodies, to the list set out explicitly in subsections (1) to (3).

If subsection (7)(b) were removed, it could--somewhat perversely from the point of the Liberal Democrat approach to the matter--remove the Secretary of State's discretion to specify functions which were so affected. It would leave him with the power only to make a blanket order which would prevent the GLA from doing anything which might be done by the boroughs or other bodies. That seems to me to change

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what was a relatively subtle provision that would take account of the circumstances into something approaching the noble Lord's "nuclear option". It will be specific functions where arguments arise. Therefore, the Secretary of State does need the powers to intervene to specify those specific functions where there is some conflict between, for example, the GLA and the London boroughs. Deletion of paragraph (b) would remove the ability to specify those functions. I do not consider that to be appropriate.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am a trifle puzzled. Therefore, before the Minister finally leaves this amendment, perhaps he could clarify a few points for me. Clause 26(7) specifically refers to the Secretary of State's power to make an order to prevent the,


    "Authority from doing by virtue of section 25(1) ... anything", and so on. It does not refer to Clause 26, which deals with the various functions that the authority may not undertake because they may be undertaken elsewhere; nor, indeed, Clause 26(7)(a), which deals properly with the matters which might be carried out by the borough, the Common Council or a public body.

I have no difficulty with any of that. My problem with Clause 26(7)(b) is that I read it specifically in relation to Clause 25(1). If one reads paragraph (b) in relation to Clause 25(1), it is clear that it is, in effect, an absolute power to negate that if the Secretary of State should choose so to do. To say the least, that is passing peculiar.

Lord Swinfen: Clause 25(1) appears to give with one hand, but exactly the same seems to be removed, with the other hand, by Clause 26(7)(b). It is illogical; indeed, it does not make sense.

Lord Whitty: That is one way of describing it, but it is not illogical because powers given in legislation are often limited by subsequent clauses. That is precisely what is happening here. Clause 25(1) gives the general power and Clause 26 sets out limits to it. Indeed, Clause 26(1) to (3) specify the general power and Clause 26(7) states that the Secretary of State may specify a particular function of those authorities.

Some limitations are set out in the first few subsections of Clause 26, which limit Clause 25(1). This then gives a further power to the Secretary of State to specify a specific function of an authority where there is clearly conflict as to whether or not the GLA should undertake that function. If we were to remove the ability to specify a function, all the Secretary of State could do would be to issue a blanket limitation rather than specify the issue which was at stake.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am sorry to keep harping on this subject and I trust that Members of the Committee will forgive me for doing so. However, if one reads Clause 25(1) in conjunction with Clause 26(7)(b), and bears in mind what the Minister said, it seems to me that we are in fact being invited to legislate completely blind because we simply do not know what this means. These two clauses of the Bill are potentially mutually

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opposed; in other words, they are mutually opposed dependent on the views of the Secretary of State. I think that that is an invidious position for this Chamber to be in in a matter of this significance. I have the greatest difficulty with this situation.


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