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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.40 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The sitting was suspended from 8.39 to 8.40 p.m.]

Greater London Authority Bill

House again in Committee on Clause 26.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 91:


Page 16, line 7, leave out subsection (8)

The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 92.

Clause 26(8) is one of the shortest but most centralising restrictive clauses in this or any Bill. Amendment No. 91 seeks to delete subsection (8) which allows the Secretary of State to limit the authority's expenditure. The power goes beyond those over local government. It is untrammelled. No consultation or representation procedure is provided for. The restrictions can be imposed at any time, whatever the state of the authority's budget. The only safeguard is the requirement of parliamentary approval for those restrictions, but that is inadequate protection. The Government have brought forward yet another Henry VIII clause.

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Clause 26(9) allows the Secretary of State to amend the clause by order to remove or restrict prohibitions or limitations on the authority's power. At present the clause restricts the authority from exercising housing, education, social or health services. Those limitations are an important part of the constitutional settlement of London government that the Bill proposes. They are important demarcations between the authority and the London boroughs and other agencies. The relationship between these bodies is set by it.

The restrictions also reduce the ability of the Secretary of State to play off the authority and the London boroughs against each other by threatening to transfer responsibilities to deliver services.

Subsection (9) undermines that. While any order would be subject to affirmative resolution, that does not encompass the significance of the issues and provide appropriate opportunity for parliamentary and outside scrutiny. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: On an earlier amendment, the noble Baroness stated that she was glad to add her name to our amendment. The roles are reversed in respect of Amendment No. 91. I am not sure that my name should have been added to Amendment No. 92. I think that there was some over-enthusiasm somewhere. However, we support Amendment No. 91 for the reasons I have given on earlier occasions. No doubt we shall return to them on further amendments.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty: We are back to the fundamental difference. We believe that the Secretary of State needs to retain some powers to prevent the misuse of the authority's general power. The two amendments would deny future Secretaries of State the flexibility to lift or ease prohibitions that they considered no longer necessary. At the same time, they would remove the provision giving a reserve power to impose limits on expenditure.

Ever since we proposed the creation of the GLA, we have made it clear that the new authority would be small and streamlined in terms of staff and costs. We are clear that Londoners want a GLA which spends its money on services rather than on bureaucracy or functions which can best be provided by the other public authorities.

We need some reserve powers in this area. The Government will not be in the business of deciding how precisely the mayor will spend the budget. But if an irresponsible mayor funded a significant expansion of the GLA, or activities to undermine the position of other public authorities, or essential services were starved of funds as a result of those decisions, some reserve powers are needed. There are similar reserve powers in the remainder of local government. It would be wrong for London to be outside the regime for controlling local authority finances.

The amendment would remove any such reserve powers. I do not believe that that is what we had intended and what Londoners have indicated that they want. Clearly they are reserve powers and they would

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be used sparingly. Nevertheless, I think that we need those powers. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: The Minister's answer is interesting. It is somewhat paradoxical. The Government are removing the capping elsewhere. It seems strange that that power remains. Under the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 92 not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Consultation]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 92A:


Page 16, line 14, leave out from ("Authority") to end of line 15 and insert ("considers appropriate having regard to the impact of the exercise by the Authority of its functions on all applicable interests")

The noble Baroness said: Clause 27(1) provides that the general power,


    "is exercisable only after consultation with such bodies or persons as the Authority may consider appropriate in the particular case". The amendment leaves out that generalised wording and substitutes consultation with those it considers,


    "appropriate having regard to the impact of the exercise by the Authority of its functions on all applicable interests". I wish to make two main points on the amendment. First, as drafted, the Bill refers to the exercise of the general power. The amendment deals with the exercise of functions. It may be a more appropriate point at which to consult. In one or two places in the Bill I have difficulty--I am sure that it is my failure and not that of the draftsman--in understanding the dividing line between powers and functions. The authority should consider in detail how its actions will impact on the various interests, and it should consult accordingly. The distinction between the amendment and the wording in the Bill is that the amendment does not leave consultation as an option.

I tabled the amendment in part because of the concern expressed by the CBI and the London Chamber of Commerce that the references to consultation with business in Clauses 27 and 34 are not sufficiently water-tight. On these Benches we take the view that the opinions of the business community are of great importance, but we do not consider that they should override the views of other communities. They are not to be overlooked or sidelined, but neither should they be paramount. I think that the Government take a similar view. We think that there should be less prescription, but we should ensure that, to the extent that the Bill prescribes how the GLA is to conduct itself, the matter is dealt with adequately.

The Committee will probably agree that the health of the city depends to a very significant extent on its business community. It is not just a matter of wealth creation; there are a number of other issues: for example, the environment will be affected. The use by business of transport for its own functions and for its employees could affect air quality, depending on the mode of transport used. The business community will have strong views on how well the transport system functions.

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In the area of social development, the employees of any given business may well cover a range of salary and wage levels, and there will be implications arising from that. The management of any good business will understand the strains on its staff and their aspirations.

Business has a lot to contribute to the work of the bodies that will administer transport matters. I refer also to the police and the planning authorities.

The amendment is not confined to business interests. The authority should decide whether or not to consult the different interests that will be affected. That is central to the clause. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The amendment attempts to exchange one form of words for a longer form of words without changing their meaning or, more importantly, their effect.

The mayor must consult those people whose interests are affected by the exercise of the general power. The provisions impose a duty on the authority to consult such people or bodies as it considers appropriate. The most obvious appropriate consultees are those whose interests are affected. The impact that the exercise of the power would have on those interests is necessarily one of the matters which the authority would have to consider.

The noble Baroness, in moving the amendment, referred to different interest groups that could be affected in different exercises of the general power. It is therefore integral to the consultation process that they are consulted. The amendment is therefore unnecessary, and I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

Baroness Hamwee: The amendment does seek to substitute one form of words for another. There are conventions in parliamentary drafting, but the words do not say that the authority "must consult". Therefore, reassured by the Minister's reply, although it is something we shall consider carefully, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 93:


Page 16, line 24, at end insert--
("( ) statutory bodies some or all of whose responsibilities are concerned with the whole or part of Greater London;")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 93, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 96, and to Amendments Nos. 94 and 95 which are grouped with it.

Amendment No. 93 seeks to provide that statutory bodies with responsibilities for London are also to be consulted with regard to the exercise of functions and, through the reference in Clause 34, the preparation of the strategies.

There are a number of such bodies which would normally be consulted by central Government. We believe that the authority should not have the way in which it approaches its work circumscribed or prescribed, but, if it is prescribed, we should ensure that the prescription is as effective as possible.

21 Jun 1999 : Column 741

Clause 25 imposes duties on the authority to exercise its powers in various ways, including the way in which it achieves sustainable development in the UK. One of the consultees that I have in mind is the Environment Agency, which has contributed towards sustainable development as one of its principal aims. Guidance will require the use of an integrated approach by the agency towards achieving that aim.

We believe that the expertise that has been built up by the agency in this area makes it essential that it is consulted by the mayor in preparing the strategies. There is no other existing statutory body which covers the London area which has a duty with regard to sustainable development, and there is no other organisation that covers the breadth of the environmental issues encompassed by the Environment Agency's statutory functions. The agency is very clear that it should be consulted over the preparation of all strategies.

The Minister may say that, of course, the Environment Agency and other statutory bodies will be consulted, but given that the Bill is so long and so detailed, we are troubled about why statutory bodies are not included. The drafting fails to give guidance on consulting such agencies, and we think that they should be included in the list.

Amendment No. 96 is about the distinction between exercise of the power and preparation of the strategy. We propose that in determining the consultation under Clause 27(1) the authority shall have regard to the consultation undertaken in the preparation or revision of the applicable strategy.

We tabled the amendment because, although the power must exist before the mayor can prepare a strategy, before the power is exercised the strategy should logically be in place. There are provisions in regard to consulting on strategies and in regard to their preparation and revision; and the authority should not forget what it has been told in that exercise in any consultation under this provision. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Swinfen: My amendment No. 94 is grouped with this amendment and it is supported by the noble Baronesses, Lady Darcy de Knayth and Lady Thomas of Walliswood. Among the mayor's various duties is to consult on transport proposals. I am concerned particularly about the interests of disabled people, many of whom cannot get around on their own two feet. Therefore it is vital for them that there is a proper transport strategy throughout the Greater London authority area.

The local boroughs are required to consult organisations of disabled people and the mayor and the GLA are required to consult the local boroughs. But the boroughs may well have their own agenda and their advice to the mayor may therefore be skewed. They may be looking at their own small area rather than over London as a whole. The authority should have the duty

21 Jun 1999 : Column 742

to consult with organisations of and for disabled people so that it learns what is required from those who need public transport more than anyone else.


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