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Baroness Hamwee: My concern here was not to be too prescriptive. We have been trying to avoid that for some days now. I do not believe I am the only Member

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of the Committee with experience of local government who, as local government has modernised itself over the last few years, has made attempts to ensure that information is available without residents having to go to an undue amount of trouble to obtain it. I believe that that is extremely important and that for a strategy or a draft strategy prepared by a borough to be available only in one place would be inadequate. One must localise far more imaginatively than simply providing for a paper to be inspected after the person who wants to read it has approached reception desks, been directed to different departments and had to make clear precisely what is required and so on, during office hours on only five days of the week. To have information available, particularly on issues on which the public may want to make an input (and that is why we referred to draft strategies), where it can conveniently be read by those who may not be able to do so during working hours is very important to the good operation of the authority. That was why we were concerned to make that quite clear. Of course I appreciate that the mayor can take other steps but, given that there are certain prescriptions, we want to make sure that they are the right prescriptions.

I heard what the noble Baroness said. I shall read her answer. In the light of amendments which are to be made to the Bill following the Government's proposals in a few minutes, the general subject may be one to which we shall return.

Lord Lucas: Before the noble Baroness withdraws her amendment perhaps I may ask a supplementary question of the Minister. Is the opinion of the mayor required to be reasonable? Is there an implied "reasonable" in his opinion? If not, would it not be a good idea to put it in there?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: It is.

Baroness Hamwee: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 130A:

Page 21, line 29, leave out from ("available") to end of line 30 and insert ("for the appropriate period by the Mayor for inspection by any person on request free of charge at the principal offices of the Authority at reasonable hours.").

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments has been trailed in the previous discussion. They deal with the arrangements for inspecting and obtaining copies of a number of GLA documents and TfL's annual report.

The amendments cover the mayor's strategies, the mayor's annual report, the GLA's budget, substitute calculations (for example, a revised budget), the capital spending plan, TfL's annual report, the mayor's guidance documents on applications for bus service permits, and the state of the environment report. The amendments ensure that the arrangements for inspecting and obtaining copies of all these documents are consistent.

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The effect of the amendments is to require the mayor to leave a copy of each document available for inspection, for a period of six years from the date it is first made available, at reasonable hours, free of charge at the GLA's principal offices. The amendments also ensure that any person, and this includes London bodies and organisations as well as members of the public, will, on request, be supplied with a copy of each document or any part of it for such reasonable fees as the mayor may determine. Keeping documents available for inspection for six years is of course consistent with the requirements under Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972 for agendas and minutes and reports of council meetings.

I shall not run through the details of all the amendments that are in this group. The vast majority of them make consistent arrangements for the documents referred to at various points during the Bill.

I shall draw particular attention to Amendment No. 219B because that deals with the GLA's budget. In addition to providing for inspection and obtaining copies, it places an express duty on the mayor to publish the consolidated budget and the component budgets of the GLA in each of the functional bodies. This will ensure that it will not be necessary to look at more than one document--the mayor's final draft budget and amendments passed by a two-thirds majority of the assembly of course, so that the GLA's actual budget can be inspected. Amendment No. 224E makes similar provision for substitute budget calculations.

Amendment No. 238B fulfils the commitment of my honourable friend the Minister for London to consider making provision for people to obtain copies of the capital spending plan at reasonable cost. This clearly deals with the formal documents of the GLA. A number of other points were raised in the previous debate but this will put into the Bill the commitments and the arrangements for publishing GLA documents. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Perhaps I may raise one question with the Minister. Clause 35 deals with the publicity and availability of strategies. Amendment No. 130D defines what one would have assumed to be a reasonable period for the availability of these strategies after the date of publication as six years.

There is in that amendment an in-built assumption that the strategy will be revised and republished within a six-year period. Should that not take place, at the end of a six-year period from first publication of the strategy one would face the situation in which a strategy still in place ceased to be available to the public under this particular restriction. One has to face the reality that it is unlikely that a strategy will go completely unrevised for a six-year period. It is not wholly inconceivable that in matters of waste disposal or possibly of air quality the strategy might be reviewed every year, but in fact its content might still be found to be valid, in which case there would be no need to republish. Although one could say that one is arguing about improbabilities, the business of the Committee is to consider such things, among others.

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I invite the Minister to consider this possible impossibility, if one may use that phrase, and perhaps advise us how he would deal with such a situation if it arose because there is, it seems to me, a potential problem.

Baroness Hamwee: The noble Lord has raised a point which concerned me, too, though I had not even considered the quite obvious point now he makes it that a strategy may still be in effect but not available if the authority were to stick to the letter of this provision. My anxiety related to the revision of the strategy because at that point no doubt members of the public would wish to see the strategy which is being revised and it might not be available.

I wondered too what the position was on draft strategies. I accept that to a large extent this has been covered by the answer in the previous group about whether the GLA could refuse to make draft strategies available.

Finally, will the Minister say how all this lies with the draft freedom of information Bill? I admit that I am not as familiar with it as I might be and it is, after all, only a draft. But given the Government's commitment to freedom of information, is it likely to be a period which will remain appropriate?

6 p.m.

Lord Lucas: Perhaps I may give the noble Baroness some comfort in relation to the freedom of information Bill. If it were enacted as it is now, the mayor would have no duty whatever to provide any information on anything if he felt it might damage himself or anyone of his acquaintance in any way whatever. But perhaps it will be revised slightly before it reaches us.

My technical question is in relation to the publication of a strategy which is, over time, subject to a number of small revisions. Is the date of publication of that strategy the date on which the latest revision is published? A strategy may well remain in place for 10 or 12 years, with occasional small revisions. Is the date of publication of a strategy the original date or the date of the publication of the latest amendment to that strategy? If so, is it the whole strategy or any amendment which is available for six years from that date?

Lord Whitty: The commonsense answer which, in this case, is also the legislative answer is that if a strategy is revised, then that revised strategy is available for six years from that point. Therefore, the totality of the revised strategy is available. If it is revised within six years, clearly the original strategy is still available for the period of six years. The noble Baroness asked whether it is possible to compare the revised and original strategies. That is possible for six years from the publication of the original strategy and the revised strategy will be available for six years.

Baroness Hamwee: But it is available only for six years. So if the revision takes place in year seven, common sense suggests that the original strategy should be available.

Lord Whitty: This legislation does not provide for the strategy to remain extant beyond the six-year period.

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We chose six years because that is the period which applies to similar formal documents in local authorities. Nevertheless, as the noble Baroness said--and I return to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in the previous debate--the mayor is required to act reasonably. If that strategy is still in effect, it would be reasonable to expect the mayor to provide that strategy in the same form. Six years was chosen for consistency but it is also subject to the requirement placed on the mayor by the legislation that he should act reasonably.

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