Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Hamwee: I read Clause 39(2), which I assume is the source of the seven days--that the debate shall be held at least seven days after publication--as being an obligation on those organising the debate to make sure that there is sufficient time. I believe that the balance is slightly different. I agree that seven days and 10 working days is probably the difference of only one week and not three days. For the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 143 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 144:


Page 22, line 35, leave out paragraph (c) and insert--
("(c) information of such descriptions as the Assembly or any of the London boroughs or the Common Council, prior to the end of the financial year to which the annual report relates, have notified the Mayor that they wish to have included in the annual report.").

23 Jun 1999 : Column 982

The noble Baroness said: I speak to Amendments Nos. 144, 147 and 148. This series of amendments is an extension to Amendment No. 143 which we discussed on Monday. The amendments are intended to ensure that more information is made available to the boroughs and the public than provided for in Clause 38.

As drafted, only the assembly has the right to tell the mayor, in advance of the financial year, what information it will require in the ensuing annual report. However, the contents of the annual report are not only of concern to the assembly or the mayor--London is not their private fiefdom--as everything that they do affects each of the boroughs and the residents of the boroughs.

As I have said many times, the Government have deliberately divorced the assembly from the boroughs by refusing to make their constituencies coterminous with the boroughs. They have produced 14 super constituency representatives with no loyalty to any individual single borough. They have produced 13 representatives, euphemistically called "London representatives", but in reality the delegates of the political parties, and, by the exercise of naked political patronage, they have given them a place on the list which has ensured their election.

So where is the local accountability? How are the local councils to know what the mayor has done--or not done--for their own borough, and why, if they are not entitled to require the mayor to report on it? The mayor could totally neglect a borough and not give a single word of personalised explanation which the councillors could then pass on to their residents.

Amendment No. 147 requires the mayor to send a copy of the report to each of the London boroughs and to the common council, and to make it freely available on a public website to be established by the authorities. I do not need to say more on that point.

My motto, confirmed by the College of Arms, is "quare non?"--"Why not"? I ask the Minister the same question.

Amendment No. 148 adds to the perfectly reasonable embargo on the publication of the annual report until it is sent to the assembly, by saying it also has to be sent to the boroughs and the common council in advance. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: The noble Baroness referred to "naked political patronage". My party--I cannot speak for others--agreed a selection procedure which allows every member of the party in London to exercise a vote in the selection of candidates. To the extent that membership of a party allows the members to exercise a voice through a democratic process within the party, perhaps that is patronage because they will be conferring the ability to stand; but no more than that. On behalf of these Benches I cannot let it be suggested that patronage will be conferred on the select 11.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: The noble Baroness is absolutely right to pull me up on that point. As a matter of fact I said "all" parties and the same will apply in our

23 Jun 1999 : Column 983

party; it is one member one vote for the list. The noble Baroness corrected me and it certainly did not apply to my party either.

Lord Whitty: It is probably better for me not to get too involved in this debate. I always find it slightly bizarre when Members of the House of Lords object to naked political patronage.

Baroness Hamwee: In our case, never naked.

Lord Whitty: I shall not pursue that either.

Amendment No. 144 is intended to allow not only the assembly, but also any of the London boroughs or the City to require the mayor to include information in his or her annual report. It will allow both the assembly and those councils to exercise this right at any time up until the last day of the financial year to which the report relates.

The purpose of Clause 38(2)(c) is to give the assembly a substantive role in deciding what the annual report should cover. That ability lends weight to the assembly's clear scrutiny role. It is one of the mechanisms by which the assembly will hold the mayor to account.

Most of the GLA's statutory responsibilities are of course vested in the mayor. It is right that he or she should be responsible for reporting, in this case in an annual report. The assembly is part of the GLA along with the mayor. It will have a key role in the budget process. It will be responsible for most of the appointments of GLA staff. It will scrutinise all London issues. It will make proposals to the mayor. Because of its status and role, it is right that the assembly should have a say in what the annual report will cover.

While co-operation between the GLA and the London boroughs is vital, it is also the case that the boroughs and the common council of the City are not part of the GLA. They do not have a role in holding the mayor to account in that direct sense. They are separate and independent authorities and there is no case for them to require the mayor to include information in his or her annual report.

I should also point out that a statutory right for anyone to require at the end of the year that information should be included in the annual report is not practical. Careful advance planning is required to collect reliable, comprehensive and robust information of a financial and statistical nature. It cannot simply be produced as if by magic at any time up until the end of the year. This is a technical side issue but it indicates that the amendment is not practical as well as not desirable.

In relation to Amendments Nos. 147 and 148 and the posting of information to the councils and on the website, we have discussed this before. It may be sensible for the mayor to do it though it does not seem sensible for us to lay it down in legislation. The key point is that this information should be publicly available and this clause guarantees that it will be. These

23 Jun 1999 : Column 984

amendments therefore are not necessary, and the first amendment would be undesirable. I ask the noble Baroness therefore to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I take the point in respect of Amendment No. 144, and the Minister is probably right in relation to Amendment No. 148. However, Amendment No. 147 concerns only the passing on of this information to the London boroughs or the Common Council and there is no reason why that should not be the case. I shall certainly read carefully what the Minister said. At this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 145 to 148 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 148A:


Page 22, line 43, at end insert--
("( ) A copy of the annual report sent to the Assembly shall be kept available 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.
( ) A copy of the annual report sent to the Assembly, or any part of that report, shall be supplied to any person on request during the appropriate period for such reasonable fee as the Mayor may determine.
( ) In this section "the appropriate period" in the case of an annual report is the period of six years beginning with the date of publication of that report pursuant to this section.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [The annual State of London debate]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 149:


Page 22, line 45, leave out (", to be known as a "State of London debate"").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 149 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 150.

Amendment No. 149 deals with the debate which, according to the Bill, is to be known as a "State of London debate". The Bill prescribes an annual debate with much detail about the procedure. Even this is more than we on these Benches regard as appropriate. We believe it is up to the authority to determine how it conducts itself, though we are not suggesting that a debate is not a good thing--far from it.

But is it really necessary for legislation to impose a title on the debate? Moreover, it is a title which smacks very much of the language of the late 1990s which might become out of date fairly quickly. Whether or not it does, our point is that the more that is prescribed the less the authority may look for new and effective mechanisms for consultation and debate with Londoners. We point to the Government's concern to give a name to a debate to be held by another entity as an example of far too much nannying. I doubt that the American constitution required the President to call his annual statement the "State of the Union Address".

Amendment No. 150 is very different in nature. It proposes that spring may not be the right time to hold a debate. I appreciate that it will follow on from the end of the authority's financial year, but there is a lot to be said for shifting the debate and the consideration of the

23 Jun 1999 : Column 985

budgets, to which we will come later, to the autumn. We propose an autumn budget cycle to fit in better with the boroughs' budget cycle so that the boroughs will be informed of and no doubt make representations in connection with the authority's budget in time to deal with that as part of their own operations.

This is important. At borough level one has had too much experience of hanging on, waiting to see what the precept from the GLC, as it was, was going to be and then the police precept, and so forth, working on the basis of rumours, suggestions and leaks. Our main concern is about the budget cycle. It may follow that a debate which fits in with it would be appropriate. That may be in the Government's mind. That is why we proposed the dates in Amendment No. 150.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page