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Lord Harris of Greenwich : My Lords, the Minister has been extremely helpful, if I may say so, replying to a range of issues. One matter which he might touch on, if not this evening, perhaps in correspondence, is what the position is in terms of industrial relations. It is one of the most worrying aspects of this report and I should be grateful for anything he could say about it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, certainly. That is one aspect that always strikes my mind and I am hoping to deal with it in a moment or two. I realise that I have taken more than my 10 or 12 minutes, but I refuse not to because it is too important, I think, not to give a full public response.

With the new regime, the new governor is now turning around the industrial relations situation there. I must say, in fairness to members of the POA, that many of them do good, unsung, extremely difficult, stressful work with different ways of dealing with young offenders.

The past industrial relations climate undoubtedly contributed to the difficulties which Sir David identified. Discussions are taking place because we shall get nowhere without involvement and discussion. They

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are starting to pay dividends. The area manager is pleased to report that currently industrial relations are good.

I have dealt with the question of health. That is not specific solely to Feltham. We must have that joint systematic approach which I mentioned a few moments ago.

Perhaps I may summarise briefly. We have addressed to a large extent the shortfall in staff. Ten officers started training in April. Reverting to the efficient use of officer time, a profiling exercise is taking place at the moment. Progress has been made on the amending of shift patterns and staff consultation will start in July.

PE is much better managed, and I have indicated that. Available activity places are better used. There will have been a further 71 places brought on stream by the summer. Six hundred mattresses have been replaced and more are available. That is specifically to deal with the filthy conditions identified by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. General cleanliness and hygiene have been improved. New cleaning schedules have been introduced and--I go back to the management point--new inspection arrangements. Additional laundry facilities have been made available. Some gain has been made already in the frequency of clean clothing. We have started on a backlog of small repairs. A new healthcare inpatient facility opened at the beginning of April.

The new governor and deputy governor are in post. The exercise yards have been created in the short-stay side of the establishments. Proposals are in hand--this was not mentioned specifically but it particularly concerns me on any prison visit I make--to end the standing queue of visitors outside the front of the establishment. We hope that we can achieve an efficient, workable system of booked visits. An overhaul of the management structure is under way.

We started at a very low ebb--I did--when Sir David came to see me as recently as 11th December. We are not out of the woods. I have indicated, and it has been received with general approval, that I want to visit the establishment in August or September to see for myself. I repeat that if any noble Lords are sufficiently concerned at that time to wish to join me, the area manager, the prison governor and his staff will be more than pleased to receive them.

Greater London Authority Bill

8.35 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 39.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 151:


Leave out Clause 39 and insert the following new Clause--

ANNUAL GREATER LONDON DEBATE

(" .--(1) In addition to the requirements of section 37, the Mayor shall once a year convene and attend a meeting of the Assembly to be known as the "Greater London debate".

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(2) The sole item on the Agenda of such meeting shall be to debate the annual report of the Mayor prepared pursuant to section 38.
(3) The Greater London debate shall be held on a date determined by the Mayor on not less than three months' notice during April, May or June, excluding the date of and three weeks preceding a General Election, elections (other than by-elections) to the Authority, elections to the European Parliament or to London borough councils.
(4) The first Greater London debate shall be held in April, May or June 2001.
(5) Where the Mayor has determined that the debate shall be held in the month of June and a General Election or an election to the European Parliament would entail a breach of subsection (3) above, the Mayor shall give not less than one month's notice of a revised date which shall not be later than two weeks after the date of the election.
(6) As soon as practical following the Greater London debate, the Mayor and the Assembly shall hold a meeting to which two members of each London borough and the Common Council shall be invited to attend and participate in, the sole purpose of which meeting shall be to discuss the Mayor's annual report and the proceedings at the Greater London debate.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment proposes the entire deletion of Clause 39 and its replacement by another clause which has the same intention as the Government's clause.

On the last amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, made it clear that they are not concerned about the intention but about the name of the debate. The drastic step which we propose to delete Clause 39 in its entirety is necessary because there is so much wrong with the drafting of the original clause that it is impossible to amend it piecemeal, phrase by phrase.

Our first objection is to the name of the meeting--the "State of London debate". I count myself as an admirer of the United States of America but that does not mean that we must copy every single Americanism or every facet of American politics. At the beginning of each political year, the President of the United States attends a joint meeting of both Houses of Congress and delivers what is called the State of the Union Address--a cross between an annual report and the Queen's Speech. It is the height of pretentiousness to use that name for the annual general meeting of the assembly. It is the ultimate in "me too-ism". It will make the assembly of one of the world's greatest cities the laughing stock of the political world, as indeed, it seemed to do when the earlier amendment was debated.

The next major fault is the lack of clarity as regards who is to take part in the debate. We know from subsection (1) that the mayor will be there. We know that the meeting is to be open to all members of the public. But in what capacity will that be? Will they be there as participators or merely as audience? We assume that it is as audience because Clause 40 creates the function with the rather twee name of the "People's Question Time". As the Government describe this function as the "State of London debate" we must assume by an analogy with the State of the Union address to Congress, the participants are the assembly members as well as the mayor. The Bill does not say so. In fact, it does not say anything.

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What is the agenda? We assume that it is the State of London, but what else? There is another clue. The date of the meeting is connected with the date of the publication of the mayor's annual report. So by a process of deduction we can discern through the mist what we think the Government are getting at. But that is no way to legislate. Clarity is required and that is what our amendment provides.

There is an answer to all the questions raised by the omissions in the present draft. New subsection (1) makes it clear that it is a meeting of the assembly. New subsection (2) makes it clear that the sole subject on the agenda will be the mayor's annual report. Subsections (3) and (4) fix the date of the meeting but make sure that it does not get mixed up with local elections, elections to the European Parliament or, of course, a general election. Subsection (5) fixes the date when a general election is due. Last but not least, subsection (6) of the amendment requires the mayor and assembly to hold a joint meeting with the representatives of the boroughs and the Common Council solely for the purpose of discussing the annual report and, no less important, the proceedings at the debate. That latter provision seeks to build and maintain the links between the boroughs and the differently constituted assembly.

But there is still one thing missing. The meeting is to be open to the public. In that case, where is it to be held? Bearing in mind that it is not practical to hold it in the middle of Hyde Park or at the Millennium Dome, what restrictions are there to be on numbers? What arrangements will be made for the event to be televised? Will there be any obligation on the TV companies to broadcast it? There is a great deal more work to be done by the Government on that draft clause before it is in an acceptable shape.

I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that there is nothing in the Government's draft clause which is not in our amendment. The extra clarifications which appear in our amendment do not detract from the Government's draft in one single iota. On the contrary, it fills the gap which should not exist. There should not be gaps. The clause as it stands does not make sense. Our amendment improves considerably the Government's draft and I hope the Minister will accept this suggestion, as well as many others which I have made, in the spirit of constructive contribution. I beg to move.


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