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Lord Tope: My noble friend Lady Hamwee did not actually use the words, "I have a dream", as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, suggested, but she might well have done. I too have a dream. I have a dream that one day we shall have a central government who trust local government. That goes to the heart of the matter.

My noble friend made clear that she was moving the amendment to raise the twin principles of financial freedom and accountability. Quite deliberately, we have

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not tabled amendments which tie that up in great detail. My noble friend referred to our preferred method of devolved income tax and so on. Those are important details which should be debated but those debates should take place once we have agreed the principle. Today, we wish to raise the principle of the matter.

The first principle is that of financial freedom. We are talking about electing a mayor and assembly for our capital city and an electorate of a little over 5 million. It is to be an authority which the Government keep telling us is not the same as local government but is not regional government either. Whatever it is, it is a substantial body which should be trusted by central government to have the financial freedom it needs to be able to implement the wishes of the people of London.

That takes me to the next principle; namely, accountability. We do not suggest for one moment, nor should we, that the authority and mayor should have an unfettered freedom either to raise or reduce taxation on a whim. We are talking about tax-varying, not tax-raising, powers. The accountability is considerable. First, the mayor is accountable to the electorate of London. It will be a foolish mayor indeed who seeks dramatic changes in taxation. Even should that happen, it must be authorised by an elected assembly which is also accountable to the people of London. We say that that should require the assent of a two-thirds majority of that assembly, which is no mean task, as my noble friend said. Therefore, there is a considerable degree of accountability.

Most important is the question of to whom, ultimately, the authority is accountable. The Government say that it is accountable to the Secretary of State. We say that the authority should be accountable to the electors of London, the people who put them there. That is why we say that any tax-varying powers should be subject to a referendum and only if a majority is obtained in that referendum may a proposal ahead. The Government say that the Secretary of State knows better than the people of London. We disagree with that very strongly.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is right to say that the devil is in the detail. Certainly, were that principle to be agreed now we should be the first to accept that there needs to be much more detail and we should be delighted to have an opportunity to come back and propose some of that detail. But we raise this matter on the principle that the major authority in the country, in our capital city with its first elected mayor, should be given the financial freedom to do what the people of London wish to be done. The people of London should be asked, and be able, to give that authority through a referendum. If we can agree that important principle today, which is at the heart of these proposals, or at least indicate a willingness to agree it, we can then go into the detail which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is so keen to address.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: When we were discussing the scope that we might suggest is available to the authority my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury whispered to

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me that the mayor could propose free ice-creams for the people of London. I suppose that if the people of London feel it correct to spend their tax on that, they can have the opportunity to say so. I am sad to say to my noble friend that I do not believe it is within the powers of the mayor to provide ice-creams or other types of physical sustenance of that sort.

My noble friend is absolutely right. We tabled this amendment in order to raise the principles inherent in it. I am disappointed that the responses have not addressed the principles. We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that the Bill is already too complex. We made it perfectly clear why we think it is unnecessarily complex. I refer to the very detailed prescriptions of how the authority is to exercise its powers.

As my noble friend said, we believe in the twin principles of financial freedom and proper accountability. The type of tax, the scale, and so on, would be matters to be dealt with at the time, were such a proposal to be on the table. Indeed, the detail of any proposal might well lead to its being rejected by a careful assembly or the London electorate. As to whether or not it is appropriate for a body such as the GLA, the authority would and should have very clear views. The GLA will not be a legislative assembly in the same way as the Scottish Parliament; nevertheless, through its strategic and functional responsibilities, it may well have views either that more money needs to be raised or that less money should be spent.

The Minister said that this is not within the terms of the referendum which agreed that the Government should proceed with their proposals. I very much doubt whether anybody voting in the referendum anticipated a Bill of such length, complexity and detail. The points cannot be dismissed simply by saying that Londoners have already voted on the issue. If they have, what is to prevent them having the opportunity, once the authority is up and running, to reconsider the points we raise? That is all we raise.

These are important principles and I am sorry that they, at any rate, have not attracted a greater faith in Londoners; I put it no wider than that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 67 agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 212C:

After Clause 67, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Section 14 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (administration, penalties and enforcement) shall be amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted--
"(1A) A billing authority in Greater London shall, in respect of council tax for each financial year, indicate on any notice served on a liable person, the amount chargeable as a result of any precept set by the Greater London Authority.
(1B) Any reference in this section to a liable person is a reference to a person who is solely liable to pay to the Authority, in respect of a particular dwelling, an amount in respect of council tax for a financial year, and includes a reference to a person who in the opinion of the Authority will be so liable.".").

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The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 212C standing in my name and that of my noble friends. I believe this may be a less contentious amendment. If the Minister is to reply shortly that it is unnecessary, I hope that he or she will explain why.

The amendment proposes that a billing authority--in most cases, the London borough councils--when sending out council tax bills each year, will state clearly on such bills the amount of the precept from the Greater London Authority. That is currently the case with the fire authority and the police. Their precepts are shown separately, as are the other precepts. Clearly, that should be the case with the Greater London Authority, but we cannot see provision for that in this long and complex Bill.

The reason for the amendment is simply to be sure and clear that that will happen. Were it not to happen, that would be nothing much short of deceit. It is already the case that whatever we say in the detail of council tax bills, the public (who sometimes feel that the increase or even the amount is too great) understandably blame the billing authority which sent them the bill. In this case, we need to be clear that the responsibility lies where it belongs, with the Greater London Authority which set the precept. That should be clear on council tax bills when they are sent out.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord anticipates me correctly. This amendment is unnecessary. Under existing legislation right across local government all council tax payers are sent a demand which is required, among other matters, to show details of any precept that forms part of the total amount. As a major precepting authority, therefore, the GLA precept will be identified separately on demand notices.

To ensure that that is done in an intelligible way, we intend to amend the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Demand Notices) (England) Regulations 1993, with which the noble Lord will be familiar, to accompany any demand notice. That will mean a need to show the total expenditure for the GLA and its functional bodies; total expenditure by class of service; total amount of specific earmarked grant, and the GLA's consolidated budget requirement, the budget requirement for the GLA and each functional body compared to the previous year.

I believe, therefore, that there will be plenty of information under existing regulations, clarified by that amendment to the regulations, to ensure that council tax payers throughout Greater London will know the amount of the precept and on what it is being spent.

Lord Tope: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I suspected that that might be the case. I am relieved, as I am sure we all are, to know that the 1993 regulations are to be amended. This has been a useful, if brief, debate to clarify the position. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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