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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The party of the noble Baroness and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, certainly did all they could to raise the models that they wished were before Londoners. In every election--be it a European parliamentary election or a referendum election--the parties claim victory with a majority of those voting in support of their arguments, whether the percentage is 15 per cent, 12 per cent or 35 per cent.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I pick up on the last point. We are saying that it should be the majority of those voting who give the final approval of what is to happen. Surely that applies equally to the budget and to everything else. Perhaps I may return to where the debate began. However, before I do, I should like to say that I am most grateful for the support I have received from Members of the Committee on this side of the Chamber.

I should point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that the amendments we propose would make it possible for a simple majority to vote both for amendments to the budget and, indeed, for the budget. But at the end of the day it is the duty of the authority--and the authority in this instance is the mayor and assembly acting together--to approve the budget.

The extraordinary feature about Schedule 5 is that it appears to sanction a budgetary procedure which admits that there can be failure and allows a budget to be approved which does not have the approval of the authority--only the approval of the mayor. I think that that is quite unprecedented--new authority, or no; new

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system, or no; new democracy, or no. The Minister admitted that the whole process could lead to deadlock. This is a new model and a different model. To me, it is a very strange model of democracy. I find it absolutely unbelievable that the mayor cannot get agreement, or that the mayor and the assembly working together cannot get agreement.

The mayor's powers of patronage over the assembly are perhaps worthy of mention at this point. Out of an assembly of 25 members, the mayor can appoint 12 members to the police authority, nine members to the fire and emergency planning authority and four members to the London Development Agency. Eleven of the 25 members of the assembly are elected from party lists, which, I suppose, might just be an embarrassment to the mayor. However, it seems quite unlikely that the assembly will not have a majority of members from the party of the mayor, unless he stands as an independent. Of course, politics is always an interesting process.

I do not see how we can accept that one can have a new form of democracy where a minority rules. To me, that is a contradiction in terms; new system, or no. The comparison that I made was not with the normal situation that exists in any local authority's budgetary process, but the process which goes on in the other place over the nation's budget. It seems to me that London is being asked to accept, not that a majority view may prevail, but that the mayor, in this new form of democracy, shall have the right to dictate. That may be acceptable to the Government but I have to say that it is not acceptable to me. We have had a most interesting debate. I shall study with care in Hansard everything that has been said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 214A:

Page 199, line 34, leave out ("two-thirds") and insert ("a majority").

The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 224D. With this amendment we turn to the paragraph in Schedule 5 which deals with any amendments to the mayor's budget. It is for this that we propose a simple majority. We are concerned here with amendments to the budget that we regard as crucial. As we read the Bill, the final draft is a matter for a simple majority. However, there is always the sword hanging over the assembly's head that, if it cannot agree, it is the mayor's budget anyway.

Amendment No. 224D deals with the provision requiring two-thirds of the assembly to agree any amendments to the mayor's draft calculations. In considering the Government's proposal, I wondered whether they were concerned about the mayor's autonomy and flexibility. If so, I think it is rather touching when one considers the very considerable powers on the part of the Secretary of State in the Bill, though admittedly not in this paragraph. I have in mind the powers as regards the overall control, which will work its way through into the budget. I also assume that the Government are concerned to ensure that there will be no frivolous amendments to the budget. However, as was said in the previous debate, if the assembly is to be a real check and balance on the mayor, it must have a realistic opportunity to exercise that duty.

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We do not seek overwhelming powers in this amendment. We do not propose that the mayor shall not be in the lead in this matter. I have to confess a degree of admiration for the Government and whoever drafted the proposal in the Bill because, superficially, to achieve acceptance for a measure by two-thirds of the assembly would appear to require the mayor to be persuasive and to take the assembly with him or her on the relevant measure. However, as other Members of the Committee have made clear, to obtain the agreement of two-thirds of the assembly to an amendment will be a difficult exercise, unless, of course, the mayor has gone right off the rails. However, let us assume that we shall not have a mayor who goes completely off the rails. The simple majority which we seek is not, in our view, out of kilter--to use the Minister's words--with the respective roles of the mayor and the assembly. It is out of kilter only if one accepts that there will be a strong mayor and a rather weak assembly.

We also wish to consider what constitutes scrutiny. That, after all, is the assembly's primary role. We do not believe that it is adequate to allow the assembly to articulate its concerns but not to demonstrate them in a vote which will have a real effect. The Government fall back on the argument that the referendum in May of last year provided the detailed framework for the new body. I regard that rather as a fall-back position because, as I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, one did not expect Londoners who voted at that time to know all the detail of the proposal. In any event, the measure was not a manifesto commitment in the sense of a general election manifesto. We are seriously concerned about the good workings of the new authority. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: After the bombardment to which we subjected the Committee in the previous group of amendments, I am delighted to support the noble Baroness on this issue. The measure constitutes a different form of expressing what I have been saying. I am delighted to support the noble Baroness.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: These amendments would completely overturn a fundamental feature of the legislation; namely, that there will be a separation of powers between an executive mayor and an assembly to provide scrutiny.

If I recollect correctly, the position adopted by the party of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, was that the only person who should be elected, and therefore have the democratic right to set budgets for London, was the mayor. The noble Lord's party was in favour of an elected mayor but not an elected assembly. Presumably if that had occurred, we would not have had the elected scrutiny body elected by all Londoners.

It is entirely right that an executive mayor should be in the lead in deciding the GLA's budget. However, after the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, it is extremely important to repeat that our proposals seek to avoid deadlock; not, as he said, to create it. There needs to be a means of setting the budget in the extremely unlikely event that the mayor fails to set one.

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Amendment No. 214A would, in effect, give the role of deciding the GLA's budget to the assembly. The mayor's role would be limited to submitting draft and final budgets to the assembly. A simple majority of assembly members could throw his plans out and substitute their own. The mayor would not even have a vote in deciding the budget in those circumstances. The assembly has the ability to influence the mayor. The mayor must consult the assembly before preparing a draft. The assembly may amend a draft by a simple majority. If the mayor's final draft does not include the assembly's amendments to the first draft, the mayor must give reasons why that is the case.

Amendment No. 224D would similarly leave the mayor with no real say in making substitute calculations. An executive mayor who is responsible for deciding strategies must be in the lead in that matter. The procedures set out in Schedule 5 will allow the assembly to have a real influence on the level of overall spending, the level of spending by each of the functional bodies, and on spending on different services.

A power to amend the mayor's budget by a two-thirds majority ensures that there is wide consensus among assembly members that the mayor's budget is significantly flawed in some respects, and, crucially, wide consensus about the changes needed to put things right. Then the assembly will be able to act.

Reference has been made to the political party of a mayor and which party would constitute the majority in the assembly. That is a rather old-fashioned way of looking at the procedure that is to be put in place. A two-thirds majority would comprise people from all parties or none. It has been said that the referendum did not constitute a manifesto commitment. The Government have kept faith with the people. The manifesto stated that the Government would put forward proposals and would give the people of London a referendum on this matter. It is a bit much to say that the Government cannot claim support in the referendum for the proposals that are before us. These amendments are not in line with the proposals that were put to the people of London. I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw Amendment No. 214A.

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