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Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question on Clause 106 to which he referred. It provides that the authority can pay grants. When I read subsection (1) I had understood that that provided the necessary conduit from central grant through to the functional bodies. Subsection (2) deals with moving money between the functional bodies. Is it correct that money can be moved only from the budget of one functional body to another if that is instigated by the functional body which has the excess? That is how Clause 106(2) is worded and it was one of the reasons for the concern I expressed on an earlier amendment.

Lord Whitty: The provision refers to Clause 106(2); namely, the ability to transfer from one functional body to another in the case of an underspend in the central grant and between bodies. However, in all such situations, the functional body and the mayor must agree on the transfer. I was distinguishing that situation from substitute calculations.

Baroness Hamwee: Can the mayor require that to be undertaken? In referring to the agreement, the Minister said that the mayor would not be in control and the functional body which had the excess could hang on to it if it wished. Is that correct?

Lord Whitty: Any transfer requires agreement; therefore the noble Baroness is right.

Lord Bowness: I hope that I am not alone in suggesting that Clauses 74 and 79, which the Minister now seeks to amend, are incredibly complicated. They were complicated in their original form and they are scarcely less complicated in their amended form. I and perhaps other Members of the Committee would find it most helpful if the Minister were able to place in the Library a layman's guide in plain English on the effects of these changes.

Lord Whitty: I shall inquire whether that can be done. I was afraid that the noble Lord was going to

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challenge me on my algebra in relation to parts of Clause 74. They are complex clauses and I had hoped that the relatively minor and technical amendments I have made would clarify them. I shall consult to see whether I can meet his point.

Lord Bowness: The trouble with minor and technical amendments is that they normally have unforeseen consequences about three years after the Bill has been passed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 221B to 221D:

Page 44, line 20, leave out from ("Authority,") to ("any") in line 22 and insert--
("(i) the amount of any component budget requirement calculated under subsections (4) to (7) of section 70 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999,
(ii) the amount calculated under subsection (8) of that section, or
Page 45, line 22, at end insert ("under section 73(3)(b) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (in relation to item P1) or under section 74(5)(b) of that Act (in relation to item P2)").
Page 45, leave out lines 29 and 30 and insert ("the appropriate Greater London provisions in making the calculations.
(6A) For the purposes of subsection (6) above, "the appropriate Greater London provisions" means--
(a) in the case of calculations required to be made in accordance with sections 70 to 75 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and sections 47 and 48 above, those provisions; and
(b) in the case of calculations required to be made in accordance with sections 70, 71 and 73 to 75 of, and Schedule 6 to, that Act and sections 47 and 48 above, those provisions.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 79, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 80 [Minimum budget for Metropolitan Police Authority]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 222:

Page 45, line 35, leave out ("This section applies") and insert ("Subsections (1B) to (1D) apply, in relation to a financial year, to the making by the Authority of calculations required by section 70 in the case of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
(1A) Subsections (2) to (12) apply").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 222 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 223. In our view, the Metropolitan Police force is particularly ill served by the financial provisions of the Bill. The two most objectionable provisions are addressed by our amendments to Clauses 80 and 81.

In preparing the Bill, the Government clearly recognised the risk that a mayor might not sufficiently fund the Metropolitan Police and the dangers that such a risk poses for the safety of Londoners. For that reason, Clauses 80 and 81 provide a mechanism for the Secretary of State to remedy the situation if he finds that a particular mayor has set the police budget at a level which he considers is insufficient to provide an efficient and effective police force for the Metropolitan Police area.

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If the Government were not concerned about the possibility of mayoral underfunding of the police, they would not have felt the need to introduce measures such as Clauses 80 and 81. We share their concern. There is one particular mayoral candidate whose record might give grounds for concern. Nonetheless, we believe that the Government are right to worry about the possibility that mayors, separately from that one individual, might consider underfunding London's police.

The trouble is that the Government's solution fails to deal properly with the problem. It is inadequate for two major reasons. First, it begins to deal with the problem only after it has occurred. Clause 80 is a mechanism for remedying underfunding after the event, which would have to be the case. However, it carries a clear risk that once an irresponsible mayor has overspent in other areas the police shortfall will have to be met by an increased GLA precept, the cost of which will be borne by London's council tax payers.

We believe that prevention is better than cure and that Londoners should be protected in advance from underfunding. Their safety should not be put at risk because curative action can be taken only slowly and in retrospect. Even where a remedy is necessary, the time period of 35 days, in Clause 81, appears far too long. We believe that Londoners deserve better than to be uncertain about the future of the police force for such a period.

Both these aspects involve the safety and security of London as a whole, which we believe could be unnecessarily exposed. Our two amendments address the problem. First, the amendment to Clause 80, Amendment No. 222, proposes that subsections (1B) to (1D) offer a preventive rather than a remedial solution. We want to avoid the problem before it becomes a difficulty. Currently, the Bill enables the mayor to present a budget which might incorporate inadequate financial provisions for the police. Under the current Clause 80, the Secretary of State may then require that police funding be increased with an enjoinder to the mayor to seek offsetting savings elsewhere in the budget. If no such savings are identified by the mayor, the Secretary of State may substitute a higher total budget for the police in order to ensure that what he considers to be the necessary resources are provided.

The result is an increase in the GLA precept because of the timescale. Not only is there a period of uncertainty about the future of London's policing; the delay could also cause difficulties for the boroughs in establishing what their actual precept should be.

We believe that the solution is straightforward. Our amendment requires the mayor to gain the approval of the Secretary of State for the level of Metropolitan Police funding which he is proposing before he includes it in his budget. That proposal implies no change in the Secretary of State's powers over police funding. The safeguard on funding built into the Bill would become part of the budget process, not a possible late shock to London's council tax payers. Surely, it must be better that the mayor should go into discussions with the Secretary of State over his proposals for the police before he arrives at his budget rather than afterwards.

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I should have thought that that would provide a much more satisfactory way of arriving at both the Metropolitan Police budget and the Greater London Authority budget, with satisfactory consequences for the people of London who have to pay their council tax bills. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Patten: I warmly support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith. I think we are moving into uncharted waters. The Committee may care to reflect on the fact that for a very long time there has been a carefully modulated set of checks and balances between the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Metropolitan Police, which has ensured that reasonable and adequate funding has come to the Metropolitan Police.

We shall find from time to time that, like all public services, the Met will say that it is being underfunded, that there are crises, and there will be panic on the "Today" programme. People will be demanding more money from the mayor and, through the mayor, from the government of the day.

Setting that aside, I think that by and large the funding mechanisms with which many Members of the Committee will be familiar, and which have underpinned the policing of London, have worked well in the past. I cannot imagine who the nameless mayoral candidate was to whom my noble friend referred. My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare and I were speculating as to who might be this person who might gratuitously underfund the Metropolitan Police, given half a chance, in some future year.

But I believe that the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith is extremely practical. This is not a partisan matter, and I urge the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who takes such care to reflect on matters raised in the Committee, to think that nothing would undermine the status of the mayoralty and the intentions of the Bill more than problems with the Metropolitan Police. If people feel that, because of political changes, the introduction of a mayor and the resulting funding changes, they are not being looked after by the Met in the way to which they have grown accustomed, we could find that both the standing and status of the Metropolitan Police, who do so much to help, is undermined. We could also find that the office of the mayor is undermined.

I urge the Minister to reflect very carefully on the words in the amendments put forward so forcefully by my noble friend and to consider whether something pragmatic can be done to build on the provisions already in the Bill, which I support, to make sure that these possibilities do not come to pass under whoever is mayor of London.

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