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Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, the Minister has expressed the Government's thanks to the Italian Government for having effectively protected our interests in Libya over many years. Am I right in thinking that the Saudi Arabian Government also deserve some credit for having very effectively, and in quite difficult conditions, represented Libya over the many years during which we have had no diplomatic relations with Libya?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I suspect that the noble Lord knows a great deal more about the history of this matter, given his former incarnation as Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. He is entirely right in suggesting that our thanks are due to a number of different governments, including the Government of Saudi Arabia.

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Greater London Authority Bill

5.34 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 240 [Secretary of State's functions in relation to the strategy]:

[Amendments Nos. 347YA and 347ZA not moved.]

Clause 240 agreed to.

Clause 241 [Audit]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 347A:

Page 132, line 40, at end insert ("and the Chair of the London Assembly"").

The noble Baroness said: Clause 241 makes provision for the audit of the LDA and provides for the agency to send a copy of its audited accounts to the mayor. Government Amendment No. 347A would require the LDA to send a copy of its audited accounts also to the chair of the assembly. The amendment meets a commitment given by my honourable friend Nick Raynsford in Committee in another place.

Amendment No. 347B, tabled by noble Lords opposite, would also require the LDA to send a copy of its audited accounts to the assembly. I am pleased that we are both thinking along the same lines. I hope that Amendment No. 347A will achieve what noble Lords intend. I beg to move this amendment and invite the noble Baroness not to move her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: I am happy with the amendment proposed by the Government in the other place. It was argued that our amendment was unnecessary because the accounts would be published and made available to the assembly on request. The step that the Government are taking is a very helpful one. I shall not move Amendment No. 347B.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 347B not moved.]

Clause 241, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 242 agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 348:

After Clause 242, insert the following new clause--


(" . The London Assembly shall debate annually the report and accounts of the London Development Agency.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment requires the London assembly to debate annually the report and accounts of the London Development Agency. The Bill as drafted does not provide a forum in which the performance of the LDA can either be challenged by elected representatives or, indeed, be discussed. The assembly should fulfil that essential role in order to ensure proper scrutiny and proper accountability.

The assembly provides the best London-wide forum in which to scrutinise the performance of the London Development Agency. The impact of the LDA on the life and economy of London, if it works as the

7 Jul 1999 : Column 915

Government expect, will be significant. It is therefore right that the elected representatives of London should be able, indeed required, to examine that performance at least annually. They, in turn, are then accountable to the electors of London for the work of the London Development Agency, as is the mayor in his other capacity in relation to the agency.

The amendment stands in its own right. I should have thought that it ought to be entirely acceptable to the Government. Of course, the Government may say, "The assembly will do this. You don't need to tell its members to do it". The members may do it, but there again, they may not. It is to prevent the latter situation that I propose this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The new clause obliges the assembly to debate the LDA's report and accounts each year. The assembly has a duty, under Clause 49, to keep under review the exercise by the mayor of the statutory functions exercisable by him or her. Given the powers of appointment and direction which the mayor has over the LDA, its activities will fall within the compass of the assembly's duty under Clause 49. Accordingly, the assembly will be able to hold regular debates concerning the LDA, whether on its general performance or on particular matters and will no doubt do so. Adding particular obligations to the assembly's general duties could serve only to cloud its responsibilities. For that reason, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I listened with interest to what the noble Baroness said. Keeping under review is keeping under review and it may well be that the assembly will debate the deeds and, rarely we hope, the misdeeds of the London Development Agency from time to time.

However, the amendment specifically relates to the annual report. That report is more significant than just keeping a subject under review. It is for that reason that we proposed the amendment. Nevertheless, I have heard what the noble Baroness said and will study it. I do not believe it will satisfy me, but I will decide what to do in the light of what she said and what I think. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 20 [Further amendments of the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998]:

[Amendment No. 348A not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 349:

Page 274, leave out lines 14 and 15 and insert--
(""(4) This section does not apply in relation to London where the London Development Agency shall have regard to the views of and regularly consult with small, medium and large businesses in London and with their representative bodies."").

The noble Lord said: As drafted, the legislation ignores the important relationship which the London Development Agency will need to develop, and succeed in, with the business community. The agency should be

7 Jul 1999 : Column 916

required to consult businesses of all sizes and their representatives. It is for that reason that the amendment is advanced.

There seems to be some hesitation in official circles as to the exact number of businesses that exist within London. I suppose that it is because, among other things, there is a shifting population, which may include barrow boys. Some might debate whether they run businesses but I am certain they do. I have heard figures of half-a-million separate businesses in London and have seen figures as high as 700,000. Whatever the figure, it is large. Not only is it a large number, but by far and away the greater proportion of the businesses are small. If we take small and medium-sized businesses, it is likely to be 99 per cent of the total.

Large business has no difficulty in getting its views and interests well understood by official bodies such as the London Development Agency. It is a much greater problem for smaller businesses. They do not have either the administrative back-up, the time, or, all too often one has to admit, the inclination to become involved with officialdom in the way that would be required to get their views across to the London Development Agency. Nevertheless, we believe it is important that they are properly taken into account because they are a significant aspect of the total community of London and of the total economy of London, small businesses though they may be. It is in that sense that we have put the amendment forward. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: This amendment continues the debate we were having before the Statement about the rather complex network of consultations. As I read the provision in the schedule--the two lines which the noble Lord seeks to omit--it proposes that Section 8 of the Regional Development Agencies Act is not to apply to the London Development Agency. The section deals with consultation and subsection (3) deals with the position where there is no regional chamber. It provides for guidance for carrying out appropriate consultation in relation to the exercise of its functions. That is omitted and, for once, it seems to me to be quite a safeguard. People who might not be at the right place in the cobweb would be caught--

Lord Dixon-Smith: If the noble Baroness would allow me to intervene, I accept that the amendment takes out lines, but it also inserts them. Perhaps she is looking at the lines taken out, but not those inserted.

Baroness Hamwee: No, I was using the noble Lord's amendment as a hook to hang the argument on. If I had reached the end of the sentence, the noble Lord would know that I supported him.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 empowers the Secretary of State to designate a suitable body in a region to be a regional chamber. He can then require the relevant RDA to have regard to its views on the formulation and review of strategy and to consult it on the exercise of other specified functions. Schedule 20 removes this provision for London. Business representation on the LDA board

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and requirements for wider consultation on the LDA strategy have an equivalent effect with respect to the functions of the LDA.

Businesses, large and small, will benefit from the targeted approach of the LDA. Given the importance of small businesses to London's economy, I fully expect the LDA to consult them on the strategy and also expect the mayor to insist on it. They must be consulted if their interests are to be affected and that is provided for.

In addition, the scrutiny powers of the assembly provide a key channel for local views to be fed to the LDA and Clause 25 requires the GLA to consult businesses and others on the exercise of its functions which have an impact on the interests of those businesses. The results of the consultations will no doubt, where relevant, be fed to the LDA board. The Committee has already considered and approved those measures.

The amendment would place small, medium and large businesses, together with their representative bodies, in the role of a regional chamber. This is not necessary to ensure that business views are taken into account by the LDA; it has already been provided for. It would also be undesirable to give businesses in London a role which is given elsewhere to a body representative of all those who have an interest in the agency's work. Therefore, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

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