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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: This is not, as the Minister says, a matter about executive power. It concerns electoral power. It concerns the assembly representatives--a word used by the Bill--and if they are assembly representatives they must be elected by the assembly. If the people on this authority are merely drawn from the assembly, they are not assembly representatives. The Minister cannot have it both ways. As I said, if they are representatives they must be elected by the assembly.

Lord Tope: Before I decide what I am going to do with the amendment, I wonder whether the Minister can answer two points. First, he made it clear that the nine assembly members are representatives of the mayor and not representatives of the assembly. Therefore, will he agree to an alteration in Schedule 23 which would describe them not as "assembly representatives", as is the case at present, but as "the mayor's representatives?" That is exactly what he is saying. He is saying that they are there to maintain the link with the mayor's executive responsibilities. Let us be open and honest about it: they are not there as assembly representatives, they are the mayor's representatives. I hope that the Minister can tell us that he will bring forward an amendment on Report which will be honest and clear in its reflection of the Government's intentions.

My second point relates to Amendment No. 357ZA to which the Minister made no reference. It relates to the appointment of the chairman of the authority. Can the noble Lord tell us why the Government are content for the police authority to appoint its own chair but insist that the fire authority shall have the chair imposed upon it by the mayor?

Lord Whitty: On the second question, I can tell the noble Lord that the position of the Metropolitan Police Authority is clearly different from that of the fire authority; indeed, the latter's responsibilities fall totally within those of the mayor. As the noble Lord will know from previous debates, the police authority has a wider remit. Therefore, the constitutions are different and, in this context, the executive body of the fire authority will need to have on its board people from the boroughs and nominated by them. They will not be representative of an individual borough but will be nominated by the boroughs collectively.

The mayor will choose the members of the assembly who are on the board. They are not the mayor's representatives. He is constrained by having to choose from among the members of the assembly. They may not be there by vote of the assembly, but they are the assembly's component of that board. Therefore, I do not think it would be appropriate to make the suggested

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amendment in the schedule of "mayor's representatives." Once again, I do not believe that we will agree on the matter. Therefore, I suggest we move on.

Lord Tope: The Minister is absolutely right: we are not going to agree on this and we shall move on in a minute. I should have thought that the fact that there are borough representatives on the fire authority was even more reason for it being able to choose its own chair rather than having one imposed upon it by the mayor who has no constitutional relationship with the boroughs. Indeed, I would use the Minister's argument to reinforce mine. We are not going to agree. It may well be that the representatives are members of the authority, but they are not representing the assembly; they are representing the mayor. It is the mayor's patronage we are talking about here. I am even more dissatisfied with the answer than I thought I would be. I am sure that we will return to the matter. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 357PA to 357RA not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 357SA:

Page 302, line 14, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 18 and insert ("in exercising their power to nominate members under sub-paragraph (1)(b) have regard to the balance of parties for the time being prevailing among the members of those councils taken as a whole and to the area of Greater London from which members are appointed.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to vary the provision in Schedule 23 and suggests that, in nominating borough members, regard should be had not only to the balance of parties prevailing across London as a whole, which is clearly correct and which we encapsulate here, but also to the areas of Greater London from which members are appointed. In other words, we propose that there should be a geographical as well as a political reflection. I hope that this will be less controversial than our previous amendments because I believe that this is what will happen in practice. Nevertheless, I think it would be desirable to have that reflected in the schedule.

It is well known that in some parts of London one party is rather stronger than it is in other areas. I make no reference to any particular political parties but that needs to be borne in mind when choosing the borough nominees for the authority we are discussing. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I am slightly surprised that the Liberal Democrats are not prepared to leave these decisions to the London boroughs, which is the logic of their position on other matters. In this situation, the London boroughs act jointly to nominate representatives to the fire authority. They must reflect, as far as is practicable, the political balance prevailing across the London boroughs as a whole. I am sure that in nominating their representatives to a strategic London-wide authority the boroughs will want to be satisfied that there is a good geographical balance as well as a political balance, and will not want all the nominations to be from boroughs north of the river, for example.

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However, I think we can leave that matter to the common sense of the boroughs. I do not think that the amendment, which would slightly modify the effect of the political balance element, is helpful. It would make the selection process rather more prescriptive than it is at present without improving it. I do not see the benefit of this amendment. I believe that we should leave this matter to the judgment of the London boroughs.

Baroness Hamwee: I believe that I am the original author of this amendment. My noble friend will correct me if I am wrong, but we are not particularly rivals in that regard. I drafted this amendment quite recently having very much in mind the fact that we believe that this Bill as a whole is too prescriptive, but our view is not being accepted. Therefore, if one accepts that the Bill is prescriptive, one has to look at the prescription. I am delighted to hear that the Government believe that some matters should be left to the judgment of the London boroughs. That is an argument that we have put forward throughout the course of the Bill. We shall note the passage where that is stated so that we can quote it at a future stage!

Lord Tope: We have said time and again--and shall no doubt continue to do so--that this Bill is enormously over-prescriptive in the extent of its detail. If one starts to be so prescriptive, one has to be even more prescriptive to get the matter right. We believe that far more matters should be left to be determined by the London boroughs and the GLA. However, that is not the route that the Government have chosen. They cannot have it both ways. They argue that they need this prescription when they think that they need it. However, when someone else suggests making the provision a little clearer and more straightforward, the Government say that that is too prescriptive. One day a Minister on the Government Front Bench will explain to us the Government's criteria as regards what is or is not necessary to prescribe. However, I do not think that will happen today and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 357TA to 357ZA not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 357A:

Page 303, line 3, at end insert--
("( ) On a casual vacancy occurring in that office, the Mayor shall as soon as reasonably practicable appoint one of the members of the Fire etc Authority to fill the vacancy.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 357A, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 357B and 357C.

Government Amendment No. 357A arises as a result of discussions with the Association of London Government. It sets out the action to be taken if a vacancy arises in the office of chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. Paragraph 3(1) to Schedule 23 requires the mayor in each year to appoint a chairman from among the members of the authority. Comparable legislation makes express provision for the filling of a vacancy in the office of chairman. This amendment therefore provides that, in the event of a vacancy arising

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in that office, the mayor will be required to appoint a new chairman from among the members of the LFEPA as soon as possible.

Government Amendment No. 357B is a minor technical amendment dealing with inconsistent wording. Amendment No. 357C, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, appears to have a similar purpose but the wording is not consistent with that in other local government legislation. We think that our drafting is better. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Tope: Having been provoked by the Minister suggesting that his drafting is better than mine, perhaps I may suggest that he is not right. As it currently stands, sub-paragraph (2) refers to the fire authority electing a vice chair and paragraph (3) refers to an "appointment" under sub-paragraph (2). Until the government amendments are passed, sub-paragraph (2) refers to an election; therefore sub-paragraph (3) as it stands is wrong; it should also refer to an election. I therefore beg to differ with the Minister; our drafting is better on the Bill as it stands at this moment.

The purpose behind the amendment is one that we have rehearsed already, including very recently, and I will not do so again. On a purely drafting point, I believe our amendment is correct until the government amendments are passed, if they are.

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