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Lord Whitty: I can see the logic if not the substance.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 357B:

Page 303, line 4, leave out ("elect") and insert ("appoint").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 357C not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 357D:

Page 303, line 8, leave out ("for the purpose of enabling him to meet the expenses of his office").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 357D, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 357E. This is a probing amendment. The schedule gives permission for an allowance to be paid to the chairman. That is interesting. I thought the Government had a different view about the use of the words "chairman" and "vice-chairman", but that is what it says here. As the Minister has just told me that their drafting is better than anything I can suggest, he will no doubt explain why it is so gender specific here.

The schedule refers to paying the expenses of office. Perhaps the Minister can inform me of the position with regard to paying expenses generally, not only of the chair or chairman and the vice-chairman but of all the members. What provision is there for the payment of expenses and allowances to all members of the authority? Currently the LFCDA has its own payments scheme for members; it does not rely on the home borough authority to pay them.

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Can the Minister confirm that that will be the case under the LFEPA or will he tell me that it would be too prescriptive to provide for it in the Bill?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As to the query about the use of the terminology "chair" and "chairman", I am sure that the Committee would not wish me to rehearse the debate that we had on this subject the other evening when some members of the Committee were slightly spikey about being called "spokes". The noble Lord will recollect that on that occasion we conceded that, short of changing and amending all previous legislation, where a reference was made to other legislation in this Bill, we used the terminology used in that legislation.

The proposed amendments would broaden the fire authority's power to pay an expenses allowance to its chairman and vice-chairman so that it need not necessarily be related to the expenses of the office. The linked amendment seeks to make the allowance an amount determined by the authority rather than by what it thinks reasonable. Taken together, we believe that the amendments would be inconsistent with the proper control of payments from public funds. The reference in the linked amendment to "Authority" means the fire authority rather than the GLA.

If the noble Lord wishes detailed information about the different possible levels that could be paid to members, I would prefer to write to him on that subject. I hope with that assurance he feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tope: I am the last person to argue with the noble Baroness about the use of the term "chair" or "chairman". I wholly share her view. I am not sure I entirely understand her explanation. I do not think that this does relate to previous legislation. I suggest very humbly that perhaps the Government's drafting on this occasion is not 100 per cent.

The purpose of our amendment was to debate chairs and chairmen. It was to raise the issue of the payment of expenses and allowances, not only to the chair and vice-chair but to all members. I should be grateful if the Minister would write to me on that subject.

It may be said, for example, that assembly members will be covered through whatever remuneration they are to receive as assembly members. But it would be useful to know what is envisaged to be the position of borough members.

Currently, the LFCDA has its own payments scheme. The costs are borne solely by the LFCDA. It is important for borough councils, and possibly for future representatives to know, first, whether expenses are to be paid--and I expect that to be the case--and, if so, by whom. Will the new authority have its own scheme, or are the boroughs from which the members come expected to bear the costs? That would be very unfair, given that there will be no more than eight boroughs involved. I should be grateful for a reply in writing from the Minister. On that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 357E not moved.]

7 Jul 1999 : Column 996

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358:

Page 303, line 21, at end insert ("; or
(d) is otherwise disqualified for any reason mentioned in section 20(1)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment relates to paragraph 4 of Schedule 23 dealing with the disqualification of individuals from the right to sit on the fire and emergency planning authority. The purpose of the amendment is also to refer the reasons for disqualification back to Clause 21, dealing with reasons for disqualification from membership of the Greater London Authority.

The amendment may seem superfluous at this stage, and the Minister may tell me that it is unnecessary. But the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority will not consist exclusively of members of the Greater London Authority. I must confess that I am not absolutely sure whether this particular qualification, which is an important one, applies generally outwith the Greater London Authority. This is effectively a probing amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The proposed amendment seeks to add to the criteria under which a person may be disqualified from being a member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The added criteria appear in Clause 20 of the Bill, which covers disqualification from being the mayor or a member of the assembly. However, the amendment is not considered necessary. Under the proposed arrangements for the LFEPA, all fire authority members must be serving representatives of either the assembly or of a London borough council. The individuals concerned could not be assembly representatives unless they satisfied the criteria set out in Clause 20 of the Bill.

As regards the borough representatives, they must satisfy the equivalent criteria set out in Section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972, a provision on which the wording of Clause 20 of the Bill is largely based. In the circumstances, I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for that very clear answer. She has given me the reassurance I was seeking. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 23, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 24 [Amendments relating to the Fire etc Authority]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 358YA:

Page 314, line 13, at end insert--
("The Crime and Disorder Act 1998

Duty to consider crime and disorder implications

. In section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (duty of certain authorities in exercising their functions) in subsection (2) (which specifies the authorities) after "a joint authority," there shall be inserted "the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority,".").

The noble Lord said: Schedule 24 makes miscellaneous amendments to legislation which affects the LFCDA's functions in order to apply them to the

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LFEPA. It has been the Government's general policy to apply to the reconstituted fire authority all the legislation which applies to the present fire authority.

The amendment will provide that Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 should apply to the new LFEPA. Section 17 applies to "joint authorities" under the Local Government Act 1985, a term which includes the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority. This amendment should therefore not be controversial; it seeks merely to maintain the status quo. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 24, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358YAA:

After Schedule 24, insert the following new schedule--


1.--(1) The Environment Strategy Group for London shall consist of such number of members as the Mayor may from time to time determine.
(2) The members shall be appointed by the Mayor.
(3) The members shall be individuals--
(a) who are representatives of such bodies concerned with relevant matters as the Mayor considers appropriate; or
(b) who have knowledge, experience or expertise which is relevant to the functions of the Environment Strategy Group for London.
(4) Before appointing any member, the Mayor shall consult such bodies or persons as he considers appropriate.
(5) Before making an appointment by virtue of sub-paragraph (3)(a) above, the Mayor shall consult the authoritative body concerned.
(6) In sub-paragraph (3)(a) above "relevant matters" means any of the matters in relation to which the Environment Strategy may contain policy.
(7) In paragraph (6) above "Environment Strategy" means all strategies on which the Environment Strategy Group is to be consulted.
Tenure of office

2.--(1) The members of the Environment Strategy Group for London shall hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms of their appointment.
(2) The terms of appointment of a member shall be such as the Mayor may determine.
(3) But a member may at any time resign his membership by giving notice to the Mayor.
(4) A person who ceases to be a member shall be eligible for re-appointment.
Members' expenses

3. The Mayor may pay members of the Environment Strategy Group for London allowances in respect of travel or other expenses properly incurred by them.
Staff, facilities and money

4. The Mayor may provide the Environment Strategy Group for London with--
(a) staff,
(b) accommodation, equipment or other facilities, or
(c) sums of money towards defraying expenses properly incurred by them in carrying out their functions.

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5.--(1) The quorum of the Environment Strategy Group for London and the arrangements relating to their meetings shall be such as they may determine.
(2) The validity of proceedings of the Environment Strategy Group for London is not affected by any vacancy among the members or any defect in the appointment of any member.").

The noble Lord said: I confess that I had to make a considerable leap intellectually and in the Bill before I could make sense of the placing of this amendment. Amendment No. 358YAA introduces a new schedule after Schedule 24. Therefore, after I had thought about it for some time, I came to understand the logic of the Committee Clerks in introducing into the midst of consideration of fire service matters a group of amendments which deal entirely with environmental matters. It is passing peculiar, but as I understand it, that is the reason. If other Members of the Committee have had the same difficulty in understanding the placing, that is the only explanation I can find. As the amendment is in that position, we must deal with it.

I shall not go into the details; it would be easy enough to spell them out but it is unnecessary because every Member of the Committee present is familiar with them. The latter parts of the Bill cover a whole host of environmental matters. We do not believe that the mayor will have the necessary expertise to be able to deal with matters in a sufficiently expert way. He should have expert backing. The purpose of our new schedule is to make that expertise available to him.

It can be argued, I suppose, that the mayor may well create this pool of expertise, or that it may be available from within some of the existing staff of the Government Office for London and so on, which may help him to run London in the initial stages.

We have also heard that there will be a certain lack of transparency over the advice that the mayor might obtain from those whom he employs directly. It is written into the Bill, and the Minister's explanation is that to a certain extent the mayor will act in his capacity as does a Minister. A Minister's advisers apparently cannot be called into question for the advice they might give, although that seems to have become somewhat eroded by the BSE inquiry.

We are concerned about the general problem. In environmental matters it is important that the mayor should have expertise available to him. We propose an environmental strategy group for London, and we have given the mayor the executive authority to choose who should serve on it. I accept that he should have that right. He should pick experts who can give him that advice and they should be a properly recognised body on the face of the Bill. I also accept that they replace an existing committee that is to be disbanded, and I do not apologise for that. I do not believe that the mayor will be able to undertake his tasks in the environmental field properly without an independent team of expert advisers, and this amendment gives effect to that. The other amendments in the group are consequential. I beg to move.

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11 p.m.

Lord Whitty: This amendment is not only in a strange place but it is also a slightly strange amendment which misunderstands the nature of the environmental responsibilities of the GLA. One specific part of the GLA's general purposes is to promote environmental improvements in London as a whole. In addition, the authority will have specific environmental functions in respect of the preparation of strategies on waste, air quality, noise and bio-diversity. However, that indicates that there is no need to set down in primary legislation the way in which the mayor will obtain advice on, and organise the running of, his or her environmental responsibilities. Those responsibilities will run through the whole range of strategies and functions of the GLA. The mayor will have to put arrangements in place to obtain advice from environmental experts on all dimensions of the policies, strategies and proposals. That will have to be built into the management structure of both the authority and the functional bodies.

To put on to the face of the Bill an environment strategy group as this amendment seeks to do will tend to compartmentalise the treatment of environmental matters within the GLA. It will make them the responsibility of a separate statutorily-based environment strategy group without providing for read-across into all the other policy areas. We believe that the mayor should retain the flexibility to make arrangements to ensure that environmental considerations and advice are taken into account in all the authority's actions. We should not prescribe and limit the mayor's flexibility by primary legislation. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

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