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Baroness Hamwee: We have a number of amendments in this group. We made an attempt about 10 days ago to have the grouping split. Something rather odd seems to have happened to it: a few amendments have been removed, but the group remains almost the same length. I am sorry if some Members of the Committee are confused, having been warned that the group would be broken down into smaller and more easily handled groups. I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 452AA, 452YC, 452ZC and 452ZD. My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury will speak to Amendment No. 452DA, and to Amendments Nos. 452UJ, 452VJ, 452WJ, 452XJ, 452YJ and 453B.
Perhaps I may say in response to a comment made by the noble Baroness that she is obviously as nice a person as I always thought that she was, not having yet seen any characteristics in any of the mayoral candidates that might at some future point lead Londoners to wonder whether, if that candidate were to be elected--and I speak of no particular candidate--the right person was in place. I am also trying to choose words that have no gender designation. The noble Baroness is right. Qualities may emerge, either from candidates whom we know or from those whom we do not yet know, which could be a problem.
The first of our amendments on the general area of the constitution of the group proposes that the group is selected from the bodies designated by the mayor. The schedule requires the members to be representatives of those bodies. We are not clear whether that means that they must be serving members of those bodies in order to fulfil the description "representatives". The word has an "s" on the end, which means that it is slightly different from what might be indicated by "representative of".
Amendment No. 452YC would require the mayor to consult the assembly before the appointment. We make the point here, and indeed as a general point in the various amendments towards the end of the grouping, that the assembly should have a role. There is a particular point in the area of the cultural strategy. This part of the Bill reads very much as though culture is a matter for London as a capital city. As I read it, it fails to place any emphasis on the importance of culture, leisure and so on, for people who live and work in London. Both the Conservatives and these Benches have tabled specific amendments on the matter in relation to later parts of the Bill. We believe that the assembly will be well placed to ensure that the diverse nature of London and Londoners and the sheer size of the place are not overlooked. The members of the assembly will be well placed to assist in the appointment procedure and to ensure that those who think about London do not merely think about culture within the few miles in the centre. A similar point is made in Amendment No. 452ZC.
Amendment No. 452ZD describes the bodies that should be among those to be consulted in connection with the appointments. We do not seek to be exclusive in listing those groups. However, we do want to point up the major areas of experience and interest. One might alternatively refer to bodies with the knowledge and experience of the areas listed in Clause 301(5) relating to the subject matter to be dealt with by the group. In response to a similar amendment, the Minister in another place said that the mayor should not be constrained in promoting and co-ordinating culture. That is not what we seek at all. We want to make sure that the entire process is not exclusive of London's very rich experience. Subsequent amendments deal, again, with the position of the assembly in this area, as there is a particular concern.
Amendment No. 452DA relates to Schedule 25. It simply provides that, as regards the chair of the cultural strategy group--an important position--the most apt group to appoint or elect the chair should be the group itself, not the mayor. That is not to cast any doubt on the bona fides of the mayor; it merely follows ancient practice as regards group dynamics; namely, that the best person to lead a group is a member of the group itself, as it may select. The other amendments all relate to the balance of power and responsibility as between the mayor and the assembly under Clause 301.
This is a probing amendment. It seems to these Benches that, as regards the draft strategy, and the final strategy for culture, media and sport in the capital city, a better balance would be to make the mayor and the assembly jointly responsible. Thus, all the amendments require the cultural strategy group to deal equally with the mayor and the assembly.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I must congratulate my noble friend Lady Anelay on the extremely succinct and clear way in which she spoke to this large and rather complicated group of amendments. She made her points very clearly, and I was impressed by that.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 452A and 452B. I believe that it would be sensible if the experts on the body were in the majority. If that was known to be the case, it would be more convincing to all concerned. I would have thought that the London Tourist Board had a particular part to play here, and it would be wise to ensure that that body was on the face of the Bill.
It should not be possible for the mayor to inflict on the group for a long time a chairman who was unacceptable to it. I do not know how that is to be achieved or whether my noble friend's suggestions are sensible, but there could be trouble if the mayor selected a crony (for lack of a better word) that the group did not like and left him or her there. I believe that the question whether that should be impossible is worthy of
I refer next to the amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has just spoken. He has done so succinctly, for which I am sure the Committee is grateful. But it seems to me that a great many of the amendments moved by the Liberal Democrats in the passage of this Bill say the same thing; namely, that the assembly and mayor should frequently act together, that the mayor should at least consult the assembly, or that the assembly should have much more power than the Government have anticipated. The Government could have introduced a Bill in which the relationship between the mayor and assembly was something like that envisaged by the Liberal Democrats but they did not. The Liberal Democrats have disagreed, but noble Lords on those Benches could have clarified the point in two or three amendments at the beginning of Committee stage and not repeated it over and over again. Today, we have before us Amendments Nos. 452ZC, 452UJ, 452VJ, 452WJ, 452YJ and several other amendments that are to be moved separately. All of them repeat the same point.
Speaking for myself, I believe that there has been an uneconomic use of parliamentary time in debating this point over and over again in different amendments. I do not criticise the fact that noble Lords have taken advantage of our freedom in this Chamber to talk as much as we like. We do not like our freedom to be curtailed, but we owe it to ourselves and the public not to use parliamentary time unwisely. Nor do I criticise noble Lords for what they are doing today. Clearly, the message has got through since this amendment was moved very briefly, but I believe that this is a simple point which has been clarified by the Government. I hope that when we get to Report stage we have only one or two amendments to test the point and do not repeat it over and over again.
I hope that noble Lords will not take exception to my remarks, but as a Back-Bencher--no one has put me up to this--I feel strongly that the passage of this Bill, which has taken nine days in Committee, has been unduly long. There are a number of matters that I would have liked to discuss in that parliamentary time other than this Bill. However, I support the points that my noble friend has made in speaking to these amendments.
Lord Annan: Perhaps I may intervene briefly to deal with the question of the appointment of the chairman. I fully take the point that we do not want the appointment of cronies. On the other hand, this gives rise to difficulties. In the case of the National Gallery, the chairman is appointed by the trustees from among the trustees; in the case of the British Museum, it is a Crown appointment. There is no single method that is
Baroness Hamwee: For the record, if for nothing else, perhaps I may explain to the Committee, in response to the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that not only were we concerned about the substantive issue of the role of the assembly but we were also well aware that we would be accused of inconsistency if we did not pick up the point. The issue is slightly different at different points throughout the Bill. Had the noble Baroness been with the Committee two days ago she would have witnessed the extraordinary pace that it managed to keep up in going through the amendments that day. That has been fairly characteristic of the contributions to the debates on a Bill which contains, I believe, 320 clauses--perhaps it is now 330 clauses--and 27 schedules. That is in considerable contradistinction to the consideration of the House of Lords Bill, which contains five clauses and has taken up a very great deal of time. I shall not take up further time in defending what I regard as a position which needs no excuse.
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