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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 135:


Page 22, line 21, after (“(3)") insert (“or (3A)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 136:


Page 22, line 23, at end insert--
(“(b) a functional body,
(c) a member of a functional body, or
(d) a member of staff of a functional body,
except as provided by subsection (5) below.
(5) Where--
(a) the Mayor receives advice from a person falling within paragraph (b), (c) or (d) of subsection (4) above, and
(b) the functional body mentioned in that paragraph is the Metropolitan Police Authority or the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority,
the Mayor is not relieved by subsection (4) above from any requirement to disclose the advice, if or to the extent that the advice falls within subsection (6) below.
(6) Advice given to the Mayor by a functional body falls within this subsection if it has been disclosed--
(a) at a meeting of, or of a committee or sub-committee of, the functional body at a time when the meeting was open to members of the public by virtue of Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972 (access to meetings and documents); or
(b) in a document which has been open to inspection by members of the public by virtue of that Part of that Act.
(7) Any reference in this section to a member of staff of a functional body includes a reference to an officer or employee of that body.

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(8) In this section “advice" includes--
(a) an expression of opinion; and
(b) an analysis of information.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 136 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 216, 226 and 228. The Government have always been clear that the mayor will need private space in which to consider policy options and take decisions. Therefore we are providing for unique openness generally for the GLA where the mayor is not obliged to disclose advice that he or she receives to the assembly and, through the assembly, to the public.

The Bill as drafted already makes provision for the mayor not to disclose advice from GLA staff. We indicated that we would bring forward amendments to ensure that the provisions of the Bill fully met our intentions by covering also advice from functional bodies and ensuring that advice to the mayor did not become available as a “background paper" as provided under Clause 48 of the Bill. Those amendments are within this group.

The amendments ensure that the mayor is not required to disclose advice that he receives from functional bodies, their members and staff. This is achieved by providing that the mayor is not required to disclose such advice in answering assembly members' questions and that functional bodies, their members and staff are not required to provide evidence or produce documents relating to advice to the mayor under the assembly's power to summon. The amendments also ensure that advice to the mayor does not become available to the public as a “background paper" to a paper or report considered at an assembly meeting. Under the assembly's openness arrangements, “background papers" are open to public inspection.

The amendments also provide that where advice to the mayor from the fire or police authorities has already been made available to the public under the openness arrangements for those authorities, then the mayor's power not to disclose does not apply.

I recognise that those who believe that the usual local authority arrangements for openness should apply to the GLA--as we indicated in the general provision in the earlier parts of the progress of this Bill--will not accept that advice to the mayor should be private. But throughout the Bill we have made our intentions quite clear: that in this respect at least the mayor is more equivalent to Ministers than he or she is to local authority chairs and members. The amendment therefore makes clear that that applies to advice from the functional bodies as well as to advice from GLA staff. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I speak to Amendments Nos. 136 and 226. I regard them as dreadful amendments. Since the first day of Report last Tuesday I have worried that many new amendments have been tabled by the Government. The Minister, being unable to answer probing questions from this side of the House, promised to write. I do not quarrel with that. Nevertheless, he

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insisted upon moving those amendments. I am concerned that there are now amendments on the statute book which may or may not be good. When we receive the answers they may not adequately cover the problems we raised.

I hope that the Government will return with suitable answers on Amendments Nos. 136 and 226. If they cannot, I hope that they will take the matter away and return at Third Reading with amendments in an improved form. These are serious matters. In introducing Amendment No. 136, the Minister pointed out that such information is not the same as that in the public domain in local government. However, he hoped we understood that that is the way the Government want to deal with the issue.

Amendment No. 136 adds a functional body and a member of a functional body, or a member of staff of a functional body to those people whose advice the mayor does not need to disclose. But under subsection (8), the definition of “advice" has been widened to include a mere expression of opinion--it does not have to be notified--and an analysis of information. That would mean that any report on traffic which goes beyond uncollated traffic-counted data would be called an analysis of information. Almost any report produced within the GLA or the functional bodies could be excluded from public and assembly scrutiny on the ground that it contained an analysis of information.

Clause 51 deals with the assembly's power to require the attendance of witnesses. That complicated and last minute amendment imposes even more restrictions on the information that can be obtained by the assembly whose supposed function is to oversee the exercise of the mayor's powers and duties. Clause 51 deals with the assembly's power to require attendances of witnesses. It exempts members of staff or any of the functional bodies from giving evidence or producing any document relating to advice given by that functional body to the mayor. Fortunately, as the Minister said, this exemption does not extend to advice given by the Metropolitan Police Authority or the Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. And it does not extend to matters which are already in the public domain.

This amendment is tabled by the Government who have proclaimed their devotion to open government and made the word “transparency" a new political cliche. However, to take a topical example, let us suppose that the mayor is given advice about the safety of the signalling system in the transport system operated under the jurisdiction of the Greater London Authority; and the mayor or the functional body chose to ignore that advice. Will no one be able to find out what the mayor knew and when he knew it? It is said that disclosure of advice and opinions might inhibit officials in the conduct of their duties. But public accountability means just that. It means taking responsibility for their actions. This provision includes advice given and received and formal opinions expressed.

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I do not want to labour the point, but noble Lords will be aware of the wide powers of Select Committees and their ability to extract information from Ministers and their officials. There is no reason why the mayor should be more privileged than the Secretary of State and any government department, with this relevant advice not being made public.

I feel strongly about these two amendments. We are going down a dangerous route. I hope that the Minister will agree to think again. The job of the House of Lords is to scrutinise legislation carefully. Perhaps we did not do our job properly on Tuesday. We allowed amendments to be moved by the Government despite the fact that we had problems with them and were content to accept that answers might come. As my noble friend Lady Blatch said, that might be in two or three weeks' time.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I support entirely my noble friend. It is astonishing that such an illiberal and indiscriminate amendment to provide a blanket exemption on disclosure of information should be proposed at this stage. Under one amendment it does not even have to be disclosed that the information exists. That is close to licensed lying.

Under Amendment No. 226 a member of staff of a functional body is permitted not to give evidence or produce any document which relates to advice given to the mayor. That almost completely negates the point of the inquisition function. If they have given advice to the mayor on a specific matter, or policy relating to that matter, they can claim exemption. The provision does not relate only to individual documents. It does not state that they cannot produce documents which have gone to the mayor. It prevents them from talking about anything to do with advice which has been given to the mayor. As they will be giving advice to the mayor concerning all their functions, as drafted--it may not be the intention of the Government--the provision will enable those functional bodies to refuse to answer almost any question that the assembly might reasonably ask.

Not only is this an illiberal measure, it is badly drafted and badly thought out. It should not be proceeded with at this stage until the Government have considered it further.


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