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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 193:

Page 25, line 26, leave out subsection (3) and insert--
(“(3) Notice of the time and place of any meeting of the Assembly--
(a) shall be given to the Mayor and the Assembly members, and
(b) shall be published,
in accordance with the standing orders of the Authority.
(3A) In the case of a meeting of the Assembly under subsection (2) above, the notice required by subsection (3) above must be given and published--
(a) if the meeting is the first such meeting after an ordinary election, as soon as reasonably practicable after the day of the poll at that election; or
(b) in any other case, at least 28 clear days before the meeting.

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(3B) If notice of a meeting to be held under subsection (2) above has been given pursuant to subsection (3A) above, then, until that meeting has been held or the notice has been withdrawn, notice must not be given of another such meeting.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Tope moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 193, Amendment No. 193A:

Line 13, leave out subsection (3B).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 193A stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It could not be more straightforward; it speaks for itself. It simply leaves out subsection (3B) which Amendment No. 193 seeks to insert.

There is some role reversal here. On these Benches, I have become used to listening to Ministers standing up and telling me that things are not necessary. It is my turn now. I really do not understand the necessity of having the new subsection (3B). I can understand its purpose--because I can understand the language--but not its necessity. It seems to me to be entirely unnecessary. The reason for my simple, short amendment is to demonstrate that point and to give the Minister the opportunity either to convince us that it is necessary or perhaps to convince himself that it is not. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the point of the amendment in its original form is to ensure that all 10 meetings are not held in a complete rush and that there is an adequate distance between them. To delete the whole of subsection (3B) would mean, theoretically at least, the possibility of having 10 meetings in January or that some meetings would not have an adequate period between them. I am afraid that on this occasion the amendment is necessary for the sake of clarity.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, perhaps I may probe a little on subsection (3B). When I first looked at it I thought that the best answer would be to delete it, as would the amendment to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. However, perhaps I have misunderstood it.

If we look at subsection (3B) together with subsection (3A) it seems that meetings have to be reported back at least 28 clear days apart. The first part of Clause 44 states that within 10 days of an election the assembly must meet to elect a chairman and a deputy chairman of the assembly. The next part of the clause states that 15 days after the poll, and then at monthly meetings, the report must be considered and there must be an opportunity for assembly members to question the mayor.

Subsection (3) states that notice must be given to the mayor. Subsection (3A) states that after the first meeting, notice must be given at least 28 days before the meeting. However, (3B) states that another notice cannot be given until that meeting has been held.

It is unclear whether a date can be fixed well in advance without the notice provisions applying. Would the Government consider clarifying that point? It is somewhat confusing.

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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I raise a slightly important point for the convenience of all. The authority will want to print a GLA diary containing the dates of meetings. If that document is to be published a year in advance, the question would arise, whether formal notice is required.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not entirely follow what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, said about the interconnections of the provisions.

On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, many organisations, including public bodies, print an agreed timetable of meetings. However, that is different from the notice of a meeting. Of course, such dates can be changed.

On this amendment we are discussing the deletion of subsection (3B) from Amendment No. 193. In our view, we need adequate time between meetings, and the combination of these clauses provides that.

I shall look at what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said to see whether we can bring any greater clarity to the matter. In the meantime I cannot accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for the reasons that I have given.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am grateful for the explanation. Clearly, if the Government feel that it is necessary to stop the mayor having 10 meetings in January, so be it. However, I do not feel that subsection (3B) is the correct way of achieving that. We want properly spaced meetings with proper notice. I understand what the notice of a meeting is and it is not something that is printed in a diary. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, with all his experience, knows that as well.

It seems to me that achieving that by preventing a notice being published before the previous meeting has been held is a considerable overstatement. I hope that the Minister will look at that again, as we shall. It is not a crucial matter in the running of a strategic authority for London. Obviously, I shall not press the matter now. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 193 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 194 to 196 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 197:

Page 25, line 42, at beginning insert (“All questions coming before, or to be decided by, the Assembly shall be decided by a majority of the members of the Assembly present and voting at a meeting of the Assembly.
(1A) In the case of an equality of votes, the person chairing the meeting of the Assembly shall have a second or casting vote.
(1B) Subsections (1) and (1A) above are subject to any provision to the contrary contained in this or any other enactment.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 197 and I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 199 and 200, 220, 232, 292, 294,

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295, 298, and 312 to 314. All those amendments hang together. They clarify and tidy up the provisions for the assembly to take decisions by a simple majority.

Amendment No. 197 makes express provision for the assembly to take decisions by a simple majority of those present and voting at a meeting, except where there is express provision in statute to the contrary. The provision is modelled on provisions in the Local Government Act 1972 and includes provision for the chair to exercise a casting vote where the vote is tied.

Amendments Nos. 199 and 200 are consequential. The other amendments in the group bring other references to assembly decisions by simple majority into line with the provision in Amendment No. 197. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, this amendment raises interesting questions about what happens when, in the assembly, there is an equality between two sides or parties. Before, matters were decided by a majority, presumably in accordance with the rules of this House where, if there is a tied vote, a matter proceeds or does not proceed, according to the type of matter that it is. However, the assembly is to have a chairman with a casting vote. If there is an equality of parties in the assembly, one side will be given a permanent majority rather than the equality voted for. That appears to be a strange way in which to upset the balance voted for in the assembly.

In Clause 43 there are provisions for the election of the chair. If the chair is to have the casting vote, how will the chair be elected when there is no chair to cast that vote? Although we are dealing with a situation where there is an even division of the assembly, this provision will introduce not a temporary but a permanent distortion, which is highly undesirable. I hope that the noble Lord will think again.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, finds this situation strange. It is common practice in local government in this country. He reminds me of my time in China when we talked about the chairman of a meeting having a casting vote. The Chinese found it grossly undemocratic that anyone should have two votes. The noble Lord appears to resemble the Chinese communists in that respect. Perhaps I should not insult him in that way.

It is a common practice in UK local government, and indeed elsewhere, for the chair to have the casting vote, as I am sure the Minister is about to tell us. The London Borough of Islington currently has an equal number of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors. It is run on the casting vote of the chair of the committees. The casting vote always seems to be cast in accordance with the wishes of the Labour group. I do not know whether it is necessary for this provision to be included in the Bill, but it reflects normal practice in UK local government.

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