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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the powers do not exist in relation to county councils. However, if on reflection the noble Lord considers the relationship between the GLA and Transport for London and the London Regional Development Agency, he will see that in that context there are slightly different circumstances. We feel therefore that this is a wise provision. We hope that circumstances will not arise where it will be necessary to use the power.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, again before the noble Baroness sits down--I am sorry to prolong this matter--am I right in presuming that the regulations which will be required will have to come before Parliament? That will take some time. This power could only be applied by foreseeing the very exceptional and unusual circumstances some little while ahead. Perhaps we should continue this matter through correspondence. I remain a little unpersuaded as to the position.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I would be delighted to continue this discussion through correspondence. I shall provide copies of the correspondence to any noble Lord who shares our interest.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Perhaps she will kick off the correspondence by giving an example of how this will work and the kind of timetable required for the regulations to pass through their various stages. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 74 [Calculation of basic amount of tax]:

[Amendment No. 305 not moved.]

Clause 75 [Additional calculations: special item for part of Greater London]:

[Amendment No. 306 not moved.]

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Clause 76 [The special item for the purposes of section 75]:

[Amendment No. 307 not moved.]

Clause 78 [Calculation of tax for different valuation bands]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 308:

Page 44, line 22, at end insert--
(“(4) Where the precepting authority is the Greater London Authority, within one week of the Greater London Authority having calculated the amount to be stated under section 40(2)(a) in respect of any billing authority in Greater London in relation to each category of dwellings in that billing authority's area, the Greater London Authority shall cause to be published such amount in relation to each category of dwellings in that billing authority's area, these amounts to be expressed both as annual and weekly figures, publication to be by way of a prominent printed announcement in at least one local newspaper circulating in that billing authority's area and nominated by that billing authority."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 308. The Minister will perhaps be unsurprised if I tell him that had he felicitously accepted my amendment on the website I would now happily be withdrawing this particular amendment. However, such are the vagaries of fate that we had to debate that amendment and I am now moving this one.

The effect of the amendment would oblige the GLA to publish the consequences of its budgetary decision on the council tax payers, borough by borough seriatim. The Minister will say that the amendment is not necessary; he will say that it is inconceivable that the media at large will not take notice of these matters; and that the decisions and the impact will be published by every newspaper throughout the land, let alone throughout London. That may well be so. However, even if it is so, I suspect that there will be people who will not read about it or will miss it or whatever.

The purpose of the amendment is to draw out once again the issue of accountability. In our view, it is essential that the mayor is absolutely accountable for his budget, not so much to the assembly--although we have debated that often enough--but openly and obviously to the people of London. While I have the greatest respect for the media at large and enjoy with that particular industry--if I can honour it with that title for the moment--the same love/hate relationship that all people in our positions have with it, the media will report the decisions of the mayor in the manner in which they wish to report them. They may do so in a manner that is not particularly open and obvious. It may even be a manner which the mayor considers to be unfair.

The amendment requires the mayor to do the job for himself. It has been my experience that, unless one makes an absolute hash of it (which I have done from time to time) the quickest way of ensuring that a job is done well is usually to do it oneself. That is the reasoning behind the amendment. It seeks to make the mayor openly and publicly accountable through the people of London. That is not unreasonable, and I should like to think that the Minister will accept it. I suspect, however, that, even at this hour of the night, he may not. I beg to move.

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11 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord again. There is absolutely no doubt that the media will report the matter. I suspect that the GLA will wish to publicise it on the Internet and elsewhere. But the requirement is covered by the requirement on the GLA to inform the taxpayers themselves. That is already covered by the Demand Notice Regulations 1993. We are amending those regulations to make sure that the detailed information from the GLA will cover all the functional bodies too. That is the legal requirement; it is a requirement to set out clearly to every council tax payer what the precept covers and where the money is going. That is what is covered by this clause. Any wider circulation may well be wise, but it is not the requirement in law. The existing provision is sufficient. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue the matter.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I have listened to the Minister's reply with disappointment. I cannot say that it has come as a surprise. It is late, and in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 81 [Minimum budget for Metropolitan Police Authority]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 309:

Page 47, line 8, leave out (“This section applies") and insert (“Subsections (1B) to (1D) apply, in relation to a financial year, to the making by the Authority of calculations required by section 71 in the case of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
(1A) Subsections (2) to (14) apply").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 309 and 310 are grouped together. They deal with what we regard as an unsatisfactory situation as regards the process of arriving at the police budget for London.

As drafted, the Bill provides that, when the mayor has produced his final draft budget and it has been approved or amended by the assembly as the case may be, it is then submitted to the Secretary of State, who may look at it and decide that the budget for the police service is inadequate. If he so decides, he has the right to define a sum that he considers appropriate. The mayor then has a period of 60 days in which to adjust his budget so that he complies with the opinion--which would come in the form of a direction--of the relevant Secretary of State. It is conceivable that he may be able to adjust his budget without adjusting the total budget sum using means of internal adjustments. That would imply that he would have to diminish items to which he had formerly given priority. It could be that a somewhat mischievous mayor would give items other than the police service greater priority, knowing that that would cause difficulty. It might even mean a supplementary rate.

We do not believe that that is a reasonable way to proceed. It is even less appropriate--my reference is to a later amendment--that a two-month period should be considered the right length of time for the matter to be sorted out. We think it much more appropriate that the amount calculated for the police in the mayor's

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budget should not be in his final budget unless it already has the approval of the relevant Secretary of State. That is achievable, given the procedure which the mayor is required to go through in order to produce his budget. He could submit the police budget to the relevant Secretary of State at the draft budget stage, when the figures will be firm. The figures with regard to the police will be solid and if everyone knew that was the procedure, the Secretary of State's sanction could be given before we reached the final budget stage. The final budget could be approved and everyone would know where the budget stood on the date of that approval.

The present procedure leaves the whole matter in uncertainty at that stage because of the anomaly which would make it possible for the relevant Secretary of State--I assume it would be the Home Secretary--to decide that under the final budget London's police would be inadequately funded.

That is not a reasonable way to go on. I would like to think that the Minister would accept that what we suggest is reasonable and an improvement on what is required on the face of the Bill. Even if he will not accept the amendments in detail--and I am always prepared to concede that we are not likely to be perfect at drafting amendments--if he would accept the principle, then the budgetary situation for the mayor, the assembly and all the people of London would be improved. Even the position of the Secretary of State and the police would be more certain. I beg to move.

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