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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response. I hasten to reassure her that we do not regard the Government as wholly immovable. Often, it is very difficult see when a concession is a concession. Sometimes one has to study the wording to find whether it is a concession, or sometimes the concession comes along later. I readily

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acknowledge that during the passage of the Bill there has been quite a lot of movement. Undoubtedly, some of that movement has come partly as a result of the Government's studies of the flaws in, or omissions from, the original drafting, and some has come as a consequence of the pressure applied by ourselves and noble Lords sitting to my right. That is the purpose of our debates.

I heard with great interest what the noble Baroness said. I shall study her remarks. In the meantime I seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 532 not moved.]

Clause 265 [The London Development Agency strategy]:

Lord Dixon-Smith had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 532A:

Page 152, line 11, leave out from beginning to (“a") in line 12 and insert (“submit to the Mayor, the Assembly, the London boroughs and the Common Council of the City of London").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 532A to 532J constitute a large group of amendments which deal with matters that we have fairly thoroughly debated. Dare I say it, from the responses of the Minister today, I do not think we will get a great deal of movement on them now. Therefore I feel it is perhaps unnecessary to trouble your Lordships by taking the House painfully through them again.

[Amendment No. 532A not moved.]

[Amendment Nos. 532B to 532J not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne): My Lords, I call Amendment No. 534C. The Question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me. I think inadvertently he has taken two pages of the Marshalled List together. The next amendment is Amendment No. 533.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 533:

Page 153, line 1, at end insert--
(“( ) In this Act and the Greater London Authority Act 1999, references to the London Development Agency strategy include, except where the context otherwise requires, a reference to the London Development Agency strategy as revised.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 533A:

After Clause 268, insert the following new clause--


(“ . The Assembly shall debate annually the report and accounts of the London Development Agency.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 533A deals with a simple and basic point. It may be that the Minister will tell me that it is otiose--to borrow someone else's word--or unnecessary.

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This small amendment requires that the London assembly shall debate annually the report and accounts of the London Development Agency. It may be deemed inconceivable that that would not happen, but it does not have to happen. The London Development Agency could submit its report to the assembly quietly and it could be quietly buried. That is not what should happen. The amendment seeks to ensure that it does not happen. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, by virtue of Clause 116, the assembly will receive a copy of any reports prepared by the LDA's chief finance officer under Section 114 of the Local Government Act 1988. These are reports on losses, unlawful expenditure or items of account, and the likelihood that expenditure will exceed resources. Furthermore, under Clause 121, the LDA will have to provide the authority with such information about its accounts as the mayor shall request so that the authority can prepare its summary statement of account under Clause 120 for the GLA and the functional bodies as a whole. Therefore, the assembly will have ample opportunity to debate reports on financial matters and the LDA's accounts. We all anticipate a co-operative and peaceful relationship between the mayor, the assembly and the LDA. For the noble Lord to imply that it could come to the point where the scrutiny function is not carried out is not realistic.

The assembly has a power under Clause 49 to keep under review the exercise by the mayor of the statutory functions exercisable by him. Given the powers of appointment and direction which the mayor has over the LDA, the assembly will be able to hold regular debates. Requiring the assembly to debate the LDA's reports and accounts is unnecessary and would serve only to cloud its responsibilities. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I fail to understand why the fact that the assembly might debate the report and accounts of the LDA should cloud matters. I should have thought that, if anything, it would be more likely to cast light on the subject. None the less, I accept that in the way of the world it is unlikely that when the assembly receives the reports--in particular, when it looks at what the LDA is doing in relation to preparation of the draft consolidated budget--it will not go into the London Development Agency report and accounts in considerable detail.

It is on that basis that I am prepared to withdraw the amendment, rather than for the reason that it might cloud an issue. I do not believe that that would happen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 20 [Further amendments of the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 533B:

Page 300, line 18, leave out from (“to") to end of line 19 and insert (“London where the London Development Agency shall have regard to the views of and regularly consult small, medium and large businesses in London and their representative bodies."").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment returns to a theme on which we have touched time and time again as regards the need for thorough consultation between the representative bodies of small, medium and large businesses in London and the LDA. There are some half a million businesses in London, give or take a few. There are so many small businesses that it is difficult to know the exact figure. Most of those businesses are small and medium sized. It is a fact that most such businesses do not generally have representative bodies which can adequately put forward their point of view. None the less, such businesses form a large and significant part of any urban economy and deserve to be taken most thoroughly into account.

I do not apologise for tabling the amendment yet again. I wish that the Government would see the force of it, although I do not doubt that they will say that the consultation will be Utopian and that there is no problem here. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I rise to speak to the amendment slightly late in the day. I find it a little superfluous to put into the Bill the need to consult small, medium-sized and large businesses. Noble Lords may be aware that Sub-Committee B of the Select Committee on the European Communities, of which I have the honour to be a member, is looking into the needs of SMEs and the help they receive from Brussels. We have been debating the matter for some time and it is hoped that we shall produce a paving report before the end of the Session. Therefore, I wonder whether it is necessary to include this level of detail.

There are, of course, a significant number of organisations that do look after small businesses as well as large ones. The sub-committee examined the point again this morning and I believe that it is true to say that their views are well represented. I certainly do not believe that it is necessary to go into the level of detail required by this amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, partly for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and partly for the reason that very early in the Bill, starting at Clause 25, and throughout it we have built in provisions for consultation between the mayor, the functional bodies and the business community--I believe that I gave a positive reassurance on the matter to the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, earlier in the Report stage--I can say that we are absolutely committed to full consultation with the business community at all levels. There is an additional reason why this would not be an appropriate point to build in such a provision; namely, the amendment relates to paragraph 3 of Schedule 20 which amends the Regional Development Agencies Act in relation to regional chambers. Clearly, a body consisting solely of business interests is not the equivalent of regional chambers in the other regions of England. For that reason, it would not be appropriate to insert such a provision at that point of the Bill.

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I have expressed the view several times during the course of our deliberations on the Bill that we are committed clearly, absolutely and more than sufficiently to consultation with business.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I hope that the Minister will forgive me, but it gives me pleasure to hear him reiterate his points on consultation. It is good also to hear the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, when he assures us that the mechanisms already exist. I am an infinite sceptic, because however good things are, they can always be improved. It is because things can always be improved that I continue to press so often on the same subjects. That ensures that the improvement process is likely to happen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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