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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for supporting me once again as regards this issue. I say to my noble friend Lord Renton that the year 2030 seems to me to provide a reasonable transition time from a wholly unfunded scheme to a wholly funded scheme. That does not mean that it would have to be done that way; it could be done by the Government taking a decision to capitalise the fund on a particular date and making the funds available. Certainly I believe that there would be rejoicing all round if such a solution were to come about.

I am grateful for the Minister's response in which he took some care to assure us that the situation is adequately covered, particularly from the point of view of the pensioners for whom we must all feel concern, but also from the point of view of fire authorities across the country. Although the SSA for fire may have been adequately adjusted as regards future pensions liabilities, most fire authorities take the view that it has not been adequately adjusted. However, they are of course looking at the broad spread of their liabilities and the cost of providing a wide service. Behind that there is the issue of what is included in the standard spending assessment of the fire service. Not everything that the fire services carry out on the public's behalf is properly included in the standard spending assessment.

That said, it has been worth while to bring the matter back. However, in the light of the Minister's reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Schedule 23 [The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 538L:


Page 328, line 6, leave out ("appointed by the Mayor") and insert ("elected by the Assembly").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 538L I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 538M to 538Q.

Schedule 23 provides that the new London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority shall have 17 members, of whom nine shall be assembly members. Here we return to the issue we dealt with earlier in relation to the Metropolitan Police Authority of who should appoint the assembly members. It is our contention that the assembly members should be appointed by the assembly from which they come; they should not be foisted upon the assembly by the mayor.

I shall not repeat all the arguments we had earlier. I suspect that they are well known to your Lordships as I have mentioned them once or twice. However, there is an additional point. Schedule 21, which relates to the Metropolitan Police Authority, states specifically that,


    "twelve of those members shall be members of the London Assembly".

Schedule 23, which relates to the membership of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, describes specifically the nine assembly members as "the assembly representatives". Beyond any doubt they are described here not as the mayor's representatives but as the assembly's representatives. If, as the Bill states quite clearly, they are the assembly's representatives, it must be a fundamental democratic provision that the assembly should have the authority to appoint its own representatives.

I suspect that the Minister will tell me that it is essential that the mayor appoints these representatives in order to maintain his strategic role in relation to the authority. I shall be a little surprised if I do not hear some words to that effect. We have made it clear that that is not our view, but if that is the Government's intention then the schedule should state clearly that they are the mayor's representatives. The mayor has appointed them; they are there to maintain the mayor's strategic role. By any definition they are the mayor's representatives, but the schedule states that they should be the assembly's representatives.

If we had been at an earlier stage of the Bill I would have accepted that this was a relatively minor point; that the Bill was poorly drafted and would be corrected. But we are at the end of an extremely long process. We are dealing with a point that we raised specifically in Committee. The Government have presumably considered the matter further--although perhaps not in great detail--and have decided that the members mentioned in Schedule 23 should continue to be described as the assembly's representatives, unlike the description used in relation to the Metropolitan Police Authority.

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I return to the point that if the assembly members are representing the assembly, the assembly should appoint them. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendment No. 538R is grouped with these amendments. It deals with a small procedural point. Schedule 23 on page 328 deals with the tenure of office. In view of the relatively short period in office that members of the fire and emergency planning authority will have, it is right that they should be eligible for reappointment. That is fine. Paragraph 2(3) states:


    "The Mayor may at any time, by giving notice to a member of the Fire etc Authority, terminate the member's appointment, if he is satisfied that the member is unable or unfit for any reason to discharge his functions as a member".

That is fine. One has no problems with any of that. However, the schedule goes on to say that anyone whose appointment has ceased for any reason may be eligible for reappointment.

It would appear from the way the schedule is drafted--it may be that I have a silly mind--that someone may have his appointment terminated because he is not able to discharge his functions properly, or is unfit, or whatever. It seems unreasonable that in those circumstances he should be eligible for reappointment. This raises the question of what is the definition of "unfit"? If unfit means that he has a medical problem, then clearly he is not unsuitable. However, "unfit" could mean "unsuitable".

We feel the definition needs to be tightened up, which is what Amendment No. 538 seeks to do.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the amendments tabled by the Liberal Democrats were considered in Committee both here and in another place. They seek to change the mayor's relationship to the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The mayor would no longer have any role in the appointment process for the assembly representatives on the fire authority.

The amendments seek to sever the constitutional links between the mayor and the fire authority. These links are important if the new arrangements are to function effectively. They ensure that the authority is suitably accountable to the mayor for the service that it provides.

The Conservative amendment would mean that the mayor would have the power to reappoint a former member whose appointment had been terminated on the grounds of being unable to perform his or her duties, but not if it was a question of the member being unfit to do so. These words are traditionally used together in a single phrase to cover the range of circumstances in which a person should be removed from office. Separating them causes problems. If a member has suffered serious injury, he or she might be unable, unfit or both.

A mayor who has terminated a member's appointment because he is "unfit" in the sense perhaps intended by the noble Lord, is most unlikely to wish to

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reappoint that individual. Admittedly, a different mayor might take a different view, but the member concerned would have to have been either nominated by the boroughs or elected to the assembly. For a seriously ill member whose appointment has been terminated, it seems inappropriate to include in the Bill a provision under which the mayor would be prohibited from appointing that person again upon recovery.

In view of my responses, I would ask the noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Tope: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he tell us why the Government have chosen specifically in this schedule to describe the nine assembly members as "the assembly representatives"? Why are they doing that? Would it not be better more honestly to describe them as "the mayor's representatives"? Why do not they follow the precedent set in Schedule 21 for the police authority and simply state:


    "nine ... shall be Assembly members appointed by the Mayor".?

Why specifically describe them as assembly representatives when they are not representing the assembly at all?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the term is used as a shorthand way of referring to members of the LFEPA who are members of the assembly. This allows a distinction to be drawn in the schedule between LFEPA members who are assembly members and those who are councillors. It means nothing more.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I do not think the Minister convinced himself. He certainly has not convinced me. I will not embarrass him further by asking him why the Government have not made similar distinctions in Schedule 21--which relates to the Metropolitan Police Authority--between those who are assembly members, those who are independent members, those who are magistrates, and so on. I have made my point very clearly. I have won the argument but I do not think I will win the battle. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 538M to 538R not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 539:


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