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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 543ZA:


Page 171, line 6, at end insert ("or
(c) any other body which the Mayor considers should be informed,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 309 [The Mayor's environmental report]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 543A:


Page 172, line 24, at end insert--
("( ) housing conditions, and
( ) the effects of the environment on health").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment seeks, first, to add "housing conditions" and, secondly, "the effects of the environment on health" to the list of the matters that the mayor would include in a state of the environment report.

We heard what the Government said in Committee about not being over-prescriptive. We have therefore whittled down the list of matters which we believe should absolutely be included to these two essential items. The aim is linked to that set out for the mayor in his strategies in Clause 33(7) in which it is said that the point of the strategy production is,


Surely the point of the state of the environment report is that people and agencies may see the impact of the listed items on them and their state of health. All this information must provide the basic aim of improving life. Therefore, the link between the environment and health is critical. In terms of housing conditions, one of the greatest impacts on people's health and well being comes from the state of their micro-environment, that is their homes, their blocks of flats and their streets. The state of that micro-environment is a vital contributor to health.

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One of the professions that has made a contribution to this debate and which very much feels that housing conditions should be included is that to which environmental health officers belong. They have front-line experience of the impact that housing conditions have on the state of people's health. The mayor will need to remain strategic and retain a general picture of improvement or deterioration across the boroughs. He will also need to determine whether housing conditions have improved or deteriorated over, for example, a five-year period.

We believe that both of these areas crucially affect the day-to-day lives of Londoners. That ought to be of sufficient significance to be listed alongside those matters that the Government are happy to list on the face of the Bill--for example, litter.

In his reply on the last occasion, the Minister made the point that these were areas for which the mayor was not directly responsible and that it would therefore seem an unnecessary burden on the mayor should he decide that other priorities ought to be pursued. We have carefully considered that point. However, I hope that the Minister by now feels minded to accept the fact that the impact of the environment on health is one of the main points of producing a state of the environment report and that that link is absolutely vital to Londoners who will eventually read the report.

In the meantime, I hope that the Government will have considered that these two elements are worthy of inclusion. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 543B, 543C, 543D and 545A are grouped with this amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: No, they are not.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Are they not? I beg your pardon.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, they were grouped and then they were ungrouped. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for raising this issue. We are concerned that all the relevant issues should be taken into account by the mayor in producing the report. However, we do not believe that these two issues should be set out as matters which could join a potentially endless list in terms of adding them to the list in Clause 309.

I remind the House that the Bill already states that the mayor may include information about any other matters in relation to Greater London which he or she considers are appropriate, thus giving the mayor the discretion to include matters of his or her choice which the Bill does not specifically state. It allows the mayor a free hand to include anything which he or she considers might be relevant or of importance to Londoners.

The problem is that housing conditions and the effect of the environment on health are not within the mayor's direct control. If the mayor considers them to be appropriate, he or she can include sections on these

25 Oct 1999 : Column 78

issues. However, we see no reason to add any of them to the existing list in the Bill, thereby adding to the mayor's and the GLA's workload by requiring the state of the environment report to include a section on each or any of them.

In debating these issues, we have to be mindful of the role of the boroughs and the responsibilities they have. In this respect, the housing role is obviously relevant. Clause 309 requires the mayor to consult the Environment Agency, each London borough council, the Common Council, and any other person whom the mayor considers it appropriate to consult before producing the report.

A requirement to include every single potential item considered by the noble Baroness to be relevant will produce an over-prescriptive definition for the mayor to work to. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, with the leave of the House, can I ask the Minister why, therefore, "litter" is included in the list in subsection (3)? If anything is local, litter is local. I can well understand that a borough being consulted about litter would be very happy to say, "Mayor, you deal with that." However, it seems a very odd inclusion if matters as substantial as the ones to which my noble friend has referred are excluded.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the point is that the list includes those matters about which information may be available. I understand the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about local authorities which may choose to hand over litter. I would point out, however, that very few of those local borough councils would wish to hand over their housing responsibility to the mayor.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I reassure the Minister that we did not intend the list to be endless. That is why we removed some of the matters we felt were important, leaving the two essentials, as I have pointed out.

I do not believe that our amendment would result in taking away any of the boroughs' responsibility for housing. They will obviously deal with housing need and with the question of putting in bids to improve their housing. However, good housing is crucial to improving the lives of Londoners. I am therefore surprised that the state of the environment is not to be included on the face of the Bill as something to which the mayor must pay regard.

I am not sure that I have heard the Minister respond to my point relating to strategy production and the state of the environment report. The Bill refers to the fact that the report is intended to promote improvements in the health of persons in Greater London. However, I shall dwell on her answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

25 Oct 1999 : Column 79

7 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 543B:


Page 172, line 25, after ("other") insert ("relevant").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise to the House for putting myself in an offside position. However, I believe that the Government's Chief Whip would be pleased and thrilled to think that I was anxious to get on with the business.

Of the amendments in this group, two are important and two are less so. Amendment No. 543B deals with a minor matter. The clause empowers the mayor to produce a state of the environment report. The amendment proposes that when the mayor is introducing other matters in relation to Greater London which he considers appropriate they should be "relevant". If one is an optimist, one believes that no mayor would dream of putting anything irrelevant in any report. But, my Lords, you never know. Elections are strange things; we do not know who the mayor will be or what will happen.

Amendment No. 543C introduces the concept of an environment strategy group which should be involved before the mayor consults the Environment Agency, London borough councils and so forth. That is an important paving amendment about which I shall have more to say later.

Amendment No. 543D lists the main atmospheric pollutants about which we believe information should be contained in any environment report published by the mayor. I dare say that the Minister will say that that is being overprescriptive--it would be remarkable if he did not. But we believe that it is worth wasting--I am sorry, worth inserting--those. I apologise to the House; there is an awful lot of waste in environmental matters.

I return to the issue of an environment strategy group dealt with in Amendment No. 545A. The mayor is required to produce a series of reports in the environmental field. He has to produce a document to be known as the London biodiversity action plan; he has to produce the municipal waste management strategy; he has to produce a strategy for air quality; and he has to produce a strategy for noise. Those are significant issues.

It may be that the mayor will be able to put together a professional team of advisers who are so competent and sufficiently read in all those fields that he will need no further advice. However, he will be extremely fortunate if he is able to do so. In Amendment No. 545A, we propose a new schedule which establishes an environment strategy group for London. Its membership is not specified, but we suggest that it should consist of people with knowledge and experience relevant to the environment and the issues in respect of which the mayor must produce reports. The commercial world and, more importantly, the academic world contain people with knowledge of what is happening in the more strategic sense. We believe that they could make a real contribution to the work of the mayor in producing all the reports that I have mentioned.

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As an aside, I find it fascinating that a little further in the Bill we come to consider a cultural strategy group. Apparently, there is no problem about having such a group, although perhaps there is more executive history in that area. I believe that the environment is a far more significant issue as regards London, Londoners and the future of London. I hope that those people involved in the cultural debate will not take umbrage at what I am saying, but I believe that cultural matters can be extremely controversial if they are heavily and articulately advanced. But the environment in London is critical to London's strategic future. I have no doubt that the mayor, if he is obliged to work with the Bill as it stands, will do his best, but the purpose of the amendment is to make it possible for him to do better. That is a worthwhile ambition and I beg to move.


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