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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 181:

Page 429, line 20, after ("body,") insert ("or
(b) to such other body or person as a relevant body may specify in accordance with the PPP agreement,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Schedule 32 [Enactments repealed]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 182:

Page 431, line 16, at end insert--
ChapterShort titleExtent of repeal
1993 c. viii.The London Docklands Railway (Lewisham) (No. 2) Act 1993.Section 3(3) and (6).
1994 c. xi.The Croydon Tramlink Act 1994.In section 50, subsection (3), in subsection (7), the words from "and to such person" onwards and subsection (9).")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10.32 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Whitty.)

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends who have brought their considerable expertise in dealing with this huge Bill to this Dispatch Box, as well as on my own behalf, I should like to thank all of our colleagues who have given us their very welcome support from the Back Benches. I should also like to thank our colleagues outside the House who have given us their invaluable help with research and with the drafting of amendments. Although we and noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches have not seen eye to eye over some issues, between us we have succeeded in persuading the Government to make a number of important alterations to a Bill which arrived in your Lordships' House in a completely unsatisfactory state--to use a neutral phrase. I also thank them for the occasions when we were able on to co-operate and support each other.

I should also like to express my appreciation for the very courteous manner in which the two Ministers, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, have handled the brief that the Secretary of State landed them with; and, indeed, for the co-operation of the Government Chief Whip in the timing of the Bill, the stages of which were punctuated by one government Statement after another. We would like to thank all the Ministers who moved various parts of the Bill for the way that they handled the task.

However, those last few sentences are just about as far as I can go in honesty in congratulating the Government on any aspect of this Bill. The Bill began life on its First Reading in the other place on 2nd December 1998--11 months ago. Five months later, it emerged from the other place swollen, positively bloated, by no fewer than 53 new clauses and six schedules contained in 75 extra pages. I repeat: 75

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extra pages. Very few Bills are 75 pages long, but here we had 75 pages of amendments before this Bill had even left the other place.

The Bill reached your Lordships' House twice the size of the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act combined. In describing the Bill on Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, gave us a health warning. He said:

    "No doubt there will be other amendments to clarify and elaborate our policy ... many of the amendments we bring forward could be detailed".--[Official Report, 20/5/99; col. 447.]

That was a masterpiece of understatement. According to our researchers, this Bill is by far the largest Bill ever to come before Parliament. The number of government amendments, which I shall also mention elsewhere, is an absolute record.

Between the Second Reading in your Lordships' House and the end of the Committee stage, a further 32 clauses contained in 26 pages were added to the Bill, apart from the innumerable modifications to other existing clauses. I am afraid that I do not have the research resources to enable me to count how many of the new amendments were government amendments to their own Bill. It is sufficient to say that we have been faced at every stage with a shower--indeed, a positive blizzard--of further government amendments.

Over the Summer Recess, the Government introduced some 218 amendments to be dealt with on Report. Despite the fact that Ministers did their very best by faxing them to Opposition Peers before the House resumed, we and the Liberal Democrat spokesman had only a day or two to consider quite lengthy and very complex amendments. Indeed it did not even end there. More amendments piled in during the five sittings spread over the 13 days that the Report stage took. By the end of the Report stage we had added a further 51 clauses and five new schedules contained in yet another 85 pages.

Even that is not the end of it because about 120 more last-minute government amendments had to be introduced at Third Reading, including about 20 new clauses and two more schedules. Over 860 government amendments have been added to this Bill since it left the other place. That is not merely legislating on the hoof; we believe that it is even the Government making some of it up as they go along. I have to say--I said this before earlier this evening--that some of the matters that came before us at Third Reading were an absolute disgrace. Some amendments for the Report stage arrived so late and were so complex that even the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who had the unenviable task of presenting them to your Lordships, was unable to get himself properly briefed so as to be able to explain them to noble Lords, particularly to my noble friend Lord Lucas, who questioned him about their meaning. The poor noble Lord, Lord Whitty, had to suffer the indignity of having to promise to write to absolutely everyone with an explanation. I suspect that a whole tree has had to be felled somewhere to comply with that promise!

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We are all aware that the phrase, "I shall write to you", is a euphemism for, "I do not have the foggiest idea of the answer". That is no position for a Minister conducting an important Bill through the House to have the misfortune to find himself in. However, the effect was that the House was asked to pass amendments which it did not understand and which at the same time the Minister could not explain.

Your Lordships' House is not a place where whatever ill drafted, ill conceived and often undebated legislation that the other place may churn out is just rubber stamped here. Nor is it, or will it be, even after the passing of the House of Lords Bill, the poodle of the government of the day, whatever its political complexion. The Minister had to suffer the further embarrassment of having to withdraw amendments with a view to bringing them back at Third Reading when they could be dealt with in an adequate manner.

I say at once that I accept that many of the amendments introduced on Report and at Third Reading were perfectly proper ones where the Government were honouring pledges to deal with problems revealed by noble Lords on both sides of the House, and others were the normal "housekeeping" ones consequential on earlier ones. When we reached the Third Reading today, as I have just mentioned, two whole new schedules dealing with the important but complex matters of highways and pensions for London Regional Transport had to be introduced for the very first time, as well as pages of complicated amendments on other transport aspects.

The Government were unable to complete the drafting of these important provisions until the end of last week and we received them only on Friday. It is obvious how important and elementary matters such as these could have been overlooked until the 59th minute of the 11th hour of a Bill that had all but passed through all its stages in both Houses. It is obvious because there have been no fewer than four transport Ministers in the life of this Government. They last an average of just over four months each, barely enough time to read themselves into their jobs.

The explanation for the way that this mammoth Bill has been botched is quite clear: the Bill itself is far too large. It is clear from my reading of debates in Committee in another place that, as so often occurs, large parts of the Bill were merely nodded through. The Bill should have been divided into more appropriate bites--separate Bills, that is. Matters involving too many different departments were included so that one by one, when they eventually discovered that their interests were affected, they jumped in to get their particular concerns covered. Why were they not involved earlier, before the Bill thudded down onto the table in the first place? Clearly the Department of the Environment is not aware of the six P's principle: proper prior planning prevents poor performance. The result was that we were left trying to

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manufacture a large, crazy patchwork quilt where all the pieces of fabric came from different sources while some parts were left out altogether leaving holes which may not have been filled, even at this last stage.

There are inconsistencies in the tenor of the Bill. Some parts were so vague as to be meaningless. For example, Clause 47 provides for what is called in luvvy speak "the annual state of the London debate", open to all members of the public. Unfortunately, the Government forgot--until we reminded them--to provide for members of the public to be allowed to attend to speak, or even to require the mayor to attend. On the other side, as a result of a minute piece of detail, the mayor is required to reply to letters from members of the assembly within three days.

There is a saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee; this Bill has not been designed by anyone. There is a Chinese dish called, in Cantonese, "chop suey". It means "bits and pieces". Who is responsible for the dish of chop suey that Parliament has just had to digest?

There has been absolutely no co-ordination of all of its different aspects from the lead Minister, who we assume to be Mr Nick Raynsford. One of his tasks was to prepare the job specification and provide for the powers of the mayor--a position for which he later briefly sought his party's nomination. That would have been a serious case of conflict of interests had he not suddenly been usurped as the Prime Minister's anointed one by Mr Frank Dobson. Mr Raynsford had to content himself with being Mr Dobson's campaign manager.

Here there is another possible conflict of interests--not merely in formulating the contents of the Bill but also, in the unlikely event of Mr Dobson winning, where will be the arm's distance between the mayor and the Government? How independent will Mayor Dobson be from the Government, and vice versa?

A finger in the pie was provided also by Transport Minister Glenda Jackson, who resigned ahead of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle to spend more time with her candidacy. She was but one of the four Transport Ministers since the Government came into power, and the best they have been able to do for London Transport is to preside over the 43 per cent fares increase which was announced last week.

It is no use for the Government to follow their usual course of blaming their officials for the mess that this Bill has turned out to be. I understand that the parliamentary draftsmen have been working flat out in trying to cope with the afterthoughts and omissions, and demands for amendments, new clauses and new schedules from their political masters.

President Truman had a plaque on his desk saying "The buck stops here". In this case the buck not only stops but starts with Mr Secretary Prescott, who proudly had his name at the top of the list when the Bill

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was presented to the other place all those months ago. He has taken unto his ample bosom the portfolios of Environment, Transport and the Regions, a group of individually large responsibilities far beyond his personal capability. It is a perfect example of the Peter principle. He is also the Deputy Prime Minister, which I sincerely trust is merely a sinecure; otherwise I shall be compelled to pray daily for the well-being of the Prime Minister in case, heaven forbid, Mr Prescott should have to take over his responsibilities, even temporarily.

The Bill is an attempt to reform local government but with the practical needs of London shackled by all kinds of politically motivated obstacles, which have led the Government to insist on some of the bizarre anomalies that we have pointed out through the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House. I have to confess that we on this side of the House are starting a sweepstake from this evening as to the date on which the Government will have to come back to Parliament with an amending Bill or perhaps amendments slipped into other Bills.

This is not the only Bill where the Government have got into similar trouble. During the Report stage of the Immigration and Asylum Bill the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, had to apologise for,

    "the number of amendments which have come so late".

He gave three explanations and had the very good grace--which is characteristic of his personal integrity--to admit,

    "they do not explain the huge volume of amendments which came late".--[Official Report, 18/10/99; col. 750.]

He wished that they had come earlier and he apologised to your Lordships.

Despite its many defects and everything that I have now said, we shall not oppose the passing of the Bill. However, I do hope that in reply the Minister, who is equally as gracious as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will follow his colleague's example and offer a full and unequivocal apology--not personally, because he has no need to apologise personally--on behalf of the Government for the disgraceful and inept way that this Bill has been dealt with and will undertake that this will not be repeated in the mountain of Bills with which I understand we are threatened in the forthcoming Session.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have written down that I should thank colleagues, and by that I mean colleagues on all sides of the House, including the officials, because I feel that we are something akin to comrades-in-arms, having got through the various stages of this Bill. I will only spend a moment or two on this. I do not suffer from the disadvantage under

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which the noble Baroness started, because I think there were four minutes on the clock before she began her speech, which was perhaps a little unfair.

On these Benches we are looking forward to London having its own strategic government. We would not have chosen this structure in the first place, and I think we feel even more strongly now than when we started on the course of this Bill that there are real flaws in the structure. We are worried about the "personality politics" that are being imposed on London--inevitably encouraged by the press--and we are worried about the centralising hand of central government, which we think could stifle London's own government.

Our greatest concern--at any rate the one that I shall express tonight--relates to the way in which we have had to handle the legislation: highly prescriptive legislation. However, I must say that I remain baffled by the rejection of some of the amendments that have been tabled. This is a Bill which is over-written, too large and too detailed. It is a Bill for which, as I said earlier today and on a previous occasion, the Government have been unable to devote anything like adequate resources.

Our parliamentary procedures simply cannot cope with the sort of Bill, now in two volumes, with which we have been faced. It is customary to say that we believe the Bill leaves this House a better Bill than when it arrived. I think that that is probably so: certainly it is on two major points with which these Benches have been particularly concerned. As regards the equality provisions, we claim credit on our side for pushing those, but we were not alone and the alterations to the Bill could not have been achieved without support from all quarters of the House. On the issue of holding the mayor to account by way of a vote of no confidence and the consequences that that will have, we believe that is important.

I do not know what the Government intend to do when the Bill goes back to another place, but I do know that this is an important matter which really does need attention. As I have said, we would not have designed the new London authority with this structure, but we believe that it has the capacity to be what its members make of it. From these Benches we wish all of them well.

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