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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, is not the real point underlying the noble Earl's Question that we should

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seek to move to a system whereby any country providing armed forces under the authority of United Nations receives 100 per cent reimbursement of the cost from a fund to which all members of the United Nations contribute pro rata to their GDP?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is an interesting question. The noble Lord may be interested to know that it is exactly the one I asked officials when being briefed to answer this Question. Whether costs are repayable or eligible for sharing will always depend on the operation in question. We aim to use the appropriate arrangements for each of the operations in which we engage. NATO, for example, has an agreed set of funding principles for the peace support operations undertaken since the IFOR deployment in 1995. The noble Lord raises an important point, not only so far as concerns NATO, but so far as concerns the UN; it is one on which we should reflect.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, I seem to have been asking this question or questions like it with regard to operations in different countries ever since this Government came to power. Is it possible for Her Majesty's Government to develop a consistent policy whereby the costs of any foreign operations undertaken as a result of that policy are automatically covered by the Consolidated Fund and not out of the defence budget?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my colleagues in the MoD would be delighted were that to be the case. However, as the noble Lord knows, after 18 years of his party being in office these matters must be agreed throughout Whitehall. The scale and cost of different operations are enormously different. For example, Kosovo and Bosnia involved the deployment of thousands of troops at great cost to the defence budget. Access to the reserve was therefore essential if the government commitments under the SDR were not to be gravely damaged. That was the assurance I gave earlier to the noble Earl. But that is different from the scale of costs involved in other operations such as the ongoing operation in the Gulf and that in East Timor. The costs there are much lower. As the noble Lord is aware, it is normal for these matters to be discussed between the MoD and the Treasury with the Foreign Office also playing a role in the discussions.

Public Order Legislation

3.1 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the policing of the state visit of the President of China, they will undertake a review of public order legislation and its enforcement.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, the Government believe that police powers contained in the Public Order Act 1986 and other legislation are sufficiently robust to meet the demands of situations of public disorder. Enforcement of legislation is an operational matter for chief officers of police. There are no plans to undertake a specific review at present, but we shall of course take account of any lessons to be learnt from the planned police review of the policing arrangements for the state visit.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, if one is to have an ethical foreign policy, one should practise what one preaches. Is the Minister sensitive to the fact that many in this House and beyond are extremely disturbed at the way in which the Public Order Act was enforced during the recent visit of the President of China? We all understand the difficulties the police face in enforcing this legislation. Can the Minister arrange that the results of the inquiry set in motion by Sir Paul Condon--I commend him for so doing--be made available to the House?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I remind the House that the policing of demonstrations and protests is an operational matter for chief officers of police, and that must be right. The noble Lord asks a reasoned and reasonable question. Clearly I cannot speak for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but I shall endeavour to pass on to him the views and questions of the noble Lord. My understanding is that the commissioner intends to make public his thoughtful conclusions as a result of the review he is undertaking of the operation during the recent state visit of the President of China.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, should not we uphold the principle that non-violent demonstrations of opinion should be protected in this country; otherwise, how can we expect to see it upheld in other countries?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. That is a long-cherished tradition in this country and one in which our Government believe fundamentally. We shall therefore do everything we can to uphold that. I am sure that all Members of your Lordships House will seek to protect that basic right.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with me that in policing public order incidents there has always been a distinction between political protest and ceremonial events? Does he agree also that it is right that the police should be less tolerant of situations that arise where not only the security but also the dignity of the Royal Family are at stake?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my noble friend makes a valuable and telling point. Of course, the police have difficult operational decisions to make and I am sure that they are right in seeking to protect members of the Royal Family and state visitors to this

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country. In doing so they must have careful and proper regard, as they did on this occasion, to the importance of public safety.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, is it not the case that during the recent visit there was a restriction of peaceful, public protest? Is it not also the case that the Government interfered and encouraged the police to take decisions which caused that restriction of peaceful, public protest? Is the Minister aware of the dismay with which that was received by politicians and democrats on all sides in Hong Kong?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as I have explained two or three times already to the House, the policing of such events is an operational matter for the police. I am sure that the noble Viscount agrees with that. I am delighted that the noble Viscount agrees that there should be no interference in that process. We in this House are delighted also at his concern to protect the rights of protesters and demonstrators. I am sure that that is a view he has held for many years, perhaps going back over the lifetime of the previous government. We clearly need to reflect carefully on the commissioner's findings following his review of the way in which the operations were conducted during the recent state visit of the President of China.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that we should pay tribute to the performance of the police forces in this country in policing public order and ceremonial events? Bearing in mind the enormous difficulties the Chinese people faced in the first half of this century through civil war, invasion and natural disasters, the progress they have made in the past 50 years is a tribute to them. Will my noble friend therefore join me in paying tribute to the contribution that the Chinese community makes to the diversity and cultural experience of this country?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the answer to two of those questions is yes. I am not a Chinese historian, but I can agree that the Chinese have made great progress and are taking great strides. However, I am sure that they have much to learn from us, as we have much to learn from them.

Greater London Authority Bill

3.7 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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AMENDMENT TO BE MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS REASONS FOR DISAGREEING TO CERTAIN LORDS AMENDMENTS, COMMONS AMENDMENT IN LIEU OF A LORDS AMENDMENT, COMMONS AMENDMENTS TO CERTAIN OTHER LORDS AMENDMENTS AND COMMONS CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS TO THE BILL
[The page and line refer to HL Bill 54 as first printed for the Lords]
LORDS AMENDMENT

1Clause 2, page 2, line 18, at end insert ("; and
(c) the holding of an election for Mayor in the event of a vote of no confidence in accordance with section 322(d) below")
The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--
1A

Because Clause 2(6)(b) of the Bill makes provision for the filling of vacancies in the office of Mayor of London and it is unnecessary to make special provision for particular cases.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1A. I shall make the same point in relation to Amendment No. 6 and shall speak to that now.

These amendments relate to the issue of impeachment. When the amendments were moved in this House I argued strongly against them and am gratified that the Commons comprehensively endorsed the Government's view by a majority of 155 votes that the assembly should not be able to remove the mayor from office.

The effect of your Lordships' amendment would have been to allow the assembly to sack the mayor if 19 of its 25 members voted to impeach him or her. It is the Government's view, supported, I believe, by sound constitutional principles, that that would be wrong. We have the recent experience in the United States where one group of directly-elected politicians tried to remove another group.

Under this Bill, the mayor and assembly members will have different mandates and different roles. They will have a directly-elected executive, and the assembly will be there to scrutinise the exercise of his or her executive powers. Over 5 million Londoners will be entitled to vote for the mayor and they will do so directly. It is not right that 19 assembly members, elected under a different process, should be able to overturn that decision. That should be a matter for the people of London, not for a separate set of politicians.

As my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning explained in another place, if these amendments were to be accepted it is not fantastical to admit to circumstances where a vote to impeach the mayor would take place and do so on pure political grounds. A popular candidate for mayor may well be elected who represents one political party but that party might be unpopular with the electorate and, therefore, the majority of seats in the assembly might be won by other parties. In a three-party system, it is entirely possible that the assembly could put together a 75 per cent majority to sack the mayor: not because

9 Nov 1999 : Column 1258

he or she was doing a bad job, not because he or she had acted illegally or because he or she was corrupt, but simply because 19 assembly members disagreed with the policies being pursued. I hope that noble Lords will accept that that cannot be right. In such circumstances, each successive mayor would be subject to the whim of the assembly and short-term political gains.

As has been explained, there are ways of removing the mayor. In legitimate circumstances, the mayor can be disqualified from office. The normal rules governing the conduct of local authority members will apply to the mayor. I believe I recall the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, pointing out on Third Reading that, if you are going to remove a politician, it is better to have a judicial rather than a political process for so doing. That is what we have here. Under the provision the mayor must stand down if he or she is convicted of an offence which carries a sentence of more than three months' imprisonment, is adjudged bankrupt, is disqualified under Part II of the Representation of the People Act or is disqualified under Section 17 or 18 of the Audit Commission Act. That is judicial process. In addition, the Bill contains a number of "automatic procedure" situations where the mayor would be disqualified from office; for example, failure to declare election expenses and failure to attend six consecutive statutory meetings of the assembly, as prescribed in the Bill.

Therefore, we have provided for "high crimes" through the judicial process. We have also provided for electoral mismanagement or failure to observe the basic duty of the mayor through the procedure set out in the Bill. I do not believe that we should provide for a situation where the mayor could be removed by a political cabal within the assembly. That is a matter for the people of London; it is not a matter for members of the assembly who will have their own duties and responsibilities to pursue. Indeed, it could lead to incredible deadlock and considerable distraction from the objective of giving good governance to London. In moving this Motion, I should point out to the House that I shall move the same in relation to Amendment No. 6, which is the substantive amendment in this group.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1A.--(Lord Whitty.)


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