Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Sixteenth Report



PART II: General functions and procedures

CLAUSE 25 - THE GENERAL POWER OF THE AUTHORITY

Subsection (7) enables the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Authority concerning the exercise of the Authority's general power to act to further one or more of the Authority's principal purposes. In exercising the general power, the Authority must have to have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance.

Purpose - To provide guidance to the Authority on the exercise of the general power.

Reason for proposing delegated powers - The general power to act will be a new and potentially very broad discretionary power for the Mayor to act in such ways as he or she considers further one or more of the Authority's principal purposes. The intention is that the Secretary of State's guidance should set the exercise of the power in context.

For example, the guidance might state that it is not expected that the general power should be used to duplicate the role of the London borough councils, but that it could be used to facilitate co-operation between the GLA and these councils on joint projects.

Procedure - No parliamentary procedure has been specified, but Ministers have given a commitment to consult on a draft.

CLAUSE 26 - LIMITS OF THE GENERAL POWER

Subsection (7) enables the Secretary of State to amend this section by order to make further provision for preventing the Authority from doing anything under the general power which may be done by a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or another public body. Subsection (9) enables the Secretary of State to amend this section to remove or restrict any prohibitions or limitations imposed on the exercise of the general power.

Purpose - To enable further activities to be excluded from, or brought within, the scope of the general power.

Reason for proposing delegated powers - The Bill as drafted provides the Mayor with a broad discretion to act under the general power, subject to specific constraints such as those set out in clause 26(3).

The order-making power in subsection (7) is intended as a reserve power so that if the Secretary of State considered that the GLA was encroaching on the activities of other public bodies, he could act to remove or restrict its power to do so. This does not affect the exercise of specific powers of the GLA under the Bill.

But there is also scope for prohibitions on the exercise of the general power to be lifted in future, for example if the present framework proves too restrictive for the Authority to be able to exercise the general power effectively.

Procedure - Affirmative resolution, specified in clause 325(3) of the Bill, on the grounds that any changes to the Authority's powers should be subject to debate in, and approval from, both Houses of Parliament.

Subsection (8) enables the Secretary of State, by order, to impose limits on the expenditure which may be incurred by the Authority by virtue its exercise of the general power.

Purpose - To enable the Secretary of State to place a financial limit on activities carried out under the general power, should that be deemed appropriate.

Reason for proposing delegated powers - As with the power in subsection (7), this reserve power is intended to provide a safeguard against excessive expenditure by the Mayor.

Procedure - Affirmative resolution procedure, as specified in clause 325(3), in order that Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and approve any changes.

CLAUSE 47 - POLITICAL COMPOSITION OF ASSEMBLY COMMITTEES

Subsection (1) applies sections 15 to 17 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to the Assembly, as if the Assembly were a relevant authority and its committees were ordinary committees within the meaning of those provisions. This means that the normal local authority provisions relating to political balance on committees will also apply to Assembly committees.

The Secretary of State's existing powers to make regulations (section 15(2), 17(1)(a), 17(3), paragraphs 1 and 3 of Schedule 1 of the 1989 Act) in respect of political balance will therefore also apply to Assembly committees.

CLAUSE 53 - RESTRICTION OF INFORMATION

Clauses 51 to 54 make provision empowering the Assembly to summon witnesses to give evidence or provide documents. This clause provides that the Secretary of State may make orders prescribing categories of information which a person summoned to the Assembly may refuse to give, and categories of document which he or she may refuse to produce.

Purpose - To enable appropriate arrangements to protect privacy and confidentiality to apply to the Assembly's power to obtain evidence and documents from witnesses.

Reason for proposing delegated powers - To enable a flexible approach to be taken which can be reviewed in line with changes to legislation giving or restricting access to information. The categories of information that may be prescribed in any order made by the Secretary of State are likely to reflect the categories of exempt information specified in section 100I of, and Schedule 12A to, the Local Government Act 1972.

Procedure - Negative resolution procedure, under the terms of clause 325(7).

CLAUSE 55 - THE SECRETARY OF STATE'S GUIDANCE ON ETHICAL STANDARDS

This clause provides for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Authority with respect to ethical standards for the Mayor, the Assembly members and members of the Authority's staff. Clause 55(3) requires the Mayor and Assembly to have regard to the guidance in exercising any of their functions.

Purpose - To provide for the Secretary of State to establish a framework to ensure high ethical standards in the conduct of the Authority's business.

Reason for proposing delegated powers - Because of the allocation made by the Bill of responsibilities between the Mayor and the Assembly, the usual procedures which govern the conduct of business within local authorities cannot be applied to the Authority. The Bill therefore provides for guidance specifically tailored to the decision-taking structures of the GLA to be issued.

This provision is intended to be transitional. The Government's Consultation Paper "Local Leadership, Local Choice" (Cm 4298), published on 24 March 1999 with the draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill, makes clear (at paragraph 4.11) that the new ethical framework set out in the draft Bill will apply to the GLA in due course. The Government intends to legislate to establish the new ethical framework for local authorities as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits. This legislation will supersede the Secretary of State's guidance to the GLA.

Procedure - No parliamentary procedure is specified. Ministers have said they will consult on a draft.

CLAUSE 56 - APPOINTMENT OF STAFF

The provisions of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 requiring the appointment of staff on merit are applied here. Subsection (7) applies section 8 of the 1989 Act to the Authority, by which the Secretary of State may by regulations require relevant authorities to adopt certain standing orders in respect of staff.

Section 9(4) of the 1989 Act, which enables the Secretary of State to specify by statutory instrument a maximum level of remuneration for political assistants is currently applied by clause 56(8). It is intended that an amendment will be brought forward to disapply this provision. The Mayor will determine the terms and conditions of his or her political advisers under the terms of clause 59(1).

CLAUSE 57 - DISQUALIFICATION AND POLITICAL RESTRICTION.

This provision applies sections 1 to 3 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to the GLA, Transport for London and the police and fire authorities, as if these bodies were relevant authorities for the purposes of the 1989 Act.

The powers to make regulations conferred on the Secretary of State by sections 1(5) and 2(2) of the 1989 Act will therefore extend to the GLA and the functional bodies mentioned above.


 
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