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Lord Dixon-Smith: I am delighted to hear the Minister's response to these two amendments, and I shall study his words with care. I note that he makes reference to informal arrangements. When considering legislation one is dealing with matters formally. It may be that what he says is satisfactory, but there is nothing like having something on the face of a Bill to ensure that it happens. However, I put aside my cynical tendency for the moment and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 48:

    After Clause 5, insert the following new clause--

Power to amend or repeal enactments in consequence of section 4 powers

(" .--(1) If the Secretary of State thinks that an enactment (whenever passed or made) or a requirement (whenever imposed) is unnecessary following the enactment of section 4, he shall by order amend, repeal, revoke or withdraw it.
(2) In this section "enactment" has the same meaning as in section 5(2) and "requirement" includes guidance and directions.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 48, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 51. As we have already discussed this evening, it is anticipated that the Clause 4 strategy will supersede a number of other plans and strategies. I hope that that will turn out to be the case, that the decks can be cleared and that there will be fewer detailed obligations on local authorities. Amendment No. 48 attempts to build on Clause 5. That clause enables the Secretary of State to amend, repeal or revoke enactments. Amendment No. 48 seeks to provide that, if he has addressed his mind to it and comes to the view that an enactment is unnecessary, he shall amend, repeal or revoke it, or, in the case of a requirement, withdraw it. This is the positive side of the coin whose reverse is the permissive provision in Clause 5.

Clause 6, which Amendment No. 51 seeks to amend, deals with the modification of enactments which apply to local authorities. I may well be told by the Minister that it is outside the scope of the Long Title to extend this provision to public bodies. Nevertheless, I believe that it is worth floating. The power of community planning is based on a partnership of all the relevant entities or, to adopt jargon less often used these days, stakeholders. The exercise of the powers in Clause 6(1) could be a great incentive for a range of entities to join a partnership. The prospect of bureaucratic requirements for the production of plans being removed is a powerful incentive. It has been suggested to me that this provision should extend to other public bodies such as health authorities as well as to local authorities to improve the process and thereby, it is hoped, the strategy. I beg to move Amendment No. 48.

Lord Whitty: I understand the reasoning that the noble Baroness has explained. I am, however, slightly bemused by the fact that the noble Baroness, on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Benches, proposes two amendments which greatly widen the scope of the Secretary of State's powers in respect of all kinds of public bodies and require him always to exercise them. That seems to be slightly contrary to the tone of some of the contributions from both Front Benches opposite.

The noble Baroness is right in relation to Amendment No. 48, in that it would allow the Secretary of State to repeal or amend any unnecessary

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enactment. That seems to us to go beyond the scope of the Long Title of the Bill. Technically, since other statutory bodies may be party to community strategies--I understand the reasoning behind it--it would allow us to deal with legislation that related to them as well as to local authorities. The proposal greatly extends the Secretary of State's powers.

Similarly, I understand why the noble Baroness regards Amendment No. 51 as desirable. Certainly, we want local authorities to work with other statutory bodies, but this takes us into wider territory than we would wish to enter. It would be improper to make such amendments without first engaging in the kind of detailed consultation with those bodies that we have had with representatives of local government about the powers in Clauses 5 and 6.

We have not yet considered the implications of such a wide power. That does not mean that we are necessarily unsympathetic to aspects of this issue. Indeed, we have already consulted quite widely on amendments to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 with particular reference to public authorities. We hope to bring forward legislation later this Session which may deal with aspects of this matter.

However, the noble Baroness is too ambitious on the part of the Secretary of State. I suspect that in that regard she will not wish to pursue the amendment.

9 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My ambition on the part of the Secretary of State was to revoke legislation. That is rather different from providing for the Secretary of State to make more impositions. I defend myself in that way.

I am glad to hear the Minister's remarks about considering extending the approach to other public bodies. The suggestion for the amendment came from the local government world. It is because of the experience of working with other public bodies in the partnership which the Government are promoting that the amendment appears desirable.

The Minister did not say that it was cheeky to seek to extend the provision, but I accept that it is somewhat cheeky to read over the provision to other public bodies. However, given that the amendment arises from experience in local government, it has relevance. To hear at later stages of the Bill about enabling other public bodies to work more easily with local government would be good.

I shall read what was said about Clauses 4 and 5 with regard to requiring the Secretary of State to revoke enactments, and so on. One has to consider those clauses together. I hope that we can look forward to the Government clearing the decks a good deal and reducing the amount of legislation which will apply to community leadership. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 6 [Power to modify enactments concerning plans etc.]:

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 50:

    Page3, line 20, after ("repeal") insert (", revoke").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 51 to 53 not moved.]

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Procedure for orders under section 5 or 6]:

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 55:

    Page 4, line 26, at end insert ("working").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the period for which an order lies before Parliament before it may be approved. It requires that the order may not be approved until the expiry of a period of 60 days beginning with the day on which the document was laid. I understand that in the context of legislation of this kind, 60 days excludes periods when Parliament is in recess or public holidays.

Amendment No. 55 requires the period to be 60 working days. We think that the slightly longer period would not sacrifice a great deal of time and might give more opportunity for proper, mature consideration of any orders brought forward under this part of the Bill.

Amendment No. 56 requires the Government not only to state what they have received as a consequence of consultation but also to give their decisions. In other words, if there are serious objections, they have to spell out why they have rejected those objections. There is less of a problem if the consultation reveals happy and universal agreement. That may happen on occasion; and I think that we would all be delighted and surprised if that were the case.

These two minor amendments are intended to be helpful to the Government, local government and anyone interested. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Clause 8 provides for the procedures to be followed by the Secretary of State in making orders under Clauses 5 and 6. Those powers are very wide-ranging and it is right that Parliament should properly scrutinise their use. The procedures to be followed are designed to ensure that Parliament is provided with sufficient information about the purpose of the orders and the reaction of those who will be affected by them; and to allow Parliament time for proper consideration. They are modelled closely on the procedures adopted in the Local Government Act 1999 and the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994.

Following consultation with local authorities, representatives of local government and other persons likely to be affected by the proposals, the Secretary of State is required to lay before Parliament a document explaining his proposals and setting them out in the form of a draft order. He must also provide details of

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the consultation exercise. Parliament has 60 days in which to consider this document after which the Secretary of State may formally lay an order.

Amendment No. 55 would change the period to "60 working days". Clause 8(4) makes clear that the period of 60 days does not include any time during which Parliament is dissolved, prorogued or adjourned for more than four days. The amendment would extend that period by effectively excluding weekends.

I have to say that it might have been easier to achieve the same effect by simply extending the period to 75 days. But the real point at issue is whether 60 days represents sufficient time for Parliament properly to scrutinise such proposals as are likely to be brought forward under Clauses 5 and 6. In the Government's view, it is. This House previously thought that 60 days was sufficient for orders brought forward under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act and for orders that might in future be brought forward under Section 16 of the Local Government Act 1999. Like Clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill, those Acts allow for primary legislation to be amended by means of order. If 60 days were sufficient in those cases, we are not convinced that they should not be sufficient in this.

Amendment No. 56 would also require the Secretary of State to provide a response to any representations received during the 60-day period when he lays the final order. I can understand the noble Lord's concern to ensure that Parliament has as much information as possible when it is considering the final order. However, I believe that on this occasion his concerns are misplaced. I cannot conceive of a situation in which the Secretary of State, in providing details of the representations and any changes to the draft order, would not also explain why he had accepted or rejected those representations.

I hope that as I have been able to clarify the position the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment No. 55 and not move Amendment No. 56.

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