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Lord Tope: I am perhaps a little less surprised at that response, although I am still saddened that we cannot move the Minister even on the principle.

I accept entirely that any measure to remove an elected mayor should not be taken lightly and only in the most extreme circumstances. We would all hope that such circumstances would never arise. But it is probable that, sooner or later, somewhere they will arise. Let us take, first, the circumstances under current legislation in which a mayor could be removed. Demonstrable insanity is not always easy to demonstrate; sometimes it takes some time to do so. Indeed, some would say that insanity is demonstrated merely by wishing to seek the office in the first place. However, in all seriousness, insanity is not easily demonstrated. It also takes time to prove criminal activity through the judicial process. During such processes, the administration of the area concerned is undoubtedly paralysed and polarised.

I understand the principle that concerns the Minister--I share that concern--that someone who has been democratically elected should not easily be removed from office. That is important. One of our proposals under the GLA Bill--I do not want particularly to return to these matters--was described as the nuclear option. In a city as large as London, any popular vote in terms of petition numbers and so on was a practical impossibility. We suggested that the members of the assembly, by a very large majority--I forget the exact figure--should have the right to dismiss the mayor but, in so doing, would dismiss themselves as well. No assembly is likely to vote by a large majority for such an option unless it is absolutely necessary, because its members would then be facing the electorate and having to justify the action they had taken. I thought that was a very fair proposal to deal with such circumstances--which we hope will never arise, but might--in a city as large as London.

We have deliberately not chosen mechanics, which would give the Minister another easy option to shoot us down, but rather we have tried to concentrate on the principle that unfettered power to an individual should not be allowed. There should be some means of recalling a mayor under extreme circumstances without a lengthy and paralysing judicial process in regard to criminal matters or in regard to matters of sanity or insanity.

Lord Whitty: I apologise to the Committee. I was reminded when the noble Lord said "under extreme circumstances" that there was one measure I failed to mention in my previous remarks--that is, that the new ethical framework will apply to the mayor as it will to other office holders. Therefore the question of disqualification or suspension could arise in that context. Again that is not a political removal but a

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quasi judicial removal. I thought, for the record, that the noble Lord should recognise that that circumstance is already covered.

Lord Tope: I am pleased to hear that. Again, I do not think that that adequately covers the point. Now is not the time to press the matter further, although I suspect that we shall return to it at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 247A not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 247B:

    Page 15, line 1, leave out subsection (4) and insert--

("(4) The return of an elected mayor at an election may be questioned in accordance with any enactment or regulation enabling the questioning of the return at an election of a member or councillor of a local authority.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall not take long. Subsection (4) of Clause 29 provides that no return of an elected mayor is to be questioned other than by an election petition. My amendment reverses that and gives me the opportunity to ask the Minister what the Government are excluding in the subsection. It appears to provide greater protection for the mayor than for other elected councillors and that requires justification on the record. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As currently drafted, subsection (4) of Clause 29 provides that mayoral elections may be challenged only by election petitions under regulations which apply the provisions of Part III of the Representation of the People Act 1983. This deals with the procedure for questioning local elections. Amendment No. 247B would replace that with wording which seeks to apply automatically the Representation of the People Act provisions about the questioning of elections. The noble Baroness's amendment would therefore appear to be unnecessary since it only seeks to achieve what regulations made under the current version of the subsection will achieve. The benefit of doing this by regulations is that they will be able to take account of the particular circumstances of mayoral elections where necessary. The noble Baroness's amendment does not allow for such fine tuning. I hope that she will feel able to withdraw it.

Baroness Hamwee: It may be the time of night, but I am not sure what the Government are achieving here. Perhaps I had better read what the Minister said. It is inappropriate that the problems arising from the election of councillors are dealt with in primary legislation but in the case of an elected mayor are to be excluded from primary legislation and dealt with in secondary legislation. If anything, the regulations dealing with the election of mayor should be on the face of the statute, as is the case with elected councillors. It is a great pity that yet again something which was thought by previous Parliaments to be sufficiently important to be included in statute is being

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taken out of primary legislation and left for secondary legislation. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Provisions with respect to referendums]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 248:

    Page 15, line 7, leave out ("five") and insert ("three").

The noble Lord said: I would not wish to raise the Minister's hopes that I have suddenly become a convert to the desirability of having many referendums just because I have tabled this amendment. If that were the case, the certifiable condition referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, might well be applied to me. It would certainly be certifiable inconsistency!

The amendment was tabled in the expectation, which, as I suspected, would not be borne out, that we could enable local authorities to reverse out of the cul-de-sac which the Minister was driving them into by giving them an option to have a referendum to return to a more traditional form of administration. That is not the case, but it was the motivation behind the amendment. Therefore, when the time comes I shall seek to withdraw it. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 249 standing in my name. I seek to amend the provision because it seems wishy-washy. When does a five-year period start? By the time one reaches the referendum process, the authority will have produced a lawful scheme, consulted locally, notified the Secretary of State and made the many and far-reaching changes consequent upon the proposal. Therefore, the start of the five-year period should relate to the passage of the resolution under Clause 20(1). That gives us a cut-off period so that the local authority knows from when the five-year period is to run. Otherwise, I suspect that the matter will have to be set out in regulations.

Baroness Hamwee: My Amendment No. 257A is in this group. It may seem unnecessary and I hope that the Minister will tell me that it is. It seeks to establish that the term "referendum" as used in the Bill means a referendum under the provisions of the Bill--or the Act, as it will be. It seems a matter of common sense that the Secretary of State's regulation-making power in respect of referendums cannot extend to referendums on other legislation. All the amendment seeks is confirmation of that point.

Lord Whitty: I regret that I cannot accept any of the amendments. In relation to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, we considered the five-year period for some time. It seems to us the most sensible period for a number of reasons. The principal reason is that it does not seem sensible that, having introduced a new executive structure, within the first term of that executive structure there should be another process started for yet another change. We therefore consider that the period between

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referendums would have to be at least four years and, in reality and in practice, five years; after the end of a full term.

With regard to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, I take the point about having a clear start date. It may well be that that needs to be dealt with in regulations. However, the amendment as drafted would have a perverse effect. Not only would it make it impossible within the five-year period for local people to trigger a referendum when the council had opted for an executive structure, but it could, at least notionally, mean that a council seeking to avoid ever having a referendum could simply tweak its executive arrangements, pass another resolution under Clause 20 and therefore roll on the process for ever. I am sure that was not the intention behind the noble Baroness's amendment but, nevertheless, it could be its effect.

I turn to Amendment No. 257A proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I assure the Committee that the Government do not intend to use the provisions of the Bill, and in particular this clause, to prevent a local authority from holding referendums on issues other than executive arrangements if they wish to do so and have the powers to do so. But a definition of "referendum" for the purposes of Part II of the Bill would not be appropriate because wherever the word occurs it needs to be read in that particular context. It does not have a single meaning applied throughout Part II. For example, in Clause 22 it means a referendum under that clause; in Clause 23 it means a referendum under that clause, and so on.

In Clause 30, the effect of subsection (7) is to ensure that references to referendums in Clause 30 are clearly references to referendums held under that clause. Any other definition in one clause could not necessarily be read across to the others. I hope that that is clear and that the noble Baroness will therefore not pursue her amendment. I hope also that the other amendments will not be pursued.

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