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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for pointing out where I have drawn the line; namely, at "members" rather than "Secretary of State". I have been drafting the amendments personally and do not happen to have the skills of an expert counsel. I also have a difficulty. I have tabled amendments under which other bodies would nominate people. I accept that they will be formally appointed by the Secretary of State; however, I shall want to argue strongly that some of the appointments should come through other bodies.
Secondly, I am very disturbed at what the Minister has just said; namely, that the Secretary of State will be minded to appoint, and that there will be an advertisement for, "a businessman". The Government, and the noble Baroness in particular and her colleagues in another place, in my presence and, I believe, on the record, have said endlessly that 40 per cent of the council will be represented by business. Why, therefore, will one business appointment be advertised--quite distinct from the 40 per cent business representation on the committee?
Lord Bach: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I obviously did not make myself clear. In regard to the position of chair or chairman, the Secretary of State will be looking for a business person who commands national respect and who is able to make the substantial time commitment to the council. That does not take away at all from the figure of 40 per cent given in relation to the new council.
Our confidence has been slightly shaken by the recent appointment of the person in charge of the Dome. As far as one is aware, Nolan procedures were not followed and there was no advertisement of the position. The same Government ask us to trust them that all of these procedures will be put in place. Therefore, it is of assistance to have on record that in this instance the procedures will be followed. I am not happy with the response of the noble Lord. Perhaps I should be flattered that the noble Lord says that because the Tories did it in the past there is no reason why the present Government should not do it now. But this council, which is of a different kind, will be very influential in the policies that cascade down to local councils and local authorities. It is important that each of the 12 to 16 members of the council has confidence in the chairman. I should like the members to have the ability to make appointments. However, I rest my case until the next stage of the Bill in the hope that later this afternoon there is some clarification of the business representation. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
I have tabled this amendment in order to understand the Government's intentions. The Government have made some very encouraging noises, which we all appreciate, but it would be of enormous help if their exact intentions in this regard were made clear in the Bill. I beg to move.
Baroness Blackstone: I hesitate because I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, wants to speak to her amendment in this group. If so, I am content to sit down and let the noble Baroness speak.
Baroness Blatch: I had not realised that my amendment was grouped with Amendment No. 6. I support the sentiments behind the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Wade. The Government have made it clear over many weeks--it also appears in some of the documents which accompany the Bill--that at least 40 per cent of the membership of the councils will come from the business and commercial sector. Unless that is on the face of the Bill there will be no guarantee at all. There is absolutely no definition of "commercial and business sector". Members of the Committee will note that my amendment states that,
The Secretary of State, the noble Baroness and her honourable friend in another place have said that they want business to be in the lead and that business people understand the need for the education and training of their workforce. Today, almost everybody goes into work and therefore they must be educated and trained for work. If the Government mean what they say the business sector is fully behind the amendment. All of the responses to consultation in relation to this particular matter have stated the desire to see something firm on the face of the Bill, and I believe that there is a strong case for it. I do not see an argument against it. The Government have made it clear that they expect the figure to be 40 per cent. My amendment proposes that it should be at least 40 per cent so that it does not go below that figure, but it does not necessarily mean that it should go above it. I support the amendment moved by my noble friend, and I shall press my amendment when it comes to be considered.
Lord Tope: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wade of Chorlton, for tabling this amendment. We all understand the intention behind the amendment rather than what is expressed in the Marshalled List. The noble Lord raises an important point which will enable the Minister to make clear the Government's intention. I believe that their intention is, and should
Baroness Blackstone: I do not believe that there is much between us in this area. The Government's intentions are absolutely clear. As the noble Baroness and her noble friend have said, we have made the position clear on a number of occasions. The only difference between us--here I entirely accept the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Tope--is whether this matter should be spelt out on the face of the Bill. I fully support the wish of the Committee that the business sector should play a major role in the LSC's strategic decision-making and planning. For that reason, I sought to reassure noble Lords during Second Reading that,
Quite aside from the other obvious problems of definition--and here I want to turn the noble Baroness's arguments on their heads--"business", "commercial", "public sector" or "non-public sector" are not terribly easy to define in terms of legislation. We most certainly do not want to find ourselves on the slippery slope, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, was implying, to a system of filling quotas of places. That would take us a very long way from our firm intention of appointing as members people who will serve the interests of the council as a whole. That is why we set out in the prospectus clear guidelines and criteria for filling all positions on the councils. I think that should be a significant reassurance. We want to encourage
Most of all, I simply do not believe that it is appropriate to set out in legislation the ratio of the membership of a public body. Appointments then become a matter of legal and arithmetical nicety, rather than of having the more obvious priority of finding the best people for the job in the categories set out. I hope therefore that both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
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