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Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 16:

("( ) If the power under subsection (1) is exercised pursuant to subsection (2)(b), the enactment in question shall be amended, repealed, revoked or disapplied in relation to those authorities for a temporary period only.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Clause 6 allows the Secretary of State to exercise a power of modification in relation to all local authorities, or in relation to particular local authorities, or in relation to particular descriptions of local authority. At the previous stage the Minister described what the term

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"particular local authorities" might comprise if they do not comprise categories such as district or unitary authorities. He gave the example of groups of authorities designated by their geographical or economic position. I rather enjoyed the terminology in Hansard which rather unusually missed the point. The Minister stated that the term "particular descriptions of authority",

    "could mean authorities which have rivers or repairing responsibilities".--[Official Report, 25/1/2000; col. 1486.]

I think that the phrase should have been "riparian responsibilities". However, the thought of authorities with repairing responsibilities is quite nice.

The Minister also mentioned a pilot approach. I do not wish for one moment to restrict innovation on the part of authorities. However, what I see here--I alluded to this at the previous stage--is a danger of favouritism. I understand the Minister's explanation as regards what is meant by the term "particular local authorities". However, the natural meaning of the words is not necessarily confined to the kind of group which the Minister mentioned, such as those with particular economic or geographic characteristics. They could comprise authorities which happened to have caught the Minister's eye in a favourable way in the previous month--to mention a trivial example--and not authorities which fall within a particular group which can be judged in an objective, proper and (I repeat this) transparent fashion.

Amendment No. 16 states that if the power is exercised with regard to particular local authorities rather than to all, or to all within a description of local authority, it should be exercised so that the enactment in question is amended for a temporary period only. I believe that if the temporary period is to be made permanent, the powers in Clause 6(2) with regard to all local authorities or to particular descriptions of local authority could be used. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise that there is a concern on the Benches opposite with regard to favouritism. I had hoped that my remarks in Committee had indicated that we are talking about local authorities in a particular situation. That could involve the groups of local authorities to which the noble Baroness has referred, health action zones and so on, where an individual authority or a number of authorities may be involved in a special relationship with the Government.

Having attempted to move an additional Henry VIII power on the previous occasion the noble Baroness now tries to reduce this Henry VIII power substantially by saying that it should be required only for a limited period. The word "temporary" is not defined in the noble Baroness's amendment and I am not aware that there is any legal definition of it. Therefore I believe that there is a problem with her amendment in any case. However, there is also a principle involved here. There cannot be a standard time for piloting new approaches. In some cases it will be several years before we can assess whether or not a measure is still needed. Amendments that we introduced subsequent to the occasion when we

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previously discussed this issue require that the procedure set out in Clause 8 will guarantee not only extensive consultation but also rigorous parliamentary scrutiny of any order made under this provision. In that context, clearly the Secretary of State could propose a time limitation or it could be suggested that a time limitation should be established. I do not think that committing ourselves to a rather vague "temporary" in the way the amendment is drafted would help matters. Indeed, in many cases there may well be a permanent or, certainly, a very long term distinction between authorities. It would seriously reduce in general the flexibility of the Secretary of State to operate under this clause where, in particular cases, it may be appropriate to deal only with a defined and temporary period in terms of removals or of special provisions.

I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that we do not intend that there should be favouritism and that we intend there should be some degree of flexibility for the benefit of local authorities.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have used the occasion to express our concerns. I accept, of course, the Minister's good faith in the matter. We have it on record. If any future Minister were to apply inappropriate favours, it would be an issue to which we could return. I am content with that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 17:

    After Clause 8, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Each local authority shall make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that--
(a) in the exercise of its powers, and
(b) in the discharge of its functions,
there is due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people.
(2) Each local authority shall have regard to the need--
(a) to promote equality of opportunity for all persons irrespective of their race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion;
(b) to eliminate unlawful discrimination; and
(c) to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
(3) Subsection (2) is without prejudice to subsection (1) and is subject to any provision made under any other enactment.
(4) Each local authority shall publish a report in each year containing--
(a) a statement of the arrangements made in pursuance of subsection (1) which had effect during the year which is the subject of the report, and
(b) an assessment of how effective those arrangements were in promoting equality of opportunity.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 17 seeks to bring back the issue of promoting equality. I feel that it is important to keep the matter on the agenda. At the previous stage the Minister said

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that he and his department would consider how the objectives with which we are all concerned could be achieved and he spoke about the review that the Government are undertaking. He is aware of my view that we should use the opportunity presented by this legislation to place on the face of the Bill a provision about promoting equality. If it should have to be altered and tweaked to fit in with another approach when future legislation comes before Parliament, then so be it. We are not alone on these Benches in feeling strongly that the opportunity which now presents itself should be taken.

I move the amendment in the hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how the matter is progressing. He said on a previous occasion that he saw some problems with the drafting of the provision. That is not a good enough excuse for not getting something in the Bill. I accept that it may not be the something that we have drafted. But this exchange is taking place a year after the publication of the Macpherson report and it would be sad if the House was not to take this opportunity. I make no apology for bringing back the matter so quickly. I have no doubt that it is also on the Minister's agenda. I beg to move.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, I agree with the sentiment of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in terms of promoting equal opportunities. Indeed, in her argument she could have added that the matter appeared in the GLA Bill. None the less, more recently the Government have made it clear--especially in terms of the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill--that they are considering a positive statutory duty to promote, in this case, racial equality on all public authorities. To include a separate duty on local authorities at the moment, in advance of this legislation, may not be sensible. Indeed, it could lead to a need to amend the legislation again as soon as it reaches the statute book.

Moreover the Government are proposing comprehensive legislation. The amendment has more the air of a general aspiration, which may in turn be differently interpreted by local authorities in a way which would be unhelpful to the shared common objective of equal opportunities. In addition, such comprehensive legislation must pass the tests of being effective, clear and able to be used. It needs to be carefully crafted before it is agreed to by your Lordships' House.

The Government have embarked on consultation in regard to racial equality as well as in regard to the equal opportunities aspects of the Bill. We want to find and spread best practices in this area and to see how such legislation may apply to different kinds of public bodies. We are widening the consultation to include public bodies which may find themselves in varying and differing circumstances. I repeat that the Government are keen to introduce appropriate legislation on equal opportunities in a calm, competent and considered way.

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