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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until ten to nine.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.47 to 8.50 p.m.]

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Local Government Bill [H.L.]

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 10.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 21:


    Page 5, line 32, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 21 is a simple probing amendment. On reflection, when I looked at Clause 10(4), I noticed that the executive is referred to in this Part as,


    "a mayor and council manager executive".

In most other parts of the world where there is an elected mayor, the elected mayor is the elected mayor and the council manager and does the whole job. Very often in the United States there may be a relatively small council which appoints a council manager to run its business affairs. The difficulty is that in both those descriptions the elected mayor and the council manager are doing the same job.

I am not quite certain therefore what the division of responsibilities would be under subsection (4) if the elected mayor, who is elected to run the council--and, therefore, one might have thought, would be its manager--appointed a manager to do that for him. If he did that, I cannot understand why one would need an elected mayor in any event; it seems to me that the council could appoint a manager if that is what it so wished.

I thought that the solution to the problem would be to move the amendment and to find out what the Minister has to say about it. That may help me to make up my mind. I look forward to his reply. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I take it that the noble Lord is seeking clarification rather than seeking to press his amendment. It may well be that this is the least well understood form of the structures--and I suspect that that is also the case outside the House. We are anxious that we do not delete any form of executive structure which is contained in the Bill at the moment.

It is quite common in a number of other countries to have an elected mayor and an appointed manager. I suspect that the noble Lord is thinking more of the North American pattern, where the mayor effectively acts as the chief executive. The pattern here is designed to achieve a clear separation between policy development, which would be a matter for the council and for the mayor, and the day-to-day implementation of policy, which would be a matter for the council manager and for the officer corps. The mayor would provide the political leadership; the council manager would implement agreed council policy, guided by that political leadership.

When the Joint Committee considered this potential option, it felt that an arrangement involving a council manager might be more appropriate for rural areas and for areas where there were usually hung councils. In those circumstances, the relationship between the mayor, the council manager and the council would be slightly different from other areas where there was a clear political majority. That option, which is more

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equivalent to certain continental structures, should be provided in the Bill. In the view of the Joint Committee, at least, it is probably more appropriate for the rural and less urban areas. That may be the reason that it has not been taken up as a front runner among the structures of local government.

With that explanation I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I am not sure whether it is my amendment, the Minister's explanation or something completely divorced from the proceedings which is causing so much hilarity. In any event, the Minister will be glad to hear that I shall study his explanation. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 22:


    Page 5, line 37, at end insert--


("( ) It may take such form as the local authority considers, after it has taken reasonable steps to consult local government electors and other interested persons in the authority's area, will--
(a) enhance decision-making,
(b) meet the principles of transparency, accountability and efficiency, and
(c) be appropriate to local circumstances.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 22 seeks to outline what one might call the "fourth option". On a similar amendment at a previous stage, the Minister said that if the objective of the option was greater diversity, then it did not achieve it. This amendment is not so much about diversity as about getting back to basics, although it seeks to set out the framework which we believe will be appropriate for a further option.

This is a variation on the amendment I moved at the earlier stage. It provides that executive arrangements as adopted through regulations may take the form that the local authority itself considers appropriate, and it may only adopt that form after it has consulted its electors. It will enhance decision making, meet the principles of transparency, accountability and efficiency and be appropriate to local circumstances. The reference to local circumstances is important.

On the last group of amendments the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Leigh, said that we need to know how the public can express a view. That is a very fair point. This amendment would achieve that objective, or certainly something might be built on it. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as I indicated in an earlier debate, the three categories of executive arrangements already made available in the Bill allow for a fairly wide diversity of choice. They do so by setting out the basic framework for each option to ensure that the new structure has a clear, separate, transparent and accountable executive responsible for most of a council's functions. I appreciate that the amendment does not explicitly seek to make executive

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arrangements voluntary--which was the subject of a previous debate--but it does provide a broader discretion than we are prepared to accept, in that councils themselves could devise a form of executive that approximates very closely to the status quo should they so wish.

It is clear that any such arrangements would require further provision and modification to other enactments, but it is not clear how that would be achieved. In a few minutes we shall come to the question of the power in the Bill for the Secretary of State to define further forms of executive. If a council has a clear proposal for a further form of executive which meets the aims of enhanced efficiency, transparency and accountability, we should use that power to establish an alternative model. However, this proposal is somewhat more open-ended. We should not be convinced that the proposal is not a way of allowing councils effectively to make a few minor modifications to their current committee structure rather than to move wholeheartedly to an executive structure. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment.

9 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, sadly, the Minister confirms what we have all been suggesting: that even if the criteria spelled out are met, the central government model is to be followed. I am sad. I accept that the Government are quite set on the matter, but it is sad that they have not yet moved towards us in any way. There is still time to work out how we can ensure the meeting of criteria which are agreed on all sides to be important. A model which has been consulted on locally and has obtained local approval cannot be put in place through some automatic procedure, but it is still a matter--not even for the Secretary of State to approve on a particular basis but to meet a form which the Secretary of State may prescribe in regulations. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 23:


    Page 5, line 41, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 24. Amendment No. 23 seeks to leave out paragraph (a) of Clause 10(6), which provides that regulations may provide for a form of executive, with each member directly elected to a specified cabinet post.

I am still unclear as to why subsection (6) is necessary at all. We are back to the old argument that the executive may take a form to be prescribed in regulations which,


    "may, in particular, provide for",

some--but it must be by definition not all--of the possible forms. Since the provision does not attempt to spell out all the forms, why is it necessary or appropriate to spell out only those?

I have particular concerns about that model which I expressed in Committee. The Minister stressed that the Government have no clear plans about the particular

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form of the executive, but they want to ensure that no "potentially valid"--those are the words he used--form of executive should be closed off. That of course begs the question of how one interprets the words "potentially valid". We have a particular difficulty about directly elected cabinet members when they are elected to particular posts. I simply do not see how it is practicable at local level to apply that kind of model.

Over dinner I was talking to my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer about how few people we have come across, particularly in the smaller authorities, who have any enthusiasm for doing the job themselves. To elect an individual who wants to be mayor, who will set out his stall and go for it knowing that it is a full time job is one matter; but if one is to have a directly elected cabinet where a number of individuals are asked to put themselves forward for a major job in the local authority, which may or may not be fulfilling but certainly requires them as individuals to take important decisions about the direction in which their lives and careers will go, I do not believe that the people are likely to be available. If there are direct elections to individual cabinet posts, how does one swap around? Must one keep having by-elections if people find that they simply cannot juggle their lives as they believed they might be able to do?

I do not like the model, but more particularly I want to ask why subsection (6) is necessary at all. It is restrictive. If subsection (5) means anything, must we have subsection (6)? I beg to move.


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