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Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, does the Minister agree that not so many of these light bulbs are sold perhaps because the number of councils which have equipment to deal with the mercury contained in them is not adequate? How many councils have this equipment? In order to get the right sense of proportion, how does
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Lord Rooker: My Lords, local authorities are required to have proper disposal arrangements but I fully accept that not every local authority has such arrangements. We should bear in mind that these bulbs last 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs. One can see from the figures I gave earlier that we are just starting to use them. It will be some years before the big replacements come in and the proper disposal has to take place. The mercury should be separated and recovered because it is a toxic substance. On the benefit, I repeat my reply to a Question asked earlier in the year: if every household in the UK changed just one regularly used bulb to an efficient alternative, enough power would be saved to close down one large power station. I am not certain how many power stations we could close down if we did not change the clocks.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, will the Minister please tell the House how far the Government themselves are progressing in the move towards energy-efficient light fittings? What percentage of light fittings in government buildings are converted to energy-efficient light bulbs?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not have a figure for the Government or, indeed, for Defra but I assure the noble Lord that, to the best of my knowledge, every room that I have been in in Defra was fitted with energy-saving light bulbs.
Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there are light fittings which are inappropriate for energy-saving light bulbs; namely, dimmer switches? A lot of households and offices have them. Before the existing wasteful light bulbs are phased out, there needs to be a proper replacement which can be accommodated within these fittings which are common in many households and buildings.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. It is for the industry to do this. For example, mechanical security timers that are like a clock with buttons will turn these lights on and off but digital security timers will not work with these bulbs. It is up to the industry to produce the products to go with the bulbs. It is much better for this to be done on a voluntary basis and for the industry to do it in conjunction with retailers, with the full support of the Government, rather than for us to say heavy-handedly that it must be done by a certain date.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, the Minister may remember that in a previous discussion on this point I mentioned the millions of light bulbs used to illuminate many seaside resorts and other tourist attractions. What advice are the Government giving to these local councils so that they replace this type of light bulb with a far more energy-saving light bulb?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, one of the benefits of getting the same Question twice is that you can go back and read what you said the first time. When the noble Lord asked about Blackpool earlier in the year, I said:
I said to officials this morning that I could not say that again and that I needed better information. My latest information on the Blackpool illuminations from the industry, which is less than two hours old, is that coloured bulbs are exempt from the phase as they are specialist. Increasingly, illumination bulbs are LED-basedthat is, light-emitting diodes which save even more electricityand illumination organisers will benefit from LED once they become more economical. So, Blackpool illuminations are safe.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, given that low-energy light bulbs take some time to warm up to full strength and are therefore potentially dangerous on stairs, halls and landings for those who have less than perfect sight, what advice would my noble friend give to us?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. When I converted my light bulbs in dark rooms and cupboards under the stairs, I expected the light to come on straight away, and it was quite a shock when it did not. However, things are improving. Bulbs which carry the energy saving recommended logo will reach at least 60 per cent of their brightness in 60 seconds. There is a difficulty here. Some cupboards and rooms, such as bathrooms, have no windows and there one needs to have the light on straight away. This matter must be dealt with by the industry.
Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I note my interest as former chairman of the Dome company, although the subject matter of this Question was excluded from my terms of reference at the time.
To ask Her Majestys Government how they will divide any revenue from the sale or lease of the Millennium Dome between the millennium lottery commission and the owners of the land, English Partnerships.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, will retain the first £30 million of development receipts. Thereafter, 13 per cent will be passed to the National Lottery. Of the £550 million forecast cash proceeds from the deal, English Partnerships currently estimates that the lottery is likely to receive a total of approximately £67 million phased over the next 15 years. This arrangement for the division of proceeds was announced to Parliament in 2004.
Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. My understanding was that the original value of the land was £450 million, which is less than the value that the noble Baroness has just indicated would be created over time. Will she indicate how the annual return to the taxpayer will perform during that time? What will be the effective annual rate of interest on the outstanding balance, or reducing balance, of £450 million standing in the interest of the taxpayer, which is otherwise lost to the use of the community?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, as I do not have that sort of detail in my very extensive briefing, I will write to the noble Lord. In terms of the value to the taxpayer and the regeneration of the peninsulaI pay tribute to the noble Lord for the sterling work that he did on winding up the NMEC and making such a success of itwe are looking to a major regeneration project. It will generate £4 billion of private investment, 10,000 homes, 24,000 jobs, commercial floor space, schools and health centres. It is a magnificent prospect for the Greenwich peninsula, which is one of the most deprived parts of London.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, it is good to be back. With the leave of the House, two Statements are scheduled for later today. They will be taken at a convenient time after 4 pm. The first Statement will be repeated by my noble friend Lady Ashton, on Iraq. The second will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Rooker, and it is entitled Update on foot and mouth disease and bluetongue.
Moved, That Baroness Anelay of St Johns be appointed a member of the following committees, in the place of Lord Cope of Berkeley: Administration and Works, Privileges, Procedure and Selection.(The Chairman of Committees.)
It is a great pleasure to be back after the Recess and to be taking part once again in the local government Bill. I had, as I suspect most other noble Lords had, a blinding flash of hope that we might all be denied having to come here at allin which case, I could have given myself a week off and not had to deal with this and the two other Bills coming my way this week. However, wiser counsels seem to have prevailedotherwise I might have been exchanging places with the noble Baroness rather swiftly and be considering the Bill from the other side. However, hope fails and I am moving the amendment.
This opening debate takes us to the heart of the first part of the legislation, to the heart of the principles of reinvigorating democracy and to transposing power and local decisions back to local peoplewhich is what we understand this Bill to be all about. The Minister says that that is what the Bill intends to doin fact, we spent a long time in Committee debating that aspectgiving power to the people. We are told that that is what the Prime Minister wants the Bill to do. Of course, the Prime Minister has been changed since the Bill was introduced and we still hope that the new Prime Minister has the same view of this Bill and that it is being executed under the joy of his hand. However, transposing power to local communities is one thing that the Bill does not do. As it stands, it will not succeed in its stated aim of reinvigorating the democratic process.
These amendments address two issues: first, the power of the Secretary of State to issue directions relating to the reorganisation of local government, which we oppose, and, secondly, the power of the Secretary of State to issue either directions or invitations to any local authority. As I made clear in Committee, the Government claim that the ethos of the Bill is to enable local authorities to improve their own structures of government. Indeed, all the Governments rhetoric places the emphasis on giving local authorities power to take their own initiatives. But, as usual, the rhetoric is a far cry from reality.
I have re-tabled these amendments to give the Minister another opportunity to confirm her statement in Committee that the principle of the first part of the Bill is improvement and restructuring by invitation. The Minister noted that this part of the Bill was an invitation-only realm. She went on to say:
I accept that the current orders for local authority restructuring fall into the category of coming about by invitation or in response to an invitationnot by direction. Whether by invitation or direction, the proposals in most of the nine local authorities affected are far from uncontroversial. In spite of the Ministers words, it is loud and clear that the power remains in the Bill for the Secretary of State to issue a direction to local authorities to form unitary councilsin other words, to order them to dissolve and reform as unitary authorities.
While Clause 3 is limited in that regard until the end of January 2008, nothing in the Bill would prevent the Secretary of State before then from issuing an order or direction against the will of the majority of councils in any given area, let alone making a direction against the wishes of the electorate in the area, because the Bill does not yet provide for proper consultation with the electorate. We shall return to that matter later. The key issue is the power that the Bill gives to the Secretary of State to alter local government by direction. I am sure that the Minister, with her goodwill and optimism, believes 100 per cent that the Government, having not issued a direction so far, will not do so in the future.
To some extent, this is a matter of trust. But unfortunately legislation cannot always be built on trust because it can be used thereafter not just by those of us who have seen it through, but by others. It will therefore not come as a surprise to the Minister that we on these Benches want such a guarantee to be included in the Bill and the power to give directions in the future abolished.
Indications about which authorities will be re-formed have caused a lot of damage over the summer. As I said in Committee, the trouble is that some people in the areas being considered want it to happen and some do not; the issue is controversial. That is a pity, but it is not too late to change that particular aspect.
The Government seek to introduce a new process of structuring local government. Instead of testing the likely success and popularityessential agreements in the overhaul of local governmentin Parliament, and more importantly, through proper consultation, they have set in motion a process that goes before the legislation that mandates it in law. I do not know whether this situation is unique, but it must be pretty close. The legislation is almost useless to prevent what is happening because everything is happening before the legislation has had proper scrutiny in Parliament.
It is deeply disappointing to have to depict the situation in that way. I wish that it had not come to this and that Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, Congleton Borough Council and Harrogate Borough Council were not all seeking judicial reviews. Throughout the country there has been outrage at grass roots level at the speed of this reconstruction process. However, that is the reality.
Nobody actually believes that this part of the Bill will cease in January 2008 or that these nine newly proposed authorities will be the end of itfar too much has gone into this for the Government just to
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Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, we on these Benches did not add our names to the amendments, not because we do not have some sympathy with the point of view expressed by the noble Baroness, but because our concerns are rather differently focused. I will say more about that when we debate amendments tabled in my name and that of my noble friend.
I have a lot of sympathy with the views expressed by the noble Baroness on the Conservative Benches. We have a problem. The authorities that we are currently discussing have been chosen in a process that is to some extent outside the law because we are debating the law now and it has not yet been passed. While there may not technically be an issue of retrospectionI am not a lawyer and do not know whether there is or nota process has been started that cannot be finished until we pass the Bill. As we are approaching the end of the parliamentary Session and there is some panic to get this measure through, we find ourselves in a highly unsatisfactory situation where a group of local authorities are a long way down the road toward unitary status without a legal framework to back that up.
To make it worse, it is not only the absence of a legal framework that causes us difficulty but the absence of a policy framework to underpin that. We in this House, in another place and, more importantly, in local government, do not understand what the Government want from local government with regard to unitary councils. Therefore, the situation is highly unsatisfactory. On these Benches we have taken a pragmatic view. Local authorities that are already in the process of restructuring are where they are. I recognise that there is a good deal of unhappiness and I shall discuss some of that in detail when we come to later amendments. Nevertheless, they have entered a process and gone a long way down the road and we believe that it would be irresponsible of us to do anything to prevent them moving forward now.
However, that does not mean that we believe the Bill will provide a satisfactory framework for local authorities in the future. We certainly do not want to keep revisiting the same problems on more and more local authorities as time progresses and therefore we have tabled later amendments to deal with the question of timing. However, for now, I simply place on the record for the House the general unease that we on these Benches have about the process. I should also be interested to know whether the noble Baroness has heard any more about how the current judicial reviews are progressing.
Viscount Eccles: My Lords, in Committee I briefly drew attention to the constitutional issue affecting the use of directions. All the literature and, indeed, all the precedents show that directions are meant to be used in extreme circumstances when things have broken down between the parties and the Secretary of State
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As the House knows, directions are a form of secondary legislation. They are not subject to any parliamentary procedure and they should not be used, in the words of the marriage settlement, lightly. I am sure that in this case that has happened. If you add to that the comments about the process starting and proceeding in advance of the passing of the Bill, then it is most unfortunate that directions have been included. I am extremely surprised that the legal services available to the Government have allowed that to happen and I hope that they will be withdrawn.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, we return to a common problem. Regardless of what appears to a Government to be a solutionnot necessarily to a problem but in response to the need for changesome people and some authorities will agree and some will not. The dilemmas facing a Government or anyone in authority are: to what extent does the tail wag the dog; to what extent is progress delayed until there is common agreement; or, at what stage do a Government exercise the powers that they have in order to make progress?
I am sure that the Minister has answers to some of the direct and pertinent points that are being raised but I cannot believe that the Government will make progress or insist on making progress in the face of sizeable opposition. That does not mean that the minority is entitled to have its view taken into account all the time. However, if we live in a democracy and if, although there may be reluctance to change, it is accepted that ultimately it may be for the benefit of the majority, then I fail to see why at the end of the day, whenever that might be, the Government should not have some power to insist on progress. Therefore, I should be interested to hear from the Government how they intend to deal with this problem.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene for a moment to ask the Minister what the need is for the change that she talks about. The French structure of local government has not changed since Napoleon. The French have something like 38,000 separate municipalities, which manage to work together extremely efficiently, effectively and well without all this constant ferment. That is one example from what I would call a fairly radical wing of European local government.
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