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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not aware of any recent announcement that the Royal Parks have to pay for themselves. They do not pay for themselves and it has never been intended that they should pay for themselves. In my first Answer I said that one of the objectives in the Royal Parks corporate plan was to maximise income. But that would be supplementary to the grant-in-aid which the Royal Parks Agency receives.
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, will the Minister accept that I wholeheartedly support a great deal of what my noble friend Lord St John of Fawsley said? In addition to those concerns, I add the problem of traffic management in the Inner Circle. It is already heavily trafficked and parking facilities are extremely expensive, often excluding disabled persons wishing to use the park. Moreover, the agency is extremely arrogant in its approach to traffic management and imposed schemes which are running at present which cause great inconvenience and danger to permanent residents.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there is no easy solution. There are those--including the noble Lord, Lord St John--who believe that there should be even more severe restrictions on traffic in the Royal Parks, particularly through traffic. I fear that there is an insoluble conflict between that aim and the aim of the noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, to remove obstacles to traffic. Of course there are problems in the Royal Parks; they are part of central London. I acknowledge also that problems exist in the Inner Circle. I was not aware of specific problems for disabled people and would be glad to hear more from the noble Baroness on that subject.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who lives in a flat on the Outer Circle. Is the Minister aware that a severe problem arises in the Royal Parks, particularly Regent's Park, through the intrusive effect of tall buildings? Are the Government
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are aware of the proposals for tall buildings at Paddington Basin and the Royal Parks Agency formally objected to that development on the grounds that there will be visual intrusion, particularly in Regent's Park.
Lord Elton: My Lords, in reply to his noble friend Lord Strabolgi, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said in his first Answer that one of the aims of the agency was to "maximise profit". Before those words he used the phrase, "as far as possible". Can the Minister remind us what the limiting factor is on the maximisation of profit? There is clearly a conflict of interest between the quiet enjoyment of the park and the exploitation of it for commercial purposes. On that hangs the whole quality of the park itself.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that there is a difference between, for example, having a series of theatrical performances during the summer at Regent's Park, and having a permanent commercial activity in the centre of the park? It is that to which a number of people, including myself, object so strongly.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we recognise that there is a great deal of difference between the open-air theatre and the possibility of a commercial garden centre at Chester Road. The points made by the noble Baroness are relevant to the considerations of the Royal Parks and Westminster City Council.
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, in view of the satisfactory and sympathetic answers of the noble Lord, and the introduction by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House of the new constitutional idea of self-nomination, will the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, consider nominating himself as Secretary of State because he clearly has all the qualifications for the position?
There were two questions in the Scottish referendum. The first asked whether voters wanted a Scottish Parliament and the second asked whether they wanted it to have tax-raising powers. Members of the Committee can therefore see that there are four possible outcomes: yes/yes; yes/no; no/yes; and no/no. Indeed, some people took up all four positions. Clearly, a majority answered "yes" to both questions and a minority answered "no" to both questions. However, some people decided that they wanted a Scottish Parliament but that they did not want it to have tax-raising powers and others did not want a Scottish Parliament but thought that, if there were to be one, it ought to have tax-raising powers. The problem is deciding how to define the umbrella organisations involved.
Interestingly, as the Bill stands, the Secretary of State will decide about the umbrella organisations as regards those outcomes. My first amendment suggests that it should not be the Secretary of State but the electoral commission. I believe that the case for that is unanswerable. If one is to make referendums acceptable in this country, the Government must not be seen to be taking things apart in deciding what the rules are and who is or is not playing. Therefore, I submit that the electoral commission should decide that matter.
My Amendment No. 234 addresses the question of how the commission should decide on the umbrella groups or "designated organisations" as they are called. Let us say that, for example, two different organisations decided to campaign for the same outcome in a referendum on proportional representation. I read in an extract from Mr Ashdown's diaries in this week's Times that the Prime Minister used almost exactly the same words in respect of such a referendum as he used last week in respect of a referendum on the euro; namely, that if there were a referendum tomorrow he would vote "no". That must come as interesting news to the Liberal Democrats who must be wondering about their bedfellows in such referendums. At least they know where I and my party stand on such issues, but they must be unsure about their partners.
As regards a referendum on proportional representation, it is possible that a significant proportion of the Labour Party will not want proportional representation and will want to set up an organisation in order to campaign for first past the post. "Labour For First Past The Post" might be a good title. I accept that some people in my party would approve of proportional representation but clearly the majority of them would be in favour of keeping the first-past-the-post system.
It may be that those two organisations would find it difficult to come together. Labour members advocating first past the post might find it uncomfortable to team up with Conservatives and therefore there would be two potential umbrella
One can see that a number of genuine outcomes could come from a decision to hold a referendum. I hope that my amendment is therefore helpful to the Government and, more importantly, to the electoral commission, which will have to make those difficult decisions. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Bach, explain why the Government have decided that the Secretary of State should decide on the outcomes and what is wrong with my amendment which helps to guide the commission to its conclusion on how many umbrella organisations, if more than one, it should recognise. I beg to move.
Lord Bach: These amendments are concerned with the designation of those permitted participants which may then benefit from the assistance specified in Clause 105, including a grant of up to £600,000 and free mailshots.
Amendment No. 233 is concerned with subsection (3) of Clause 103. This subsection addresses the possibility that there might be more than two possible outcomes to a referendum. Where that is the case it may or may not be appropriate to provide for the designation of a permitted participant in respect of each possible outcome. I say "may not" because certain possible outcomes may be contradictory or absurd.
Clause 103(3) provides that, in such circumstances, the Secretary of State may by order specify the possible outcomes in respect of which a permitted participant may be designated. I understand that the noble Lord objects to that provision. Such an order could be made only after consultation with the electoral commission and would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, thereby leaving the final say in determining such matters to Parliament.
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