LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL [HL]
Memorandum by the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions
1. The Local Government Bill was introduced to
the House of Lords on 25 November 1999. This memorandum summarises
the main provisions of the Bill and gives an overview of the delegated
powers. It then identifies each of the powers; describes its purpose;
explains why the matter has been left to delegated legislation;
and explains the degree of Parliamentary control.
2. Part I of the Bill consists of 8 clauses.
It gives principal local authorities
a power to take any steps that they consider will promote or improve
the well-being of their area or its inhabitants. It also gives
authorities a power to develop community strategies with other
local bodies, setting out how together they will improve the quality
of life for their local communities.
3. Part I contains powers enabling the Secretary
of State to remove statutory constraints on authorities' ability
to exercise the new well-being power and on their ability to plan
co-ordinated local action.
4. Finally, Part I repeals the bulk of principal
local authorities' current discretionary powers under section
137 of the Local Government Act 1972 to incur expenditure in the
interests of their area.
5. The purpose of Part II of the Bill, which
consists of 25 clauses and two Schedules, is to provide new political
management structures for local authorities. This will involve
the creation of separate executive and scrutiny structures, and
the introduction of directly elected mayors.
6. Part II contains 15 provisions which delegate
power to the Secretary of State to make regulations and orders
governing the detailed application and implementation of the provisions
of this Part of the Bill. Some of these individual provisions
are very closely associated, such as the powers in subsections
11(1) and 11(3) relating to executive functions and in subsections
30(3) and 30(4) relating to the conduct of referendums.
7. Part III of the Bill introduces a new ethical
framework for local government through 22 clauses and a Schedule.
It provides for statutory codes of conduct for local councillors,
standards committees for local authorities and an independent
body, the Standards Board, to investigate complaints of alleged
misconduct. Where such allegations are upheld, there is provision
for a range of sanctions (from censure through to disqualification
from office) which may be applied by a case tribunal of an Adjudication
Panel. Provision is also made under Part III for codes of conduct
for local government employees to be included within their terms
and conditions of employment.
8. There are some nine provisions in Part III
that delegate power to the Secretary of State to make regulations
on the arrangements for implementing the provisions in this part
of the Bill. Furthermore, there are three provisions that contain
powers for those other than the Secretary of State or the National
Assembly for Wales to issue guidance. This is to enable the Standards
Board and Adjudication Panel to issue guidance to local authorities,
to enable them to disseminate information on how they will operate
and best practice to assist local authorities in attaining the
high standards of conduct that the public expects.
9. Part IV consists of six clauses. These provide
a power for the Secretary of State to change the frequency of
local elections to one of three specified schemes. There is also
provision to change the timing of local government elections.
10. Part V includes provisions on welfare services
and allowances and pensions for local authority members.
11. The provisions on welfare services consist
of two clauses. The first enables Government to pay a new grant
to local authorities for support services. This will replace existing
funding streams in a phased process over time and geographical
area. The second clause provides for the ending of payments of
Housing Benefit to meet charges for those support services, and
enables the new arrangements to be 'phased in'.
12. Clause 66 provides for the payment of allowances
and pensions to members of local authorities.
13. Part VI of the Bill consists of five clauses
and two Schedules which include general provision for orders and
regulations and for commencement of the Bill following enactment.
14. The Explanatory Notes, which were published
along with the Bill on 26 November 1999, provide detailed information
about the background to these provisions, their purpose and effect.
TYPE OF PARLIAMENTARY SCRUTINY
15. Clause 69 of the Bill is a general power
which provides a framework for the powers elsewhere in the Bill
on orders and regulations. It sets out the procedures to be followed
in respect of the powers for the Secretary of State to make orders
or regulations which are included in other clauses, as detailed
below and in the body of the memorandum.
16. Throughout the Bill, the Government has sought
to achieve some proportionality between the extent of powers and
the level of scrutiny to which they are to be subjected. For instance,
where powers in the Bill materially impact upon other legislation
or concerns electoral matters (such as those set out at clauses
5, 6, 10(5), 29, 30, 32, and 34), the Government believes that
these should be subject to scrutiny under the draft affirmative
resolution procedure by both Houses of Parliament in relation
to their operation in England.
17. An additional rôle is envisaged for
Parliament in respect of the powers in clauses 5 and 6 which provide
relatively wide-ranging powers for the Secretary of State to modify
or repeal legislation, for which more detailed scrutiny arrangements
are set out in clause 8.
18. Some delegated powers will be exercised with
the involvement of the proposed Electoral Commission (see paragraphs
70 to 72 below).
19. In relation to delegated powers exercisable
under most elements of Parts II, III, IV and Vset out in
clauses 3, 10, 11, 15, 22, 23, 26, 31, 35, 38, 39, 40, 51, 53,
54, 58, 59, 60 and 66there is no such impact upon other
legislation; these delegated powers are either sought for detailed
technical and administrative purposes or are limited in scope.
The approach to Parliamentary scrutiny additionally often builds
in a consideration of the views of those local authority practitioners
and the members of local communities who will be most directly
affected by them. Each of these clauses, by virtue of the provisions
set out in subsection 69(4), provide for negative resolution of
any orders made under them. The Government believes this to be
an appropriate level of scrutiny for these powers.
20. There are further powers in clauses 3, 4,
24, 50 and 64 for the Secretary of State in England and the National
Assembly for Wales to issue guidance; Part III also contains powers
for organisations and officers other than the Secretary of State
or the National Assembly to issue guidance.
ARRANGEMENTS IN WALES
21. Clause 70 sets out those provisions for which
powers exercisable by the Secretary of State in England will be
exercised by the National Assembly in respect of Wales. This includes
all relevant powers in Parts II, IV and V, with the exception
of clause 29 (Power to make provisions about elections) which
is a non-devolved matter in respect of which powers in both England
and Wales will be exercised by the Home Secretary, and clause
65 (Housing benefit), which is also a matter reserved to the UK
Government on which relevant powers will continue to be exercised
in both England and Wales by the Secretary of State for Social
Security. Part III and clause 64 provide explicitly for powers
to be exercised by the Secretary of State in England and the National
Assembly in Wales respectively.
22. Clause 70 excludes orders made by the National
Assembly for Wales from the Parliamentary procedures set down
in clause 69 (Orders and regulations). Instead, the Assembly's
procedures for subordinate legislation, set out in sections 64-68
of the Government of Wales Act 1998 and its Standing Orders, will
apply. Except in cases of urgency, these procedures require both
a cost benefit appraisal and affirmative resolution by the Assembly
of proposed orders after plenary debate.
23. The exercise of the powers under clauses
5 and 6 in relation to Wales has not been transferred to the National
Assembly; Parliament retains a scrutiny rôle in respect
of the exercise of these powers in Wales as in England, and the
use of these powers will therefore also be subject to affirmative
resolution and the additional scrutiny procedures set out in clause
8. The rôle of the Assembly in relation to these clauses
is under discussion within Government, and amendments will be
brought forward in due course.
6 In England, county councils, district councils,
London borough councils, the Common Council of the City of London
and the Council of the Isles of Scilly. In Wales, county councils
and county borough councils. Back