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Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments Nos. 110A to 113A and 120 to 122. Government new clause 32--The general power of the Authority. Government new clause 33--Limits of the general power.

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Government new clause 34--Consultation. Government amendments Nos. 126 and 128.

6 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I clarify that you have also called amendment (a) to new clause 32, which you did not announce? It may assist hon. Members to learn that, depending on the Government's response, we may seek to divide the House on that amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is quite right. I apologise to the House. Amendment (a) to new clause 32 is as follows: in line 6, after 'development', insert


'and the encouragement of equal opportunities'.

Mr. Raynsford: Part II of the Bill establishes the principal purposes of the authority, its general powers and functions, how those powers and functions should be exercised, and by whom. It deals also with the accountability and openness of the authority and its functional bodies, and the ethical standards it should maintain. Finally, it deals with the appointment of the authority's staff.

I do not intend to address all those issues today. Each of them was addressed and dealt with in Committee and none of the fundamental principles, or our intentions, were challenged successfully. However, important issues did emerge during our debates, and the amendments I am moving today seek to address the concerns that were expressed and, where necessary, to clarify or make more explicit our intentions.

The principal issues the amendments address are: first, the purposes of the authority; secondly, the general power of the authority; thirdly, consultations to be undertaken in relation to the use of the general power and the preparation of the mayor's strategies; and fourthly, the issues to which the mayor must have regard in preparing or revising those strategies. Our intentions in relation to each of those issues remain the same as in the Committee print of the Bill. So the amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister seek simply to ensure that there is no confusion or ambiguity about those intentions, and to reassure Londoners and London organisations that the GLA will be an inclusive, not an exclusive, authority. To this end, amendments Nos. 109A, 110A and 111A delete clauses 25, 26 and 27 of the Bill which are replaced by new clauses 32, 33 and 34.

The principal purposes of the authority are integral to its successful functioning. Those purposes are threefold: first, promoting economic development and wealth creation in Greater London; secondly, promoting social development in Greater London; and, thirdly, promoting the improvement of the environment in Greater London.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: Will new clause 32(2)(b), which refers to "promoting social development", take into account the promotion of equal opportunities as part of that development?

Mr. Raynsford: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I shall come specifically to that point in a few moments.

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The authority's general power is conferred to enable it to further one or more of those purposes, and those purposes will inform the preparation of each of its strategies. Because of concerns expressed in Committee, the drafting of new clause 32 makes it absolutely clear that, in exercising the general power to do anything that it considers necessary to further any one or more of these purposes, the authority must have regard to the effect that that will have on the health of people in London, and on the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom.

Where the authority does exercise the general power conferred by the clause, it is also required to do so in a way that is best calculated to create improvements in the health of people in London and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom.

Other amendments that we shall discuss later--amendments Nos. 114 and 118 to clause 33--ensure that, in preparing or revising his or her strategies, the mayor must have regard not only to the principal purposes of the authority but to similar considerations relating to health and sustainable development.

Promoting the improvement of the health of Londoners and achieving the objective of sustainable development will, therefore--as we have always intended--be explicit and fundamental considerations for the authority. I hope that hon. Members will agree that this meets our White Paper commitments and the concerns expressed in Committee.

Mr. Simon Hughes: Specifically on those two matters, will the Minister explain why the Government are still resisting the inclusion of "promoting improvements inthe health of persons in Greater London" and "the achievement of sustainable development" in the list of the principal purposes of the authority in new clause 32(2)? We have


and


    "improvement of the environment."

Why cannot we have the other two things up there, making a total of five principal purposes?

Mr. Raynsford: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman obviously did not follow closely the line of argument that we advanced in Committee. We clearly explained that the three principal purposes that I have described are the overarching purposes of the authority, but that, inevitably, they overlap with some of the issues raised by the promotion of health and the promotion of sustainable development. In order to prevent the possibility of any misunderstanding, we have chosen to give added prominence to the issues of health and sustainable development, but without compromising the architecture of the Bill, which has always depended on those three pillars or principal purposes--economic, social and environmental.

As the hon. Gentleman will recognise, sustainable development is obviously implicit in the environmental objective, but it also must be reflected in the economic

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and social development objectives. If it is not, there will not be sustainable development. Therefore, it would be confusing to set sustainable development as a separate objective.

We have responded to concerns that we were not giving sufficient emphasis to health and to sustainable development by tabling new clause 32, which makes it clear that these considerations are to be in the forefront of thinking in the new authority, but that they must fall in with the three principal pillars that sustain the new authority. We hope that no uncertainty or ambiguity remain on the subject.

I cannot accept amendment (a), tabled by thehon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey(Mr. Hughes) and others, which would add to the principal purposes of the authority


That is not because I do not think that the authority should encourage equal opportunities: on the contrary, we strongly believe that the authority should encourage and promote equal opportunities--it should and it must. We oppose the amendment because it is unnecessary to provide for it in this way.

I cannot conceive of a situation where the principal purpose of promoting social development would not include the encouragement of equality of opportunity. I say that in response to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick), who is rightly concerned about the matter. Social development obviously cannot be promoted if equality of opportunity is not encouraged.

As I said in Committee, we have sought to ensure, in our discussions of the Green Paper, the White Paper and now the provisions of the Bill, that in our multicultural capital the authority will respond to all sections of the community and promote equal opportunities.

The GLA will have to observe the existing framework for equal opportunities which is imposed on local authorities. It will be subject to the Race Relations Act 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and many of the Bill's provisions will ensure that the authority gives equal opportunities the importance that they deserve. The provisions and our amendments on consultation, transparency and accessibility are all especially important in that respect.

6.15 pm

Mr. Hughes: I hear what the Minister says in response to our amendment and to the intervention by the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick), but is it right that there are provisions that resemble the wording of amendment (a) in the Scotland Act 1998, in the Government of Wales Act 1998 and in the Northern Ireland Act 1998? The amendment is supported by the Association of London Government. Why on earth are we exclusively taking London out of that flagged-up, written-up protection, which is widely supported by those outside the House who believe that it should be written into part II of the Bill?

Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Gentleman will recall from many hours of debate in Committee that provisions that have been implemented in Scotland and in Wales have

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not been adopted in the same way in London. Conversely, some provisions that we have adopted in the London legislation are not echoed in the Scotland and Wales legislation, for very good reasons.

Earlier, we discussed thresholds. We have made provision for thresholds in the Bill, but there is no equivalent in Scotland or in Wales. If we believe--as I thought the Liberal Democrats did believe--in devolution, we may feel that it is appropriate that there might be some differences in the way in which duties and powers are expressed in different parts of the country. However, I thought that I had made it clear to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey--and I hope that I have satisfied my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town--that that does not in any way imply that there is not a commitment to equal opportunities. On the contrary, we have a total commitment to equal opportunities. It is implicit in the way in which the Bill is drafted. There are clear statutory obligations on the authority to pursue equal opportunities.

Moreover, as I have explained, the GLA will be a best-value authority, and best value will require local authorities to put equality and equality of opportunity at the heart of their policies. No authority could be said to be truly effective if it discriminated against one section of the community, or in favour of another, in the delivery of its services.

Of course, we do not intend to give the authority carte blanche to do anything that it chooses. That is why, in drafting the general power and purposes provisions of the Bill, we have sought to achieve a clear balance between the need to provide the authority with the freedom and flexibility to act, and the need to avoid duplication with the statutory responsibilities of its own functional bodies and other authorities, organisations and public bodies.

For that reason, the limitations that we sought to place on the use of the general power in clause 27 remain the same in new clause 33. Now, however, they are freestanding. The only new provision is set out in subsection (9). That gives the Secretary of State an order-making power to remove or restrict the prohibitions or limitations placed on the use of the power by the rest of the clause. The Bill already provides for the Secretary of State to add to these prohibitions--clause 27(10)--and we felt that it was right and appropriate and a suitable balance, not least because of allegations that have been made by Opposition parties that we were giving too many powers to the Secretary of State, also to provide the power to remove particular prohibitions or limitations.

Our primary objective in establishing the GLA's structure and its procedure is that it should be easily accessible to the people of London and that it should be able to respond to and reflect their interests, needs and priorities. An essential means of securing that objective is to ensure that effective consultation takes place. Londoners must be able to ensure that their views about what the authority does, or plans to do, are properly considered and taken into account.

For that reason, we included in clause 25 provisions requiring the authority, in deciding whether to exercise any of its powers, to consider consultations with bodies or people that it considers appropriate to consult--including in particular business interests. We also provided a requirement in clause 34 for the mayor to consult about the preparation or revision of his or her strategies.

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These provisions were meant to be inclusive, but it was clear from debate in Committee and from representations that I received from interested groups that our intentions would be made clearer if some broad categories of interest were named in the Bill as consultees or potential consultees. We agree that clarity is important in this matter. New clause 34 and amendment No. 120 to clause 34 extend the consultation provisions to meet the concerns that have been expressed.

The general power provided for in new clause 32 can now be exercised by the mayor only after consultation with such bodies or people as the mayor considers appropriate in any particular case. Moreover, in determining what consultations, if any, are necessary, the mayor must consider whether to consult certain specified categories of interest.

Those categories are any London borough council; the common council; voluntary bodies some or all of whose activities benefit the whole or part of Greater London; bodies that represent the interests of different racial, ethnic or national groups in London; bodies that represent the interests of different religious groups in Greater London; and bodies that represent the interests of persons carrying on business in Greater London.

Amendment No. 120 requires the mayor, in preparing or revising any strategy, to consider consulting the same bodies.

Some concern has been expressed that the amendments might in some way diminish the requirement to consult business. I can state categorically that that is not the case. The mayor must now have regard to the principal purposes of the authority--which include economic development and wealth creation--in preparing or revising any strategy, and as a consequence of amendment No. 120 must now consider consulting business about those strategies.

That, of course, means that consultation must take place in circumstances where business's interests would be affected. It was never our intention to give business, or any other interest group, the right to be consulted irrespective of the circumstances. That would be both impracticable and foolish. However, we believe it right that business should be consulted on all matters likely to affect business interests. That is what we have provided for.

I am sure hon. Members will agree that the mayor must have some discretion in deciding who he or she should consult. The mayor obviously cannot consult everybody about everything. These provisions mean that, where the mayor fails to give proper consideration to who he or she should consult, or fails to consult bodies representing groups with legitimate interests that will be affected by the exercise of the authority's powers and functions, the mayor's reasons for failing to do so could be challenged and tested. Our intention is to protect the legitimate interests of Londoners, while preserving the proper discretion of the mayor to decide who he or she should or should not consult.

Throughout our debates in Committee, there was a tendency for any hon. Member who came across a list, in any clause, to seek to amend the Bill by adding to that list some other item or consideration. We have resisted such amendments. In this case, however, we recognised that there was genuine concern to improve the way in

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which our intentions were expressed in the Bill, and legitimate reasons for doing so. We have therefore agreed to the inclusion of this short list in the Bill.

I should warn Opposition Members, however, that this is not an invitation for them to consider what they can add to that list. I note that in one of his later amendments--amendment No. 151--the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey is already seeking to add a further category of consultees to those who should be consulted about the strategies. We will be resistant to further additions, because lists that are allowed to grow become unwieldy and, rather than being indicative, risk becoming exclusive, thereby discouraging wider consultation.

I have considered the comments made in Committee, and other representations that I received, about requiring the authority to establish a civic forum. However, I remain of the view that it would be wrong to require the authority to establish such a forum. It should be for the authority to decide how to conduct its consultations.

New clause 34(4) provides the authority with a specific power to make appropriate arrangements for undertaking consultation. Therefore, there can be no doubt about the authority's powers to establish a civic forum, if it believes that that would be the best way to proceed.

The other amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister are more modest in their scope. Amendments Nos. 112 and 113 make it clear that when and if new functions are transferred or conferred on the authority, they will be exercisable by the mayor unless otherwise specified. Amendments Nos. 121, 122, 126 and 128 are consequential, drafting or technical amendments.

I apologise for taking some time to introduce and explain the amendments and new clauses. I hope that the House will recognise that the issues are complex and that it is important for them to be spelt out in detail before we debate them.


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