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Mr. Ottaway: Will the Minister confirm that no Labour Government have left office with unemployment lower than when they took office?

Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Gentleman obviously has not been reading his history. The Labour Government of 1945 inherited circumstances in which an enormous number of people were returning from the armed services without employment, and ensured that they left conditionsof virtually full employment to the Conservative Government who succeeded them in 1951. That was a remarkable achievement--rather different from the achievement of Conservative Governments during the 1980s and 1990s, who presided over a massive increase in unemployment as a result of two recessions that their ill-conceived policies visited on the country.

I am afraid that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is still wedded to the view that he expressed in Committee: "If ever we see a list,

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let us add an item to it". The hon. Gentleman seems unable to break that habit. We will keep trying, but I fear that the habit is deeply ingrained, probably as part of his party's policy.

The hon. Gentleman was a bit confused about subsections (4) and (5) of new clause 32. Let me explain, so that there is no doubt at all. Subsection (4) confers a duty on the authority, when it is considering whether--and, if so, how--to exercise its power, to

on the health of Londoners, and on sustainable development objectives. A second duty, under subsection (5), binds the authority, when it exercises the power conferred on it by an earlier subsection, to act in the way that it considers best calculated to promote improvements in health. That imposes an obligation both to consider the issue and to act in a particular way. Subsection (5) also imposes a duty to act in the furtherance of sustainable development. I consider that an appropriate way in which to describe the duty involved in both the contemplation and the implementation of policy.

As for equal opportunities--as I have made clear, and as has been reiterated by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty)--we are entirely committed to them. We want the authority to be exemplary in the pursuit of such opportunities: throughout the Bill are provisions requiring the authority to act in a way that will enhance them for all sections of the community in London. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey makes the mistake of assuming that one token reference is better than a Bill that establishes a series of duties and obligations that will achieve the effect that he wants. That is tokenism, rather than the pursuit of policies that will have an impact--and I have to say that it is one of the besetting sins of the Liberal Democrats.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ruislip- Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) for his kind comments about what we have done to try to improve the drafting of the Bill. In regard to housing, my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London rightly expressed concern about his remarks denigrating the London county council's record of providing good-quality homes for hundreds of thousands of Londoners; but, rather than pursuing that, perhaps we should focus on the purpose of the provisions that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

The hon. Gentleman approved of the effect of subsection (3) of new clause 33, which does not allow the authority to incur expenditure in providing housing. The reason for the provision is, quite simply, that we do not consider that there should be a duplication of powers that already rest with the London boroughs. The position has changed dramatically since the LCC was the major housing authority for London. The boroughs are now the principal housing authorities, and we do not want an overlap or a duplication of responsibilities.

The hon. Gentleman was, however, worried about subsection (4), and the possibility that the authority would acquire existing accommodation. It is clear that that would be only in support of additional purposes--other purposes that the authority has power to pursue. For example, in the case of an economic development objective, the GLA could be asked by a borough or a public-private

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partnership in an area of London to act in a way that would further the development of that area, and to acquire certain properties. It would have the power to do that, ancillary to other uses.

Mr. Wilkinson: The Minister has spelt out the position relating to economic development. I am concerned about subsection (2)(b), which relates to the promotion of social development. Is that not the loophole that could be exploited, perhaps unscrupulously, by an extremist mayor in the pursuit of objectives that most mainstream people would not support? Compulsory purchase powers should not be used for the extension of social housing in London.

Mr. Raynsford: I can envisage circumstances in which, in support of a local regeneration scheme, the GLA might act to support a local authority in carrying out the decanting of people in need of rehousing, but that would be ancillary to its principal objective of furthering regeneration. It would not be able to pursue its objectives purely for the sake of housing. That is the distinction. It is there to act in partnership, and to support others; it may not itself act in pursuit of housing objectives, and it has no compulsory purchase powers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East rightly reminded us of the Liberal Democrats' tendency in Committee in respect of lists. He rightly pointed out that equal opportunities pervade the Bill. I hope that the House will not be tempted to follow the Liberal Democrats in showing a tokenist adherence to the principle of equal opportunities, but will support the Government, who are keen to ensure that the authority acts in the interest of all sections of the community in London, and genuinely enhances equal opportunities.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Simon Hughes: I beg to move amendment No. 36, in page 14, line 35, after 'of', insert 'health and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 37, in clause 31, page 18, line 3, at end insert--

'(da) the Greater London Regional Health Authority;'.

No. 38, in page 18, line 12, at end insert--

'(ba) the Greater London Regional Health Authority,'.

No. 39, in clause 57, page 31, line 13, leave out 'and'.

No. 40, in page 31, line 14, at end insert

(e) the Greater London Regional Health Authority.'.

New clause 12--Greater London Regional Health Authority--

'(1) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the Greater London Regional Health Authority.
(2) The Greater London Regional Health Authority shall have the functions conferred or imposed on it by this or any other Act, or made exercisable by it under this Act, and any reference in this Act to the functions of the Greater London Regional Health Authority includes a reference to any functions made exercisable by this Act.

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(3) The Greater London Regional Health Authority shall exercise its functions--
(a) in accordance with such guidance or directions as may be issued to it by the Mayor,
(b) for the purpose of facilitating the discharge by the Authority of the duties under this Act, and
(c) for the purpose of securing and facilitating the implementation of the health strategy.
(4) The Authority may issue to the Greater London Regional Health Authority--
(a) guidance as to the manner in which it exercises its functions,
(b) general instructions as to the manner in which it is to exercise its functions, or
(c) specific instructions as to the exercise of its functions.'.

Amendment No. 41, in clause 305, page 158, line 37, leave out 'or'.

Amendment No. 42, in page 158, line 38, at end insert

(e) the Greater London Regional Health Authority;'.

Mr. Hughes: The amendment proposes that health should be one of the matters that the authority should try to improve, as part of its objective to promote economic and social development. One of the strange omissions in the Bill is the Government's refusal to give the authority more than a limited role in relation to health. We debated it in our earlier discussion, but apparently it is not to be included in clause 25.

7 pm

We have never understood, and still fail to understand, why the Government have not taken the great opportunity to put what is now the newly constituted regional health office for London--it has been in existence since the beginning of April, was formed out of the previous north and south Thames offices and is the obvious body to look after regional health strategy--under the umbrella, as it were, of the Greater London Authority, making it one of the functional bodies, to use a phrase in the Bill, and one of the tools with which the GLA would work to achieve its purposes throughout London. We are going to end up with the GLA planning things to do with the promotion of better health--we discussed them in the previous debate--but not being given the link to the obvious body to do that.

New clause 12 would set up, under that umbrella, the Greater London regional health authority. It would effectively take a body that is led by appointees--secret people, whom the public barely know--and is a remote part of the NHS, and bring it across, so that it could be accountable to the people of London.

Controversial decisions about the closing of hospitals, the planning of strategic health services or the amalgamation of great teaching hospitals should be taken in the open, by accountable people who can be kicked out of office if they get the decisions wrong and who have more than a local view. That is a strongly felt view in London.

We hope that the Government, having resisted the proposal in Committee, will, even at this late hour in the proceedings on the Bill, have second thoughts. The move is strongly supported by those outside the House who,

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however disparaged they are by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), seek to persuade us to advance arguments with which we agree, on their behalf.

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