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Mr. Edward Davey: We have debated this issue several times in Committee, but it is appropriate for me once again to make the Liberal Democrats' views clear, because the issue reveals the fundamental difference between the Government and us.

The Minister said earlier that the Liberal Democrats' approach to the Bill is anarchic, but nothing could be further from the truth: our approach is democratic. Not only do we believe in devolution, but we understand how

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it works and we believe that if devolution is to take place, it should be done properly and fully. The Government are trying to reduce the level of democracy, perhaps for the reason offered by other hon. Members--the Brent, East question--but more probably because they fail to understand people's desire to take control of their own lives. In his opening remarks, the Minister suggested that the mayor of London would have greater power than would be afforded to other regions. New clause 35, subsection 7B(1) states:


    "The Secretary of State may give guidance to the Mayor about the exercise of his functions".

According to the Minister, the Secretary of State can intervene and force the mayor to review his strategy only in respect of national policies. However, subsection 7B(7) contains the definition of "national policies", which it says are:


    "any policies of Her Majesty's government which are available in a written form and which--


    (a) have been laid or announced before, or otherwise presented to, either House of Parliament, or


    (b) have been published by a Minister of the Crown."

In other words, the Secretary of State can decide what constitutes a national policy and use that as an excuse to intervene.

The Government are trying to hide their embarrassment about their centralist tendencies under a fig leaf. However, as new clause 35 demonstrates, the tentacles of the leviathan state are all over the so-called new, devolved assembly. The devolution that the Government propose in this Bill is, in many ways, a charade. As I said in Committee, this Bill both establishes Government for London and abolishes it. It is a great shame that the Government feel so nervous about devolution that, even at this late stage, they must give the Secretary of State yet another power. The Liberal Democrats oppose that move.

Mr. Raynsford: I am enjoying the image of myself as a tentacled leviathan who is trying to swallow all local and regional initiative in London using the overriding centralist powers that are our obsession. The Liberal Democrats have clearly not yet woken up to the fact that we are recreating a democratic citywide authority for London, which was abolished 13 years ago by the former Conservative Government. We pledged that we would return to London the right to have its own democratic citywide authority, and we are delivering on that promise.

I assure the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), who led for the Opposition, that there is an obvious case for having a London development agency. He doubted the need for such a body, but it will be the mayor's economic development arm. It will play a key role in regeneration strategies, in advising on the distribution of the single regeneration budget and encouraging partnership to promote other regeneration initiatives. That is a hugely important role in a city divided by great wealth and great poverty. We need to galvanise and bring together all available agencies and resources to have the most positive and powerful impact on the London economy and on the regeneration of its disadvantaged areas.

That is the role that the development agency will have. It will work to the mayor, unlike regional development agencies elsewhere that will report directly to Ministers.

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There will be local accountability within London, but it is only sensible that it should take place within a national framework. The Secretary of State will give guidance to the mayor in the same way as he will direct the regional development agencies in other areas. That is entirely compatible with devolution in London within a national framework.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood(Mr. Wilkinson) believes that this is about fettering the powers of a future Conservative mayor. That is a fantasy, as is his scenario about a Conservative mayor miraculously restoring London's manufacturing. I put it to him in the nicest possible way that, if he had come to London during the 18 years of Conservative Government, he would have seen the immense damage that was being done to manufacturing industry and the collapse and decline of that industry in so many parts of London that resulted from the policies pursued by the Government whom he supported. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are about creating a proper framework for economic development in London that will respect the need for manufacturing and other service industries and will do the best for London.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) claimed that the Liberal Democrats are not anarchic. He then rather spoilt the effect by expressing astonishment that national policies are the same things as the policies of the Government. That could come only from a party of absolutely implacable anarchists who have no understanding of the process of government. Government does not exist to issue texts for discussion at Liberal discussion groups; government is here to govern.

10 pm

Mr. Davey: I was taking issue not with the need for London's policies to be consistent with national policies but with the way in which national policies are defined in the Bill. The Government could have chosen to define national policies as policies that apply throughout the country, but they chose not to do so. They chose to define national policies as those that were laid down by the Government, and those policies might apply only to London.

Mr. Raynsford: I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the Government govern the whole country, and Government policies therefore apply to the whole country, unless they are defined as applying only to one area. In new clause 35, we are proposing a provision by which the Secretary of State will be able to give guidance, but instead of directing the development of the London development agency strategy--which would be a matter for the mayor--would have the power of intervention on two grounds. Those two grounds are consistent throughout the Bill, because we recognise the need--which I am sorry that the Liberal Democrats do not recognise--for the devolved government in London to work within a national framework, respecting the fact that London remains part of the United Kingdom and respecting the fact that its policies should not have an adverse impact on other parts of the United Kingdom.

Those are sound principles, which anyone who is experienced in the process of government would recognise are fundamental to successful devolution. Those are the principles that underpin our policies. Those are the principles that underpin new clause 35.

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I commend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 130, in page 124, line 19, leave out 'in relation' and insert


', in particular, with respect'.--[Mr. Raynsford.]

Schedule 20

Further amendments of the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998

Amendments made: No. 131, in page 253, line 22, at beginning insert 'In'.

No. 132, in page 253, line 23, leave out from beginning to 'after' in line 25.

No. 133, in page 254, leave out line 25.

No. 134, in page 254, line 28, leave out 'subsection (6) above' and insert 'this section'.--[Mr. Raynsford.]

New Clause 35

Secretary of State's functions in relation to the strategy


'. After section 7A of the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 there shall be inserted--


"Secretary of State's functions in relation to the London Development Agency strategy
7B.--(1) The Secretary of State may give guidance to the Mayor about the exercise of his functions in relation to the London Development Agency strategy with respect to--
(a) the matters to be covered by that strategy or that strategy as revised, and
(b) the issues to be taken into account in preparing or revising that strategy.
(2) Section 7(3) applies in relation to the issues mentioned in subsection (1)(b) as it applies in relation to the issues mentioned in section 7(2)(b).
(3) The Mayor is to have regard to any guidance given under subsection (1).
(4) Where the Secretary of State considers--
(a) that the London Development Agency strategy (or any part of it) is inconsistent with national policies, or
(b) that the London Development Agency strategy or its implementation is having, or is likely to have, a detrimental effect on any area outside Greater London,
he may direct the Mayor to make such revisions of the strategy as may be specified in the direction in order to remove the inconsistency or, as the case may be, the detrimental effect or likely detrimental effect.
(5) Where the Secretary of State gives the Mayor a direction under subsection (4), the Mayor shall revise the London Development Agency strategy in accordance with the direction.
(6) Where the Mayor revises the London Development Agency strategy in accordance with subsection (5), section 7A(8) and section 34 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (consultation about strategies) shall not apply.
(7) For the purposes of this section "national policies" are any policies of Her Majesty's government which are available in a written form and which--
(a) have been laid or announced before, or otherwise presented to, either House of Parliament, or
(b) have been published by a Minister of the Crown."'.--[Mr. Raynsford.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

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