First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation
Wednesday 17 May 2000
[Mr. Edward O'Hara in the Chair]
Greater London Authority (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2000
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Greater London Authority (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2000.
It is again a pleasure to be in Committee under your benign and able chairmanship, Mr. O'Hara, of what I hope will be a brief sojournat least, that would be the merciful solution to the matter.
The order will make minor technical amendments to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and simplify the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which was amended by it. It may be helpful if I set out for the Committee the effects of the provisions. Paragraph 2 of the schedule amends section 29 of the 1999 Act, which is an interpretation section. It will remove the definitions of ``first preference vote'', ``second preference vote'' and ``the London figure''. The defined expressions are no longer used in any provision outside schedule 2 of the 1999 Act and are therefore superfluous.
Paragraphs 3 and 5 of the schedule amend sections 35 and 73 of the 1999 Act. They are introduced to make it clear that in each case the provisions are subject to both sections 38 and 380, both of which also provide for the delegation of functions of the GLA. Paragraph 4 makes a small change to section 45 of the Act, which provides that the mayor will make a report to the assembly before each of the 10-monthly meetings that it must hold each year. The amendment to section 45(8) clarifies the extent of the mayor's right to refuse to disclose advice that is received from functional bodies, their members or officials.
Paragraph 6 of the order amends a minor typographical error. Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Act set out the rules for calculating the basic amounts of council tax for the GLA. It is responsible for police services in only part of its areathe inner and outer boroughsbut not the City of London, which has its own police force. Section 90(1) of the Act identifies the expenses of the Metropolitan Police Authority as the only expense borne by the GLA that does not relate to the whole of Greater London. Section 89(2) of the Act cross-refers incorrectly to section 90(2); it should be section 90(1).
Paragraph 7 makes a small change to section 269 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which amends the Highways Act 1980, so that local highway authorities in London may construct traffic-calming measures that do not conform to current regulations, without the need for specific authorisation by the Secretary of State. That fulfilled the commitment in our White Paper ``A Mayor and Assembly for London: The Government's proposals for modernising the governance of London'', in which we stated that there would be no need for the approval of the Government or Transport for London for traffic-calming measures in London.
The amendment allows the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring consultation and publicity before a council implements traffic-calming proposals of the sort permitted by section 269. It is the Government's intention that the current regime for consultation and publicity should apply equally to all traffic-calming proposals. Paragraph 8 amends section 337 of the 1999 Act, which deals with the publication of the spatial development strategy. Section 337(6) allows the Secretary of State to issue directions to the mayor not to publish that strategy until inconsistencies with national policy or planning guidance are removed. The Act currently refers to ``relevant planning guidance''. The amendment would alter that to refer to ``relevant regional planning guidance'', an expression defined under section 337(10), thus providing clarification of when the Secretary of State may issue such a direction.
Paragraphs 9, 10 and 11 of the order amend minor typographical errors in section 367 and schedules 4 and 32 of the 1999 Act.
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): The Minister mentions the correction of minor typographical errors. He will be aware that paragraph 10 of the order replaces ``had arisen'' with ``had occurred''. That means that schedule 4(12)(1)(b) of the Act will state that various things
shall have effect as if a vacancy in the office of Mayor had occurred on the date on which the vacancy in the office of acting Mayor occurs.
What is the difference in meaning between that and the original text? What is the thought behind the change? Is there a hidden meaning about which the people of Lichfield should be concerned?
Mr. Hill: I am immensely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing the attention of the Committee to that interesting change in the text. I congratulate him on the tremendous seriousness that he has brought to the Committee, and on his eagle-eyed attention to the detail of the statutory instrument. I assure him that there is no hidden agenda behind the change; it is purely a drafting amendment. The word ``occurred'' replaces ``arisen'' to chime with the word ``occurs'', which appears at the beginning and the end of the paragraph. The change makes the wording of the paragraph internally consistent. However, I reiterate my gratitude to the hon. Gentleman. I trust that his involvement in the Committee will form the basis of a press release that will be read with great interest by the citizens of Lichfield.
I draw the Committee's attention to paragraph 12 of the order, which amends the Representation of thePeople Act to simplify those provisions that are amended by the Greater London Authority Act and to provide greater clarity.
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham): I apologise for the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), who has been unavoidably detained on an official visit outside the House and asked me to serve in his stead. I, too, am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) for spotting something interesting in an order in which I saw nothing of any interest. I was not going to say anything in reply to the Minister's helpful and comprehensive statement, but I continue to believe that there may be a hidden plot. I have been wracking my brains and will consult the ``Oxford English Dictionary'' on the difference between ``arisen'' and ``occurred''. I am sure that it is a clue to a secret Government plot to get rid of the new Mayor of London. I do not understand how they might do so, but I will watch developments on that front with interest.
I thank the Minister for explaining the technical amendments. The official Opposition will not oppose the order.
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): Welcome to the Chair, Mr. O'Hara. We should not spend too much time on the order, because its provisions are not of great significance.
For some of us, the Committee is not a sojourn, as the Minister said, but a return journey, as we spent three months in Committee considering the Greater London Authority Bill. That Bill was long, and many extra clauses were added in another place which we were given very little extra time to debate, so I am not surprised that mistakes were made. I forecast that the Government will have to use the powers in section 405 of the Greater London Authority Act many times, as they correct remaining mistakes which hon. Members did not have time to discover.
Section 405 gives the Government huge, open powers to return to the Act to make changes. Although there are similar powers in legislation devolving power to Wales and Scotland, given the circumstances of the establishment of the Greater London Authority, one fears that not just this Government but future Governments might want to thicken the plot to which the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) referred.
As for the content of the order, there is very little in it for us to probe. The Minister mentioned the requirement for the Secretary of State to publish guidance on consultation and publicity for traffic-calming measures. Will the Minister say a little more about that? Is it a new, extended power? Will we find the Secretary of State changing the rules under which the 32 London boroughs must operate when introducing relatively minor changes on our highways and byways? Will the requirements be onerous? How detailed does the Minister expect the guidance to be? Finally, will the Minister say whether the Government consulted the mayor on the changes?
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): I do not want to detain the Committee.
It is interesting to look through the statutory instrument because behind it we see the Government's true intentions on the London mayoralty. Paragraph 7(4), as the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) mentioned, introduces an additional requirement. The amended subsection states:
The requirement of this subsection is that the authority concerned complies with such requirements as to consultation and publicity as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.
That is something new. It is clear that the Secretary of State is concerned to maintain powers over the London mayoralty. Was the whole exercise of electing a London Mayor just a ruse? It seemed a good idea for the Prime Minister to say that there should be devolution in London, as elsewhere, but he has found that it had not been thought through. When, to the Prime Minister's horror, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) was elected, the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary, through this statutory instrument, to provide powers to control him.
As a result of paragraph 8, too, the Secretary of State will have powers to ensure that inconsistencies in regional planning guidance are removed. Why has the Secretary of State been given such control? Surely true devolution means the hon. Member for Brent, East having control. It appears that there is no true devolution. The Prime Minister clearly distrusts the London Mayor