Previous Section Index Home Page

27 Feb 2007 : Column 876

27 Feb 2007 : Column 877

27 Feb 2007 : Column 878

27 Feb 2007 : Column 879

Mr. Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Clause 4

Confirmation hearings etc. for certain appointments by the Mayor

Amendment made: No. 8, page 3, line 31, at end insert—

‘(6) The Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Mayor, and

(b) the Assembly,

before making an order under subsection (5) above.”.’.— [Mr. Watts.]

Clause 18

Membership of Transport for London: eligibility of holders of political office

Amendments made: No. 9, page 18, line 21, leave out ‘and’.

No. 10, page 18, line 23, at end insert—

‘(c) sub-paragraph (5A) (exception allowing up to 2 members under sub-paragraph (2A) to be members of principal councils).’. — [Mr. Watts.]

Clause 22

The health inequalities strategy

Amendments made: No. 11, page 24, line 18, after ‘above)’ insert

27 Feb 2007 : Column 880

‘, except the Authority and any functional body,’.

No. 12, page 24, line 19, at end insert—

‘Section 42(1) above imposes further duties on the Mayor as to consultation, including consultation with the Assembly and the functional bodies.’. — [Mr. Watts.]

Clause 36

Duties of waste collection authoriteis etc.

Amendments made: No. 13, page 38, leave out lines 34 to 41 and insert—

‘(7) In any case where—

(a) an authority is required to comply with the public procurement regulations in the awarding of a waste contract,

(b) in compliance with those regulations the authority sends the second information notice relating to the awarding of that contract to the Official Journal of the European Union, and

(c) after the authority sends that notice, the Mayor revises the municipal waste management strategy,

this section, and any guidance issued under it, are to have effect in relation to the awarding of that contract as if the revision of the strategy had not been made.”.’.

No. 14, page 38, line 41, at end insert—

‘(6) An authority is not required by virtue of any of the amendments made by this section to exercise a function in relation to the awarding of a waste contract if—

(a) the authority is required to comply with the public procurement regulations in awarding the contract, and

(b) before subsection (3) comes into force, the authority in compliance with those regulations has sent the second information notice relating to the awarding of that contract to the Official Journal of the European Union.’. — [Mr. Watts.]

Schedule 2


Amendment made: No. 15, page 53, line 34, column 2, at beginning insert—

    ‘In section 30(5), the word “and” at the end of paragraph (aa).’.

No. 16, in page 54, line 3, leave out ‘and (5)’ and insert ‘, (5) and (5A)’.

No. 17, in page 54, line 3, at end add—

    ‘Railways Act 2005 (c. 14)

    Section 17(6).’.—[ Mr. Watts.]

Order for Third Reading read.

9.15 pm

Yvette Cooper: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

We have had extensive debate today and in Committee— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Please will Members who are leaving the Chamber do so quickly and quietly.

Yvette Cooper: Our debates on the Bill have been extensive. I particularly thank the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, my hon. Friend the Member
27 Feb 2007 : Column 881
for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), who has ministerial responsibility for London, for his support in sharing the work throughout the Committee stage and in today’s debate. I also thank colleagues in the Whips Office who have worked so hard, as ever, to ensure the passage of the Bill.

I thank the members of the Committee, too. The debates were cheery throughout—although there was rather too much discussion of football, as the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) and I agreed. The debate was always positive and in the end Londoners will benefit from the fact that the Bill has received such detailed scrutiny throughout its passage.

The Bill is important because it will help to ensure London’s continuing success as a world city. That success is important not only for those who live in London, but for the country as a whole. Our capital has grown in strength due to the measures already taken to give it stronger leadership. We have built on the achievements of the Greater London authority and the effective leadership of the Mayor, and the Bill will increase London’s ability to meet and tackle the challenges that might otherwise hold back such a great city.

The Bill fulfils the Government’s commitment to Londoners to devolve power from central Government to London on a series of issues to improve the delivery of services. The Bill gives the Mayor a stronger role in the drive to reduce London’s stark health inequalities and improve London’s health. It will give him a stronger environmental role, to meet the climate change challenges that face not just the capital city but the country and the whole world. The Mayor’s work to tackle climate change will put him at the forefront of efforts to reduce the capital’s carbon emissions.

The Mayor will have a stronger role in London’s cultural life, too, as we devolve decision-making power and the Government’s responsibilities for the Museum of London.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Is the Minister saying that after 10 years of Labour Government, the health inequalities in London are so bad that the Government need the Mayor to sort them out?

Yvette Cooper: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have already taken a series of actions to improve public health and address health inequalities. That includes tackling child poverty, which has a substantial impact on health inequalities. We have taken a range of measures to reduce child poverty, which his Government pushed to shocking levels not just in London but across the country. We believe that we should go further in addressing health inequalities and that the Mayor has an important role to play in that regard.

The Bill devolves to the Mayor responsibility for housing in London, to ensure that the directly elected Mayor draws up the capital’s housing strategy rather than committees established by Whitehall. It will be the Mayor who sets out the key priorities for housing investment. That is particularly important, given the serious housing challenges that we know London faces.

27 Feb 2007 : Column 882

Housing is one of the key issues in the debate about the planning process that we had today and in Committee. We have already made a series of changes to the Mayor’s planning powers in response to the debate, and we continue to listen and to ensure that we get the detail right. The key principle is that we think it right for the Mayor to have a positive, pro-development role to balance what would otherwise be simply an anti-development role, particularly in his approach to major strategic applications.

Having listened to the debates, I think that some Opposition Members want housing not to be covered by the Mayor’s planning powers at all. They seem to be saying that they do not want the Mayor to have an involvement in housing decisions on strategic sites. That is a mistake because some of the big housing decisions go to the heart of the strategy for London and are fundamental to London’s future.

That disagreement about process reflects a wider disagreement about substance. There are differences of approach to housing between London councils and the Mayor. In particular, there have been disputes about the level of affordable housing, and concerns have been expressed to us by the Mayor and the Housing Corporation about the approach being taken by several London boroughs to the provision of social housing. It is important that we deliver more social housing for London alongside more shared ownership housing and more housing overall to meet Londoners’ needs. It is therefore important that the Mayor has a strategic role. Clearly, that needs to be confined to major cases, which is why we have had extensive debates on the order and will continue to do so. None of us should underestimate the importance of housing to London and its future.

We have had an extensive debate, and I think and hope that there is consensus on many of the measures, on the importance of devolution to London and on the need for some decisions to be taken not at Government level by the Secretary of State, but by the Mayor.

Robert Neill: Given that commitment to decisions being taken at a local level and the Minister’s expressed desire for decisions not to be taken by Whitehall committees, why is it that even after this devolutionary measure the Government office for London will still administer more than 40 funding streams? Would it not be better to wind down the GOL and pass that off as a genuinely devolutionary measure?

Yvette Cooper: As the hon. Gentleman will know, many matters are being passed from the Government office for London to the Mayor. The regional housing strategy is one example. That is the right approach, which we are following throughout the Bill.

Of course, there is disagreement on points of detail and there are areas on which we need to do more work and have further discussion. However, there are some important devolutionary principles underlying the Bill that I urge all Members to support. It is with some regret that I understand that the Conservatives will not be supporting the Bill on Third Reading, especially because, as we pointed out on Second Reading, the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) and the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) wrote only a few months ago that

27 Feb 2007 : Column 883

Yet faced with the opportunity to do precisely that today, the Conservatives refuse and are preparing to vote against the Bill. They say one thing; they do another. They have the opportunity tonight to avoid another flip-flop. The Conservatives opposed the introduction of the Mayor, but now they accept it. They opposed the Greater London authority, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but now they accept all of them. Why do they not bite the bullet and save themselves from having to do another U-turn? They should back a bit of devolution, just for a change. They should back the Bill and let it pass from this House to the other place tonight.

9.25 pm

Mrs. Lait: Oh dear—the Minister for Housing and Planning was being so nice up until that last bit. I commend her and the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), for the approach that they took in Committee, and throughout proceedings on the Bill, and for the courtesy and good humour with which all proceedings had been conducted, until the last few seconds. In particular, I appreciate their comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), and I am sure that he will be comforted in his illness to know that everybody has sent him such good wishes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Gentleman may be watching on TV.

Mrs. Lait: I thought for one moment, when the Under-Secretary pointed skywards, that he had heard news that I had not, but I am glad to say that I could absolutely deny news of that sort.

It was important that proceedings on the Bill were conducted with good humour because the Bill is of enormous importance, as the Minister rightly said. The governance of London is of great importance. I must say that I disagree with her when she says that the greatness of London is a reflection of the works of the Mayor. I think that London’s great success currently has more to do with Sarbanes-Oxley than the Mayor of London. However, we will take that as read and we will move on to consider the Bill as it is on Third Reading, having been amended in Committee and on Report.

I am afraid that I have to give the Minister bad news: we will continue to oppose the proposals in the Bill, fundamentally because they take power away from the boroughs and give it to the Mayor. The Minister may well say that the Bill is a devolutionary measure, but that is not how it seems to my local residents, who feel that they are losing control over their own communities. They particularly object to the planning and housing powers, although I note that the Minister became more conciliatory, doubtless because of the superb speech by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) on precisely what “strategic” means. He drove a coach and horses through the draft statutory instrument, and I was relieved to learn that the Minister is prepared to take some of his points on board.

27 Feb 2007 : Column 884

However, the fundamental point remains that, under the Bill and the statutory instrument as drafted, local people will lose control of their environment. It is exceedingly unfair, to put it politely, of the Minister to imply that people in London are not concerned about providing the housing that London needs. The reality is that it is they who know their communities, not the Mayor of London. It is they who can decide how many houses they wish to have built, and they who can decide what sort of community they live in. If those communities are destroyed because of increased density or inappropriate developments, the problem of deprivation will just move to other parts of London. That is not the proper way to encourage London to be a healthy city, and if it is to be successful as an international city, it has to be at peace with itself.

I do not want to go through the details of the Bill, but the Minister will remember that we are still unhappy about the budget. It is nonsensical that the Mayor can get his budget agreed to with the support of only a quarter of assembly members. On achieving a majority for the budget, the conjunction of proportional representation and first past the post has led to a completely nonsensical situation when it comes to providing any form of effective scrutiny of the budget.

We still have serious concerns about the governance of Transport for London, and I am sure that the issue will be raised in debates in another place. We supported the Government’s proposals on waste collection, but that does not mean that we do not want improvements in the effectiveness of waste disposal by the boroughs. We will press the Government hard to build on developments in science and technology to ensure that London does its share of waste disposal and recycling.

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the Bill, because giving more powers to the Mayor will not enhance the governance of London and will not deliver a city that continues to benefit from the effectiveness of the City of London.

9.31 pm

Mr. Slaughter: Like my hon. Friend the Minister, I am sorry that the Conservatives do not support the Bill. Having served as a Committee member, I do not think that today’s debate was a fair reflection of the mood or the substantial level of agreement in Committee.

The Bill builds on the successful introduction of the post of London Mayor. Yes, that measure was opposed by Opposition parties, who have now changed their mind. I do not take issue with them for doing so, but it is a shame that, having changed their position and having made the comments cited by my hon. Friend, they are not prepared to see that through by supporting the Bill. Our debates in Committee reflected the fact that this is overwhelmingly a devolutionary Bill, and there was broad agreement on devolutionary matters, including housing, health, culture and other matters that have not been debated today.

Next Section Index Home Page