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(1A) In specifying performance indicators and performance standards, and in deciding whether to do so, the Secretary of State shall aim to promote improvement of the way in which the functions of the Authority are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
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Local Government Act 2000 (c.22)
Section 6(5) and (6).
Section 7(2) and (6)..
National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Act 2006 (c. 43)
In Schedule 1, paragraph 206..
In section 40(1), the words (other than registered social landlords in Wales).
In section 25
(a) in subsection (4A), paragraphs (b) and (c);
(b) subsection (4B).
In section 26
(a) subsections (2) to (4);
(b) subsection (10);
(c) subsection (11)(b) (together with the and immediately preceding it);
(d) subsections (12) and (13).
In section 28(3), the words following paragraph (b).
In section 29(6), the words with the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service.
In section 31A
(a) subsection (5A);
(b) subsection (6);
(c) in subsection (7), the words Where the authority concerned is the Greater London Authority,.
In section 34(1), in the definition of member, paragraphs (b) and (c)..
(a) in paragraph 1(1)(b), the words or is a member (by co-option) of a committee of any of those authorities;
(b) in paragraph 3(1), the words , with the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service,;
(c) in sub-paragraph 3(2), the words , with the consent of the Minister for the Civil Service,;
Local Government Act 1988 (c. 9)
In Schedule 3, paragraph 5(2), (3), (6) and (7).
Environment Act 1995 (c. 25)
In Schedule 7, paragraph 18(3).
Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29)
In Schedule 18, paragraph 16(3).
( ) paragraph 13(2), (3) and (4);.
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Prevention of Corruption Act 1916 (c. 64)
In section 4(2), the words from and companies to local authorities.
Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (c. 42)
Local Government Act 2003 (c. 26)
In section 95(4), the words from within to the end..
I start by reassuring the House that the significant number of Government amendments that have just been passed came about not as a result of sloppy workmanship on our part, but because of the desirability of accommodating many points made on both sides in Committee. Secondly, I would like to thank Members for their contribution to the scrutiny and improvement of the Bill both in Committee and on the Floor of the House.
It is worth reminding the House that this was the first Bill to pass through the evidence-taking process and I should like to put on recordI am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole Committeeour thanks to the witnesses who provided both written and oral evidence. It turned out to be very helpful in informing the Committees deliberations and was often referred to in debate. As I said, changes to the Bill have largely been the result of the good work done in Committee. I hope that we can move forward in that spirit.
I should also like to thank the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela E. Smith), for her work on the Bill and for her support, which has been invaluable. I have learned a lot about Essex, particularly about women from Essexbut I shall go no further on that point. Suffice it to say that champagne moments have a different meaning in different parts of the country [Interruption.] I thank the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill): at least someone is keeping up and has a good sense of humour. Perhaps he and I have a peculiar sense of humour, but I shall move on swiftly.
The Bill implements the majority of the proposals set out in Strong and prosperous communities, the local government White Paper, which was published in October.[ Official Report, 22 January 2007; Vol. 455, c. 1144.]
That White Paper was the result of exhaustive consultation, which was started by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) and his team back in 2004, and then taken forward in informing the report of Sir Michael Lyons as well as our debates on the Bill.
We believe that the Bill is radical and devolutionary, setting out a new statutory framework for local councils and a new relationship between central and local governmentnot just between my Department and councils, but between Whitehall and councils. It sets out a new relationship between local government and its partner organisations at the local level, many of which are local agents of Government Departments.
Crucially, the Bill sets out a new relationship between local government and its partners and the people who live in the relevant local area. It allows local authorities and their partners to work together in delivering the full range of local services in an area. As such, it represents a new, modern take on public service reform. It joins up government at the local level, which is where the citizen requires it to be joined up. It takes forward key themes of joining up local services and giving local authorities greater freedom to develop their own solutions. I believe that this is the most devolutionary local government reform Bill for many years.
Also crucially, the Bill is not just about local government reform. It places two new measures on the statute book. The first is the duty on local government agencies and public sector organisations to co-operate in reaching local area agreement targets with the council. The second, achieved through clause 108, is an insistence on devolutionor what has been described as double devolutionin respect of the duty to inform, to involve and to consult. In my view, those two statutory measures change the structure and, even more importantly, the climate of local government, which has been welcomed. I also believe that that is why the Bill has, on the whole, commanded support across the political parties in the Local Government Association.
The Bill says to local councils, Dont ask Whitehalls permission to get on and do things. Get on and do it, unless Parliament and the Government say
otherwise. That will require a culture change in the leadership and management of local authorities, as well as structural and financial changes. I could point to a number of devolutionary measures in the Bill that we have debated. Of course, these measures need to be considered in the context of the debate on the Sustainable Communities Bill that is taking place in time provided for private Members Bills, and in the context of the planning White Paper that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced yesterday.
This Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill introduces reforms on the scrutiny of policy and the delivery of health services. Crucially, it is a Bill about the involvement of local government in health. It reverses the trend of 50 to 60 years of health services and local government moving away from each other, and brings them closer together. That is what the patient, the resident, the citizencall them what you willrequires. The public do not distinguish between structures and organisations; they want services that deliver. There is strong evidence that the Bill is radical, devolutionary and pro-local government, and that it puts trust in local government and requires central Government to change their attitude. It is important to emphasise that the new performance regime for local authorities that will replace the comprehensive performance assessment will involve a regime of targets that are set locally. Different targets will be applied in different areas to reflect the realities of the differences in geography, economics and culture in those areas.
I look forward to the deliberations on the Bill in the other place, and to taking forward these measures and the other proposals in the White Paper to change the balance of power in this country from the centre to local areas in a way that I believe is irreversible.
Alistair Burt: I should like to begin by thanking the Minister for the way in which he and his colleagues have taken the Bill through. It was a good Committee, in which we had the opportunity to debate the issues that mattered and to see some changes, while still leaving room for improvement, which enables the Opposition to do their job of chasing the Government a bit harder on things that we believe could be done better. It would be right to acknowledge the spirit in which the Bill has been carried forward, perhaps starting with the witness sessions, which gave us all an opportunity to handle the material in a different way. That was good for Parliament. Some consideration needs to be given to the procedure in that regard; perhaps more time needs to be allowed to get witnesses in place, for example. We were a bit rushed, between the publication of the White Paper and the Bill, but those are minor issues compared with the other matters that we have dealt with.
I should also like to thank my colleagues who have played such a stalwart role, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Syms), who shouldered so much of the burden. Our colleagues on the Back Benches, my hon. Friends the Members for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne), for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), contributed a great deal to the proceedings. Although he is not here at the moment, I must also acknowledge the extraordinary
presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), who is a champagne moment all on his own. He contributed not only to the able whipping of the businesswith the help of his colleague, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw), whose contribution to making the wheels turn smoothly we also acknowledgebut to some of the key debates. In particular, we will remember the Lichfield crown jewels for some considerable time. We appreciated his contribution.
Is the Bill devolutionary or not? Yes, it is, but the question is whether it is devolutionary enough in the context of the relationship between central and local government. That relationship has changed, and we suspect that there is a demand out there for much more change. The Bill is a move in the right direction, but we think that it does not move far enough in certain respects. It is on that basis that we have divided the House in the past, and it is on that basis that we have made our anxieties felt this evening.
It is true that the Bill will need to be considered in the light of the Sustainable Communities Bill, which we believe provides an even more radical model for devolution. We shall be interested to see how far the Government allow it to proceed before pulling the plug, as they inevitably will. In any event, its progress presents a contrast to the way in which this Bill has proceeded, and the ultimate outcome will say much about where local government is going.
There have been some welcome developments. On what may not have been the best day for the Minister and his colleagues in terms of U-turns, this is a slightly happier occasion on which to celebrate one or two more U-turns. We are pleased that the directions on restructuring were introduced after we had asked for a degree of limitation on what appeared to be very extensive powers. It took a while, but they finally appeared. It was a shame that the sheer pressure of work and the guillotine meant that we could not deal with them last week, but we appreciated the important concessions that were madefor instance, the concession over the additional partners to be involved in local area agreements, particularly health bodies. We also welcome the enhanced role for local councillors, and the work that has been done on parishes. I think that most members of the Committee could agree on those measures.
If I am true to myself and the Opposition, however, I must identify the respects in which we think the Bill fails the devolutionary test. We were never given a chance to debate the big issue of moving powers away from unelected regional bodies to local authorities, which I think remains a blot on the horizon of local government. At some stage that must be faced by the Government, or it will be faced by a different Government.
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