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Amendment made: No. 74, page 160, line 40, at end insert—

‘Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (c. 20)

23A In section 54 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (performance directions), for subsection (1) substitute—

“(1) The Secretary of State may give a direction to the Authority—

(a) specifying factors (“performance indicators”) by reference to which the Authority’s performance in exercising functions can be measured;

(b) specifying standards (“performance standards”) to be met by the Authority in relation to performance indicators specified under paragraph (a).

(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.

(1B) A direction under subsection (1) may specify different performance indicators or performance standards—

(a) for different functions;

(b) to apply at different times.

(1C) The Secretary of State may give a direction to the Authority requiring the Authority to—

(a) specify performance indicators in relation to functions;

(b) set targets for the performance of functions (“performance targets”) by reference to performance indicators specified under paragraph (a) or subsection (1)(a);

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(c) set a plan of action to be taken for the purposes of meeting a performance target.”.’— [Mr. Michael Foster.]

Schedule 15


Amendments made: No. 227, page 183, line 38, column 2, leave out ‘8(2)(c)’ and insert ‘8(2) and (3)’.

No. 58, page 184, line 8, at end insert—

‘Part 4A

Community strategies

Short title and chapterExtent of repeal

    Local Government Act 2000 (c.22)

    Section 6(5) and (6).

    Section 7(2) and (6).’.

No. 124, page 184, line 13, at end insert—

    ‘National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Act 2006 (c. 43)

    In Schedule 1, paragraph 206.’.

No. 59, page 188, line 31, in column 2, at end insert—

    ‘In section 40(1), the words “(other than registered social landlords in Wales)”.

    Section 41A(1A).’.

No. 60, page 189, line 6, in column 2, leave out ‘paragraph 31(a)’ and insert ‘paragraphs 27(2)(b), 29(2) and 31’.

No. 125, page 189, line 31, in column 2, at end insert—

    ‘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).

    Section 27(2).

    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).’.

No. 126, page 189, line 32 in column 2, after ‘Schedule 4’ insert—

22 May 2007 : Column 1236

    ‘(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,”;

    (d) ’.

No. 127, page 189, line 32, at end insert—

    ‘Local Government Act 1988 (c. 9)

    In Schedule 3, paragraph 5(2), (3), (6) and (7).’

No. 128, page 189, line 34, at end insert—

    ‘Environment Act 1995 (c. 25)

    In Schedule 7, paragraph 18(3).

    Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29)

    In Schedule 18, paragraph 16(3).’

No. 129, page 189, line 38, in column 2, at end insert—

    ‘( ) paragraph 13(2), (3) and (4);’.

No. 130, page 190, line 24, at end insert—

‘Part 13A

Entities controlled etc by local authorities

Short title and chapterExtent of repeal

    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)

    Part 5.

    Local Government Act 2003 (c. 26)

    In section 95(4), the words from “within” to the end.’.

—[Mr. Michael Foster.]

Order for Third Reading read.

9.14 pm

Mr. Woolas: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

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 record—I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole Committee—our thanks to the witnesses who provided both written and oral evidence. It turned out to be very helpful in informing the Committee’s 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.

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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 Essex—but 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.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Second Reading:

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 government—not 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 devolution—or what has been described as double devolution—in 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, “Don’t ask Whitehall’s permission to get on and do things. Get on and do it, unless Parliament and the Government say
22 May 2007 : Column 1238
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 citizen—call them what you will—requires. 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.

9.22 pm

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
22 May 2007 : Column 1239
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 business—with the help of his colleague, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw), whose contribution to making the wheels turn smoothly we also acknowledge—but 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 made—for 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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